Friday, April 6, 2007

When should sound science trump the precautionary principle?

In the wake of the latest IPCC report on global warming, it's worth asking whether there are other scientific consensuses out there that should be embraced by policymakers across the world.

Over at Reason, Ron Bailey finds one. It's also discussed in greater depth here. Or here.

posted by Dan at 07:33 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

Even the Onion is vlogging

Well, not vlogging so much as good old fashioned fake news that makes you squirm as well as laugh:

A Friend's Cancer: Good For Your Health?

This is going to be very, very bad for my productivity.

posted by Dan at 07:22 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Least clarifying clarification.... ever

Via Blake Hounshell at Passport, I see that Israeli PM Ehud Olmert felt compelled to issue a "clarification" following Nancy Pelosi's visit with Bashir Assad. I don't find it beyond the realm of possibility that Pelosi screwed up her message, but the clarification is kind of strange too:

The Prime Minister emphasized that although Israel is interested in peace with Syria, that country continues to be part of the axis of evil and a force that encourages terror in the entire Middle East.

In order to conduct serious and genuine peace negotiations, Syria must cease its support of terror, cease its sponsoring of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations, refrain from providing weapons to Hizbollah and bringing about the destabilizing of Lebanon, cease its support of terror in Iraq, and relinquish the strategic ties it is building with the extremist regime in Iran.

The Prime Minister clarified that by these measures it would be determined whether Syria is sincere about attaining a genuine peace with Israel.

What was communicated to the U.S. House speaker does not contain any change in the policies of Israel, as was communicated to other foreign leaders.

Question to readers -- was there a point when Syria got officially added to the axis of evil category? Or, as Hounshell puts it, "I wasn't aware that 'axis of evil' had become a formal designation." Though I'm intrigued by the idea of the State Department issuing an Annual Report on Evil in the World ("The State Department found that Iran has become 30% more evil in the fiscal year 2006, but overall evil levels declined in most regions.")

posted by Dan at 11:07 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

How unusual is Daisuke Matsuzaka?

There's going to be an orgy of coverage about Dice-K's stellar pitching debut for the Red Sox today, and of course it is foolish to extrapolate from one start. That said, I can't resist quoting from Tom Singer's postmortem on the start:

"His ball moves funny. To me, it was like working a knuckleball pitcher," said Jeff Nelson, the plate umpire who spent the day looking over catcher Jason Varitek's shoulders.

"His ball definitely moves differently. It will break every which way, like I haven't seen out of anyone else's hand. You just don't know. That's why I liken it to knuckleball pitchers."

UPDATE: For a play-by-play description of Daisuke's first game, you would be hard-pessed to beat Bill Simmons.

posted by Dan at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Blogging vs. vlogging

Garance Franke-Ruta posts her thoughts on the matter:

The biggest difference between consuming vlogging, which I do rarely, and consuming blogging, which I do continually, is that you can get the compressed product of a great deal of time and thought on a blog, but not in a vlog. For example, if I spend six hours on a blog item, or even just one, that a reader can consume in five minutes, they are getting the benefits of all the time and effort I put into it. But a five minute vlog will most likely provide only my thoughts as they exist in real time, or perhaps even only a note of skepticism as conveyed by a raised eyebrow, and no articulated thoughts at all. Five minutes with a blog can yield you six hours with a mind, but five minutes with a vlog will usually get you five minutes with a mind, or, sometimes, a face. The overall number of thoughts consumers will imbibe per minute is much lower on vlogs than on blogs.

What vlogging provides that blogging doesn’t is great entertainment value, and the satisfaction of our need, as visual creatures, to have something to look at.

I wouldn't disagree with Garance so much as suggest that she's leaving something out of the equation -- I suspect most people consume blogs very differently from vlogs. To consume a blog you actually need to read it, which implies that you've given it top priority among the things your conscious mind is processing at that moment. Vlogs, on the other hand, can be consumed more passively. Yes, you can watch your screen as a bloggingheads segment plays. And, certainly, there are small snippets of video that will command one's full attention. On the whole, however people will treat a vlog the same way they treat the television or the radio -- it can be on in the background while the consumer is consuming other things.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum thinks I have it ass-backwards. Andrew Sullivan has a fine collection of links.

posted by Dan at 01:43 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Score one for the Blinder-Friedman hypothesis

Let it be noted that Anand Giridharadas had a story in yesterday's New York Times that offers some support for the Alan Blinder-Thomas Friedman view of offshore outsourcing:

Outsourcing is breaking out of the back office.

For years, most service industry jobs that were moved to countries like India were considered relatively low-skill tasks like answering customer inquiries. But that has been changing in recent years, and increasingly the jobs of Western white-collar elites in fields as diverse as investment banking, aircraft engineering and pharmaceutical research have begun flowing to India and a few other developing countries.

In the view of most specialists on the phenomenon, the kinds of jobs that cannot be outsourced are slowly evaporating.

Boeing and Airbus now employ hundreds of Indians in challenging tasks like writing software for next-generation cockpits and building systems to prevent airborne collisions. Investment banks like Morgan Stanley are hiring Indians to analyze American stocks, jobs that commonly pay six-figure salaries on Wall Street.

The drug maker Eli Lilly recently handed over a molecule it discovered to an Indian company, which will be paid $500,000 to $1.5 million a year per scientist to ready the drug for commercial use — work that would be significantly more costly if carried out by Americans.

With multinationals employing tens of thousands of Indians, some are beginning to treat the country like a second headquarters, sending senior executives with global responsibilities to work there. For example, Cisco Systems, the leading maker of communications equipment, has decided that 20 percent of its top talent should be in India within five years; it recently moved one of its highest-ranking executives, Wim Elfrink, to Bangalore, the center of the Indian industry, as chief globalization officer.

Accenture, the global consulting giant, has its worldwide head of business-process outsourcing in Bangalore; by December it expects to have more employees in India than in the United States.

This is not a zero-sum game, in which every job added in India comes at the expense of an American or European one.

In many ways, the shift reflects a changing view at multinational companies as they find it easier to meet growing demand by taking advantage of the improved skills of newly educated people in the developing world. And some companies are returning certain jobs to the United States, finding that the work in India and elsewhere is not up to snuff.

But there are trade-offs as well. As Indian back offices become more sophisticated, Western companies are finding that large parts of their work, even high-end tasks, can also be done from India. From the consumer perspective, India has emerged as a pool of 1.1 billion potential customers for companies seeking faster growth. And so many companies are shifting their energy to where they see their futures being written.

“India is at the epicenter of the flat world,” said Michael J. Cannon-Brookes, vice president for business development in India and China at I.B.M., which has reduced its American work force by 31,000 since 1992 even as its Indian staff mushroomed to 52,000 from zero....

Still, specialists warned that a continued flow of work to India required drastic improvements in its educational system and basic facilities. Water and power shortages are endemic, and industry experts predict that India could lack 500,000 engineers by 2010. Yet the country has already tapped a deep well of English-speaking engineers, attracting more outsourced work than any other country.

Meawhile, Tom Friedman looks at call centers opening up in Kenya by a firm named KenCall.

UPDATE: Friedman's column prompts a bizarre comment from Matthew Yglesias:

The reason KenCall works is that its wages are so low. Its wages, in turn, are low because in Kenya at the moment the IT infrastructure necessary to operate a call center is very scarce relative to the level of English competency necessary to work in one. If an undersea cable makes it significantly easier to start up call centers, that may change. It all depends on how large Kenya's "large pool of educated, English-speaking talent" really is.
I think Matt's point is that offfshoring jobs are constrained in their ability to generate sustainable growth in the developing world. That's wrong -- India has had pretty sustainable growth even though their talent pool is a small percentage of the population.

What would be more accurate to say is that if the education picture remained constant, the returns to being an offshoring magnet are a) limited to the upper tier of the popilation, and b) decline over time as wages would go up for (relatively) skilled labor.

On the latter point -- so what? Offshoring flows would decline as wages rise -- and rising wages are a good thing. On the former point, here's the question you have to ask -- what's better, a society that has a relatively even distribution of income or a society where the poorest are not made worse off but the educated earn much higher returns for their education?

I suspect Matt would say the latter but not be happy about it. Over the long haul, however, market signals about the increasing returns to education would encourage an expansion of educated individuals -- which counters the effect that concerns Yglesias, and happens to be a good thing in and of itself.

UPDATE: Yglesias clarifies his position here:

Friedman is portraying the issue as one in which Kenya needs to build better broadband access, and then the IT jobs would come. The counterpoint I meant to make was that the real chokepoint here seemed to me to be the Kenyan education system. Only a very small proportion of Kenyans are qualified for KenCall-style jobs. At the moment, only a small proportion of the qualified people can get KenCall-style jobs precisely because the physical infrastructure to easily set up competing firms isn't there, which makes wages low by world standards which makes Kenya an attractive outsourcing destination. Build more infrastructure, you'll get more firms, the labor market will tighten, wages will go up, and then growth will slow down as future outsourcers look to other, cheaper countries.

That's all fine as far as it goes. My only observation was that insofar as only a very small proportion of Kenyans are qualified for these sort of jobs, it won't actually go very far. Kenya not only needs more infrastructure, it needs more workers qualified for these sort of jobs. Dan Drezner writes that "market signals about the increasing returns to education would encourage an expansion of educated individuals."

This, to me, seems slightly backwards. As I see it, improving school systems is hard and education levels often don't improve even when market incentives to do so exist. Increasing internet connectivity is, by contrast, relatively easy to accomplish and relatively more responsive to market signals. I have no doubt that countries that produce large pools of workers well-suited to IT work that market signals will cause companies to invest in expanding the IT infrastructure necessary to employ those workers profitably. I'm not by any means certain that the mere existence of remunerative labor market opportunities for well-educated Kenyans will cause the number of such Kenyans to spontaneously increase.

posted by Dan at 08:16 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (1)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

In the matter of Hobbes vs. Schelling....

Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria, along with the showdown over timetables for withdrawal from Iraq, have annoyed the president. Reuters reports Bush's frustration with Pelosi's visit:

President George W. Bush said on Tuesday visits by U.S. officials like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Syria send "mixed signals" and do nothing to change the behavior of a country the United States accuses of sponsoring terrorism.

The White House has spent days criticizing Pelosi's visit to Damascus to meet with President Bashar al-Assad, saying it just provides the Syrian leader with a photo opportunity to exploit.

"We have made it clear to high-ranking officials, whether they be Republicans or Democrats, that going to Syria sends mixed signals," Bush said to reporters at the White House.

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe's Susan Milligan reports on how Bush is reacting to Congressional activism on Iraq:
President Bush declared yesterday that the military may suffer quick and devastating cuts if the Democrat- controlled Congress does not submit a war funding bill to his liking by mid-April, warnings that deepened a standoff between the White House and Capitol Hill over the Iraq war.
Bush would find a kindred spirit in Thomas Hobbes here. Bush, like Hobbes, believes that a state can and should have only one center of power. In the Hobbesian formulation, the emergence of competing voices implies division and weakness, which outsiders can exploit.

There's something compelling to this logic. If one analogizes international relations to poker, then surely no one wants the strength or weakness of their hand revealed by someone else.

However, this is not the only logic that one could apply to international relations. As Thomas Schelling pointed out in The Strategy of Conflict -- and as Robert Putnam elaborated in "Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: the Logic of Two-Level Games" -- there are times when domestic weakness can be translated into international bargaining strength.

Leon Panetta makes this point in his New York Times op-ed today:

What has been particularly frustrating about the debate in Washington over Iraq is that everyone seems to be fighting one another and forgetting the fundamental mission of the war.

Whether one is for or against the war, the key to stability is to have an Iraq that, in the words of the president himself, can “govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself.” Achieving that goal is largely dependent on the political reforms that Iraqi leaders have promised but failed to put in place in their country....

Instead of dividing over the strategy on the war, the president and the Congress should make very clear to the Iraqis that there is no open-ended commitment to our involvement. As the Iraq Study Group recommended, Iraqi leaders must pay a price if they continue to fail to make good on key reforms that they have promised the Iraqi people.

In calling for a specific withdrawal date, the House and Senate versions of the supplemental spending bill send a clear message to the Iraqis (even if they do face a certain veto). The worst mistake now would be to provide money for the war without sending the Iraqis any message at all about their responsibility for reforms. Both the president and the Congress at the very least must make the Iraqi government understand that future financial and military support is going to depend on Baghdad’s making substantial progress toward the milestones Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has publicly committed to.

Of course, for the Schelling strategy to work, Congress needs to bend -- they would have to agree that if the Iraqis completed a set of reforms by a given date, then complete withdrawal would not be necessary. Bush would also need to bend -- sometimes mixed messages are a good thing.

The really interesting question going forward is whether, in their diplomatic initiatives, both Bush and Pelosi will be more concerned with Hobbesian questions of authority or Schelling questions about signaling. Unfortunately, I share Panetta's frustration -- domestic politics will trump any gain that can be leveraged from these policy disagreements.

posted by Dan at 09:04 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

I saw it, so you're going to have to suffer as well

I'm going to have a stomach ache the rest of the day after watching this:

I understand what Alanis was going for here, but the fact is, as Hua Hsu wrote in Slate two years ago about the original Black Eyed Peas song, "My Humps":
It is... proof that a song can be so bad as to veer toward evil....

It's not Awesomely Bad; it's Horrifically Bad. The Peas receive no bonus points for a noble missing-of-the-mark or misguided ambition (some of the offended have responded with parody videos and snickering anecdotes about how the group uses Hitler-approved microphones). "My Humps" is a moment that reminds us that categories such as "good" and "bad" still matter. Relativism be damned! There are bad songs that offend our sensibilities but can still be enjoyed, and then there are the songs that are just really bad—transcendentally bad, objectively bad.

Which makes an "ironic" cover of the song... well.... pretty damn bad.

posted by Dan at 03:17 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (1)

Monday, April 2, 2007

It's your last chance to help me help APSA to help you

I've finished a draft of my chapter on how to be a successful political science blogger for the American Political Science Association. If you want to take a gander, click here.

Political scientists are strongly encouraged to read and critique draft, as I should have one more pass at it. I'm particularly curious if I've made the downsides seem too scary.

posted by Dan at 08:42 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Two steps forward, one step back on trade

The two steps forward are that the United States and South Korea signed a free trade deal just before the deadline of having it approved under President Bush's Trade Promotion Authority. The New York Times' Choe Sang Hun explains:

United States and South Korean negotiators struck the world’s largest bilateral free-trade agreement today, giving the United States a badly needed lift to its foreign trade policy at home and South Korea a chance to reinvigorate its export economy.

Negotiators announced the agreement, reached after 10 months of negotiations, just in time to comply with a legislative deadline in the United States, after which President Bush’s “fast-track” authority to negotiate foreign trade deals without amendments from Congress would expire.

“This is a strong deal for America’s farmers and ranchers who will gain substantial new access to Korea’s large and prosperous market of 48 million people,” Karan Bhatia , the deputy United States trade representative, said in Seoul today.

“Neither side obtained everything it sought,” she added.

If ratified, the trade deal will eliminate tariffs on more than 90 percent of the product categories traded between the two countries. South Korea agreed to lift trade barriers to iconic American products like cars and beef, while the United States abandoned a longstanding demand that Seoul eliminate subsidies on South Korean rice....

The breakthrough came when both sides compromised on the most sensitive, deal-breaking issues. Washington dropped its demand that the South Korean government stop protecting its politically powerful rice farmers, and Seoul agreed to resume imports of American beef, halted three years ago over fears of mad cow disease, if, as expected, the World Organization on Animal Health declares United States meat safe in a ruling scheduled in May.

South Korea also agreed to phase out the 40 percent tariff on American beef over 15 years. It will remove an 8 percent duty on cars and revise a domestic vehicle tax system that United States officials say discriminates against American cars with bigger engines.

The United States will eliminate the 2.5 percent tariff on South Korean cars with engines smaller than 3,000 cubic centimeters, phase out the 25 percent duty on trucks over 10 years, and remove tariffs, which average 8.9 percent, on 61 percent of South Korean textiles.

The deal “will generate export opportunities for U.S. farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service suppliers, promote economic growth and the creation of better paying jobs in the United States,” President Bush said in a letter notifying Congress of his intention to sign the accord.

President Bush said the trade pact would strengthen ties between the two countries — an assessment shared by analysts who had repeatedly warned that the alliance, forged during the Korean War, has frayed during the terms of President Bush and President Roh Moo Hyun of South Korea, largely over policy toward North Korea.

The deal is the biggest of its kind for the United States since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 with Canada and Mexico. It is Washington’s first bilateral trade pact with a major Asian economy.

Studies have estimated that the accord will add $20 billion to bilateral trade, estimated last year at $78 billion. Potential gains to the United States economy range from $17 billion to $43 billion, according to Usha Haley, director of the Global Business Center at the University of New Haven. South Korea’s exports to the United States are expected to rise in the first year by 12 percent, or 5.4 billion....

Consumers in both countries are the deal’s biggest winners. Hyundai cars and Samsung flat-panel TV sets, as well as Korean-made clothing, will become significantly cheaper in the United States.

The step back comes from the Bush administration's weekend decision to slap tariffs on Chinese paper. Steven Weisman explains in the NYT:
The Bush administration, in a major escalation of trade pressure on China, said Friday that it would reverse more than 20 years of American policy and impose potentially steep tariffs on Chinese manufactured goods on the ground that China is illegally subsidizing some of its exports.

The action, announced by Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, signaled a tougher approach to China at a time when the administration’s campaign of quiet diplomacy by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. has produced few results.

The step also reflected the shift in trade politics since Democrats took control of Congress. The widening American trade deficit with China, which reached a record $232.5 billion last year, or about a third of the entire trade gap, has been seized upon by Democrats as a symbol of past policy failures that have led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Mr. Gutierrez’s announcement has the immediate effect of imposing duties on two Chinese makers of high-gloss paper, one at 10.9 percent and the other 20.4 percent, calculated by adding up the supposedly illegal subsidies.

But trade and industry officials say future actions based on the department’s new policy could lead to duties on imports of Chinese steel, plastics, machinery, textiles and many other products sold in the United States, if as expected those industries seek relief and the department finds that they are harmed by illegal subsidies.

[U.S. trade with China far exceeds trade with South Korea. Why is this only a step back compared to KORUS?--ed.] Two reasons. First, much as I despite countervailing duties, this policy shift seems to make sense within the context of what those duties are supposed to accomplish. As Weisman explains:
American law allows the United States to impose what are called antidumping duties when imports are sold in the United States at prices below what it costs to produce them.

But these antidumping duties tend to be small compared with duties imposed for illegal subsidies when they are employed by trading partners with free market economies. Since the 1980s, the United States has barred antisubsidy duties in Communist or nonmarket economies.

The rationale has been that it is impossible to determine what a subsidy is in a state-controlled economy, and that government-run businesses in China did not make marketing decisions based on their subsidies because they were merely told what to do by the authorities.

Today, that reasoning is regarded as out-of-date as China has moved from a faltering economy two decades ago to an export superpower with sophisticated marketing and manufacturing techniques and a determination to find jobs for hundreds of millions of poor Chinese.

“The China of today is not the China of years ago,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “Just as China has evolved, so has the range of our tools to make sure Americans are treated fairly.”

Although the tariffs imposed by the decision today are effective immediately, the action is subject to review by the Commerce Department, and a formal decision is due in October. But the administration’s position is not expected to change unless it is ordered to do so by a court or by the World Trade Organization.

Second, I'm willing to bet that this case will end the same way the steel case ended. If the complainants are basing their argument on China's currency valuation, then the WTO ain't going to uphold this action. In which case, three years from now, we know how this wll end -- unless it gets settled in the bilateral Strategic Economic Dialogue between now and then.

UPDATE: they're not basing it on the currency valuation. Never mind. Meanwhile, Trade Diversion is skeptical of Commerce's ability to assess the magnitude of the direct subsidy.

posted by Dan at 12:40 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

It's been six months -- let's revive the Book Club!!

I received a comment a few days ago pointing out that I needed to refresh my book suggestions. And, indeed, it's been a few months since my last selections. This has mostly been due to two factors: 1) the rigors of new course preps; and 2) I was paralyzed by a series of astonishingly interesting books.

Seriously, over the span of a few weeks at the beginning of the year, I got hit with advance copies or gifts of Scott Page's The Difference, John Lukacs' George Kennan: A Study of Character, A.J. Jacobs' The Know-It-All, and Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman's A Perfect Mess. I'll admit it -- the range of choice was dazzling enough to paralyze me for a few months.

I've regained my equilibrium, however. So, without further ado, my international relations book of the month is.... wait for it.... hey, what do you know, it's All Politics Is Global!!!!

[Um... the readers might be getting sick of the repeated plugs; is the book any good?--ed.] Hey, if it wasn't good, I wouldn't be hawking it so shamelessly on this high-quality blog! This book slices, it dices, and it can explain both the regulation of Internet pornography and the European Union's foreign economic strategy. It's a book that puts the lie to Carl Schmitt's claim that disputes about trade and regulation really weren't political. And it's the only book I will publish in 2007.

Besides, have you seen the cover?:

I mean, there are globes and everything.

The general interest book is the definitive edition of F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, edited by Bruce Caldwell. The definitive edition means, among other things, that Caldwell has cleaned up Hayek's footnotes, gathered all the introductions to the myriad editions, and included some popular writings of the period to put Hayek's work in context. Virginia Postrel has more on this point.

The best part, however, is that Caldwell included the two reader reports -- by Frank Knight and Jacob Marschak -- to the University of Chicago Press on whether the publish The Road to Serfdom. You'll have to buy the book to read the whole thing, but here's the concluding paragraph of Knight's report:

In sum, the book is an able piece of work, but limited in scope and somewhat one-sided in treatment. I doubt whether it will have a very wide market in this country, or would change the position of many readers.
Even if you own a previous copy, go buy this one.

UPDATE: A bad news/good news/best news situation with All Politics Is Global:

1) The bad news is that is now saying it takes 3-4 weeks for delivery.

2) The good news (for me and Princeton University Press) is that is out of stock because sales were high enough to exhaust their initial stores

3) The best news is that All Politics Is Global is now available at -- as well as directly from Princeton University Press.

Don't let stop you from ordering the book!

posted by Dan at 10:01 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Put me in coach, I'm ready to blog.....

Baseball season starts today!! As Paul at the Yanksfan Vs. Soxfan blog pointed out, "We are officially in that golden time where all things are possible and nothing is sure. Soak it up. This is one of the best weekends of the year." Indeed -- this Saturday and Sunday, it's still possible to envisage the Kansas City Royals wining the World Series.

The Red Sox season starts tomorrow -- along with Passover. Prior to 2004, of course, this confluence of events would be freighted with more symbolic meaning. Now, it's just going to cause me to whisper "Next October in Fenway Park" at the end of the seder.

Two years ago, I was confident about the future of the Red Sox and gleeful at the anticipated downward trajectory of the Yankees. This offseason, on the other hand, has sobered me up. For all the talk about parity, the scariest thing facing Major League Baseball is a Yankee franchise that actually knows how to develop, trade, and inculcate top prospects.

Just about every reasonable projection I've seen has the Yankees winning the pennant again this year. I am not so foolhardy as to make predictions, but I do have several reasons for optimism regarding the Red Sox chances this year:

1) Neither Randy Johnson nor Ted Lilly is pitching in the Al East. As mediocre as their years were in 2006, these guys were always able to manhandle the Red Sox. That's a lot more competitive games against AL East rivals than in the past.

2) Spring training was light on casualties. With the exception of Mike Timlin, none of the Red Sox regulars had any major injuries. This includes hothouse players like J.D. Drew and Josh Beckett. The Yankees were not as fortunate, though they should be healthy by the end of the month. An interesting question this season will be which duo will spend more time on the DL -- Andy Pettite and Mike Mussina, or Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield.

3) Josh Beckett has apparently located his Spootenator.

4) The Shaughnessy-Schilling dustup has settled down to a low hum -- which will hopefully allow Schilling to focus on the season.

5) Steve Phillips predicts the Red Sox will go 82-80. 'Nuff said.

Let the season begin!!

posted by Dan at 03:39 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Newton North sure is getting a lot of media play today

Both the Boston Globe and the New York Times have big stories on Newton North High School today [Hey, won't your children be attending this high school at some point?--ed. Yes, but that is many, many years from now and I'm sure the time will pass very, very, slowly.]. Sara Rimer's front-pager for the New York Times is clearly an excerpt from her forthcoming book an in-depth discussion of how talented and driven girls at Newton North High School cope with being talented and driven:

Esther and Colby are two of the amazing girls at Newton North High School here in this affluent suburb just outside Boston. “Amazing girls” translation: Girls by the dozen who are high achieving, ambitious and confident (if not immune to the usual adolescent insecurities and meltdowns). Girls who do everything: Varsity sports. Student government. Theater. Community service. Girls who have grown up learning they can do anything a boy can do, which is anything they want to do.

But being an amazing girl often doesn’t feel like enough these days when you’re competing with all the other amazing girls around the country who are applying to the same elite colleges that you have been encouraged to aspire to practically all your life.

There's a lot of additional material on the Times web site -- including Esther's and Colby's college application essays.

I confess that I'm not entirely sure why this is on the front page of the New York Times. Is it a news flash that smart boys like girls who are smart as well? The thesis I gleaned from Rimer's story is that, despite all the internal and external pressures placed on these adolescents, they're coping pretty damn well. I suppose it's nice to see a long story about well-adjusted adolescents -- but I really have to wonder if Bill Keller is getting a kickback on Rimer's book advance.

As a Williams alum, however, my heart grew heavy when I read this section of the story:

Esther was in calculus class, the last period of the day when her cellphone rang. It was her father. The letter from Williams College — her ideal of the small, liberal arts school — had arrived.

Her father would be at her brother’s basketball game when she got home. Her mother would still be at the office. Esther did not want to be alone when she opened the letter.

“Dad, can you bring it to school?” she asked.

Ten minutes later, when her father arrived, Esther realized that he had somehow not registered the devastating thinness of the envelope. The admissions office was sorry. Williams had had a record number of highly qualified applicants for early admission this year. Esther had been rejected. Not deferred. Rejected.

Her father hugged her as she cried outside her classroom, and then he drove her home.

Esther said several days later: “Maybe it hurt me that I wasn’t an athlete.”

But she was already moving on. “I chose Williams,” she said, with a shrug. “They didn’t choose me back.”

About that thin envelope: Mr. Mobley, unschooled in such intricacies, said he hadn’t paid much attention to it. He had wanted so much for his daughter to get into Williams, he said, and believed so strongly in her, that it was as if he had wished the letter into being an acceptance.

It is actually Ms. Rimer who is unschooled in admission letter intricacies -- unless Williams has changed its practice in recent years, everyone gets a thin envelope. For those who are accepted, the thick envelope with all the pertinent information comes later.

So Esther, don't blame your father for not being clued in (click on the story to see which colleges were bright enough to accept Esther -- she'll land on her feet).

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe's Ralph Ranalli reports on the new Newton North High School that will be built in the next 5-10 years:

It is already tagged as the most expensive high school in Massachusetts: a $154.6 million showplace, designed by an internationally renowned architect and awaited with some anxiety by the residents of Newton.

The new Newton North High School's design features a new outdoor stadium, an indoor swimming pool, state-of-the-art vocational education workshops, a glass-walled cafeteria, a restaurant, and an architecturally trendy zigzag shape. At 1,040 feet, the building is 200 feet longer than the Mall at Chestnut Hill.

But now, even before ground has been broken, some are wondering how the cost got so huge, and whether the project is ushering in a new era of budget-buster high schools.

UPDATE: Wow, in Episode #245 of How Gender Affects Interpretation in the Blogosphere, Bitch Ph.D has a very different take on the Times article: "Kinda depressing article.... high-achieving women feel a constant sense of inadequacy."

Maybe I'm grading on a curve, but by the standards of In-Depth Newspaper Stories About Adolescent Girls, the subjects of Rimer's story seem remarkably well-adjusted.

posted by Dan at 09:00 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)