Friday, May 27, 2005

The latest on offshore outsourcing

Ted Balaker and Adrian Moore have written a lengthy report for the Reason Foundation entitled "Offshoring and Public Fear: Assessing the Real Threat to Jobs." Click here or a more concise summary of the report. Nut sentence: "Outsourcing is not a newly created threat to jobs. It is merely a version of trade, and like previous versions of trade it brings some pain—but it brings even more promise."

One anecdote that's given as an example of how offshoring saves and even creates jobs:

Offshore outsouring also helped Donaldson Co. Inc., a Minnestota-based technology components company. Facing competition from overseas manufacturers with much lower prices, Donaldson shifted production to China. The design work stayed with its American team of engineers, chemists, and designers. Offshoring production helped increase Donaldson’s U.S.-based employment by 400 employees since 1990. What if the company had refused to go offshore? “We’d be out of business,” says an executive.

[Sure, but what about the jobs that will be destroyed in, say, the financial sector?--ed. Hmmm.... let's check out this report by Andy McCue:

Two-thirds of financial services firms still have no plans to outsource any operations to low-cost overseas countries such as India, according to a new report.

But the worldwide study of 400 IT directors by analyst Datamonitor found those banking firms which have already used offshore outsourcing are planning to increase the scope of it and extend it to more complex and core financial services processes.

Anders Maehre, financial services technology analyst at Datamonitor and author of the study, told there is an increasing polarisation in the banking industry between firms which choose to offshore and those that don't.

"The vast majority of companies will not consider offshore for anything. But two-thirds to three-quarters of those who already do offshore plan to increase it, so the logical conclusion is that some of the fears these firms have don't materialise and they do experience benefits," he said.

Only about a fifth of financial services firms are currently using offshore outsourcing and another 15 per cent said they are likely to go down that route in the near future, while the rest said they are "completely unlikely" to use overseas resources, according to Datamonitor's figures.

But the figures can be slightly misleading if not put into context: most of the big global financial institutions make up that small number of firms which are offshoring.

So there's a complex trend going on -- some big firms are increasing activity, but almost all small firms are not. My hunch is that the overall effect on employment is a wash.]

Meanwhile, a new book coming out suggests that estimates of jobs lost from offshoring are both exaggerated and reversible:

Douglas Brown and Scott Wilson, authors of "The Black Book of Outsourcing," say many executives they've interviewed are reconsidering offshoring because of the high price of fuel and airfare, management challenges, customer complaints and the increasing cost of labor in foreign technology hubs such as Bangalore, India, and a simultaneous lowering of some white-collar salaries in the United States.

By 2015, Brown and Wilson say, the United States will likely rank as the No. 3 destination for outsourced work, behind only China and India.

"Offshoring undoubtedly offers significant financial benefits for companies across a wide range of fields and sizes," Wilson said. "Undertaking such a venture, however, requires a cost-benefit analysis that includes downsides such as political instability, language and cultural barriers and time-zone differences."

Instead of farming out work to countries a dozen time zones away, Wilson said, many U.S. companies are looking for relatively low-cost destinations closer to home, including Canada, Mexico and South America. He terms it "nearshoring."

Click on this paper by Scott Noble to see some reasons why offshoring fails.

posted by Dan at 03:26 PM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (3)

A very important post about..... Paris Hilton's food porn

When we last left the topic of food porn, the staff here at was gently mocking the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) for awarding this label to the Hardee's/Crl's Jr. Monster Thickburger, pointing out that:

[T]heir decision to label all Thickburgers as 'food porn' guaranteed that they would earn sound bites, but the effect might be the opposite of what they intended. I gotta think that if a consumer sees something with that label, it will pique rather than retard their interest.

From the comments to that post, it was clear that many readers were eager to eat the burger out of sheer bloody-mindedness because of the CPSI's excessive preachiness on the topic.

One wondered, however -- riling a group like CPSI works only once in generating the kind of necessary buzz. Which group could Hardee's/Carl Jr. manage to rile up in order to secure the appropriate payoff?

Which brings me, of course, to Paris Hilton:


What you see above you is a still from the new Carl. Jr.'s ad for its new Spicy BBQ Six Dollar Burger. Click here to see the ad running on the Carl Jr.'s site, and here to see an extended version of the ad -- as well as.... commentary by Ms. Hilton herself. [How would you describe the ad?--ed. Er.... Paris Hilton doing a really bad job of washing a Bentley and an OK job of washing herself. And how would you describe her interview?--ed. A major turn-off. Hilton describes her outfit in the ad as a "bikini." For God's sake, the one thing she's supposed to actually know is fashion and she can't even use the proper term?]

According to Lester Haines of The Register, the new ad caused the Carl Jr.'s website to crash from traffic overload (read all of Haines' article by the way -- wickedly funny).

Newsweek's Jonathan Darman reports that the usual suspects are not pleased with this ad:

The Paris pictures were news because the Parents Television Council (PTC), an influential broadcast-decency group, wants the ad banished to late-night television or off the airwaves altogether. The ad "meets the exact definition of pornography,” Tim Winter, the group’s executive director, tells NEWSWEEK. “Families shouldn’t have to be subjected to that.”

CNN gets an even better quote from the PTC:

"This commercial is basically soft-core porn," said Melissa Caldwell, research director for the PTC. "The way she moves, the way she puts her finger in her mouth -- it's very suggestive and very titillating."

Wow, that's hot. Note to self... check out the PTC web site more often.

Meanwhile, Carl's Jr. is just delighted by the PTC's ire:

Carl's Jr.'s message to the PTC: The group needs to "get a life," said Andy Puzder, CEO of Carl's Jr., a subsidiary of CKE Restaurants. "This isn't Janet Jackson -- there is no nipple in this. There is no nudity, there is no sex acts -- it's a beautiful model in a swimsuit washing a car."

Puzder says he has shown the ad to his three children, ages 12, 9 and 7, and they have shown no signs of being corrupted. "Maybe people are excited because it's Paris Hilton, but there are far worse things on television that these groups should be worried about," Puzder said.

So far Puzder has managed to aggravate the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Parents Television Council -- both to brilliant PR effects.

However, one wonders whether Puzder has run out of useful fools. Readers are strongly encouraged to suggest the next watchdog group that Puzder will provoke in order get more associations of his food products with porn.

posted by Dan at 10:18 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (2)

Apres "non".... parlez dites "oui," dammit!

The official campaign for the French referendum on the EU constitution has ended. According to the LA Times' Sebastian Rotella, Jacques Chirac ended things on a subtle note:

In an attempt to avert a resounding French rejection of a proposed European constitution, President Jacques Chirac told voters Thursday that they have a "historic responsibility" to approve the proposal.

Chirac's prime-time speech marked the official end of the campaign ahead of Sunday's referendum and reflected the measure's high stakes and darkening prospects. Opinion polls predict that French voters will turn down the bid to speed the continent's political integration by strengthening institutions such as the European Union's presidency....

Chirac urged voters not to hurt both France and Europe by using the referendum to express generalized displeasure.

"The rejection of the treaty will be seen by Europeans as a no to Europe," Chirac warned. "It will open a period of division, of doubt, of uncertainty.... What a responsibility before history if France, a founding country of Europe, caused the risk of breaking the union of our continent."

Hmmm... this line of argument sounds familiar... oh, yes, Romano Prodi tried it a month ago. I'll repeat what I said then:

The European project has managed to generate a common market, a common Court of Justice, the euro, Schengenland, an increasingly assertive European parliament, and even the faint stirrings of a common foreign and defense policy -- all using the current set of legal and political arrangements. None of these will disappear if the French say non.

Also, if Chirac needs to borrow lines of argumentation from Prodi, then it doesn't look good for "the future of Chirac, a 72-year-old political veteran who reportedly intends to run for a third term in 2007."

As for the referendum, six weeks ago I suggested that, "even if the referendum fails, the French can simply schedule another referendum." According to the EUobserver's Elitsa Vucheva, that's pretty much what the current EU president would like to see:

If the French and the Dutch reject the EU Constitution on Sunday and Wednesday, they should re-run the referendums, the current president of the EU, Jean-Claude Juncker, has said.

"If at the end of the ratification process, we do not manage to solve the problems, the countries that would have said No, would have to ask themselves the question again", Mr Juncker said in an interview with Belgian daily Le Soir.

French speakers can read the Le Soir interview by clicking here. My French is tres rusty, but I'm pretty sure he implies elsewhere in the interview that without the constitution Europe will revisit the horrors of the the Balkan wars of the last decade.

POST-NON UPDATE: Click here for my (brief) post-non thoughts.

posted by Dan at 01:41 AM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (2)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Dealing with the Iraqi insurgency

Scott Peterson has an excellent roundup of the state of the Iraqi insurgency in the Christian Science Monitor. Key paragraphs:

Analysts say the insurgency can probably carry on for now with or without Mr. Zarqawi's guiding hand, pointing to the high level of bloodshed that killed at least 13 more people Thursday.

But it is under increasing pressure from numerous US offensives in western Iraq, the loss of two-dozen top lieutenants, and intelligence from Zarqawi's captured computer. Iraq's budding government is also tightening its grip, announcing Thursday that it would launch a new offensive with 40,000 troops and set up 600 checkpoints in Baghdad.

One other paragraph was interesting, going back to Virginia Postrel's point about understanding the other:

[Magnus Ranstorp, head of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St. Andrews University in Scotland] says that the most effective interrogators of Al Qaeda groups are masters of the theological debate. "They can point out wrong interpretations [of Islam] that further delegitimize what [militants] are trying to do."

posted by Dan at 02:02 PM | Comments (36) | Trackbacks (0)

What to read about the blogosphere today

Two outstanding contributions about the way the blogosphere works:

1) Eszter Hargittai posts a summary of her research into the viability of Cass Sunstein's hypothesis -- that the Internet fosters cyberbalkanization -- by analyzing link structures in the political blogosphere. Her preliminary findings:

Overall, it would be incorrect to conclude that liberal bloggers are ignoring conservative bloggers or vice versa. Certainly, liberal bloggers are more likely to address liberal bloggers and conservative bloggers are more likely to link to conservative bloggers. But people from both groups are certainly reading across the ideological divide to some extent.

Two other interesting findings: balkanization is not increasing over time, and -- sorry, I can't resist this one -- "We found that about half of the [cross-ideological] links represent what we classify as strawman arguments. The liberal bloggers in our sample are more likely to engage in such cross-linking than the conservative bloggers."

2) Carl Bialik has a great piece in the Wall Street Journal (no subscription required) that looks behind the numbers floated around with regard to the number of blogs out there and how blog traffic is measured. These paragraphs might make some blog triumphalists pause a bit before declaring the death of dead tree media:

Advertisers may not be happy with [standard blog counters], since they count total visits, and not the "unique visitor" figure that is the standard currency for many kinds of online advertising (advertisers don't want to pay twice to reach the same reader). "That's a big issue," Henry Copeland, founder of, told me at a conference last week. "We're very aware that's a flawed number."

...ComScore Media Metrix and Neilsen//NetRatings are the sources most often used by online advertisers to track unique visitors. Neither tracks blogs as a matter of course, though comScore did look up traffic for 13 prominent blogs in April, upon my request (I picked ones from the top of the various rankings). Just five met the company's minimum threshold for statistical significance of about 150,000 monthly visitors. Media and gossip site Gawker had the most, with 304,000 unique visitors. The others that cleared the cut: Defamer (287,000), Boing Boing (250,000), Daily Kos (212,000) and Gizmodo (209,000). Among those that didn't were prominent political blogs Instapundit, Power Line and Eschaton. (I asked NetRatings about the same 13 blogs, and it had reportable data only for Defamer, Daily Kos, Boing Boing and Gizmodo -- and the sample sizes didn't meet standards for statistical significance.)

ComScore and NetRatings both recruit panels of online users who agree to install software that monitors their behavior. The companies use sampling techniques similar to those of political pollsters.

By point of comparison, comScore says the New York Times's Web site had 29.8 million unique visitors in April.

posted by Dan at 11:29 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Gregg Easterbrook, war, and the dangers of extrapolation

Via Oxblog's Patrick Belton, I see that Gregg Easterbrook has a cover story in The New Republic entitled "The End of War?" It has a killer opening:

Daily explosions in Iraq, massacres in Sudan, the Koreas staring at each other through artillery barrels, a Hobbesian war of all against all in eastern Congo--combat plagues human society as it has, perhaps, since our distant forebears realized that a tree limb could be used as a club. But here is something you would never guess from watching the news: War has entered a cycle of decline. Combat in Iraq and in a few other places is an exception to a significant global trend that has gone nearly unnoticed--namely that, for about 15 years, there have been steadily fewer armed conflicts worldwide. In fact, it is possible that a person's chance of dying because of war has, in the last decade or more, become the lowest in human history.

Is Easterbrook right? He has a few more paragraphs on the numbers:

The University of Maryland studies find the number of wars and armed conflicts worldwide peaked in 1991 at 51, which may represent the most wars happening simultaneously at any point in history. Since 1991, the number has fallen steadily. There were 26 armed conflicts in 2000 and 25 in 2002, even after the Al Qaeda attack on the United States and the U.S. counterattack against Afghanistan. By 2004, Marshall and Gurr's latest study shows, the number of armed conflicts in the world had declined to 20, even after the invasion of Iraq. All told, there were less than half as many wars in 2004 as there were in 1991.

Marshall and Gurr also have a second ranking, gauging the magnitude of fighting. This section of the report is more subjective. Everyone agrees that the worst moment for human conflict was World War II; but how to rank, say, the current separatist fighting in Indonesia versus, say, the Algerian war of independence is more speculative. Nevertheless, the Peace and Conflict studies name 1991 as the peak post-World War II year for totality of global fighting, giving that year a ranking of 179 on a scale that rates the extent and destructiveness of combat. By 2000, in spite of war in the Balkans and genocide in Rwanda, the number had fallen to 97; by 2002 to 81; and, at the end of 2004, it stood at 65. This suggests the extent and intensity of global combat is now less than half what it was 15 years ago.

Easterbrook spends the rest of the essay postulating the causes of this -- the decline in great power war, the spread of democracies, the growth of economic interdependence, and even the peacekeeping capabilities of the United Nations.

Easterbrook makes a lot of good points -- most people are genuinely shocked when they are told that even in a post-9/11 climate, there has been a steady and persistent decline in wars and deaths from wars. That said, what bothers me in the piece is what Easterbrook leaves out.

First, he neglects to mention the biggest reason for why war is on the decline -- there's a global hegemon called the United States right now. Easterbrook acknowledges that "the most powerful factor must be the end of the cold war" but he doesn't understand why it's the most powerful factor. Elsewhere in the piece he talks about the growing comity among the great powers, without discussing the elephant in the room: the reason the "great powers" get along is that the United States is much, much more powerful than anyone else. If you quantify power only by relative military capabilities, the U.S. is a great power, there are maybe ten or so middle powers, and then there are a lot of mosquitoes. [If the U.S. is so powerful, why can't it subdue the Iraqi insurgency?--ed. Power is a relative measure -- the U.S. might be having difficulties, but no other country in the world would have fewer problems.]

Joshua Goldstein, who knows a thing or two about this phenomenon, made this clear in a Christian Science Monitor op-ed three years ago:

We probably owe this lull to the end of the cold war, and to a unipolar world order with a single superpower to impose its will in places like Kuwait, Serbia, and Afghanistan. The emerging world order is not exactly benign – Sept. 11 comes to mind – and Pax Americana delivers neither justice nor harmony to the corners of the earth. But a unipolar world is inherently more peaceful than the bipolar one where two superpowers fueled rival armies around the world. The long-delayed "peace dividend" has arrived, like a tax refund check long lost in the mail.

The difference in language between Goldstein and Easterbrook highlights my second problem with "The End of War?" Goldstein rightly refers to the past fifteen years as a "lull" -- a temporary reduction in war and war-related death. The flip side of U.S. hegemony being responsible for the reduction of armed conflict is what would happen if U.S. hegemony were to ever fade away. Easterbrook focuses on the trends that suggest an ever-decreasing amount of armed conflict -- and I hope he's right. But I'm enough of a realist to know that if the U.S. should find its primacy challenged by, say, a really populous non-democratic country on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, all best about the utility of economic interdependence, U.N. peacekeeping, and the spread of democracy are right out the window.

UPDATE: To respond to a few thoughts posted by the commenters:

1) To spell things out a bit more clearly -- U.S. hegemony important to the reduction of conflict in two ways. First, U.S. power can act as a powerful if imperfect constraint on pairs of enduring rivals (Greece-Turkey, India-Pakistan) that contemplate war on a regular basis. It can't stop every conflict, but it can blunt a lot ofthem. Second, and more important to Easterbrook's thesis, U.S. supremacy in conventional military affairs prevents other middle-range states -- China, Russia, India, Great Britain, France, etc. -- from challenging the U.S. or each other in a war. It would be suicide for anyone to fight a war with the U.S., and if any of these countries waged a war with each other, the prospect of U.S. intervention would be equally daunting.

2) Many commenters think what's important is the number of casualties, not the number of wars. This is tricky, however, because of the changing nature of warfighting and medical science. Compared to, say, World War II, wars now have far less of an effect on civilian populations. Furthermore, more people survive combat injuries because of improvements in medicine. These are both salutory trends, but I dunno if that means that war as a tool of statecraft is over -- if anything, it makes the use of force potentially more attractive, because of the minimization of spillover effects.

Go check out Daniel Nexon's blog for more on this -- he's an assistant professor of political science at Georgetown, and knows some things.

posted by Dan at 11:49 PM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (1)

Why I've never trusted my parents' milkman...

Below is a photo of me, my brother and the other groomsmen at my brother's wedding:


Can you guess which one is my brother? There is a hidden clue, but on similarity of appearances I would wager there's no chance in hell anyone will get it right.

This fact, by the way, amuses my brother and I no end.

I promise to post an answer in 24 hours.

UPDATE: Answer below the fold

Congrats to those who either figured out that my brother has the white rose in his tuxedo -- or Googled to find an answer.

Oddly enough, we looked much more alike when we were children.

posted by Dan at 11:10 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Some fine blogging going on this week!

Three great things to peruse in the blogosphere:

1) Crooked Timber has arranged a blog roundtable to discuss Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's Freakonomics (which is one of my books on the month). Contributors include the regulars at Crooked Timber, as well as Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen and the Financial Times' Tim Harford.

If nothing else the critiques have certainly impressed Levitt :

I’m not sure whether it says more about my own shortcomings, or the quality of these five commentaries above on Freakonomics, that I gained a great deal of self-awareness from reading them. It was a surprising reaction for me. There have been many published reviews of Freakonomics, and not one of them has given me the slightest insight into myself. Strangely, though, I felt like I understand my own motivations and goals better than I did a few hours ago.

2) I didn't think there was anything more to mine out of the Newsweek affair, but Virginia Postrel proves me wrong. This point is particularly trenchant:

While many Americans believe it's wrong to shock and humiliate Muslim prisoners by violating their religious taboos, very, very few Americans--mostly Muslims, of course--would themselves be horrified by the mere idea of flushing a Koran. And that, I think, is the real bias of the Newsweek report. American reporters, whether secular or religious, simply don't feel instinctive rage at the idea of Koran desecration and, hence, don't expect such reports to generate riots. Diversifying reporting staffs to include more red state types couldn't change that bias. By Western standards, it is, after all, completely idiotic--not to mention highly immoral--to kill people over the treatment of an inanimate object, however disrepectful the symbolism....

With its Western biases, Newsweek thought it was writing about allegations of prisoner abuse, a human rights issue. Its overseas audience had a different reading. The differences between us and them really are bigger than the differences between us and us.

3) Greg Djerejian, back to blogging at Belgravia Dispatch, riffs on a New York Times op-ed by Egyptian scholar and democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim that argues moderate Islamist parties in the Middle East might follow the path that Christian Democrats took in Western Europe.

Djerejian's takeaway point:

I believe the Middle East may have passed a tipping point with peoples increasingly demanding political breathing space. We are seeing it in Kuwait, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Egypt, in Iraq, in Iran, in Bahrain. Just about everywhere, really. It is the dominant narrative at this juncture. What responsible actors in the U.S. must do is figure out how best to maximize the chances of these trends taking root over the long-term and in a manner beneficial to the U.S. national interest. We should not recoil in fear, for instance, whenever we hear the word Islamists. If moderate Islamists were to take control in certain countries (though I think their popularity is often overstated) and guide stable polities, this will prove better than secular butchers like Saddam. We must be careful, however, to ensure that foreign influence is wielded in a manner calibrated to not lead to nationalist backlashes or radical Islamist reaction.

This is why B.D. is so sensitive to tales of torture, of denigration of Islamic tenets in detainee treatment, and so on. This is not born of squeamishness; but of realism. An important element in securing a long term victory in this struggle against extremist terror is denying the enemy propaganda tools. Where are our fluent Arabic speakers on al-Arabiya explaining what legal reasons compelled us after 9/11 to have a detention center in Guantanamo for fanatical al-Qaeda detainees? Where are our spokesmen apologizing for the death of detainees in Bagram and Abu Ghraib who perished under U.S. custody? Loudly, repeatedly, in Arabic?.... Is it just me, or are we behind in getting these messages out? If so, why?

Read the whole thing.... especially if you've seen the movie Battle of Algiers.

posted by Dan at 11:47 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (0)

Arabs at home and abroad

In Foreign Policy, Moises Naim makes an interesting point about Arab Americans:

People of Arab descent living in the United States are doing far better than the average American. That is the surprising conclusion drawn from data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000 and released last March. The census found that U.S. residents who report having Arab ancestors are better educated and wealthier than average Americans.

Whereas 24 percent of Americans hold college degrees, 41 percent of Arab Americans are college graduates. The median income for an Arab family living in the United States is $52,300—4.6 percent higher than other American families—and more than half of all Arab Americans own their home. Forty-two percent of people of Arab descent in the United States work as managers or professionals, while the same is true for only 34 percent of the general U.S. population. For many, this success has come on quickly: Although about 50 percent of Arab Americans were born in the United States, nearly half of those born abroad did not arrive until the 1990s.

For Naim, this success presents an interesting puzzle:

Of course, many will explain the success of Arab Americans by pointing out that people who emigrate tend to be younger, more motivated, ambitious, and entrepreneurial. The Arab immigrants who are doing so well in the United States, according to this view, would have made it anywhere.

Sadly, that isn’t true, either. Otherwise, how does one explain why Arab immigrants in Europe are worse off than those in the United States? Why are leaders of Arab communities in France warning that social and racial tensions are in danger of creating a “social and political atom bomb”? Sure, France may be an extreme case, but the situation of Arabs in the rest of Europe is hardly better. In general, Muslims living in Europe—of which Arabs constitute a significant proportion—are poorer, less educated, and in worse health than the rest of the population. In the Netherlands, the unemployment rate for ethnic Moroccans is 22 percent, roughly four times the rate for the country as a whole. In Britain, the Muslim population has the highest unemployment rate of all religious groups. The failure of Arabs in Europe is particularly worrisome given that 10 of the states or entities along Europe’s eastern and southern borders are home to nearly 250 million Muslims—most of them Arabs—with a birthrate more than double that of Europeans.

This census data should prompt soul-searching in many quarters. Cultural determinists may want to revise their theories of Arab backwardness. Arab leaders should be ashamed when they see their emigrants prospering in the United States while their own people are miserable. And Europe should wake up to the possibility that it may have less of an “Arab problem” than a “European problem.” Then again, maybe the cultural determinists have an explanation for why Europeans are so predisposed against Arab success.

Read the whole thing. And thanks to Colin Grabow for the link.

UPDATE: Hmmm.... Naim may have spoken too soon. Many thanks all of the commenters -- especially Andrés Vernon -- for pointing out the differences in the attributes of Arabs emigrating to the U.S. versus Arabs emigrating to Europe. Vernon provided a link to this Arab American Institute web page on Arab demographic. Two graphs worth reprinting:



The second graph is particularly telling. I seriously doubt that only 24% of Europe's Arab influx is Muslim -- which means that the Arab immigrant stream into Europe is demonstrably different than those Arabs who empigrate to America. For more on the European side of the equation, see Claude Salhani analysis for UPI from last December.

And thanks to all the commenters for picking up the flaw in Naim's data.

LAST UPDATE: See Reihan Salam for more on this.

posted by Dan at 11:36 AM | Comments (55) | Trackbacks (2)

The Hotline focuses on.... me

The National Journal's Hotline has a new blog feature called Blogometer. It's like Slate's blog feature, but longer and with more links.

You can check out today's feature by clicking here -- there's a Q&A with yours truly at the end, in which I reveal my daily blog reads, and also confess a wistful nostalgia for This Week with David Brinkley.

posted by Dan at 11:25 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

You can filibuster all you want right here

I haven't blogged about the whole filibuster controversy -- constitutional issues aside, to me it was just a giant distraction from things like, oh, I don't know, getting the federal budget under control.

However, now that it's apparently been settled, I am amused to see the gnashing of teeth on both sides of the aisle.

From the National Review's Quin Hillyer:

Conservatives examining last night's Senate deal on judicial nominees should see it as not a compromise but, as a capitulation. It does not save the stature of the Senate, but confirms its reputation as a den of mutual back-scratchers willing to throw principle out the window so their own reputations for wisdom and statesmanship can remain intact.

The Center for American Progress' John Podesta:

This victory comes at a heavy price: the near-certain confirmation of at least three nominees whose contempt for constitutional liberties and disregard of precedent make them manifestly unworthy of judicial office.

Actually, that's not fair to Podesta, who opens up his statement by praising the 14 senators who crafted the compromise. Go see Jeffrey Dubner at Tapped for a more visceral reaction.

In the spirit of making only a few good predictions, here's the only one I'm willing to make: the big loser was Bill Frist. Conservatives are pissed at him because he didn't get all the judges past the filibuster. Moderates are pissed at him for pushing the nuclear option in the first place.

Comment away on the political and institutional implications.

posted by Dan at 11:17 AM | Comments (27) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, May 23, 2005

One week left to say "Oui"

In my first post on the French referendum on the proposed EU constitution, I said that "It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next six weeks. My hunch is that support for the "yes" side will increase as the vote nears."

Drezner apparently gets results from the French!:


So does this mean the French will say "Oui"? Not necessarily. While the macro trend has been towards a tightening of the vote, the micro trend over the past few days has seen the "Non" vote gain strength. What's also interesting is that just as Chirac has used the logic of realpolitik to seel the constitution, opponents have also turned to realism. John Thornhill reports in the Finanicial Times:

At a rally of 5,000 supporters in Paris on Saturday, Philippe de Villiers, the leader of the nationalist Movement for France, said that the adoption of the constitution would strip Europe's nations of their sovereignty and transfer too much power to Brussels. "To have 450m people run by 18 technocrats is a totalitarian idea from the last century," he said.

Mr de Villiers, who has been one of the most energetic No campaigners drawing support from conservative Catholic, Gaullist and sovereigntist traditions, said that France had a "special mission" in the world, thanks to its historical, geographic, and linguistic links, which should never be abandoned.

"It is impossible to imagine Europe without France. But France is also an extra-European power, a world power," he said to wild applause.

Meanwhile, another FT story by Thornhill suggests that dissatisfaction with the constitution is not limited to France. The Netherlands, which also has a referendum next week, is even more hostile:

Dutch opinion polls show resistance to the treaty hardening. On Friday a poll by TNS NIPO, for RTL television news, had the No campaign with 54 per cent and Yes at 27 per cent. The same day a poll by Interview NSS for Nova television gave No 63 per cent and Yes 37 per cent.

One caveat to all this -- Henry Farrell believes that the FT's reporting on this has been biased towards the "No" camp.

One final trend worth noting -- both FT stories note the extent to which foreign politicians are campaigning in France to try and persuade voters. For the "non" camp, it's "anti-constitution MEPs from several European countries, including the UK, Sweden, Denmark, and Poland." For the "oui" camp, it's German prime minister Gerhard Schroeder and Spanish PM José Luis Rodr´guez Zapatero. My guess is that these efforts will be a wash, but if "oui" wins, it's an interesting data point on the question of how other countries can influence voting.

Developing... until next week.

posted by Dan at 11:27 AM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (5)