Saturday, October 20, 2007
Rowling outs Dumbledore??!!
Can we forget the the world's troubles for a second and talk about the fact that an author just outed her fictional character's sexual persuasion?
At last night's talk at New York City's Carnegie Hall — an event for thousands of young Harry Potter fans and their parents — J.K. Rowling outed the kindly headmaster.Now this raises all kinds of interesting questions.
1) Does what Rowling think matters?Blog reactions at Red State and Andrew Sullivan.
Iran to rest of world: "talk to the hand"
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, viewed by the West as a moderating influence in Tehran, resigned before crucial talks with Europe this week over Iran’s nuclear program, signaling that officials here may have closed the door to any possible negotiated settlement in its standoff with the West.UPDATE: Farideh Farhi provides some worrisome analysis over at the ICGA blog:
The most unsettling aspect of this move from the insiders point of view may be questions raised regarding Ayatollah Khamenei's control over the nuclear file. Both of the possibilities - that he has either lost control or decided to throw his support for the most radical elements in the Iranian political system - are bound to unsettle the domestic political scene. For him, to be seen as being in one corner with Ahmadinejad against all the other heavyweights of Iranian politics, including Hashemi Rafsanjani, Khatami, Karrubi, Rezaie, Qalibaf, and now Larijani, is a predicament he has tried hard to avoid at least publicly.
There's nothing like spotty wireless and the great outdoors
Blogging will be light over the next few days, because I am here.
Imagine about forty political scientists and policymakers surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, staring into their laptops and occasionally cursing their erratic wireless connection [UPDATE: In response to the polite urgings of other conference-goers, let me add that I'm guilty of this sin as well).
This place is awesome, but I keep looking around expecting to see Fredo get clipped.
The conference topic, by the way, is "New Challenges to International Regimes." Any readers who have bright ideas about how to reform either the UN system, or the nonproliferation regime should let me know ASAP.
In the meanwhile, loyal readers will have to be sated with mentions of me elsewhere.
And I'm quoted in this Economist story on Operation Divest Terror, a movement sweeping state governments who are ordering pension fund managers to divest their holdings of companies doing business with Iran. I'm not terribly optimistic about it having any effect.
That should be enough media whoredom for the weekend.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Hear me do my best NPR voice
My media whoredom conquers another platform, as today I have an audio commentary for NPR's Marketplace. I talk about Hillary Clinton's trade proposals and the bang-up job they would do in improving America's image.
Discerning readers will observe echoes from this blog post of last week -- but with less snark and more lilting irony. [Sounds like NPR's new motto!!--ed.]
Click here to listen and tell me if my voice can cut it on NPR.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
A question for the fair and balanced reader
[I]is there any subject among liberals that has the same totemic appeal as tax cutting does to conservatives? As near as I can tell, every single Republican running for president publicly says that cutting taxes always raises revenues — even though the idea is as absurd as Ron Paul's gold standard crankiness. Ditto for the Heritage Foundation, AEI, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, etc. etc. Deviate from the party line, as Bruce Bartlett has, and you're quickly excommunicated.OK, fair and balanced readers... have at it.
[Your two cents?--ed. There's an easy and a hard answer. The easy answer is what's enforced ruthlessly right now vs. what's been enforced ruthlessly over the past two decades. I think I have at least one answer to the former question (don't touch Social Security). My only answer for the latter would be abortion rights.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Comparing and contrasting McCain and Clinton
Foreign Affairs has released the latest foreign policy visions of the candidates (faithful readers of the blog will remember that Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and John Edwards have
Hillary Clinton, "Security and Opportunity for the Twenty-first Century."
John McCain, "An Enduring Peace Built on Freedom."
Having read through the essays, I have two thoughts....
The first is the diametrically opposed logics these two candidates bring to Iraq. Here's Clinton:
Ending the war in Iraq is the first step toward restoring the United States' global leadership. The war is sapping our military strength, absorbing our strategic assets, diverting attention and resources from Afghanistan, alienating our allies, and dividing our people. The war in Iraq has also stretched our military to the breaking point. We must rebuild our armed services and restore them body and soul.And then there's McCain:
Defeating radical Islamist extremists is the national security challenge of our time. Iraq is this war's central front, according to our commander there, General David Petraeus, and according to our enemies, including al Qaeda's leadership....I'm not sure I agree with either Clinton or McCain. The Senator from Arizona is vastly inflating the importance of groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq, but I can't see how the Senator from New York thinks a complete withdrawal -- and the internal chaos that will go with it -- will "enable us to play a constructive role in a renewed Middle East peace process."
That said, these two essays are easily the best of the bunch. Both Clinton and McCain -- or at least, the staffers who wrote these pieces -- have a better grasp for policy detail and means-ends relationships than the other candidates. Clinton, in contrast to either Obama or Edwards, makes the connection between a withdrawal from Iraq and a more generous policy towards Iraqi asylum-seekers. She occasionally suffers from the fairy dust that is the word "engagement," but otherwise she hits the appropriate marks. Also, not for nothing, but this essay is much more clearly written than the other essays in the mix.
McCain, more than any other candidate, gets the connection between trade policy and foreign policy. He explicitly connects improving America's image in Latin America and ratifying the bevy of trade agreements from that region. He also pushes for a completion of the Doha round. His "League of Democracies" idea sounds awfully familiar, and I'm not sure it will fly. That said, this essay is a vast improvement over the other Republican challengers.
Why George W. Bush thinks we invaded Iraq
In the latest issue of PS: Political Science and Politics, Richard Rose recounts his meeting -- along with a few other experts -- with George W. Bush in the Oval Office. The idea -- set up by Peter Feaver when he was at the NSC -- was for Bush to interact with experts on divided societies to see what lessons could be applied to Iraq.
It's entitled, "What Do You Tell the President in Three Minutes about Iraq?" I was a little surprised to see this section:
We were told to expect a wide-ranging and free-flowing discussion--and this forecast was accurate. After the President made several references to the importance of liberty, I reminded him that Isaiah Berlin was not only in favour of liberty but also of order. The place to talk about liberty was not in discussions about a land lacking order but when he next saw President Putin. When the conversation became too academic, the President even began leafing through a book of mine that I had given him that ends with a chapter about America's victory over Iraq in Kuwait, a victory that left his father riding the crest of a wave--after which there was only a one-way option down.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Not bad for a 40-year old article
The wider the cult spreads, the further it strays from the man. Rather than a Christian romantic, Guevara was a ruthless and dogmatic Marxist, who stood not for liberation but for a new tyranny. In the Sierra Maestra, he shot those suspected of treachery; in victory, Mr Castro placed him in charge of the firing squads that executed “counter-revolutionaries”; as minister of industries, Guevara advocated expropriation down to the last farm and shop. His exhortation to guerrilla warfare, irrespective of political circumstance, lured thousands of idealistic Latin Americans to their deaths, helped to create brutal dictatorships and delayed the achievement of democracy.What's reallly interesting, however, is that the magazine linked to its 1967 story about Guevara's death. This being the Economist, we have no idea who wrote it. Whoever it was, however, deserves props for the analysis and assessment:
This blow at the guerrilla movement in Bolivia follows on its destruction in Peru and its near-destruction in Colombia and Venezuela. It is a major strategic reverse for the “armed struggle.” But there are signs that what may happen now is that the focus of guerrilla activity will move from South America to Central America and the Caribbean. In Matagalpa province in Nicaragua insurgents have become increasingly active this year, while to the north, in Guatemala, the guerrillas, though hard pressed, are continuing to be quite a problem for the government. In Haiti the guerrilla movement is gradually co-ordinating itself, while in the Dominican Republic Dr Juan Bosch’s party this month split itself into violent and non-violent factions. Compared with the great South American dream, this is all small and fairly unimpressive fry for the guerrilla movement. But it would still be premature to say that the death of Guevara means the death of armed insurgency in Latin America.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Meet your kinda touchy-feely blogger
This is the weirdest cognitive test I have ever taken. Click first, and then click back.
Like Kevin Drum, I was initially unable to see anything but the dancer turning clockwise. When I went back to the site a few hours later, however, I was able to get her to go counter-clockwise. At this point I can -- sort of -- get her to go whichever way I want. On the whole, however, my natural inclination is to see a clockwise rotation.
Take the test youself and report back!
UPDATE: Some commenters have suggested that this is merely a software trick -- i.e., the image will rotate in one direction and then randomly switch rotation. To test this, the Official Blog Wife, Official Blog Son and I all looked at the image at the same time. Two of us saw it going clockwise, one of us counter-clockwise. So it's not a software trick.
BDM, in profile
Good Magazine has a long Michael Lerner profile of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, the chair of political science at New York University (in the field, Bruce will forever be known by the three letter acronym "BDM.")
Lerner's story is about BDM's political forecasting techniques, his use of rational choice methodology... and the uniqueness that is Bruce:
If you listen to Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, and a lot of people don’t, he’ll claim that mathematics can tell you the future. In fact, the professor says that a computer model he built and has perfected over the last 25 years can predict the outcome of virtually any international conflict, provided the basic input is accurate. What’s more, his predictions are alarmingly specific. His fans include at least one current presidential hopeful, a gaggle of Fortune 500 companies, the CIA, and the Department of Defense. Naturally, there is also no shortage of people less fond of his work. “Some people think Bruce is the most brilliant foreign policy analyst there is,” says one colleague. “Others think he’s a quack.”Read the whole thing if you want a mostly accurate but incomplete discussion of rational choice theory and its critics -- Mearsheimer and Walt make cameo appearances!
[Jeez, doesn't BDM seems like a bit of a self-promoter?--ed. Compared to whom? Relative to many IR scholars, Bueno de Mesquita has not been shy in trumpeting his own horn. Compared to others, however, BDM seems pretty normal.]
The part that grabbed my attention was BDM's proposal for how to address the Israel/Palestinian conflict:
Recently, he’s applied his science to come up with some novel ideas on how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “In my view, it is a mistake to look for strategies that build mutual trust because it ain’t going to happen. Neither side has any reason to trust the other, for good reason,” he says. “Land for peace is an inherently flawed concept because it has a fundamental commitment problem. If I give you land on your promise of peace in the future, after you have the land, as the Israelis well know, it is very costly to take it back if you renege. You have an incentive to say, ‘You made a good step, it’s a gesture in the right direction, but I thought you were giving me more than this. I can’t give you peace just for this, it’s not enough.’ Conversely, if we have peace for land—you disarm, put down your weapons, and get rid of the threats to me and I will then give you the land—the reverse is true: I have no commitment to follow through. Once you’ve laid down your weapons, you have no threat.”I'm not sure the long-run demographics of the region would support this idea, but it's certainly intriguing.
Full disclosure: When I was putting together my dissertation committee oh so many years ago, I was fortunate enough to persuade Bruce to join -- and The Sanctions Paradox is a much, much better book because of that decision.