Saturday, February 10, 2007
It's easy to get old in the blogosphere
I was somewhat bemused to see a whopping big advertisement on the back of the bus in front of me for The Hill’s Pundit Blog... It made me feel pretty weird; it’s a very different blogosphere to the one that I started off in (I suspect the disconnect for the real old-timers is even bigger).As for a real old-timer, there's Eugene "My Finger Is Well Off the Pulse of the Blogosphere" Volokh, who observes the lack of reaction to an op-ed he had penned:
I had expected there'd be more attention from various blogs and radio programs that often cover radical Islam and the law. I figured the case that my story had uncovered had it all: The First Amendment; jihadism; parental rights; child welfare. Yet I've had much less original posts yield much more interest among blogs and radio programs, especially conservative ones.My example of wondering whether the blogosphere has passed me by has been the kerfuffle involving two bloggers for John Edwards that was reported in the New York Times and Time this week.
For the record, my take is pretty much in accord wth this Obsidian Wings post, but that's not the point -- the point is that, as much as I used to care about these intersections between the blogosphere and the real world, I can't get worked up about this kind of thing anymore. Who cares about campaign bloggers? They are little more than good PR stylists.
If you don't believe me, check out this Amanda Marcotte post on Edwards' health plan -- turns out she's happy that Paul Krugman likes it. Well, blow me down!
Perhaps the old fogies in the blogosphere get that way because, well, we stop taking the whole megillah so seriously. And we can't take it seriously because, well, this isn't our primary means of employment and never will be.
Once the blogosphere is run by sufficient numbers of people who are paid to blog, us enlightened amateurs just look semi-pro.
UPDATE: Just when I think the blogosphere has passed me by, I get this e-mail:
On Jewcy's blog, the Daily Shvitz, we run a periodic feature called Movable Snipe, wherein two writers spend a week reading and tweaking or adulating five blogs of our choosing. The good news is, we've chosen your blog for this week... This means either valentines or vivisections, depending on how our Snipers react to your content and, well, general demeanor.ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmmm.... maybe this is really a "lump of creativity" problem. Or it's a "hatred of phones" issue.
Gideon Rachman's last detail
Gideon Rachman blogs about his travels to Singapore and Beijing. You should read the whole thing, but I can't resist excerpting how he closes this post:
The question of how peaceful China’s rise will be was... the subject of our seminar in Singapore, organised by the Brookings Institution and the Lee Kuan Yew school of public policy. Generally speaking, the Americans were pretty wary, the Asians pretty sanguine and the Europeans faintly bemused....
Victory is mine!!
Opportunity cost of being in the Red Sox virtual waiting room to get single-game tickets: occasional looks of irritation from my extended family as I repeatedly check my laptop screen.
Monetary cost of four tickets: well over $100.
The knowledge that I was able to get four tickets for a Sunday game against the Yankees: priceless.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Your inequality readings for today
Brad DeLong posts a preliminary bibliography of what he thinks are salient readings about economic inequality in the United States.
Over at Cato Unbound, Alan Reynolds tangles with his critics over his assertion that inequality has not increased substantially since 1988.
Go forth and read.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Everyone plays hard-to-get before the Six-Party Talks
The last post of the day by the Temporary Turkmenbashi of the Blogosphere completes his tour of totalitarian states by taking a glimpse at North Korea's tango with the United States over its nuclear weapons program.
As the six-party talks get underway, there's always the pre-meeting vacillations that resemble nothing so much as a small high school, when all parties fluctuate between flirting with agreement and denying that they were ever interested in an agreement.
For example, on Tuesday Glenn Kessler reported in the Washington Post that the North Koreans ratcheted up their demands at the last minute:
North Korea has set tough terms for a freeze of one of its nuclear facilities, demanding that the United States exceed commitments made under a Clinton-era deal that the Bush administration previously derided as inadequate.Oddly enough, the Financial Times' Demetri Sevastopulo reports that the United States is acting all flirty this time:
The US would be prepared to start normalising relations with North Korea before it completes nuclear disarmament if that would persuade Pyongyang to move forward on a previous agreement to denuclearise the Korean peninsula.The FT goes on to observe that any deal will be a tough domestic sell. This is a major point in this Christian Science Monitor report by Howard LaFranchi as well:
Those kinds of small steps may be about all we can expect out of the Bush administration," says David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. "They may just be looking to settle the situation down so they can focus their last two years on Iraq, Iran, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."Clearly, one other common denominator is that all the same experts get quoted.
So how's it going in Belarus?
The Temporary Turkmenbashi of the Blogosphere commands all who revere him to look in the direction of Belarus. When we last left things, Russia was putting the screws on the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, stung by big rises in Russian energy prices, vowed on Tuesday to recover $5 billion in losses by making Moscow pay for vital transit traffic and military cooperation.Read the whole thing to get a sense of Lukashenko's foreign policy bind. He's not going to befriend the West anytime soon (and vice versa). This gives Russia something close to carte blanche to put the screws on its smaller, politically isolated neighbor.
It's worth keeping this fact in mind when reading about Belarus' recently announced intentions to build its first nuclear reactors.
We all have our passions... and side-hobbies to those passions
However, that also prompts the occasional side-hobby to fuel that passion. For me, that now includes egging Seth Mnookin on anytime I read something that contradicts Mnookin's excellent reportage in Feeding The Monster.
This is a roundabout way of linking to this Mnookin post to see his response to this Scott Boras interview in the Boston Herald. Let's just say Boras' account of Johnny Damon's departure from the Red Sox conflicts with Mnookin's account.
[Er... does Scott Boras really fit in with the other totalitarian dictators you're blogging about today?--ed] How dare you try to edit the Turkmenbashi of the Blogosphere!!
There's no partisanship in Turkmenistan!
The hard-working staff here at danieldrezner.com has demanded that your humble blogger be declared the Turkmenbashi of the Blogosphere by universal assent. I hereby accept that mandate for the day -- which makes it about as legitimate as the last guy to accept this title.
In honor of the old Turkmenbashi, I hereby decree to spend the day posting about the remaining totalitarian dictatorships in the world.
OK, so let's see....Zimbabwe? Yep, got that one. Hey, let's check up on Turkmenistan itself!
Of course, they're hold a presidential election, so they might fall from totalitarian status. However, if this report from Peter Finn of the Washington Post Foreign Service is any indication, it's a presidential election that warms the cockles of the Turkmenbashi's heart:
Six presidential candidates are barnstorming the country and holding public meetings to talk about improving education, reforming health care, ensuring adequate pensions and boosting agriculture.The Turkmenbashi of the blogosphere applauds the measures taken to eliminate the petty squabbles that come with partisanship and political competition.
Things fall apart in Zimbabwe
In the New York Times, Michael Wines chronicles the slow collapse of the state in Zimbabwe:
For close to seven years, Zimbabwe’s economy and quality of life have been in slow, uninterrupted decline. They are still declining this year, people there say, with one notable difference: the pace is no longer so slow.In it's darkest hour, however, Mugabe's government has come up with a brilliant plan to deal with the situation:
The central bank’s latest response to these problems, announced this week, was to declare inflation illegal. From March 1 to June 30, anyone who raises prices or wages will be arrested and punished. Only a “firm social contract” to end corruption and restructure the economy will bring an end to the crisis, said the reserve bank governor, Gideon Gono. (emphasis added)Read the whole thing. I have two questions after reading it:
1) Wines also reports the following: "Foreign journalists remain barred from the country under threat of imprisonment, and harassment of Zimbabwean journalists has sharply increased." OK then, Michael Wines, how did you pull this off then? That was just a big ol' raspberry to the Washington Post's Africa correspondent, wasn't it?!
2) One wonders whether South Africa has any kind of cintingency plan for what happens when the Mugabe government collapses.
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Are there limits to Chinese soft power?
China has begun to hit some constraints in its soft power offensive in Africa. According to the Economist, Africans are now treating the Chinese in ways that might strike a chors with Americans:
In Zambia, where China has big copper-mining interests, a candidate in last year’s presidential election promised, if elected, to chase out Chinese investors after lethal riots at a Chinese-controlled mine. In Nigeria, Chinese oil workers and engineers have joined Western counterparts in being kidnapped and ransomed by insurgents in the country’s Niger Delta region. And there have been protests in South Africa and Zimbabwe against cheap clothing imported from China. In Zambia and South Africa, both destinations on this trip, Mr Hu [Jintao] could face some unusually pointed questioning.China can respond by offering soft loans with no political conditions -- which ameliorates governments but not necessarily citizens. However, even those kind of loans have their limits -- as the Financial Times' Alec Russell points out:
President Hu Jintao of China arrives in South Africa on Tuesday for the most serious and frank exchange of ideas on his 12-day tour of Africa.Developing....
Monday, February 5, 2007
But... but.... but.... centralization should always work!!
The Financial Times' Mark Turner reports the the UN's new fancy-pants response fund to humanitarian crises suffers from -- wait for it -- just a little bit of the old excessive, power hungry bureaucracy:
A flagship UN emergency response fund established last year to speed assistance to people during humanitarian crises has failed to meet its goal, and in some cases even slowed down the flow of life-saving goods, according to aid agencies.Here's a link to the full report from Save the Children UK.
I reckon I enjoy mocking the UN more than the next man -- well, not more than this man -- but in all fairness it should be pointed out that Save the Children UK might have impure motives in making this allegation. As the last two paragraph in the FT story suggest, what this is about is who gets access to the money. As Save the Children said in their press release:
The fundamental flaw of the CERF mechanism is that non-UN aid agencies, like Save the Children, are not allowed to receive direct funding, despite the fact they are usually first on the ground and deliver more than half of all emergency relief.And developing countries want to restrict this access? Well, blow me down!
Sunday, February 4, 2007
Reflections on the Super Bowl
Super Bowl XLI is in the books, and the Colts won. A few thoughts on the game and broadcast:
1) It's déjà vu in reverse. This game was the mirror image of Super Bowl XXXIV (Rams-Titans). That game had a plodding first half and then an exciting ending. The first quarter of this game was blink-or-you'll-miss-it highlights, followed by the slow grinding of the Bears into inferiority.On the other hand, I though this ad was the best of the lot: Most important -- less than two weeks before pitchers and catchers report.