Saturday, March 31, 2007
Baptists, bootleggers, and porn
CNET's Dawn Kawamoto reports that the .xxx registry will not be happening anytime soon:
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has rejected a controversial proposal to create a new .xxx domain suffix for adult Web sites.In the New York Times, Thomas Crampton explains the interesting coalition of interest groups that opposed the .xxx registry:
ICM had argued that creation of the domain would enhance safety for young users by clearly defining .xxx sites as a no-go zone.Political scientists talk about "baptist-bootlegger coalitions" to explain occasions when groups on opposite sides of an issue support the same policy for very different reasons (baptists: naive expression of preferences; Bootleggers: rent-seeking).
In this case, however, the baptists refused to side with the powerful bootlegger.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Latest trade tidbits
1) Remember the hints of a trade deal that came out earlier this week? Over at US News and World Report's Capital Commerce blog, James Pethokoukis has more juicy details about the how this may or may not play out. As a general rule, if Dave Sirota is this exercised about it, then it must be a good thing for trade liberalization.
2) A point in the Democrats' favor -- a new WorldPublicOpinion.org Survey about trade and regulatory standards:
Strong majorities in developing nations around the world support requiring countries that sign trade agreements to meet minimum labor and environmental standards, a multinational poll finds. Nine in 10 Americans also support such protections.Sounds good, but the survey question seems awfully vague ("Overall, do you think that countries that are part of international trade agreements should or should not be required to maintain minimum standards for working conditions?")
Which is the greatest threat to globalisation: the protesters on the streets every time the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organisation meets, or globalisation's cheerleaders, who push for continued market opening while denying that the troubles surrounding globalisation are rooted in the policies they advocate? A good case can be made that the latter camp presents the greater menace. Anti-globalisers are marginalised. But cheerleaders in Washington, London and the elite universities of north America and Europe shape the intellectual climate. If they get their way, they are more likely to put globalisation at risk than the protesters they condemn for ignorance of sound economics.I'm unpersuaded There are two huge difference between the 19th century version of globalization and the cuurrent era: there was much more labor mobility back then, but the size of government -- and welfare policies in particular -- were vastly smaller. As much as peopole like to fret about their disappearance, at best the growth of these measures are slowing. As Tyler Cowen implicitly points out here, the growth of markets has led to a corresponding growth in government. So even if I accepted Rodrik's premise, I think we're a long way from where he thinks we are.
4) DeLong also links to a Wall Street Journal front-pager from yesterday about Alan Blinder's fears about offshoring:
Mr. Blinder... remains an implacable opponent of tariffs and trade barriers. But now he is saying loudly that a new industrial revolution -- communication technology that allows services to be delivered electronically from afar -- will put as many as 40 million American jobs at risk of being shipped out of the country in the next decade or two. That's more than double the total of workers employed in manufacturing today. The job insecurity those workers face today is "only the tip of a very big iceberg," Mr. Blinder says....DeLong believes that Blinder "has very smart things to see about 'outsourcing.'" I think Blinder is unbelievably smart, but if he's basing his numbers on the same logic he applied in his Foreign Affairs essay, then with all due respect I don't think he has very smart things to say about outsourcing. In the FA essay, Blinder assumed that any job that could be done over the electronic transom:
a) Will be done electronically;Yeah, I got problems with just about all of these assumptions. Greg Mankiw, on the other hand, simply believes that Alan Blinder has been turned by the dark side of the force... which converts Greg into Luke Skywalker.
UPDATE: Tyler Cowen's take on Blinder: "When our economists start preaching that we should look to economists and higher educators to predict the new, growing economic sectors, I again think that the Chinese are not the major problem."
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Defying the new bloggingheads business plan
My latest bloggingheads segment is up -- this time with Henry Farrell. Much to Robert Wright's disappointment, neither of us gets really angry.
An odd, optimistic moment on trade policy
The Financial Times' Eoin Callan reports that with deadlines on the horizon, suddenly Congress and the President are getting serious about trade policy:
Hank Paulson, Treasury secretary, on Tuesday intervened in negotiations with Congress over US trade policy in a bid to save President George W. Bush’s economic agenda for his last two years in office.You can access the Democrat talking points here (link courtesy of Salon's Andrew Leonard).
Most of it screams "boilerplate" -- the question is how much of it will come to fruition and whether it represents a shift in the Democrats' bargaining position. Leonard believes that,"most of it is a restatement of the American labor agenda." but Chris Nelson takes a dissenting view his latest Nelson Report:
Notice that this very clearly does not call for “passage into law all of the basic ILO conventions”...something which has been a standard part of Democratic and Labor rhetoric for years.If Nelson's read of the language is correct, I suspect a deal will be done. This is now less about trade and a lot about politics. With the administration and Congress deadlocked on Iraq, the U.S. attorneys, and just about every other policy imaginable, the poll ratings for both branches of government are below 40%. Both the administration and the Congress need to look like they're actually governing. If they can sign a deal on something -- anything -- then they can counter this deadlock perception.
Ordinarily, this desire to cut a deal just to get something done is anathema to me, because what usually gets done is some God-awful piece is legislation that everyone regrets a few months later. It also feeds the bias that action is always better than inaction in politics. Ironically, however, this could actually lead to something constructive accomplished on trade policy.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Score one point for Cass Sunstein
One of the arguments that Cass Sunstein makes in republic.com is that the Internet allows people to filter their information flows so that they buttress to their prior ideological beliefs. Blogs call this "cocooning." The extent to which this effect is more concentrated in online activity than offline activity is open to debate, but it's an interresting argument.
I believe Ann Althouse's divalog exchange with Garance Franke-Ruta on bloggingheads.tv qualifies as a data point for Sunstein's argument. Click here to see the video, in which I think it's safe to say that Ann gets angry.
That's not the main point of this post, however. Compare and contrast the comments on Ann's words and behavior at the bloggingheads site with the reactions at Althouse's blog post. Everyone watched the same video -- but the reactions are very, very different (on the backstory for what sparked this in the first place, click here).
[You're treading on veeeerrrry dangerous ground here!--ed. Oh, relax.]
UPDATE: In comments here, Althouse points out one source for this disparity in comments: "I moderate and delete really insulting comments on my blog. That's skewing that data." I hope it's not skewing it too much.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Lots and lots of blog reactions -- and Franke-Ruta posts her take here. One additional note -- if you watch the video, I think it's clear that Garance was genuinely startled by Ann's anger. This has the effect of making Ann's outburst seem... disproportionate. In fairness to Althouse, however, it should be pointed out that when taping a bloggingheads segment, the participants cannot see each other. I suspect if Ann had been able to see Garance, her reaction might have been different.
Strange things are afoot at the CRS
Last week I noted that the director of the Congressional Research Service was issuing some odd directives, limiting the flow of information coming from the CRS.
Nothing highlighted Congress's spending problem in last year's election more than earmarks, the special projects like Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" that members drop into last-minute conference reports leaving no opportunity to debate or amend them. Voters opted for change in Congress, but on earmarks it looks as if they'll only be getting more smoke and mirrors.
Monday, March 26, 2007
A few online tomes about Hillary Clinton
Ron Brownstein argues in the Los Angeles Times that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination because of her appeal to white, blue collar Democrats.
Michael Crowley argues in The New Republic that Hillary Clinton's foreign policy hawkishness is not a form of political calculation, but rather what she actually believes. This part does ring true:
[I]t's clear that the Clintonites left office deeply frustrated at the unsolved problem of Iraq and perhaps believing that some final reckoning was inevitable. "President Clinton recognized, as did I," Albright writes in her memoir, "that the mixture of sanctions, containment, Iraqi defiance, and our own uncertainty about Saddam's weapons couldn't go on indefinitely."
Is the U.S. more cosmopolitan.... or just bigger and more powerful?
On his Financial Times blog, Gideon Rachman suggests that Americans are more cosmopolitan than Brits:
We are all familiar with the clichés about American insularity: the number of Congressmen who don’t have a passport, the number of Americans who have never left the US – and so on.Much as I like the back-slapping of America, a few obvious points of caution are warranted. The most obvious is this one: the United States has roughly five times the population of Great Britain. It shouldn't be that surprising, therefore, if a book sells better five times here or a foreign policy event attracts a much larger crowd.
Second, cosmopolitan implies more than just a keen sense of foreign policy interest -- there are cultural dimensions as well. The U.S. might stack up well in that department as well, but it's not a part of Rachman's post.
Now, that said, assuming that Rachman's point is still correct, is this because "America is still enjoying its imperial moment." Well, right now I would use neither the word "imperial" nor "enjoying."
That said, what the U.S. does have in place is a foreign policy infrastructure that's second to none at this point. Beyond the official organs of the federal government, there are a host of quasi-governmental organizations, think tanks, NGOs, foundations, and yes, God forbid, universities with a vested interest in thinking about the world and America's place in it. Sixty years of superpower status will have that effect.
The interesting question to ponder is how long it will be before another country -- or supranational institution -- matches American investments in this area. There is a lag between the acquisition of power and the development of domestic and international institutions to convert that power into authority.
My gloomy prediction of the day
An international diplomatic drive for Mideast peace gained momentum Monday, with Israel welcoming the idea of a regional peace summit and Saudi Arabia suggesting it would consider changes in a dormant peace initiative to make it more acceptable to Israel.If this gains any momentum at all, I predict there will be an attack in Israel or the occupied territories. The attack will be designed to inflame the Israeli political establishment or wreck the Palestinian coalition govenment. There are simply too many armed groups in the region with a vested interest in maintaining the festering status quo.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum is unimpressed with my bold prognostication: "It looks to me like Dan is trying to get some bonus oracle points for predicting that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow." Hey, I also scored a perfect 4-for-4 in my NCAA bracket! [Yeah, that's not so impressive either--ed.]
Dan Shaughnessy has blog envy
As predicted in this space, Curt Schilling has taken to the blog format as quickly as Britney Spears checks out of rehab clinics. Schilling reported on his blog that Jonathan Papelbon would be the Red Sox's closer before the Red Sox officially announced it. A few of the local papers' have quoted from the blog for their stories. Others have referred to Schilling's prodigious output of blog posts in the two weeks since Schilling started 38 Pitches (and we can all breathe easier knowing that fellow blogger Mark Cuban is cool with it).
Now, however, comes the first crucial test of whether Schilling can balance his blog and his day job. Today, Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy takes on Schilling's blog. Here's how he opens the column:
Getting a little tired and bored here in the final week of the Grapefruit League circuit so I thought I'd take the day off and let Curt Schilling do the work. Schill started writing his own blog a few weeks ago, so today he fills the space with his latest Q & A session with fellow bloggers.You'll have to read the column to see where he goes from there. It's safe to say he's not a fan (though he really detests Schilling's blog commenters).
Why the blog envy? Last week Schilling told Alex Belth on SI.com that he started the blog in part so he could articulate his public statements in a way that would be hard to misinterpret. There was also this passage:
There is the potential to change the way people get their news. Fast-forward this to Opening Day. It's a 2 p.m. game, hopefully I'll pitch great and we'll win. Sometime around 7 or 8 o'clock that night I'll sit down -- I'm on the road, I'm by myself -- I'll blog out the game, pitch-by-pitch in some instances, inning-by-inning, I'll go into minutia ... By 9 o'clock that night I'll have a post up. I'll give you numbers. In the seven days my blog's been up, I've had 398,156 viewers. Those people will know about things they could never read about [in the newspapers], 12 hours before the newspapers ever come out.If blogs can beat newspapers to the punch in reporting inside information, what is their comparative advantage? Three possibilities: 1) better analysis; 2) better writing; and 3) better controversy.
I've read enough of Shaughnessy's baseball analysis to know that's not his strength (Rob Bradford demonstrates more baseball knowledge in a single story than Shaughnessy does in an entire season). He's an OK writer, but there are plenty of Red Sox beat writers and bloggers who are better (note to Globe sports editor: give Amalie Benjamin her own full-time Sox blog). No, Shaughnessy's specialty is using his acid pen to ignite public feuds with Shaughnessy.
Which leads me back to Schilling, and some free advice from a Red Sox fan. Curt, as someone who's been involved in more than one blog feud in my day, a word to the wise -- don't swallow the bait. Pissing matches like these are little more than a massive time suck and an occupational hazard for daily bloggers. For those of us who do our day jobs out of the public glare, that can be aggravating but not debilitating. Your day job commands a little more attention, and you don't have the luxury of being distracted. The blogger in me might want to grab the popcorn and watch the carnage of a full-on online feud between the lead sports columnist and the ace of the pitching staff. The baseball fan in me fears this more than a Ted Lilly start against the Red Sox.
You want to respond? Flick off a few short rhetorical jabs and walk away. Don't escalate, and for God's sake don't forget Shaughnessy's motivation.
My favorite take, however, is this from a blog devoted exclusively to critiquing Shaugnessy's column:
One sarcastic joke repeated six times. Dan will never be confused with Mark Twain....FINAL UPDATE: Schilling responds:
The only response I have to the Curly Haired Boyfriend is this.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Same planet, different European Unions
The European Union, in celebration of it's 50th anniversary, released its Berlin Declaration over the weekend. For an EU document, it's delightfully brief. It also contains this paragaph:
We have a unique way of living and working together in the European Union. This is expressed through the democratic interaction of the Member States and the European institutions. The European Union is founded on equal rights and mutually supportive cooperation. This enables us to strike a fair balance between Member States’ interests.That's certainly one way of interpreting the nature of EU institutions.
Writing at Foreign Policy's web site, historian Alan Sked offers a slightly different interpretation:
Today’s EU resembles a sort of undemocratic Habsburg Empire. Its legislation is proposed by a Commission of unelected bureaucrats who have now apparently lost control of their own staffs and who themselves are usually political outcasts from their national political systems. Decisions on whether to adopt their often bizarre initiatives are then taken in total secrecy by the Council of Ministers or the European Council, before being rubber-stamped by the federalist parliament and imposed on the citizens of member states, whose national legislatures can do absolutely nothing to alter their directives or regulations. Indeed, 84 percent of all legislation before national parliaments, according to the German Ministry of Justice, now simply involves implementing Brussels diktats. All this makes European politics undemocratic at all levels, and opinion polls reflect the public’s growing disillusionment.