Saturday, June 18, 2005
A fun book meme
Here are my five -- two of which might surprise Cole:
Which editor at the Washington Post owes Blaine Harden money?
I ask this question because a personal debt is the only possible explanation for why Harden landed a front-page story in today's WaPo about whether Starbucks is bankrupting America's highly educated youth:
Absolutely correct, it's a waste of money.... unless you believe that gourmet coffee generates efficiency improvements in human capital formation.... and student loans usually have lower-than-average interest rates.... and the income boost provided by law school massively outweighs the cost of Starbucks consumption.... and question whether after racking up over $115,000 in debt, it's really the extra thousand or two rom coffee consumption that affects career choices... and you believe Harden's underlying, unproven premise that too many students consume too many lattes.
Friday, June 17, 2005
How whirlpool does globalization
Louis Uchitelle has a nice case study of how one U.S. multinational deals with global sourcing questions in the New York Times:
Read the whole thing. One interesting result is that despite the fact that globalization supposedly flattens the world, geography (in the form of shipping costs) and history (in the form of past investments) still matter a great deal.
A very important post about.... Katie Holmes
For the past month I've been fighting my instinct to blog about the future Mrs. Tom Cruise. Even though the infamous Oprah video bothered me, and even though Cruise's comments about psychiatry in general and Brooke Shields in particular bothered me, my superego said this wasn't a blogworthy topic.
With the announcement of their engagement at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, I think the question needs to be asked -- what is it about this coupling that provokes people into creating elaborate Free Katie web sites?
[Maybe it's the age gap--ed. If that was true, then Catherine Zeta-Jones' marriage to Michael Douglas should have provoked more outrage -- the gap in their ages is twenty years. Same with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. Hell, I think the public's opinion of Ashton Kutcher went up after he started dating Demi Moore. Also, is anyone really shocked by a generational difference among celebrity couples anymore?]
[Maybe it's the Scientology?--ed. Well, Scientology certainly has its critics. But then again, so do most other religions. And frankly, why should we care if Ms. Holmes decides to leave the Catholic Church? Besides, the furor over their relationship began before any discussion of conversion entered into the mix.]
My hunch is that it's some syncretic combination of a bunch of factors, including the age gap, the Scientology, and the fact that, according to the Associated Press, "The former star of television's 'Dawson's Creek' grew up with a poster of Cruise on her bedroom wall and has said she grew up wanting to marry him." But I'm not sure.
So I will put it to the readers -- what is it about this relationship that weirds so many people out?
Unsung examples of U.S. soft power
A common meme among foreign affairs cognoscenti across the policy spectrum is that the U.S. needs to do more to improve its public diplomacy and "soft power" activities. This is a nice assertion to make -- I'm sure I've made it myself -- but it usually overlooks the fact that the U.S. government already has a lot of programs that try to advance this goal. We just don't hear about them all that often.
The Chicago Tribune's Mary Ann Fergus has a front-page story on one of these programs:
Read the whole thing. One interesting and unanticipated side-effect of the program has been the effect it has had on the different Afghan representatives:
Click here for more information on the State Department's Partnerships for Learning, Youth Exchange and Study: "During academic year 2004-2005, 450 students joined the program from: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel (Arab Community), Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, West Bank/Gaza, and Yemen."
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Projecting the demand for offshore labor
Peter Marsh writes in the Financial Times about what the global market for service jobs will look like with the rise in offshore outsourcing:
Marsh has another story about the MGI report here. One interesting bit:
This last point is stressed in the executive summary of the McKinsey report:
This jibes with data and analysis of the U.S. economy in recent years. In terms of employment, a glance at Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that manufacturing has suffered far more than services (though in both cases the extent to which offshore outsourcing has been blamed has been much greater than its actual causal effect). Similarly, the figures for which service sector jobs are theoretically likely to be outsourced match up with Ashok Bardham and Cynthia Kroll's study from 2003.
Thanks to George Adair for the link.
The biggest threat to Moneyball
With all of the debate over the business logic underlying Michael Lewis' Moneyball, there was a simple underlying assumption behind the book -- baseball teams that are successful on the field are also successful at the gate.
Erik Ahlberg had a front-pager in yesterday's Wall Street Journal suggesting that this assumption doesn't necessarily hold for the Chicago White Sox:
As it turns out, last night I took my father to a pretty exciting game at the Cell -- and would have to concur that the West Berlin answer makes the most sense. The park itself is actually quite nice -- it's not Wrigley, mind you, but it's fan-friendly. However, there is simply nothing (in the way of shops, restaurants, bars, etc.) surrounding the ballpark.
UPDATE: As has been pointed out in the comments, there is a double irony in all of this -- most sabermetric analysts predicted that this year's White Sox team -- built on speed and pitching -- would crash and burn.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
It's a strange day in the blogosphere....
But Wonkette does factor into the general cultural weirdness of my day by contributing "Wonkette on Wonkette" for the University of Chicago Magazine -- in which I discovered the following:
What to make of this corporate trend?
Tobias Buck reports in the Financial Times on the growth of an interesting corporate trend:
Click here for the actual KPMG report. Among the interesting facts:
If I'm working for an NGO devoted to corporate social responsibility, I'd be very, very happy with these results.
[Why? These corporations are primarily reporting to advance their own self-interest--ed. Yes, and that's a self-perpetuating mechanism, which is much better that corporations acting against their own self-interest. This might be a case where NGOs have managed to reconstitute how corporations define their interests]
Activating the Kurdish SEP field
Continuing the theme from my last post is this story by Steve Fainaru and Anthony Shadid in the Washington Post about what's going on in Kirkuk:
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Activating the Saudi SEP field
If you study international relations, you quickly become very aware of the power of an SEP field:
This Associated Press report by George Jahn makes me wonder just how many governments will be deploying an SEP field:
Debating grand strategy
Diplomatic History is "the sole journal devoted to the history of U.S. diplomacy, foreign relations, and national security," according to both its publisher and its editor. In a laudable attempt to generate topical scholarship, the journal has recently asked eminent historians to write about current American grand strategy from a historical perspective.
The June 2005 issue has a roundtable on "The Bush Administration’s Foreign Policy in Historical Perspective," led off by Melvyn Leffler. His thesis:
The editors of Diplomatic History then did something really provocative -- they asked non-historians to comment on Leffler's hypothesis.
This is a longwinded way of saying you can read my take on Leffler's hypothesis by reading my rejoinder, "Values, Interests, and American Grand Strategy." If you're pressed for time, here's the gist of it:
Click here for a summary of the issue -- other contributors include Robert Kagan, Walter L. Hixson, Carolyn Eisenberg, Arnold A. Offner, and Anna Kasten Nelson (plus a final reply from Leffler).
More importantly, congratulations to Diplomatic History for generating a useful and policy relevant debate -- and for giving me the guilty pleasure of publishing outside my disciplinary boundaries.
Monday, June 13, 2005
Why is GM still in business?
Following up on my last post, there's an interesting question to be asked about General Motors -- why is it still in business?
If that sounds heartless, it's not meant to be -- it's because I much of the past week's commentary sounds awfully familiar. For those who can remember the very early nineties, many were asking whether GM could survive -- at one point it had filed the biggest quarterly loss in the history of American business. GM may not be in great shape now -- but it's been 15 years and they're still the largest single producer of automobiles purchased in the United States.
The Economist has a story that touches on this question:
You can see the paper and the executive summary by clicking here. The takeaway points from the paper:
Reason #1 would explain GM's persistence -- global competition has increased in the auto sector, but it's still not a model of perfect competition.
[Hey, wasn't this done by management consultants?--ed. In part, yes, but their methodology seems sound.]
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Who wins from GM's misfortunes
The announcement by General Motors that it planned to 25,000 or more assembly-line jobs over the next few years would seem to advance the hypothesis that the United States suffers from expanding international trade.
Gregg Easterbrook does a nice job of pointing out why that's not true in the New York Times today:
[Yeah, but life is still bad for workers in the auto indistry, right?--ed.] Well, that depends on where you live. Easterbrook points out some other employment trends in the automobile sector beyond General Motors:
AIAM's press release about that report also mentions, "When the number of jobs created by the new American automakers is combined with related new vehicle dealership employment, this sector of the industry has generated 1.8 million jobs in the U.S. economy."