Saturday, November 11, 2006
Sign # 347 that the Doha round is deader than a doornail
The Democratic victories have generated a lot of pessimism in the business press about there being any chance for a revival of world trade talks. I'm certainly not optimistic about a revival in trade talks.
That said, let me offer two counters to this -- one positive and one negative.
The negative is that there wasn't exactly a lot of momentum on trade liberalization before the election. The most symblolic evidence of this fact come from this Reuters story from November 2nd:
Comatose world trade talks showed a possible sign of brain activity on Thursday as World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy arrived in Washington to meet with U.S. officials.Sounds like a cautiously positive story, until you get to the marathon part. I saw Lamy speak when he was on Boston, and it was clear that he had trained rigorously for the marathon. This is great for Lamy, but it raises the obvioius point -- no WTO Director is going to have the time to train for a real marathon if there's progress to be made on a trade round.
[So what should Lamy have done with his time?--ed. Oh, the impasse is not his fault -- the WTO director has practically no power. His ability to train for the marathon is a symptom of the stalemate among the key countries -- not a cause.]
Second, even if Doha goes down, and even if enthusiasm for free trade slows in the Congress, progress towards liberalization can still be made. Consider that in the past week, Vietnam was admitted into the WTO, and the US approved Russia's entry into the organization as well. There are a few other economies on the outside looking in -- Ukraine and Kazakhstan, not to mention a third of the Middle East-- and if the US can facilitate their entry, then the WTO can live up to its name.
Friday, November 10, 2006
The trouble with fair trade, continued
Two months ago I blogged about the serious pitfalls of implementing fair trade certifications in the coffee trade.
Now I see that the Economist's business.viewhas an interesting story about the brewing battle between Starbucks and Oxfam:
Coffee has become a big testing ground for what it means to be an ethical consumer. The hugely successful Fair Trade brand allows many coffee addicts to get their fix with a clearer conscience, safe in the belief that no farmers have been exploited in the growing of it.Who's right? Decide for yourselves! Here's a link to the Oxfam campagn, and here's a link to Starbucks web page on sustaining coffee-producing communities.
UPDATE: Joshua Gans has some thoughts on the matter that are worth checking out.
The ultimate study of higher education
With the midterms and all I forgot to highlight this article from the New York Times education supplment about why ultimate frisbee is the sport of kings:
Forget college guides, U.S. News & World Report rankings, average SAT scores. The best gauge of an institution’s ex cellence may actually be … its ultimate Frisbee team. At least that’s the theory of Dr. Michael J. Norden, a Univer sity of Washington professor of psychiatry.My first thought is that this is correlation and not causation, but you'll have to read the article to see why Norden thinks there is a causal relationship.
Thursday, November 9, 2006
Watch me get tipsy on video
In this episode:
1) As an act of political protest against Question 1 going down, I drink a lot; Matt, in an act of protest against his headset not working, uses an actual phone;
Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Rumsfeld out, Gates in, Drezner happy
If this AP report is correct, then the midterms have claimed another big loser:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, architect of an unpopular war in Iraq, intends to resign after six stormy years at the Pentagon, Republican officials said Wednesday.If true, the news will provoke a triple "yee-haw!" from the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com.
[Why three yells?--ed.] First, this blog has wanted Rummy to retire for quite some time. Second, Gates is a member in good standing of the Bush 41 crowd -- i.e., he's, you know, competent.
Third, if it is Gates, this might reduce some of the paranoia about Joe Lieberman-replacing-Rumsfeld-and-then-being-replaced-by-a-Republican scenario that's been discussed in some parts of the blogosphere. This also kills the Santorum-for-DoD campaign just after it starts, by the way.
UPDATE: It's official! Yee-haw!!
Rich Lowry makes an interesting point over at The Corner:
The public probably wanted Bush to reach out to and listen more to critics. They wanted him to break-out of the "stay the course" stalemate in his Iraq policy, which had been embodied by Rumsfeld. They wanted him to acknowledge, really acknowledge in a serious way, their deep disatisfaction with the course of things in Iraq. And lo and behold, about 18 hours after the election, he is doing all of things. American democracy is a marvelous thing.ANOTHER UPDATE: In what I believe is the fifth sign of the coming apocalypse, the Rumsfeld resignation story was apparently broken by Comedy Central's Indecider blog.
Nancy Pelosi's impact on the global economy
It would seem that the markets ain't thrilled with the midterm elections:
Global finance markets have wobbled on fears that a Democrat victory in the US Congressional elections could prompt less market-friendly policies in the world's biggest economy.It will be interesting to see how U.S. markets respond.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum labels this kind of story, "Idiotic Conventional Wisdom Watch." He might be right -- but that conventional wisdom seems pretty widespread in the business press. Consider Neil Dennis, "Stock markets stall after Democrats win House," Financial Times:
The win was seen as negative for equity markets, particularly if the Democratic Party also takes control of the Senate – a result which still hangs in the balance.Or Wayne Arnold, "Asians wary of U.S. trade shift," International Herald-Tribune:
The victory by the Democratic party in U.S. congressional elections appears to have left President George W. Bush hampered in his efforts to push through free-trade agreements being negotiated with several Asian nations and facing an antagonistic legislature bent on placing its own stamp on policies from trade to defense to stem- cell research - all with potential ramifications for Asia and the rest of the world....Jacob Weisberg, "The Lou Dobbs Democrats," Slate:
Most of those who reclaimed Republican seats ran hard against free trade, globalization, and any sort of moderate immigration policy. That these Democrats won makes it likely that others will take up their reactionary call. Some of the newcomers may even be foolish enough to try to govern on the basis of their misguided theory.This Reuters report is downbeat on the U.S. stock market -- though the actual market decline seems pretty picayune to me.
On the other hand, this Forbes report attributes the equity market downturns to profit-taking rather than the Democratic takeover.
I agree that the reaction of equity markets is probably nothing -- but the effects on trade policy are nothing to be sneezed at.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum renews his ire at this kind of press coverage here -- he's got a decent case.
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
Open midterms thread
Comment away on the election results here. AP reporting on the exit polls is suggestive of a big Democratic night:
In surveys at polling places, about six in 10 voters said they disapproved of the way President Bush is handling his job, and roughly the same percentage opposed the war in Iraq. They were more inclined to vote for Democratic candidates than for Republicans.Over at the US News and World Report blog, Kenneth Walsh notes a statement against interest:
More evidence of a big Democratic surge. Fox News's commentator panel led by Brit Hume, which is considered mostly right of center, has reason to be skeptical of this perception of Democratic gains. But the Fox panel, which includes Fred Barnes, Bill Kristol, Mort Kondracke, Juan Williams, and Hume, is now saying the exit polls and their analysis suggest what Barnes calls "a good Democratic night."I have mixed feelings on this evening. I only hope that Question 1 is approved in Massachusetts, and that there be as few disputed results as possible.
UPDATE, 10:30 PM: Question 1 goes down. Grrrr.......
UPDATE, 10:34 PM: Just when I think John Kerry can't say something dumber, he pulls it off. CNN showed him at the Deval Patrick headquarters saying the following:
We have made history tonight, because we have elected, for an unprecedented ninth time, the greatest Senator in the history of the United States Senate, Ted Kennedy!!That's how I'd interpret Kennedy's re-election as well.
UPDATE, 10:52 PM: I'm not going to stay up late, but glancing at the results so far,
We'll see how long it will be before the "blame Britney" crowd becomes a mob.
UPDATE, 12:17 AM: So I stayed up late -- so sue me. The Dems have retaken the house, and have a slim chance at the Senate since Jim Webb looks like he's barely going to beat George Allen. More impressive, but as Jeff Greenfield observed, this would be the first time in quite a while that the House flipped but the Senate did not.
Over at The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru suggests the GOP will actually have to suck up to libertarians now:
If Sodrel loses in Indiana, as looks likely, it may be because a libertarian candidate took votes from him.... So far, losing because of libertarians hasn't caused Republicans to move toward the libertarians ideologically. But maybe things will change this time.Good night.
UPDATE, 7:10 AM: Well, it seems like there are shades of 1994 in the election. If Jim Leach went down in Iowa, and the Democrats win the Senate and they win a majority of governorships, then it's fair to describe this as a tidal wave.
The ultimate election day surprise
Well, if the Dems do worse than expected in today's midterms, I think we know who to blame:
TMZ obtained the legal papers, filed today in Los Angeles County Superior Court, citing "irreconcilable differences." In her petition, Spears asks for both legal and physical custody of the couple's two children, one-year old Sean Preston and two-month old Jayden James, with Federline getting reasonable visitation rights.This is perfect timing for the GOP. She's demonstrated her love of George W. Bush in the past. Now consider the following chain of events:
1) Her divorce will fire up Andrew Sullivan to point out -- again -- how Britney has defiled the institution of marriage more than any gay man ever could.It's genius. Pure genius.
In case you were wondering about the exit polls....
Howard Kurtz reports in the Washington Post that exit poll data will be more closely held this year than in the past:
The biggest behind-the-scenes change in network coverage involves what has been dubbed the Quarantine Room. Determined to avoid a rerun of recent years, when its exit polls leaked out by early afternoon to the Drudge Report, Slate and other Web sites, a media consortium is allowing two people from each of the networks and the Associated Press entree to a windowless room in New York. All cellphones, laptops and BlackBerrys will be confiscated. The designated staffers will pore over the exit polls but will not be allowed to communicate with their offices until 5 p.m.The Los Angeles Times' Matea Gold reported on Saturday that the media reps in the Quarantine Room will "even monitored when they use the bathroom."
Hat tip: Open University's David Greenberg.
UPDATE: Jim Lindgren is right: "Expect heavy hinting by the networks after 5pm ET today."
I live in a one-party state
So I went to vote this morning -- and discovered that a whopping three out of the 13 races had both a Democrat and a Republican running for office (and one of those was for Ted Kenney's seat, so it doesn't really count). A few of the minor state offices had a Green/Rainbow candidate as well as a Democrat running. Barney Frank was running unopposed.
How lopsided is this ballot? I remember there being more Republicans running in Cook County, for Pete's sake.
This leads me to wonder -- what's the most lopsided ballot in America this election day? Tell me, dear readers, how lopsided is your ballot?
Monday, November 6, 2006
My one endorsement for 2006
Unlike two years ago, the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com will not be offering any grandiose endorsements for anyone holding political office.
However, it is worth noting that the staff has finally found an issue where the blog wife and I will be voting one the same side: Question 1 on the Massachusetts ballot:
This proposed law would allow local licensing authorities to issue licenses for food stores to sell wine. The proposed law defines a “food store” as a retail vendor, such as a grocery store, supermarket, shop, club, outlet, or warehouse-type seller, that sells food to consumers to be eaten elsewhere (which must include meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, fresh fruit and produce, and other specified items), and that may sell other items usually found in grocery stores. Holders of licenses to sell wine at food stores could sell wine either on its own or together with any other items they sell.This is an easy call for the missus and me -- hell yes, I'd like to see grocery stores sell wine.
The Boston Globe's endorsement provides sufficient explanation:
In 34 other states, shoppers at grocery stores can buy wine with their steaks. This has not caused an epidemic of drunken driving or teenage alcohol abuse. But the availability of wine with groceries does make life a little more convenient for the many adults who like to sip wine with their dinner.Ah, I love it when the Globe asks for more market competition. You can find more information on this ballot question by clicking here.
But let me urge all blog readers in the state of Massachusetts -- help the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com
Why is the GOP gaining strength?
Over the past 72 hours, every poll announcement I've seen has the Republicans gaining momentum. Mickey Kaus and Charles Franklin argues that this trend actually started 10 days ago -- so no one blame Kerry.
How serious is this momentum shift? It's actually forced the NYT's Adam Nagourney to perform his prognostication pirouette 24 hours before the election takes place -- contrast today's Page One story with yesterday's Page One. The contrasts with Nagourney's usual tactic of having a "Democrats Gaining Steam" headline on Monday of election week followed by a "Republicans Display Hidden Strengths" headline Thursday.
I have a very simple question -- what's driving this? Is it:
a) Positive headline numbers on the economy (Dow Jones Industrial Average + falling unemployment numbers)?UPDATE: Hmmm... maybe the GOP isn't gaining strength -- Fox News shows gains by Democrats (hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)
Does Google-bombing matter for elections?
Tom Zeller's column in the New York Times today focuses on liberal efforts to Google-bomb vulnerable Republican candidates. Zeller reports that the effort has been successful:
A GOOGLE bomb — which some Web gurus have suggested is perhaps better called a link bomb, in that it affects most search engines — has typically been thought of as something between a prank and a form of protest. The idea is to select a certain search term or phrase (“borrowed time,” for example), and then try to force a certain Web site (say, the Pentagon’s official Donald H. Rumsfeld profile) to appear at or near the top of a search engine’s results whenever that term is queried....The latest MyDD update suggests that the netroots have managed to push their preferred link (an unfavorable news story about the candidate in question) into the top 10 links for more than 50 candidates.
So, clearly, political Google-bombing has achieved its short-term goal of pushing particular stories into prominence.
That said, the Luddite in me remains convinced that this will actually have absolutely zero effect on the election. For this to work, you need to believe that undecideds are going to actively search for candidates on the web before making their vote, and in the process stumble across the unflattering story. This is possible in theory, but in practice my hunch is that the people more likely to use the Internet to acquire information on political candidates are more likely to have made their voting decisions already -- and hence the Google-bombing effect would be too late.
Or, to be more flip about it, James Joyner characterizes how these kinds of plans usually end:
Step Four: Sharks with lay-zers on their foreheads.Caveat: my analysis is predicated on an assumption that voters who use the Internet to access political information are more eager for that info, more politically committed, and therefore more likely to commit to a position earlier. I'll grant that there miight be eaknesses in this causal chain.
And, to be fair, a less stringent version of the Google-bomb hypothesis is that a few undecideds stumble across the Google-bombed story, and then e-mail it to everyone they know, creating a viral effect. This is the topic du jour in David Carr's NYT column:
Ken Avidor would not seem to constitute much of a threat to the Republican Party. A Minnesota graphic artist with no official political role, he is a self-described Luddite and a bit of a wonk with an interest in arcane transportation issues.