Saturday, October 1, 2005
Liberalization, Moroccan style
Neil MacFarquhar has an excellent front-pager in today's New York Times looking at the conundrums of Morocco's recent liberalization:
Read the whole thing.
Friday, September 30, 2005
The shift in jobs and the need to shift job training
The Economist reports on the decline in manmufacturing employment in the U.S.
Of course, the good service sector jobs do require some training. And this Chicago Tribune story by Barbara Rose highlights the deficit in human capital investment in Chicago:
Here's a link to the Chicago Jobs Council report discussed by Rose.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
The Red Sox cause heartburn -- but do they save lives
It's going to be an agonizing/wonderful/intense final weekend of Major League Baseball's regular season. Whenever Major League Baseball has to post this kind of web page to explain the possible playoff permutations (link via David Pinto), you know there are some close races.
Naturally, the piece de resistance is the AL East, with the streaking Yankees a game ahead of the Red Sox, who are tied with Cleveland in the wild card standings.
I don't know how these games could top the drama of the last two years with these two teams -- but then again, I thought that was true right before last year's ALCS, and look what happened.
Fewer ER visits and more babies -- you know the recent Red Sox revival has been good for New England.
[Sure, there are fewer visits, but do the Red Sox save lives?--ed. The reportage is unclear. On the one hand, it seems that people with chronic ailments might defer or postpone visits. On the other hand, "There was no evidence, the researchers from Children's report, of a surge in ER visits immediately after the game concluded." One has to wonder if there were fewer driving accidents, etc. while people were watching the games.]
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Gone grand strategizin'
Blogging will be intermittent for the next few days, as I'm off to Princeton University for the next couple of days. I'll be participating in a conference sponsored by the Princeton Project on National Security, which I referred to a year ago as "a nonpartisan effort to strengthen and update the intellectual underpinnings of U.S. national security strategy."
If you glance at the planned agenda you'll see that participants will be trying to think big thoughts. In my case, it will probably consist more of listening to others think big thoughts.
In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves about this truly horrifying report.
The end of the immigration spike
Bernstein's story is a riff on the Pew Hispanic Center's latest report, "Rise, Peak and Decline: Trends in U.S. Immigration 1992 – 2004." The executive summary also observes that:
Indeed, the report makes it clear that the shift in immigration flows to new states is a permanent and not temporary shift.
Beyond allaying fears of Mexifornia, the study has two take home points.
First, immigration flows follow the economy:
This finding probably won't surprise many economists, but it is politically significant -- because it counters the belief that immigration is some unyielding, unstoppable force.
That said, the second, more disturbing take-home point is that the composition of immigration flows is changing -- and not for the better:
This kind of study may give greater impetus to a grand bargain on immigration reform -- in which legal immigration flows are expanded at the same time there is a crackdown on illegal immigration. [I thought the grand bargain involved a guest worker program--ed. Yeah, but my grand bargain would ditch that part -- guest worker programs don't have a great track record, and the dispersal of immigrants to non-border states would probably reduce its allure anyway.]
Go check out the whole report.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
So how's the public diplomacy thing going?
Karen Hughes, the under secretary for public diplomacy, is in the middle of a "listening tour" of the Middle East. Guy Dinmore reports in the Financial Times on how it's going.
The stop in Saudi Arabia was apparently quite an eye-opener:
Doesn't sound great -- but read this section, and consider the possible sample bias:
UPDATE: If this Josh Marshall post is accurate, then the FT has downgraded Hughes from Minister of Propaganda to her actual title.
Serenity -- the review
The answer partially depends on where you fit in the movie-going universe:
1) Joe and Jane Moviegoer. If you like action flicks with a dash of surprising levity, Serenity is definitely worth checking out. Writer/director Joss Whedon clearly knows his genres, and has no trouble mixing them -- in this case, sci-fi and westerns -- and has even less trouble subverting genre stereotypes. The best parts are the first and last 30 minutes of the film. There's a lot of backstory exposition, and if you go for opening weekend, you might notice a lot of oddly enthusiastic moviegoers, but I agree with Variety's Derek Elley in saying that, "Familiarity with the original episodes isn't necessary, as a tight opening effectively recaps the backstory." This is not Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me -- thank God.
[UPDATE: I'm glad to see this thumbs-up from someone illiterate in Whedon-speak.]
If geeks and fanboys scare you, do not see Serenity on opening weekend. Then go.
2) Firefly fans. Hmmm... how to put this.... hell yes, it's worth the coin. Whedon brought his "A" game and Universal gave him just enough money to make it very, very shiny. Whedon accomplishes in Serenity what he did so proficiently in his best work on TV -- he creates characters who stay true to their motivations, and then makes you realize that just because an actor is featured in the opening credits, there's no guarantee that they'll still be alive when the end credits run. It's that credible danger that makes the final half-hour of Serenity so intense for fanboys and fangirls alike. In Chiwetel Ejiofor, Whedon has found the perfect villain for this piece. Summer Glau and Nathan Fillion are equally good in the emoting and kickass fighting categories. The rest of the cast has their moments as well.
3) Aspiring movie auteurs: This take from Ken Tucker's New York magazine review should whet your appetite:
My take: You wish you could do a tracking shot like the one Whedon serves up in the opening credits. Serenity is a nice exercise in demonstrating how special effects should serve the story and not vice versa. As for dialogue, one person who saw an earlier preview put it best: "Han Solo wishes he was this cool." Whedon betrays his TV past with some claustrophobic shots at some junctures, but this is a great big-screen directorial debut.
Sara T. Hinson thought the show sounded libertarian themes -- like all sci-fi:
Having seen Serenity, I have to side with Hinson. While I thought the television show had both libertarian and modern liberal themes, the movie is actually more libertarian . Indeed, without giving Serenity's plot away, the information you discover about the Reavers negates one of the anti-libertarian critiques present in Firefly.
So go see the goram movie.
UPDATE: Jacob Levy saw the same screening I did, and blogs an excellent review. This paragraph captures the film well:
Matthew Yglesias also liked it -- though I don't agree with Yglesias' assertion that Whedon painted "the Alliance as a cartoonishly evil empire."
[Dude, don't you and everyone else are overreading a sci-fli flick?--ed. You don't know Whedon. From the Toronto Star's Marlene Arpe:
ANOTHER UPDATE: In Reason, Julian Sanchez has a link-rich, spoiler-rich essay on the philosophical roots of Serenity -- and makes a persuasive case for the role of Camus as well as Hayek. In Slate, Seth Stevenson likes Serenity but thinks Joss Whedon's comparative advantage is in the long narrative arcs of episodic television. Salon's Stephanie Zacharek agrees:
Monday, September 26, 2005
I seriously doubt the latter is true, but I do have a partial explanation for Smith: the motto of Grace Hill Media -- the PR firm tasked with the blogger promotion -- is "Helping Hollywood Reach People of Faith." I wonder if there's another PR firm to hype the event for liberal blogggers.....
2) And I wonder if they're better than Grace Hill Media, because I must agree with this blogger's complaint about the confirmation e-mail they sent to everyone. Juuuust a bit too bossy.
3) As someone who was captain of my high school math team, I can say with some certainty that I know from geeks. With that background knowledge, I must confirm what one of my moviegoing compatriots said: "I've been to Star Wars and LOTR openings, but this was easily the geekiest moviegoing audience I've ever seen."
3) Universal studios showed one preview before Serenity -- Doom, starring The Rock. From an audience primed for Joss Whedon quips, it provoked a... bemused reaction.
4) Despite the high fan-to-nonfan ration, there were enough interested outworlders such that the preview accomplished what Whedon said was the marketing strategy in this New York Times interview:
How to try Saddam
How do you try a dictator for crimes committed while in office? The question is not an easy one to answer. The best treatment I've seen of this problem, ironically, is fictional: Julian Barnes' The Porcupine.
This question will rear its head again when Saddam is put on trial in three weeks. Gary Bass -- author of Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals -- has a non-Times-Select op-ed in the NYT expressing concerns about how the Iraqi government is handling the matter:
If this sounds trivial, Bass is correct to point out that the treatment of Saddam's past affects Iraq's political future:
Read the whole thing.
Spammers, please help the Chinese government out...
Another Xinhua report has this priceless tidbit:
Isn't this sort of request exactly the kind of useful activity that spammers could engage in instead of bothering me?