Saturday, February 19, 2005
Deepening capital markets in South Africa
As part of danieldrezner.com's keen interest in the spread of financial services to the developing world (click here for an earlier example of this interest), Laurie Goering has a story in today's Chicago Tribune on the effort by South African banks to get South Africans comfortable with the idea of depositing their money in... banks:
Read the whole thing.
As someone who knows very little about the South African financial sector, I have two questions after reading this piece:
Friday, February 18, 2005
Regarding Eason Jordan
Most of this debate is on whether Jordan's blog-fueled exit is good or bad. For me, there's another question -- did the blogosphere really force him out?
I ask this after reading Ed Morrissey's timeline of Jordangate in the Weekly Standard. Assuming that Morrissey's account is accurate, then the media heat on Jordan was never particularly strong -- and it was dying down the day before he left CNN. Consider this section of Morrissey's article:
In a blog post on the same topic, Morrissey again complains about the lack of media attention to this story:
So Morrissey acknowledges that the story was starting to lose steam the day before Jordan left, and that the mainstream media seemed disinclined to pursue the story any further. If the MSM was either not paying much attention or playing down the scandal, why did Jordan choose to resign when he did?
There are three possibilities:
I just don't think (1) is true -- if it is, it certainly violates the argument that Henry Farrell and I have made about when blogs are influential. (2) might be correct -- see Rebecca MacKinnon on this point -- but based on what both Stephens and David Gergen have said, I'm dubious about the tape being that damaging. [But Morrissey points out that what he said at Davos fits a larger pattern--ed. Yes, but Morrissey also laments the fact that this was not reported in the MSM beyond the original Guardian story from last November.]
Which leads me to (3). It's telling that Katherine Q. Seelye's New York Times account observes, "Some of those most familiar with Mr. Jordan's situation emphasized, in interviews over the weekend, that his resignation should not be read solely as a function of the heat that CNN had been receiving on the Internet, where thousands of messages, many of them from conservatives, had been posted." And, as Mickey Kaus points out, Howard Kurtz's first-draft version of what happened provided an alternative explanation. Check out this Keith Olbermann post as well.
Unlike Michelle Malkin, I haven't called anyone to check out this hypothesis -- this is only me spitballing. But something ain't right here.
I'm curious what others think -- and I'm particularly curious what the higher-ups at CNN think.
Hail Hitler -- Ted Hitler, that is
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart had a piece on bloggers by
The eerie thing is that Colbert's closing statement is precisely the point that Henry Farrell and I make in our predictions for the future of the blogosphere. To quote Colbert:
It's really depressing that The Daily Show is not just funnier that I am -- they are better at stating the more substantive point about bloggers.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
A run on the Lebanese pound?
Roula Khalaf and Kim Ghattas report in the Financial Times that the Lebanese pound could be in trouble:
What's historically intriguing about this is that if memory serves, the Lebanese pound managed to retain its value throughout the 1975-1991 civil war.
UPDATE: Daniel Davies points out in the comments that my memory is faulty, and that the Lebanese pound suffered hyperinflation during the civil war. As it turns out, the historical data says we are both correct. The pound did a decent job holding its value in the first stage of the civil war, from 1975 to 1983. After the Israeli incursion, however, hyperinflation did kick in.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
I know saffron, and The Gates is not saffron
I'm typing this in New York City, about a block from Central Park. As some of you are no doubt aware, Christo has opened up his latest art exhibit, The Gates, in Central Park. This is how he describes it on his web site:
This is great -- but ask the New York cabdrivers about this exhibit as you pass through the Park -- as I did -- and what you get is an impressive string of invective (to be fair, part of this is due to the exhibit shutting down some of the cross-park roads -- but only part).
Having seen it, I'm very amused by the headline for Michael Kimmelman's New York Times review, "In a Saffron Ribbon, a Billowy Gift to the City." Now, if Christo and Kimmelman want to call it "saffron," more power to them. To me, the color of "The Gates" is not saffron -- it's safety orange.
This is the biggest problem with the exhibit: approaching the Park, all you think is that the entire area must be under massive construction. It's just a bizarre color choice, and mars what would otherwise have been an aesthetically pleasing exhibit.
For a somewhat contrary take, see Virginia Postrel's take
There's the Planet Earth, and then there's Tulsa World
My favorite part is the claim by Tulsa World's lawyers in the letter sent to Bates that he "inappropriately linked [Bates'] website to Tulsa World content."
Man, imagine how inappropriate it would be to link to the e-mail of the good people who run Tulsa World.
It's getting uncomfortable for Syria
Prior to the invasion of Iraq, I wrote the following at TNR Online:
Note that Lebanon was not mentioned in that graf, because that country has essentially been a Syrian fiefdom since the end of the Lebanese Civil War.
However, the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri yesterday highlights the increasing crunch Syria now faces. David Hirst -- who's covered the Middle East for over forty years -- explains what's going on in the Guardian:
Rami G. Khouri, writing in the Beirut-based Daily Star, agrees on the tectonic political shifts uinleashed by the assassination:
The New York Times' Steven Weisman and Hassan Fattah report that the assassination itself has already made life more difficult for Syria:
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
In honor of the Kyoto Protocol...
As the Kyoto Protocol goes into effect on Wednesday, here's a roundup of environmental links that have caught my eye over the past week:
1) On Monday Antonio Regalado had a front-pager in the Wall Street Journal (the link should work for non-subscribers) about the famous/infamous "hockey stick" graph that showed a dramatic climb in temperatures since the start of the Industrial Revolution:
Astonishingly, neither weblog mentioned in the piece has posted any correction of substance about the article -- so bravo to Regalado for apparently writing an accurate article on a technical and controversial subject.
2) Over at a new international law blog called Opinio Juris, Julian Ku notes that while the Bush administration is no fan of Kyoto, it is leading the way in reducing methane. He links to this Gregg Easterbrook essay in The New Republic which contains the following:
[Easterbrook? Easterbrook? Is he a reliable source on enviro-stuff?--ed. There have been some problems in the past, yes. However, I'm taking Kevin Drum's lack of criticism (he's usually all over Easterbrook's environmental posts like Paris Hilton on the cover of a magazine) to be a good sign.]
Ku graciously points out that I blogged about the "Methane to Markets" initiative back in July of last year.
3) John Quiggin has been all over the question of whether Bjorn Lomborg stacked the deck of the Copenhaen Consensus to ensure that global warming would be ranked at the bottom of the world's problems. Alex Tabarrok disputes this, pointing out that Lomborg picked an ardent advocate of the Kyoto Protocol. However, as I read this, Tabarrok's point is consistent with Quiggin's: Lomborg picked someone knowing they would make a radical argument, this ensuring his panelists would reject it.
"Confessions of a scholar-blogger"
That's the title of a short essay I wrote for the University of Chicago Magazine, the U of C's alumni magazine. Here's the opening and closing paragraphs:
Thanks to Mary Ruth Yoe for her crisp editing -- and thanks to Jacob Levy for coining the term "scholar-blogger" in the first place.
You should check out the rest of the magazine's contents -- as I've noted in the past, it's consistently interesting and informative. For example, check out Sharla Stewart's article on Richard Thaler and the rise of behavioral economics. Stewart has a good track record in writing about the social sciences -- her essay on the "perestroika" movement two years ago remains the single-best thing I've read on the subject.
Handicapping the race for the WTO leadership
Because the hard-working staff here at danieldrezner.com has been focused on who the next World Bank president will be, we've ben remiss in discussing who will become the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization.
Fortunately, Michael C. Boyer, James G. Forsyth, and Jai Singh have an article in Foreign Policy that picks up the slack and handicaps the race. It's worth checking out.
One of the more intriguing elements of the jockeying for position is that one of the candidates -- Mauritian Foreign Minister Jaya Krishna Cuttaree -- has set up his own web site devoted entirely to his candidacy for the WTO position. No blog yet -- but give him time.
Finally, on the general topic of the cockeyed process of selecting people for leadership posts at various international economic organizations, do yourself a favor and go buy a copy of Miles Kahler's Leadership Selection in the Major Multilaterals.
Monday, February 14, 2005
You try democratizing Belarus!
Peter Savodnik has a Slate essay comparing and contrasting US and EU efforts to promote a viable democratic opposition in Belarus. For the past decade, Alexander Lukashenko has pretty much ruled the country according to his own increasingly erratic whim. The Americans, the Europeans, and a fair number of Belarusians would love to see his back. However, as Savodnik recounts, there is a transatlantic split on how to promote democracy in Minsk:
Savodnik makes it clear that he wants the EU to change its strategy -- but to be honest, I'm not sure what would be a better strategy. If the EU were to pursue a more "American" approach with its aid, Lukashenko would doubtless boot them out of the country as well. I'm no real fan of the EU's current strategy, but it's far from clear that there's a better alternative.
There are, alas, all too many foreign policy dilemmas like this one -- when all the policy options stink to high heaven.
Perhaps I've become too cyncical, however -- readers are encouraged to devise a better policy to promote democracy in Belarus.
Iraq's election results
Anthony Shadid and Doug Struck provide a summary of Iraq's election returns in the Washington Post. The highlights:
Jeff Weintraub, analyzing the results, suggests that "On first impression, the latest news about the Iraqi election returns has confirmed my most optimistic hopes." Juan Cole, looking at the same numbers, concludes, "[current Prime Minister Iyad] Allawi's defeat... is a huge defeat for the Bush administration, though it will not be reported that way in the corporate media."
UPDATE: Robin Wright has an odd news analysis piece in the Washington Post today. It's odd becuse the headline reads, "Iraq Winners Allied With Iran Are the Opposite of U.S. Vision" -- and the piece consists of expert quotes (including Cole) making this point. However, in the 16th paragraph there's this casual admission that, "U.S. and regional analysts agree that Iraq is not likely to become an Iranian surrogate." I'll have more to say about the question of Iran's influence in Iraq sometime this week.
Meanwhile, Weintraub e-mails the following:
ANOTHER UPDATE: It's intriguing to compare the New York Times news analysis by Dexter Filkins with Wright's analysis in the Washington Post. Filkins' analysis differs from Wright's in two ways: a) no expert quotes from American sources (though plenty of quotes from Iraqis); and b) a more optimistic piece. The highlights:
See this James Joyner post for more.