Saturday, February 5, 2005
The Federal Reserve tackles the current account deficit
I've been a worrywart about the size of the current account deficit -- but yesterday Alan Greenspan said the currency markets and I should relax. Andrew Balls and Chris Giles explain why in the Financial Times:
Here's a link to the full text of Greenspan's speech. Some highlights:
However, Greenspan footnoted the same article to which Brad DeLong links -- "Expansionary Fiscal Shocks and the Trade Deficit," by Christopher J. Erceg; Luca Guerrieri; Christopher Gust. The paper's punchline:
If the paper is correct, then the alleged return to fiscal sanity doesn't matter all that much.
Of course, the crux of Greenspan's argument is that European firms can't afford to cut prices to counterbalance an appreciating Euro. He may well be correct, and I hope he's right -- because China won't be
I've been happy as a clam not paying that much attention to the Super Bowl hype. It's not that I'm not interested in the game -- it's just that I'm interested in the game and not the two weeks of media overkill preceding the game.
That said, there is one brand of story I always find interesting -- interviews with retired football players who bemoan how the game has changed. A classic example of this genre is legendary Eagle Chuck Bednarik. The Associated Press' Dan Gelston reports that Badnarik doesn't want the current incarnation of the team to win:
Read the whole thing -- I think it's safe to say the Bednarik doesn't pull any punches. He also sounds like the last person with whome you'd want to be stuck in an elevator. [Yeah... think of him as the anti-Salma--ed.]
If Bednarik seems a bit too "old school" for modern fans, SI's Peter King looks at former Los Angeles Ram Jack Youngblood -- whose comeback from injury makes Terrell Owens look like a complete wuss:
Definitely read the whole thing. As someone who has suffered the exact same injury that Youngblood did, let me just say that I'm very impressed with Youngblood's threshhold for pain.
Friday, February 4, 2005
February's books of the month
This month's international relations book is an easy call -- Stephen D. Krasner's Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy. Since Krasner was appointed to be the State Department's Director of Policy Planning this week, it seems fitting for people to take a look at his most recent sole-authored book.
This would be particularly useful because if there is one thing the DC press corps sucks eggs at, it's parsing out the policy implications of academic writings. For exhibit A, consider Al Kamen's column from a few weeks ago which tried to uncover Krasner's thoughts about foreign policy from his latest article in Foreign Policy. Key paragraph:
Well, the last thing I would want in a director of policy planning is to have someone who.... plans out contingencies for future world-historical events.
Now, before I anounce my general interest book, would everyone under the age of 18 please go click over somewhere else right now. Go ahead, I'll wait....
OK, adults only? Here's the thing -- I had a general interest book all picked out -- and then I checked my mail today and saw a very thick envelope. In it was a copy of Paul Joannides' The Guide to Getting It On!.
The accompanying note reads as follows:
This is how my life has changed since starting a blog -- in the same week, I can go from appearing on C-SPAN to receiving gratis copies of sex manuals.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I have a small, deeply disturbed following.
[Say, maybe you could put that "blog that's long enough to gag a UN hooker" among your praiseworthy reviews!!--ed. No, no I really couldn't.]
Thursday, February 3, 2005
Speaking of Egypt...
This was one of the more interesting paragraphs in Bush's State of the Union:
The lines about Egypt and Saudi Arabia were nicely phrased, in that they represented a challenge to the regimes there.
Coincidentally enough, the Wall Street Journal has a front-pager by Karby Leggett on Egypt's economic reforms. From the opening, it appears that Egypt's latest prime minister is adopting a much more market-friendly posture:
Sounds good -- but what about democracy? Here's where things get sticky:
So, what does the U.S. do? Hope that the economic reforms trigger future political reforms, or apply more leverge on the Mubarak regime -- even if a more democratic government might not pursue such market-friendly policies?
Wednesday, February 2, 2005
Comment on the State of the Union -- and then watch C-SPAN!!
Feel free to comment on President Bush's State of the Union address here. Oh, and CNN's Michael Coren reports breaking news -- bloggers will apparently be providing some real-time commentary on the speech!!
Yours truly will not be live-blogging the SOTU -- but loyal readers will be able to hear my thoughts on the speech (and the Democratic response) if you tune into C-SPAN for the post-speech coverage. I'm batting second in their reaction line-up -- Ramesh Ponnuru leads off and Brad DeLong will come third. As These two have clashed in the past, think of me as providing a temporal de-militarized zone of pundity!
UPDATE: Well that was painless -- except for my near-total lack of coherence on the final question.
Otherwise, Jeff Jarvis pretty much captured my take.
So you say that markets dominate the world....
Those who rejoice and those who reject the supposed triumph of market forces in the global economy would be wise to remember that, "Three of the most important prices in the world economy are set by means other than markets." To see which markets these are, read the Economist story from which this quotation is taken.
Of course, that statement is also an exaggeration -- obviously, market forces have a powerful effect on the prices of oil, capital, and different currencies. It would be more accurate to say that these are three markets where governments exercise significant to monopoly control over the supply of the product in question.
The perfect storm... of fishing regulations
A minor key in the movie (and perhaps the book -- I haven't read it) The Perfect Storm is that one reason the Andrea Gail was lost at sea is that its evil greedhead owner didn't want to save some money and not pay for upkeep on the boat. Certainly, this is a classic theme in fiction -- the poor working slobs are made to suffer because of the greed of capitalist pig-dogs.
I dredge this up because Kirsten Scharnberg has a story in today's Chicago Tribune about a more recent fishing boat accident that claimed five lives. This time, however, the villain appears to be.... excessive regulaions:
Read the whole thing -- regulation is not the only culprit, but it's a biggie. [C'mon, how bad could it be?--ed. Barney Frank thinks the regulations are excessive.]
This is just sick. Sick, sick, sick, sick, sick.
I must congratulate Maggie Haberman of the New York Daily News for reporting a story that leaves me pretty much speechless. My only thought: this is not a good day for the Tribe.
[What, no excerpt?--ed. Not with this story -- you'll have to click on it yourself. Here's a link to the less lurid but also less informative wire service account.]
The hopes and fears of libertarians in Bush's second term
Back in late November, Reason magazine asked "a variety of pundits, pols, and profs to tell us their biggest hopes and fears for the next four years." Click here to see the answers in the February 2005 edition of the magazine. Contributors include Vernon Smith, Nadine Strossen, Tyler Cowen, Virginia Postrel, Jacob Levy, Heather MacDonald, Glenn Reynolds.... and yours truly.
Tuesday, February 1, 2005
What would you like to ask Mr. Anonymous?
Because he's giving a talk at the Program on International Security Policy, I'm going to have 45 minutes or so to chat one-on-one with Michael Scheuer -- a.k.a., Mr. "Anonymous", a.k.a., author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism.
I've blogged about the book in the past, but I'll admit that I haven't had time to read the book, nor have I been paying much attention to him since the book was released. So, I'm blegging for good questions from loyal readers -- and I'll be sure to post his answers.
UPDATE: As the graduate student who escorted him to me whispered into my ear, "What a nice, nice man!" I wasn't able to ask him all of your questions, but here are some quick responses (NOTE: I'm summarizing his views; I'm not saying I necessarily agree with them):
More later if I get a chance.
Monday, January 31, 2005
The International Studies Association makes me laugh
After reading this, I became convinced I was trapped in one of those ads for TBS asking myself, "is it just me or is so obvious that it's really funny?"
[Other people who don't get to go to a conference in Hawaii might not find this so funny.--ed. Yeah, well, last year's ISA meeting was held at thesame time of the year -- in Montreal. So screw 'em.]
Read the whole thing.
From media whore to media elite
According to Crain's Chicago Business (registration required), yours truly is considered to be one of "Chicago's media elite," thanks to danieldrezner.com:
Thanks to Stuart Luman for the write-up -- I particularly like the statement that since I started the blog, I've "gone from obscure egghead to renowned expert." I prefer the term, "renowned egghead," thank you very much.
Oh, and readers are warily encouraged to proffer their opinion about whether the head shot clicked by Crain's photogrpher should replace the one currently greeting people at my home page:
[Glad to see you're making your readers answer the tough questions--ed. Hey, I've got to worry about this s%$# now that I'm part of the media elite!!]
The Bush administration thinks about soft power
I've occasionally opined about the question of America's soft power -- whether the concept is useful, and assuming it is, whether it's on the wane.
With the Iraq election, I missed David Brooks's NYT column on Saturday suggesting that Bush administration officials were paying more attention to soft power as well:
The focus on ad hoc coalitions over more formal institutions will be the subject of a later post -- for now, I would strongly recommend that the Bushies read and absorb Andrew Moravcsik's provocative but well-sourced essay in Newsweek International warning that American soft power is fading fast. Some highlights:
Read the whole thing -- Moravcsik demonstrates the diminishing allure for America's legal system, economic system, and foreign policy.
As someone who thought of anti-Americanism as a temporary perturbation, I do think Moravcsik is
That said, Moravcsik's thesis cannot be quickly dismissed -- he's onto something that Bush officials should consider when talking about soft power.
The first step -- but far from the last -- in Iraq
Kieran Healy has an excellent post at Crooked Timber on what needs to happen in Iraq after this first election. It boils down to, "those in power who lose elections have to be willing to step aside," but Kieran says it better than that -- and provides an encouraging example from Irish history.
How did the Arab media cover the election?
Read the whole thing. One wonders whether the election coverage will embolden residents of the Middle East beyond the borders of Iraq.
UPDATE: In Slate, Michael Young provides another rundown of how the Middle Eastern media covered the election. It has a great opening paragraph:
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Open Iraqi election thread
Feel free to comment here on today's historic election in Iraq. Both the wire service reports and blog accounts suggest that the turnout has been higher than expected. The Washington Post reports that, "Carlos Valenzuela, the United Nations' chief election adviser in Iraq, told CNN that he believed that overall turnout was considerably 'better than expected.'"
Certainly a 72% turnout represents a pretty humiliating political defeat for the insurgency. [UPDATE: hmmm.... the Financial Times now says turnout estimates have been scaled back to 60%] The Reuters story has the most encouraging detail:
Dexter Filkins' account in the New York Times is positively effusive:
Matthew Yglesias acknowledges the turnout but has an odd post declaring, "The important thing to keep in mind, I think, is that if the lack of problems does hold up, that will be a testament to the success of our extraordinary security measures, not to the success of our political project." Actually, I'd say it's a testament to both factors -- though it's certainly true that the political project can't be judged a success or a failure based on only one election.
On the other hand, Yglesias' post is a ray of sunshine compared to this morose Juan Cole post.