Saturday, May 17, 2008

A nice word for Mike Huckabee

I've made it pretty clear that I'm not Mike Huckabee's greatest fan. That said, I do think he's a decent human being, and liked this apology:

During my speech at the NRA a loud noise backstage, that sounded like a chair falling, distracted the crowd and interrupted my speech. I made an off hand remark that was in no way intended to offend or disparage Sen. Obama. I apologize that my comments were offensive, as that was never my intention.
None of this, "I'm sorry if someone else thought my comments were offensive." He knew he'd screwed up, and he owned up to it.

posted by Dan at 02:28 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Are market forces emerging for pundits?

I presented my paper on public intellectuals and the blogosphere earlier today, and received some very useful feedback.

One particularly interesting point in response to my paper is that while my paper focused on bloggers as public intellectuals, it might be the case that bloggers serve an even greater good by engaging in quality control of other public intellectuals. In Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, Richard Posner argued that one reason for the decline was that increased demand for pontificators was not matched by any market discipline for poor quality. Even if public intellectuals and pundit royally screw up, the public is sufficiently disinterested and disengaged for it not to matter.

To some extent, blogs and YouTube are changing this. Consider the following as a test case. Here's a YouTube clip currently making the rounds of conservative radio host Kevin James on Hardball:

Now if James had been that stupid and only those watching MSNBC live had caught it, I'm not sure it would have mattered all that much. Given the proliferation of this clip on the blogs, however, it can have two effects.

First, that many more people see James acting like an ill-informed boob. Which means that the odds of him getting booked on prestige shows shrinks.

Second, as much as Hardball's producers like the proliferation of the clip, I'm not sure how many of these they want to see cropping up. As Josh Patashnik points out on The Plank:

[I]t's not like this reflects very well on Chris Matthews, either. Why is he inviting such an obnoxious moron onto his show? There are plenty of people who could represent the conservative position here with some intelligence and class. Why not try to schedule them?
See Michael Brendan Dougherty for a kindred argument.

Of course, if James is asked back onto Hardball or other similar venues after this episode, then I'm wrong.

posted by Dan at 01:45 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My first take on sovereign wealth funds

I have an article in the latest issue of The American entitled, "The Sovereigns Are Coming!" The main point:

No question, the growth of SWFs puts advocates of open capital markets in a quandary. During debates over what to do with the Social Security trust fund a few years ago, there was deep resistance to the idea of having a U.S. government fund pick winners in the stock market. Why should foreign governments get to play?

Sovereign wealth funds do present concerns on the near and far horizons, but the predominant reaction at this point should be what is emblazoned on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “DON’T PANIC.” To date, SWFs have acted responsibly, and there is no sign that their behavior will change soon.

A mixture of voluntary standards and additional surveillance by the salient authorities should deal with current concerns. With luck, they will also cause policymakers to focus on the bigger picture. SWFs are merely a small symptom of two bigger problems: the absence of proactive energy and exchange rate policies in this country.

Go check it out.

posted by Dan at 02:00 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's not like the Year of the Boar was all that great either

In the wake of a deadly Chinese earthquake, The Associated Press reports that China has not had a great few months:

China hoped 2008 would be a yearlong celebration, a time to bask in the spotlight of the upcoming Beijing Olympics. Instead, the Year of the Rat has also brought a wave of troubles -- both natural and man-made -- that are putting a heavy strain on the communist leadership....

In March, huge anti-government riots erupted in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, sparking sympathy protests in Tibetan areas across western China. The violent protests were the biggest challenge to Chinese rule in the Himalayan region in nearly two decades....

The negative attention spilled over to the Olympic flame's around-the-world tour. Meant to be a feel-good kickoff event to the Beijing Games, the relay turned into chaos as pro-Tibet protesters mounted demonstrations from the very start of the ceremonial lighting in Greece, and at stops including London, Paris, and San Francisco.

The bad news kept coming. In May was China's worst train accident in a decade, leaving 72 dead and more than 400 injured when a high-speed passenger train jumped its tracks and slammed into another in rural Shandong province. Excessive speed was determined to be the cause, and five railway officials were promptly fired.

This month also brought a sharp rise in the number of reported cases of hand, foot, and mouth disease, a normally non-deadly viral infection that has killed 39 children this year and infected nearly 30,000 others.

Two thoughts on this.

First, it's worth pointing out that China didn't have a great 2007 either. A rash of health and safety scares affected China's brand image. Beijing began to experience signficant blowback from its investment footprint in Africa. The Saffron Revolution in Burma made things very uncomfortable for Beijing as well. So this isn't just about 2008.

Second, none of these PR reversals is inconsistent with China's continued rise. It's worth remembering that, during the latter half of the nineteenth century, the United States became the economic hegemon at the same time it was recovering from Reconstruction and enduring a twenty-year recession/depression.

posted by Dan at 01:32 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Your book review of the day

Robert Farley reads Strobe Talbott's The Great Experiment so you don't have to:

To sum up, if you have trouble sleeping but can't get another prescription, check out The Great Experiment. If not, avoid it like the plague.

posted by Dan at 12:47 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

But, but, but.... what will Mickey Kaus and Lou Dobbs have to complain about now?

The Washington Post's N.C. Aizenman reports on how the large wave of immigrants coming to the United States over the past three decades have adapted. Turns out, the answer is -- more quickly than one would expect:

In general, the longer an immigrant lives in the United States, the more characteristics of native citizens he or she tends to take on, said Jacob L. Vigdor, a professor at Duke University and author of the study. During periods of intense immigration, such as from 1870 to 1920, or during the immigration wave that began in the 1970s, new arrivals tend to drag down the average assimilation index of the foreign-born population as a whole.

The report found, however, that the speed with which new arrivals take on native-born traits has increased since the 1990s. As a result, even though the foreign population doubled during that period, the newcomers did not drive down the overall assimilation index of the foreign-born population. Instead, it held relatively steady from 1990 to 2006.

"This is something unprecedented in U.S. history," Vigdor said. "It shows that the nation's capacity to assimilate new immigrants is strong."

The full report can be accessed here. The key point:
Immigrants of the past quarter-century have assimilated more rapidly than their counterparts of a century ago, even though they are more distinct from the native population upon arrival. The increase in the rate of assimilation among recently arrived immigrants explains why the overall index has remained stable, even though the immigrant population has grown rapidly.
Hat tip to Matthew Yglesias, who makes a shrewd point:
[A] lot of people seem to have exaggerated ideas about past assimilation and simply don't realize that 100 years ago, just like today, major American cities had foreign language newspapers and things like Yiddish theater that were the equivalent of Univision. There never was a time when people got off the boat, immediately enrolled themselves in English-immersion classes, and gave birth to perfect little Anglo-Saxon children. It was always the case that linguistic, social, and economic integration was a complicated multigenerational process.
Matt is actually underestimating the extent to which 19th century immigrants retained their distinct identity -- a point I made a few years ago:
[Samuel Huntington] also contends that Hispanic immigrants are more likely to retain ties with their country of origin. But he conveniently overlooks that nineteenth-century immigrants often did the same thing. According to O'Rourke and Williamson, U.S. officials estimated that between 1870 and 1914, 30 percent of immigrants emigrated back to the country they came from. Among Italians, the rate approached 50 percent because young Italian men went back and forth between the new world and the old country in search of work.

posted by Dan at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Blogs, public intellectuals and the academy

For the millions thousands close relatives who are interested in my musings on the state of public intellectuals in America, you can read a draft of "Public Intellectuals 2.0" which I'll be presenting at a conference later this week at Boston University's Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs. While the dominant trope about public intellectuals is that they ain't what they used to be, I'm relatively bullish. The thesis paragraph:

[T]he growth of online publication venues has stimulated rather than retarded the quality and diversity of public intellectuals. The criticisms levied against these new forms of publishing seem to mirror the flaws that plague the more general critique of current public intellectuals: hindsight bias and conceptual fuzziness. Rather, the growth of blogs and other forms of online writing have partially reversed a trend that many have lamented – what Russell Jacoby labeled the “professionalization and academization” of public intellectuals. In particular, the growth of the blogosphere breaks down – or at least lowers – the barriers erected by a professionalized academy.
Go check it out, and don't be afraid to e-mail me about what I got wrong!

posted by Dan at 08:42 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Please tell me this is a very late April Fool's joke

I've een cautiously optimistic that John McCain would choouse a Ron Paul -type Republican (minus the conspiratorial bigotry) since the Huckabee wing of the party is much less likely to vote for Obama.

Now James Pethokoukis reports the following on his Capital Commerce blog:

Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and defeated contender for the GOP presidential nomination, is currently at the top of John McCain's short list for a running mate. At least that's the word from a top McCain fundraiser and longtime Republican moneyman who has spoken to McCain's inner circle. The fundraiser is less than thrilled with the idea of Huckabee as the vice presidential nominee, and many economic conservatives—turned off by the populist tone of Huckabee's campaign and his tax record as governor—are likely to share that marked lack of enthusiasm.
Based on what I know of Huckabee's policy views, my reaction to this piece of information:

posted by Dan at 01:11 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)