Friday, October 27, 2006
Bill Parcells makes me very, very sad
As a New York Giants fan, I'll always harbor a soft spot for Bill Parcells.
However, after Parcells receives the Michael Lewis treatment in this long story for the NYT's new venture, Play Magazine, I feel mostly sadness and disgust for this man:
Right now he is living alone in what amounts to a hotel room in Irving, Tex., whose sole virtue is that it is a 10-minute drive to both the Cowboys’ practice facility and Texas Stadium. It’s just him and whatever it is that keeps him in the game. For the longest time he pretended that he didn’t need it. He walked out of two jobs without having another in hand, and he has played hard-to-get with N.F.L. owners more times than any coach in N.F.L. history. After he quit the Jets, in 1999, he said at a press conference: “I’ve coached my last football game. You can write that on your little chalkboard. This is it. It’s over.” Now, even as his job appears to be making him sick, he has abandoned the pose. “As you get older,” he says, pointing to a screen, where the play is frozen, “your needs diminish. They don’t increase. They diminish. I need less money. I need less sex. But this — this doesn’t change.”Note to self: no matter how successful you might be as a blogger, never have Michael Lewis write the following paragraph about you:
Right now he is living alone in what amounts to a hotel room, whose sole virtue is that it houses the ultimate blogging computer. It’s just him and whatever it is that keeps him in the blogging game. For the longest time he pretended that he didn’t need it. He walked out of two group blogs without having another in hand, and he has played hard-to-get with Rupert Murdoch more times than any blogger in history. After he quit Open University, he said at a press conference: “I’ve written my last blog post. You can write that on your little chalkboard. This is it. It’s over.” Now, even as his job appears to be making him sick, he has abandoned the pose. “As you get older,” he says, pointing to a screen, where the text is frozen, “your needs diminish. They don’t increase. They diminish. I need less money. I need less sex. But this — this doesn’t change.”
Is it just me or did the earth move for everyone?
Ever since Bush and Cheney went to the Vietnam analogy well in talking about Iraq, it strikes me that the political ground has shifted.
From a policy perspective, it's good to see that the president is starting to think about other alternatives to simply staying the course. From a political perspective, however, my hunch is that this shift in rhetoric will be a disaster.
Why? For the past five years, Democrats have been vulnerable on national security issues. Bush and the Republicans projected a clear image of taking the war to the enemy, and never yielding in their drive to defeat radical Islamists. The Democrats, in contrast, projected either an antiwar position or a "yes, but" position. The former looked out of step with the American people, the latter looked like Republican lite. No matter how you sliced it, the Republicans held the upper hand.
The recent rhetorical shift on Iraq, however, has flipped this phenomenon on its head. If Bush acknowledges that "stay the course" is no longer a statisfying status quo, he's acknowledging that the Republican position for the past few years has not worked out too well. If that's the case, then Republicans are forced to offer alternatives with benchmarks or timetables or whatever. The administration has had these plans before, but politically, it looks like the GOP is gravitating towards the Democratic position rather than vice versa.
If this is what the political optics look like, then the Republicans will find themselves in the awkward position of being labeled as "Democrat lite" in their positions on Iraq. And in elections, lite never tastes as good as the real thing.
If these midterms really function as a referendum on U.S. foreign policy, then the GOP is in big trouble.
Of course, my political prognostications should be taken for what they are worth -- which is very little.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
How bad off is Generation Debt?
Earlier this year I blogged about whether twentysomething were genuinely facing tougher economic times than their predecessors -- or whether they were just whiners (click here for the latest example).
There's been a few reports issued this month that touch on this issue... and the evidence ranges from mixed to favorable.
This report on asset accumulation and savings among young Americans by Christopher Thornberg and Jon Haveman suggest a worrisome trend -- Generation Y doesn't save as much as prior generations:
In 1985, about 65 percent of Americans aged 25 to 34 owned some form of savings instrument... including traditional savings, money market accounts, certificates of deposit, and other financial investments, such as stocks and bonds, Keogh, IRA, and 401(k) accounts. Between 1985 and 2000, the proportion of this population that owned one or another of these savings instruments fell from 65 percent to 59 percent, a decline of just under 6 percentage points. Between 2000 and 2004, the decline accelerated, when it fell another 4 percentage points, a pace two and a half times faster than in the previous 15 years.Sounds bad. However, Thornberg and Haveman dig into the reasons why young Americans aren't saving as much, and comes up with some interesting partial answers:
Contributing to the decline in median net worth are changes in demographic patterns among these young individuals. In particular, there are significant changes in three categories that are highly correlated with median net worth. Between 1985 and 2004, the proportion of the population aged 25-34 that was married declined by 8 percentage points, the proportion of whites declined by 17 percentage points, and the proportion with education beyond high school increased by 13 percentage points (Table 4). The decline in marriage rates and the increasing share of the population made up of people of color have contributed to the declines in net worth while increasing levels of education offset these declines. Taken together, these demographic shifts are responsible for just over one-quarter of the change in median net worth among young Americans.Assets are only one side of the equation, however -- what about debt? Here the answer is more positive. The MacArthur Foundation has funded a study of Generation Y debt by Ngina Chiteji that suggests the Anya Kamenetz/Generation Debt thesis doesn't hold up:
Ngina Chiteji in her chapter in The Price of Independence takes a careful look at debt in young adulthood, finding that, contrary to popular perception, most of today’s young adults are not carrying an unusual or excessive amount of debt, at least not by historical standards or given their time in life, just starting out. The fraction of indebted young adult households age 25 to 34 has barely changed in 40 years, and while, in general, young households carry more debt than the population at large, this is consistent with the predictions of economic theory and most young adults appear to have manageable debt loads....Given that the data suggests --
a) More young Americans are buying homes;-- I confess to remaining unpreturbed about the state of Generation Y's finances.
Question for Gen Y readers -- which report better conforms to you personal experiences and those of your cohort?
Blegging for stapler advice
In the process of moving to Fletcher, I received the standard allotment of office supplies -- printer paper, binder clips, highlighters.... and a f*&@ing stapler that can't seem to staple more that fifteen f#$%ing pages together without self-destructing!!!!
Sorry. This has been an ongoing problem for me -- I need a stapler that can reliable staple up to 40 pages with a miimum of fuss.
Sophisticated market research suggests that readers of danieldrezner.com work in an office environment, and therefore might be able to help me.
So, please, before I turn into this guy -- what's the best stapler out there?
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
The trade implications of the midterm elections
I received the following in an e-mail today:
Given your vast knowledge of international and domestic politics, I am shocked that you have not blogged on the possible repercussions on future free trade agreements as a result of this election. In this election, in the battleground states (Rhode Island, even Ohio, Montana, Missouri, and Virginia) the Republican incumbent in each state has a very good/ excellent record on free trade, while the Democratic challenger is advocating protectionist policies. Senator DeWine in Ohio is likely to lose in part because of his past support of trade agreements. Unfortunately in these states and in general, free trade has almost no constituency while the anti-trade movement has a large number of volunteers....The e-mailer has a point. Over at NRO, Jonathan Martin has a column about the trade implications of the midterms:
Democrats only need six seats to gain a majority in the Senate, but the election of five new Democrats and one independent in particular would have even greater ramifications. Should seats currently held by free-traders in Ohio, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Rhode Island, and Missouri go to “fair traders” — and should the sour environment for Republicans prevent them from gaining any seats from Democrats — the bipartisan commitment to free trade in the Senate would almost certainly end, torpedoing the prospects for any significant legislation in President Bush’s final two years and perhaps longer while fundamentally altering the character of the upper chamber.After the midterms it's likely that both chambers of Congress will likely be more protectionist. This should matter to those crucial swing-libertarian voters.
Here's the thing, though -- it's not clear to me that it matters. Doha is at a standstill, and the FTAA has been in a coma for years. The only promising bilateral trade agreement is with South Korea, but I suspect that it's a dead letter as well -- because there's no chance in hell that the U.S. will accept goods from Kaesŏng. The president's Trade Promotion Authority is expiring in June of next year, and I don't think the president is willing to invest whatever political capital he's got left to have it renewed. Regardless of what happens in the Senate, I can't see Nancy Pelosi agreeing to anything that gives the executive branch more authority in Bush's final two years.
In other words, I'd rather not see the Senate go protectionist -- but a trade-friendly Senate will have only a marginal effect on U.S. trade policy over the next two years.
Diamond interdependence in the Middle East
In the interest of posting some good news about the Middle East, I found this AP story about the diamond trade between Israel and Dubai to be pretty interesting:
As Israelis and Arabs emerge from the war in Lebanon, a booming diamond exchange in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE,) 1,300 miles away, is hard proof that some Arab-Israeli ties have survived despite the region's tensions.The bolded section suggests that trade can trump enduring rivalries -- but it also suggests that trade won't cause enduring rivalries to go away, either.
[I thought this was a good news post!!--ed. Sorry,I failed to stay the course.]
Sports protectionism in Russia
It would seem that Russian President Vladimir Putin's hostility to certain forms of foreign investment extends to.... soccer. RIA Novosti explains:
The Russian president said Wednesday he was concerned over the large number of foreign nationals playing for Russia's soccer clubs.Now it should be noted that MajorLeague Soccer also has caps on the number of foreign players allowed per team -- though those rules were liberalized recently.
As a general principle, however, this kind of policy strikes me as absurd. Imagine, for a second, imposing caps on the number of Dominican baseball players allowed into Major League Baseball, for example. The best way to have quality American ballplayers is to have them face the toughest competition imaginable. UPDATE: here's a report to back up this assertion.
Question to readers: is there an infant industry logic to protectionism in sports?
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Affordable housing.... good schools
ESTHER: Mordechai?I bring this up because a) I still think it's funny; and b) Laura McKenna has a post up on "how parents can choose a good school for their kids." She has some fun words for opponents of school vouchers:
It's mildly amusing that strong voucher opponents argue against the notion of choice in schools, because truthfully the middle class and wealthy already have that choice. They choose their schools every time they decide which community to live in. The more money you have, the more choice you have. The wealthiest can even choose to send their child to a private school.More here.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Those fools.... those tenured, bureaucratic fools
This leads to an interesting question... where shall we find the mature Dr. Jones? As Andy Bryan discovers in McSweeney's, Indy's antics don't play so well with the straightlaced academic crown of archaeologists:
January 22, 1939You'll have to click on the link to see the case against Dr. Jones in full.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Maybe blogs and diplomacy don't mix too well
The chief United Nations envoy for Sudan has been kicked out of the country because of what he's said on his blog. Warren Hoge explains in the New York Times:
Sudan’s government ordered the chief United Nations envoy out of the country today, saying he was an enemy of the country and its armed forces.Here's the relevant section of Pronk's blog that raised the ire of the Sudanese government:
[The Sudanese Armed Forces] has lost two major battles, last month in Umm Sidir and this week in Karakaya. The losses seem to have been very high. Reports speak about hundreds of casualties in each of the two battles with many wounded and many taken as prisoner. The morale in the Government army in North Darfur has gone down. Some generals have been sacked; soldiers have refused to fight. The Government has responded by directing more troops and equipment from elsewhere to the region and by mobilizing Arab militia. This is a dangerous development. Security Council Resolutions which forbid armed mobilization are being violated. The use of militia with ties with the Janjaweed recalls the events in 2003 and 2004. During that period of the conflict systematic militia attacks, supported or at least allowed by the SAF, led to atrocious crimes.I confess to mixed feelings about all of this.
On the one hand, it seems morally repugnant to blame Pronk for writing a blog that exposes Sudanese duplicity and moral depravity. Later in his story, Hoge observes, "commenting on the international campaign that has arisen to try to end the violence in Darfur, [Sudan’s president Omar Hassan al-Bashir] said, 'Those who made the publicity, who mobilized the people, invariably are Jewish organizations.'" And as the Independent points out: "Observers says Pronk's direct style may have been a contributing factor in naming him the UN envoy to Sudan. He is often credited with keeping the crisis there high on the international agenda." It certainly seems like diplomats are shooting their mouths off with increasing regularity these days.
And yet, I'm pretty sure that one of the primary jobs of a diplomat is not to needlessly piss off an actor who has a seat at the negotiation table. By blogging about such a sensitive matter, Pronk gift-wrapped the Sudanese an excuse to expel him and delay dealing with the United Nations Security Council. How does this help anyone in Darfur?
This is not an issue to which I've paid a great deal of attention, so I'm issuing a bleg: for those who have been keeping tabs on Darfur, was Plonk's blog post a necessary or counterproductive action?
There are certain jobs that would not seem to agree with blogging at all, and being a diplomat might be one of them.
Your sexy sex quote of the day
I have to assume that Reuters reporter Claire Sibonney has sacrificed her first-born child to the hounds of hell, because the following is the kind of quote that would cause most reporters to agree to human sacrifice in order to obtain:
"It's not sexy sex sex, where we're talking about whips and chains, but we will talk about whips and chains," said graduating student Robbie Morgan, 33, who left her job teaching sex education in Chicago to attend the [University of Toronto's] Sexual Diversity Studies program, one of the largest of its kind in North America.Sibonney, "Sex ed gets a lot sexier at Canadian university"