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:

A cardinal has broken his vow of secrecy and released his diary describing the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, revealing in a rare account that a cardinal from Argentina was the main challenger and almost blocked Benedict's election.

Excerpts of the anonymous diary, published Friday, show the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, led in each of the four ballots cast in the Sistine Chapel during the April 18-19 conclave. But Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit, was in second place the whole time.

Most accounts of the conclave have said that the retired Milan archbishop, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, was the main challenger to Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI after his election, and that a Third World pope was never realistically in the running.

While Bergoglio never threatened Ratzinger's lead--and made clear he didn't want the job, according to the diary published in the respected Italian foreign affairs magazine Limes--his runner-up status could signal the next conclave might elect a pope from Latin America, home to half the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics.

The diary of the anonymous cardinal also shows that Ratzinger didn't garner a huge margin--he had 84 of the 115 votes in the final ballot, seven more than the required two-thirds majority....

offers other colorful insights of what went on behind the scenes during the two days the 115 cardinals were sequestered in the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican's Santa Marta hotel.

Because the hotel prohibits smoking, Portuguese Cardinal Jose da Cruz would sneak outside for an after-dinner cigar, the diary says. And Cardinal Walter Kasper shunned the mini-buses that shuttled cardinals to the Sistine Chapel, preferring to walk by the Vatican gardens instead.

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.

posted by Dan at 03:13 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

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.

posted by Dan at 12:37 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (2)

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.]

posted by Dan at 09:58 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Define first -- then vote

Via Tyler Cowen, I see that the UK's Prospect magazine and Foreign Policy would like you to vote for the world's top public intellectuals.

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:

What is a public intellectual? Someone who has shown distinction in their own field along with the ability to communicate ideas and influence debate outside of it.

Candidates must have been alive, and still active in public life (though many on this list are past their prime). Such criteria ruled out the likes of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Milton Friedman, who would have been automatic inclusions 20 or so years ago. This list is about public influence, not intrinsic achievement.

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:

Francis Fukuyama
Jürgen Habermas
Richard Posner
Amartya Sen
Zheng Bijian

If you're wondering who the heck Zheng is, click here. There's no question that the U.S. government is familiar with him.

Commenters are encouraged to report back on their choices.

posted by Dan at 05:00 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (5)

A genuine blogging perk

Lomgtime readers of are aware of my fondness for mocking goofy blogging perks.

However, Glenn Reynolds posts about a really sweet perk:

The PR folks for the forthcoming Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, etc.) science fiction movie Serenity are inviting bloggers to advance screenings. (List of cities here via an Excel document that didn't quite format right, but it's legible). It's free, and all they ask is that you blog something, good or bad, about it. If you're interested, email 'em at and they'll put you on the list.

Glenn's Excel spreadsheet is pretty hard to read -- better yet, click over to's Blogger Screening page (link via the very shiny Alina Stefanescu)

As for why Serenity is worth seeing, click here.

[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:

Joss Whedon, the Oscar® - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.

posted by Dan at 01:23 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (2)

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.

This would not be, however, unless I was disenchanted with something [And pining over Salma Hayek!!-ed.]. So it's worth pointing out that Virginia Postrel is correct:

I'm all for taking pork out of the federal budget, with or without Katrina, but the big money is elsewhere. How about delaying the Medicare prescription drug benefit?

Oh, while we're at it, let's kill Amtrak too -- and the f@$%ing moondoggle as well. UPDATE: Damn!! I forgot about the farm subsidies!

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:

Jessep: You want budget cuts?

Kaffee: I think I'm entitled to them.

Jessep: You want them?

Kaffee: I want the cuts!

Jessep: You can't handle the cuts! Son, we live in a world that needs quasi-public goods. And those needs have to be funded by men in Congress. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for small government and you curse the ballooning deficit. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that big government, while tragic, probably enriched some lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, enriches some lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want big government. You need big government.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum is equally cynical:

[L]et's face it: none of these cuts are very likely to happen — and even if they did pass, everyone knows the whole thing would die in the Senate. Getting on the anti-pork bandwagon is sort of a freebie that makes you look good with only a small risk of actually having to follow through.

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.

posted by Dan at 11:14 AM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (1)

Hey, Beijing -- wanna be a stakeholder?

This evening, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick gave a speech outlining what the U.S. would like to see from China:

For the United States and the world, the essential question is – how will China use its influence?

To answer that question, it is time to take our policy beyond opening doors to China’s membership into the international system: We need to urge China to become a responsible stakeholder in that system....

There is a cauldron of anxiety about China.

The U.S. business community, which in the 1990s saw China as a land of opportunity, now has a more mixed assessment. Smaller companies worry about Chinese competition, rampant piracy, counterfeiting, and currency manipulation. Even larger U.S. businesses – once the backbone of support for economic engagement – are concerned that mercantilist Chinese policies will try to direct controlled markets instead of opening competitive markets. American workers wonder if they can compete.

China needs to recognize how its actions are perceived by others. China’s involvement with troublesome states indicates at best a blindness to consequences and at worst something more ominous. China’s actions – combined with a lack of transparency – can create risks. Uncertainties about how China will use its power will lead the United States – and others as well – to hedge relations with China. Many countries hope China will pursue a "Peaceful Rise," but none will bet their future on it....

China has gained much from its membership in an open, rules-based international economic system, and the U.S. market is particularly important for China’s development strategy. Many gain from this trade, including millions of U.S. farmers and workers who produce the commodities, components, and capital goods that China is so voraciously consuming.

But no other country – certainly not those of the European Union or Japan – would accept a $162 billion bilateral trade deficit, contributing to a $665 billion global current account deficit. China – and others that sell to China – cannot take its access to the U.S. market for granted. Protectionist pressures are growing.

China has been more open than many developing countries, but there are increasing signs of mercantilism, with policies that seek to direct markets rather than opening them. The United States will not be able to sustain an open international economic system – or domestic U.S. support for such a system – without greater cooperation from China, as a stakeholder that shares responsibility on international economic issues....

All nations conduct diplomacy to promote their national interests. Responsible stakeholders go further: They recognize that the international system sustains their peaceful prosperity, so they work to sustain that system. In its foreign policy, China has many opportunities to be a responsible 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.

posted by Dan at 01:25 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (4)

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.

posted by Dan at 11:24 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

The Bush administration on Tuesday brushed off a demand from North Korea for a light-water nuclear reactor, saying that the accord announced Monday in Beijing left it clear that the North must abandon its nuclear weapons program before such a matter can be discussed.

"I think we will not get hung up on this statement," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, referring to a comment from North Korea that it would continue to insist on getting a reactor up front, as a price for agreeing to the Beijing deal. "We will stick to the text of the Beijing statement, and I believe we can make progress if everybody sticks to what was actually agreed to," Ms. Rice added at a news briefing with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. Mr. Lavrov said that "we shouldn't rely on oral statements" from North Korea or others.

In recent talks, North Korea had demanded, for its energy needs, a light-water reactor, of the sort promised in 1994 in return for an earlier agreement to freeze its nuclear programs. In 2002 the United States discovered that the North had reneged on that deal, and the Bush administration refused to supply such a reactor in any future arrangement.

The stalemate was resolved at the last minute over the weekend by China, which called on the United States to agree to discuss providing the North with a light-water reactor "at an appropriate time." Such a reactor is less efficient in producing weapons-grade fuel than a regular reactor.

Christopher R. Hill, the chief negotiator in the talks, said Tuesday that he was not surprised by North Korea's continued insistence on getting the reactor up front, but that the North understood that the American timetable for discussing the reactor was shared by the other countries in the talks.

"The North Koreans will make odd statements at their leisure, but they know precisely what the deal is," Mr. Hill said in an interview. "The deal with five other countries is that they have to get out of the nuclear business, and at an appropriate time to have discussions on a light-water reactor."

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.

posted by Dan at 10:16 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (1)

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:

Congressional Republicans from across the ideological spectrum yesterday rejected the White House's open-wallet approach to rebuilding the Gulf Coast, a sign that the lockstep GOP discipline that George W. Bush has enjoyed for most of his presidency is eroding on Capitol Hill.

Trying to allay mounting concerns, White House budget director Joshua B. Bolten met with Republican senators for an hour after their regular Tuesday lunch. Senators emerged to say they were annoyed by the lack of concrete ideas for paying the Hurricane Katrina bill.

"Very entertaining," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said sarcastically as he left the session. "I haven't heard any specifics from the administration."

"At least give us some idea" of how to cover the cost, said Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who is facing reelection in 2006. "We owe that to the American taxpayer."

The pushback on Katrina aid, which the White House is also confronting among House Republicans, represents the loudest and most widespread dissent Bush has faced from his own party since it took full control of Congress in 2002. As polls show the president's approval numbers falling, there is growing concern among lawmakers that GOP margins in Congress could shrink next year, and even rank-and-file Republicans are complaining that Bush is shirking the difficult budget decisions that must accompany the rebuilding bonanza.

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) said he and other fiscal conservatives are feeling "genuine concern [which] could easily turn into frustration and anger."

Congressional Republicans are not arguing with Bush's pledge that the federal government will lead the Louisiana and Mississippi recovery. But they are insisting that the massive cost -- as much as $200 billion -- be paid for. Conservatives are calling for spending cuts to existing programs, a few GOP moderates are entertaining the possibility of a tax increase, and many in the middle want to freeze Bush tax cuts that have yet to take effect.

The conservative blogosphere is not really thrilled with the administration either:

Orin Kerr blasts the new anti-porn crusade. Ed Morrissey concurs.

Michelle Malkin looks at a new DHS appointee and says, "Oh, give me a ^*&%$# break and a half!" The Power Line concurs.

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:

The problem that always bedevils the fiscal conservatives is that they are directly targeting the horse-trading that makes government go. Start pulling out earmarks and you unravel support for the whole bill. Deny seniors their prescription-drug bill and you anger a bloc of voters far larger and more influential than those watching the pennies. When social conservatives balk, they represent massive organized blocs of voters who have shown their willingness to stay home. When fiscal conservatives balk, only a few thousand ornery Republicans in New Hampshire and Arizona abandon the party.

Can the Democrats grab this angry constituency? Not likely. The Democratic Party hasn't shown bristling accounting leadership recently. "After the Democrats' obstructionist approach to Social Security reform, it is more difficult for them to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility," says Maya MacGuineas of the Committee for a Responsible Budget. John Kerry and John Edwards both gave speeches Tuesday calling for a new era of leadership to address the challenges posed by the hurricane and the poverty that it exposed, but neither called for sacrifice or any painful tradeoffs.

After days of weighty speeches on the topics of race and poverty in America, lawmakers from both parties have reverted to the familiar evasions. The bucks are passing, the deficit will keep growing, and the fiscal conservatives will stay very, very angry.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Man, you get linked by Andrew Sullivan, the National Journal, and Howard Kurtz, and suddenly it's a party. So, a few corrections, responses, and extensions:

1) To Howard Kurtz: er... I didn't write what you quoted me declaring -- that was Josh Yelon. I'm always grateful for a link, but next time please click through Andrew's link to confirm attribution.

2) Hugh Hewitt thinks this Bush's dip in the polls just temporary:

It is the sort of thing I recall from the 1986 Iran-Contra period in the Reagan years, when the Gipper's approval rating hit 46%. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. So, it is more than premature to be dancing on W's political grave.

Hey, I made this point eighteen months ago. And if Iraq turns out OK and Al Qaeda collapses, Hewitt is 100% correct. I'm just a bit more dubious about the odds of this happening than Hewitt.

3) More thoughts on small-government conservatism here.

posted by Dan at 12:40 AM | Comments (81) | Trackbacks (5)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"The streets were full of miniskirts"

Last Thursday was Costa Rica's independence day. According to Jacqueline Paisley, the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Education put some constraints on how the day should be celebrated:

The Ministerio de Educación Público promised to suspend for up to 30 days any marcher who wore a miniskirt, defined as anything with the hem above the knees. The streets were full of miniskirts Thursday all over the country, in part because such skirts were part of the uniforms schools have purchased....

Each year the ministry decrees against miniskirts, and each year tons of female marchers wear them.

posted by Dan at 02:07 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, yesterday hailed the six-party deal as a potential model to defuse the crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions, as a US-European attempt to censure Tehran encountered further problems.

Mr ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, hailed "a balanced package that addresses both the security needs of North Korea as well as theconcerns of the international community about North Korea´s nuclear activities".

He added that for Iran, "not unlike North Korea, there are security issues, there are nuclear issues, there are trade issues. So what is needed again is a comprehensive settlement in my view that can only be obtained through negotiation."

Well, turns out there are a few problems with this model:

1) According to RFE/RL, the North Koreans are interpreting the six-party statement somewhat differently than the other five:

just one day after the historic agreement, North Korea has put the deal in jeopardy. In a Foreign Ministry statement, Pyongyang demanded that it first be given civilian nuclear reactors before moving to eliminate its atomic weapons program.

The United States said North Korea's statement did not match the agreement it signed. Japan called it unacceptable, while Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang urged all sides to fulfill their promises.

“We really hope that each party could have the attitude of respect for each other to push forward the six-party talks. As far as I know, the agreement that has been reached is that in early November we are going to have the next phase of the six-party talks, I don't think I have heard that anything has changed,” Qin said.

The six countries had agreed to a set of principles on ending Pyongyang's nuclear program in return for security guarantees, oil, energy, and aid and recognizing its right to civilian nuclear energy. The six agreed to discuss providing a light-water reactor "at an appropriate time."

U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli interprets that phrase as meaning once North Korea has ended its atomic arms program.

"The parties agreed to talk about the civilian light-water reactor in the future, at an appropriate time. What we make clear in our statement -- and, I would underscore this, what the other parties made clear in their statements as well -- is that an appropriate time means once North Korea has returned to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and once they are in compliance with all IAEA safeguards," Ereli said.

2) According to AFX, Iran also seems to be drawing a lesson from North Korea -- though not necessarily the one El Baradei wanted to see:

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani warned that Tehran could quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if it is subjected to the 'language of force' in a stand-off over its nuclear programme.

Responding to European efforts to haul Iran before the UN Security Council over 'breaches' of international atomic safeguards, Larijani also said Tehran would link its oil business and other economic trade with individual countries based on whose side they took in the dispute....

He was later asked if this meant countries like Japan -- which recently signed a major contract to develop Iran's Azadegan oil field -- could lose contracts in Iran.

'It is not only Japan but other countries that are concerned. We will examine their attitude,' Larijani said, adding that the future of the Azadegan contract 'depends on their (Japan's) conduct'.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only and that civilian nuclear fuel work is a right enshrined in the NPT....

'The Europeans keep telling us of this big giant -- the UN Security Council. But this will not mean the end of the Iranian people,' he said.

'I remind them of the North Korean case: after two years they accept North Korea's right to enrichment. They should do the same with us.

The scary thing is that Larijani might be correct. According to Reuters, there is little support within the IAEA to refer Iran to the Security Council -- so it's far from clear to me what other options exist.

No wonder Iran and North Korea are getting along so well.


UPDATE: El Baradei wasn't the only one to jump the gun -- today's spectacularly premature New York Times editorial on the six-party deal declares that, "Diplomacy, it seems, does work after all." Lee Feinstein makes a similar point in America Abroad.

I certainly hope that today's outburst from Pyongyang dies down and the statement turns into an actual agreement -- because it's the least bad option in a universe of realy, really bad outcomes. But it seems to me that there are a hell of a lot of people inside the beltway and the blogosphere who are counting on this agrement before it's been signed.

Meanwhile, North Korea has decided to kick out all humanitarian NGOs by the end of the calendar year.

posted by Dan at 11:35 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (3)

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.

Tyler Cowen offers some quote-worthy points as well:

Some think tanks simply are markers or beacons for the ideologically faithful. I do object to the hypocrisy involved, and to the quality of their policy outputs. That being said, they are providing real services, just as churches do.

I view the interaction between blogs (and other decentralized information and opinion sources) and think tanks as a key question for the future. Will blogs "smack down" the rot of lower-quality think tank outputs, thereby leading to intellectual improvements? Or will blogs push think tanks out of serious policy discourse altogether, making them more like churches? Will blogs amplify the influence of some kinds of think tanks, at the expense of others? On these questions, all bets are off.

Note that scholars no longer need think tanks to take their ideas to larger audiences. The think tank sector has yet to absorb the import of this fact. Could Google -- and not universities -- be the real competitor to policy think tanks?

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:

Once again, I just got off the phone with a booker for one of the cable news channels who wanted me to play the role of the knee-jerk Bush supporter and I had to decline. Although I am a conservative who generally supports Republican policies and generally opposes those that come from Democrats, I am uncomfortable being locked into that position. I also don’t think it makes for very good television.

I understand that news shows want to show both sides -- or perhaps I should say two sides -- to controversial issues, lest they appear biased towards one position. But why must this always take the form of a debate? Why can’t they interview a person with one position separately and then interview someone else with another position in another segment? Wouldn’t this be a better way of achieving balance than by always having a debate?

It’s hard enough to make one’s point in sound-bite form without being distracted by the debating tactics of one’s opponent. And, unfortunately, everyone is now trained to know that when one has the camera and microphone they are pretty much free to say what they like, even if it is totally off topic and even untrue. On one occasion, my opponent called me a liar on air at the end of the segment, so that I could not respond. Afterwards, off camera, he conceded that I was right. But no one watching the exchange ever knew that....

Although I haven’t discussed this matter with friends in the Washington policy community, I am sure most -- if not all -- would agree with me. I suspect that it is why it is less and less common to see widely respected policy people on cable news programs and why one more and more often sees total nobodies labeled as “consultants” to one party or the other. Such people know absolutely nothing except how to memorize talking points and disagree vigorously with their opponent, regardless of the facts or logic of the case. I don’t see how this does anything to enhance public discourse or even attract viewers.

The fact is -- and everyone knows this -- that few issues are black-and-white. There are always nuances that are impossible to discuss in a debate format. But the debate format creates the illusion that there is always a simple answer to every complex problem and encourages average television viewers to assume that those of us in the Washington policymaking community are all idiots totally beholden to our party, without a lick of common sense or integrity.

I believe that the news channel that adopts the approach I am suggesting will gain both in the quality of its guests and the quality of its programming, thereby gaining a competitive edge.

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.

UPDATE: More from Postrel here and here.

posted by Dan at 05:06 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (4)

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:

1) The six parties unanimously reaffirmed that the goal of the six-party talks is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning at an early date to the treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT) and to IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards.

The United States affirmed that it has no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has no intention to attack or invade the DPRK with nuclear or conventional weapons.

The ROK (South Korea) reaffirmed its commitment not to receive or deploy nuclear weapons in accordance with the 1992 joint declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, while affirming that there exist no nuclear weapons within its territory.

The 1992 joint declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula should be observed and implemented.

The DPRK stated that it has the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The other parties expressed their respect and agreed to discuss at an appropriate time the subject of the provision of light-water reactor to the DPRK.

2) The six parties undertook, in their relations, to abide by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and recognized norms of international relations.

The DPRK and the United States undertook to respect each other's sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize their relations subject to their respective bilateral policies.

The DPRK and Japan undertook to take steps to normalize their relations in accordance with the (2002) Pyongyang Declaration, on the basis of the settlement of unfortunate past and the outstanding issues of concern.

3) The six parties undertook to promote economic cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and investment, bilaterally and/or multilaterally.

China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia and the U.S. stated their willingness to provide energy assistance to the DPRK. The ROK reaffirmed its proposal of July 12, 2005, concerning the provision of 2 million kilowatts of electric power to the DPRK.

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.

CNN's follow-up also highlights this fact:

The World Food Program has said that North Korea is headed toward the worst humanitarian food crisis since the mid 1990s, when an estimated 1 million North Koreans died. WFP says 6.5 million North Koreans desperately need food aid.

Naturally, the Norh Koreans now say they don't need any food aid.

Readers are invited to speculate on how likelihood of the six-party statement being implemented.

posted by Dan at 10:09 AM | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (0)