Saturday, July 23, 2005
Open Sharm al-Sheikh thread
Feel free to comment on the latest bombing in Egypt here.
I do not have anything to add that I haven't already said in this post from late 2002.
UPDATE: OK, two more things I can say, or rather link. First, this Washington Post story by Craig Whitlock suggests that the central Al Qaeda leadership has more direct control over the timing and location of terrorist attacks than the "franchise" model of Al Qaeda has suggested to date.
Second, is it my imagination or does this Canada TV story suggest Hosni Mubarak has seen Casablanca one too many times?:
ANOTHER UPDATE: Interesting.... this New York Times story by Elaine Sciolino and Don Van Natta Jr. cuts against the Whitlock story in the Post. One intelligence official is quoted as saying, "Al Qaeda is finished. But there is Al Qaedaism. This is a powerful ideology that drives local groups to do what they think Osama bin Laden wants."
Talking 'bout my old generation
Generation X -- you (and I) are old and getting older. Monica Eng's story in the Chicago Tribune explains:
Private equity groups go to Europe
Peter Gumbel has a fascinating story in Time on the growth of U.S. based private equity firms engaging in leveraged buyouts of European firms.
Read the whole thing. The restructurings are causing a bit of a ruckus. That fact that these groups are headquarted in the U.S. probably doesn't help matters right now. More importantly, European unions allege that the private equity groups come with mass layoffs. I have no doubt that's true in some cases, though the funny thing is that if you read the entire article, you will fail to find a single example of a U.S. firm actually recommending mass layoffs.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Does the U.S. need more mercenaries?
The funny thing is that the U.S. relies more on mercenaries than Alex may know -- the U.S. military has outsourced a lot of its logistical functions in Iraq, for example. According to this Council on Foreign Relations page, for example, the following functions have been at least partially outsourced:
However, let's assume Alex's question was tied specifically to the use of mercenaries for combat as opposed to non-combat operations. Two quick speculations for why mercenaries might not work out:
Finally, it's not clear to me that Alex's examples of U.S. "mercenaries" are really akin to the Hessians. Offering a citizenship inducement to foreigners joining the military is undeniably offering an additional incentive to enlist -- however, is the incentive a purely economic one or, are there identity motivations as well? Furthermore, in a world without a draft, what is the difference between offering greater monetary compensation to U.S. citizens interested in enlisting and offering similar economic incentives to foreigners interested in becoming Americans?
UPDATE: One clarification: I don't think that linking citizenship to enlistment is necessarily a bad idea -- I'm just not sure it qualifies as what Tabarrok thinks of as mercenarism.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Blegging for health care experts
As I've said before, health care is one of those public policy areas that I know is really, really important -- and yet I cannot muster up any authentic interest in the issue whatsoever.
So, I'm going to ask my readers to help me out and decipher the import of a recent Medicare initiative, as descibed by Gina Kolata in the New York Times:
I have every confidence that the mix of open source software and halth care policy will inspire someone to comment on the importance of this policy initiative.
The beginning of the end of Bretton Woods 2?
China's central bank posted the following announcement on its web site today:
What does this mean? In the short run, not much -- China is effectively appreciating its currency by only two percent and widening its band a bit. More interesting will be whether this initial move puts pressure on China to either revalue more or let its band widen more in the future. The statement implies that the Central Bank could do this, but my hunch, and the press coverage of the announcement, leads me to believe they'll sit on 8.11 for some time.
In the medium run, the decision to move from a fixed exchange rate of a managed float is going roil the currency markets a bit -- see this Bloomberg report on the yen, for example. More interestingly, Malaysia has followed China's lead and has decided to move the ringgit from a strict dollar peg to a managed float as well. The really intriguing question is how much this move will retard public and private purchases of dollar-denominate assets. This Associated Press report suggests that other Asian central banks are taking this in stride.
For the U.S., I'm not sure a two pecent revaluation is going to affect trade one way or the other. The rule of thumb has been that a ten percent revaluation would lower the trade deficit by one percent, so this won't have that big of an effect on the trade balance (and I would wager that the J-curve effect with such a small revaluation will be longer-lasting). The bigger effect may be political, in that this could eases protectionist pressures in Congress. On the other hand, it could also convince yahoos like Senator Schumer that this is the way to pressure the Chinese into making foreign economic policy concessions.
On the other hand, if Xu Haihui's report for International Finance News -- reprinted in the Financial Times -- is true, then the effect on certain sectors of China's economy could be significant:
UPDATE: For nice backgrounders on the issue, see this Wall Street Journal report by Michael Phillips (the link should work for everyone), this Financial Times renminbi page, and this backgrounder on China's slowing economy in the Economist.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Brad Setser weighs in: "Too small in my view to have much of an economic impact, in any way. On trade flows. Or on capital flows. I would still bet on a further revaluation." Nouriel Roubini and David Altig are debating the implications of the move on the Wall Street Journal's Econoblog.
Online screw-ups affecting the workplace -- continued
Via Over at CNET's new and interesting workplace blog, Paul Festa thinks this is another example of bloggers gone wild -- however, as David Scott points out:
Strictly speaking, Gee wasn't blogging -- furthermore, it was a blogger who apparently called him out.
[And would you have done the same thing if you had read Gee's post?--ed. Given that Gee posted this in a public forum, yep, you betcha. Er, haven't you occasionally evinced an ocular interest in the fairer sex on this blog?--ed. It's one thing to point out that a public figure has pleasing features when. in part, that's why they are public figures -- it's another thing entirely to publicly make the same point about someone over whom you hold an authority relationship. There are certain bright lines in my job, and that's one of them.]
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Mahathir Mohamad's grumpy retirement
There appears to be a rift brewing between former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad and his successor, current Malaysian PM Abdullah Badawi.
After reading this excerpt from John Burton's story in the Financial Times, see if you can guess which one I hope prevails:
Danica McKellar's unique two-fer
I'm pretty sure that Danica McKellar is the first person in history to be the subject of a profile in the New York Times science section, as well as ">the subject of a profile and a photo essay in Stuff magazine.
A tip of the cap to Ms. McKellar's very talented and flexible publicist.
So how is Viktor Yushchenko doing?
Eight months after the Orange Revolution, how is Ukraine doing? Well, this BBC report is kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it appears Yushchenko is following Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili in abolishing the most useless organization ever created in the Soviet Union -- the traffic police:
On the other hand, the second half of this report makes Yshchenko sound a bit... odd.:
There are many, many problems afflicting Ukraine. I think excessive swearing is not up at the top of that list.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Open SCOTUS nominee thread
Feel free to comment here on President Bush's announcement this evening of his choice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court. Orin Kerr is so excited about this that he's breaking into song.
The extensive network of legal spies working for danieldrezner.com report that Clement might be the perfect justice to navigate the 7-10 split that is the Senate confirmation process. I've heard experts on both sides of the aisle praise her. Jack Balkin thinks Clement would be a shrewd political move. Over at Power Line, John Hinderaker repeates a Reuters report that Clement would receive the support of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu. Andrew Sullivan has a whole bunch o' posts up, including a link to this Legal Times story, which suggests that, "Two of the most noteworthy opinions written by Clement are in the area of criminal rights and law enforcement." This may please The New Republic's William Stuntz, who argues that, "the Supreme Court's most important job is not managing the culture wars. Regulating the never-ending war on crime is a much bigger task."
Remember, however, that George W. Bush loves -- loves -- to surprise the media.
UPDATE: And he does -- it's Judge John Roberts from the DC Court of Appeals. Looks like John Derbyshire was wrong.
UPDATE: Listening to NPR, Jeffrey Rosen says that while no Supreme Court nominee is a slam dunk, this is pretty "dunky."
The U.S.-India entente
So, dear readers, who do you agree with -- John Bolton or George W. Bush? I ask because of this Washington Post story by Dana Milbank and Dafna Linzer:
The Bush administration's calculus is pretty obvious -- they think the geopolitical benefits of a close relationship with India outweigh whatever norm violation has taken place because of how India acquired nuclear weapons. According to the Post article, a Carnegie Endowment paper by Ashley J. Tellis, "India as a New Global Power: An Action Agenda for the United States," spells out the administration's logic. UPDATE: Here's a link to Sumit Ganguly's take on Tellis' argument from the pages of Foreign Affairs.
Comment here on whether you think the tradeoff is worh it. My guess is that foreign policy analysts, regardless of idelology, will be split on this. Full disclosure: I've repeatedly advocated this move in a number of fora. The nonproliferation genie cannot be put back in the bottle for the subcontinent, and this move merely acknowledges reality [But what about the nonproliferation norm?--ed. Yeah, I don't assign a whole lot of explanatory power to that.]
UPDATE: The Economist does a nice job of spelling out the mixture of realpolitik and idealpolitik that's behind this:
Your surreal online moment for today
In the middle of an online Q&A on CAFTA with U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman -- run by the White House, no less -- the following exchange took place:
Monday, July 18, 2005
Today's Plame post
In one of the footnotes to Running the World, David Rothkopf has a great quote from former NSC director Anthony Lake:
The flip-side of this argument is that, when an administration does something wrong, and the explanations are either malevolence or incompetence, bet on the latter.
The revelations of the last week regarding Karl Rove, Lewis Libby, and the whole Plame Game business makes me wonder if this was a similar story -- that it turns out Rove/Libby were clearly involved in the Plame leak, but they didn't know they were the source, since they claim to have gotten the information from journalists. Indeed, Matt Cooper's story doesn't necessarily square with the original version of events, which had the White House aggressively calling reporters left and right to impugn Joseph Wilson and his wife.
In my own blogging on the topic, I have wavered between thinking the White House acted maliciously on a grand scale or acted incompetently... and maliciously on a petty scale.
All the stuff from last week suggested incompetence -- until I came across this Los Angeles Times story by Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten:
This story does jibe with the malevolent interpretation of events.
In commenting on this story, Kevin Drum points out something that's been bugging me about the Plame Game for the past week:
I don't know what's going on here.... but I'm sure my commenters will.
Rashomon in the nanny world
Continuing the theme of the professional downsides of blogging, Helanie Olen had a piece in yesterday's New York Times about firing her nanny because ofher blog:
The ex-nanny posts her rebuttal, naturally, on her blog, which starts off as follows:
I'd tell you to read the whole thing, but it is very, very long. Bitch Ph.D., who knows the blogger in question, posts her own thoughts on the matter:
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Wait a minute... I could have hired a PR firm??!!!
Is it my imagination or does it seem that a story like this one by Felicity Barringer appears about once a quarter in the New York Times these days?:
Why the hell didn't anyone mention that I could have hired PR people to pimp up my material before I handed in my friggin' tenure file???!!!
The international relations of baseball
I have an essay in today's edition of Newsday about the international relations of baseball -- in particular, what can be gleaned from the International Olympics Committee's decision to drop baseball from its roster of sports and Major League Baseball's decision to set up the World Baseball Classic.
The key paragraph:
Go check it out. My favorite part is the tagline: "Daniel W. Drezner is assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago and a lifelong fan of the Boston Red Sox."
Some background links: click here for one example of corruption in the International Olympics Committee. Here's a link to Gary Sheffield's comments to the New York Daily News; and here for evidence on the number of national baseball federations.
I should point out one sloppy construction in the piece. The article says, "the National Hockey League allowed its players to participate in the Olympics, and they trashed their rooms after they lost their last game." That charge should be limited to the American NHL players; my apologies to any and all Canadians.