Saturday, March 24, 2007

South Africa is a normal country

Pssst.... hey, IR grad students. looking for an interesting paper topic? Michael Wines' New York Times front-pager on South Africa's foreign policy would be a good start.

Wines asks why a regime that relied on international support to end apartheid seems... let's say "indifferent".... to human rights abuses in countries near and far:

Modern South Africa came about, historians agree, in part because of the United Nations’ unrelenting stance against apartheid. The United Nations affirmed that South African racism was not merely an internal political problem, but a threat to southern Africa. It banned arms shipments to South Africa. It demanded fair treatment of black dissidents.

It worked. This month a democratic South Africa sits as president of the United Nations Security Council. It was a remarkable, even poignant affirmation of the power of morality in global diplomacy.

Or so it might seem. After just three months as one of the Security Council’s nonpermanent members, South Africa is mired in controversy over what could be its great strength: the moral weight it can bring to diplomatic deliberations.

In January, South Africa surprised many, and outraged some, when it voted against allowing the Security Council to consider a relatively mild resolution on human rights issues in Myanmar, whose government is widely seen as one of the most repressive on earth.

Last week the government again angered human rights advocates when it said it would oppose a request to brief the Security Council on the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, where the government is pursuing a violent crackdown on its only political opposition. South Africa later changed its stance, but only after dismissing the briefing as a minor event that did not belong on the Council’s agenda.

This week South Africa endangered a delicate compromise among nations often at odds — the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany — to rein in Iran’s nuclear program.

The major powers agreed on an arms embargo, freezing of assets and other sanctions against Iran, but South Africa proposed dropping the arms and financial sanctions and placing a 90-day “timeout” on other punishments, which critics said would have rendered the sanctions toothless.

“I’m not gutting the resolution,” Dumisani S. Kumalo, South Africa’s ambassador to the United Nations, told news agency reporters this week. “I’m improving it.”

Why is South Africa acting this way? Wines gets at some possibilities at the end of the article:
Apartheid, the South African government contends, was a crime against humanity. In contrast, it argues that human rights abuses in Myanmar do not fall within the mandate of the Security Council. Indeed, the South African government says, the Council’s encroachment on issues better left to lesser agencies like the Human Rights Council undermines the organization’s global nature.

Seasoned scholars may and do differ, but to many analysts here the real question is why, given its standing as a beacon of human rights, South Africa has taken such positions at all. Perhaps nobody outside Pretoria knows, but there are plenty of theories.

One, advanced by a committed advocate of Burmese freedom, is that South Africa is feathering its strategic relationship with China, which largely controls Myanmar, supports Zimbabwe’s authoritarian government and has assiduously courted President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. China has big investments, a decent-size immigrant population and great ambitions in South Africa. South Africa has a similarly close relationship with Iran, an oil supplier.

But even during its struggle for liberation, the African National Congress, or A.N.C., now the governing party, maintained ties to supporters with questionable human rights records, like the Soviet Union, China and Libya.

Another explanation is that South Africa is playing the role of bad boy on the Security Council to underscore its demand that the Council be overhauled to reflect new global realities.

South Africa and many other developing nations deeply resent the great powers’ veto over major United Nations actions, often against developing countries like Zimbabwe and North Korea. They want the emerging Southern Hemisphere to have more sway in the body’s policies and actions.

“South Africa wants reform of the Security Council, come hell or high water,” said Thomas Wheeler, a longtime diplomat for South Africa who now is chief executive at the South Africa Institute of International Affairs, a research group. “And they’re using practically any means to do it. They’ve got almost a bee in their bonnet — that this is the way to go, to force the issue in this way.”

A third theory, a hybrid of those two, is that South Africa’s leaders have yet to decide whether they are democrats or the revolutionaries of two decades ago, railing against seemingly immovable establishments on behalf of seemingly lost causes. The powers in those days were the United States and Britain, powers inimical to the Communists who were the financiers of black liberation movements in the 1980s.

“What you have here is the continuing, ongoing tussle over whether the A.N.C. is still a protest movement or the governing party of a responsible member of the international community,” said a retired American diplomat with decades of Africa experience. “They’re reflexively against anything we’re for — we in the States, we and the British, we in the North. It’s more Chinese than the Chinese.”

Let's knock down the third theory first -- I suspect this is not about reflexive anti-Americanism. The ANC has been perfectly willing to tolerate Washington Consensus-style economic policies for more than a decade now. This is not about the doctrinaire implementation of a militant ideology.

I'm not sure I buy the Security Council reform argument either. South Africa's obsteperous behavior at the UN is not a sufficient roadblock to Security Council action -- and if, anything, their positions on some issues are likely to alienate rather than persuade the United States and other western governments on U.N. reform. Plus, if it was just about UN reform, one would expect to see South Africa adopt a tougher position vis-a-vis human rights abusers in their bilateral relations -- and there's been zero evidence of that happening.

Me, I buy a variant of the first hypothesis -- South Africa is becoming a normal country pursuing a realpolitik foreign policy. If this means coddling dictators in Harare and accomodating rising powers in East Asia, so be it. It should also be pointed out that they're not the only country in the Southern African region to be acting this way.

From an IR theory perspective, however, post-1994 South African foreign policy might represent an ideal test of the power of ideas and norms to influence a middle power's foreign policy -- and the test suggests that ideas don't count for a lot. However, that's just my take based on a very surface-level scan of Pretoria's behavior. A proper, in-depth case study might turn up a different explanation..

Grad students, why are you wasting your weekend reading this blog? Get to it!!

UPDATE: I've now created a new blog category, "thesis ideas," devoted to these kind of research questions prompted by an interesting news story.

posted by Dan at 08:14 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cheap talk is fun!!

The Financial Times' Guy Dinmore reports that unilateralist Democrats are pissed off that the Bush administration is acting so darn multilateral when it comes to Iran:

Senators urged the Bush administration on Wednesday to get tougher with Iran but senior Treasury and State Department officials resisted demands to punish European and Asian companies investing in Iran’s energy sector.

”You’ve got to get a lot tougher,” declared Chris Dodd, Senate banking committee chairman, brandishing charts showing $126bn of foreign investment in Iranian oil and gas fields.

Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said: ”We talk tough and act like a pussycat.”

Nicholas Burns, under-secretary of state, and Stuart Levey, Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, replied that imposing US sanctions on foreign investors in Iran would damage the international coalition that the US was trying to keep together to isolate Iran over its nuclear programme.

The US wanted to put pressure on Iran, not its allies, Mr Burns said.

Mr Levey warned of a “backlash” against the US if it imposed sanctions on European or Japanese companies. This risked destroying US efforts to pass sanctions resolutions at the UN Security Council, he added.

He also noted that the extra-territorial application of US law was a controversial issue that would be met with hostility by allies.

Now, let's be clear -- if either Chris Dodd or Robert Menendez was president, there's no chance in hell that they would implement the measures they profess to favor. This is just cheap talk.

You can do this on blogs as well. Try it yourself in the comments!

UPDATE: I wonder if this will satisfy Dodd and Menendez.

posted by Dan at 03:48 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

While Congress gets all high and mighty about executive privilege....

The Washington Post's Elizabeth Williamson reports that the Congressional Research Service is about to get very chary with their information:

This week, Congressional Research Service chief Daniel P. Mulhollan issued a memo to all staffers in the service, known as Congress's think tank. From now on, he wrote, CRS researchers will require a supervisor's approval before giving any CRS report to a "non-congressional."

Non-congressionals are, said CRS spokeswoman Janine D'Addario, usually fellow researchers in "U.S. government entities and nongovernmental entities, the media and foreign governments, like embassies."

The CRS works exclusively for Congress and is legendarily closefisted with its reports. For years, open-government groups and some members of Congress have fought unsuccessfully to put the reports online. Now it comes out that CRS researchers have been trading reports like baseball cards with these special non-congressionals, sharing knowledge on North Korean counterfeiting, wheat subsidies and other topics commissioned by Congress.

That can continue, according to Mulhollan's memo, but "prior approval should now be requested at the division or office level."

However: "Product requests can also originate from other non-congressional sources including individual researchers, corporations, law offices, private associations, libraries, law firms and publishers. The Inquiry Section typically declines these requests, and most often refers the caller to his or her congressional representative's office," Mulhollan wrote.

So let's review. All governmental, nongovernmental, foreign-governmental, media researcher-type non-congressionals -- and you know who you are -- can still have CRS reports, if a CRS supervisor approves.

For the rest of you non-congressionals, the rules have not changed. The answer is no -- go ask Congress.

Or.... you can click here.

posted by Dan at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

The German Social Democrats party like it's 2002

One of the key points I was trying to make in my Foreign Affairs article was that the Bush foreign policy of 2007 looks somewhat different from the Bush foreign policy of 2002 -- it's more multilateral in both form and substance. This has been a common theme among foreign policy wonks across the ideological divide.

However, the word has yet to reach the German Social Democrats, as Judy Dempsey makes clear in this International Herald-Tribune story:

[T]he two parties in [Angela] Merkel's coalition appear more divided over the missile shield than other EU member states, which have been far less vocal or critical of the U.S. missile shield.

Kurt Beck, leader of the Social Democrats, said this week that the missile defense shield would lead to a new arms race and that it should be discussed within NATO, or even abandoned....

Inside NATO, other countries have been puzzled by the level of the debate in Germany, and particularly by the Social Democrats' newfound support for the alliance.

Over the past seven years, the Social Democrats have played down the importance of NATO as an alliance. Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg opposed any attempt by the alliance during the U.S.-led war in Iraq to assist the U.S. coalition forces.

"The mood in NATO is quite sanguine," said James Appathurai, a NATO spokesman. "We know what we have to do. We are preparing high-level talks next month which will be attended by experts."

Despite charges from Social Democrats and even from some in Merkel's party that Washington has not been talking to its allies or to Russian officials, there have been several high-level consultations at NATO headquarters and in Moscow led by Henry Obering, the U.S general in charge of the missile defense agency.

So far, in public at least, U.S. officials have not questioned the tone of any of the criticism from the German left, as was the case after Gerhard Schröder, the former Social Democratic chancellor, narrowly won re-election in 2002 after criticizing the Bush administration's actions toward Iraq.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stressed that Russia has nothing to fear about the system. Speaking this week after talks in Washington with the German foreign minister, the Social Democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Rice said: "Russia and the United States have a good working relationship in which very few would contemplate the notion of a nuclear exchange."

If you read the whole thing, one gets the sense that domestic political calculations are behind the SPD's thinking... much as it was back in 2002.

posted by Dan at 01:01 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (1)

Has Taro Aso ever met Condoleezza Rice?

According to Reuters, the Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso has offered up an interesting theory of how to build peace in the Middle East:

Blond, blue-eyed Westerners probably can't be as successful at Middle East diplomacy as Japanese with their "yellow faces", Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso was quoted by media as saying on Wednesday.

"Japan is doing what Americans can't do," the Nikkei business daily quoted the gaffe-prone Aso as saying in a speech.

"Japanese are trusted. If (you have) blue eyes and blond hair, it's probably no good," he said.

"Luckily, we Japanese have yellow faces."

Foreign Ministry officials were unable to comment on the report, which said Aso elaborated by saying Japan had never exploited the Middle East, started a war there or fired a shot.

Aso, seen in some circles as a contender to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe if the Japanese leader runs into trouble in a July election for parliament's upper house, is known for verbal gaffes.

He offended South Korea with remarks in 2003 that were interpreted in Seoul as trying to justify some of Japan's actions during its 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula.

He also drew criticism in 2001 when, as economics minister, he said he hoped to make Japan the kind of country where "rich Jews" would want to live.

Aso said then he had not intended to be discriminatory.

By Aso's criteria, of course, Japan's colonial legacy means it should not be included in the Six-Party Talks on North Korea because it involves several countries that were part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. I sense, however, that this would be applying too much logic to the comment.

posted by Dan at 11:07 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Gender and low-wage jobs

Matt Yglesias links to a Washington Post op-ed by NYU political scientist Lawrence Mead on the withdrawal of low-income men from the workforce:

Why are low-skilled men withdrawing from work just when unskilled jobs appear plentiful and immigrants are flooding into the country to take them? One reason might be that the wages these men could earn have fallen, so, the thinking goes, why work for chump change? Yet these men failed to work more even in the 1990s, when wages for low-skilled jobs rose. It's more likely that male work discipline has deteriorated. Poor men want to work and succeed, yet many cannot endure the slights and disappointments that work involves. That's why poor men usually can obtain jobs yet seldom keep them.
Yglesias goes to town with this paragraph:
Frankly, one has to sympathize with this. Presumably NYU political science professors like Mead don't need to put up with the sort of slights experienced by people doing unskilled labor.
I can't shake the feeling that something else is going on here. Yes, low wage jobs can be humiliating and hard work.... but wasn't this also true in the past? Indeed, globally, one of the reasons so many people flock to so-called "sweatshop" jobs is because they still seem like a step up from the back-breaking tasks involved in agricultural labor.

What, then, explains the growing disaffection of male workers in this country? It might be that the composition of low-wage jobs has shifted from tasks that were commonly associated with men to tasks that have historically been associated as women's work. Low-wage jobs in the agricultural and manufactiuring sector involve the use of significant amounts of muscle far removed from the final customer. Low-wage jobs in the service sector often require the employee to wear nametags that say, "Hi! My name is ________!" while being as courteous as possible to the customer. My hunch is that a large swath of low-income men can deal with being dog-tired from moving around heavy things, but can't deal with the petty humiliations required to stay in the good graces of an obnoxious shopper. [So you're saying that women enjoy humiliation more?--ed. No, I'm saying that because many of these low-paying service-sector jobs were traditionally viewed as female, there's some path dependence at work here.]

This is just blog speculaion -- I have no idea if there's any empirical evidence to confirm if this is true. Commenters should feel free to shoot this down.

UPDATE: The Economist's Free Exchange has more on this point.

posted by Dan at 09:16 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

That's one way to get the ballcaps

From the Boston Herald's Clubhouse Insider blog, Jeff Horrigan details the extent to which ESPN's Dick Vitale will go to get a baseball cap:

ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale just threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to this afternoon’s game between the Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. His appearance in a Pirates cap and jersey reminds me of the time a few years back in Sarasota, where the local resident (he lives in Bradenton now) was visiting Ed Smith Stadium for a Cincinnati Reds spring game. Naturally, Vitale was wearing a Reds cap that day, telling everyone that he’s a lifelong Reds fan (just like he’s telling everyone today he’s a lifelong Pirates fan). Well, some of us happened to walk by his car in the players parking lot and noticed five or six different caps in his car for teams that play on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Since then, I have heard him tell fans and media at Devil Rays, Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox game that he (wearing the appropriate hat each time) has been a long-time fan of that home team.

posted by Dan at 09:12 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Who's leveraging who in Northeast Asia?

The Financial Times' Demetri Sevastopulo and Andrew Yeh explain the rather bizarre goings-on over the past three days involving North Korea, the financial sanctions against Banco Delta Asia, and the strange Treasury department statement that, "North Korea has pledged, within the framework of the Six-Party Talks, that these funds will be used solely for the betterment of the North Korean people, including for humanitarian and educational purposes."

What the heck happened? According to Sevastopulo and Yeh:

Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, orchestrated a significant shift in US policy towards North Korea by persuading the US Treasury to agree to Pyongyang’s demands to release $25m frozen in a Macao bank since 2005.

Current and former officials say Christopher Hill, the chief US negotiator on North Korea, convinced Ms Rice that the US should sacrifice the issue of the frozen funds to push forward the broader goal of implementing last month’s six-party accord on denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

Several people familiar with the debate said Hank Paulson, Treasury secretary, agreed to overrule officials responsible for terrorism financing, who objected to the move, after Beijing warned that a failure to return the North Korean funds would hurt the Sino-US strategic economic dialogue....

Many experts, and some White House officials, were dismayed when Daniel Glaser, the Treasury deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, said in Beijing on Monday that the US and North Korea had agreed on a mechanism to refund all the money. Critics also derided the explanation that Pyongyang had vowed to use the money for humanitarian purposes.

Gordon Flake, a Korea expert who heads the Mansfield Foundation, said the Treasury shift angered even supporters of the broader nuclear disarmament accord. He said Treasury had insisted for 18 months that the move against BDA was a “law enforcement action” that was not linked to the nuclear talks. But he said the statement in Beijing clearly showed there was a political link.

“We have traded away the pressure we had on them,” said Mr Flake.

Full disclosure: I worked with Glaser during my stint at Treasury, and he always exuded competence.

Beyond that, Flake's statement seems internally inconsistent. The financial sanctions cannot be both a strict law-enforcement matter and a source of leverage. It's one or the other. Clearly, it appears that they were leverage.

The sentence in the story that bothers me is China's linkage of this move to the SED. If that's what tipped the scales, then Beijing better be making some concessions in those negotiations that no one knows about.

posted by Dan at 11:26 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Socrates' teaching evaluations
This class on philosophy was really good, Professor Socrates is sooooo smart, I want to be just like him when I graduate (except not so short). I was amazed at how he could take just about any argument and prove it wrong....

Socrates is a real drag, I don't know how in hell he ever got tenure. He makes students feel bad by criticizing them all the time. He pretends like he's teaching them, but he's really ramming his ideas down student's throtes. He's always taking over the conversation and hardly lets anyone get a word in....

I learned a lot in this class, a lot of things I never knew before. From what I heard from other students, Professor Socrates is kind of weird, and at first I agreed with them, but then I figured out what he was up to. He showed us that the answers to some really important questions already are in our minds.

Click here to read the rest of them.

posted by Dan at 09:13 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

You have to hand it to the Iranian leadership

Another day, another country Iran manages to alienate with its nuclear policy. From yesterday's New York Times:

Russia has informed Iran that it will withhold nuclear fuel for Iran’s nearly completed Bushehr power plant unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment as demanded by the United Nations Security Council, European, American and Iranian officials say.

The ultimatum was delivered in Moscow last week by Igor S. Ivanov, the secretary of the Russian National Security Council, to Ali Hosseini Tash, Iran’s deputy chief nuclear negotiator, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because a confidential diplomatic exchange between two governments was involved.

For years, President Bush has been pressing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to cut off help to Iran on the nuclear power plant that Russia is building at Bushehr, in southern Iran. But Mr. Putin has resisted. The project is Tehran’s first serious effort to produce nuclear energy and has been very profitable for Russia.

Recently, however, Moscow and Tehran have been engaged in a public argument about whether Iran has paid its bills, which may explain Russia’s apparent shift. But the ultimatum may also reflect an increasing displeasure and frustration on Moscow’s part with Iran over its refusal to stop enriching uranium at its vast facility at Natanz....

Russia has been deeply reluctant to ratchet up sanctions against Iran in the Security Council, which is expected to vote on a new set of penalties against the country within the next week.

But American officials have been trying to create a commercial incentive for Russia to put pressure on Iran. One proposal the Bush administration has endorsed since late 2005 envisions having the Russians enrich Iran’s uranium in Russia. That creates the prospect of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in business for Russia, and a way to ensure that Iran receives only uranium enriched for use in power reactors, instead of for use in weapons.

Iran has rejected those proposals, saying it has the right to enrich uranium on its own territory....

Mr. Ivanov... called on Iran to resolve outstanding questions with the agency about its nuclear program and to stop enriching uranium. The Russians have been pressing Iran to take some sort of pause in its uranium enrichment that might allow the Security Council sanction process to halt and bring Iran back to the negotiating table.

“The clock must be stopped; Iran must freeze uranium enrichment,” Mr. Ivanov said. “The U.N. Security Council will then take a break, too, and the parties would gather at the negotiating table.”

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has also called for a “pause,” noting that even a brief suspension of enrichment would be enough to get the United States to the negotiating table with Iran under an offer that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made in May.

Two thoughts:
1) As I said last year, "never trust the Russians to be a dependable ally."

2) The fact that Ivanov and ElBaradei are not calling for a pause on enrichment does call into question whether Laura Rozen was right in her assessment of the U.S. negotiating strategy in her interesting Washington Monthly piece:

At the end of May (2006), Rice pushed the policy as far as she could. In the Ben Franklin Room of the State Department, she made her boldest announcement since becoming secretary of state: The United States would agree to join direct talks with Iran for the first time in twenty-seven years. Iran was given the summer to consider Rice’s offer, which was accompanied by pages of inducements from the West, including an international offer to build Iran a civilian nuclear power facility, and economic inducements such as WTO membership. Yet again, though, this wasn’t a pure victory for the behavior changers. Instead of offering unconditional negotiations, Rice’s proposal included a caveat palatable to the hard-liners that placed the prospect of ever getting to the negotiating table in doubt: Iran had to agree to suspend its uranium enrichment program for the duration of the talks.

posted by Dan at 08:56 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What is Europe's trajectory?

Andrew Moravcsik celebrates the European Union's 50th anniversary with a cover story in Newsweek's international editions. Contra the conventional wisdom, Moravcsik paints a rosy present and future for the EU:

American Alone. While Europe Slept. Menace in Europe. As the European Union celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding Treaty of Rome, the pundits agree: Europe is in terminal decline. It is a continental-size museum dropping into the dustbin of history....

To most who live in Europe—or have visited lately—all this seems wrong, even absurd. As the European Union turns 50 this week, let us consider all that has been achieved. Europe arose from the ashes of the Great Depression and World War II to become whole and free. Half a century ago, only a utopian would have predicted that, today, one can traverse Europe from Sweden to Sicily without encountering a border control and—most of the way—using a single European currency. Or that a tariff-free single market would exist, cemented by a common framework of economic regulation.

Europe is now a global superpower of world-historical importance, second to none in economic clout. It has constructed one of the most successful systems of government—the modern social-welfare state, which for all its flaws has brought unprecedented prosperity and security to Europe's people. It is the single most successful advance in voluntary international cooperation in modern history. The original European Economic Community of 1957 has grown from its founding six members to 27, knitting together just under 500 million people from the western Aran Islands of Ireland through the heart of Central Europe to the Black Sea. Its values are spreading across the globe—far more attractive, in many respects, than those of America. If anything, Europe's trajectory is up, not down.

You'll have to read the whole thing to evaluate Moravcsik's case for yourself. I certainly agree with him about the present -- indeed, I'm pretty sure a book just came out arguing that the EU is America's equal when it comes to questions of economic regulation.

It's the future trajectory where Moravcsik loses me -- which is why I wrote what I wrote in Foreign Affairs this month. I'm simply more pessimistic about Europe's ability to alter its domestic institutions and overcome its long-term demographic decline. The EU has staved off this problem in part by increasing expansion, but the fact is they're going to be running out of viable countries soon.

Moravcsik and other EU-boosters will counter by pointing to economic aspects of the EU model that work very well -- France's total factor productivity is higher than America's, Scandinavia has combined a generous welfare state with high birthrates and flexible labor markets, etc. This is true, but it is, frankly, a bulls**t argument. You can't say that the entire European Union is on the upswing by pointing to a few regions of it that are doing well in certain metrics and implying that there will be a diffusion effect to the rest of the continent. Domestic institutions in Europe are pretty resistant to change. Indeed, for al the EU's successes, I would still wager that the diffusion of "successful" policy innovations would spread faster from American state to American state than between the different members of the EU. You also can't point to the best bits of the EU and compare it to the U.S. as a whole. Why include MIssissippi but not Greece or Bulgaria? How does French productivity stack up against California alone?

These are questions which I am sure will be answered by the commenters.

UPDATE: Here's a similar critique of the Moravcsik article... with, like, real data!!

That said, according to this survey, Moravcsik is correct about how the rest of the world views the EU.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I've revised this post slightly to correct for some atrocious grammatical miscues.

posted by Dan at 07:45 AM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 19, 2007

How HDTV affects campaign 2008

Megan McArdle explains:

The first thing you notice about HDTV is that some of the politicians look really awful. Studio makeup is not enough to cover up the sagging, cragging, and pitting of all those cruel years in Congress. Some of them look fine . . . John Kerry is positively handsome, if you like men who look kind of like a wrinkly old orange. (Can't his wife buy him a really convincing fake tan? Sigh. Yet another reason not to bother getting rich.) Others—and you know who you are, Senator Specter—not so much. Charles Schumer has a deep crease on the side of his forehead that looks like he slept on his glasses . . . on top of a lit stove. And Tim Russert seems to have a little rosacea problem....

Today, though, it suddenly occurred to me that this might have an impact on the 2008 election. Just as the introduction of television famously altered voter perceptions of the candidates in the 1960 election (those who listened to the debate thought that Nixon had won, but those who saw it on television overwhelmingly favoured the more telegenic Kennedy), HDTV could skew who we nominate and/or elect....

For example, though I've never met him, my understanding from those who have is that McCain's image of vitality is very carefully projected, and that when you actually meet him up close, he looks pretty frail. Will that come out on HDTV? How about Hilary? HDTV is least kind to older women; I'd bet it puts at least ten years on her. I suspect that Obama is the only candidate who will actually look good on HDTV; he's younger, and even light black skin ages better than caucasian.

I've seen Obama and met McCain -- Megan's conjectures seem sound to me.

That said, even on HDTV there are methods to conceal flaws -- see here for one example. It is possible, however, that makeup and/or other techniques to look good on HDTV would be too subtle to have an affect on normal televisions. This leads to an interesting tradeoff -- which television audience should a candidate target? Would the targeting shift between the primary season and the general election? Would it depend on the demographic being targeted by the candidate?

You known, you just know, that some candidates are going to spent a lot of money on consultants to answer this very question. And if you ask me, Megan deserves a 10% cut on all this swag to help defray her moving expenses.

posted by Dan at 12:02 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Has anyone at The American Prospect ever read Thucydides?

Via Daniel Nexon and Robert Farley, I see that The American Prospect has committed multiple sins against Thucydides.

The major sins are contained in this Thomas Geoghegan essay that blasts neoconservatives for being so besotted with Thucydides:

College kids write papers now on how we got into Iraq. Or so it is with my friend's daughter. She's supposed to write a paper on one of the neocons. Which one should she pick?...

If I had a kid, I'd make her do Thucydides (460? - 400? B.C) -- he's an honorary neocon in a way, and no one's doing him. Indeed, he's the darling of the neocons. They simply love this guy. Donald Kagan, the father of Robert and Fred, has written four or five volumes on The Peloponnesian Wars, all to illustrate how the neocons should see the world. And other neocons like Victor Hansen Davis make a big fuss over Thucydides, too. And what's the moral they draw from Thucydides? "No mercy," my old college teacher said. The strong will crush the weak. If ever there's a case for pre-emptive war, it is all there in Thucydides. It's a world in which there is no world opinion, or international law. That kind of thing's for sissies, the neocon's would say Set up those prisons in Guantanamo. They don't cry over these things in Thucydides. You focus on being strong.

Yet maybe one should say something in Thucydides' defense.

First,, he was writing in Fifth Century B.C. There was no such thing as world opinion. There was no mass media. There was no CNN, or UN, or anything like the Hague. We were not wired up to each other. And there were no roadside bombs. What the neocons miss is that things that the Spartans could get away with in The Peloponessian Wars, they wouldn't even try to get away with now. It's not that we're "soft" in the twenty-first century. But our hard power is so dependent on our soft power that there are things a "realist" would have done once that anyone with a sense of reality wouldn't do now.

But it's not much of a defense, because even back then, at least Herodotus knew better....

One big blustery super-power can't dominate the world. Actually, the kind of hegemony that neocons call for isn't even really found in Thucydides. Ultimately, as some scholars note, even in Thucydides, Sparta backs off too. But it's even clearer in Herodotus: there is not so much a clash of civilizations as a plethora of them. And even one based on Hollywood cannot subdue the world.

Indeed, that's why Herodotus is more important than Thucydides for Americans. We're the most blinkered because we don't do what Herodotus did and travel around the world.

In the interest of having a productive work day, I'll have to refrain from a detailed analysis of why this piece is so God-awful. Instead, I'll have to ask my informed readers to determine the biggest sin committed in this piece:
1) Geoghegan's moronic belief that Thucydides was some kind of war-monger -- indeed, it is ironic that Geoghegan basically accepts the neoconservative interpretation of Thucydides (for a conservative takedown of this neoconservative position, click here).;

2) Geoghegan's confusion of Sparta with Athens;

3) As Nexon put it, the ""everything I need to know about Thucydides I learned from the Melian Dialogue" problem in Geoghegan's article. Indeed, I'll put cash money on the table that Geoghegan has never read a single word of books six, seven, or eight in History of the Peloponnesian War;

4) The fact that the editors of The American Prospect pparently know as little about Thucydides as Geoghegan.

Debate away!

posted by Dan at 09:44 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

How is China's media reporting on Zimbabwe?

There's been a spot of trouble in Zimbabwe's autocracy as of late. I wonder how media outlets in non-democratic regimes are covering this trouble?

From the People's Daily Online:

The Zimbabwe government will not sit back and watch the opposition perpetrating "terrorist attacks" on innocent citizens while authorities are also geared to stamp out domestic violence, which accounted for 60 percent of Zimbabwe's murder cases, President Robert Mugabe has said.

Speaking at a ceremony to commemorate the International Women's Day in Harare on Saturday, Mugabe said authorities would not tolerate lawlessness and violence must stop, The Sunday Mail reported.

Mugabe was quoted by the newspaper as saying: "We have given too much room to mischief makers and shameless stooges of the West. Let them and their masters know that we shall brook none of their lawless behavior."

Mugabe made the remarks in the wake of acts of violence, which the opposition MDC unleashed, in different centers across the country last week.

I can only hope that the honorable people's government in Zimbabwe crushes the treacherous curs of the MDC to promote peace, order and social justice for all [Snap out of it!!--ed. C'mon, I don't get to use "treacherous curs" in daily parlance all that often.]

posted by Dan at 08:48 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)