Friday, March 24, 2006
Jacques Chirac doesn't like capitalism that much
Another month in France, another excuse for mass protests. This month, the justification has been a law proposed by French prime minister Dominique de Villepin that would make it easier for employers to fire younger workers. The thinking is that this would encourage firms will hire more workers. Needless to say, the French unions disagreed.
The Financial Times' Martin Arnold reports that de Villepin is ready to cave:
Dominique de Villepin will hold talks with trade unions “with no strings attached” on Friday over his unpopular employment law, a move widely interpreted as a climbdown by the embattled French premier....Chirac's hostility to any idea with a whiff of Anglo-Saxon provenance is also demonstrated in this FT story by George Parker and Chris Smyth:
Jacques Chirac, French president, defended his walkout on Thursday night from the EU summit – after a French industrialist began addressing leaders of the bloc in English – saying he had been “profoundly shocked to see a Frenchman express himself in English at the (EU) Council table”.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Comments are down
The good folks at danieldrezner.com are experiencing technical difficulties which make it impossible for comments to be posted right now. Profound apologies, and I hope to have this problem fixed soon.
UPDATE: Comments should now be working.
It's not easy to catch avian flu
Scientific American's David Biello reports on a important finding: why, so far, the H5N1 avian flu virus has not passed from human to human yet:
A virus's ability to spread is the key to its ability to create a pandemic. New research shows that this bird flu currently lacks the protein key to unlock certain cells in the human upper respiratory tract, preventing it from spreading via a sneeze or a cough.Here's the link to the article abstract in Nature.
The new axis of evil
I refer, of course, to the New York Yankees and trademark lawyers.
ESPN.com's Darren Rovell has an amusing story about one lone financial planner's fight to the death against these forces of evil:
Mike Moorby hates the Yankees. And except for the fact that they haven't won the World Series for five straight seasons (Moorby loves that about them), the Yankees keep giving him reasons to hate them.I think I might just have to order myself a hat.
Where's the open debate? I want to see an open debate!!
One of the arguments that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer made in "The Israel Lobby" was that the first rule of the Israel Lobby is that you can't talk about the Israel Lobby:
The Lobby doesn’t want an open debate, of course, because that might lead Americans to question the level of support they provide. Accordingly, pro-Israel organisations work hard to influence the institutions that do most to shape popular opinion.Alas, this story in the Forward by Ori Nir suggests that the reaction to their LRB essay might vindicate this portion of their hypothesis (link via Scott Johnson):
In the face of one of the harshest reports on the pro-Israel lobby to emerge from academia, Jewish organizations are holding fire in order to avoid generating publicity for their critics.So, score one point for Walt and Mearsheimer.... but wait!!! Later in the story, there's this:
Mearsheimer and Walt also seem to be resisting further publicity.Indeed, this appears to be true. Earlier in the week, Walt told the Sun's Meghan Clyne: "'I have discussed your inquiry with my co-author, Professor Mearsheimer,' he told the Sun. 'We appreciate the invitation to respond to the comments, but prefer not to.'"
So let me get this straight: the authors have written and published a paper because they want to provoke an open debate -- and then decide not to respond to any of the critiques made of the paper? [But some of those critiques are just ad hominem attacks labeling them as anti-Semites!--ed. Yes, but other responses, from Dennis Ross, Ruth Wisse, Jeffrey Herf & Andrei Markovits, and Alan Dershowitz, are devoid of that charge and are coming from people with comparable reputations to Walt and Mearsheimer. This editorial by the Forward provides the most comprehensive shredding of their hypothesis, but all Mearsheimer can say is that they have to be careful about what they say.]
New policy here at danieldrezner.com: if the authors of a study refuse to engage in the open debate they claim to want, then I see no reason to take the study seriously.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Blogging will be light for the next few days, as I attend and present at the International Studies Association meeting in San Diego.
Here's a fun time-waster for loyal and truly geeky danieldrezner.com readers -- flip through the conference program and tell me which panel I simply must attend on Friday and why. The winner will be chosen arbitrarily by me and will receive a serio-comic summary of what transpired at the panel.
The U.S. hedges its bets on the Doha round
Until 2006, the Bush administration's policy of "competitive liberalization" in trade had been pretty much symbolic. FTA's with Bahrain, Morocco, or even the CAFTA countries were economically insignificant. Neither the EU nor India was going to feel compelled to move on Doha because of CAFTA.
It’s always wise to have a Plan B. As the US urges progress in the “Doha round” of trade talks, it is also chasing bilateral trade deals across east Asia. These proposed pacts, which include South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand, will act as insurance for a disappointing round. They also put down a marker for future US influence in the region.The $64 billion dollar question is whether these propoed FTAs will convince the EU to relent on ag subsidies and India and Brazil to relent on non-agricultural market access.
Developing.... at least until TPA expires.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
A follow-up on the Israel Lobby
Well, I see the blogosphere has generated a welter of resposes to the Walt/Mearsheimer hypothesis that "The thrust of the U.S. policy in the [Middle East] is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby.'"
Interestingly, mainstream media reaction has been very muted. True, James Taranto discussed it in Opinion Journal's best of the Web, and the New York Sun has reported it to death. So far, however, the Israeli press has covered this more diligently than the American media. [UPDATE: ah, I missed both the UPI coverage and the Christian Science Monitor's Tom Regan -- though neither of these stories include any response from critics.]
So far, the best straight reporting story I've seen comes from the Harvard Crimson's Paras D. Bhayani and Rebecca Friedman -- which includes this priceless paragraph:
In their piece, the authors savaged those on both the political Left and Right, calling groups as diverse as the Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal editorial boards, and Sen. Hillary R. Clinton, D-N.Y., and World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz members of the “Israel Lobby.”On the one hand, it's a shame that this isn't being debated more widely in the mainstream press. On the other hand, it might be good if the mainstream media didn't cover it, if this New York Sun editorial is any indication:
It's going to be illuminating to watch how Harvard handles the controversy over the decision of its John F. Kennedy School of Government to issue a "Faculty Research Working Paper" on "The Israel Lobby" that is co-authored by its academic dean, Stephen Walt. On page one this morning we report that Dean Walt's paper has been met with praise by David Duke, the man the Anti-Defamation League calls "America's best-known racist." The controversy is still young. But it's not too early to suggest that it's going to be hard for Mr. Walt to maintain his credibility as a dean. We don't see it as a matter of academic freedom but simply as a matter of necessary quality control.This is an absurd editorial -- just about any argument out there is endorsed by one crackpot or another, so that does not mean the argument itself is automatically invalidated. As for Walt's sympathies towards David Duke, in the very story they cite, Walt is quoted as saying, "I have always found Mr. Duke's views reprehensible, and I am sorry he sees this article as consistent with his view of the world."
I didn't say this explicitly in my last post, but let me do so here: Walt and Mearsheimer should not be criticized as anti-Semites, because that's patently false. They should be criticized for doing piss-poor, monocausal social science.*
To repeat, the main empirical problems with the article are that :
A) They fail to demonstrate that Israel is a net strategic liability;As an example of the latter, consider this fascinating cover story Liel Leibovitz in the February issue of Moment magazine on the battle to endow Middle Eastern chairs at American universities. The highlights:
[W]hen Columbia announced that an endowed chair would be named in honor of Said—who died of leukemia in 2003—there was outrage in some quarters of the Jewish community. That outrage intensified in March 2004 when, after a long delay, the university revealed that the Edward Said Chair of Modern Arab Studies and Literature had been funded in part by the United Arab Emirates. A few influential Jews demanded that the university return the gift, suspend the establishment of the chair, or both.Read the whole thing -- but the excerpted passage above suggests a few kinks in the causal chain that Walt and Mearsheimer propose. First, there are lots of groups trying to alter elite American discourse through a variety of means. Second, if Walt and Mearsheimer want to claim that the Israel lobby has bought up public intellectuals, they're going to have to explain why those intellectuals are more powerful than the ones bought for by Arab states -- at present, countervailing pressures simply do not exist in their argument. Third, the Berkeley example demonstrates the process tracing problem that Walt and Mearsheimer need to address. It's one thing for lobbies to throw money around to influence U.S. foreign policy; it's another thing entirely to demonstrate that the money actually influenced foreign policy decisions.
Full disclosure: Moment is "the largest independent Jewish magazine in North America... committed as ever to being an independent forum, in which disparate opinions and ideas are addressed in provocative ways." But I don't think it's part of the Israel lobby.
* This is not to deny that a pro-Israel lobby affects U.S. foreign policy, just as Cuban emigres undoubtedly have an effect on U.S. policy towards Cuba. It's just that Walt and Mearsheimer say that the lobby "almost entirely" explains U.S. policy. My contention is that they vastly overestimate both pro-Israel lobby's causal role -- and their uniformity of opinion and motivation.
UPDATE: Via Glenn Greenwald, I see that Michael Kinsley had the brains to bring up this subject before the Iraq war even started. Go check it out -- I'm far more comfortable with his version of the argument than Mearsheimer or Walt.
Monday, March 20, 2006
I always suspected this was true
As theWell, at least among liberals, anyway. Among conservatives, I suspect there's an inverse correlation between performance in baseball rotisserie leagues and comprehension of the Quadrennial Defense Reviews.
[So how are you doing in your March Madness pool, smart guy?--ed. My correct upset predictions (Montana over Nevada, and Georgetown over Ohio State) have kept me in the running despite some excessive loyalty to the Land of Lincoln (F#$%ing Salukis; should have picked Bradley instead). I'm told that if my prediction of Florida making it to the Final Four comes true, I'll be sitting pretty.]
Don't expect Orange Revolution II
Belarus had a presidential "election" over the weekend, which current president Aleksandr Lukashenko won handily.. I use quotations because the OSCE reported:
The Belarusian presidential election on 19 March failed to meet OSCE commitments for democratic elections, despite the fact that voters were offered the potential for a genuine choice between four candidates.The full text of the OSCE report can be found here.
There have been some protests in Minsk because of the outcome, but as I've written before, I'm not expecting a Orange revolution in Belarus anytime soon. This Times of London report by Jeremy Page doesn't make me feel any more sanguine:
President Lukashenko of Belarus declared yesterday that he had thwarted a Western plot to overthrow him, pouring scorn on the thousands who protested against his election victory.One thing I love about British papers, however, is that they can be much more blunt than comparable American papers. Take this paragraph:
Shown on national television, the conference was sure to appeal to his supporters in the countryside and the elderly. However, it only reinforced his image among younger Belarussians and most Westerners as a deluded megalomaniac.UPDATE: A Fistful of Euros has more... including a link to a this fake Belarusian news blog, which is apparently being used as part of a policy simulation exercise for University of Kentucky's Patterson School of Diplomacy.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
The most interesting fact I learned today
Short [sperm] donors don't exist; because most women seek out tall ones, most [sperm] banks don't accept men under 5-foot-9.Jennifer Egan, "Wanted: A Few Good Sperm" New York Times Magazine, March 19, 2006.
The Economist surveys Chicago
This week's Economist has its first survey of Chicago since 1980. As John Grimond writes, there have been a few changes during those years:
Appearances often deceive, but, in one respect at least, the visitor's first impression of Chicago is likely to be correct: this is a city buzzing with life, humming with prosperity, sparkling with new buildings, new sculptures, new parks, and generally exuding vitality. The Loop, the central area defined by a ring of overhead railway tracks, has not gone the way of so many other big cities' business districts—soulless by day and deserted at night. It bustles with shoppers as well as office workers. Students live there. So, increasingly, do gays, young couples and older ones whose children have grown up and fled the nest. Farther north, and south, old warehouses and factories have become home to artists, professionals and trendy young families. Not far to the east locals and tourists alike throng Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile, a stretch of shops as swanky as any to be found on Fifth Avenue in New York or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Chicago is undoubtedly back.The survey suggests four reasons for Chicago's rebirth:
1) Geographical advantages unique to Chicago (Lake Michigan, being the largest city in the Midwest);Go check it out. Grimond makes way too much of Chicago's success at landing corporate eadquarters' like Boeing -- and I was surprised he never mentioned Ed Glaeser's work on the economics of Northern cities. Still, it's interesting reading.