Here are Tufts University Political Science Professor Dan Drezner and Stanford Philosophy Professor Joshua Cohen demonstrating how good-hearted, profoundly reasonable, oh-so-intellectually sophisticated Americans diligently struggle with -- torture themselves over -- what they have convinced themselves is the vexing question of whether our leaders should be considered "war criminals" by virtue of . . . . having committed unambiguous war crimes.... This is now the conventional wisdom, the settled consensus, of our political and media elites with regard to America's torture program. It's perfectly appropriate that Drezner cites and heaps praise on the self-consciously open-minded meditation on the torture question from The Atlantic's Ross Douthat because -- as I wrote in response to Douthat -- our political elites have now, virtually in unison, convinced themselves that ambiguity and understanding with regard to American war crimes are the hallmarks of both intellectual and moral superiority.... This is the justifying argument the political class has latched onto -- one that was spawned, revealingly enough, by Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith: sure, some of this might have been excessive and arguably wrong, but it was all done for the right reasons, by people who are good at heart. So common is this self-justifying American rationalization that it has now even infected the mentality of long-time Bush critics, such as The Los Angeles Times Editorial Page, which today argued that prosecutions for Bush officials are inappropriate, even though they clearly broke multiple laws, because "they did so as part of a post- 9/11 response to terrorism." As this excellent reply from Diane at Cab Drollery puts it: "civility and understanding is far more important to them than simple justice."Yes, because we all know that the exact administration of justice is best when it lacks understanding. This is certainly true of Greenwald, who appears not to have actually listened to what Cohen and I actually said to each other. I was pretty explicit about the following:
"Isn’t it amazing," asks Krugman, "just how impressive the people being named to key positions in the Obama administration seem? Bye-bye hacks and cronies, hello people who actually know what they’re doing. For a bunch of people who were written off as a permanent minority four years ago, the Democrats look remarkably like the natural governing party these days, with a deep bench of talent." That certainly feels true. But the Bush administration started out with a fairly deep bench. Colin Powell as Secretary of State. Paul O'Neill --a former deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and a past chairman of the RAND Corporation -- as Secretary of the Treasury. Columbia's Glenn Hubbard as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice providing foreign policy expertise. Indeed, the Bush team was lauded for being such a natural entity of governance: These were figures from the Nixon and Ford and Bush administrations, and they were backed by graybeards like Baker and Scowcroft and Greenspan. What could go wrong?McArdle dissents:
Obama's got a much, much better economics team than Bush started out with. I agree with his endorsement of Glenn Hubbard. But Paul O'Neill wasn't exactly an a-lister even before he turned out to have fantastic(ally entertaining!) verbal impulse control problems. And Larry Lindsay did not match up to Larry Summers in stature, though of course what he got fired for was not being incompetent, but telling the truth. Bush's second term team has actually been pretty stellar, but his first term left a lot to be desired.I actually think they're both right. Klein is correct that, John Ashcroft excepted, Bush's first cabinet was viewed at the time in largely glowing terms. Remember when everyone thought Tommy Thompson was the perfect guy to take over HHS? When Bush deciding to keep George Tenet and Norm Mineta in his cabinet were acts of statesmanlike bipartisanship? Ironically, Ashcroft is likely the only first-term cabinet member whose reputation has gone up in retrospect. At the same time, McArdle is correct that the economic team was not considered the strength of the cabinet -- the national security team had the all-stars in Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, etc. The simple fact is that what matters in any organization is the leadership from the top. George W. Bush put together a group of strong-willed individuals, but displayed little interest in refereeing disputes among them. Will Obama do better? I'm cautiously optimistic, but we won't know for a while.
Readers are encouraged to improve upon Entertainment Weekly and discuss which sexy movies were thoughtlessly omitted from the list.
In the Travel and Entertainment category, you will find that fewer requests to eat in restaurants will be approved, and requests for desserts in restaurants, particularly, will not be approved (unless they are included in the cost of a kid’s meal). In the case of Cabot’s or The Cheesecake Factory, where ice cream or cheesecake, respectively, is kind of the point, sharing is strongly encouraged. An additional benefit of this will be improved health. Netflix has been put on hold for 90 days, and we will reconsider that offering then; unopened red envelopes left on top of the TV indicate a lack of demand at present. Newspaper and magazine subscriptions are subject to elimination as well. Executives, including myself, are being asked to purchase regular coffee in place of more expensive coffee drinks while traveling, and to utilize meals from our on-site food service provider whenever possible.... Lastly, note that we have no plans to add human resources. Requests for non-human resources (i.e., pets) may be considered in a future fiscal year.
The Chinese government has begun drafting tax and spending policies to stimulate the economy after third-quarter growth of 9 percent, the slowest pace since an outbreak of Sars in 2003.... As part of the new policy, the State Council announced that it would increase export tax rebates for everything from labor-intensive products like garments and textile to high-value products like mechanical and electrical products. Banks will be encouraged to lend more money to small and medium-size enterprises and support programs will be drafted to help farmers, the government said.... Increased export tax rebates will make Chinese exports even more competitive in the United States and Europe, particularly as China has intervened heavily in currency markets to halt any further appreciation of China’s currency since mid-June. But with the United States heavily dependent on China to buy the Treasury bonds needed to finance a bailout of the American financial system, the Bush administration has stopped criticizing China’s trade and currency policies.To be fair to Beijing, other expansionary policies are being pursued. Still, given the country's strong fiscal position, and given China's overreliance on export growth to fuel its job creation, I'm not sure that export tax rebates are the way to go here. I strongly encourage China-watchers to let me know if I'm overreacting.
So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!" Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the n***er."From Ben Smith:
New polling and a trickle of stories from the battleground states suggest that Sen. Barack Obama's coalition includes one unlikely group: white voters with negative views of African-Americans.... Anecdotes from across the battlegrounds suggest that there’s a significant minority of prejudiced white voters who will swallow hard and vote for the black man. “I wouldn’t want a mixed marriage for my daughter, but I’m voting for Obama,” the wife of a retired Virginia coal miner, Sharon Fleming, told the Los Angeles Times recently. One Obama volunteer told Politico after canvassing the working-class white Philadelphia neighborhood of Fishtown recently, "I was blown away by the outright racism, but these folks are … undecided. They would call him a [racial epithet] and mention how they don't know what to do because of the economy.”Just to be subversive here, these are the kinds of interactions that could lead to a greater Bradley effect than has been anticipated for this election cycle. While people with these kind of attitudes might be telling canvassers, pollsters, and reporters that they're thinking of voting for Obama, I do wonder if that inclination will dissipate when they have to punch the ticket. Developing.... UPDATE: Folks in the comments section make an excellent counterargument -- the Bradley effect only exists if people are self-conscious enough about their racism to shield it from pollsters, and the people in these anecdotes do not appear to be doing that. So who knows. ANOTHER UPDATE: One counterpoint to the counterargument. To put it gently, the people quoted in the above excerpts don't sound like the most media-savvy individuals in the world. So maybe they're trying to please reporters et al but are doing it in a very ham-handed way.
The past 14 days have transformed this election. The financial crisis has catapulted Obama into the lead both nationally and in key states. We have been saying for six months that the political environment has favored the Democrats significantly, but it took a near global financial meltdown for things to finally reach the tipping point. The economic situation has virtually ended John McCain's presidential aspirations and no amount of tactical maneuvering in the final 29 days is likely to change that equation.Intrade now gives Obama a 68% chance of winning. Nate Silver now gives Obama an 88% chance of winning. Conservative columnists like Charles Krauthammer and David Brooks are now conceding that Obama will win. So, my questions to readers:
The last three decades have seen two important shifts among advanced industrialized economies. The first is the move away from state ownership of large chunks of the economy, and the replacement of hands-on government control with a variety of regulatory instruments. This has happened across all countries in the industrialized world – there are few developed states which still directly own substantial parts of their economy. The second is more specific and recent – the tendency to replace ‘heavy-handed’ forms of regulation with ‘regulation with a light touch’ and self-regulation. This has been most marked in Anglo-American economies, but other countries (in continental Europe and elsewhere) have faced persistent ideological pressures to move in this direction. This is a large chunk of the so-called ‘reform’ agenda that the Economist magazine, the OECD and other such bodies keep pushing. Both of these shifts are largely ideological – that is, they gained much of their impetus from changes in the shared ideas which constitute policy-makers’ shared collective wisdom about how to deal with the economy. The second shift (the reform agenda) is now a busted flush. Its proponents are in disarray.... But what is utterly startling to me is that the first bit – the claim that the state shouldn’t be directly involved in running the economy – is under serious threat too. I genuinely hadn’t expected this to happen. As the NYT notes, countries like France are using US actions as a way to justify state involvement in picking and supporting national champions.It's not just France. Russia has planned aggressive state actions to intervene in financial markets. So has China. The Gulf economies are now feeling domestic pressure to use their sovereign wealth funds to prop up their own equity markets. Is this the beginning of a norm shift in the global economy? It's tempting to say yes, but I have my doubts. The last time the United States intervened on this scale in its own financial sector was the S&L bailout -- and despite that intervention, financial globalization took off. The last time we've seen cordinated global interventions like this was the Asian financial crisis of a decade ago -- and that intevention reinforced rather than retarded the privilege of private actors in the marketplace. In other words, massive interventions can take place without undecutting the ideological consensus that private actors should control the commading heights of the economy. Finally, there's the odd fact that despite the financial chaos of the past year, in relative terms the United States is still doing surprisingly well. U.S. equity markets are actually outperforming the world, and as the crisis has deepened the dollar has strengthened. Over the past fifty years, this has been America's saving grace -- in past crises that were thought to end U.S. hegemony, it's the U.S. that suffers the fewest costs. This does not mean that history will repeat itself -- but it's something to bear in mind as the crisis moves foreward.
The acclaim for the vice presidential nominee is all but deafening within the GOP, except in one small but influential corner: the party’s foreign policy establishment. Among that mandarin class, the response to Palin’s nomination has been underwhelming, marked by distinctly faint praise or flat-out silence.Having chatted with a few members of this mandarin class, I would describe the range of opinion about Palin's foreign policy bona fides as varying from "underwhelmed" to "you gotta be f#$%ing kidding me?" What's really disturbing, however, is this Bob Kagan quote:
“I don’t take this elite foreign policy view that only this anointed class knows everything about the world," he said. "I’m not generally impressed that they are better judges of American foreign policy experience than those who have Palin’s experience.”This is one of those head-scratching comments when the only question is whether Kagan is being completely cynical or whether he actually believes that expertise is irrelevant. Given the GOP attack line just three weeks ago was about Obama's inexperience, and given that Bob goes to the trouble of writing and researching actual books, I have to go with cynical. Question to other GOP policy wonks: is it possible to support a candidate that campaigns on the notion that expertise is simply irrelevant? UPDATE: In the comments, I'm seeing variations on the argument that Palin has as much foreign policy experience as Clinton or Bush did when they were elected. One could quibble a bit with that, but it's not really the point. The point is this: foreign policy issues were not terribly important in either the 1992 nor 2000 elections. Regardless of one's views of the candidates, does anyone seriously believe that the strategic environment in either 1992 or 2000 is akin to the situation we face today?
One minor casualty of the recent conflict in Georgia was the doctrine of peace through McGlobalization — a belief first elaborated by Thomas Friedman in 1999, and left in ruins on August 8, when Russian troops moved into South Ossetia. “No two countries that both had McDonald’s had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald’s,” wrote Friedman in The Lexus and the Olive Tree (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux). Not that the fast-food chain itself had a soothing effect, of course. The argument was that international trade and modernization — and the processes of liberalization and democratization created in their wakes — would knit countries together in an international civil society that made war unnecessary. There would still be conflict. But it could be contained — made rational, and even profitable, like competition between Ronald and his competitors over at Burger King. (Thomas Friedman does not seem like a big reader of Kant, but his thinking here bears some passing resemblance to the philosopher’s “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Perspective,” an essay from 1784.) McDonald’s opened in Russia in 1990 — a milestone of perestroika, if ever there were one. And Georgia will celebrate the tenth anniversary of its first Micky D’s early next year, assuming anybody feels up for it. So much for Friedman’s theory. Presumably it could be retooled ex post facto (“two countries with Pizza Huts have never had a thermonuclear conflict,” anyone?) but that really seems like cheating. Ever since a friend pointed out that the golden arches no longer serve as a peace sign, I have been wondering if some alternative idea would better fit the news from Georgia. Is there a grand narrative that subsumes recent events? What generalizations seem possible, even necessary and urgent, now? What, in short, is the Big Idea?Now I recommend giving the rest of the essay a read -- but the premise upon which McLemee bases the piece is a bit bogus. Social science theories tends towards the probabilistic. Just because one McGlobalized country has invaded another McGlobalized country does not mean that the "theory" has no explanatory power. There's no need to reject the general trend that globalized states tend to not attack each other. There's certainly no need to throw out Kant with Friedman. Furthermore, one could argue that the causal processes articulated in the theory are actually working pretty well. Russia's stock market fell by more than 4% after yesterday's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. As Lex points out on the FT blog:
By any normal measures, the Russian market – down 36 per cent since May - is now as cheap as a bottle of bootleg vodka. Sadly, investors are concluding Russia is not a normal country. Its choice of confrontation with the west will do little immediate damage to its economy - $1bn a day is still flowing in from exports of oil, gas, and oil products. But the damage to growth and the development of its market could be long-lasting.... If reforms are slow or non-existent, long-term earnings growth will be slower too, and vulnerability to commodity shocks higher. Investors will demand a premium to reflect the political and event risk. Russia’s chances of closing the valuation gap with China and India – which it never quite managed – recede sharply. How much of that worst-case scenario comes to pass will depend, in part, on how the current crisis evolves. Meantime, investors will continue their retreat from Moscow in favour of places that act in their own long-term economic self-interest.So, in the end, the war has resulted in losers on all sides. Georgia has obviously lost through its aggressive behavior towards the breakaway provinces. The United States and Europe has lost because they clearly were not able to deter Russia in Georgia. Russia has gained the humiliation of Georgia, but is has lost in terms of its ability to raise capital and coordinate among its erstwhile allies, who seem to be juuuuust a bit nervous right now. Now the sixty-four thousand dollar euro dollar question is whether these costs will deter further military aggression by all the parties involved. My instinct says yes, despite all this "new Cold War" rhetoric -- but I want to hear from readers on this question.
Not only do we live in a new “age of authoritarianism,” but we live in a world where autocratic governments increasingly finance democratic governments.... One thing is clear: the world’s biggest financial powers are no longer the world’s large democracies. A gathering of the countries that matter for global economic coordination will no longer be a gathering of the leaders of the world’s big democracies. Coordination among the large democracies was never easy — and likely will only get harder as additional countries have to be brought in.Then there's the New York Times' Jad Mouawad on national oil companies -- most of which are based in non-democratic countries:
Oil production has begun falling at all of the major Western oil companies, and they are finding it harder than ever to find new prospects even though they are awash in profits and eager to expand. Part of the reason is political. From the Caspian Sea to South America, Western oil companies are being squeezed out of resource-rich provinces. They are being forced to renegotiate contracts on less-favorable terms and are fighting losing battles with assertive state-owned oil companies. And much of their production is in mature regions that are declining, like the North Sea. The reality, experts say, is that the oil giants that once dominated the global market have lost much of their influence — and with it, their ability to increase supplies.... As late as the 1970s, Western corporations controlled well over half of the world’s oil production. These companies — Exxon Mobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Total of France and Eni of Italy — now produce just 13 percent. Today’s 10 largest holders of petroleum reserves are state-owned companies, like Russia’s Gazprom and Iran’s national oil company.... Western companies are far better than most national oil companies at finding and extracting petroleum, experts say. They have developed advanced exploration technologies and can muster significant financing to develop new fields. Many of the world’s exporting states, however, have spurned their expertise. Oil company executives see a straightforward explanation: a trend known as resource nationalism. They contend that they have been shut out of promising regions by a rising assertiveness in the Middle East, in Russia, in South America and elsewhere by governments determined to keep full control of their oil. Even in places where they are allowed to operate, the Western oil companies face growing problems. Countries like Russia, Algeria, Nigeria and Angola have recently sought to renegotiate their contracts with foreign investors to capture a bigger share of the profits. “The problem with the supply side of the equation is a problem of accessing the resources in the ground so they can be explored and developed,” Rex W. Tillerson, the chairman of Exxon, said in a recent interview. “That’s a political question where governments have made choices.”And oil is not the only area of resource nationalism and nationalization. There's cement. And, potentially, food:
While Saudi Arabia sets up its first sovereign wealth fund, ordinary Saudis are more preoccupied with the rising price of food. This is prompting the Saudi government to consider a new direction for foreign investment: buying farms in the poorer parts of the world.... Saudis are thinking of buying rice farms in Thailand, the world’s biggest rice exporter. Rice prices are climbing especially fast, as several rice-producing countries have restricted exports, fearing domestic shortages. Thailand has even flirted with the idea of an OPEC-style rice cartel. Investors from elsewhere in the Gulf, including Qatar and Abu Dhabi, are scouring the world for undeveloped farmland to buy, especially in Pakistan and Sudan. Libyans and other Arabs have been checking out Ukraine. Kuwaitis have been looking in Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.A few thoughts on all of this:
[C]an things fall apart again? Yes, they can. Consider how things have played out in the current food crisis. For years we were told that self-sufficiency was an outmoded concept, and that it was safe to rely on world markets for food supplies. But when the prices of wheat, rice and corn soared, Keynes’s “projects and politics” of “restrictions and exclusion” made a comeback: many governments rushed to protect domestic consumers by banning or limiting exports, leaving food-importing countries in dire straits. And now comes “militarism and imperialism.” By itself, as I said, the war in Georgia isn’t that big a deal economically. But it does mark the end of the Pax Americana — the era in which the United States more or less maintained a monopoly on the use of military force. And that raises some real questions about the future of globalization. Most obviously, Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, especially natural gas, now looks very dangerous — more dangerous, arguably, than its dependence on Middle Eastern oil. After all, Russia has already used gas as a weapon: in 2006, it cut off supplies to Ukraine amid a dispute over prices. And if Russia is willing and able to use force to assert control over its self-declared sphere of influence, won’t others do the same? Just think about the global economic disruption that would follow if China — which is about to surpass the United States as the world’s largest manufacturing nation — were to forcibly assert its claim to Taiwan.I can understand Krugman's concerns, and if George W. Bush keeps demanding things that Russia ain't going to do, then the official Drezner Protectionism Advisory System will shift from Edge of the Cliff to Crossed the Rubicon.* It's that last paragraph where the slippery slope problem creeps up, however. I know it's cool and hip to lump all non-democratic states together right now, but it's worth pointing out that China is not Russia. Oh, and Taiwan is not Georgia. The last thing the Chinese want right now is a major disruption of the system. And, thankfully, in the last Taiwanese elections, the Saakashvili-type candidate lost. Even before he lost, the Bush administration had sided with China more than Taiwan. The point is, while I'm not thrilled with recent developments, I'm not as gloomy as Paul Krugman. *Based on this post, the five advisory levels of the Drezner System are, in ascending order of worry:
UPDATE: Ah, the capper: "Doha trade talks collapse"- 16:27
Christine Baranski heard she got the part in the film version of "Mamma Mia!" while riding a Bonanza bus from New York to home in Connecticut.I hereby officially apologize to my mother for ever doubting that she saw Christine Baranski on a Bonanza bus. Sorry, Mom.
In a letter to U. of C. President Robert Zimmer, 101 professors—about 8 percent of the university's full-time faculty—said they feared that having a center named after the conservative, free-market economist could "reinforce among the public a perception that the university's faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity." About a half-dozen faculty members aired their concerns Tuesday in a meeting with Zimmer and Provost Thomas Rosenbaum, who remain committed to the project. Rosenbaum said the university plans to put about $500,000 toward launching the center next year, but it hopes the expected $200 million endowment for the center will come mostly from private funds from alumni and business leaders. "It is a right-wing think tank being put in place," said Bruce Lincoln, a professor of the history of religions and one of the faculty members who met with the administration Tuesday. "The long-term consequences will be very severe. This will be a flagship entity and it will attract a lot of money and a lot of attention, and I think work at the university and the university's reputation will take a serious rightward turn to the detriment of all." The controversy highlights tensions between the university's historically conservative economics department and law school and the generally liberal humanities and social sciences.... Rosenbaum said the center will not push any particular point of view. "We are honoring a great scholar, and that is the intent here," Rosenbaum said. "We are supportive of a wide range of ideas across the spectrum of ideologies, and it's not intended to promote any ideology." But faculty critics are concerned that it will be one-sided, attracting scholars and donors who share a point of view. They point to sentences in the institute proposal noting that its focus would "typify some of Milton Friedman's most interesting academic work," including his critical analysis of monetary policy and advocacy of market-driven forces over government planning of the economy.I took a look at the proposal, and here is the relevant Friedman excerpt:
In discussions of economic science, ‘Chicago’ stands for an approach that takes seriously the use of economic theory as a tool for analyzing a startlingly wide range of concrete problems…for an approach that insists on the empirical testing of theoretical generalizations and that rejects alike facts without theory and theory without facts. … There are really three aspects of the Chicago school. First, it is distinguished by its scientific approach, its attitude toward economics as a discipline, a science. In the second place, it has a distinctive approach to economic policy in general. And third, and more recently, it has had a special meaning in the field of monetary analysis and monetary policy… The most important aspect, in my opinion, is the scientific. The key to the influence of The University of Chicago on economics throughout the world is that ever since its founding in 1892, the Economics Department of The University of Chicago has regarded economics as a serious subject that has something to do with the real world. It has considered economics a positive science, a method of analysis which has broad applications to many topics.That's not exactly a statement screaming ideological orthodoxy and/or rigidity. As FIRE's Adam Kissel observes:
If this is enough to establish that a program mandates an orthodoxy, I fear for the Center for Gender Studies, the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, the Core curriculum courses on "Colonizations"—and even the History Department, which explicitly advertises an unequal commitment to "interdisciplinary and comparative history" versus other kinds of history. I am even more fearful for the entire School of Social Service Administration, which declares in its mission statement that "In most cases, alleviating distress requires an emphasis on helping individuals and families acquire the resources, skills, and authority to secure adequate solutions to their own problems." A witch-hunt for orthodoxy-like statements only leads to a lot of drownings of false witches.When we get to the full text of the petition and its list of signatories, however, another possible explanation for the objection comes to mind -- one that would have no doubt bemused Milton Friedman. From the petition:
Many of us are also perturbed that other units of the University that routinely engage the issues that the Friedman Institute is designed to address were not included in the planning, nor included in the ongoing core scholarly endeavors of the Institute.... Still others believe that, given the influx of private contributions to the MFI, the University now has the opportunity to provide roughly equivalent resources for critical scholarly work that seeks out alternatives to recent economic, social, and political developments.Ah, now we get to the nub of things. The proposal makes it pretty clear that the Milton Friedman Institute will distribute the bulk of its benefits to the department of economics, the law school, and the business school. The modal department affiliations of the petitioners are Anthropology, East Asian Languages, English, History, and Political Science. My theory is that the opposition is grounded less on ideology and more on an effort to ensure these departments get a bigger slice of the pie. This raises an interesting hypothetical question: if Friedman were alive, would he recommend persuasion, bribery, or institutional prerogative to deal with this situation? WWMFD? Suggestions welcome. UPDATE: There's one other possible explanation that should be pursued. If this FAQ page is correct, then it looks like the Friedman Center could eventually displace the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore and force it to relocate. In which case, I say, "hell no, the bookstore can't go!!" ANOTHER UPDATE: See these old posts by David Warsh and Steven Levitt for more. And I've changed the post title in recognition of Jonathan Adler's observation.
Last week I communicated to Senator Obama and his presidential campaign my firm intention to remain in the United States Senate, where I believe I am best equipped to serve the people of Virginia and this country. Under no circumstances will I be a candidate for Vice President.My reaction:
Why? Admittedly, I was never a big fan of Webb. When I testified at the Senate Foreign Relations committee, however, my Webbophobia kicked up a notch. He wasn't flying off the handle or anything like that -- he was just bound and determined not to hear the answer I was giving him at one point. [Why do you care who Obama picks?--ed. Because I think he's very likely to win, which means his VP pick will immediately be a party leader, and I'd like to see a pick that doesn't make Richard Gephardt look like a free trader.]
A crazy question I have to ask: would there be any possibility of developing a useful "sabermetrics for geopolitics"? I know such a correlation isn't obvious or perhaps even possible. I realize too, that SABR has been in baseball for over 20 years and is only now discovering the vagaries of fielding...and that geopolitics is orders of magnitude more complex. Moreover, what to analyze? how? what methods? what data..and on and on. I also realize that geopolitics and economics are already full of statistics, so "more" is simply not the answer in and of itself. That being said, is there more out there that can be done in how we organize and think about it? I have to think there is. Can it be studied and analyzed in ways that, like Billy Beane did, discover inefficiencies in way most people, governments and organizations look at things that can subsequently be looked at in a different way and/or exploited?A lot if political scientists and international relations scholars would probably sigh pretty loudly at this question. After all, an awful lot of the field already uses a lot of quantitative measures to conduct statistical analysis of politics. Indeed, so much of the field uses these techniques that we've already experienced the backlash. As for foreign policy analysis, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita has not been shy about using formal and quantitative methods to make predictions in world politics. On the other hand.... Baseball Prospectus' Nate Silver recently made a splash when it turned out he was the driving force behind FiveThirtyEight, a blog about predicting the 2008 election. What Silver does is different from a lot of standard political science, in that he's not really interested in theory all that much. He's looking for the best empirical fit, rather than the most elegant and generalizable theoretical model. Because political science places a higher value on the latter, the kind of stuff that Silver does is -- unfortunately -- seen as less interesting within the academy. So maybe there is a niche to fill. Two problems, however. First, in a recent Q&A, Silver noted correctly that, "You can explain a higher percentage of baseball with statistics than you can of politics." Second, sabermetrics can't work unless it has statistics to measure -- and in international relations, useful large-N data is even more scarce than in domestic politics. Just because my imagination is limited, however, doesn't mean that a sabermetric approach can't add value. Indeed, the fact that I can't think of how merely suggests that I've been too professionalized. I'll leave it to the readers -- are there "metatechniques" developed by sabermetricians that could be applicable to international interactions?
Technology has changed the way we live and the way the world does business. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the advance of capitalism have vanquished old challenges to America's global leadership, but new challenges have emerged, from China and India, Eastern Europe and Brazil. Jobs and industries can move to any country with an internet connection and willing workers. Michigan's children will grow up facing competition not just from California or South Carolina, but also from Beijing and Bangalore.You know how Bush officials like to connect any controversial foreign policy issue to the war on terrorism, even though the link might be exceedingly tenuous? I'm beginning to think that Democrats are practicing the same tactics when it comes to trade. Republicans like to demagogue about what a scary place the world is in terms of security; Democrats do the same thing when they're talking about the global economy. Yes, globalization is responsible for some job losses and wage compression, but it's contribution is pretty damn small. Obama -- or his advisors -- are being disingenuous when he says that jobs have left Michigan for China. Those jobs have disappeared into the ether, period. Technological innovation has yielded so much in the way of productivity gains that even though manufacturing jobs are shrinking in the United States, manufacturing output in this country has more than doubled since 1980. The same process has caused the global number of manufacturing jobs to shrink as well. On the other hand.... the speech echoed what Bill Clinton used to say in 1992, with a slightly greater emphasis on public goods investments than fiscal probity. Given the current state of the economy -- and the current state of our transport infrastructure -- I'm betting it will go over well. After Obama gave an interview sounding similar themes to the Wall Street Journal, James Pethokoukis made some interesting points:
Barack Obama just gave a pretty meaty interview on economic policy to the Wall Street Journal in which he kind of sounded like a guy applying for a job at the Wall Street Journal, at least its editorial board. Obama certainly comes off as a Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Democratic Leadership Council "Third Way" centrist.... If Republicans are counting on voters being frightened by Obamanomics—at least as Obama presented it in this interview—they are woefully mistaken. John McCain is going to have to make a compelling economic argument on why Obama is wrong and he is right.Pethokoukis really doesn't like Obamanomics, so the fact that he's making these admissions suggests that Obama's economic proposals are going to confound those who wish to paint him as the most liberal man on the planet.
Looking at the long term, sovereign wealth funds are one component of an alternative development path, suggests a possible rival to liberal free-market democracy. In state-led development societies, governments could use sovereign wealth funds, state-owned enterprises and banks, national oil companies, extensive regulation, and other measures to accelerate economic development, buy off dissent and promote technology transfer. If this model proves sustainable over the long run – and this is a big if – it could emerge as a viable challenger to the liberal democratic path taken by the advanced industrialized states. More countries might think of sovereign wealth funds as a signal of being a “successful” country. One could then envision the proliferation of such funds – even in situations in which there is no economic rationale for its creation. This would have corrosive effects on America’s soft power. It would be an open question whether the rest of the world would look at the democratic development model as one to emulate. Crudely put, far fewer countries would want what America wants.The New York Times has some stories today suggesting that we're already witnessing the first part of this argument -- but not the second. Edward Wong reports on the growing Chinese assertiveness about their economic model:
Senior Chinese officials are publicly and loudly rebuking the Americans on their handling of the economy and defending their own more assertive style of regulation. Chinese officials seem to be galled by the apparent hypocrisy of Americans telling them what to do while the American economy is at best stagnant. China, on the other hand, has maintained its feverish growth. Some officials are promoting a Chinese style of economic management that they suggest serves developing countries better than the American model, in much the same way they argue that they are in no hurry to copy American-style multiparty democracy. In the last six weeks alone, a senior banking regulator blamed Washington’s “warped conception” of market regulation for the subprime mortgage crisis that is rattling the world economy; the Chinese envoy to the World Trade Organization called on the United States to halt the dollar’s unchecked depreciation before the slide further worsens soaring oil and food prices; and Chinese agencies denounced a federal committee charged with vetting foreign investments in the United States, saying the Americans were showing “hostility” and a “discriminatory attitude,” not least toward the Chinese. All this reflects a brash new sense of self-confidence on the part of the Chinese. China seems to feel unusually bold before the Summer Olympics, seen here as a curtain raiser for the nation’s ascent to pre-eminence in the world. The devastating earthquake last month helped by turning world sympathy toward China and dampening criticism of its handling of Tibet.The Times also references a report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, however, that suggests Chinese soft power still lags far behind its hard power capabilities:
China, just months before it is set to take the world’s center stage during the 2008 Summer Olympics, still ranks below the United States as a multifaceted power in the opinion of its Asian neighbors. The report, which is based on public opinion survey in five East and Southeast Asian countries and the United States, reveals that perceptions of China’s soft power – the ability to wield influence by indirect, non-military means – generally trail those of the United States and Japan. These perceptions persist despite China’s strong economic relationships in Asia, and around the world, and its consistent and concerted efforts to leverage the Olympic Games to bolster its public image.Click here to read the full report. From the executive summary:
While other polls have detected declining U.S. global influence, the Chicago Council/EAI survey finds that in Asia, the United States is still highly regarded in all five of the key areas of soft power addressed in this survey: economics, culture, human capital, diplomacy, and politics. Whether this influence is a product of U.S. foreign policy or exists in spite of it, it is clear that the United States has a very strong foundation on which to build future policy in the region.
My hunch is that if the survey were broadened beyond the Pacific Rim, Chinese soft power would be inversely correlated with a country's distance from China.
The 64,000 dollar renminbi questions are twofold:
I trust my readers to weigh in.
Four years after Massachusetts became the first state to allow gay couples to marry, there have been blissful unions, painful divorces and everything in between. Some same-sex couples say being married has made a big difference, and some say it has made no difference at all. There are devoted couples who have decided marriage is not for them, couples whose lawyers or accountants advised them against marrying, and couples in which one partner wants to marry but the other does not.That's from Pam Belluck's not-so-stunning story in the New York Times, which goes to show that there's no social trends story the Times won't run that the Onion already ran four years ago. Really, delete the words "gay" and "same-sex" and I'd say the lede applies to all couples contemplating marriage
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.