Friday, July 7, 2006
Just how disaffected are European Muslims?
Going by news stories -- the London bombings, the French riots, the Danish cartoons -- 2005 was not a terribly good year for Muslim immigrants living in Europe.
So it's interesting to see that according to the Pew Global Attitudes project, the situation might not be as bleak as previously thought:
Muslims in Europe worry about their future, but their concern is more economic than religious or cultural. And while there are some signs of tension between Europe's majority populations and its Muslim minorities, Muslims there do not generally believe that most Europeans are hostile toward people of their faith. Still, over a third of Muslims in France and one-in-four in Spain say they have had a bad experience as a result of their religion or ethnicity.This part is particularly interesting:
Religion is central to the identity of European Muslims. With the exception of Muslims in France, they tend to identify themselves primarily as Muslim rather than as British, Spanish, or German. In France, Muslims are split almost evenly on this question. The level of Muslim identification in Britain, Spain, and Germany is similar to that in Pakistan, Nigeria, and Jordan, and even higher than levels in Egypt, Turkey, and Indonesia. By contrast the general populations in Western Europe are far more secular in outlook. Roughly six-in-ten in Spain, Germany, and Britain identify primarily with their country rather than their religion, as do more than eight-in-ten in France.Click here to read the whole report.
Thursday, July 6, 2006
I wish I had written this paper
Corruption is believed to be a major factor impeding economic development, but the importance of legal enforcement versus cultural norms in controlling corruption is poorly understood. To disentangle these two factors, we exploit a natural experiment, the stationing of thousands of diplomats from around the world in New York City. Diplomatic immunity means there was essentially zero legal enforcement of diplomatic parking violations, allowing us to examine the role of cultural norms alone. This generates a revealed preference measure of government officials' corruption based on real-world behavior taking place in the same setting. We find strong persistence in corruption norms: diplomats from high corruption countries (based on existing survey-based indices) have significantly more parking violations, and these differences persist over time. In a second main result, officials from countries that survey evidence indicates have less favorable popular views of the United States commit significantly more parking violations, providing non-laboratory evidence on sentiment in economic decision-making. Taken together, factors other than legal enforcement appear to be important determinants of corruption.Here's a link to the paper. Hat tip to Tyler Cowen, who proposes a pithier abstract:
During a period of diplomatic parking immunity, the average Kuwaiti diplomat to the United Nations racked up 246 parking violations. No Swedish diplomat had any parking violations. This paper explores how that might possibly be the case.There's another finding that I thought interesting:
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, there is a sharp – though temporary – drop in diplomatic parking violations, by roughly 80%. We find that countries with greater Muslim populations experience particularly sharp declines. We can only speculate about the exact causes of this change in behavior, but the fear of police harassment or negative media attention for the home country during that politically charged period is a possibility.
The pipe dream of energy independence
The Wall Street Journal's John Fialka does an excellent job of bulls**t detection by probing the feasibility of "energy independence":
The U.S. may be addicted to oil, but many of its politicians are addicted to "energy independence" -- which may be among the least realistic political slogans in American history....Read the whole thing.
Wednesday, July 5, 2006
What's the bigger threat to national security?
When the New York Times published stories about the Bush administration's efforts to track terrorist financing via the SWIFT consortium, a lot of the conservative blogosphere got on the NYT's case about publishing national secrets on the front page of the paper of record. And, for the record, I suspect that the publication probably disrupted the program because of the backlash it created in Europe, where SWIFT is headquartered.
And yet, I'd take the Bush administration's umbrage about the publication of classified information more seriously if the government demonstrated anything close to competence when to comes to protecting the computerized data currently in its possession.
Now Eric Weiss reports in the Washington Post that the FBI has had a little bit of a problem in this area:
A government consultant, using computer programs easily found on the Internet, managed to crack the FBI's classified computer system and gain the passwords of 38,000 employees, including that of FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.To be fair to the Bush administration, a lot of this stuff might have happened regardless of who was running the White House.
That said, the administration seems to be obsessed with protecting data from journalists. I'd much prefer it if they were obsessed with protecting their data from hackers.
UPDATE: On the other hand, the FBI has done an excellent job protecting Coca Cola's secret formula!!
Tuesday, July 4, 2006
Should you panic about North Korea or not?
There are stories by both the New York Times staff and Dana Piest of the Washington Post. Whether North Korea's actions are panic-worthy depend upon which story you read.
North Korea shocked western and Japanese analysts in 1998 by firing a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan into the Pacific Ocean, revealing more advanced missile capabilities than the country was previously thought to possess.The Post offers a different perspective:
A senior State Department official said the test was "an affront to everybody, not just us" and that it would likely have a big effect on South Korean public opinion, which is already impatient with one-way flow of humanitarian assistance meant to induce the isolated North Korean leader to join the world community.Put me between the Post and Times perspectives. I suspect that the South Koreans -- who have been in denial about North Korea for some time -- will find a way to rationalize the DPRK's behavior, and that the Chinese won't be that perturbed. The fact that financial markets are reacting to the test by selling off yen suggests that they are ratcheting up the probability of something bad happening. As Dan Nexon points out: "The US and Japan have made all sorts of dark threats about punitive action if North Korea went ahead with the launch. Now we have to step up to the plate or risk having had our bluff called."
At the same time, Priest is correct about the North Koreans being a ways away from being able to put a nuke on an ICBM. Plus, if you look at this map, you see that the United States is hardly the only country affected by North Korea's actions.
UPDATE: David Sanger has an excellent backgrounder in the New York Times about why all of the policy options available to the Bush administration are pretty God-awful. At the same time, Sanger's story moves the Times towards the not-panicking position:
The North has long had an array of weapons that could destroy Seoul or hit Japan, including American forces based there. The only new element in the dramatic barrage into the Sea of Japan on Tuesday was the launching of its intercontinental-range Taepodong- 2, the missile that, depending on whose numbers one believes, could eventually hit the United States.The experts quoted by Tom Ricks and Faiola in the Washington Post make a similar point:
The major fallout from North Korea's series of missile launches and the malfunction of its long-range rocket is that its missile program now looks somewhat inept, weapons experts said yesterday.Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Japan, the U.S. and the U.K. wants the UN Security Council to sanction North Korea. I'm shocked to report that Russia and China oppose such a move.
In honor of Independence Day....
I'll encourage my readers to engage Matthew Yglesias and/or Tyler Cowen in the ultimate contrarian argument -- was American independence a good idea?
File this one under "why do liberals hate America?" but this time of year I'm always intrigued by the view that American independence was more-or-less a giant mistake.... The issues at stake were eminently compromisable, had wiser leadership been available, and the examples of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and (to some extent) South Africa indicate that having lost the USA the British government was able to come up with a perfectly workable alternative system of imperial management. And wouldn't it have been better if the USA-British relationship had evolved along the Canadian model?For Cowen, the question comes at the individual level;
[T]hink about it, wasn't it more than a wee bit whacky? "Let's cut free of the British Empire, the most successful society the world had seen to date, and go it alone against the French, the Spanish, and the Indians." [TC: they all seemed more formidable at the time than subsequently]Go ahead, exercise that right to free speech and respond to the question at hand
I'd respond myself, but.... er.... I'm deep into the pursuit of happiness right now.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States....
Sunday, July 2, 2006
Time is running out before the panic button is pushed and we all go over the brink, fall off a cliff, and cross the Rubicon into the red part of the red zone
Alas, it looks like the Doha round has come to a standstill.
Actually, that's not fair -- the round has been at a standstill since the December 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial.
This has made writing and blogging about the round somewhat difficult -- kinda like trying to describe the same traffic jam for nine months. However, props to AP writer Bradley Klapper for coming up with a novel angle (link via Megan McArdle):
The WTO is surely one of the most cliche-riddled bodies in the world as diplomats compete in a game of words to describe sometimes impenetrably complex trade issues. Even if the metaphors only sometimes add substance, catchy phrases usually mean more to people outside the rarified air of global commerce.Despite my flippancy about the rhetoric, the collapse of the Doha round would be a very, very, very bad thing. To understand why, consider Greg Mankiw's point: [S]uccess in the Doha round of international trade talks would give the world more every year than what [Warren] Buffett can give once after a lifetime of being the world's most successful investor.