Friday, January 21, 2005

When information technology weakens terrorism

One meme that has been a constant since the September 11th attacks has been that terrorist networks have been so adroit in using information technologies to plan, coordinate, and execute acts of violence.

However, an even older meme is that civil society can exploit these technologies to improve their lot in life as well. Two stories out of Iraq today highlight this fact.

Ellen Knickmeyer reports for the Associated Press that Iraqis are using text messaging as a way of outing terrorists:

In the volatile Shiite-Sunni towns south of Baghdad known as the ''triangle of death,'' Iraqi civilians increasingly are letting their thumbs do the talking, via Arabic text messages sent from the safety of their homes, Iraqi security forces and U.S. Marines say.

At a time when U.S. and Iraqi security forces are desperate for information on attacks preferably in advance mobile phone text messages allow civilians to pass on information from a discreet distance, their identities shielded from security forces and their neighbors.

Although a cell phone displays the caller's number, phone records are so chaotic in Iraq that chances are slim anyone could track down a tipster. And text messages can be sent to the most trusted officer, a far safer avenue than calling a police station that might be riddled with informants.

''Many, many people tell us about the terrorists with this,'' [Iraqi National Guard Major Mohammed Salman Abass Ali] al-Zobaidi said, tapping his black cell phone and thumbing down to show more messages.

''All the time, I hear his phone beep beep beep beep, beep beep beep beep,'' said Sgt. Eddie Risner of Ocala, Fla., part of a Marine contingent working with guardsmen to try to block attacks and put a credible Iraqi security force on the street.

In the Chicago Tribune, Aamer Madhani reports on one radio station in the Sunni triangle that's strongly encouraged Iraqis to vote in the upcoming elections:

For someone who recently was threatened with having his tongue cut out for encouraging people to vote, Rafit Mahmoud Sayed has surprisingly little sympathy for those who say they fear going to the polls Jan. 30.

On a recent special edition of his radio show, Sayed initially listened patiently to a caller who talked about his desire to vote but feared a suicide bomber might attack the polling station. After a few minutes of the caller speaking about what a waste it would be to die on his way to the ballot box, Sayed interrupted and upbraided the caller.

"Be sure, this election is about the security situation in Iraq," said Sayed, who named his show "Good Morning, Orange City" after the restive city of Baqouba, the orange-growing capital of Iraq. "If you go vote, you can be sure the security situation will be improved. If you don't go vote, you can expect nothing."

Sayed and the 70 other employees at the Diyala province's government-owned radio and television station outside Baqouba have taken on the task of promoting voter participation with somewhat unexpected zeal. Until recently, most of the programming on the station was fairly simple--music, a children's show, some call-in programs and a few reporters putting together news broadcasts, relying heavily on information provided by a U.S. psychological operation's unit stationed next door to the station.

But when the voter registration process began in November, Sayed, who is also the station's general manager, decided to make election coverage the station's priority.

There have been consequences. In the past few weeks, Sayed said, several of his employees have received death threats through anonymous notes left at their homes or through neighbors. The threats have jangled nerves, but no one has quit, he said....

While the television station hasn't been able to compete with the Arabic-language news giants Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, Radio Diyala has become popular in the province for its call-in programs that often criticize local government officials and insurgents....

During the special election show, the two phone lines for listeners rang non-stop. Some called to say that they would be voting, and others asked for clarification about just what they would be voting for. A few wanted to speak out against the insurgency and read poetry they had written to express their patriotism.

These uses of technology toward improving life In iraq mesh with recent polling evidence suggesting that there is greater support among ordinary Iraqis for the elections than previously expected. As Karl Vick points out in this Washington Post report:

"I think people will be shocked," said an official of another international organization deeply involved in preparing Iraq's nascent political class for the ballot. The official, who insisted that neither he nor his organization could be identified because of security concerns, said most Iraqis remained intent on exercising their right to elect a government after decades of dictatorships.

"I think the real story of this election is what's gone on beneath the radar," the official said. "They may not know what they're voting for. But I think they recognize it's something called democracy."

The one thing that bugs me is that all of these behind-the-scenes efforts mean nothing unless people are physically willing to show up on Election Day. And unlike the transfer of sovereignty, the election date can't simply be moved up at the last minute. An no amount of information technology can alter that fact.


UPDATE: Reuters reports on one way to blunt the terrorist threat on Election Day: "the location of voting centers will be revealed only at the last minute in some areas." Another Reuters report quotes UN election official Carlos Venezuela stating that, "(Conditions) are not the best and certainly far from ideal, but if the security measures work there is a very good chance that the elections that take place will take place successfully ...and will be accepted as legitimate."

posted by Dan at 10:16 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (4)

Your personal ad of the week...

The following ad appeared this week in the Eye, an alternative weekly based in Toronto:


Wait, do you hear that sound? That must be the wails of anguish from women all across North America, upset that they do not live in Toronto and will therefore be unable to learn "the art of bedroom control." Especially when there are young women in Toronto who are myseriously declining this generous offer.

posted by Dan at 09:47 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (1)

The opportunity costs of tsunami aid

Earlier this month Virginia Postrel accurately predicted that there would be a follow-up story on how "generosity toward tsunami victims is pulling money away from other, often local, charities."

As these stories go, you could do far, far worse than Daniel Gross' Slate essay on the topic. The key paragraph:

The outpouring of tsunami donations in early January 2005 probably won't have much of an effect on overall giving levels. And it's likely that many other extremely worthy charities will see their receipts fall. Is that disappointing? Maybe. But there's a different lesson. What's amazing about these very large figures—$480 million (and counting) for tsunami relief, $1.88 billion post 9/11—is that they are just a drop in the bucket of overall donations. They don't really sway the overall numbers. A very large portion of U.S. charitable giving probably isn't spontaneous. Lots of donations derive from bequests and estates, multi-year commitments from foundations and individuals, and annual gifts from corporations. So, the ability of any one event to inspire some fundamental shift in giving is limited.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 11:39 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

The Greatest Americans?

The Discovery Channel and AOL launched a contest today asking "Who is the Greatest American?" According to the Associated Press story, the specific criteria is naming the Americans who they believe "most influenced the way they think, work and live."

I've already entered my five names, in ascending order of importance:

5) Paul Volcker -- a seemingly odd choice, but his stint at the Federal Reserve dramatixally altered expectations about inflation, to the point where it has become politically unacceptable to push for mild forms of inflation. For the century before Volcker came along, that was not true.

4) George Washington -- think about how the United States would be different had Washington not decided to step dowmn after two terms of office. One could argue that his precedent sealed America's political future just as much as the Constitution.

3) Elvis Presley -- the godfather of alll American popular culture.

2) Thomas Edison -- For God's sake, any man who could inspire Homer Simpson to industrious activity belongs on this list!! More seriously, Edison symbolizes the range of private entrepreneurship that made the United States such a dynamic economy.

1) Abraham Lincoln -- America's greatest President and one of America's greatest writers. We live in his image of America.

Honorable mentions for Jackie Robinson, Steve Jobs, Ronald Reagan, Marilyn Monroe, and Henry Ford.

Readers are encouraged to post their own top 5.

UPDATE: Some excellent suggestions have been put forward in the comments -- particularly George Marshall.

posted by Dan at 12:33 AM | Comments (58) | Trackbacks (3)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Open second inaugural thread

Feel free to comment on President Bush's Second Inaugural Address here. here's how it closes:

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner "Freedom Now" - they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, "It rang as if it meant something." In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength - tested, but not weary - we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.

posted by Dan at 12:48 PM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (4)

How to turn Americans into libertarians

As I was boarding my ATA flight back to Chicago yesterday, I was startled to see the boarding area so crowded. I then found out that the flight before mine to Chicago -- which was supposed to leave six hours before mine -- had been cancelled. I assumed this was because of the inclement weather (it was snowing), but it turned out I was only partially correct.

The flight had indeed been delayed by a few hours because of the weather. By the time it was ready to take off, however, a new problem presented itself. One of the flight attendants had been on duty by that point for more than 16 hours. Because FAA regulations stipulate that no flight attendant can work more than 16 hours straight, she was not allowed to work on that flight. This left only three flight attendants for that flight segment. That, however, bumped into another FAA regulation -- there must be one flight attendant for every 50 seats on the plane. Because this was ATA, they didn't have some vast reservoir of flight attendants twiddling their thumbs at the airport. So, the flight was cancelled.

Needless to say, the following occurred:

1) The passengers on that flight were less than pleased;
2) The ATA spokespeople were extremely apologetic;
3) It was difficult to hear the words "FAA regulation" said by anyone sitting in the area without an expletive modifying that particular noun.

Where oh where is the Queen of Sky when you need her?

posted by Dan at 11:27 AM | Comments (37) | Trackbacks (3)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

While I was away...

I had a business trip today (more about why in a week or so), which explains the paucity of blogging on my part.

However, I'm glad to see that there was a thread about me, over at Asymmetrical Information. I was particularly bemused by this equation summarizing my contribution to the blogosphere:

(Andrew Sullivan - hysteria) + international finance + Carmen Electra-blogging = Daniel Drezner

Commenters are warily encouraged to come up with what they believe are more precise equations.

And -- for the record -- I don't think I've ever seen a hysterical post from Andrew Sullivan.

posted by Dan at 11:17 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

It's never good to be compared with the Carter years

Greg Ip has a front-pager in the Wall Street Journal on whether the weakening dollar will help or hurt the economy.

Up to a point, a falling currency is a blessing. After that, it's a curse.

The dollar has fallen 16% against a basket of its trading partners' currencies over the past three years. In theory, that should, with time, make U.S.-made goods more competitive with those made abroad, boosting U.S. growth and employment.

But a growing chorus warns that the U.S.'s gaping budget and trade deficits will lead to a crisis in which the dollar falls much more sharply, driving up interest rates and squeezing the economy.

There are plenty of troubling precedents. Over the past decade, a dozen smaller economies from Mexico to Thailand have gone from growth to deep recession when their currencies collapsed. Even rich countries like Canada have been forced to adopt austere budget policies to cope with currency-induced turmoil. "We are increasingly vulnerable to the kind of sudden stop, where the capital inflows dry up all at once, that's been the bane of emerging markets over the years," says Barry Eichengreen, an economic historian at the University of California at Berkeley.

Could it happen here? It certainly hasn't yet. In a crisis, foreign investors dump stocks and bonds, fearing depreciation will cause further losses. Yet U.S. Treasury bond prices, and thus long-term interest rates that move in the opposite direction, have changed little in the last year -- and stocks are higher. A review of past crises world-wide suggests the U.S. has enough going for it now to avoid a similar fate. Yet the magnitude of the imbalances hanging over the dollar is also without precedent, suggesting a crisis remains possible....

The U.S. has an additional advantage over any other country when it comes to crisis prevention: Its economy is too important for the world to passively accept a dollar collapse.

That's one reason many countries prop up the dollar. China runs a large trade surplus with the U.S., something that would normally force its currency, the yuan, to rise against the dollar. To prevent that, China buys billions of dollars in Treasury securities. That protects its exports and helps keep U.S. interest rates low.

The increased depth, reach and sophistication of markets is one reason Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is optimistic the U.S. can avoid a crisis. "An ever more flexible international financial system" means global imbalances are more likely to be "defused with little disruption," he argued in November 2003.

Indeed, as imbalances have grown in the past decade, currency markets, by some measures, have become more orderly. It's been a decade since the dollar's drop seemed dangerous enough to spark a concerted response from the U.S. and its allies. On the morning of March 2, 1995, Ted Truman, then top international staffer at the Fed, was getting reports of massive dollar sales, some triggered by derivatives strategies, driving the U.S. currency down sharply against the deutsche mark and yen. Bond yields were rising. Mr. Truman went to see Mr. Greenspan and recommended the Fed and Treasury intervene in the markets to buy dollars. "I don't think it's going to do any good," Mr. Truman recalls telling Mr. Greenspan. "But by not being there we are saying we totally don't care what the conditions of the markets are."

Mr. Greenspan agreed, and that afternoon the Fed and the Treasury waded in, buying $600 million worth of dollars in exchange for marks and yen. The next day it repeated the action, joined by 13 central banks. The dollar stabilized. Bond yields dropped.

The U.S. intervened to support the dollar a few more times that year, but hasn't done so since; markets have generally been smooth, and the Clinton and Bush administrations came to see intervention as being of limited use.

Mr. Truman, now a scholar at the Institute for International Economics in Washington, predicts that in the next five years, the U.S. will have to intervene again "either because it's a period of disorder or because we can't withstand the political criticism from our partner countries." He adds: "The very richness and increased flexibility of markets that Alan Greenspan has emphasized probably translates into fewer episodes of disorder, but when they come, they're going to be bigger."

I don't want to reprint the entire article, but one troubling comparison in the piece is a section that compares the current moment with "the last dollar crisis, in the late 1970s." On the whole, it's a mixed bag, but what should worry Republicans is that the comparison is being made at all. A good political rule of thumb for any administration is to do one's upmost to prevent the press from being able to make a valid economic comparisons to the Carter era.

posted by Dan at 11:22 AM | Comments (33) | Trackbacks (2)

Monday, January 17, 2005

Behind the scenes in Ukraine

Back on November 25th, at the beginning of Ukraine's Orange Revolution, I blogged the following:

When a government facing a popular uprising, there is a moment when all of Burke's "pleasing illusions" about power fade away, and the rulers face a choice between using raw coercion or backing down. At this juncture, there is one of three possibilities:

1) The leadership backs down;
2) The leadership cracks down;
3) The leadership tries to crack down but the coercive apparatus splits.

That moment is rapidly approaching in Kiev.

In the New York Times, C.J. Chivers has a riveting behind-the-scenes look at Ukraine's security services during the election campaign, suggesting that in the case of Ukraine, it was a combination of options (2) and (3). Here's one key moment:

The state was leaking power. The next day, Nov. 27, Mr. Kuchma summoned [S.B.U. chief] General Smeshko to a meeting at Koncha Zaspa, a government sanitarium outside Kiev.

In a conference room were Mr. Yanukovich and politicians from eastern regions supporting him, with the leader of the Interior Ministry, or M.V.D., Mykola Bilokon, one of Mr. Kuchma's loyalists, who made no secret of his support for the premier.

Mr. Yanukovich confronted Mr. Kuchma, asking if he was betraying them, four people in the meeting said. Then came demands: schedule an inauguration, declare a state of emergency, unblock government buildings.

Mr. Kuchma icily addressed his former protégé. "You have become very brave, Viktor Feyodovich, to speak to me in this manner," he said, according to Mr. Bilokon and General Smeshko. "It would be best for you to show this bravery on Independence Square."

General Smeshko intervened to offer the S.B.U.'s assessment of the situation, warning the premier that few of Ukraine's troops, if ordered, would fight the people. He also said that even if soldiers followed an order, a crackdown would not succeed because demonstrators would resist. Then he challenged Mr. Yanukovich.

"Viktor Feyodovich, if you are ready for a state of emergency, you can give this order," he said. "Here is Bilokon," he continued. "The head of the M.V.D. You will be giving him, as chairman of the government, a written order to unblock the buildings? You will do this?"

Mr. Yanukovich was silent. General Smeshko waited. "You have answered," he continued, according to people in the meeting. "You will not do it. Let us not speak nonsense. There is no sense in using force."

Mr. Kuchma left the room to take a phone call, then returned with a state television crew. Mr. Yanukovich slammed down his pen and left.

The government's position was set: there would be no martial law. It was formalized the next day, on Nov. 28, when the National Security and Defense Council voted to solve the crisis through peaceful means.

"This was the key decision," Mr. Kuchma later said. "I realized what it meant to de-block government building by force in these conditions. It could not be done without bloodshed."

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 10:26 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (2)

Open Sy Hersh thread

Feel free to comment on the veracity and implications of Sy Hersh's latest New Yorker essay here. This is how it opens:

George W. Bush’s reëlection was not his only victory last fall. The President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state. Bush has an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that control—against the mullahs in Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorism—during his second term. The C.I.A. will continue to be downgraded, and the agency will increasingly serve, as one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon put it, as “facilitators” of policy emanating from President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. This process is well under way.

Despite the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the Bush Administration has not reconsidered its basic long-range policy goal in the Middle East: the establishment of democracy throughout the region. Bush’s reëlection is regarded within the Administration as evidence of America’s support for his decision to go to war. It has reaffirmed the position of the neoconservatives in the Pentagon’s civilian leadership who advocated the invasion, including Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Douglas Feith, the Under-secretary for Policy. According to a former high-level intelligence official, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after the election and told them, in essence, that the naysayers had been heard and the American people did not accept their message. Rumsfeld added that America was committed to staying in Iraq and that there would be no second-guessing.

“This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone,” the former high-level intelligence official told me. “Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.”

This paragraph is the one that -- if true -- disturbs me the most:

The former high-level intelligence official told me, “They don’t want to make any W.M.D. intelligence mistakes, as in Iraq. The Republicans can’t have two of those. There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.” The official added that the government of Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani President, has won a high price for its coöperation—American assurance that Pakistan will not have to hand over A. Q. Khan, known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, to the I.A.E.A. or to any other international authorities for questioning. For two decades, Khan has been linked to a vast consortium of nuclear-black-market activities. Last year, Musharraf professed to be shocked when Khan, in the face of overwhelming evidence, “confessed” to his activities. A few days later, Musharraf pardoned him, and so far he has refused to allow the I.A.E.A. or American intelligence to interview him. Khan is now said to be living under house arrest in a villa in Islamabad. “It’s a deal—a trade-off,” the former high-level intelligence official explained. “‘Tell us what you know about Iran and we will let your A. Q. Khan guys go.’ It’s the neoconservatives’ version of short-term gain at long-term cost. They want to prove that Bush is the anti-terrorism guy who can handle Iran and the nuclear threat, against the long-term goal of eliminating the black market for nuclear proliferation.”

If this is true, it suggests the administration really believes that the threat posed by nuclear-armed states is greater than the threat posed by a black market proliferation network that could sell to states and non-state actors alike.

That said, here's the paragraph that makes me wonder just how much Hersh's sources are speaking without knowing:

The new rules will enable the Special Forces community to set up what it calls “action teams” in the target countries overseas which can be used to find and eliminate terrorist organizations. “Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?” the former high-level intelligence official asked me, referring to the military-led gangs that committed atrocities in the early nineteen-eighties. “We founded them and we financed them,” he said. “The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren’t going to tell Congress about it.” A former military officer, who has knowledge of the Pentagon’s commando capabilities, said, “We’re going to be riding with the bad boys.”

Read David Adesnik's posts on the U.S. role in El Salvador in the early eighties to see why the statement about the death squads is wildly off the mark.

One obvious dynamic at work is that some of Hersh's intelligence sources have to be victims of the Porter Goss regime at Langley. On the one hand, that probably gives these officials a strong incentive to spll their guts. On the other hand, it also gives them an incentive to stick it to the Bush administration by any means necessary.

For the record, here is the Defense Department's press release in response to the Hersh essay -- in which precise facts contained in Hersh's piece are challenged; for interpretation of the DoD's statement, check out CNN's take.

posted by Dan at 09:37 PM | Comments (46) | Trackbacks (5)

Rice reshapes the foreign policy apparatus

Last year I wrote in TNR Online:

[T]here are good reasons to believe that realists would trump the neocons during a second term. None of the neocons hold Cabinet-level positions (the most prominent is Paul Wolfowitz) and the rumored shift at the State Department from Colin Powell to Condoleezza Rice will probably strengthen the hand of the realists. (Yes, Powell opposed the neocons, but he also proved rather inept at winning influence with the president; Rice, by contrast, is a realist who will have Bush's attention.)

Continuing that vein of thinking, Guy Dinmore has a great story in the Financial Times on how Condi Rice is staffing both the State Department and the NSC:

A shake-up of the US foreign policy team under Condoleezza Rice will see the emergence of younger rising stars as well as seasoned negotiators, bringing together a combination of pragmatists and "hawks".

While analysts and diplomats are focusing on whether the second Bush administration will see a loss of influence for the ideologically driven neoconservatives, Ms Rice appears to be choosing a mix of career professionals and experts noted primarily for their loyalty and commitment, as well as a willingness to challenge conventional wisdoms...

One of the young climbers cultivated by Ms Rice in the council is Meghan O'Sullivan, senior director for strategic planning with responsibility for Iraq and Iran. "She is rising quickly through the ranks," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ms O'Sullivan, who is in her 30s, in effect replaces Robert Blackwill, a veteran diplomat who ran the Iraq Stabilisation Group as deputy national security adviser. He has joined a lobbying firm after resigning last year following colourful press reports about his personal life and an altercation with a State Department employee....

Stephen Krasner, a professor of international relations at Stanford University, where Ms Rice was previously provost, is tipped as the new head of policy planning. In 2001 he spent a year in the State Department, working on the Millennium Challenge Account, an aid programme for developing nations that meet criteria of good governance.

At a time when the future of the United Nations is under scrutiny, it is interesting that Ms Rice is believed to have chosen a specialist on the shape of future institutional forums. Mr Krasner has challenged conventional notions of sovereignty. He is also strongly opposed to the International Criminal Court as lacking in democratic accountability.

In an interview a week after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Mr Krasner said prudence was what counted in international relations. "The notion that you can create an ideal world is what walked us into Mao's China, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia. If you want a decent life, what you need is a political system which is prudent and limited. I think that the United States has actually done pretty well in that regard."

What O'Sullivan and Krasner have in common with each other -- as well as with Robert Zoellick, the new no. 2 at State -- is that they are really smart, and they are realists.

Full disclosure: I've known O'Sullivan for some time and am a big fan of her book, Shrewd Sanctions. And Krasner was my dissertation advisor, so you cam pretty much throw any claim to objectivity out the window on him.

UPDATE: Richard Holbrooke sounds some similar themes and discusses other personnel transfers in the Washington Post (Thanks to Zathras for the pointer)

posted by Dan at 04:24 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (1)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

How much has China changed in fifteen years?

Zhao Zhiyang, the former leader of the Chinese Communist Party until the Tiananmen Square crackdown, has died. Jasmine Yap has an obituary in Bloomberg; here's a link to the New York Times obit by Jim Yardley.

Combined, the obituaries make a telling point about China in the eighties -- and set up a test to see how much China has changed.

As Yardley points out:

At Mr. Deng's behest, he acted boldly, embracing economic reform by expanding self-management for peasant farmers and some industries. In 1987, after the ouster of Hu Yaobang, who was deemed too lenient toward student protests, Mr. Zhao became general secretary of the Communist Party, a job that made him Mr. Deng's presumptive heir.

Yap's obit points out the initial trigger for the Tiananmen protests:

Zhao, also a former prime minister, lived under house arrest after he opposed the military crackdown on pro-democracy activists and was removed from power by then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. He was last seen in public on May 19, 1989, begging student protesters to leave Tiananmen Square, a day before Chinese authorities declared martial law in the capital and shot dead hundreds of the demonstrators.

Students began filling the square in April 1989 to commemorate the death of former party Secretary General Hu Yaobang, whom they considered was sympathetic to demands for more democracy in China. By May, the square had turned into an encampment for students from across the nation, who called for democracy and an end to Communist Party corruption and defied government orders to leave.

If Hu's death triggered Tiananmen, one wonders whether Zhao's death will trigger any similar kind of political mobilization against the government.

To be honest, I'll be surprised if it does. This is for one of three reasons:

1) China's communist government has delivered robust economic growth in the 15 1/2 years since Tinanmen;

2) The Chinese government's tools of political coercion and suppression have become more sophisticated and aware since 1989 -- therefore, they are more likely to nip a poential Tiananmen in the bud;

3) China's citizenry has become more nationalist in the past fifteen years, and therefore do not have the same amount of political antipathy towards the government.


UPDATE: Looks like the Chinese government is attempting to try hypothesis no. 2 out, according to the New York Times' Joseph Kahn:

Chinese leaders imposed a ban today on news reports about the death of Zhao Ziyang, the former Communist Party chief who opposed the 1989 crackdown on democracy protesters, suggesting that his official obituary would treat him as a pariah.

The New China News Agency issued a terse dispatch announcing that Mr. Zhao, who was 85 years old, died early today. But the news agency identified Mr. Zhao simply as a "comrade," not as China's former top political leader, and the main evening news broadcast made no mention of his passing.

Editors said that propaganda officials had ordered television stations and newspapers not to report about Mr. Zhao, and popular Web sites were instructed to ban public discussion of the former leader.

posted by Dan at 10:14 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (4)

Hey, in Philadelphia, I'm a law professor!!

Frank Wilson has a review of Hugh Hewitt's Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. This paragraph jumped out at me:

Hewitt notes that while it was left-of-center bloggers Atrios (Philadelphian Duncan Black) and Joshua Micah Marshall who got the anti-Lott swarm buzzing, it was conservative bloggers - notably the chameleonic Andrew Sullivan, whose coloration at the time was deemed conservative, and Republican law professor Daniel Drezner - who brought it to critical mass. On the other hand, during the Raines swarm, Marshall mentioned the affair only once.

Y'know, if I was earning the same salary as a law professor, I wouldn't complain.

UPDATE: Thanks to Warren Dodson for pointing out that Wilson was merely repeating what Hewitt wrote in Blog on p. 11: "Daniel Drezner, a University of Chicago law professor and uber-blogger, called for Lott's resignation on Saturday . . . ."

I'll take the mis-designation in return for being called an uber-blogger. Hmmm.... note to self: contact Marvel Comics about new superhero idea.....

posted by Dan at 07:20 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)