Saturday, September 24, 2005
Wild Portuguese cigar orgies in Vatican!!!
Well, no, not exactly. But the AP's Nicole Winfield does have some new information on the conclave that eleated Cardinal Ratzinger to Pope Benedict XVI:
Wow, that last paragraph had some spicy info, let me tell you.
This is one of those stories where the news is not in the content but in the fact that someone made it public. [What about the prospect of a Latin American pope?--ed. Possible, but prior second-place finishers are far from guaranteed to be viable candidates in the next round of voting. That said, I'm sure Andrew Sullivan or Stephen Bainbridge could parse out further meaning.]
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey is saddened at this news, believing that, "[this] comes as a sad commentary that even the princes of the church cannot be trusted with secrets any longer, except those which specifically benefit themselves."
Hmmm... as someone who occasionally studies closed-off regimes, I can't say I agree.
What's the end game on Iran?
It looks like the IAEA will pass a resolution on Iran -- what happens after that is unclear. Here's the gist from the New York Times' Mark LandlerRaising the stakes in the West's confrontation with Iran, Britain formally proposed Friday that the Iranian government be reported to the United Nations Security Council for its failure to comply with treaties governing its nuclear program.
But in a sign of the deepening rift over Iran on the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Britain submitted the weaker of two draft resolutions, which leaves open the timing of such a report to the Council.
After a rancorous debate over when to vote on the measure, the 35-member board agreed to reconvene on Saturday. Diplomats here said they expected it to be passed by a solid majority, though Russia, China, and several other countries have signaled they were likely to oppose it. [NOTE: John Ward Anderson reports in the Washington Post that the minority might try to deny a quorum vote today--DD]
The resolution, drafted by Britain, France and Germany, and endorsed by the United States, said there was an "absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes."
Under the circumstances, the resolution said, the issue should be taken up by the Security Council....
Russia's likely opposition, as well as China's, sets up a confrontation on the Security Council, where both hold permanent seats.
The European nations' aggressive move reflects their frustration with Iran, which announced last month it would abandon an earlier pledge to suspend its conversion and enrichment of uranium. Iran had agreed to halt such activity while it tried to negotiate a settlement with Britain, France and Germany.
The goal of reporting Iran to the Security Council is not to impose sanctions, said diplomats involved in the negotiations.
"Our goal is not to punish Iran, but to put further pressure on Iran," said a Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the talks. "We have no intention of sanctioning Iran; we recognize that sanctioning Iran would hurt Russia and China."....
Iranian officials did not speak during Friday's board meeting, but diplomats here said they showed two unsigned letters to some board members. In one, the Iranian government said that if the resolution were passed, Iran would resume uranium enrichment at a plant in Natanz.
In the second, Iran said it would withdraw from a set of agreements with the atomic energy agency that provide for more intrusive inspections....
The agency's board has passed seven resolutions on Iran since June 2003, all unanimously, which chided Iran for its concealment and urged it to grant inspectors unfettered access.
By early this month, when the agency's director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, issued his latest report, patience was running thin.
Departing from the agency's usual tone of studied neutrality, the report said, "In view of the fact that the agency is not in a position to clarify some important outstanding issues after two and a half years of intensive inspection and investigation, Iran's full transparency is indispensable and overdue."
Still, officials at the agency viewed this resolution with chagrin. The debate over the vote on the measure was as vitriolic as some here could recall, and they said it could harm efforts to seek consensus on Iran.
Mr. ElBaradei is said to be reluctant to report Iran to the Security Council now, according to officials familiar with his position, who said the director general believes the Europeans and the Americans do not have a strategy for managing the issue before the council. (emphasis added)
Count me in with ElBaradei here. I think I know what the endgame is for this, but it's not clear to me if the risk is worth the reward.
If sanctions are off the table, and force is clearly out of the question, what is left for the Security Council to do? Presumably, passing some kind of resolution that upbraids Iran and threatens more punitive action down the road. Except, given Russia and China's opposition, it's far from clear the Security Council would even agree to that. So, one of two things will happen -- either the U.N. Security Council will look fractured, or they'll pass a toothless resolution. Either way, the Iranians have made clear what they will do if the issue goes to the Security Council.
So what's the benefit of going to the UN? If the consensus is that Iran is actually further away from developing a nuke than we previously thought, why make them accelerate their timetable?
I'm not saying that a move to the Security Council won't make sense at some point. But given the oil market at present, Iran has more economic leverage than they might in the future.
Readers are invited to submit their endgames in this latest standoff.
Friday, September 23, 2005
For those who care....
For those of you in the audience who care about the political economy of intellectual property rights, global civil society, or global governance -- yes, you sitting in the Pick Hall computer lab, I'm looking right at you -- check out my revised APSA paper, "Gauging the Power of Global Civil Society: Intellectual Property and Public Health."
[Isn't this the one you were fretting about in August?--ed. Yes, but I'm pleasantly surprised with how it came out.]
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Define first -- then vote
Glancing at the list, I kept thinking that some of these names did not belong with others. Foreign Policy's explication of the criteria doesn't make me feel any more sanguine:
Is it my imagination, or do the underlined portions fail to completely agree with each other? Doesn't the first underlined section imply public influence and intrinsic achievement?
To be fair, this can be like arguing about the Most Valuable Player award in baseball. But, using both influence and achievement as my criteria -- and picking those closer to my intellectual predilections in case of a tie -- here are my five:
Commenters are encouraged to report back on their choices.
A genuine blogging perk
[Won't real members of the media giggle that you're at the screening?--ed. As a member of Chicago's media elite, I expet them to respect my authoriti, thank you very much.]
UPDATE: The people at Grace Hill Media have been kind enough to e-mail me Serenity's synopsis so I don't have to:
You can't handle the budget cuts!!
So I'm glad that the Porkbusters meme is catching on and all, and that there's some small-government criticism of this administration -- even on the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page.
I would like to think that outrage over the ballooning size of government will lead to some of this steps, but the political scientist in me is hugely skeptical. Budget cuts always sound great in the abstract, but as a policy it's identical to trade liberalization -- the benefits of fiscal stringency are diffuse and indirect, while the costs of budget-cutting are tangible and obvious. True, it's tough to get maudlin about bridges to nowhere, but I can easily picture media accounts demonstrating the tragic losses from cutting Amtrak or the space program, all to shave a quarter of a point off the interest rate. This would be even easier to do with the prescription drug benefit. And while it's OK to scorn government spending that doesn't affect you, once budget-cutting affects your bread and butter, suddenly the public trough looks mighty tasty.
To paraphrase A Few Good Men:
UPDATE: Kevin Drum is equally cynical:
ANOTHER UPDATE: On second thought, maybe I'm being too pessimistic. If AEI's Veronique de Rugy is correct, then Bush has expanded nondefense discretionary spending by the greatest percentage since LBJ (link via Andrew Sullivan and Nick Gillespie). Maybe, just maybe, there's so much execrable spending that cuts are politically viable.
Hey, Beijing -- wanna be a stakeholder?
Read the whole thing to see what the U.S. wants China to do.
I'll be very curious to see how the Chinese react to this speech -- it's pretty blunt about China's need to change its foreign economic policy in order to avoid a protectionist backlash in the U.S. Blaming this on Chinese mercantilism is a deft maneuver that happens to be partially true.
UPDATE: On the other hand, Sam Crane thinks Zoellick's speech was not terribly Confucian.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Feelng the café buzz in Hyde Park...
Lots of current and former Hyde Park residents reacted to this post about my neighborhood allegedly becoming the "next hot restaurant zone." Whatever the merits of the claim, it cannot be sustained unless neighborhood residents actually frequent the places that open up.
I would therefore encourage those in the area to stop by just-opened the Istria Café. They have wi-fi (yes, I'm blogging from here right now), good coffee.... and gelato.
It's located at E. 57th St. & Lake Park Avenue, right under the Metra tracks. If you're in the area, go check it out. Oh, and ask the manager about the myriad hoops City Hall requires people to jump through in order to open up such an establishment -- it's quite a tale.
U.S. calm, blogosphere worked up on North Korea
David Adesnik has an excellent round-up of blogospheric discussion of the proposed North Korea accord.
Meanwhile, Steven Weisman's latest report in the New York Times makes me feel just a smidgen better about the accord:
Lavrov and Hill's statements are reassuring -- they indicate that the other four members of the six-party talks agree with the American interpretation of the Beijing agreement.
And -- again -- this was the point of the six-party talks; they insured that all the major players in the region were on the same page.
Greetings, disenchanted conservatives
It's no secret that I've been disenchanted with President Bush for some time now. Recently, it seems, a lot of conservatives have joined the club.
Shailagh Murray and Jim VandeHei report in the Washington Post that Congressional Republicans are less than thrilled with the Bush administration:
The conservative blogosphere is not really thrilled with the administration either:
And most conservatives -- Glenn Reynolds most prominently -- are as concerned as some in Congress (well, Tom Delay excepted) about the pork that should be cut to help with Katrina relief.
So it was definitely amusing to read Pandagon's Jesse Taylor write: "I find the conservative blogosphere to be one of the most closed-minded, insular, circular pits of denial I've ever encountered."
UPDATE: In Slate, John Dickerson thinks Bush might actually listen to fiscal hawks this time, but depresses me the likelihood of any long-term impact on either party:
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
"The streets were full of miniskirts"
Mohamed El Baradei speaks a bit too soon
Daniel Dombey and Gareth Smyth report in the Financial Times that the head of the IAEA is very excited about the proposed settlement on North Korea's nuclear ambitions:
Well, turns out there are a few problems with this model:
Monday, September 19, 2005
Think tanks and the media
A week ago I posted some (half-formed) thoughts on think tanks. There have been a few responses.
Virginia Postrel has been all over this -- triggering responses from Fabio Rojas, Tim Kane, and Will Wilkinson. All three observe that think tanks are a more diverse ecosphere than perhaps Postrel or I observed (see the Rojas post in particular).
See Arnold Kling's defense as well.
Well.... scholars still need operate within the mediasphere to get attention, and the constraints on that sphere remain formidable. It's far from clear to me whether an academic with a politically unclassifiable idea -- like, say, this suggestion for how to better assist the disabled and the elderly -- could get the necessary oxygen. Consider this missive from economist Bruce Bartlett:
I am more skeptical than Bartlett. I've had the same experience with bookers that he has had. Worse, there is only one show that I remember appearing on in which I was allowed to voice all the nuances of my position -- Gretchen Helfrech's Odyssey on Chicago Public Radio.
Naturally, Odyssey has been cancelled.
A nuclear-free Korea?
CNN reports that the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programme have produced a breakthrough. The key parts of the joint statement:
Even though the Bush administration signed on, U.S. officials are still acting very cautiously -- and rightly so, given the average lifespan of an agreement with North Korea.
Readers are invited to speculate on how likelihood of the six-party statement being implemented.