Friday, May 11, 2007
The most bizarre analyses I've seen today
This is what I get for surfing the web instead of revising that paper-that's-really-just-perfect-the-way-it-is-and-I-don't-care-what-those-stupid-peer-referees-think.
First up, Scott Sullivan, "U.S. Jews Must Protect Wolfowitz," The Conservative Voice:
US Jews must protect Wolfowitz because the allegations against him are baseless and Germany’s motives in pushing these allegations are suspect. Meanwhile, President Bush wants to purge his administration of anti-Iran policy makers. As his legacy, Bush wants to make a strategic partnership with Iran’s Nazi President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Firing Paul Wolfowitz is the down payment on Bush's strategic partnership with Iran.Right.
Next up: Grady Hendrix, "Mocha Zombies," Slate:
The rage virus, with its ability to create red-eyed, screaming monsters, with its instantaneous transmission via liquid, and the fact that its frantic growth can only be stopped by firebombing, is an effective metaphor for the unstoppable, global spread of Starbucks.... Images of rabid globalization... still deliver a kick, and there's nothing that says "New World Order" more than a horde of single-minded zombies devouring the quick and assimilating them into their anonymous, ever-expanding ranks.I think this one is intended to be funny, but I'll let the readers be the judge.
There's a domestic deal on trade
I still need to look at the fine print, but this Steven Weisman story in the New York Times suggests that a deal has been cut on trade deals for the future:
The Bush administration reached agreement on Thursday with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and other Democrats to attach environmental and worker protections in several pending trade accords, clearing the way for early passage of some pacts and improving prospects for others.Pelosi's presence at this announcement suggests that the dynamics I discussed back in late March kicked in.
The key to the agreement, said those involved, was the Bush administration's reluctant assent to Democratic demands for more stringent labor rules. Under the new policy, enforceable labor provisions will be written into the texts of trade deals to protect the rights of workers abroad to organize unions and bargain collectively, while banning forced labor, child labor and workplace discrimination.This should make Dani Rodrik very happy. Predictably, it's pissed off both David Sirota and organized labor.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
The New York Times looks deep into my blogging soul
Natasha Singer has a story in the NYT Styles section about blogs critical of the beauty-industrial complex. This is the lead paragraph:
Most bloggers have never met a beauty product or treatment they didn’t love. The fill their columns with wildly enthusiastic prose about the latest blush, the newest procedure or research that they laud as cutting-edge.This is just so true. Why, only yesterday James Joyner and I were getting facials and talking about how Glenn Reynolds was using this awesome new foundation that really brought out his cheekbones (but what is the deal with this fashion choice?).
Then it was off to a manny-peddy with Kevin Drum, who scored some cutting-edge Clinique products gratis because of his constant beauty blogging (though, man, could Drum be any bitchier about Andrew Sullivan's fashion choices?).
While we were waiting for our nails to dry, we regaled each other with the great Megan McArdle-Virginia Postrel blog feud over the best nail polish to wear when appearing on a Sunday morning talk show (let's face it, they're both just jealous of Laura McKenna's flaming red hair and Ann Althouse's age-defying skin cream).
Of course, my day was ruined when Jacob Levy came in to get some fancy-schmancy new chest waxing procedure. Whenever I bump into Jacob at the beauty parlor, he lords it over me how he has a named chair even though he's three years younger than me. It kills me that he looks ten years younger because of those killer highlights in his beard.
The New York Times: your infallible guide to the soul of the blogosphere.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Time for the September call-ups in foreign policy
The Financial Times' Edward Luce reports that the Bush administration might have to put out a "Help Wanted" sign for its foreign policy team:
The Bush administration is facing growing difficulties in filling a rising number of high-level vacancies following a recent spate of senior departures.The last two years of an unpopular lame-duck presidency have the same feel of a losing baseball team's last month of the season. In September, all teams call up promising minor league players to see if they can hack it in The Show. In both cases, organizations respond to failure by giving the kids a chance to screw up.
The Bush administration will fill these positions because.... well, because they have little choice. My guess is that, rather than getting people with resumes commensurate with the positions (i.e., Paulson, Gates), they'll have to go a bit younger.
[Why would anyone take these jobs?--ed. Because if they want to get even better positions the next time a Republican takes office, they need to punch their ticket now. Are you one of these people?--ed. Not after this statement, no.]
Rainbow/PUSH goes off the deep end
As a recent academic study of NBA referees demonstrates, there's no question that race is something to be talked about in sports. Clearly, according to an ESPN/ABC poll, African-Americans view Barry Bonds' pursuit of the home run record in ways different than whites. Those differences are worthy of conversation, debate, and maybe even a bit of learning on both sides.
However, is it possible for sports fans of all races to agree that, according to this Atlanta-Journal Constitution story by Carroll Rogers, Rainbow/PUSH has offiially gone way, way off the reality-based reservation?:
Upset over the lack of African-Americans on the [Atlanta] Braves roster, members of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow-PUSH Coalition asked for a meeting with team officials. They got one Monday.For those in the audience sympathetic to affirmative action: is there any way to interpret Beasley's statements as anything other than a demand for a quota of African-Americans to be on the Atlanta Braves' 25-man roster?
Is there any way to interpret these comments without arriving at the conclusion that Rainbow/PUSH is run by idiots?
Seriously, I want to know.
The incredibly loud Hawaiian shirt edition of bloggingheads.tv
My latest bloggingheads debate is up, with Matthew Yglesias. As a special treat, I'm wearing a Hawaiian shirt loud enough to wake Don Ho from the dead. It's... arresting.
1) The Jon Chait netroots article.Go check it out!
Monday, May 7, 2007
Do I have blinders about Blinder?
Over the weekend, Alan Blinder once again vented his concerns about the future of offshoring, this time in the Washington Post:
[T]wo powerful, historical forces are driving these changes, and both are virtually certain to grow stronger over time.I've read Blinder's longer paper on this topic, and I must confess -- again -- that I don't see how he's coming to this "large, lengthy and painful" conclusion. As Greg Mankiw points out:
Alan says the transition to the new equilibrium will be "large, lengthy and painful." When he spoke at Harvard last week, he said the transition would take about 30 years. But the very length of the transition will make it less painful. Over the course of a generation, workers can gradually retire from shrinking industries, and new workers can be trained for the growing industries that take their place. Of course, some individuals will experience painful transitions, but that is always the case in a dynamic market economy. I don't expect future transitions to be macroeconomically different than past transitions. Even if imports as a percentage of GDP continue to rise as Alan predicts, I would nonetheless expect the average rate of unemployment for the U.S. economy to be about the same over the next thirty years as it has been over the past thirty.This brings us to a point that Dani Rodrik raised earlier in the week about what happens when economists start debating public policy:
Finally, let me note the irony in how a discussion on free trade among economists quickly ends up being a debate on its politics—that is, a debate on whether this or that trade policy which on economic grounds is actually desirable can also be politically feasible. We are way beyond our area of expertise. Your hand-waving is as good as mine.If you eliminate the word "free" from both paragraphs, then I agree 100 percent with Rodrik.
By economist standards, Alan Blinder is remarkably sophisticated about the ways in which politics and economics intersect. What puzzles me, therefore, is why he is making Cassandra-like noises about a phenomenon that does not justify such warnings if it takes place over several decades (and there's decent evidence that this is the case). As a political scientist, I have two hypotheses:
1) Blinder believes that the political effects of increased offshoring will be substantial enough to make the current tide of protectionist sentiment seem like a baby wave. To prevent a stronger backlash, he feels it necessary to warn people with Very Scary Numbers to prompt action.My concern is that however well-intentioned Blinder's tactics might be, he's overlooking another possible outcome of his self-proclaimed apostasy, which is that it empowers economic populists with the mantle of intellectual respectability. Saying that upwards of 40 million jobs will be threatened by offshoring sounds scary, even if the data as of yet doesn't show those jobs have actually been offshored. As some other economists have observed, entrenched interests will always exploit these kind of economic fears to implement policies that serve their own interests. Furthermore, some political scientists have pointed out that these protectionist policies will also be far from transparent.
Maybe Blinder is speaking truth to power and I am simply adopting too static a view of trade policy. But I can't shake the feeling that Blinder has adopted the Jeffrey Sachs theory of political change.
UPDATE: Robin Toner has an excellent front-pager in the New York Times today that gets at how these political questions are playing out among House Democrats. Some of them clearly share the Blinder view of what to do. What disturbs me, however, are passages like this:
Since the Democrats took control of the committee in January, the 75-year-old Mr. [Sander] Levin has met with restless Democratic freshmen who helped their party regain the majority by promising to “do something” about the job losses caused by a globalized economy — and who now want to deliver....Whenever a politician presents a demand or proffers a promise to "do something" about trade, I get hives.
Well, this was a bit of a surprise
My bold prediction about Sarkozy
Nicholas Sarkozy will be the next French President. The Economist spells out what this means:
By sheer drive and political cunning, Mr Sarkozy managed to build up an electoral machine, through the party that Mr Chirac originally founded, and reinvent himself—30 years after entering electoral politics—as a force for change.In a prediction that I believe Kevin Drum would label as, "Drezner says the sun will rise in the East tomorrow," I'm not terribly optimistic about Sarkozy's chances for reform implementation. Craig Smith put it nicely in yesterday's NYT Week in Review:
In the months leading up to today’s presidential voting in France, there was a lot of talk about breaking with the past. Don’t bet it will happen.[But what about Franco-American relations? Sarkozy has made repeated statements expressing his fondness for most things American!!--ed.] Yes, why, Sarkozy is clearly the most pro-American French president since.... Jacques Chirac, who when elected president stressed his fondness for America, developed after he worked in the States.
My guess is that Sarkozy will adopt more anti-American rhetoric -- regardless of U.S. foreign policy -- right around the time his first major domestic reform effort shuts down the streets of Paris.
Sunday, May 6, 2007
Random questions on a Sunday morning
Perusing the Sunday papers,I have two political questions for readers:
1) Maureen Dowd, covering the French presidential election, has some fun at Segolene Royal's expense, but then drops this stunner of a sentence:France is chauvinistic — women got the vote in 1944 and compose only a small percentage of the National Assembly — but the country seems less neurotic than America about the idea of a woman as president.Question: on what basis is Dowd making this assertion? I know that Hillary Clinton has many, many detractors, but has the discourse on her campaign to date really focused on her gender all that much? The dominant theme in the discussions about Clinton have been her position on Iraq and her campaign's Bush-like quality of recording friends and enemies. Where is this gender neuroses Dowd mentions?