Friday, June 16, 2006

Is politics really a beauty contest?

Today I received the following e-mail request from Niclas Berggren:

Several studies document that beauty plays a role in the labor market: beautiful people earn more than others. Three economists are conducting a study to see whether there is a beauty premium in politics as well, such that beautiful candidates have greater electoral success. You, humble readers of daniel, are hereby invited to participate in the study, run by Associate Professor Niclas Berggren (The Ratio Institute), Dr. Henrik Jordahl (Uppsala University) and Professor Panu Poutvaara (University of Helsinki).

Click over to -- and please write DREZNER when asked how and where you heard about the study.

posted by Dan at 04:54 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Just how much do Democrats and Republicans differ?

In a previous post on partisanship, I asserted the following:

This is where I break ranks with both [Tom] DeLay and [Marc] Schmitt -- I don't think Democrats and Republicans disagree on the first principles of governing. I'm not even sure they disagree on second principles. There are policy differences, to be sure -- but Carl Schmitt (not relation to Marc) does not travel well to these shores.
Evidentiary standards in the blogosphere are pretty low, but still, I should probably back up this assertion a bit.

Now I can, thanks to Greg Mankiw, who posts the following:

John McCain gave a speech to the Economic Club of New York yesterday....

The whole speech is worth reading. Here are my two favorite passages:

A tsunami of entitlement spending is threatening our economy, while providing no real security to retirees. We have made promises that we cannot keep. Under moderately optimistic scenarios Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will in the decades to come grow as large as the entire government is today. Someday the government will be forced to make drastic cuts in these programs, or crippling increases in taxes on workers – or both. The longer we wait to make the hard choices necessary to repair these programs, the harder the problem becomes. My children and their children will not receive the benefits we will enjoy. That is an inescapable fact, and any politician who tells you otherwise, Democrat or Republican, is lying....

A global rising tide of protectionism and a retreat from market-based economic policy is threatening the entrepreneurs of developed and developing countries alike. Free trade is the key to global economic growth, and a key to U.S. economic success. We need stand up for free trade with no ifs, ands or buts about it. We let trade and globalization be politicized at our own peril.

By my reckoning, any candidate who is not willing to put some version of these two paragraphs into his or her speeches doesn't pass the test of intellectual seriousness. McCain passes with flying colors.
As fate would have it, two months ago Hillary Clinton gave a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago about similar issues.

If one takes Clinton and McCain to be the standard-bearers fopr their respective parties in two years -- a stretch, but not a wholly unreasonable one -- it would be useful to compare and contrast the content of the two speeches.

CLINTON ON GLOBALIZATION: "[T]oday we have no choice about whether or not to embrace globalization. It is happening. We can't pretend it's going away. We can't wish it away. It is occurring. But as in earlier times, we do have a choice about how we deal with globalization and the competitive threat that it poses. We can choose to unleash the power of innovation and enterprise in ways that promote our economic growth and our values so that all Americans share in the prosperity."

MCCAIN ON GLOBALIZATION: "[D]espite all the defeatist rhetoric, America is the world’s biggest exporter, importer, producer, saver, investor, manufacturer and innovator. Americans do not shy from the challenge of competition: they welcome it. Because of that, we attract foreign investment from all over the world. Our government should welcome competition as the people do, and not resort to mindless protectionism.

While we embrace free trade, it is important to recognize that trade can lead to painful dislocations for some individuals. We must remain committed to education, retraining, and help for displaced workers all the while reminding ourselves that our ability to change is a great strength of our nation. We cannot let fear and the appeals of protectionists lead us backward."

CLINTON ON FISCAL POLICY: "Now, I think a return to fiscal discipline, living within our means, is essential for our long-term health. It is also critical to whether or not we control our own destiny as a nation.

Over the long-term and maybe the median term, red ink fiscal policies will undermine America's competitiveness. We have to ask ourselves whether our taxing and spending policies are in line with our economic goals. Do we have the right priorities and values in the federal budget?....

You know, we can do this. But we've got to forge a new bipartisan consensus. In the 1990s we did have tremendous economic growth underpinned by economic policies geared toward deficit reduction. That's why I support a return to pay-as-you-go budget rules in the Congress.

Every institution needs rules. And when the pay-as-you-go rules expired, all bets were off in the Congress. One of the ways we were able to obtain a balanced budget and a surplus in the Congress in the 1990s was you could not cut taxes or raise spending unless you could pay for it. A very old fashioned idea, but one which I hope we can begin to return to."

MCCAIN ON FISCAL POLICY: "While booming entitlement spending threatens us in the long run, our short term fiscal situation is terrible as well. In the past six years, government spending has gone from irresponsible to utterly indefensible. The numbers should shock us, and government’s indifference to them should shame us. According to the latest figures, spending in the 2005 fiscal year was $683 billion higher than it was in 2000. If we had simply held spending growth in check we would not have a budget deficit today.

Some of this money has necessarily been spent on the war on terror that was unexpected and has been obviously and hugely expensive. While at the same time we know we must focus most of our defense spending on tomorrow’s threats, not yesterday’s. But when Ronald Reagan increased defense spending to win the Cold War, he slowed non-defense spending growth at the same time. This time, we have fallen again for that most alluring delusion, we have tried to have our cake and eat it too. Non-defense spending, often on the most unnecessary projects, is out of control.

Legislators pass pork-filled bills without the fear of public retribution or presidential veto. Federal spending, and the special interest earmarks that destroy the budget process and waste taxpayer dollars by the billions continues at a breakneck pace. Sadly, we haven’t reformed the bankrupt “tax and spend” policies decried by Ronald Reagan. We have, it is now evident, merely replaced them with a new and even more insidious scheme of “borrow and spend.”

We are fooling no one, my friends. Inevitably, the bill will come due. In the mean time, we rack up big debts. With those debts come higher and higher interest payments each year. Instead of spending the tax payers’ dollars on real priorities, more and more of them will be devoted simply to keeping the bill collectors at bay. Bills that perpetuate wasteful spending should be vetoed – not some of them, all of them."

CLINTON ON ENERGY INDEPENDENCE: "We need a national energy strategy that is more than one line in the State of the Union. Energy costs hurt everyone's bottom line. And over the past 30 years, the ups and downs of the global oil market have cost the U.S. economy $7 trillion -- enough to pay off almost all of our national debt. The U.S. chemical industry says national gas price hikes over the last two years alone have cost it $10 billion and $50 billion in sales lost to cheaper foreign competition. Meanwhile, the average family is spending 75 percent more on transportation costs than it did five years ago.

We need a drive for smart energy that starts right now. The way to reduce our oil addiction is through technology, and we need a much more aggressive strategy. We have a National Institutes of Health. Why don't we have a National Institute of Energy? I think we need a major energy research program similar to what President Eisenhower did after Sputnik went up because we are suffering through what might be called -- and some have -- silent Sputnik. And the energy issue is one of those.

If we had a major energy research program, it would create a portfolio of cutting edge energy research technologies that would reduce our oil dependence, increase our efficiency and reduce green house gas emissions."

MCCAIN ON ENERGY INDEPENDENCE: "Recent events have also made it clear that rising energy costs and our dangerous dependence on an unreliable supply from unstable parts of the world is potentially crippling to our economy. When Wall Street wants to limit risk, it diversifies. The obvious approach to resolve our energy problems is to increase and diversify our sources of power and look for ways to reduce our demand. We have promising technologies in development, but also proven alternatives at hand – the most obvious of which is nuclear.

Genuine improvement in our energy security, must respect markets and avoid the temptations of nearsighted politics. While it is tempting to assail windfall profits and executive compensation, it is not a substitute for a viable and long-term energy strategy. We will never be fully independent of global energy markets. But we must work for the day that energy supply volatility no longer imperils our economy and our security."

Is it just me, or is there a lot of similarity here?

To be sure, these quotes do not mean that Clinton and McCain are carbon copies of each other. If you read the speeches back-to-back, you see Clinton keeps mentioning fiscal discipline, but the bulk of her policy proposals are about substantive increases in "infrastructure" spending. McCain seems more emphatic about deficit reduction, but as Mankiw correctly points out, he's a bit vague on the details. Clinton wants to subsidize manufacturing; McCain doesn't. Read the two speeches yourself and see if you can spot other differences (and, for the record, I strongly prefer McCain's speech on the points of divergence).

The differences, however, are one of small degrees, not orders of magnitude. They are not differences of first principle.

posted by Dan at 12:58 AM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

How to make people read about economic concepts

Megan McArdle has two posts today on economics that are worth checking out -- both for their substantive content and for the excellent way in which she lures readers who might be put off by economic jargon into perusing them anyway.

For example, in this post on comparing the U.S. macroeconomic situation to the developing world, there is this great passage:

It is common, and silly, for people worrying about America's current account deficit to make statements like this:
If the US were a developing nation, it would have been IMFed by now.
And if I were Anna Nicole Smith, I would have absolutely ENORMOUS . . . vacation homes. This is not very relevant to my current summer plans.
Check out this post on stagflation as well. It's a moment of convergence between Megan and Kevin Drum.

posted by Dan at 03:43 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

In honor of Flag Day....

The Senate is going to vote today on a flag-burning amendment, an act that even the conservative base knows is meaningless. Seriously, is this really a problem in this country? Utah Senator Bob Bennett points out the obvious: "The only time there's any significant amount of flag burning is when the flag amendment is introduced and people go out and burn flags in opposition to the amendment."

If you must think about this kind of nonsense, go read this Julian Sanchez post about the proposed constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning. And then try to think of an even sillier amendment to the Constitution and post it in the comments.

UPDATE: Thanks to the reader who linked to this John Scalzi post from last year on this very topic.

posted by Dan at 04:19 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Fewer Americans are going postal

Frances Williams reports in the Financial Times about some interesting trends in workplace violence in the developed world:

Physical and psychological violence in the workplace is on the rise worldwide and has reached “epidemic levels” in many industrialised countries, according to a study published on Wednesday by the International Labour Organisation.

The study says violence at work, including bullying, sexual harassment and physical assault, may be costing anywhere between 0.5 and 3.5 per cent of countries’ gross national products in absenteeism, sick leave and lower productivity....

The study says available data, though patchy, show a clear upward trend in bullying, harassment and intimidation of workers, affecting more than 10 per cent of the European workforce, for example.

In developing countries, women, migrants and children are most vulnerable, with sexual harassment and abuse reported as a big problem in places as varied as South Africa, Malaysia and Kuwait.

At the same time, the study notes that physical violence declined in the US and UK in recent years. In the US, the number of workplace homicides has fallen from more than 1,000 a year a decade ago to about 630 in 2003.

In England and Wales, incidents of workplace violence dropped from 1.3m in 1995 to about 850,000 in 2002-03, according to the British Crime Survey.

Here's a link to the ILO press release, as well as the introductory chapter. I wouldn't describe the data cited in the report as "patchy" so much as "completely incommensurate between countries."

Putting that caveat aside for a moment, would any readers like to posit why workplace violence appears to be on the decline in the Anglosphere but on the rise elsewhere?

posted by Dan at 03:42 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Mnew blog

Seth Mnookin has started up a blog on his web site that's worth checking out if you like the Boston Red Sox, baseball in general, and savvy media criticism.

[Besides you, who's interested in that stuff?--ed. Um... I'm guessing David Pinto, Bill Simmons, and maybe Mickey Kaus if he likes baseball. That's at least three. It's a trend, then!!--ed.]

UPDATE: In other blog news, Matthew Yglesias is clearly making a buck off of his blogging and discovers to his irritation that he has to pay the government some of it.

posted by Dan at 01:51 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

For the philosophers in the audience....

Luc Bovens has a fascinating article in the Journal of Medical Ethics about whether strict pro-life activists -- i.e., those who are as concerned about embryonic death as they are about fetuses -- can ethically endorse the rhythm method as a means of family planning. Why?

Pro-lifers oppose IUDs because their main mode of operation is to make embryonic death likely. Now suppose that we were to learn that the success of the rhythm method is actually due, not to the fact that conception does not happen—sperm and ova are much more long lived than we previously thought—but rather because the viability of conceived ova outside the HF period is minimal due to the limited resilience of the embryo and the limited receptivity of the uterine wall. If this were the case, then one should oppose the rhythm method for the same reasons as one opposes IUDs. If it is callous to use a technique that makes embryonic death likely by making the uterine wall inhospitable to implantation, then clearly it is callous to use a technique that makes embryonic death likely by organising one’s sex life so that conceived ova lack resilience and will face a uterine wall that is inhospitable to implantation. Furthermore, if one is opposed to IUDs because their main mode of operation is to secure embryonic death, then, on the assumption that one of the modes of operation of the pill is to make embryonic death likely, one should be equally opposed to pill usage. This is essentially Alcorn’s argument and assuming that the empirical details hold, consistency does indeed drive IUD opponents in this direction. If, however, our empirical assumptions about the rhythm method hold, then one of its modes of operation is also that it makes embryonic death likely. And if embryos are unborn children, is it not callous indeed to organise one’s sex life on the basis of a technique whose success is partly dependent on the fact that unborn children will starve because they are brought to life in a hostile environment?
This rests on the belief that the rhythm method works because of embryonic death rather than a failure to fertilize an egg in the first place. Amanda Schaffer's article in the New York Times about the Bovens paper discusses the scientific lay of the land on that question.

I have no idea whether Bovens' empirical assertion is correct -- but if it is, it would seem to pose a very interesting quandry for some pro-life activists.

UPDATE: The comments tend to run towards the distinction between sins of omission and sins of commission. Just to be really subversive, try applying that framework to this question and see if your views remain internally consistent.

posted by Dan at 11:34 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

The Bush administration's whack-a-mole on data privacy

In less than a month, the Bush administration has had two gaffes on the security of electronic data.

Last month there was the DVA fiasco. This month it's the Energy Department's turn. The AP's H. Josef Hebert reports:

Energy Department officials have informed nearly 1,500 individuals that their Social Security numbers and other information may have been compromised when a hacker gained entry to a department computer system eight months ago, a spokesman said Monday.

The workers, mostly contract employees, worked for the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous agency within the department that deals with the government's nuclear weapons programs.

The computer theft occurred last September, but Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and his deputy, Clay Sell, were not informed of it until last week. It was first publicly disclosed at a congressional hearing on Friday....

The security breach occurred in a computer system at a service center in Albuquerque, N.M. The file that was compromised contained the names, Social Security numbers, security clearance levels and place of employment of 1,502 people working throughout the government nuclear weapons complex.

The system contained sensitive, but not classified material, department officials said. The NNSA also has a more secure computer system that includes nuclear weapons data and other classified material.

NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks told a House hearing on Friday that he learned of the security breach late last September, but did not inform either the two men to whom he reports - Bodman or Sell.

posted by Dan at 11:27 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

In which direction is Bush headed?

As of late, George W. Bush has suffered a few bad news cycles days weeks months years. If you don't count Rasmussen, Real Clear Politics' archive has his polling numbers consistently below 40% for the past three months.

So what does the future hold? There are two takes on the web today.

In The New Republic, Jonathan Chait argues that conservatives have ditched the sitting president:

The American Spectator recently published a special issue devoted mostly to detailing the litany of Bush sins. One recent book (Impostor, by conservative columnist Bruce Bartlett), a forthcoming book (Conservatives Betrayed, by right-wing activist Richard Viguerie), and innumerable op-eds (e.g., "HOW THE GOP LOST ITS WAY," by Reagan biographer Craig Shirley) condemn the president as an ideological turncoat.

Of course, conservatives have been demanding greater fidelity from Bush since he first ran for president. But that was all part of the normal give-and-take of conservative politics--the true believers staying ever-vigilant to ensure their three-quarters of a loaf does not get whittled down to half. What's happening now is different. Conservative intellectuals and activists, the right's ideological vanguard, have decided that Bush is not Reagan's son after all. Indeed, they have discovered that he is not, and never has been, a conservative, but rather that he is a fraud masquerading as one.

Meanwhile, John Dickerson at Slate notices a small countertrend:
Boy, that Josh Bolten is good. Since taking over as White House chief of staff, he has successfully installed a new spokesman, landed a Wall Street wizard to run the Treasury Department, killed the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, got the Iraqis to form a government, and brought about the exoneration of Karl Rove. Political observers search for a turning point. When the narrative is written, Bolten's promotion will seem like the moment everything changed for the White House.

Bolten, of course, had nothing to do with the good result for Rove, or the developments in Iraq, but he did play a role in creating an atmosphere that allows White House aides to perhaps enjoy today's news. After months of relentless bad headlines, disappointments, and public failures, Bush officials have been reluctant to embrace glimmers of good news, knowing they would be quickly overshadowed. There is a sense now in the White House, though, that they may be back on their game or at least back off their heels. "People are just more confident," says one top White House aide.

This could be wishful thinking. With the president's approval ratings still low, Republicans in a funk, and Democrats energized, there's an incentive for West Wing aides and partisans to overplay good news. But their optimism springs more from the other event that took place on Rove's good day, which poses more troubling problems for Democrats in November than the absolution of the president's chief political adviser. George Bush flew to Baghdad Tuesday to highlight the coming together of the Iraqi government. The trip came after meetings at Camp David between Bush and his military advisers, meetings that are almost certainly the prelude to a pre-November announcement that troops in Iraq will start coming home.

So is the wheel turning or not?

My two cents is that it actually doesn't matter. In 2004, the residue of George W. Bush as the resolute post-9/11 leader was strong enough for him to eke out an electoral victory. I suspect the hangover from the Iraq occupation will be so massive that there is little Bush could do between now and November to affect the Republicans' political fortunes.

But I could be wrong... and I welcome readers telling me that.

posted by Dan at 04:23 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Rauch, realpolitik, and realism

Eugene Volokh links to "an interesting and thoughtful column" by Jonathan Rauch in the National Journal.

Rauch argues that current policymakers should pay more attention to realism -- which requires him to define the term and then explain why it's been neglected:

[T]he United States would do well to recall and learn from President Kennedy. But which President Kennedy? The idealist who made the speeches, or the realist who made the decisions?

The idealist was the JFK of the 1961 Inaugural Address, whose clarion rhetoric -- "We shall pay any price, bear any burden... to assure the survival and the success of liberty" -- leads in a straight line to President Bush's second Inaugural Address: "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.... So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

The rhetorical kinship is evident (and not coincidental). But look more closely. Bush's call to end tyranny everywhere is revolutionary in scope and ambition. It proposes not just to make the world safe for democracy but to make the whole world safely democratic.

Kennedy, by contrast, promised to "bear any burden" to defend the free world against communism -- not to free the whole world. And notice, in JFK's 1959 remark, the telling qualifications: "If we can hold out for the long run there will be sufficient evolutionary changes... to give us some hope of success."....

In the golden haze of his speeches, one too easily forgets that JFK the practitioner was a hard-boiled realist. So were Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and, for the most part, FDR and Truman.

For 30 years, nonetheless, realism has been in bad odor. Liberals have scorned it for betraying human rights and drawing the country into Vietnam (though whether the flinty-eyed JFK would have embarked on LBJ's massive escalation in Indochina is questionable). Conservatives have scorned it for tolerating communism (though containment ultimately brought down the Soviet Union).

Ironically, the one presidential nominee in recent times to campaign explicitly as a realist was George W. Bush, who in 2000 derided "nation building" as tangential to U.S. interests and rejected as "arrogance" the notion that America should reform the world. But the realist revival was brief. Bush soon converted to the Bush Doctrine, which seeks to make the world peaceful by making it free....

Lacking mainstream advocacy, realism has indeed fallen into the hands of cranks on the left and the right, who propound bastardized versions -- the Far Left out of pacifism and hatred of Bush, the Far Right out of isolationism and cultural chauvinism. The pity is that no one in public life is making the respectable case for what is an eminently respectable doctrine.

Or, really, a respectable attitude. Realism is not so much a doctrine, aspiration, or policy as a sense of how the world works. Properly understood, it does not define U.S. interests narrowly or cynically, dismiss human rights as sissy stuff, or espouse indifference to regimes' internal structure. The essence of realism, rather, is seeing the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. Specifically, realism understands that:

· U.S. influence is a limited resource that needs conservation, and that using it requires leaders to make distasteful trade-offs and to deal with bad guys.

· Because human beings are not easily governable and because chaos is a first-order strategic menace, stability should be a top-tier priority, never a mere afterthought.

· However idealistic its self-image, America has too many status quo interests ever to be a revolutionary power.

· Except in the short run, the American people care more about interests than ideals and will tolerate idealistic adventurism only briefly.

Realism does not imply giving up on democratic reform or noble ambitions. It does imply pursuing revolutionary goals on a geological time scale. The Cold War, a classic instance, spanned five decades. It was counter-revolutionary rather than revolutionary in nature. It was primarily anti-communist, not pro-democratic. And, as conservatives often complained, it was a "let burn" policy toward communism, not a policy of extinguishment.

Human rights? Important, of course; that is a lesson that realists have taken on board since President Carter....

From a realist point of view, neoconservatives and unilateralists are too aggressive, isolationists and pacifists too passive, idealists and moralists too scrupulous, and Wilsonian reformers too destabilizing. Realists can be criticized for not proffering a specific agenda of their own, and that, too, is a fair rap. Realism does not define, and should not limit, America's aims in the world.

It is, however, an indispensable ingredient of a grown-up foreign policy. If realism had the advocacy it deserves, it would be enjoying a renaissance it has earned.

Much as I admire Rauch's writings, there are a few problems with this column, and at the risk of stepping into some paradigm wars, I think it's worth pointing them out:
1) The far left and right aren't the only ones to embrac realism. Rauch overlooks a gaggle of sober, respectable policymakers and public intellectuals who would be considered realists. Brent Scowcroft and Henry Kissinger certainly fit this mold.

Indeed, far from being out of vogue, realism has enjoyed quite the renaissance in Washington. Two years ago this week, in fact, Lawrence Kaplan felt compelled to write in The New Republic, "Indeed, it appears nearly everyone in Washington is a realist now." (though Kaplan's definition of realism was equally problematic)

2) Contrary to Rauch's assertion, realism is very much a doctrine as well as a sense of how the world works. Furthermore, academic proponents of realism are quite clear in defining U.S. interests narrowly, dismissing human rights (or at least the active promotion of h.r. beyond our borders), and espousing indifference to regimes' internal structure. Not that there's anything wrong with that or anything, but that's in the core of the realist paradigm.

What Rauch describes as realism is what I would label realpolitik... or even just "realistic". The terms are often used synonymously, but I've always viewed realpolitik as more in keeping with Rauch's theme of the husbanding of American power. Someone who embraces a realpolitik worldview does not disagree with liberal internationalists or neoconservatives about the desired ends of American foreign policy -- they merely disagree with the utility of the means. A realist disagrees over ends as well.

3) Finally, while Rauch wisely parses the gap between words and deeds in the Kennedy administration, he fails to do the same with the Bush administration. To quote myself here:

In the case of the Bush administration, the emphasis on fostering “a balance of power that favors human freedom” and “extend[ing] the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent” in the National Security Strategy must be contrasted with actions taken by the administration to prosecute the war on terrorism. In order to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has befriended several authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes, including China, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan. The administration has trumpeted Libya’s return to the fold of respectable nations in exchange for relinquishing its WMD program – despite the fact that Libya essentially remains a one-man dictatorship. Values may be invoked as a means to rally support for a strategy – but that does not mean these values are consistently implemented across the spectrum of foreign policy. (This is a fact that is embraced by even the most diehard neoconservatives. In 2004, Charles Krauthammer observed, “The danger of democratic globalism is its universalism, its temptation to plant the flag of democracy everywhere. It must learn to say no. And, indeed, it does say no.”)
Indeed, this fact roils some of the true believers among the neocons.
The Bush administration may not be pursuing a strictly realist foreign policy, but its behavior suggests they're well aware of the concept that Rauch is trying to promote.

posted by Dan at 09:03 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

The tragicomedy of North Korea

In the Financial Times, Demetri Sevastopulo, Stephen Fidler and Anna Fifield report that Kim Jong Il would like the United States to pay more attention to North Korea now, please:

North Korea is preparing for a possible test of an intercontinental ballistic missile with the potential to hit the US, according to Washington officials.

A senior official said there were “enough indications” to suggest that Pyongyang was getting ready to fire a Taepodong-2 missile from a launch pad in eastern North Korea. It would be the Stalinist state’s first test of a longer-range missile since 1998 when Pyongyang generated an international crisis by unexpectedly firing an intermediate-range Taepodong-1 over Japan....

Pyongyang – which is keenly aware that the US can monitor its preparations by satellite – could be bluffing. Kim Jong-Il, the North Korean leader, has a history of performing eye-catching stunts when he feels he is being ignored, which has happened recently as Washington focuses on resolving nuclear tensions with Iran. Another US official said he might be “playing games” to get attention.

The title of this post aside, there's actually nothing funny about this... unless your mind wanders involuntarily to certain movie musicals.

Team America references aside, the most obvious indication that this is serious is that the South Koreans are not downplaying it:

Ban Ki-moon, South Korea’s foreign minister, last week said the preparations were of “great concern” – comments that underscored South Korean anxiety given that Seoul has traditionally played down the chances of any inflammatory actions by the North. The official said the US wanted to avoid creating a crisis because “ that is what North Korea wants”.

posted by Dan at 08:12 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

What happens when I go on vacation

Tyler Cowen describes what he believes to be a new-fangled type of trip:

I am toying with a new concept, namely The Work Vacation. Pick some exotic locale and bring your laptop. Write your book and blog as usual. Go out every now and then to see some sights. In essence seeing sights replaces the time at home you would spend doing chores and taking care of family.
This is almost but not exactly what my vacations are like.

Indeed, the joke in my family is that the only difference between me working and me on vacation is that I read a slightly different set of books.

posted by Dan at 09:05 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)