Saturday, July 1, 2006
Your summer books for 2006!!
Astute and frequent readers of danieldrezner.com -- all six of you -- might have noticed that I did not post any books of the month for this June. Astute as you all are, no doubt you suspected this was because of my preoccupation with moving and its attendant minor disasters.
You would be correct.
However, with summer now upon us, I hope to make up for this by posting my reading recommendations for the entire summer at once. Rather than break this down into international relations and general interest, however, there are three categories:
A) Work books -- a.k.a., international relations. These are the books I really need to read becaue of my research, or my need to stay current in what's going on in my field:
1) Stephen G. Brooks, Producing Security: Multinational Corporations, Globalization, and the Changing Calculus of Conflict. Does the globalization of production lead to peace? Librals say yes and realists say no, but the real answer is likely to be a wee bit more complex than that. Brooks looks at the phenomenon the right way by examining just how production has been globalized and how that affects different conflict situations. He concludes that globalization reduces violent conflicts between great powers but exacerbates it among developing economies.B) Work and play books. This is a category of books that I probably don't need to read to further my immediate research or teaching needs, but I find the topic or the author sufficiently intriguing that I can't resist. Down the road, these books often wind up jumpstarting research ideas.
For the record, these are the kind of books I bring on my vacations
In order to have time to actually read them rather than write about them , I'm cribbing from the salient parts of their self-descriptions :
1) Suzanne Berger et al, How We Compete : What Companies Around the World Are Doing to Make it in Today's Global Economy: "Based on a five-year study by the MIT Industrial Performance Center, How We Compete goes into the trenches of over 500 international companies to discover which practices are succeeding in today’s global economy, which are failing –and why.... What emerged was far more complicated than the black-and-white picture presented by promoters and opponents of globalization. Contrary to popular belief, cheap labor is not the answer, and the world is not flat, as Thomas Friedman would have it. How We Compete shows that there are many different ways to win in the global economy, and that the avenues open to American companies are much wider than we ever imagined."C) Pure play books. Books that have no relationship whatsoever with my work other than to make my brain very happy:
1) Seth Mnookin, Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top. What looks like excellent bookend to the spate of literature, beginning with Steve Kettman's One Day At Fenway, about the renaissance of the Boston Red Sox under the new management structure of John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner, and Theo Epstein. Mnookin has posted snippets of his book at his blog, as well as Vanity Fair.That should be enough of a list to qualify for summer vertigo.
New home disasters thread
A scant ten days after moving into our new house, I went down into our finished basement to look for something when I noticed a somewhat ripe smell. This was odd, as I'd been down there the previous day and no one else had been there during the interval (fixing up the basement is low on our priority list right now).
Poking around, it quickly became obvious that something -- and by something, I mean raw sewage -- had emerged from the mouth of the toilet bowl and bathtub that are in the bathroom down there. About half the basement carpet was soaked from this stuff.
A week later -- after the necessary profanities were uttered, the emergency plumbing visit, the emergency carpet cleaning visit, the second visit by a new set of plumbers to fix the screw-ups made by the first one, and a final de-rooting visit that was at the heart of the problem -- all is well again.
I relate this story not to build up sympathy, but because I strongly suspect that anyone who moves into a new house encounters some unforseen problem or calamity that makes life both difficult and expensive at just the wrong moment.
I therefore humbly ask my readers to submit their horror stories about moving and/or occupying a new domicile.
Tirades against moving companies (let's just say we won't be going with North American Van Lines ever again) or other contractors are heartily welcomed.
Friday, June 30, 2006
There ain't nothing soft about the power of Elvis
In a world fraught with short-term crises piled upon long-term crises, it's occasionally nice to blog about diplomacy going right.
Which brings me to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's trip to the United States. Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports on the first leg of the trip for the New York Times. I think she had as much fun writing up the trip as I had reading it:
In the annals of international diplomacy, it was not exactly Yalta. But today's visit to Graceland — the ticky-tacky Elvis Presley mansion here — by President Bush and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan brought a little bit of shake, rattle and roll to American foreign relations.My only objection is Stolberg's use of the word "ticky-tacky" to describe Graceland. I had the honor of visiting the Jungle Room back in the nineties, and although there are many, many adjectives that could be used to describe Graceland, ticky-tacky ain't one of them.
Thank you very much.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Pssst.... want to listen to a podcast?
Did the New York Times endanger national security by publicizing the existence of the US government’s SWIFT program, designed to track the funding of international terrorists? Or was the news organization simply an agent of the public’s right and need to know the actions of the US Government?You can hear my (muddled) take on this question in Pajamas Media Blog Week in Review, which I taped with Austin Bay, Eric Umansky, and La Shawn Barber. Other topic discussed include the Bus Uncle.
Open Hamdan thread
Comment away on the Hamdan decision and its implications.
What the Court has done is not so much countermajoritarian as democracy forcing. It has limited the President by forcing him to go back to Congress to ask for more authority than he already has, and if Congress gives it to him, then the Court will not stand in his way....Both Barnett and Kerr observe how Hamdan highlights the Bush administration's strategic miscalculations on this issue. Barnett first:
It has long seemed clear to me and many others who are otherwise sympathetic to its policies that the Bush administration made two colossal errors in prosecuting the general war on terror.Finally, Orin Kerr:
The combination of the Mayer article and the Hamdan case today brings up an interesting question: To what extent did lawyers in the Administration expect the courts — and in particular, the Supreme Court — to agree with the Addington view of the law? Did they think there were five votes in support of the Addington approach, or that the Court would stay away from the issues? Alternatively, did they figure that the first priority was to do what was needed to protect the country in the short term, and that it was better to push the envelope and have the Courts strike down their efforts than not to push at all?Talk amongst yourselves.... and play nice.
Now I'll pick on Congress
My last post took the side of the legislative branch over the executive branch when it comes to how this president uses signing statements. So let's pick on Congress a little.
Here's a trivia question: how many legislative mandates govern U.S. policy towards the International Monetary Fund?
Answer below the fold....
Since 2001, we reported that the United States had maintained nearly 70 legislative mandates prescribing U.S. policy goals at the IMF. These mandates covered a wide range of policies, including policies regarding combating terrorism, human rights, international trade, and weapons proliferation....The truly surprising thing is that this is actually one fewer mandate than last year.
Click on the report to see the specific mandates. Most of them are perfectly unobjectionable -- but with this many constraints, it's a miracle that Treasury can keep track of them all, much less comply with them. Plus, the aggregation of hard constraints makes it difficult for the U.S. to have the policy flexibility that makes it easier to lead the institution.
Not surprisingly, the executive branch would like a little more latitude. In their response to the GAO, Treasury said:
As noted in the past, the extensive mandates tend to undermine our effectiveness in influencing the IMF. We would welcome efforts by the Congress to effect a consolidation of the legislative provisions to remove unnecssary mandates.Indeed.
Full disclosure: the author of Treasury's response was one of my bosses when I worked there.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Your scary quote of the day
"It is often not at all the situation that the president doesn't intend to enact the bill."Michelle Boardman, a deputy assistant attorney general, testifying before a Senate pane on presidential signing statementsl, as quoted in the New York Times.
Getting rid of the double negative, and this translates into, "the president often intends to enact the bill." Not always, but often. Which is great, but I always thought that when Congress passes a law -- no matter how stupid that law might be -- the president is always supposed to implement it. UPDATE: Obviously, the president can veto a bill. Signing a bill and only partially implementing it, however, is another kettle of fish entirely.
To be fair, let's see how Boardman expands on her comments:
Michelle Boardman, a deputy assistant attorney general, said the statements were "not an abuse of power."The problem with this line of reasoning is that the current president is operating under a theory of executive branch power that is way, way out of the mainstream.
I'm not opposed to signing statements in principle -- indeed, they probably serve as useful guidance for executive branch agencies. However, quotes like the one above give me hives.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Thanks to Appalled Moderate for adding more context to Broadman's comments.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Orin Kerr puts his finger on the larger problem:
It seems to me that the Bush Administration’s approach to Article II powers has two features: (1) an unusually broad view of Article II powers and (2) a refusal to explain in detail the Administration’s broad view of Article II powers. Most criticism of the Administration’s approach has focused on (1). I’m no expert on these issues, but my sense is that, from a structural perspective, the real difficulty is the combination of (1) and (2).
Monday, June 26, 2006
The blogosphere, R.I.P.--- wait, this sounds familiar
Less than six months ago I observed that many media outlets seemed to be burying the blogosphere. Maybe it's a cyclical thing, but blogs are being buried... again.
There was the whole TNR-Kos debate, but that's so last week. As an bizarre offshoot of that dogpile, there is Lee Siegel's badly written and badly reasoned rant over at TNR. Siegel says in his first post that "The blogosphere's fanaticism is, in many ways, the triumph of a lack of focus." Er, in my book, the one thing fanatics don't lack is focus. That's without trying to deconstruct the "fascism with a Microsoft face" metaphor. Siegel doesn't help matters in his follow-up post.
Whatever one thinks about the structure of the internet as a whole, it is becoming increasingly clear that the particular architecture of the blogosphere is the chief impediment to its becoming a place where new ideas can be deployed, tested, and developed. Take, for instance, the problem of comments.Jacobs has a point about the architecture -- though I would say that the spammers have feasted on the architecture much more than the trolls.
On the development of ideas, Jacobs is both right and wrong. Of course blogs are imperfect vehicles for the long-form development of ideas. However, they are a great place for the germination of ideas. Most of them might be bad ideas, but occasionally I'll come up with something in a blog post that ripens into something even better in a different format.
A final point, before I undoubtedly have to dredge up this topic six months from now. It it just me, or does much of the critical curdling towards the blogosphere evoke how intellectuals of the fifties turned against television? Elite critics went from praising the educational possibilities of the medium to complaining about the "vast wasteland" of television. Perhaps blogs, like TV, will never live up to the hype that was churned out in its technological infancy. However, no one today would think of bashing television as a medium when the variety of programming is so diverse.
Why, then, do critics fall into this trap when they talk about blogs?
Nationalism comes from behind!!
Ah, just as Europe takes a step to reject economic nationalism, we turn back to Latin America.
The Financial Times' Andy Webb-Vidal reports that the U.S. Southern Command is worried about "resource nationalism" in the region:
Future supplies of oil from Latin America are at risk because of the spread of resource nationalism, a study by the US military that reflects growing concerns in the US administration over energy security has found.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Capitalism 1, Nationalism 0
One of the great things about capitalism is that when there is enough money at stake, national prejudices fall by the wayside.
Which brings us to Mittal Steel's latest acquisition. Heather Timmons and Anand Giridharadas explain in the New York Times:
A new steel giant is being created out of a bitter battle, after Arcelor agreed today to a merger with its rival Mittal Steel in a deal valued at 26.8 billion euros, or $33.5 billion.Timmons and Giridharadas also raise The Big Question in the closing paragraphs:
The fight for Arcelor was closely watched around the world, as it evolved into a clash between two major forces shaping the world economy: the ascendancy of India and China as sources of new business models and ambitious new companies, and a rising tide of protectionism in the West, fueled by anxiety that new competition will erode a way of life.
Are you addicted to A Capella?
There is help. And I'm proud to say that my alma mater is at the forefront of this disorder that plagues at least 30% of all graduates of northweastern liberal arts colleges.