Thursday, December 6, 2007
Behold my multi-multimedia strategy
My master plan to dominate
First there was the bloggingheads diavlog with the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler.
Next came my commentary for NPR's Marketplace in which I do the unthinkable.... I defend the right of superagent Scott Boras to exist:
If baseball is the national pastime, then bashing agents for greed comes in a close second. Before declaring Boras guilty, however, consider the following figures. This year Major Lleague Baseball announced that it had topped $6 billion in revenues for the first time ever. At the same time, the share of those revenues going to player salaries has declined over the past six years, from more than 56 percent to less than 42 percent. In contrast, the National Football League paid their players more than half of its total revenues. At a time when baseball is economically flush, its players are getting a smaller slice of the pie.For some background on the Boras commentary, check out Ben McGrath's profile of Boras in The New Yorker, David Pinto's excellent analysis of how baseball was keeping down its costs in The Sporting News; and Tyler Kepner's New York Times story on Boras' corporation.
Finally, and most important, the special issue of Public Choice on the politics blogs -- co-edited by Henry Farrell and myself -- is now available online.
That's enough media for today. I'm turning in.
So much for China's Olympian vulnerability
The Christian Science Monitor's Peter Ford reports that in advance of the Games, China's government is devising new ways to handcuff indigenous NGOs:
Last Thursday morning, five law-enforcement agents marched into Zhai Minglei's Shanghai apartment, seized his computer hard disk and copies of the small magazine he used to publish, and ordered him to report for questioning the next day.It should be noted that this reaction to the color revolutions is not unique to China -- it mirrors what governments in Russia, Iran, and Central Asia have done as well.
Best Prudence... ever
Emily Yoffie -- a.k.a., Slate's Dear Prudence -- provides the best response to an academic query:
Dear Prudence,The only problem with Yoffie's answer is that it's incomplete -- Hitchens would also try to get Jesus to procure him several drinks and a
All about Condi
My latest bloggingheads diavlog is now online. This time my partner is Washington Post diplomatic correspondent Glenn Kessler, to discuss his new book, The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy.
Topics discussed include Rice's tenure at NSC and State, Dick Cheney's brain, a defense of Karen Hughes (also available at the New York Times website), and Condi's future outside of government.
Go check it out.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Just remember, Hillary is the one with the foreign policy experience
Last month I said the following on NPR's Marketplace:
[T]rade agreements improve America's standing in the world. But Senator Clinton's proposal would strip these agreements of the very certainty that makes them attractive to our allies. How does Senator Clinton think our trading partners in the Middle East, Central America, and Pacific Rim will react to her proposal? How is this proposal any different from the unilateralism that Democrats have condemned for the past six years?I hereby owe Senator Clinton an apology -- I forgot to include Europe in the list of regions that are not taking too kindly to Clinton's brand of trade policy.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner in the US presidential campaign, came under fire from Europe’s top trade negotiator on Wednesday for suggesting that, if elected, she might not press hard for a new global trade pact.I know Hillary Clinton's had a rough week or two, so in fairness to her, it should be pointed out that she's not the first Democratic presidential candidate to be on the receiving end of foreign criticism.
Still, isn't this sort of fracas exactly the kind of thing that an experienced Hillary Clinton was supposed to avoid?
So will Bali accomplish anything?
When it comes to enegy and the environment, anything David Victor writes is worth reading.
The effort, though noble, is largely irrelevant to the urgent task of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. The countries that care the most about successful U.N. talks are a small and shrinking part of the problem. Those that matter most—notably China, which in 2007 became the world's largest emitter of warming gases—have exempted themselves from any regulation of their effluent. The Bali agenda offers no route around this impasse and will probably make it harder to solve in the future.
Sweet Jesus. Sweet, sweet, here-before-everyone Jesus
According to Jacob T. Levy, Philip Tetlock won this year's Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. Tetlock won for Expert Political Judgment, a book that I blogged about a bit on this hallowed web site (see Rodger Payne as well.).
A key point that Tetlock makes is that experts aren't any better at making political predictions than non-experts.
I bring this up now because it's really, really important to remember that there is hard data confirming Tetlock's assertion when you think about the non-experts in the world. Like, for example, these precious few seconds from The View, courtesy of Crooked Timber's Kieran Healy:Look, the really important thing -- as I told my son sometime this week -- is that the Star Wars saga took place before anything discussed in the video clip.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Hello, and welcome to Bizarro world politics
If I had told you a
I just bring this up because of this New York Times story by Elaine Sciolino:
The International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday publicly embraced the new American intelligence assessment stating that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons effort, but in truth the agency is taking a more cautious approach in drawing conclusions about Iran’s nuclear program.Tomorrow in Bizarro world politics -- Dick Cheney buys Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a flower.
UPDATE: Some of the commenters seem to think I'm dissing the IAEA in this post, in which case I didn't blog clearly enough. What's startling is not the IAEA's position -- they've been pretty consistent in their take on Iran for the past few years. What's startling is the 180 pulled by U.S. intelligence officials between the 2005 NIE and the 2007 NIE, and the mismatch between this latest NIE and the Bush administration's rhetoric from the past few months.
Ironically, for all of the criticism the Bush administration has heaped on the IAEA and Mohammed ElBaradei, it's their consistency that enhances the likelihood of maintaining the necessary coalition that opposes large-scale Iranian enrichment -- which in turn makes it likely that Iran will continue to keep its weapns program in a deep freeze.
Should you fear the sovereign wealth fund?
Over at Foreign Policy, economist Anders Åslund says that sovereign wealth funds pose greater problems to home countries than host countries:
[S]uch funds are nothing for Americans or Europeans to fear. If anyone should worry about them, it’s the people whose governments are amassing them. That’s because governments tend to be terrible at managing money that is best left in the hands of private citizens. And locking away billions of dollars in wealth can have pernicious economic side effects. Maybe that’s why sovereign wealth funds are popular with dictators and semi-authoritarian regimes, which don’t have to answer for the consequences when they make poor economic gambles....
Why have oil prices gone up?
In the wake of the latest NIE suggesting that Iran's nuclear program has been frozen in carbonite since 2003, I would have expected oil prices to have fallen. After all, the obvious fallout from the estimate is that neither military nor enhanced economic sanctions will be imposed on Iran anytime soon. If one reason oil prices have spiked is increased political uncertainty, then surely the inteligence finding should have ameliorated these fears.
Imagine my surprise, then, to see that oil prices rose yesterday. Furthermore, the AP report has no mention of the Iran situation, discussing OPEC machinations instead.
This could mean one of four things is true:
1) Oil traders are slower at working through geopolitical ramifications than your humble blogger;I'm 99.99% sure the answer is not #1 or #2, and I'm 90% sure the answer isn't #4. But #3 seems inadequate to me.
Readers are encouraged to proffer their own answers.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Your bigthink quote of the day
One great test of our era will be whether creative destruction can flourish alongside public order and political liberty. If not, we're in big trouble. But if so — and I'm an optimist on the point — the results could be a marvel.From Brad DeLong's review of a Schmpeter biography in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Tyler Cowen favors a different selection from the same review.
That's one heckuva NIE on Iran
We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. We judge with high confidence that the halt, and Tehran’s announcement of its decision to suspend its declared uranium enrichment program and sign an Additional Protocol to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement, was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear work....These are the key paragraph of the latest National Intelligence Assessment on Iran. In a separate New York Times story, Mark Mazzetti tries gets at some of the implications.
Much as I would like to conclude that multilateral economic pressure had an effect, I'm not sure how the NIE concludes that "international pressure" had an effect. If that was truly the case, why did the suspension take place in 2003 rather than later? I mean, gee, what was happening then?
One obvious implication: whatever slim chance there existed of a U.S. military intervention in Iran over the next 13 months just got way, way slimmer.
We could be facing.... a profanity gap
Mark Lamster has a fascinating post up at YFSF on 19th century efforts to eliminate profanity from baseball. As he observes, "it's amazing how 'fresh' this language seems today, more than a century later."
Click over to the post and read -- indeed, it provides a sharp contrast to this brilliant Conan O'Brien riff on earlier 19th century baseball from a few years ago -- which I believe to be completely historically accurate:While it's fascinating to read that profanity hasn't changed that much in 110 years, it's also a little disturbing. We're supposed to be the most innovative country in the world -- too innovative, if you believe Paul Krugman. Despite this supposed strength, however, it appears that Americans have yet to improve on "You c$%#-s&^%ing son-of-a-b@#!$!!!"
Should this be a source of concern?
UPDATE: In honor of this post, response to this report, I'm afraid I have only one response: Bob Watson is a pr***-eating bastard!!!
Praise for Hugo Chavez
Your humble blogger has had great fun at Hugo Chavez's expense for quite some time. So in the aftermath of his first electoral defeat in a long while, it's worth concurring with something that Time's Time Padgett points out:
[J]ust as important [as the referendum's defeat] was Chavez's concession. The opposition "won this victory for themselves," he admitted in a voice whose subdued calm was in contrast to his frequently aggressive political speeches. "My sincere recommendation is that they learn how to handle it." Despite his authoritarian bent, Chavez (whose current and apparently last term ends in 2012) had always insisted he was a democrat — that he was, in fact, forging "a more genuine democracy" in a nation that had in many ways been a sham democracy typical of a number of Latin American countries. His presidential election victories — in 1998, 2000 and 2006, as well as his victory over an attempt to recall him in a 2004 referendum — were all recognized by credible international observers; and that conferred on him a democratic legitimacy that helped blunt accusations by his enemies, especially the U.S., that he was a would-be dictator in the mold of Fidel Castro.We'll have to see how Chavez responds to the electoral defeat after 24 hours. Still, if nothing else, Bloomberg reports that Chavez has unintentionally managed to boost the value of Venezuela's bonds.