Saturday, August 19, 2006
The power and politics of blogs in the New York Times
Many readers will find this Adam Liptak story in the New York Times on the legal reaction to the NSA surveillance decision interesting because of the near-unanimity among "legal experts" that the judge's legal reasoning in the case was poor.
Some readers will be interested in the story because, as Ann Althouse points out, it contradicts the NYT editorial from the previous day.
This would seem to be a classic case of bloggers from different ideological stripes using their first-mover advantage to developing a common frame on an event, which is then picked up by the mainstream media.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Open JonBenet thread
It's a Friday, it's late August, and I'm technically on vacation. For these reasons, I'm just going to create this JonBenet Ramsey killer thread, walk away from the computer, and let anyone who's still online on this lovely August day a chance to wallow.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go wash my hands.
Where's the raggedy edge of Red Sox Nation?
In anticipation of this weekend's five-game series between the Red Sox and Yankees, John Branch has an entertaining article in the New York Times on trying to find the dividing line between Red Sox Nation and Yankee Country in my home state of Connecticut:
The idea for this exercise was simple in design but complicated in application: Plot the length of the border between Red Sox Nation and Yankees Country, a sort of Mason-Dixon Line separating baseball’s fiercest rivals, who will play five games in the next four days in Boston.I do find it interesting that the Times has the border further south than I remember from my childhood, when it ran right through the Farmington Valley. This does make me wonder if the border has shifted southwards in recent years.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
The Democratic Party vs. Wal-Mart
In the New York Times, Adam Nagourney and Michael Barbaro have a story on how the Democratic Party has arrived at a new bogeyman -- Wal-Mart:
Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, a likely Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, delivered a 15-minute, blistering attack to warm applause from Democrats and union organizers here on Wednesday. But Mr. Biden’s main target was not Republicans in Washington, or even his prospective presidential rivals.Biden's comment here is revealing in how the Dems want to frame the debate -- they think Wal-Mart's greatest impact is as an employer. Most (thought not all) economists, I suspect, see Wal-Mart's greatest impact as lowering the costs of consumption for Americans who frequent their stores -- including the middle class.
Under Lee Scott, chief executive, the company has in the past year expanded beyond the usual realm of corporate lobbying to wage a fully-fledged campaign in the mainstream of American politics. “When a company is as large as ours, we’re certainly going to have a lot of interaction with both politics and government,” says Bob McAdam, vice-president of corporate affairs.Two questions to readers:
A) Who's going to win this battle over the next few years?UPDATE: Well, I think it's safe to describe Andy Young as a loser in this battle.
The neoliberal Hugo Chavez
The New York Times runs an amusing story on the growth in bilateral trade between Hugo Cavez's Venezuela and George Bush's America. Some highlights:
[E]ven as the talk from Caracas and Washington grows more hostile and the countries seem to be growing ever farther apart, trade between Venezuela and the United States is surging.
New blogger on the scene!!
Iran's president has launched a Web log, using his first entry to recount his poor upbringing and ask visitors to the site if they think the United States and Israel want to start a new world war.Here's a link to Ahmadinejad's first post, which ends by confessing, "I will continue this topic later on as it took long in the beginning. From now onwards, I will try to make it shorter and simpler."
To which I can only say, as a fellow blogger, good God, yes.
The blog is worth checking out for Ahmadinejad's... interesting interpretation of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei's post-revolution strategy of political inclusion.
Surprisingly, Ahmadinejad's poll shows a bare majority disagreeing with the contention that "the US and Israeli intention and goal by attacking Lebanon is pulling the trigger for another word (sic) war."
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
A cost/benefit analysis of the Pakistan alliance
In the Wall Street Journal, Shalid Shah has a good story chronicling the tradeoffs of the U.S. alliance with Pakistan:
Pakistan's cooperation in foiling last week's terror plot shows the benefits to the U.S. of good relations with its South Asian ally. But the case of Safdar Sarki shows that such ties also have complications.Bush's agenda for global democracy promotion seems dormant to me, but this case does highlight the difficulty of pursuing an "transformative" strategy of regime change while trying to maximize intelligence-gathering.
Monday, August 14, 2006
What happens in the Middle East now?
With a cease-fire ostensibly taking effect, a few things worth reading this morning.
In The New Yorker, Sy Hersh files his latest on the extent of U.S.-Israeli cooperation and expectations going into the war against Hezbollah. Like all Hersh pieces, it's difficult to parse between what's the stone-cold truth and what's being leaked to him by bureaucrats in CYA mode (these two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, mind you). Hersh is never boring however:
“The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. “Why oppose it? We’ll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.”Meanwhile, in a front-pager for the Washington Post, Edward Cody and Molly Moore assess what Americans and Israelia think about Hezbollah now:
Hezbollah's irregular fighters stood off the modern Israeli army for a month in the hills of southern Lebanon thanks to extraordinary zeal and secrecy, rigorous training, tight controls over the population, and a steady flow of Iranian money to acquire effective weaponry, according to informed assessments in Lebanon and Israel.Like Kevin Drum, I don't necesaarily have any fresh or coherent ideas to add.
Here's my question to readers: will the failure to eradicate Hezbollah cause the Bush administration to change it's approach to dealing with Iran?
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Why the academy needs a South Side fellowship
In the pages of the Boston Globe, Harvard Law professor David Barron looks at how the city of Chicago is treating big box retailers and believes it to be a good thing:
On July 25, the Chicago Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance requiring big-box retailers-those with $1 billion in sales and 90,000 square feet of shopping space in their stores-to give their employees a living wage. By 2010, the stores would have to pay workers $10 an hour and provide an additional $3 in benefits.As I've said before about this case two years ago, Chicago is acting recklessly. Erecting significant barriers against big box retailers moving into the inner city does little more to hurt the poor.
Barron seems to assume that without Wal-Mart, the whole of Chicago is this nirvana of small, quaint shopkeepers who provide a diversity of goods and services with a smile and a fair price. Having lived close to the area where Wal-Mart was planning on putting its South Side location, I can assert that Barron doesn't know what he's talking about. There are very few, "small family-run establishments" to displace. The absence of any big-box retailer between Roosevelt Rd. and 85th St. makes it fantastically difficult for the poorest members of the city of Chicago to buy low-priced goods. Barron's focus on unions and small merchants at the expense of, well, everyone else is more than a bit disconcerting.
[He's right about abstaining from tax breaks and the like, though, right?--ed. There's a valid point to be made about putting a halt to cities throwing tax breaks around like candy in a vain effort to attract corporate headquarters, manufacturing plants and the like. However, Barron's implicit economic assumption is that because cities have considerable market power, they can use it to advance the cause of good. The trouble with that argument is that anyone who has ever chatted with a Chicago alderman knows full well that good has very little to do with urban plicy.]
It might behoove some foundation to create a fellowship for enthusiasts of urban reform to spend a year on the South Side in order to get a taste of what it's actually like to live in the inner city before pontificating about policy [Would this apply to free-marketers as well?--ed. Sure.]
UPDATE: Barron responds on his blog. Key section:
I was not arguing that Chicago should pass the ordinance but rather that Chicago should have the legal power to make the policy judgment for itself. Drezner, an economist, skipped right over that distinction. (If I need a fellowship to take me to the South Side, as he suggests, then maybe he needs one to take him to law school.) Actually, though, Drezner is on to something interesting and important. He emphasizes rightly that not all city neighborhoods are the same. It might be that the city would be wise to permit bix box retail in some neighborhoods within the city on more favorable terms than others. The mayor has suggested as much, proposing that each ward be able to decide the matter for itself. It's a complex policy question, however, whether such neighborhood-based tailoring is a good idea or a bad one, and it depends a lot on the particularities of the retail market in the Chicago area. I am skeptical it is a good idea, but open to being persuaded otherwise. But, for me, the key point for now is that a city could not tailor its policy in this neighborhood-focused manner even it was a good idea for it to do so unless it had the legal power to enact such living wage ordinances at all. And that's part of the reason why I think the Chicago ordinance, if enacted, should be upheld against the home rule, equal protection, and ERISA-preemption challenges that are sure to follow.Question to readers: should a city have the right to mandate a living wage and apply that mandate asymmetrically to businesses? I suspect that for most people this depends on whether you believe a living wage is sensible policy. One could adopt a process-based position that says regardless of the stupidity of such an approach, an elected council has the right to enact such a policy. At the local level, however, on measures that impose asymmetrical barriers to entry, I strongly lean towards a combination of a public choice perspective, which is skeptical that any city-wide ordinance would actually represent something approximating the general will, and a classical liberal perspective, which would be profoundly skeptical of the city imposing property rights constraints.
Popping the bubble
The subtitle of Bubble Man symbolizes the many flaws in Peter Hartcher's jeremiad against Alan Greenspan and the dot-com hysteria that the former Federal Reserve chairman allegedly abetted. The "Missing 7 Trillion Dollars" refers to the losses that stockholders incurred in the three years after the late-1990s stock market bubble collapsed. Throughout the book, Hartcher argues that Greenspan is to blame for those losses -- until the epilogue, in which Hartcher acknowledges that in the three years after those three years, a market upswing recovered "nine dollars out of every ten lost." As Gilda Radner's Emily Litella famously put it, "Never mind."....It was difficult, in the space alloted, to list all the reasons I thought this book sucked eggs. For those who really care, do check out Steven Mufson's lengthier critique in The Washington Monthly.