Saturday, July 7, 2007

Happy Live Earth Day!!!

As the Live Earth concerts proceed today, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee appears to join Greg Mankiw's Pigou Club on how to tackle global warming. "Apears" is stressed because John Dingell might have different motives than Mankiw. The New York Times' Edmund L. Andrews explains:

A powerful House Democrat said on Friday that he planned to propose a steep new “carbon tax” that would raise the cost of burning oil, gas and coal, in a move that could shake up the political debate on global warming.

The proposal came from Representative John D. Dingell of Michigan, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and it runs directly counter to the view of most Democrats that any tax on energy would be a politically disastrous approach to slowing global warming.

But Mr. Dingell, in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on C-Span, suggested that his goal was to show that Americans are not willing to face the real cost of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. His message appeared to be that Democratic leaders were setting unrealistic legislative goals.

“I sincerely doubt that the American people will be willing to pay what this is really going to cost them,” said Mr. Dingell, whose committee will be drafting a broad bill on climate change this fall.

“I will be introducing in the next little bit a carbon tax bill, just to sort of see how people think about this,” he continued. “When you see the criticism I get, I think you’ll see the answer to your question.”

Dingell's gambit has irritated environmentalists. Let's go to BlueClimate for a reaction:
Congressman Dingell understands that most people do not understand what cap and trade is but that they do understand a tax. By using the easier-to-understand carbon tax to impute a cost associated with climate change legislation, Dingell hopes the American people will rise up and block the plans of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others Democrats who favor taking stong action on climate change.

Informing people about the cost of climate change legislation is good as long as it is done honestly and people are informed at the same time about the dangers we face if we do not act to drastically reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases....

So what about the carbon tax on the merits? Is it a good idea? There are a number of sincere proponents of a carbon tax. They believe that it is easier to administer than a cap and trade program. On that point they are probably right. However I am afraid it has a fatal flaw that has nothing to do with the technical arguments of a carbon tax versus a cap and trade approach.

I have favored the cap and trade approach because I felt that a carbon tax would be too vulnerable to political attack. I am afraid that the necessity of addressing global warming will be in great danger of being lost in the noise if a carbon tax is the centerpiece of climate change legislation.

If Dingell introduces his carbon tax we may soon find out if congress will be able to discuss it in a reasonable and rationale fashion or whether the debate descends into raw bumper sticker politics. My bet is the latter. Dingell's carbon tax has the potential to derail climate change legislation in the House. Maybe that is what he wants.

Well of course that's what Dingell wants.

But BlueClimate's objection raises a big-ass warning flag for those of us in the squishy middle who are genuinely concerned about global warming but are also concerned about the overall costs of dealing with it (not to mention the distribution of those costs). If Dingell is downplaying the benefits of reducing global warming, to what extent are environmentalists like BlueClimate downplaying the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions? As far as I can figure, cap and trade systems differ from tax systems in that they are a) less effective; and b) more opaque in distributing the costs. Sure, Dingell is playing politics, but from the tenor of BlueClimate's post, he's not doing it differently from environmentalists.

I believe it was Daniel Patrick Moynihan who posited that broad-based reforms cannot be enacted without the consent of two-thirds of the American public. Until environmentalists realize that earning that consent will require a) being transparent about the costs and benefits of reducing greenhouse gases; and b) convincing Republicans, then there will be no progress on how to address global warming beyond some nice music concerts.

UPDATE: Mankiw frets that Dingell's ploy will destroy the Pigou Club.

posted by Dan at 09:26 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Earn yourself a high-profile acknowledgement!!!

The hard-working staff here at is calling on its readers for help.

Your humble blogger has a forthcoming article in Perspectives on Politics that, in draft form, used the following editorial cartoon to explain a particular theory of public opinion formation:


In order to publish the cartoon in the article, I need to locate a cleaner version of this caroon, plus copyright permission from the syndicate that distributes it.

The thing is, I have no idea who drew this editorial cartoon, or which syndicate distributed it. As the cartoon probably suggests, I clipped it out of a newspaper more than a decade ago because I thought it was funny. I had no idea I'd be using it for a scholarly article.

So, whoever can identify the artist and syndicate that distributed this sucker will get added to the acknowledgments in the paper itself. {Wow, a real acknowledgment!! Are employees eligible?--ed. Eligibility restricted to individuals not directly related to the blogger.]

Go to it!!

UPDATE: Thanks to the many readers who responded with the correct answer -- the Akron Beacon Journal's Chip Bok. Alas, only the first responder gets the acknowledgement.

posted by Dan at 06:52 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Just a wee bit of the old historical revisionism

Brad DeLong responds to my post giving credit where credit is due to the Bush administration with the following rejoinder:

[C]onstructive engagement with China is not the policy of "Team Bush" but rather the policy of "Team Paulson" or "Team State Department" or "Team Reality-Based Interest Groups." The China policy of "Team Bush" was and is Cold War followed by Hot War--but fortunately they got distracted by other things: James Fallows Anecdote of the day (from Gary Hart, at Aspen):
[Gary] Hart said. “I am convinced that if it had not been for 9/11, we would be in a military showdown with China today.” Not because of what China was doing, threatening, or intending, he made clear, but because of the assumptions the Administration brought with it when taking office. (My impression is that Chinese leaders know this too, which is why there are relatively few complaints from China about the Iraq war. They know that it got the U.S. off China’s back!)

Lee Hamilton, who had also been on the commission, was sitting at the same lunch table and backed up Hart’s story. Another chapter in the annals of missed opportunities in recent years.

OK, let's stipulate that there were neoconservatives who looked at China as the big, bad threat that justified bellcose action. Let's also make clear, however, four rather important facts:
a) None of these people held an official positions in the Bush administration;

b) Most of these people backed John McCain in 2000, not George W. Bush;

c) If "the China policy of 'Team Bush' was and is Cold War followed by Hot War," then they missed a golden opportunity to act on the second part of their policy in April 2001 when an EP-3E spy plane had a mid-air collision with a Chinese fighter and was forced to land in Hainan Island in the PRC.

When that incident occurred, no one was concerned about terrorism being the primary threat to the U.S. If Team Bush had really wanted to ratchet up tensions between Washington and Beijing, that was the moment. Instead, after a week or two of angry rhetoric from both sides, we got the following letter delivered to Beijing:

Both President Bush and Secretary of State Powell have expressed their sincere regret over your missing pilot and aircraft. Please convey to the Chinese people and to the family of pilot Wang Wei that we are very sorry for their loss.

Although the full picture of what transpired is still unclear, according to our information, our severely crippled aircraft made an emergency landing after following international emergency procedures. We are very sorry the entering of China's airspace and the landing did not have verbal clearance, but very pleased the crew landed safely. We appreciate China's efforts to see to the well-being of our crew.

After the incident, President Bush did make a provocative statement or two about Taiwan, but even before 9/11 the administration had abandoned a confrontational approach towards China.

d) Does anyone think that Henry Paulson is implementing China policy without the approval of George W. Bush? Does anyone think that Paulson would have accepted the Treasury position unless he and Bush knew damn well that he'd have the China portfolio?

My own counterfactual -- had 9/11 not occurred, bilateral relations with China would be pretty much where they are now.

posted by Dan at 01:52 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

So how's the offshoring tsunami going?

Your humble blogger has been unusually consistent in his position on offshore outsourcing:

1) The initial offshoring of tasks will slow as a) mistakes are made and as b) labor markets begin to equilibrate;

2) Offshoring will be limited to tasks that can be segmented into simpler jobs.

Let's see how things are going now, shall we?

The Influence Peddler reports that some Silicon Valley firms are now engaged in "reverse offshoring":

No Joke:
The rising cost of paying engineers in Bangalore has prompted at least one Silicon Valley start-up to save money by closing its Indian engineering centre and moving the jobs back to California.

While this “reverse offshoring” remains unusual, it points to a broader belief in the US technology industry that the savings that drove software engineering jobs to India’s technology capital are quickly eroding., a search engine company that uses image recognition software to find pictures on the web, took the step of closing in India after seeing the wages of top-level engineers in some cases rise close to US levels.

“Bangalore wages have just been growing like crazy,” Munjal Shah, chief executive, complained in a blog post. In the next few months, would have had to lift the salary of one of its Bangalore engineers to 75 per cent of the US level, even though the same engineer earned only 20 per cent as much as an equivalent US-based worker two years ago, Mr Shah said.

It's almost as if there's this crazy... international labor market -- and higher value skills and greater value added lead to higher wages. And then when companies no longer save money by locating jobs abroad, the potential actually exists for them to return to the US.
The rising wage problem is disputed by Nasscom, the Indian software association -- though they acknowledge that the shortage of high quality workers is a growing problem.

The other problem is local knowledge, as this New York Times story by Steve Lohr suggests:

“Once you start moving up the occupational chains, the work is not as rules-based,” said Frank Levy, a labor economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “People are doing more custom work that varies case by case.”

In the field of technology services, Mr. Levy said, the essential skill is “often a lot more about business knowledge than it is about software technology — and it’s a lot harder to ship that kind of work overseas.”

The offshore specialists in India are learning that lesson. As they increasingly compete for higher-end work, the Indian companies are hiring thousands of workers this year in the United States, adding an odd twist to the offshoring trend. Tata alone plans to recruit 1,000 workers in America, said Surya Kant, president of the company’s American unit, for “the near-shore work that requires regular contact with clients in person.”

Lohr demonstrates the need for hands-on workers by profiling an IBM project for a Texas utility. IBM is using both domestic and international units to complete the assignment. For the domestic employees, the skill set required would be difficult, at best, to outsource offshore: The utility project I.B.M. is doing in Texas offers a glimpse of the global formula. The far-flung work team includes research scientists in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., and Austin, Tex.; software developers in Pune and Bangalore, India; engineering equipment and quality-control specialists in Miami and New York; and utility experts and software designers like Mr. Taft that have come from Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Raleigh, N.C., and elsewhere.

I.B.M. plans to use the skills learned and software written for the smart-grid project in work with utility clients around the world. In the services field, these are deemed “reusable assets,” reducing costs in the future.

Ron Ambrosio, a senior I.B.M. researcher, has been down to Houston a few times, attaching sensors to power lines and collecting gigabytes of data on electricity flows. He and others at I.B.M. are studying how to predict and prevent power failures, optimize performance, reduce costs and conserve energy. “We’re looking at this as part of a worldwide opportunity,” he said.

Dennis Hendon, an account executive, and Rob Calvo, a senior services consultant, lead the I.B.M. team in Houston. Mr. Hendon is an engineer by training, while Mr. Calvo has a business degree, but their real skills lie in years of on-the-job training — what labor experts call “passive knowledge” and “complex communications,” observing, listening, coordinating, negotiating and persuading. The two men say they think of themselves as orchestra conductors, getting all the human parts working smoothly together, inside and outside I.B.M. “We aren’t mounting the poles, but our subcontractors are,” Mr. Hendon said.

This kind of human capital formation raises an interesting question for economists like Alan Blinder who feel that we need to redirect K-12 education right now to address the offshoring revolution: if the skill set required to develop non-offshorable jobs comes largely from on-the-job training, how would educational reform address the offshoring "problem"?

posted by Dan at 09:54 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

For China Inc., it's going to get worse before it gets better

David Barboza reports in the New York Times on another nail in the coffin that is China's reputation for product quality:

China said on Wednesday that nearly a fifth of the food and consumer products that it checked in a nationwide survey this year were found to be substandard or tainted, underscoring the risk faced by its own consumers even as the country’s exports come under greater scrutiny overseas.

Regulators said the broad survey of foods, agricultural tools, clothing, women and children’s products and other types of goods turned up sizable quality and safety failure rates for products that are sold domestically.

The government said, for instance, that canned and preserved fruit and dried fish contained excessive bacteria; that 20 percent of the fruit and vegetable juice surveyed was deemed substandard, and that some children’s products were defective or laced with harmful chemicals.

The announcement came in the midst of a growing scandal over the quality and safety of Chinese-made exports and follows a series of international recalls involving everything from contaminated pet food ingredients and counterfeit toothpaste to toxic toys, defective tires and contaminated seafood.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said the survey, conducted in the first half of this year, showed quality and safety improvements compared with conditions in the period a year earlier. But the announcement also suggested that Chinese consumers are at serious risk of being harmed by purchasing tainted foods, substandard goods and suspect or defective equipment.

Regulators said, in effect, that goods sold in China were far more hazardous than the exports that were driving the country’s economic growth and now partly the subject of safety and quality debates.

This is going to be a huge, long-term headache for Beijing. Brand images are not easy to change, and China has been beset by a perfect storm of health and safety scares over the past six weeks. Furthermore, as Barboza points out, improving the brand is not merely a function of the central government "getting it" (and cases like this one suggest that they do not "get it" across the board):
Experts say aggressive and opportunistic entrepreneurs continue to take advantage of the country’s chronically weak enforcement of regulations, choosing to blend fake ingredients into products; to sign contracts agreeing to sell one product only to later switch the raw materials for something cheaper; and to doctor, adulterate or even color foods to make them look fresher or more appetizing, when in fact they might be old and stale.
strong enforcement of regulations will require a widespread change in both the government and business cultures, and addressing head-on issues of corruption.

In other words, this problem won't be going away anytime soon.

posted by Dan at 09:44 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

U.S.A.!!! U.S.A.!!!

It's a 4th of July miracle!!

In a gut-busting showdown that combined drama, daring and indigestion, Joey Chestnut emerged Wednesday as the world's hot dog eating champion, knocking off six-time winner Takeru Kobayashi in a rousing yet repulsive triumph.

Chestnut, the great red, white and blue hope in the annual Fourth of July competition, broke his own world record by inhaling 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes -- a staggering one every 10.9 seconds before a screaming crowd in Coney Island.

"If I needed to eat another one right now, I could," the 23-year-old Californian said after receiving the mustard yellow belt emblematic of hot dog eating supremacy.

posted by Dan at 03:05 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

In praise of social science

Virginia Postrel is attending the Aspen Ideas Festival, and has a scabrously funny post on the opening festivities. Her basic complaint -- too many humanities types and not enough social scientists:

[The opening night] illustrated a bizarre lacuna in the conference in general: a distinct lack of social scientists. The absence of economic thinking is glaring, especially given its dominance in the rest of public discourse, but it's not as though the lineup is full of sociologists or psychologists either. The presumption seems to be that anyone can opine on those topics, especially if they're experts in something else, and that there are no new ideas or discoveries to be found in the social world.
This is a problem Brad DeLong encountered last month as well in the pages of The New Yorker.

This leads to an interesting question: what publication outlets and/or bigthink conferences would benefit the most from an infusion of social scientists?

And, just to be contrary, which publication outlets and/or bigthink conferences would benefit the most from an infusion of humanities types?

posted by Dan at 08:58 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Zimbabwe invites an anarchy pool

Michael Wines' describes Zimbabwe's comical efforts to fight inflation in the New York Times:

Zimbabwe’s week-old campaign to quell its rampant inflation by forcing merchants to lower prices is edging the nation close to chaos, some economists and merchants say.

As the police and a pro-government youth militia swept into shops and factories, threatening arrest and worse unless prices were rolled back, staple foods vanished from store shelves and some merchants reported huge losses. News reports said that some shopkeepers who had refused to lower prices had been beaten by the youth militia, known as the Green Bombers for the color of their fatigues.

In interviews, merchants said that crowds of people were following the police and militia from shop to shop to buy goods at the government-ordered prices.

“People are losing millions and millions and millions of dollars,” said one merchant in Bulawayo, referring to the Zimbabwean currency, which is becoming worthless given the nation’s inflation, the world’s highest. “Everyone is now running out of stock, and not being able to replace it.”

Because the government has threatened to seize any business that does not sell goods at the advertised price, the merchant said he was keeping his shop open, but with virtually nothing on the shelves.

Economists said that the price rollbacks were unsustainable and that shops and manufacturers would soon shut down and lay off workers rather than produce goods at a loss.

“You can’t buy eggs or bread or things of that sort,” said John Robertson, an economic consultant in Harare, the capital. “Suppliers can’t supply them at a price that allows retailers to make a profit.”

“It’s pretty chaotic,” he added. “But I think the impact will be worse if it stays in place.”

Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate was last reported to be 4,500 percent in May, a figure the government has yet to confirm. Mr. Robertson and others say that the true rate now is probably about 10,000 percent, but official statistics apparently are no longer being released.

He and others said they feared that the economic collapse would quickly lead to social unrest if Zimbabwe’s already shrunken work force were hit by huge layoffs and foods like cornmeal, cooking oil and sugar became unavailable.

I'm offering five weeks as the over/under before complete lawlessness and anarchy break out in that country.

posted by Dan at 08:32 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Pinch-hitting for Seth Mnookin....

One of Seth Mnookin's favorite pastimes is beating up on the New York Times' Murray Chass (click here for one example).

Seth appears to be MIA today, so for the general good of Red Sox Nation, let's have some fun at Chass' expense.

Three weeks ago, Chass projected the following in his column:

[H]ere is one projection that could actually have some potential as a barometer. Even better, it could create some fun: At the rate at which the Yankees are slashing into Boston's lead in the American League East, they will pass the Red Sox in the standings by July 4.

If that happens, can you imagine the fireworks in the Red Sox' front office, their dugout, their clubhouse, at Fenway Park? Fenway would become a pyrotechnic pit. Fenway fans, burned once more, might torch their season tickets.

Impossible, you say? There's no way the Yankees could catch the Red Sox in the next three months, let alone the next three weeks? Curb your skepticism and look at the facts: Only 10 days ago, the Red Sox led the Yankees by 13 1/2 games; today, their lead is 9 1/2.

As July 4th is tomorrow, it's clear that Chass' projection ain't happening. To his credit, Chass is aware of this fact, and devotes today's column to explaining why he was wrong: "If They Had Done Their Job, the Yankees Could Have Led":
The target date arrives tomorrow, and the easy explanation for why the lead change will not happen is that the Yankees didn’t maintain their rate of the first half of June. Had they done their job properly, the Yankees could have given their employer the best birthday present ever. But happy birthday anyway, George, and many more healthy ones.

Even a tie would have been a welcomed gift, but the Yankees couldn’t manage that either....

In the past two weeks, the Red Sox have done their part to make the July 4 projection a reality, but the Yankees have failed to do theirs.

Let's crunch some numbers here. Consider the following:
1) When Chass wrote his first column, the Red Sox had a 9-1/2 game lead.

2) In the 19 games since Chass wrote that column, the Red Sox have gone 10-9. Let's be generous to Chass and say that the Sox lose tonight's game against the Devil Rays, leaving them a mediocre 10-10 record in the three weeks prior to July 4th.

3) So, what would the Yankees have had to do in order to catch the Sox in the standings? Not much... they just would have had to win all 19 games they had played in the past three weeks.

Far be it for me to defend the New York Yankees, but expecting any team to reel off 19 wins in a row borders on the delusional.

[But what if the Yankees had "maintain[ed] their rate of the first half of June"?--ed. The Yankees did go 8-2 in their first 10 games of June. Had they maintained that pace... they would have gone 16-4 and remained 3 games back.]

Consider that, even after the fact, Chass thinks a 19-0 run was feasible. This indicates one of three possibilities:

1) Chass is really, really bad at math;

2) Chass is a worse sports columnist than Dan Shaughnessy;

3) All of the above.

posted by Dan at 01:20 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Dead men tell no tales

While we're on the subject of historical analogies, it's worth reading a posthumous Vanity Fair essay by David Halberstam on George W. Bush's flawed view of history. First, there's this lovely paragraph on the difficulties of historical generalization:

[W]hen I hear the president cite history so casually, an alarm goes off. Those who know history best tend to be tempered by it. They rarely refer to it so sweepingly and with such complete confidence. They know that it is the most mischievous of mistresses and that it touts sure things about as regularly as the tip sheets at the local track. Its most important lessons sometimes come cloaked in bitter irony. By no means does it march in a straight line toward the desired result, and the good guys do not always win. Occasionally it is like a sport with upsets, in which the weak and small defeat the great and mighty—take, for instance, the American revolutionaries vanquishing the British Army, or the Vietnamese Communists, with their limited hardware, stalemating the mighty American Army.
The ralpunch comes in the closing paragraphs, however, where Halberstam identifies a key mispeception about the end of the Cold War that badly warped post-9/11 thinking about foreign policy:
I have my own sense that this is what went wrong in the current administration, not just in the immediate miscalculation of Iraq but in the larger sense of misreading the historical moment we now live in. It is that the president and the men around him—most particularly the vice president—simply misunderstood what the collapse of the Soviet empire meant for America in national-security terms. Rumsfeld and Cheney are genuine triumphalists. Steeped in the culture of the Cold War and the benefits it always presented to their side in domestic political terms, they genuinely believed that we were infinitely more powerful as a nation throughout the world once the Soviet empire collapsed. Which we both were and very much were not. Certainly, the great obsessive struggle with the threat of a comparable superpower was removed, but that threat had probably been in decline in real terms for well more than 30 years, after the high-water mark of the Cuban missile crisis, in 1962. During the 80s, as advanced computer technology became increasingly important in defense apparatuses, and as the failures in the Russian economy had greater impact on that country's military capacity, the gap between us and the Soviets dramatically and continuously widened. The Soviets had become, at the end, as West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt liked to say, Upper Volta with missiles.

At the time of the collapse of Communism, I thought there was far too much talk in America about how we had won the Cold War, rather than about how the Soviet Union, whose economy never worked, simply had imploded....

After the Soviet Union fell, we were at once more powerful and, curiously, less so, because our military might was less applicable against the new, very different kind of threat that now existed in the world. Yet we stayed with the norms of the Cold War long after any genuine threat from it had receded, in no small part because our domestic politics were still keyed to it. At the same time, the checks and balances imposed on us by the Cold War were gone, the restraints fewer, and the temptations to misuse our power greater. What we neglected to consider was a warning from those who had gone before us—that there was, at moments like this, a historic temptation for nations to overreach.

America remains the most powerful country in the world, but Halberstam's prose encapsulates the inherent limitations that even hegemons face in the modern world.

posted by Dan at 01:03 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, July 2, 2007

A post I knew I'd have to write sometime before January 2009

Both Matthew Yglesias and Brad DeLong go off on Fred Hiatt's column in the Washington Post yesterday. Hiatt's lament first:

As the Bush presidency implodes, some of its worst policies mercifully will go, too -- including, we can hope, the torture and unregulated detention of alleged enemy fighters that have so discredited the country throughout the world.

But valuable strands of policy also may end up strewn in the wreckage, victims (in varying combinations) of President Bush's ineptitude, inconstancy and unpopularity. Among these are what Bush called compassionate conservatism, now moribund; American promotion of democracy abroad, now flailing; and accountability in elementary and high school education, losing ground as it approaches a major test in Congress.

This prompts the following from Yglesias:
There's just no story here. The Bush administration has almost no positive legacy, and on those areas where good things have happened (NCLB and AIDS funding are the two I can think of) Democrats show every sign of wanting to continue the positive and perhaps make some improvements around the margin.
DeLong goes even further, however:
The policies that were Bush's weren't valuable. The policies that were valuable weren't Bushes--they were either implemented by others or they never got implemented, being for the Bushies at most boob bait for the bubbas who populate the Washington Post editorial board.
Look, let's stipulate that on many dimensions, the Bush administration has implemented policies that border on catastrophic. On other dimensions, there's simply been either benign or malign neglect. I'm not claiming here that George W. Bush has done anything close to a great job. On foreign policy, the issue I care about, the only two president who come close to matching Bush's negatives in the past 50 years are Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson.

With all of this so stipulated, DeLong's statement is simply false. Here are ten policies that team Bush implemented that I would qualify as a) important; b) constructive; c) not simply a continuation of prior policies; and d) not guaranteed to persist in their current form or at current funding levels past 2009:

1) The Millennium Challenge Corporation

2) The Strategic Economic Dialogue with China

3) The Proliferation Security Initiative

4) Our bilateral policy towards India (general warming trend + civilian nuclear deal)

5) Applying the post-Enron brakes on corporate governance regulations (Remember, when it was passed, Sarbanes-Oxley was thought to be milquetoast reform; now it's though to be too onerous)

6) Appointing Ben Bernanke to replace Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chairman.

7) The Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (I'm being optimistic about Senate passage here).

8) Trying to cut China and India into existing global institutions.

9) Creating the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization in the State Department.

10) Creating the Security and Prosperity Partnership Of North America (I confess that this one's in here mostly to annoy Lou Dobbs).

None of this outweighs the screw-ups in Iraq or New Orleans. But they are policies that suggest Hiatt has a small point. Reflexively rejecting a Bush policy only because Bush proposed it is as stupid as... as.... rejecting Bill Clinton's policies because Clinton favored them (which is pretty much what the Bushies did when they took office in 2001).

Question to readers: what other Bush policies do you want to see maintained?

posted by Dan at 05:27 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

Sign #453 that GM is not a well-run company

The Associated Press, "GM Hopes Film Will Transform Sales," July 2, 2007.

Posters outside theaters across the country list Jon Voight, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel and Megan Fox as the stars of the summer action flick "Transformers."

But in the labs and cubicles where General Motors Corp. workers design and market new cars, the true leads are the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Solstice, GMC TopKick and Hummer H2.

"You're going to see these cars as the heroes. You're not going to see the other actors," said Dino Bernacchi, GM's associate director of branded entertainment. "These cars are the stars, literally, in the movie."

GM, which long has sought to reach younger car buyers to so-so results, is hoping to draw the 18-to-34 set to its showrooms thanks to the company's oversized presence in the film and in the accompanying toys and video games.

The Detroit auto giant is spending millions to promote and market its "Transformers" tie-ins, but wouldn't give a figure. With a shrinking U.S. automotive market and amid stiff competition from overseas rivals, GM is banking on the exposure translating into sales.

"This is hopefully a discovery point for maybe some of those who didn't know the great design, the great-looking vehicles that we have out today," Bernacchi said. "I find it really difficult to believe that a global blockbuster movie like this that has so many merchandising components to it that we're not going to get incremental exposure."

posted by Dan at 02:42 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Clearly, I haven't been posting about Salma Hayek recently

I'm pleasantly surprised about my blog rating:

Online Dating


[That's f$%#ing awesome!!--ed.]

This result, on the other hand, is thoroughly unsurprising:

68%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?


posted by Dan at 10:32 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

July's Books of the Month

This month's international relations book is John Nye's War, Wine, and Taxes: The Political Economy of Anglo-French Trade, 1689-1900. Nye takes on the standard narrative about trade liberalization in the 19th century, which asserts that everyting started with Great Britain's repeal of the Corn Laws. Instead, he points out that France was in many (though not all) ways a more economy until 1890. If this sounds like an arcane dispute, it's not to those who study the global political economy. The events of the 19th century form the basis of hegemonic stability theory (HST). HST is to the global political economy as the Keynesian IS-LM model is to macroeconomics -- everyone knows that the theory is at best incomplete and at worst internally inconsistent, but it's usually the first model out of the toolbox to explain change.

Nye then goes on to examine the history of British commercial policy up to the Corn Laws repeal, explaining why Great Britain practiced a form of targeted mercantilism in wine and spirits for centuries. Along the way, he challenges the conventional poli sci (North and Weingast 1989) read of events like the Glorious Revolution. In so doing, he demonstrates conditions under which protectionism and trade liberalization can actually build on each other.

Nye does a good job of challenging the old school international political economy (Gilpin and Krasner), though he seems unaware of more recent work on this era that gives France its proper due in the liberalization of the 19th century (Art Stein and David Lazer, for examples). Nevertheless, I concur with Tyler Cowen -- this is a very important work of economic history.

The general interest book covers a topic near and dear to my heart -- Joyce Antler's You Never Call! You Never Write!: A History of the Jewish Mother. For a taste of the book, check out Slate's slide show summary of Antler's argument. As Emily Bazelon observes:

The Jewish mother's greatest act of sacrifice, perhaps, is to be the gift that keeps on giving: first to generations of male writers like [Philip] Roth, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen, and then to female ones like Wendy Wasserstein and Sarah Silverman.
If you don't buy this book, it's OK. I'm sure your mother would understand... while she sits alone in her kitchen.... thinking of nothing but your happiness.

posted by Dan at 08:46 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Meet Neville Bush

Lynne Olson is the author of Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England. Today he has an op-ed in the Washington Post that discusses George W. Bush's admiration of Winston Chruchill. The key paragraph:

I've spent a great deal of time thinking about Churchill while working on my book "Troublesome Young Men," a history of the small group of Conservative members of Parliament who defied British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasing Adolf Hitler, forced Chamberlain to resign in May 1940 and helped make Churchill his successor. I thought my audience would be largely limited to World War II buffs, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the president has been reading my book. He hasn't let me know what he thinks about it, but it's a safe bet that he's identifying with the book's portrayal of Churchill, not Chamberlain. But I think Bush's hero would be bemused, to say the least, by the president's wrapping himself in the Churchillian cloak. Indeed, the more you understand the historical record, the more the parallels leap out -- but they're between Bush and Chamberlain, not Bush and Churchill.
Read the rest of Olson's essay to see the comparisons. For someone who was not terribly familiar with Chamberlain's leadership style, the parallels are quite surprising.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, in Slate, US Weekly editor Janice Min compares Bush to someone else entirely.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Peter Baker has a front-pager in the Washington Post today that discusses Bush's frame of mind. Olsen's book is mentioned explicitly -- Olson's analogy is implicit but shot through the piece.

posted by Dan at 08:09 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)