Saturday, February 12, 2005

Following up on U.S. foreign aid generosity

In the wake of President Bush's decision to triple the amount of official U.S. aid to tsunami-affected countries to $950 million, it's worth revisiting the question of U.S. foreign aid generosity.

Steve Radelet has a solid Q&A on the topic for Foreign Policy's web site. On the question of whether, "America Is the Most Generous Country in the World if You Include Private Donations to Charities," he writes:

According to U.S. government figures, private donations to low-income countries through American churches, charities, foundations, nongovernmental organizations, and college scholarships was at least $6.3 billion in 2003. And such data almost certainly understate the actual amount of private aid. Some organizations do not respond to the government survey used to collect the data, and some important forms of contribution are omitted, such as volunteer time. Alternative estimates vary, with the upper-end figure (including gifts to more developed countries such as Israel and Russia) at $17.1 billion for 2000. By this estimation, private charitable donations per American total $58 per year—or about 0.16 percent of U.S. income—ranking the United States second among major donors in private giving (the first is Ireland at 0.22 percent).

Combining public and private donations puts total U.S. development assistance in the range of $35 billion per year, or about 0.32 percent of U.S. income. In other words, for every $3 of income, the United States provides about one cent in development assistance. Even with this broader measure (and using the larger estimate of U.S. private assistance without making a similar adjustment for other countries), the United States ranks, at best, 15th among the top donors.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: The Radelet essay is particularly good in contrast to James Traub's effort in the New York Times Magazine. Traub covers some of the same ground, but can't seem to concede the point that on development policy, the Bush administration is actually closer in its stated plans to Traub's "ideal" than either the Clinton administration or the European Union (link via Tom Maguire). [Must be the Davos Kool-Aid--ed.]

posted by Dan at 12:16 PM | Comments (27) | Trackbacks (0)

So how are things in Saudi Arabia?

The Chicago Tribune has two stories on developments within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today -- kind of a good news/bad news deal.

The bad news is that those provincial elections didn't turn out like Saudi reformers had hoped. Evan Osnos explains:

In a blow to reformers in Saudi Arabia, candidates backed by Islamic clerics appear to have won a key region in the country's first nationwide election.

Preliminary tallies Friday for the capital city of Riyadh showed that at least five of the seven winning candidates in Thursday's municipal elections have close ties to Saudi Arabia's clerical establishment. Though the results apply only to a municipal race for the capital, they had been widely anticipated here and in Washington as a rare referendum on reform efforts in one of the world's most traditional absolute monarchies.

The Islamists' victory in the political heart of the country could be a setback for reform-minded Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto Saudi ruler, who had gambled that elections could loosen hard-line clerics' grip on the government. Abdullah has clashed with more conservative royals who do not support his reforms and who had watered down his balloting plan by barring women from the election and setting aside half the seats to be appointed by the ruling family....

Moderate candidates say they are worried that a victory by the religious establishment might undermine Saudi Arabia's halting reform efforts, including expanding women's rights, strengthening the rule of law and revamping the educational system.

"We have enough religious power in our country, and they will increase it even more. The result is not promising," said al-Homeidi, a professor of public administration at King Saud University. "I am concerned about the future. Once they get into the level of municipality, then I'm sure they will get more power and will get into the higher levels [of government]."

Read the whole thing -- it's not clear how much of a setback this is, given that it was only one region, and a conservative one at that (though I'd love a Saudi expert to identify a liberal region in the country). Of course, the decision to exclude women from the vote probably didn't help the moderates much.

One other nitpick at this report is the history it provides of Islamist movements:

The success of Islamist political parties has roots that date to political events a generation ago. Political analysts point to the devastating Arab loss to Israel in the 1967 war and the death of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had advocated a secular pan-Arabism.

In the ashes of that secular vision stirred a revival of religion as the possible salvation of the Arab world, and that spirit gathered strength after the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. Islamist parties, which call for a greater role for Islam in the affairs of state, tend to have more unified messages and stronger organizations, while moderate candidates often spread votes across an array of agendas.

I'll be happy to be corrected on this, but if memory serves that's not quite accuate. It's true that the Six Day War was a triggering event for the rise of Islamist parties -- but the motivation was different. Secular Arab regimes were afraid of the growing political power of leftist/communist parties in their countries. As a result, they permitted the rise of Islamist parties to offer a counterweight.

On the good news side of the ledger, Christine Spolar reports that the Saudi regime is reaching out on the war on terror:

Saudi officials this week reached across borders and bureaucracies to underscore domestic efforts in pursuing terrorist networks and to refocus the nation's role in global discussions on combating terrorism.

For the first time since Al Qaeda surfaced, the Saudis publicly sought to trade and share technical information about counterterrorism operations with professional delegations from more than 50 nations.

The international anti-terrorism conference, a first for the Arab Peninsula, was deemed remarkable by several participants if only for the fact that the Saudis, once defensive about extremist elements within their borders, openly acknowledged that they needed counsel for their own "war on terror."

The four-day conference drew diplomats and intelligence professionals from the United States, France, Germany, Belgium, Pakistan, Turkey and other countries.

It produced a single resolution: that the creation of a global counterterrorism center should be explored. But participants in closed workshops that focused on the origins, financial underpinnings and criminal elements of terrorism said there was additional value in dialogue and building personal contacts.

"Two years ago, the Saudis wouldn't even admit the problem was in their back yard," said a European intelligence official who requested anonymity. "There is a shift in approach. They are being more open in their exchanges."

The internal steps to combat radicals is particularly interesting:

The Saudi remarks appear to be confirmed in a recent assessment by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, an independent research group in Washington.

During the first half of 2004, the kingdom fired 44 Friday preachers, 160 imams and 149 prayer callers for incompetence, according to a report released in January. Nearly 1,400 religious officials were suspended and ordered to undergo retraining, the report said.

The Saudis also have begun grass-roots campaigns aimed at promoting stability. Web sites have been created to seek discourse and chats with a younger generation. Cell phone users in Riyadh now are peppered with text messages that reject terrorism. The week of the conference, even the family of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden sought a public moral high ground.

"We strongly condemn all kinds of terror," exclaimed a large newspaper ad placed by the construction company owned by the bin Laden family. The family, close to the royal family, has previously condemned Al Qaeda's activities and said it has no ties to Osama bin Laden, who was stripped of Saudi citizenship more than a decade ago.

Here's a link to the one-page summary of that CSIS report. Click here for a copy of the draft reports by Anthony H. Cordesman and Nawaf Obaid.

posted by Dan at 10:50 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (2)

Explaining North Korea's actions, redux

MSNBC's Eric Baculinao files a story on the North Korean situation that contains a first in my memory -- a North Korean policy analyst providing anonymous quotes. [What, that's never happened before?--ed. I'm sure it has, but it's the first time I've seen it.]. The highlights:

“We have nothing to lose,” explained a North Korean foreign affairs analyst. “The conclusion is that the second Bush administration is more interested in pursuing encirclement net against us than in a substantial solution of the nuclear issue,” the analyst said.

The analyst, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity, cited attempts to form a so-called “government in exile” as part of a perceived strategy for a “regime change” in Pyongyang.

“The Americans don’t want to negotiate with us,” the analyst said. “They prefer the representatives of defectors who could be the shock troops in putting the ‘North Korea Freedom Act’ in force.”

“They reportedly called a secret meeting in Tokyo and organized a preparatory committee for founding a so-called ‘government-in-exile.’ … The important thing is that every day, there are increased plots and blasphemy against our dear leader Kim Jong Il,” the analyst added.

“We will not return to the talks until the U.S. administration fundamentally changes its Korea policy,” the analyst said. “If the U.S. will refuse, then our way is clear.”

So what the hell is the North Korea Freedom Act? Click here to read more about the re-named bill -- The North Korea Human Rights Act of 2004. Here are links to the text of the law, a three-page analysis of the its provisions from its supporters, and a critique by a former aid worker.

[So is this the real explanation for the DPRK's actions?--ed. I doubt it -- the timing is off. The act was signed into law about four months ago, and the DPRK official was referring to its old name in the report. Still, what's interesting is the attempt by DPRK officials to rationalize their action.]

posted by Dan at 10:10 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (1)

My all time favorite Internet quiz

I think I can live with this result:

You scored as Curt Schilling.

You are Curt Schilling! You are a trooper. You push yourself to the limit, regardless of any setbacks. You are also not afraid to express your opinions on a variety of topics. Very family-oriented. You're the man!!

Curt Schilling


Theo Epstein


Jason Varitek


Johnny Damon


Kevin Millar


Manny Ramirez


David Ortiz


Mark Bellhorn


Which Red Sox Player Are You?
created with

posted by Dan at 12:23 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (1)

Friday, February 11, 2005

The limit to Al Qaeda's appeal

There may be another positive foreign policy spillover from Iraq's election -- it is forcing Al Qaeda into rhetorical gambits that limit its appeal.

Earlier this week Al Jazeera broadcast a tape by Al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri responding to the Iraqi elections. As Reuters put it, the tape "blasted the 'U.S. concept of freedom,'”

In TNR Online, Joseph Braude translates and analyzes the text of the message. He concludes:

On the question of whether Sunni Islamists of any shade should participate in Arab elections--be they in Gaza and the West Bank a few weeks back, or perhaps in Egypt down the road--Al Zawahiri seems to be taking a decisive stand. He urges the Ummah to "snatch back" the reins of power, apparently eschewing the possibility of gains for Islamists through a nonviolent electoral process. This is a rejection, for example, of Hamas ideologue Mahmoud Al Zahhar's statement earlier this week to a Gaza newspaper suggesting that his movement might join the Palestinian legislative assembly.

Al Qaeda may kill hundreds of innocents in Spain to influence the outcome of elections there--or deliver a tirade against George Bush on the eve of the American elections, apparently to influence voters here--but the movement seems to have no appetite for achieving its goals through elections in Arab and Muslim countries. In this respect, today's message wasn't just another hyperbolic rant. It drew a philosophical line in the sand. And among Arabs and Muslims, it may prove to be an unpopular one.

Read the whole thing. Middle East Online points out that Al Qaeda ain't thrilled with economic integration either:

The new message made reference to [recent] events, including a December 16 agreement between Egypt and Israel, and historic January 30 elections in Iraq.

"We cannot achieve reform when our leaders are seeking normalisation with Israel and destroying our economies for their own personal gains, like the QIZ (Qualified Industrial Zones) agreement signed by the Egyptian regime with Israel," the voice said.

posted by Dan at 02:39 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Kim's not making many friends

If, as speculated in my last post, Kim Jong Il thought that his nuclear announcement and withdrawal from six-party talks would drive a wedge between the US and the other members of six-party talks, he appears to have miscalculated.

CNN reports that North Korea has repeated its demand (made over the past couple of years) for direct bilateral talks with the United States on this issue. [UPDATE: Deb Riechmann reports for the AP that Scott McClellan rejected this demand at the White House press briefing.] Andrew Salmon reports in the International Herald-Tribune that the six-party talks haven't gone well for the DPRK:

It is a long-running North Korean strategy to try to engage the United States in bilateral talks, believing that such meetings would improve the isolated country's international status and help it obtain bigger concessions. In the six-nation talks, which also include China, Russia, South Korea, Japan and the United States, North Korea has increasingly found itself facing countries, including its allies China and Russia, who are critical of its nuclear ambitions.

THat same report also makes it clear that North Korea's latest gambit has not gone down well in South Korea.

If Seoul is upset, however, Japan is even more so -- and they are upping the ante with a clear and specific sanctions threat. James Brooke explains in the New York Times:

Faced with North Korea's declaration that it has nuclear weapons, Japan's Prime Minister performed a deft political kabuki today, urging his bellicose neighbor to join disarmament talks, while letting the clock run on a new law that will bar most North Korean ships from Japanese ports starting March 1.

"I understand calls for imposing sanctions are growing," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters in Sapporo, about 600 miles across the Sea of Japan from North Korea. "But we have to urge them to come to the talks in the first place."

Japan, Russia, China and South Korea all urged North Korea today to return to talks designed to dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal and its weapons assembly line....

[O]f the five nations seeking to disarm North Korea, only Japan is taking new steps that will punish North Korea economically.

An amended Liability for Oil Pollution Damage law requires that all ships over 100 tons calling at Japanese ports carry property and indemnity insurance. A seemingly bland piece of legislation, this law was drafted with North Korea in mind. In 2003, only 2.5 percent of North Korean ships visiting Japan had insurance.

Japan is North Korea's third largest trading partner, after China and South Korea. The insurance barrier is expected to hit North Korea's ports on the Sea of Japan, a dilapidated, economically depressed area, far from Pyongyang, the nation's showcase capital. In recent weeks, only one North Korean ship, a passenger-cargo ferry, is known to have bought insurance.

The insurance barrier will be felt at Tokyo's Tsukiji market, the world's largest fish market, where North Korea is a major supplier of snow crabs, sea urchins and short neck clams. For North Korean fishing boats, Japan is the best market in the region.

"It will hurt, it will pinch, it will be felt by North Koreans who are significant," said Chuck Downs, an American expert on Korea who wrote "Over the Line: North Korea's Negotiating Strategy."

"This will have a major impact on people who are on the snow-crab gravy train," Mr. Downs said. "They are making more money than the drug runners, than the diplomats. It is one of the few lucrative things you can do if you are North Korean."

On the import side, North Korea has become a major importer of used consumer goods from Japan, a country where recycling taxes are high. Next Wednesday is the birthday of North Korea's reclusive dictator, Kim Jong Il, a time when Communist functionaries traditionally dispense to party loyalists such gifts as rusting bicycles or hand-me-down refrigerators from Japan. But if North Korea's rusting scows are blocked from Japan's ports, the next birthday of North Korea's leader may be marked with a new austerity.

Read the whole article -- the U.S. and South Korea are ambivalent at best about the sanctions lever. At first glance, this would seem surprising: the best outcome is if North Korea backs down before March 1. Some people believe that the worst outcome, however, is Japan implementing sanctions on a defiant North Korea. I don't agree -- these sanctions will hurt the DPRK elite where it lives, in that it restricts hard currency access and consumer goods that only the elite can afford. This lever should be enough to get them back to six-party talks.

UPDATE: For more, the BBC has a round-up of the regional press reaction. The Christian Science Monitor has a round-up of global press reaction. Their most intriguing link is this Hamish McDonald story in the Sydney Morning Herald:

A debate has begun in policy circles as to whether Beijing should go further and propose an amendment to the 1961 mutual security treaty, to remove pledges of military assistance in the event of attack.

The treaty's second article says both sides "promise to jointly take all possible measures to prevent any country from invading either of the contracting parties. Whenever one contracting party suffers a military attack by one state or several states combined and therefore is in a state of war, the other contracting party should do all it can to offer military and other aid".

The undercutting of China's defence guarantee is part of a delicate carrot-and-stick approach by Beijing to edge North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il, into verifiable nuclear disarmament in return for a new security deal with the US and its regional allies, along with economic aid.

posted by Dan at 10:50 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (5)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

What's Kim Il Sung's Kim Jong Il's game?

I'm typing this in Princeton, NJ, as I'm giving a talk here today -- so there will not be much blogging for the next 24 hours.

Talk amongst yourselves. Here's a topic for discussion -- why has North Korea decided now is the time to publicly announce that they have nuclear weapons and suspend participation in six-nation non-proliferation talks?

Is it because Kim feels he can widen the diplomatic wedge between the United States and the other members of the talks (Japan, South Korea, China, Russia) -- or is it that Kim fears his regime is tottering on the abyss and the only way he can stay in power is to gin up a new international crisis? These are not mutually exclusive reasons, of course -- but which one is the primary cause?

Be sure to check out NK Zone for more blogging on the Hermit Kingdom. Also worth reading: In Foreign Affairs, Mitchell Reiss and Robert Gallucci rebut Selig Harrison's claim that North Korea doesn't really have a uranium enrichment program (link via Josh Marshall).

UPDATE: Oh, man did that first header date me -- I meant the current leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong il -- not his father, Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994. Apologies to all for the error.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Follow-up post here. Over at NRO, S.T. Karnick offers the following speculation on Kim's motives:

If there is a calculation by which North Korea's action makes sense, the law of Occam's Razor suggests we should apply it. I believe there is such a possibility.

It is unlikely mere coincidence that North Korea made this announcement and pulled out of talks just a few days after the elections in Iraq. In fact, it seems quite plausible that the Kim regime saw the recent comments by Secretary of State Rice as a warning that the United States was going to come after North Korea, and sooner than anyone might think.

The statement by the North Korean foreign ministry said Pyongyang has "manufactured nukes for self-defense to cope with the Bush administration's undisguised policy to isolate and stifle" the nation. Thursday's New York Times reported that Pyongyang's statement "zeroed in on Dr. Rice's testimony last month in her Senate confirmation hearings, where she lumped North Korea with five other dictatorships, calling them 'outposts of tyranny.'"

It seems plausible, then, that Pyongyang came to the conclusion that the United States and a coalition of other nations was about to do something that would ultimately lead to the fall of the Kim regime and a reunification of Korea on terms determined entirely by South Korea and its powerful allies. Today's statement, then, was Pyongyang's way of forestalling such action by raising the stakes radically, in suggesting that any U.S. move to impose its will on North Korea would lead to the use, however inefficient and elementary, of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang.

I think that's a major stretch. As CNN points out today, there have been ample rhetorical opportunities as of late for the administration to target North Korea -- and they haven't used them:

In his inaugural address on January 20, U.S. President George W. Bush did not mention North Korea by name, and he only briefly mentioned the country in his February 2 State of the Union address, saying Washington was "working closely with governments in Asia to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions."

Bush's tone was in stark contrast to his State of the Union address three years before, when he branded North Korea part of an "axis of evil" with Iran and Iraq.

The new, more restrained approach raised hopes for a positive response from North Korea. Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun agreed to push for an early resumption of the six-nation talks.

No, Rice's testimony was a useful rhetorical hook for North Korea's actions, and not the cause.

In the International Herald-Tribune, there is more speculation about this being an example of internal DPRK strife:

[S]ome analysts suggested that North Korea's retreat from the peace process may simply be a reflection of political confusion in Pyongyang.

"I wonder if this is an inability to come back to the table, resulting from divisions in the North Korean leadership over reaching a deal," said Peter Beck, who heads the Seoul office of the International Crisis Group.


posted by Dan at 10:43 AM | Comments (88) | Trackbacks (3)

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

The transatlantic relationship is important -- but not that important

The Economist has a story on the state of transatlanric relations following Condi Rice's speech on the topic yesterday at the Sciences Po. It's worth reading, but contains this odd passage:

America may also have come to realise that by disengaging from its European allies, it merely allows them to pursue diplomacy in ways that it does not like. An example is the Kyoto treaty on climate change: America refused to sign up, but the accord was still ratified.

One sign that America is now more prepared to engage with issues that the Europeans consider crucial is this week’s declaration of an end to hostilities between the Israelis and Palestinians. During his first term, Mr Bush paid lip service to Middle East peace but did little to push the process forward, to the chagrin of Tony Blair and other European leaders. Now the American president is taking the issue more seriously, and recent comments by Ms Rice suggest America will no longer be so quick to take Israel’s side.

While improving the transatlantic relationship is no doubt a nice positive externality from a more fruitful Middle East peace process. I think it's safe to say that the Bush administration's timing on this issue has nothing to do with Europe and everything to do with Yassir Arafat's passing.

Look, I think the transatlantic relationship is important, particularly with regard to the global political economy -- but it's not the cause of every twitch in U.S. foreign policy. The Economist is trying to read intent where there was none.

Another interesting question will be the extent to which the improving tranatlantic relationship reflects a greater recognition of shared interests -- or a greater willingness to amicably agree on disagreeing. For an example of tensions between these two approaches, see this FT story by Daniel Dombey.

posted by Dan at 02:48 PM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (1)

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Pretend you're a U of C undergraduate!!

Paper topic for my students in Power, Identity and Resistance: Liberalism and Its Critics:

The following is excerpted from President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address:

Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty - though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it….

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.

If Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were alive today, what would their reaction be to the assumptions and logic advanced in these sections of the speech? Would they agree or disagree? Why?

posted by Dan at 10:13 AM | Comments (45) | Trackbacks (2)

Monday, February 7, 2005

Fox's in-game breach of contract?

So the Super Bowl was a pretty good if not great game, and a pretty good if not great halftime show by Paul McCartney (though if there is any song that was made for massive fireworks displays, it's "Live and Let Die.").

The general consensus, however, is that the ads were pretty lame. See Seth Stevenson's review in Slate and Chris Ballard's at Part of the reason for this may have been the extent to which FOX and the NFL censored the ads, according to The Age's Caroline Overington:

This year the Fox network, which shows the Super Bowl, banned four ads. Many on Madison Avenue were disappointed. Advertisers pay around $US2.4 million ($A3.1 million) for a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl and usually strive to create something controversial. But Bob Garfield, a columnist for Advertising Age, said this year's commercials were disappointing. He told Good Morning America, "This year, the Super Bowl is interesting not because of what ads they're showing but what ads they are not."

Car maker Lincoln withdrew a commercial after Christian groups complained. In the ad, which can be seen on the web, a priest finds a car key in the collection plate. He goes to the car park, where he sees a Lincoln truck. He strokes it, loves it. But then a little girl turns up with her father, and the father wants his keys back.

Some Christian groups said the ad was inappropriate, given the Catholic Church's recent problems with pedophile priests.

Fox banned an ad from Budweiser that showed a delivery boy using the hard breastplate from Janet's notorious costume to open a beer. Another ad, featuring Mickey Rooney's bare and ageing buttocks, was also banned.

Fox censored itself too, changing the name of its Best Damn Sports Show, Period to The Best Darn Super Bowl Road Show Ever.

But at least one company got a saucy ad through the net. The website,, showed an ad with a well-endowed woman jiggling her breasts. At one point, the strap on her singlet top snapped, but no nipple was seen.

Ah, but not so fast!! It turns out that the ad did get censored run into difficulties. Bob Parsons, the CEO/founder of, blogs (yes, blogs) about what happened:

[O]ur Super Bowl ad only appeared during the scheduled first quarter spot. It was scheduled to run also in the second ad position during the final two minute warning. Our ad never ran a second time. Instead, in its place, we saw an advertisement promoting "The Simpsons."

The NFL persuaded FOX to pull our ad.

We immediately contacted Fox to find out what happened. Here's what we were told: After our first ad was aired, the NFL became upset and they, together with Fox, decided to pull the ad from running a second time. Because we purchased two spots, we were also entitled to a "Brought to you by" 5 second marquis spot. They also chose to pull the marquis spot....

I believe that it's the first time ever a decision was made to pull an ad after it had already been run once during the same broadcast. (emphasis added)

Forget whether or not this is censorship -- FOX is a private company, not the government -- if Parsons is correct, then I would imagine this has got to be one whopper of a breach-of-contract suit [Ahem, despite what others may believe, you're not a lawyer--ed. Good point -- I'd appreciate some legal takes on this issue.]

If you want to see the "controversial" ad, click here (I recommend the two-minute version -- the last spoken line made me laugh out loud). The ironic thing about the ad is that the object of the satire is not the NFL, but sanctimonious politicians (and, I might add, by far the best ad of the evening was the G-rated one for The NFL Network with Joe Montana et al singing "Tomorrow")

It should also be pointed out that this isn't the first time the NFL has acted like a spoiled brat it its desire to be seen as "wholesome". Last year ESPN aired a fictionalized show called Playmakers, a "behind-the-scenes" look at a professional football team. While the show was a bit over-the-top at times, Playmakers was an above average drama with some excellent performances -- kinda like The Shield for the NFL. However, the NFL believed that the show cast the NFL in a bad light, and made it's displeasure known to ESPN. In short order, ESPN caved in to the NFL.

UPDATE: Krysten Crawford has a story on this for CNN/Money that confirms Parsons' account:

Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, confirmed Monday that league executives contacted Fox officials after seeing the ad, which they had not pre-screened. The reason, said McCarthy, "was exactly what many people felt. It was inappropriate."

Check out this Parsons post from earlier in the week to see the back-and-forth between GoDaddy and FOX to get any ad on the air. Finally, the advertising blog adrants suggests that the the ad might not have played well. The Associated Press concurs, reporting that an post-game survey of 700 people found the GoDaddy ad to be one of the least liked. On the other hand, the Boston Globe's Alex Beam and the Kansas City Star's Aaron Barnhart both liked it. Howard Bashman correctly points out that, "Congressional hearings don't usually contain this much pretend near nudity."

Writing at WPN News, Kevin Dugan (who hated the GoDaddy ad) makes the provocative argument that blogs have ruined Super Bowl ads forever:

This year, the game was better than the ads. Again. You want to know why? There will never be an ad as good as 1984 again because there are no more secrets (that remain secret) before being told only once.

Blogs usurped the payoff around the big game this year. You could head online and find out the latest about any and all ads. We created buzz bigger than 1984 for ads that never stood a chance.

Pamela Parker makes a similar argument.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Joal Ryan reports for E! Online that the FCC received 33 complaints from the Super Bowl this year -- eight of which were devote to the ad. Three viewers called in to complain about Janet Jackson from last year.

posted by Dan at 02:24 PM | Comments (48) | Trackbacks (5)

The state of transatlantic public opinion

Today the German Marshall Fund of the United States released a survey of American, German, and French public opinion that was conducted in late November. The results suggest that public attitudes towards the countries across the Atlantic are not great -- but at least they're improving:

While disapproval of President Bush’s foreign policy decisions remains quite high in Europe, attitudes toward the United States are not as clear-cut. When asked how they felt about the U.S. taking a strong role in world affairs, majorities in France and Germany said that it was undesirable – 65% and 57%, respectively. While these figures would appear quite negative, they actually represent an improvement of 8 and 3 percentage points in France and Germany, since June, 2004.

Continued discontent with American leadership in France and Germany has kept support for a more independent Europe high. When asked whether the United States and the European Union should become closer or take more independent approaches to foreign and security policy 66% of French and 54% of German respondents said the European Union should take a more independent approach. On the face of it, this may seem to be a bad sign for U.S.-European relations, but the trends on this data are positive. In this last round of polling we found that the number of French and German respondents who said that the U.S. and the EU should become closer actually increased by 5 and 4 percentage points, respectively, since June. Additionally, the number of German respondents who said that the EU should take a more independent approach dropped by 10 percentage points over the same period....

There can be little doubt that the transatlantic rift that developed during the lead-up to the war in Iraq is still present. Yet, the reelection of President George W. Bush, whose decisions are often viewed as the primary reason for this rift, does not seem to have put any further strain on U.S.-European relations, at least not at the level of public opinion. If anything, damage to the transatlantic relationship appears to be showing the first signs of recovery as evidenced by a modest increase among French and German respondents in their desire to work more closely with the United States, as well as a decrease in their opposition to American leadership in world affairs. In addition, given the level of agreement in terms of American attitudes about what France and Germany can do to heal the transatlantic divide, and French and German attitudes about what the U.S. can do to mend the rift, there seems to be ample room to begin a U.S.-European rapprochement. Increased diplomacy and efforts to strengthen the EU’s military capabilities would most likely lie at the heart of any thaw Also promising for U.S.-European relations are the high favorability ratings of both the U.S. and NATO by citizens on both sides of the Atlantic. As the survey details, American, French, and German respondents not only agree on the benefits of these institutions, but they also agree in large part on their problems. This fact alone is good news as these organizations have traditionally helped to buttress the U.S.-European relationship. Revamping and refining these institutions to meet the needs of the 21st century could offer a possible avenue for rebuilding transatlantic ties.

The most interesting finding in the survey is the congruence between American and European attitudes about how to deal with Iran:

Respondents were asked to choose between two courses of action for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. One choice, described as supported by many American policymakers, included the threat of military action. The other, “European” choice emphasized diplomacy and soft power. Despite the identification of the first option as the “American” choice, only 30% of American respondents selected this course. Fifty-five percent of Americans supported the “European” approach, as did 82% of French and 91% of the German respondents. American support for a “soft power” strategy vis-à-vis Iran went up even further when the supporters of military action were offered a chance to change their position in return for European support on keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Over 39% of Americans who initially chose the “American” position were willing to change their approach in order to gain the support of European allies.

You can read the summary essay by clicking here -- and here's a link to the topline survey results.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This seems an appropriate moment to mention that I was recently named a non-resident transatlantic fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Furthermore, "During his time with GMF, he will advise on the design and analysis of public opinion surveys on foreign policy and collaborate with the Trade and Development program on the transatlantic trade relationship." Which means that one of my responsibilities was offering my (minor) input to this survey instrument.

posted by Dan at 10:54 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (3)

Sunday, February 6, 2005

The positive spillovers of Iraq's elections

Iraq had its first free election a week ago -- and the Washington Post has two stories suggesting that positive reverberations from that event are being felt in and out of Iraq.

Inside Iraq, Anthony Shadid and Doug Struck report that many who rejected the elections before they happened now want to participate in politics:

The leading Shiite candidate to become Iraq's next prime minister welcomed overtures on Saturday by groups that boycotted national elections and declared that he and others were willing to offer "the maximum" to bring those largely Sunni Arab groups into the drafting of the constitution and participation in the new government....

Abdel-Mehdi's comments were the latest to suggest a departure from the escalating political tension, much of it assuming a sectarian cast, that mirrored the insurgency and preceded Iraq's parliamentary elections. Many Sunni Arabs stayed away from the polls, crystallizing the divide between groups that engaged in the U.S.-backed process and those opposed to it while U.S. troops occupy the country.

Beginning this week, however, influential figures among Sunni and anti-occupation factions signaled their willingness to take part in the process that has followed the election, a recognition by some that the vote may have created a new dynamic. The Association of Muslim Scholars, one of the most powerful groups, has said it would abide by the results of the ballot, even if it viewed the government as lacking legitimacy. Thirteen parties, including a representative of the association and other parties that boycotted the vote, agreed Thursday to take part in the drafting of the constitution, which will be the parliament's main task.

"We should respect the choice of the Iraqi people," said Tariq Hashemi, the secretary general of the Sunni-led Iraqi Islamic Party, which withdrew from the election but which was still listed on the ballot.

The "drafting of the constitution is a very important issue for all Iraqis, and we have to be very clear on that," Hashemi said at a news conference Saturday. "We will have a role, we will play a role. That role depends on the political circumstances."

Meanwhile, Robin Wright reports that the elections have also had a salutory effect on the transatlantic relationship:

The war over the war is almost over.

Courtesy of the large turnout in Iraq's election a week ago, the United States and key European allies are beginning to make up after two years of bitterly strained relations over the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In large part because of the images of millions of Iraqis voting in defiance of insurgents, Condoleezza Rice's debut in Europe as secretary of state is being greeted with striking warmth and a rush of expectations about the healing of transatlantic ties.

"Irrespective of what one thought about the military intervention in Iraq in the first place," Germany is "strongly ready. . . to help Iraq to get toward this stable and hopefully democratic development," Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said at a news conference with Rice in Berlin on Friday.

In an editorial Saturday, the influential Warsaw newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza said that "by going to the polling stations in such large numbers, the Iraqi people helped settle the dispute between the United States and Europe over whether democracy can be reconciled with Islam. Thanks to them, the 'de-freezing' of transatlantic relations could happen earlier than even optimists expected."

More weeks like this, and Jon Stewart's head may have to implode.

posted by Dan at 01:11 AM | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (2)