Saturday, March 10, 2007
That's some powerful biofuels agreement
Peter Baker reports in the Washington Post that the United States and Brazil have announced a new biofuels initiative:
President Bush announced a new energy partnership with Brazil on Friday to promote wider production of ethanol throughout the region as an alternative to oil, the first step in an effort to strengthen economic and political alliances in Latin America.Sounds pretty ambitious... until we get to this snippet of this New York Times story by Jim Rutenberg and Larry Rother:
[D]espite the agreement, some strains were visible between Mr. da Silva and Mr. Bush.You can read more in the White House transcipt of Bush and Lula's press conference. It contains this accurate Lula summary of the state of play in the Doha talks:
I learned from my Minister, Celso Amorim, that if we draw a triangle, we could show you what the difficulties are in the negotiations we have. What do countries want from the European Union? They want it to facilitate access to their agricultural market for poorer countries to export to them, including the U.S. wants to export to them.
Friday, March 9, 2007
Why I won't be blogging this weekend
From the Associated Press:
Next up for Salma Hayek is a wedding -- and a baby carriage.Sniff.
Give me 48 hours, and I'll be fine.
Exporting university education?
America's great universities are in fact becoming global. They are the brand names for excellence -- drawing in the brightest students and faculty and giving them unparalleled opportunities. This is where the openness and freewheeling diversity of American life provide us a huge advantage over tighter, more homogeneous cultures. We give people the freedom to think and create -- and prosper from those activities -- in ways that no other country can match.I hope Ignatius is correct -- but as a useful corrective, one should check out William Brody's "College Goes Global" in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. Brody, the president of Johns Hopkins, has some experience in exporting American education, and offers some sobering advice:
Since the end of World War II, the United States has been recognized as the world leader in higher education. It has more colleges and universities, enrolls and graduates more students, and spends more on advanced education and research than any other nation. Each year, more than half a million foreigners come to the United States to study. A widely cited article written by researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University that looked at the academic ranking of universities worldwide based on faculty quality and research output found that more than half of the top 100 universities in the world -- and 17 of the top 20 -- were in the United States.
Talk about addiction to cheap oil
The Financial Times' Gareth Smyth reports that Iran is starting to tighten its belt in anticipatio of serious economic sanctions. Of course, one person's "belt-tightening" is another person's "pitiful reduction of massively inefficient subsidy.":
Iran’s parliament this week set May 22 as the day when the country’s 15m motorists lose access to unlimited cheap fuel.
Born to blog
The Opening Day starter for the Boston Red Sox, Curt Schilling, now has a blog. In his first week, he's already moved down the learning curve, following David Pinto's advice and introducing much-needed line breaks into his posts.
Sports fans love or hate Schilling. To the haters, he's an egomaniac who cannot and will not shut up -- particularly if he's talking about himself. To the admirers, Schilling has always walked the walk (see: sock, bloody) in pressure situations, a very rare commodity in professional sports. Perusing his posts to date, I would advise non-sports fans and even casual sports fans to ignore it. However, for baseball fanatics, there's lots of good stuff.
From his first post, I have a hunch that Schilling intuitively gets the blog thing:
I’ve never been a yes/no kind of guy, which probably hasn’t been received well by some. I don’t know that I’ll be changing my style, but I do know that getting ripped for something I say here will be getting ripped for something I actually said–with the entire contents of my comments included.Unless you're willing to be wrong -- really, badly wrong -- you'll never make it as a blogger.
UPDATE: Seth Mnookin also thinks Schilling has the chops to blog.
So you want to write for a wider audience
David Damrosch has a thoroughly accessible essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the difficulties scholars face when they try to write for a wider audience. This paragraph in particlar explains why academics generally don't do this all too well:
The problem isn't that academics "can't write," as is often claimed, but that we are typically engaged in what scholars of the Renaissance know as coterie writing. In 16th-century England, for instance, small groups of aristocrats such as Sir Philip Sydney, his sister Mary Herbert, and their circle would compose poems for their mutual entertainment, circulating them privately from one country estate to another. Scholars today may reach a somewhat larger circle, but most academic writing is part of a continuing conversation among a coterie of fellow specialists with common interests and a shared history of debate. Even for scholars who are elegant prose stylists, it isn't an easy matter to make the transition from writing for Milton's "fit audience, though few" to a larger but less fit readership.Damrosch then discusses his own efforts to write an accessible book that doesn't feel "dumbed down." He runs into an editor at Holt who provides the way:
Not only did the people at Holt want the book I wanted to write — antiquity and all — but they also suggested ways I could revise my sample chapters to better effect. The "Aha!" moment came when John Sterling, Holt's publisher, pointed to the opening of my first chapter. I had begun with a flourish, emphasizing the excitement created when a young curator at the British Museum first deciphered the Gilgamesh epic, with its seeming confirmation of the biblical story of the Flood: "When George Smith discovered the Flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh in the fall of 1872, he made one of the most dramatic discoveries in the history of archaeology." Sterling ran his pen along these lines, but instead of praising this bold beginning, he tapped the page and asked, "Couldn't you make this opening just a bit more dramatic?"
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Dealing with the hysterics and the humorless
Let's surf the net to see if anyone's saying something about me that's worth repeating.
Since I am about as far away as any intelligent and rational American can get from the politics of any proposals for a "new world order," let alone a new new world order, my attention was drawn to a " New New World Order" article (my emphasis on "New New"). After reading it, my suspicions about where our local, state and federal politicians are trying to take us was confirmed. That is, We The People of the United States of America appear to be destined -- by our own political leaders, as well as other power-and-money-seeking political leaders of nations throughout the world -- to be a part of their dictatorial grand scheme, i.e., We The People would no longer be living in an independent, sovereign nation under a Constitutional Federal Republic.You know, you can accuse George W. Bush of a lot of things, but surrendering American sovereignty to some supranational order is not one of them.
UPDATE: Another negative reaction to "Drezler's article" can be found here.
I am sorry to see that Mr. Drezner finds this issue a source of “amusement.” Thousands of people die each year needlessly and many more suffered a great deal, because not enough organs are donated, and because the market has been allowed to intrude into the ways they are allocated. (For instance there is a shortage of donated skin for burn victims because skin is sold to plastic surgeons who pay a high fee to use it to make the hyper rich look younger). One person’s donations can improve the life of twenty others, if on death organs are made available....OK, for the record, I do take the question of organ donation seriously -- which is why I will refer to I thoughtful posts by Kieran Healy and Virginia Postrel on the matter (and click here for why I don't think harangues work all that well on the American psyche).
Amitai Etzioni attacking bloggers for self-promotion? As someone who has been on the receiving end of a steady, unremitting barrage of Etzioni press releases, brochures about Etzioni, and actual Etzioni publications, no, I'm afraid I can't take that criticism seriously at all.
[What about the soft porn allegations?--ed. I can only assume that Professor Etzioni read this post from a few years ago. Repeatedly.]
What I learned at the nonproliferation conference
For the past 36 hours I've been attending the Burkle Center's conference on ""Nuclear Weapons in a New Century: Facing the Emerging Challenges." (Also, I got to use Ron Burkle's bathroom. But let's stay focused for once).
The following is a short list of what I learned:
1) Former SecDef William Perry believes that if Iran and North Korea manage to develop/keep their nukes, "the dam has burst" on the nonproliferation regime.A final point. Mark Kleiman asks:
What I've heard about Iranian politics, from people that I believe know what they're talking about, is that the Guardian Council is somewhat hostile to Ahmadinejad, who isn't very controllable, and that various important power players within the country are nervous about provoking a confrontation with us and the Israelis. I've also heard that the Guardian Council is both faction-ridden and corrupt. How much would it cost for the anti-Ahmadinejad, non-anti-US politicians in Iran to bribe enough Guardians to get their candidates through the next selection round? I don't know, but I doubt it's any substantial fraction of the cost of keeping a CBG on station for a month.The problem with this analysis is the assumption that a Rafsanjani is a better option than Ahmadinejad. At this point, I'm not so sure. Most of the conservative clerics want the nuclear program as well -- they're just craftier about it. Paradoxically, Ahmadinejad is such a loon that he makes it easier for the U.S. to organize multilateral action against Iran. If the mullahs replaced him with someone who was cagier, it will be next to impossible to get Russia and China to buy into any further action.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
"Feh" to globalization
That's the conclusion of Pankaj Ghemawat in this Foreign Policy essay. He makes a convincing case:
In truth, the world is not nearly as connected as these writers would have us believe. Despite talk of a new, wired world where information, ideas, money, and people can move around the planet faster than ever before, just a fraction of what we consider globalization actually exists. The portrait that emerges from a hard look at the way companies, people, and states interact is a world that’s only beginning to realize the potential of true global integration. And what these trend’s backers won’t tell you is that globalization’s future is more fragile than you know....Read the whole thing. This paragraph helps explain to me why my editor at Princeton made me remove the world "globalization" from the title of All Politics Is Global:
According to the U.S. Library of Congress’s catalog, in the 1990s, about 500 books were published on globalization. Between 2000 and 2004, there were more than 4,000. In fact, between the mid-1990s and 2003, the rate of increase in globalization-related titles more than doubled every 18 months.
Monday, March 5, 2007
Movie stars. Swimming pools. Loose nukes.
Blogging will again be light this week because I'm going to Los Angeles for a UCLA conference entitled "Nuclear Weapons in a New Century: Facing the Emerging Challenges."
As I have to say something about this in 48 hours, readers are strongly encouraged to proffer any bright ideas they might have about how to deal with this issue.
Reflections on the International Studies Association
Another conference in the books. Some thoughts:
1) No, I do not miss Chicago weather from late February or early March.
Sunday, March 4, 2007
How offshore outsourcing continues to devastate the tech sector
Robert Weisman reports today in the Boston Globe on how the local IT job market is doing three years after offshore outsourcing devastated the tech sector:
Five years after the dot-com bust ravaged the technology industry, erasing tens of thousands of jobs in Massachusetts, the "Help Wanted" signs have been pulled out of storage. State figures released Thursday show several high-tech job categories growing at more than triple the rate of overall employment over the past 13 months.
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