Friday, February 17, 2006
Putin's party becomes a caricature
Steven Lee Myers reports in the New York Times about how a Russian province deals with cartoons that offend the sensibilities of Valdimir Putin's United Russia party:
In a controversy with echoes of the Islamic anger over Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, the authorities in a central Russian city today ordered the closing of a newspaper that published a cartoon showing Muhammad along with Jesus, Moses and Buddha.
Donald Rumsfeld's new front in the war on terror
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations today about a new front in the war on terror. Blogs are involved:
We meet today in the sixth year in which our nation has been engaged in what promises to be a long struggle against an enemy that in many ways is unlike any our country has ever faced. And in this war, some of the most critical battles may not be in the mountains ofAfghanistanor the streets of Iraq, but in newsrooms -- in places like New York, London, Cairo, and elsewhere....Whether Donald Rumsfeld is the person best-suited for this kind of combat " in places like New York, London, Cairo" newsrooms, I'll leave to the readers.
A catastrophic victory for Hamas?
As Bob Uecker would put it, this New York Review of Books essay by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley on Hamas is juuuuust a bit slanted in its assessment of the Palestinian situation.
That doesn't mean it's devoid of value, however. Their take on Hamas after victory seems pretty much on point to me:
Out-and-out victory was not what Hamas had expected or, for that matter, what it had wished for. It had come to see itself as a watchdog on the sidelines, sitting in the legislature without controlling it, shaping the government's policies without being held accountable for them, taking credit for its successes and escaping blame for any setbacks. Its triumph presents it with challenges of a different, more urgent, and less familiar sort. Hamas suddenly finds itself on the front line, with decisions to make and relations to manage with the world, international donors, Israel, Fatah, and, indeed, its own varied constituents. The Islamists may have secretly expected to sweep the elections but, if so, that secret remains well kept. Referring to Iraq, President Bush once spoke of America's catastrophic success. Judging from the Islamists' initial, startled reactions to their triumph, this may well be theirs....If this trend holds -- and that's an admittedly big "if" -- then Hamas' catastrophic victory is good news for everyone else. And further evidence that the best way to deal with Islamists is to let them try to govern.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Anti-semitic cartoon contest!!!
Well, after the whole cartoon flap over Mohammed, and the Iranian decision to hold a contest on the best cartoon mocking the Holocaust, you knew this was just a matter of time:
Amitai Sandy (29), graphic artist and publisher of Dimona Comix Publishing, from Tel-Aviv, Israel, has followed the unfolding of the “Muhammad cartoon-gate” events in amazement, until finally he came up with the right answer to all this insanity - and so he announced today the launch of a new anti-Semitic cartoons contest - this time drawn by Jews themselves!Mmmmm.... blood-soaked matzot.
Sandy has a running start on this. Today he was interviewed by Terry Gross for NPR's Fresh Air . Entries are starting to trickle in -- here's one of the first entries:
Furthermore, noted Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt has already agreed to be one judge.
If Sandy needs another judge, I'd be happy to volunteer. I have a Ph.D., I love cartoons, and as my darling wife said when she pointed out this story to me, "you're a prominent Jew in the blogosphere!"
UPDATE: This isn't as cool as the cartoon contest, but on a related note, the editors of PS: Political Science and Politics are calling for papers on The State of the Editorial Cartoon:
The editors of PS: Political Science and Politics invite contributions to a symposium on the state of the editorial cartoon. The symposium will explore the current condition of editorial cartooning, with an emphasis on daily newspaper editorial cartoons but encompassing politically minded weekly newspaper cartoons, magazine cartoons, comic strips, and web comics. The editors invite informed essays that advance our empirical, historical, and theoretical appreciation for editorial cartoons as art, politics, and culture.
The GAO on TAA
The Government Accountability Office has a new survey of workers at five plant who lost their jobs due to trade competition -- the clear losers of trade liberalization. The survey was designed to see the extent to which Trade Adjustment Assistance -- a program born in the 1974 Trade Act and reformed as recently as 2002 -- was reaching the people it's supposed to.
Here are the key results:
At the time GAO conducted its survey, most of the workers had either found a new job or retired. At three sites, over 60 percent of the workers were reemployed. At another site, only about 40 percent were reemployed, but another third had retired. And at the final site, about a third were reemployed, but this site had the highest proportion of workers who entered training and most of them were likely still in training. The majority of reemployed workers at four of five sites earned less than they had previously—replacing about 80 percent or more of their prior wages—but at one site over half the reemployed workers matched their prior wages.
A libertarian barista on Starbucks
Jacob Grier has a blog post at Smelling the Coffee on the contradictory impulses he feels towards Starbucks -- as a libertarian who nevertheless thinks quality control at Starbucks has gone down.
Read the whole thing, but the part about how Starbucks has affected the industrial organization of coffeehouses is particularly interesting:
Let's begin with the easy issue: Starbucks is driving independent coffee shops out of business. Anecdotally, this may seem obviously true. Many people can name a favorite coffee shop that went out of business soon after a Starbucks moved into the neighborhood. The fact is, though, that Starbucks is creating a market, not destroying it. Growth in both independent and corporate coffee shops has been huge over the past fifteen years, thanks in large part to consumers being introduced to specialty coffee drinks in the safe confines of their local Starbucks.Of related interest: this Tim Harford essay in Slate about why Starbucks doesn't advertise it's "short" cappucino.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Could Åland secede from the EU? Where the f#$% is Åland?
David Rennie has a story in the Daily Telegraph suggesting that a very small cluster of Finnish islands could cause some headaches for the European Union:
In the decade since they voted to join the European Union the islanders of the Åland archipelago in the Baltic Sea have been outvoted and overruled by Brussels, time and again.For more on why snus is such a big deal in Åland, check out this Brussels Journal post.
Rennie might be exaggerating Åland's influence just a wee bit. It's true that the Finnish Customs Service confirms the special tax and regulatory status of the island. However, if you go to the Åland Islands' official home page, you discover the following:
Foreign affairs is not transferred to Åland under the Autonomy Act, but remains under the control of the Finnish Government. Even so, Åland has a degree of influence on international treaties that contain provisions relating to areas where Åland is the competent authority. The Autonomy Act states that an international treaty of this kind entered into by Finland requires the consent of the Parliament of Åland to become valid also in Åland.So, if I read this correctly, Åland can block the proposed European constitution from applying to its jurisdiction -- but it doesn't hold a veto over the rest of Finland. I will happily defer to real international lawyers on this question of law that probably interests only me.
Click here if you want to know the historical reasons for Åland's special status. For some irrational reason, I do find it amusing that a small jurisdiction of 26,200 people could decide to stymie the mighty, mighty European Commission.
So what are you going to watch?
At six o'clock this evening EDT, you have a choice -- you could watch Vice President Dick Cheney's interview with Brit Hume on Fox News..... or watch me talk about offshore outsourcing on CNN International's Insight?
I thought so.
[You do realize most Americans can't get CNN International--ed. It was a rhetorical question... and I got my hypothetical rhetorical answer.]
Your pop quiz on politics for today
1) The Cheney hunting mishap story has some surprising legs;Here's my pop quiz. Beyond the obvious, what do these stories reveal?
A) Bush's staff is delighted to highlight one of the few arenas of press coverage -- presidential foibles -- where they've been perfectly forthcoming;
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
The Decline and Fall of Europe?
The principal motor of Europe’s current decline is, in my view, its obsession with social security, which has created rigid social and economic systems that are extremely resistant to change. And this obsession with social security is in turn connected with a fear of the future: for the future has now brought Europe catastrophe and relative decline for more than a century....Responses come from Timothy Smith, Charles Kupchan, and Anne Applebaum.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), headquartered in Paris, released a report, "Going for Growth," that details economic prospects in the industrial world. It is 160 pages long and written in bland, cautious, scholarly prose. But the conclusion is clear: Europe is in deep trouble. These days we all talk about the rise of Asia and the challenge to America, but it may well turn out that the most consequential trend of the next decade will be the economic decline of Europe.Zakariacloses with some speculation on what Europe's decline means for world politics:
What does all this add up to? Less European influence in the world. Europe's position in such institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund relates to its share of world GDP. Its dwindling defense spending weakens its ability to be a military partner of the United States, or to project military power abroad even for peacekeeping purposes. Its cramped, increasingly protectionist outlook will further sap its vitality.
One mild rebuttal -- Europe's decline does not mean it's influence in international institutions will automatically fall. International organizations have notoriously sticky rules, and those rules benefit those who were powerful in the past. By any measure of power, Britain and France have no business being permanent members of any Security Council that keeps India or even Japan out. Yet there they stay, for two reasons: 1) It's costly to change the rules; and 2) The U.S. doesn't want to change them.
For all of the guff about transatlantic tensions, the U.S. is still keenly aware that it has more shared prferences with Europe than with other regions of the globe. Until that changes, European countries may decline, but they won't fall.
Not the biggest shock in the world
Which sci-fi crew would you best fit in?
You scored as Serenity (Firefly). You like to live your own way and don't enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.
Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in?
created with QuizFarm.com
Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be in my bunk.
Are those netroots showing?
Ian Urbina reports in the New York Times that Pail Hackett has dropped out of the Democratic primary to challenge Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio. It appears that Hackett is none too happy about the way the Democratic establishment has treated him:
Paul Hackett, an Iraq war veteran and popular Democratic candidate in Ohio's closely watched Senate contest, said yesterday that he was dropping out of the race and leaving politics altogether as a result of pressure from party leaders.I bring this up only because Hackett was Exhibit A in the power of the Democratic Party's "netroots." He almost won last year's special election in a district where no one thought Democrats could be competitive.
Hackett was also relying on the netroots in his nascent primary run -- this week he was TPM Cafe's Table for One (though it should be pointed out that Brown blogged last week for TPM). UPDATE: Here's a link to Hackett's withdrawal post at TPM.
Click here to read the reaction among the Kossaks. Kos himself has a post that puts Hackett's decision into some perspective -- though I'm not sure his commenters would agree. Other liberal bloggers share Kos' sense that this was meant to be. This Ezra Klein post suggests Hackett would have given good interview).
It's worth remembering that Karl Rove has spent the last six years trying to hand-pick Senatorial candidates that can topple Democrats -- so it's hard to blame the Dems for doing the same.
[So why are you posting about this?--ed.] Because this is a pretty big slap in the face to the argument that the Democratic Party is being held hostage by its netroots base -- although the real test will be to see if Brown faces any backlash.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Nobody give me a column!!
Note to self: if someone is ever so foolish as to offer me a weekly column, re-read this Jack Shafer paragraph:
Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make a newspaper columnist. Most columnists start off with a bag full of ideas and endless energy. But the job begins to weigh on even the most talented journalist. He starts writing columns about columns he's written, about his kids, or about the deaths of relatives. He composes columns as open letters to world leaders—or writes from inside their heads. He quotes cab drivers. His columns become more assertion than argument. Finally, he starts picking silly, protracted fights with other media machers.[Yeah, we're not worried about this possibility--ed.]
Transatlantic radio and telly debate
Kieran Healy has a post up at Crooked Timber on the superiority of U.K. radio trivia to the United States, and then closes with this paragraph:
Incidentally, Radio 4’s The News Quiz, when set against NPR’s execrable Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me, joins the long list of cultural objects that serve to illustrate the difference between Britain and the United States. Others include The Office (UK) vs The Office (US), Yes Prime Minister vs The West Wing, and so on.This has prompted quite a lively debate in the comments section (including an intervention from yours truly), about a) whether Kieran was correct; and b) What kinds of programming do not appear to be replicable across the Atlantic?
For example, Kieran is correct to point out the complete lack of a U.S. competitor to Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister. At the same time, however, I'm not sure that there's anything in the U.K. that can compete with The Daily Show or The Simpsons. The U.K. version of Friends was pretty appalling (curiously, though, that didn't stop NBC from trying to copy it). Both Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm are commedies of manners, yet I can't think of their British equivalents.
I'm not sure there's any great lesson to be drawn from this, but I invite readers to do two things: 1) Isolate creative excellence in TV that appears to be non-replicable once you cross the border; and 2) Reasons for why this is so. For example, I'd wager that the U.S. does better at certain kinds of comedies and teen shows because television producers have a much greater comfort level with America's affluent class than British producers have with their yuppie audience (there's that whole need to sell advertising as well).
William Easterly trashes Angelina Jolie!!
William Easterly -- the anti-Jeff Sachs -- has an op-ed in today's Washington Post about Africa. He's upset at the do-gooding of Angelina Jolie and those of her ilk [Her ilk? You mean really attractive actresses? Is he upset at Salma, too?--ed. No, I'm talking about those who wish to "save" Africa.]:
Jeffrey Sachs and Angelina Jolie toured the continent on behalf of MTV, with Jolie asking how we can stand by and let it be destroyed. The world's leaders gathered at the United Nations in September to further discuss ending poverty in Africa, apparently unfazed by yet another voluminous U.N. report highlighting the failure of the grand plans (the "Millennium Development Goals") to make any progress. They repeated a familiar refrain: If aid efforts aren't producing the desired results, then redouble those efforts. The year closed with the rock star Bono being named Time magazine's person of the year (along with the rather more constructive Bill and Melinda Gates) for his efforts to save Africa....The hard-working staff here at danieldrezner.com takes great pride in its stout defense of American celebrities. So we feel compelled to point out to raise the possibility that Easterly is just ticked off because he didn't get to go on safari with the lovely and talented Ms. Jolie. But I doubt it.
Read the whole thing.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Your headline contest for today
"Cheney Accidentally Shoots Fellow Hunter," The Associated Press, February 13, 2006.
If you want more details check out the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, which broke the story.
What I would like my readers to propose is what the subhead should be to this story.
My suggestion: "Vice President, Relying on Raw Intel Reports, Convinced Victim was Deer."
UPDATE: Pajamas Media has a quick roundup of blog reactions.