Friday, November 11, 2005
Maybe AOL could buy me a Prius... coated in platinum
Here's what I found out:
Woo-hoo!! Priuses for everyone!! I'm richer than the New York Times!!
[Er, this site suggests that your blog's actual annual value is really closer to $4966.88--ed. I knew the dot-com bubble would eventually catch up to me.]
Props to Mickey Kaus for all of the links.
I thought the problem was too many workers
Exactly one week ago I blogged about the inflow of Hispanic workers -- including illegal immigrants -- into New Orleans. The implication in the stories cited in that post was that these workers were crowding out employment opportunities for locals.
So imagine my surprise when Gary Rivlin reports in the New York Times that this is basically a crock of s**t:
What do you do about Al Qaeda's new base of operations?
In its editorial for today on the topic, the Washington Post points out that this is the latest in a long string of reversals for Al Qaeda in the Middle East:
This doesn't even mention Al Qaeda's unpopularity in North Africa.
Here's the thing, though -- does any of this matter in terms of reducing terrorist activity in the region and across the globe? I ask because of this disturbing story by the Christian Science Monitor's Dan Murphy:
This development has some bitter ironies for both the Bush administration and the opponents of the Iraq war.
The administration might take some PR comfort in the WaPo's assertion that, "The targeting of Jordan can hardly be blamed on the Iraq war," but it must accept the fact that the success of this attack (as opposed to a botched 1999 attempt) is directly attributable to the administration's pre-invasion failure to take out Zarqawi and post0invasion failure to ensure basic security in Iraq.
For opponents, however, the irony is even more bitter. The Bush administration might have been full of it when it claimed a connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq prior to the invasion. However, as frustrating as it may be, Bush is correct to say that Iraq is now one of the focal points in the war against Al Qaeda -- the Jordan attacks are merely the latest evidence of this. As long as Zarqawi has a base of operations and a playground to train zealots, he will continue to be a potent source of trouble.
So, a question to those who advocate a pullout of U.S. forces from Iraq -- how would a U.S. withdrawal help in any way towards removing Iraq as a base of operations for Al Qaeda?
Thursday, November 10, 2005
What do you do with statesmen?
David Bosco and James Forsyth have a serio-comic essay in Slate about the divergent paths that former politicians take in the United States and Europe:
A libertarian might say, "Good for the U.S.A." upon reading these paragraphs -- better that ex-politicians try to get rich rather than try to spread well-intentioned but counterproductive and ineffectual governance structures to the rest of the world.
The problem is that matters are not that simple. The Slate grafs suggest that ex-politicians in the United States want to get rich, they thend to do so by exploiting their comparative advantage -- their knowledge of the intricacies of government. Regardless of party, ex-politicos have an incentive to ensure that the government retains some influence over the market -- so that they can exploit their influence over the government.
This political life after politics subverts the famous Harry Truman line: "A politician is a man who understands government. A statesman is a politician who's been dead for 15 years." In modern America, a statesman is a man who understands government and is paid very well for that understanding."
The rent-seeking implications of this kind of parastatal career are disturbing -- continued opacity of government. So which is worse -- European politicians who seem less interested in money but aspire to supranational forms of governance, or American politicians who are more interested in money and aspire to lobby the national level of governance?
Open Jordan thread
Comment away on the latest suicide bombing attacks in Jordan.
Earlier in the week I had referenced Marc Lynch's overvations about prior Zarqawi-inspired attacks in northern Africa. I tend to agree with his preliminary read of this attack as well:
Wednesday, November 9, 2005
It's déjà vu at the Kansas Board of Education
So I see that the Kansas Board of Ed has approved new science standards that, "change the definition of science to allow for non-natural explanations and cast significant doubt on the theory made famous by Charles Darwin," according to Knight-Ridder's David Klepper.
Sounds pretty grim. Amy Sullivan, however, points out that Kansas wasn't the only place where this issue was subject to debate yesterday:
Indeed, the Knight-Ridder story goes on to point out:
Ann Althouse has more, particularly on the interrelationship between the litigation and electoral strategies that tend to contain this kind of educational tom-foolery.
UPDATE: Oh, dear, I see that Pat Robertson has opened his mouth on this topic. According to the AP:
Wait, I'm confused by that last sentence -- does this mean that Robertson believes that Charles Darwin's ghost is still around?
Anyway, it appears that God ain't pleased with Robertson.
Open Douthat & Salam thread
The American Scene's Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam have written a manifesto for the Republican Party's future which is on the cover of the Weekly Standard. It opens by stating the depressing truth:
So what's the solution? Douthat and Salam argue in favor of taking the "opportunity society" rhetoric and actually putting flesh to it:
Read the whole thing. I'm still mulling it over, but there are some ideas in there that are definitely worth some blog debate.
The rioters really are French
From Miss Jane Galt:
But Davies wins the prize here, pointing out the one way in which this is all so... French:
Indeed. The only difference between these riots and prior action like this by, say, Air France employees is that by this point in the game the French government would have already capitulated.
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Way to go Zarqawi
Marc "Abu Aardvark" Lynch reports that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's latest tactics in Iraq haven't gone down well in the Maghreb states:
Read the whole thing -- the idea that Zarqawi is playing a tw-level game is an interesting one.
How hard is it to use a f#$%ing footnote?
Apparently, U.S. Representative Sherrod Brown sent a letter to Mike DeWine regarding the Samuel Alito nomination, and the letter essentially copied a Nathan Newman post about Alito's take on labor rights. Brown's staff admitted to Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Stephen Koff that "90 percent of what Brown, an Avon Democrat, wrote in his letter was lifted from an Internet posting by a blogger."
Ordinarily I woldn't post about this -- I've reached the point where I'm bored with my own media whoredom. However, this story has some lefty bloggers very annoyed -- including Newman:
While I have some sympathy with the idea of reporters focusing on actual policy substance, this is still a completely valid story. Consider this section of Koff's story and compare it with Black's defiinition of plagiarism:
This is a case of sloppy staff work in Brown's office and not much more -- but it's still a screw-up, which explains why Brown's office immediately copped to the miscue.
UPDATE: Brown has sent another letter to DeWine acknowledging the failure to cite Newman. However, the press release accompanying the letter asserts that, "In coordination with an Ohio newspaper article published Tuesday, DeWine's staff dismissed concerns expressed by Brown in the Nov. 4 letter, instead focusing on citation errors." (emphasis added)
That's an interesting word choice -- Brown is clearly implying that DeWine's staff engineered the story in the first place. I have no idea if this is true or not -- but I'd like to hear of any evidence Brown has to back this up.
So how is trade integration going?
I've seen better weeks for those who want trade expansion.
At the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, everyone took a "wait-and-see" approach to the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. The Economist explains:
This makes sense. So how are those WTO negotiations going? The Associated Press reports that India's Commerce Minister is not optimistic:
[So this is Europe's fault, right?--ed. Well, at this point the answer is yes and no. Certainly EU intransigence on agricultural matters doesn't help. On the other hand, the developing countries are now in a position where they need to make concessions as well. Consider the Indian Commerce Minister's remarks in this story by the Independent's Philip Thornton In a wide-ranging interview with The Independent, Kamal Nath lashes out at the attitude taken by rich nations in the WTO talks especially that of Europe's trade commissioner Peter Mandelson. He appears baffled that Europe has offered to eliminate domestic subsidies and reduce tariffs but in exchange for concessions in other areas, notably service industries and market access for industrial goods.
"I welcome Peter Mandelson's proposal to say he will reduce by so much but then he says 'I want my pound of flesh'," Mr Nath said. He compared Mr Mandelson to a politician seeking a knighthood simply for obeying a traffic light. "He is looking to be rewarded and rewarded for behaving as one should.
"It is a step in the right direction but it is a question of giving an inch and asking for a mile not just asking for a foot but a mile."
On the one hand, Nath is correct in saying that the EU should liberalize its agricultural sector no matter what. On the other hand, the GATT/WTO process was designed for states to get concessions from other countries in order to gain the concessions they want. From an economic standpoint, this kind of reciprocity makes no sense (it's better for countries to unilaterally lower all their tariffs, quotas, and barriers). From a political standpoint, however, the Indians -- and other large-market developing countries such as Brazil and China -- are going to have to reciprocate for the Doha round to have any meaning.
UPDATE: Oh, goody, the U.S. has scored a trade "victory," according to Edward Alden of the Financial Times:
Monday, November 7, 2005
That Burmese junta is just so wacky
In the Financial Times, Amy Kazmin reports that the military junta controlling Burma has found a brand-new way of ensuring its diplomatic isolation:
The pushback on Dick Cheney
One of the mantras on this blog from day one has been the excessive influence that Vice President Richard B. Cheney has played in the foreign policymaking process. This is not to say that a Vice President should have no influence -- merely that Cheney had his thumb so hard on the scale that the interagency NSC process was fatally compromised.
Dana Priest and Robin Wright have a front-pager in the Washington Post on the proposed amendment to prevent detainee abuse suggesting that Cheney's thumb is not as heavy as it used to be:
The report goes on to describe the lengths to which Cheney's camp is going to maintain the upper hand in the game of bureaucratic politics:
Andrew Sullivan has more -- a lot more.
This issue, by the way, also raises some interesting questions for realists -- the flavor of the month in critical foreign policy circles. Consider Cheney's explanation for why the proposed limitations on interrogation would hamper U.S. national security, according to Newsweek's Daniel Klaidman and Michael Isikoff:
Now, if you're a realist, this should be an easy call if you accept Cheney's assertion -- aggressive interrogations yield useful intelligence. Removing this option might preserve some soft power and demonstrate grater respect for international law, but neither of those things should matter in realpolitik world anyway.
Oh, and just to be clear -- Cheney's oversized role in this does not mean that I believe Cheney is the main culprit for U.S. missteps in either Iraq or interrogation policy. The responsibility for those policies -- and the process that abetted them -- lies with the president.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, now that I have everyone's attention, let's highlight one more fissure this kind of issue generates among conservatives. On the one hand there are the Hamiltonians who place a great deal of trust in the executive branch to execute policy in a good faith manner. On the other hand there are Madisonians who inherently distruct executive power and wish to see limitations placed on its use.
If you study foreign policy, there are many compelling reasons to prefer the former approach -- but I'm starting to have great sympathy for Madison in recent years.
Sunday, November 6, 2005
Is American political fiction really so bad?
Via Kevin Drum, I see that Christopher Lehman has a long essay in the Washington Monthly asserting the poverty of American political fiction:
This particular subgenre of fiction is the topic of Rachel Donadio's NYT Book Review essay for today. Curiously, Christopher Buckley makes a cameo appearance there as well:
Is the state of American political fiction really so
What's the explanation? Lehman thinks it's because the overarching theme in American political fiction is the loss of innocence -- which doesn't jibe with how politics actually works:
This echoes the complaint voiced by Slate's David Edelstein a few years ago about how politics is portrayed in film and television:
I'm not sure I have a better answer than Lehman or Edelstein, except to say that I'm not at all sure the problem is peculiarly American. Good fiction set in an democratic political milieu just might be a difficult feat to execute.
Readers are warmly encouraged to suggest their favorite political novels.