Saturday, January 26, 2008
Really, it sounds much cooler in German
Nine months ago a German think tank commissioned your humble blogger to sketch out the contours of U.S. foreign policy beginning in 2009.
The result is that I have an English-language article in the latest issue of Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft ("International Politics and Society") modestly entitled "The Future of U.S. Foreign Policy."
The article is a wee bit out of date (it was submitted in October), as it starts off with John McCain's tumble from frontrunner status. Nevertheless, I think the rest of it holds up reasonably well. The closing paragraph:
For Europe, American foreign policy in 2009 will clearly be an improvement on its current incarnation. Regardless of who wins the presidential election, there will likely be a reaching out to Europe as a means of demonstrating a decisive shift from the Bush administration’s diplomatic style. This does not mean, however, that the major irritants to the transatlantic relationship will disappear. On several issues, such as GMOs or the Boeing–Airbus dispute, the status quo will persist. On deeper questions, such as the use of force and the use of multilateralism, American foreign policy will shift, but not as far as Europeans would like. When George W. Bush leaves office, neo-conservatism will go with him. This does not mean, however, that Europeans will altogether agree with the foreign policy that replaces it.Go check it out.
Friday, January 25, 2008
How about some reciprocal gratitude?
A follow-upon my last post on sovereign wealth funds (SWFs).
I quoted the head of the Norway's fund saying, ""It seems you don't like us, but you need our money." It strikes me that one could flip that around. Not for norway, but for most of the countries now sprouting SWFs, the line should read: ""It seems you don't like us, but you need to invest your money with us."
Countries are developing sovereign wealth funds for a number of reasons:
1) They're accruing massive current account surpluses because of commodity booms or misaligned currenciesThere is no question that, right now, western financial markets could use the money. However, it's also worth pointing out that there are not a lot of non-OECD markets receptive to large-scale SWF investments. Indeed, the very countries ginning up sovereign wealth funds at the moment are the most protectionist when it comes to foreign direct investment. A Russian SWF is not going to find a receptive audience in China -- and vice versa.
Am I missing anything?
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Summers on sovereign wealth funds
Like the rest of the known universe, I've been reading up on sovereign wealth funds as of late. And, to be blunt, I have yet to find much to get exercised about in terms of economic vulnerability to the United States or the west more generally. Basically, in order for a sovereign wealth fund to play politics, they have to shoot themselves in the foot financially.
Reporting from Davos, however, Daniel Gross relays Larry Summers' areas of concern. Summers is pretty smart, so let's review his objections:
1. Corporate governance. SWFs may protect the management of poorly run companies: "SWFs are some people's model investors, and other people's version of 1-800-ENTRENCH. What could be better for not entirely secure management than a long-term, nonvoting shareholder?"Concern #1 is interesting, but strikes me as ephemeral. If a sovereign wealth fund is interested in maximizing its value, then it's not going to want to keep around incompetent management.
Concern #2 is a possibility, but the more pernicious possibilities seem like straight anti-trust issues rather than problems unique to sovereign wealth funds.
Concern #3 is a massive rationalization. It boils down to, "we're not saying sovereign wealth funds are evil, but other, less cosmopolitan folks are saying that, and they have pitchforks."
There are some foreign policy reasons to be concerned about some sovereign wealth funds -- but I don't see any economic motivation to get all riled up about them. This holds with particular force at the present moment. As the head of Norway's fund put it at the panel: "It seems you don't like us, but you need our money."
Question to readers -- can anyone add an additional reason to believe sovereign wealth funds are bad for the U.S. economy?
UPDATE: For those curious about the official U.S.position on sovereign wealth funds, go read Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt's Foreign Affairs essay:
Everybody hates someone
Let's see if we can briefly summarize who irrationally dislikes who:
1) According to the New York Times' Michael Luo, all the other Republicans personally dislike Romney;This was just off the top of my head.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Your political quiz of the day
Who wrote the following?
The Clintons play dirty when they feel threatened. But we knew that, didn't we?It's a multiple choice:
A) Jonah GoldbergFor the answer, cick here.
A small memo to the Center for Public Integrity
Dear CPI staffer,
So I hear you have this brand-new website that, "documents 935 false statements by top administration officials to justify Iraq War." This is a great public good, and you have reason to feel happy about it.
On the other hand:
1) Sending me approximately 935 e-mail notifications about the new website will not put you in my good graces [C'mon, it was really close to 935?--ed. OK, it was closer to five, but I can confirm that these e-mails actually existed, and they clearly have the capability to send me 931 more. I had to act preemptively.]Warm regards,
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
The Fed ain't f&%$ing around.... and neither are the markets
The Federal Open Market Committee has decided to lower its target for the federal funds rate 75 basis points to 3-1/2 percent.The question is whether this move will forestall further panic in global and domestic markets or merely exacerbate them.
An assignment to the mediasphere and blogosphere
Well, that South Carolina debate sure was pleasant, wasn't it?I'm intrigued by Obama deciding to bring up the "Bill issue," as it were:
Mrs. Clinton’s campaign this week in South Carolina is essentially running Mr. Clinton against Mr. Obama. The two have been engaged in a war of words, with Mr. Clinton accusing the Obama campaign of voter coercion in the Nevada caucuses, and Mr. Obama saying on Monday that Mr. Clinton had made comments that were “not factually accurate” and that his advocacy for his wife had grown “pretty troubling.”....Pundits are also chatting up Bill Clinton's advocacy.
Which leads to my question to readers and reporters: it would seem that the obvious comparison to Bill Clinton's conduct in the 2008 campaign is George H.W. Bush's conduct during the 2000 campaign. To what extent has President Clinton's advocacy for his wife exceeded Bush's advocacy for his son?
Combing through Google news archives during the primary phase of the campaign, it's tough to find much at all on Bush pere. There are a few mentions of Bush's father campaigning for his son, but frankly, there was less than I expected. I could not find anything about Bush attacking McCain, Forbes, or other primary candidates (which does not mean anything can't be found). Even more surprisingly, I can't find a story this month that has made this comparison (again, that does not mean anything can't be found).
Question to readers: has Bill Clinton crossed the line in campaigning for his wife? Is there a line to cross?
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Hoisted from the archives: The students strike back!!
UPDATE: This contest was posted two weeks ago.... and frankly, I've been disappointed with the student response. My crack intelligence network at Fletcher tell me that some of the student body was rankled by my "Bad Student Writing contest" from last month -- yet I see no attempt by the Fletcher student body to step up to the plate.
So, I'm reposting this comment, and triple-dog-daring the students of the American academy to "Post, in the comments, the most confusing, badly-written or long-winded sentence a professor of yours has written in a published article."
Just to make things interesting, I add two additional qualifiers:
1) Judith Butler entries will not be accepted. Booooring. And it's been done to death.Get to it, students -- or the professors of the world will be able to claim that students can't even procrastinate as efficiently as the professoriate!
The Bad Student Writing Contest was a great success -- but it came at the expense of students. Already, commenters are concluding that this is emblematic of the sorry state of American education, which suffers from a wee bit of the ol' selection bias.
So, students, your time for revenge has come. Why procrastinate during the spring semester when you can procrastinate today? Here is your opportunity to (anonymously) thumb your nose at the guardians of your grades.
I give you.... The Bad Professor Writing Contest:
Post, in the comments, the most confusing, badly-written or long-winded sentence a professor of yours has written in a published article.Bonus points if you can provide an active hyperlink to the article.
Winners will receive a prize of unspecified but clearly inestimable value.