Saturday, September 1, 2007

Why isn't there a scandal market?

In thinking about the fall of Larry Craig, I went back and re-read Dan Popkey's Idaho Statesman story from last week. Popkey's story makes it clear that rumors had been dogging Craig on this question for years, of not decades.

Craig is clearly not the only politico that carried around the whiff of scandal before it actually hit. My Louisiana contacts tell me the same thing was true of David Vitters. And, Lord knows, everyone knew Bill Clinton had a problem before a story broke.

So here's my question to economists and political scientists. If there are prediction markets for elections, why isn't their a prediction market for politicians and scandals? Admittedly, elections have a clear end date and (hopefully) a clear winner. Still, one could devise several market outcomes on which to bet: a Washington Post story about a scandal, a Nexis count of news stories about a scandal, or even an actual resignation. Contracts could be limited to, say, 3-month or 6-month time windows.

This sort of thing could have the potential to be a useful indicator (admittedly, it would also be ripe for manipulation by mischief-makers; but so are election markets) for media and politicos -- it could create a metric for off-the-record, on-the-qt-and-very-hush-hush kind of information.

My question to Tyler Cowen: is there are markets in everything, why isn't their a Scandal Pool?

posted by Dan at 02:48 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The unsolved mysteries of APSA

Blogging will be light the next couple of days as your humble blogger attends this year's annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. Despite my strong preference for Las Vegas, APSA has yet to be held in that city -- we'll see if they ever get another chapter from me!!

I've blogged about this conference before. The theme of this year's post will be "unsolved mysteries." Here are the burning questions I have about APSA going forward:

1) Will Laura McKenna wear sling back heels for her 8:00 AM on Thursday panel? If she doesn't, will her panel chair be cross with her?

2) What's the worst time slot to present at APSA? The two obvious candidates are the earliest panel time (which would be at 8:00 AM on Thursday) and the latest panel time (which would be Sunday at 10:15 AM). My vote is for the Sunday slot -- the dregs of a conference are more depressing than the beginning. Plus, at least the people who have the first time slot get their obligation out of the way.

3) There is a distinguished scholar who shall remain nameless for the purposes of this posy. This scholar attends APSA on a regular basis and, as near as I can figure, displays the identical sartorial choice at every conference. He always wears a rolled-up red bandana around his neck (political scientists, you know of whom I speak, so no naming names in the comments).

Here's what I want to know: does the man have more than one kerchief? Is there a drawerful of them? Does he change it every day? Does he wear them when he's not at APSA or ISA? To quote an old Bloom County strip, "Does it get the chicks? I mean, in truckloads?"

4) As previously observed, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have complained about the lack of available venues for them to present their argument (whether this complaint is always sincere is another question entirely). Why, then, is there no APSA panel or roundtable devoted to their forthcoming book? Did APSA reject the panel? Was one never submitted?

Political scientists are encouraged to contribute their own APSA mysteries.

posted by Dan at 03:48 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Some non-demagogic reviews of The Israel Lobby

With regard to "The Israel Lobby," Matthew Yglesias argues that, "The originally essay certainly had its flaws, but it was much better than the demagogic counter-campaign it unleashed." Perhaps, but the initial reviews of the book are neither demagogic nor terribly flattering.

For example, check out Geoffrey Kemp and Ben Fishman in The National Interest online. TNI is generally perceived as a having a "realist" bent, but I can't say these reviews are that encouraging.

Kemp -- by far the more sympathetic of the two reviewers -- has this to say:

By my count there are 1,247 footnotes; only three refer to correspondence with a source and only two mention interviews with sources. I could find no references to any communication with key players in the U.S. government, the Israeli lobbies and Israel who might have had some interesting confidential comments on the matter in question. It seems that their research lacked extensive field work, including background interviews, especially among the Washington elite who make up both the lobby and its targets. This is not a trivial matter, and as a consequence the book has a sharp, somewhat strident and detached tone -- devoid of the atmospheric frills and descriptions of the personality quirks and complicated motivations of key players that are to be found in the works of the best investigative journalists. It is also superficial in its coverage of the Washington think-tank community, an issue that is worthy of more space than is available in this quick review....

The book—however flawed and one-dimensional—deserves to be read and challenged in a wide number of forums.

In The New Yorker, David Remnick has a similar take, but a different conclusion: he blames the furor on the Bush administration:
“The Israel Lobby” is a phenomenon of its moment. The duplicitous and manipulative arguments for invading Iraq put forward by the Bush Administration, the general inability of the press to upend those duplicities, the triumphalist illusions, the miserable performance of the military strategists, the arrogance of the Pentagon, the stifling of dissent within the military and the government, the moral disaster of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, the rise of an intractable civil war, and now an incapacity to deal with the singular winner of the war, Iran—all of this has left Americans furious and demanding explanations. Mearsheimer and Walt provide one: the Israel lobby. In this respect, their account is not so much a diagnosis of our polarized era as a symptom of it.

posted by Dan at 11:56 PM | Comments (27) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, August 27, 2007

This blog post is dedicated to the incoming Fletcher students

Incoming Fletcher students who are curious about taking Classics of International Relations Theory and/or The Art and Science of Statecraft this fall can access the syllabi for these courses at my teaching page.

Those of you determined to take Classics of International Relations Theory would do well to purchase The Landmark Thucydides (edited by Robert Strassler) as soon as possible -- be it through,, or other means.

Those of you determined to take The Art and Science of Statecraft would do well to purchase Statecraft, by Dennis Ross, as soon as possible -- be it through,, or other means.

That is all.

posted by Dan at 09:02 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

John Dickerson sums it up for me

In the wake of Alberto Gonzales' resignation, John Dickerson has a Slate column that nicely summarizes a big deficit in Bush's managerial style:

The personnel failures make it very hard for Bush fans to defend the president because they so deeply undermine the tenets of his management style as he articulates it. Bush has often talked in almost mystical terms about his ability to take the measure of people by looking them in the eye. His most infamous snap judgment, early in his first term, was peeking into the soul of Vladimir Putin and finding goodness. But even with years of presidential experience, he continues to make terrible judgments about the aptitudes of his own staffers. Harriet Miers and Alberto Gonzales may be very nice people, but they were never competent for the jobs Bush wanted them to have.

In talking about the skills necessary for any president, Bush has almost always focused on personnel first. "If I were interviewing a guy for the job of president," he said when I interviewed him for Time in August 2004, "I'd ask, How do you make decisions? How would you get unfiltered information? Would you surround yourself with hacks? Are you scared of smart people? I've seen the effect of the Oval Office on people. People are prepared to come in and speak their minds, and then they get in there, and the place overwhelms them, and they say, 'Gee, Mr. President, you're looking good.' I need people who can walk in and say, 'Hey, you're not looking so great today.' "

This kind of talk thrilled Bush supporters, but the president has never exercised the kind of emotion-free decision-making he bragged about. When it came to personnel decisions, his personal sense of loyalty, his hostility to the Beltway establishment, and his stubbornness all clouded his judgment. Tolerating incompetence has harmed Bush in any number of ways. The worst of these is locking in the idea that he's oblivious to reality.

This has undoubtedly been a key failing of Bush's managerial style. But it's hardly the only one.

posted by Dan at 02:20 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)