Friday, June 29, 2007

The most intriguing sentence I read today
[P]artisans of both stripes tend to take their baseball more seriously than do political independents.
From Christopher Zorn and Jeff Gill, "The Etiology of Public Support for the Designated Hitter Rule.Quarterly Journal of Political Science 2:189-203.

Hat tip: the Political Science Weblog.

posted by Dan at 09:35 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hey, what happened at those EU negotiations?

Henry Farrell answers this question over at Crooked Timber.

The depressing part comes with Nikolas Sarkozy's success at "moving market competition from the list of the EU’s main goals." Henry is undoubtedly less concerned about this than I am, but even he concludes:

I suspect that the main beneficiaries of these changes will be powerful semi-monopolies and national champions with good political connections, which can by no means necessarily be expected to act in the public interest.

posted by Dan at 10:03 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Open family jewels thread

Comment away on anything interesting contained in the CIA's family jewels, released yesterday.

In the New York Times, Mark Mazzetti and Tim Weiner sum up the document dump:

Known inside the agency as the “family jewels,” the 702 pages of documents catalog domestic wiretapping operations, failed assassination plots, mind-control experiments and spying on journalists from the early years of the C.I.A.

The papers provide evidence of paranoia and occasional incompetence as the agency began a string of illegal spying operations in the 1960s and 1970s, often to hunt links between Communist governments and the domestic protests that roiled the nation in that period.

Yet the long-awaited documents leave out a great deal. Large sections are censored, showing that the C.I.A. still cannot bring itself to expose all the skeletons in its closet. And many activities about overseas operations disclosed years ago by journalists, Congressional investigators and a presidential commission — which led to reforms of the nation’s intelligence agencies — are not detailed in the papers.

The Times has also set up a blog by intellligence experts -- including's Official Go-To Person for All Things Intelligent, Ms. Amy Zegart.

Another contributor, Philip Taubman, concludes:

Reading through the litany of C.I.A. domestic spying abuses and other questionable activities during the cold war years, including plots to assassinate foreign leaders, it’s hard not to wonder what the men and women of the C.I.A. (mostly men, in those days) were thinking as they wandered far afield from the C.I.A.’s own charter.

posted by Dan at 09:38 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Henry Farrell creates a poli sci public good

Ezra Klein believes that there is a poli sci gap in the blogosphere.

In response, Henry Farrell decides to create a public good to partially address this issue.

The result won't be more poli sci blogs, but it will provide some connective tissue between political science and the blogosphere.

Henry explains:

Welcome to the political science papers blog, which seeks to serve as a rough-and-ready guide to political science papers which are likely to have some appeal to a general audience (as measured by the editor’s idiosyncratic notions of ‘appeal’). As currently constituted, the blog will post entries consisting of the abstracts of the papers, bibliographic details, and, where available, links to the papers in question. Where the editor has something additional to say about the paper, and time to say it, he’ll include this too. To submit papers for consideration, send the details (including URL, cut-and-pastable abstract and bibliographic details please) to henry at the domain name henryfarrell with the suffix .net. If the paper is available outside a journal’s paywall, this is obviously likely to make non-academics more likely to read and download it.

posted by Dan at 07:09 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

China Inc. is developing a bad brand image

The growth of health and safety concerns about Chinese imports is not fading away into the night.

The Wall Street Journal's Timothy Aeppel reports that tires are the latest product to raise concerns:

A fatal auto accident in Pennsylvania has stirred concerns about another potentially hazardous Chinese product in wide use in the U.S.: tires.

About 450,000 Chinese-made tires sold in the U.S. -- and possibly many more -- may lack an important safety feature, according to federal regulators and the U.S. distributor that helped design them. But the task of identifying who bought the defective tires and getting them off the road has been complicated by litigation and holes in the nation's product-recall system.

The tire defect comes in the wake of several other high-profile safety problems involving Chinese products, including the discovery of lead paint on children's toys and hazardous materials in Chinese-made toothpaste and in wheat gluten used in pet food.

"As imports grow -- and China is the largest exporter to the U.S. -- it's essential" that all manufacturers comply with U.S. safety regulations, said Daniel Zielinski, a spokesman for the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the tire industry's main trade group....

The fatal wreck occurred last August, when the tread allegedly separated on a steel-belted radial on a cargo van carrying four passengers. The driver lost control and crashed, killing two passengers and injuring the other two -- one severely. The driver was also hurt.

Tread separations are particularly hazardous when they involve vans and SUVs, which have a higher center of gravity and are more prone to tip over than passenger cars. Tread-separation problems sparked a massive nationwide recall of Firestone tires in 2000.

An official at NHTSA said the agency is aware of the defect and that the U.S. distributor is ultimately responsible for a recall. The agency generally doesn't test tires independently, unless a manufacturer or distributor fights NHTSA's conclusion that its tires are defective....

In its lawsuit, filed after FTS itself was sued in the wake of the fatal accident, the company accuses the tire maker of removing the safety feature -- a 0.6-millimeter layer of rubber, known as a "gum strip," which is added between the steel belts to give the tires added durability -- without notifying the distributor.

Shi Xinbo, an official at Hangzhou Zhongce, said, "We are confident in our quality. Our products certainly meet the safety standards of foreign countries. This is just a commercial dispute. We are not aware of any official investigation by the U.S. government." He declined to comment on the gum-strip issue.

As a country develops and moves up the consumer supply chain, they generally acquire a reputation for making high-quality goods (think Japan and South Korea). What's interesting is that China seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

I have no doubt that U.S. industry associations will hype consumer health and safety fears to serve their own interests. This doesn't mean they're wrong, however.

posted by Dan at 09:14 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

Following up on Finkelstein

In Reason, Cathy Young follows up on Norman Finkelstein's tenure denial. Young's conclusion: "one may legitimately ask if the real political bias lay not in the denial of tenure to Finkelstein, but in the political science department's support for his tenure bid." I'm not quite as sanguine about the case as Young, but she may well have a point here.

Meanwhile, Alan Dershowitz reports the following in FrontPage Magazine:

According to a news story in today’s Chicago Sun-Times, a report filed against his tenure by three members of the Political Science faculty “claims that Finkelstein allegedly called a female staff member a ‘bitch.’” The report also claimed that Finkelstein “shunned” colleagues who disagreed with him and that his boorish conduct extended to “dramatically closing his office door when his colleague arrives.” In addition to describing his abusive sexist behavior toward a subordinate, the report characterized Finkelstein as “mean spirit” and as “unprofessional.”

This negative report was suppressed by Finkelstein supporters who leaked other, more favorable assessments.

I tried to find this story at the Sun-Times web site and couldn't find it. Props to anyone who can find this story.

UPDATE: Ask and you will receive. Props to Martin.

posted by Dan at 08:42 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, June 25, 2007

This week I'll be thinking about China

I'll be an occasional contributor to this week's book club at TPM Cafe. The book du semaine is Josh Kurlantzick's Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power Is Transforming the World.

The flavor of Josh's book can be captured in his tablesetting post -- particularly his first two paragraphs:

While the US has been focused on Iraq, it has ignored a subtle – but enormous – change in the world. Since only the early 2000s, and under the US radar, China has changed from a country that barely interacted with the world into a growing foreign power. In fact, China savvily has amassed significant “soft power” around the world through aid, formal diplomacy, public diplomacy, investment, and other tools. Here in Washington, where China’s image is not great, it’s hard for us to understand how popular China has become in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Even China’s model of development, of state-ordered economic liberalization and minimal political liberalization, has significant appeal. In particular, it has appeal to elites in nations in the region – and in other places like Africa – alienated by the Washington Consensus and American intervention around the world.

No one amassed chits with other nations for no reason. Now, China can begin to use its soft power. It will be able to utilize its popularity in regions where the US and China have potentially competing interests in resources. China is already trying to draw upon its charm to push back against American power in Asia. In the future, China could prod countries like the Philippines or Thailand, which are already using China as a hedge, to downgrade their close relations with the United States. Beijing continues to support authoritarian regimes, stemming from its vow of noninterference. This, too, weakens US diplomacy. Though their interests sometimes overlap, fundamentally the United States and China still do not agree on how diplomacy and international affairs should be conducted. And though Beijing can be persuaded to support better governance in places, like Burma, with limited resources and such horrendous regimes that they breed instability in China, it is much harder to persuade China to act against terrible governments with oil, like Sudan, or whose policies have no direct impact on China itself, like Zimbabwe. In the future, China’s ability to support its friends will only grow stronger as China builds its global soft power.

I'll be commenting on this a bit later, but for now I'll be curious to hear from readers. Is Chinese soft power a real source of concern?

Before you answer, be sure to check out Danna Harman's story in the Christian Science Monitor about how the Sudanese perceive China after a few years of foreign direct investment. Let's just say I think one needs to parse out Chinese economic power from Chinese soft power.

posted by Dan at 08:26 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Laugh, cry, take your pick

In Der Spiegel, Marco Evers writes about the President of Gambia, ruled one 41-year-old Yahya Jammeh. He's quite the Renaissance man:

Jammeh -- a military officer who staged a successful putsch in 1994 -- is not just the president. He's also a healer on a divine mission. In January of this year, he summoned a number of his acolytes together with foreign diplomats and revealed to them that he had made an extraordinary discovery. He announced that, in addition to asthma, he was now capable of healing Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) -- the epidemic that ravages sub-Saharan Africa like no other region of the world. More than 15 million Africans have already died of AIDS, and a further 25 million are infected with the HIV virus which causes the disease.

On Thursdays -- Jammeh's healing powers are only available to him on that day of the week he says -- the president frequently allows Gambian television to film him as he defeats AIDS: Patients lie flat on their backs as the president whirls around them and mumbles verses from the Koran. He slaps green sludge onto their skin, sprinkles liquid from an old Evian bottle over them and gives them a brown broth to drink. A quick banana snack completes the therapy.

That's it. Thanks to the power of the Koran and seven secret herbs this treatment, repeated over the course of several weeks, leads to the patient being cured of the lethal virus "with absolute certainty," as Jammeh says. But two requirements need to be met for it all to work. First: His patients have to renounce alcohol, tea, coffee and sex for the duration of their treatment -- as well as theft. And second: Whoever is taking anti-viral medication has to stop doing so immediately, according to Jammeh.

Even more disturbing is that the Gambian minister of health supports his president -- despite being a trained gynecologist educated in Ukraine and Ireland. The country's other institutions, including the parliament, are doing the same. And on the streets of the Gambia, demonstrations can sometimes be seen -- not against Jammeh, but in support of him.

Lest one think that Gambia has the monopoly on this sort of behavior among African leaders, Evers points out some more examples:
[South Africa's] former vice president, Jacob Zuma, has had unprotected sex with a woman who was HIV positive at the time. There was hardly any risk of infection, Zuma said publicly, since he showered immediately after having sex. It's astonishing that Zuma isn't more knowledgeable about the spread of HIV; he was, after all, previously the director of a national AIDS organization.

And the South African minister of health, a med-school graduate, advises those infected not to take anti-viral medication in favor of a mixture of garlic, lemon, potatoes and red beet. That's better, she says, because the side effects are less severe. "Dr. Red Beet," as she is mockingly called, also sympathizes with German miracle healer Matthias Rath, who sells vitamin drinks in South Africa as an alleged alternative to established HIV medication.

Writing in Passport, Preeti Aroon laments:
Speaking seriously, though, this "cure" for AIDS highlights the misinformation that surrounds the disease in many countries. In Africa, many aren't aware that condoms protect against HIV infection. Even if they are told, they also face anti-condom messages: Condoms are a conspiracy by whites to lower African birthrates; condoms are tainted with HIV to decrease the African population. On top of it all, traditional healers, tribal leaders, and the Catholic Church warn against using condoms. What is one to believe?

posted by Dan at 12:06 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)