Monday, July 21, 2003
THE POLITICIZATION OF INTELLIGENCE: Josh Marshall has gone into great detail about the extent to which the hawks within the Bush administration fought a bureaucratic battle with intelligence professionals over questions of interpretation and presentation. Marshall links to this Jim Hoagland essay from October 2002 that puts the issue in stark terms:

As President Bush's determination to overthrow the Iraqi dictator has become evident to all, a cultural change has come over the world's most expensive intelligence agency: Some analysts out at Langley are now willing to evaluate incriminating evidence against the Iraqis and call it just that.

That development has triggered a fierce internal agency struggle pitting officials whose careers and reputations were built on the old analysis of the Iraqis as a feckless, inert and inward-looking bunch of thugs against those willing to take a fresh, untilted look at all the evidence.

To which Marshall points out:

[Y]ou can't separate our failure to find a lot of what we thought we'd find in Iraq from the "war" the administration has been fighting with the intelligence community for the last two years. If the administration spent the previous two years "at war" with the CIA, pushing them harder and harder into a set of assumptions (and in many cases conclusions) that turned out to be wildly off-the-mark, shouldn't there be some political accountability for what turned out to be at best a very poor call?

Marshall makes a serious point here -- the management of the intelligence process matters.

However, there are two points worth considering in response. The first is that this is hardly the first administration to take an active interest in the shaping of intelligence. As Chris Sullentrop obseved last week in his assessment of CIA director George Tenet:

Before critics such as New York Times columnists Paul Krugman and Nicholas D. Kristof lambasted the Bush administration for politicizing the CIA's intelligence analyses, spooks blasted Tenet's agency for doing the same thing during the Clinton administration. An anonymous CIA official told the National Review in October 2002 that he was badgered "for writing analyses that did not jibe with Clinton foreign policy," and another former CIA analyst wrote in 1999 on the Washington Post op-ed page, "Politicization of intelligence estimates continues to flourish under Tenet's leadership."

Now the natural counterargument to this is that "everyone else does it" is a poor defense. However, as Marshall himself acknowledges, "sometimes bureaucracies really do need to be taken on, to be shaken up." Eliot Cohen points out in Supreme Commandthat civilian leaders should intervene in the planning and management of military operations. A parallel case can be made for intelligence -- over time, intel experts become locked into their preconceptions of the raw data, and need to be exposed to rival interpretations. Skillful intervention in the intelligence process can introduce intellectual debate, which in turn can generate sharper analysis.

Of course, there's a difference between skillful intervention, mismanaged intervention, and willful ignorance of brute facts. The outcome of the debate that's currently taking place will rests on which interpretation of events will become the consensus.

RESPONDING TO MY CRITICS: Catching up from a weekend spent off the net, I found Kieran Healy taking issue with my not taking issue with the WMD/intelligence imbroglio:

Before the invasion, many anti-war protestors used the slogan “Not In My Name” or something similar. That line was derided by pro-war commentators as epitomising the supposedly self-indulgent or solipsistic attitiude of the anti-war movement....

Dan can be relied on to have made as well-argued and well-supported case for war as possible, but at this point I really don’t care what it was, for the same reasons the hawks had no time for the “Not In My Name” line. The substance of the President’s case for war is what matters, and it had everything to do with “the WMD issue.” If that case was built on a series of lies — immediate threat, 45-minutes to deployment, uranium from Niger and all the rest of it — then that is something to get exercised about.

Other bloggers have chimed in with a chorus of "hear, hear."

So I'm getting all worked up to deliver a multipronged response along the lines of:

1) Restating my point that I did not think the questions being raised about the process of intelligence -gathering and dissemination were either trivial or partisan;

2) Explaining that although it is an issue, the extent to which the run-up to the Iraq war has been reframed to make it appear that the Bush administration's only stated rationale for going to war was that Iraq had acquired uranium from Niger is just wrong;

3) Suggesting that I did not critique the anti-war movement for being self-indulgent or solipsistic -- although I certainly critiqued the myriad elements of that movement.

I was looking at a bit of work here.

I realize, however, that James Joyner , John Cole and Will Baude have actually made these points for me.

So, I'm taking the afternoon off.

I will, however, make one additional suggestion. The power of the critique against Bush would be strengthened if it could be shown that a significant fraction of the American public -- as well as the legislative branch -- supported action against Iraq only because of the claim that Hussein's regime had an active nuclear weapons program.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire links to polls suggesting that the WMD question was salient in the run-up to the war. However, WMD includes chemical and biological weapons as well as nuclear weapons. Kevin Drum responds here -- and be sure to read the comments page. My personal favorite ends with: "Who is Dan Drezner, and why anyone should give his opinion a second thought? I mean, really. Anyone can set up a web log."

OXBLOG VS. THE NEW YORK TIMES: David Adesnik's recent posts challenge the NYT's attempt -- intended or not -- to paint Iraq as a domestic and foreign policy fisco.

OxBlog. This post critiques the Times piece on the WMD debate at home; this post attacks the quagmire thesis (UPDATE: the last link is acting dodgy -- just go to their front page and scroll down to Sunday's posts). Go check them out.
Friday, July 18, 2003
PROSE ENVY: Tyler Cowen is correct to praise Michael Lewis' Moneyball as "one of the best books about management I have read." Actually, this is his third excellent business book that Lewis has penned. The first two were Liar's Poker -- which perfectly encapsulates millieu of the Wall Street boom of the late 1980's-- and The New New Thing -- which perfectly encapsulates the dot-com explosion in Silicon Valley in the late 1990's.

It is worth noting, however, that this week marks the one-year anniversary of what will probably be the bravest essay Lewis ever writes. Give it a read and be amazed at the the guts it must have taken to publish it.
THE OFFICIAL ATTACK ON PALESTINIAN INTELLECTUALS: The mob assault on Palestinian political scientist Khalil Shikaki's center (see also here) has prompted some follow-up coverage on ways in which Palestinian intellectuals are threatened when they deviate from the Palestinian Authority's party line. The San Francisco Chronicle points out that Shikali is not the only Palestinian academic to feel the effects of the state-organized mob:

Years ago, [Al- Quds University president Sari] Nusseibeh was beaten up at Bir Zeit University for promoting dialogue with Israelis. Last year, he was dismissed as the PLO's representative in Jerusalem after he publicly questioned whether demanding the right of return was either logical or feasible.

The leaflet distributed in Ramallah on Sunday recalled how Nusseibeh was denied entry to the campus of Al-Najah University in Nablus two months ago and prevented from discussing a new Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.

"We warn anyone who considers harming the national rights that their fate will be similar to that of Shikaki and Nusseibeh," said a statement by the group that organized the egg-throwing, the Committee for the Defense of Palestinian Refugees' Rights.

"They will be ostracized and put on popular trial," the statement continued.

"The committee salutes the masses who care about their rights and who do not allow mercenary academics to spread their poison among our people.

"The committee calls on the Palestinian prime minister not to be lenient on such people and to take a clear position opposing their activities and to put them on trial for high treason."

Read the whole piece to see the links between the Palestinian Authority and mob attacks. The article also points out that beyond the intellectual class, independent journalists are feeling the heat:

"People are often very cautious about expressing their political views, especially with regard to the government and sensitive issues," said Khaled Abu Toameh, an ex-PLO employee who is now an independent reporter and analyst. "Some writers and journalists have been punished by the Palestinian Authority for simply expressing their views. In one case, a group of intellectuals was imprisoned or beaten up by Palestinian Authority thugs for signing a petition calling for reforms."

Abu Toameh added: "There has been a slight improvement in recent years with more people speaking out openly in favor of reforms and against corruption, but you always have the feeling that you're being watched.

"It's not as bad as Syria or Saddam's Iraq, but it can be frightening. Palestinian journalists know that you don't mess around with sacred cows."

It is this kind of thuggery that makes Shikali's work so dangerous -- a fact that he and Arafat understand clearly. Shikali's follow-up interview in today's Chicago Tribune spells this out:

At his center this week, Shikaki shrugged off the incident.

"I'm just going to continue, and it's not going to disturb me at all," he said. "No one succeeded in silencing me in the past and they're not going to silence me now."

The source of the uproar, he said, was that his poll, conducted among 4,500 refugee families in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Jordan and Lebanon, for the first time "tapped into private opinion, not public opinion--what people are saying to themselves and not saying to their neighbors. A lot of people want it to remain private, not public."

It should also be pointed out that Nusseibeh is not backing down either. He is currently spearheading an extraordinary petition drive with prominent Israelis to promote an alternative path to peace. In the span of six weeks, this effort has already garnered 30,000 signatures in Israel and the occupied territories.

Israelis have criticized Palestinian intellectuals for not speaking truth to power. However, a small slice of Palestinian civil society has spoken truth to power, espousing nonviolence and negotiation as the proper tools of resistance, despite the overwhelming pressure these individuals must face to toe the party line.

Shikali and Nusseibeh demonstrate that there are Palestinian intellectuals who are willing to challenge official doctrine. One can only hope that in the future, such challenges do not require the ample amounts of bravery these men clearly possess.

UPDATE: Judith Weiss posts on the emerging opposition to the Arafat's disastrous economic policies. Go check it out.

Thursday, July 17, 2003
STEPHEN JOHNSON IS NOT AN ACADEMIC: In a Slate essay pointing out systemic flaws in Google's search technology, Johnson -- who also blogs-- makes the following argument:

Google is beginning to have a subtle, but noticeable effect on research. More and more scholarly publications are putting up their issues in PDF format, which Google indexes as though they were traditional Web pages. But almost no one is publishing entire books online in PDF form. So, when you're doing research online, Google is implicitly pushing you toward information stored in articles and away from information stored in books. Assuming this practice continues, and assuming that Google continues to grow in influence, we may find ourselves in a world where, if you want to get an idea into circulation, you're better off publishing a PDF file on the Web than landing a book deal.

The problem with this argument is that it fails to recognize that this process predates Google -- or the Internet, for that matter.

Johnson sets this up as an either/or question -- online papers or books. In point of fact, for most academics this is a progression. First you circulate your ideas in draft form, then as a conference paper, then as an article, and then -- maybe -- publish a book. The book stage depends on the discipline -- for example, they matter far less in economics than in political science. However, this was true long before Google. The only thing the Internet and its search engines has changed is widening the access to papers at the preliminary stages of development. [But what about writers not affiliated with universities?--ed. I'd argue that the process is similar. Good writers/researchers often publish the germ of an idea in a magazine before deciding that it has enough legs to merit writing a book. Often, the author will publish excerpts from the book in magazines or journals. For example, Michael Lewis published an excerpt of Moneyball in the New York Times Magazine this March. This applies to fiction-writers as well.]

Furthermore, there are good reasons for the process to work this way. Getting an idea/argument out in draft form has two advantages to just writing a book without posting or publishing bits of it online. First, for the author, making the ideas available in draft form permits greater feedback, which in turn helps to improve the ideas. Second, for the community of people interested in the topic, finding such ideas as early as possible lets them stay on the cutting edge of the latest work on the subject (it certainly helps with bibliography-hunting).

Is Johnson correct that with Google, fewer people prefer to read a researcher's book-length treatment of the topic over the Internet-accessible, condensed version of the argument? I doubt it. Busy people look for shortcuts, and a big shortcut for scholars is to read an author's article instead of his/her book (unless the topic or argument really hits home). This was true long before the Internet or Google ever existed.

UPDATE: For another critique, click here and here. Johnson responds ably on his blog. He's all-too-correct in observing:

It's a sign of the times I suppose that a piece about search engine algorithms comes across as an incendiary, hot-button assault...



ANOTHER UPDATE: Larry Solum over at Legal Theory Blog has an extended discussion of the Internet's effect on legal research.

WORTH READING: David Adesnik's critique of the Washington Post's reporting on its own polls, and Colby Cosh's detailed dissection of Russia's role in making or breaking the Kyoto Protocol. Both links via InstaPundit.
LET THEM EAT SUBSIDIES: That's the title of my latest Tech Central Station piece. It's a report on how the EU's inability to seriously reform its Common Agricultural Policy is derailing world trade talks and impoverishing lots of poor farmers. Go check it out.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
LET THEM EAT YELLOWCAKE: I understand why Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, and others are so exercised about the "sixteen little words" meme. The uranium question -- and the blame game that has erupted along with it -- manages to undercut two pillars of strength for the Bush team. The first was the 2000 pledge to be straight-shooters, avoiding the waffling and legalese of the Clinton administration. The second was the notion that the wealth of gravitas in the foreign policy team would produce a well-oiled, professional foreign policy. Many people have hit the first pillar hard, which surprises me, because there are valid defenses to it. I'm waiting for the second one to come under attack.

My take on this, however, is akin to Tom Friedman's in today's NYT:

[I]t is a disturbing thought that the Bush team could get itself so tied up defending its phony reasons for going to war — the notion that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction that were undeterrable and could threaten us, or that he had links with Al Qaeda — that it could get distracted from fulfilling the real and valid reason for the war: to install a decent, tolerant, pluralistic, multireligious government in Iraq that would be the best answer and antidote to both Saddam and Osama....

Eyes on the prize, please. If we find W.M.D. in Iraq, but lose Iraq, Mr. Bush will not only go down as a failed president, but one who made the world even more dangerous for Americans. If we find no W.M.D., but build a better Iraq — one that proves that a multiethnic, multireligious Arab state can rule itself in a decent way — Mr. Bush will survive his hyping of the W.M.D. issue, and the world will be a more hospitable and safer place for all Americans.

Look, Frank Gaffney overreaches when he says this is pure partisanship. It's perfectly valid to question the policy process that led to the SOTU screw-up, and part of me is grateful that it's happening.

I can't get exercised about it, however. My reasons for supporting an attack on Iraq had little to do with the WMD issue. The uranium question was part of one rationale among many the administration gave for pushing forward in Iraq. I'm not saying this should be swept under the rug, but the level of righteous indignation that's building up on the left is reaching blowback proportions.

COURAGE: ESPN's ESPY awards show -- which airs this evening -- is an exercise to fill airtime during one of the slowest sports days of the year, the day after Major League Baseball's All-Star Game. On the whole, it's a pretty silly event -- the only memory I have of it was Bill Murray doing a hysterical bit in the late 1990's about how Michael Jordan's career was complete now that he'd won an ESPY.

However, the event does has one authentic creation -- the Arthur Ashe Courage Award (click here to see the past winners). Last year's winners were the rugby players who battled the terrorists on United flight 93.

This year's winners will be Pat and Kevin Tillman. Here's why:

Since joining the Army following the 2001 World Trade Center disaster, the Tillmans have refused all media interviews -- a policy they still enforce. They will, however, be recognized in absentia on ESPN's 2003 ESPY Awards on July 19, when they will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Their younger brother, Richard, will accept on their behalf, according to their father.

"To tell you the truth, the boys are not too pleased about the ESPY thing," said the elder Tillman. "But I am. I'm very happy about it. I'm proud."...

Pat Tillman turned down a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Kevin gave up a minor league baseball career to join Pat.

Click here for more information on the Tillmans.

Not everyone, by the way, is pleased about this. Kevin Blackistone writes in the Dallas Morning News:

Arthur Ashe stood up for a lot of people and ideas in his lifetime. The oppressed. The afflicted. Human rights. Human dignity. But he never stood up for war. Bet he wouldn't be too thrilled about having the ESPY's Arthur Ashe Courage Award given to Pat Tillman for sacrificing his NFL career to join the U.S.'s offensive war in Iraq. That's not a part of Ashe's legacy.

I would never presume to speak for Ashe, but I suspect he would acknowledge that the oppressed and afflicted in Iraq have a better chance of seeing their human rights conditions improve with the toppling of the Baasthist regime.

DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE!!: Two days ago I blogged about the attack on Palestinian political scientist Khalil Shikaki. Today, the Chicago Tribune has an editorial about it. The key section:

[T]he mob Sunday was not interested in polling techniques but in stifling an opinion--possibly a fact--that they didn't want to hear.

Shikaki's conclusions are not implausible. Israel was founded more than 50 years ago, and as practical a matter most Palestinians could well regard their return--to live in a Jewish state--it is no longer a realistic or appealing alternative. At this point, they may prefer financial compensation or relocation in a newly created Palestinian state or elsewhere.

If Shikaki's findings are confirmed by other researchers, they also may allay well-founded Israeli fears of the demographic cataclysm that would accompany millions of Palestinians returning to Israel.

In other words, there may be room for compromise as part of a comprehensive peace agreement. For Palestinians, the poll suggests, the "right of return" by now may be more of a symbol than a reality.

Certainly one poll doesn't defuse the issue, which has stymied negotiations in the past. If the current negotiations are to succeed, the "right of return" will be on the table at some point. How the Palestinian people feel about that issue could be crucial. Researchers like Shikaki should be encouraged, not intimidated by a gang of thugs.

Indeed.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Courtesy of Tyler Cowen, a semi-recent addition to the Volokh Conspiracy. In this post, he writes:

The bottom line is that I am probably as happy as Bill Gates, we are both married, I have my voodoo flags, my Mexican cooking, and now my blog. He has a world empire, so what?

Tuesday, July 15, 2003
THE JOSE BOVE FOLLIES: Back in November, I blogged about idiotarian José Bové being arrested for trying to destroy some genetically modified crop fields in France. Here's an update:

After being tried and convicted, Bové resisted government efforts to negotiate an appropriate sentencing -- such as community service. So, in late June, French police officers forcible entered Bové's home in what the BBC calls "a dawn commando-style operation" to serve a ten-month jail sentence.

Naturally this prompted protests in France -- calling for French President Jacques Chirac to commute his sentence on Bastille Day. Chirac did shorten Bové's sentence by four months -- but this failed to mollify Bové's supporters in the Confederation Paysanne, the militant union Bové heads.

So, they decided to sabotage the Tour de France, according to Reuters :

Demonstrators supporting jailed farmers' union leader Jose Bove stopped Tour de France leader Lance Armstrong in his tracks during the 136.4-mile 10th stage to Marseille on Tuesday.

The small group of protestors sat down in the middle of the road as the peloton approached, some 43 miles from the finish in Marseille.

Police moved in quickly to drag them out of the way and the bunch continued after a delay of two minutes.

An escape group of nine lowly placed riders had already built up a lead of around 20 minutes.

The BBC observes that this could trigger a backlash:

[C]orrespondents say the Tour de France protest may lose him public support because of the cost of precious time and points to riders in France's premier sporting event.

There's nothing left to say, except that:

a) This confirms my hunch that French farmers may be the world's exemplar iditotarians; and
b) Peloton is just a really cool word.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links to a delicious irony unearthed by Merde in France -- MacDonald's nonprofit arm contributed to the renovations of the prison where Bové is currently incarcerated.

DEBATING THE REGULATION OF ANNOYANCE: I'm quite certain that the sentence "Spammers and telemarketers comprise the lowest form of existence on the planet." would generate huzzahs across the developed world. Christopher Caldwell certainly feels that way about spam e-mail, and he's not alone. It's not too hard to find similar comments about telemarketing. These complaints are usually accompanied by the tagline "something must be done!"

In the case of telemarketing, something is being done. Congress passed and President Bush signed the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act -- which empowers the FCC to create a national "do not call registry" that would make it illegal for telemarketers to call your phone number -- with some exceptions. It would not be surprising to see a similar legislative effort to deal with spam.

In the interest of being completely contrarian, let me kindly suggest that legislative/regulatory efforts might not be the best way to deal with the problem. It's not that I like these activities -- it's that there are compelling arguments for relying on private measures to deal with these kinds of private interference. Mass annoyances generates demand for products to deal with them for minimal cost. This is one reason I'm enjoying my newly-installed Google toolbar so much -- 187 pop-up ads blocked and counting!! Arnold Kling points to multiple methods to filter out spam.

[But surely telemarketing merits regulation?--ed. Farhad Manjoo argues that the looming regulation carries significant costs, although her reliance on industry data suggests those cost estimates are exaggerated. Plus, even with telemarketers, services such as caller ID can bemore precise than the do-not-call registry. So this means you won't be using the do-not-call registry?--ed. Ummm... I didn't say that. Hypocrite--ed. No, just a mortal human demonstrating why the urge to regulate is strong, even if it's not the first-best solution to the problem]
MEET THE IMF'S NEW ECONOMIST: Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund announced that Raghuram Rajan -- the Joseph L. Gidwitz Professor of Finance at the U of C's business school -- will be replacing Kenneth Rogoff as the IMF's chief economist.

The BBC -- in typical fashion -- is painting this as a blow to the United States:

Raghuram Rajan is best known for a book he helped to write entitled: "Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists".

In this he argued that the world's business elite want to rig so-called free markets in their favour to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Such views will be warmly supported by developing countries who are the main recipients of IMF money and advice.

But they are unlikely to go down well with the United States government which is the most powerful voice on the executive board at the IMF.

Leave it to the BBC to eliminate any trace of nuance or background in their coverage. A closer look shows that Rajan probably agrees a lot more with American policymakers than BBC paleolibs when it comes to IMF policy. [What about other policies?--ed. Rajan opposes both the hike in steel tariffs and the removal of the estate tax. This makes him a friend to the BBC because that means opposing the Bush administration on high-profile issues.]

Click here, here, and here for some excellent recent interviews with Rajan. Some highlights that suggest the BBC is off its rocker:

Q: The recent protests the world over against the IMF, World Bank and the WTO have often accused these organisations, amongst many things, of a lack of transparency, and therefore being undemocratic. Do you think that is true?

A: See, here is the issue. The protestors against globalization are sometimes misguided because they are not quite clear on what they are protesting against. Some people, for example, are protesting against the fact that workers in India or China work for 10 to 13 hours a day. They are saying 'What terrible working conditions!' But you know what? Workers in India and China can compete with workers in the West who have far more capital and far more education only by working longer hours at lower pay.

If these workers were to ask for the same working conditions as workers here they would be out of a job very quickly. So until they can produce more or become more productive through a better education and better health care system, which will happen over time, they will have to compete by accepting lower wages.

So the issue of 'Oh, this globalization is forcing those workers to work in terrible conditions.' No, this is not globalization. If you force them to have the same pay, it's a form of protectionism. You are essentially shutting them out of the world market. These workers in India and China, who are able to compete in the world market, are able to thereby achieve a much better standard of living.

This argument is not just made of workers. It is made of software workers, right? 'Oh, these Indian software workers coming and working 60, 70 hours at half the wage that we earn. It is unfair, they should be kept out', etc. This is plain and pure protectionism.

Similarly, there are arguments made about multinationals destroying countries and so on. There's always a grain of truth in these arguments. But if you play them all out -- what they are suggesting is often complete nonsense.

Q: There has also been criticism of the structural adjustment policy that the IMF has traditionally pursued. Where do you stand on that?

A: I don't want to get into that argument because I don't know what exactly was behind it. I do know that the IMF in some documents has admitted that it was probably overly aggressive in asking for expenditure cuts. Soon when they saw this was having a very adverse effect they retreated and had more reasonable targets.

I am not saying -- and I don't want to say -- that these organizations are beyond criticism. There are valid criticisms of their actions in the past. What is important going around is: Are the organizations prepared to adapt and change? Are they trying to do things in the best interests of the people of the member countries or they basically trying to infuse a quasi-imperial diktat from the past? The evidence and my impression is certainly of the former than the latter. (emphasis added).

Go to the links above to read more on Rajan's views, as well as this precis of his latest book (co-authored Luigi Zingales).

Brink Lindsey, by the way, provides this review of : "Wide-ranging, idea-crammed case for free financial markets and analysis of why they seldom exist."

Fierce opposition to protectionism of any kind, combined with the conviction that globally integrated financial markets are the best way to help both poor countries and poor individuals, make Rajan an excellent selection to replace Ken Rogoff. The BBC's coverage of this replacement suggests just how one-dimensional their reporting has become.

Monday, July 14, 2003
TWO TAKES ON BLOGS: Kathleen Parker takes to the Blogosphere:

I'm not an expert on blogging, but I am a fan. As a regular visitor to a dozen or so news and opinion blogs, I'm riveted by the implications for my profession. Bloggers are making life interesting for reluctant mainstreamers like myself and for the public, whose access to information until now has been relatively controlled by traditional media.

I say "reluctant mainstreamer" because what I once loved about journalism went missing some time ago and seems to have resurfaced as the driving force of the blogosphere: a high-spirited, irreverent, swashbuckling, lances-to-the-ready assault on the status quo. While mainstream journalists are tucked inside their newsroom cubicles deciphering management's latest "tidy desk" memo, bloggers are building bonfires and handing out virtual leaflets along America's Information Highway....

The best bloggers, who are generous in linking to one another -- alien behavior to journalists accustomed to careerist, shark-tank newsrooms -- are like smart, hip gunslingers come to make trouble for the local good ol' boys. The heat they pack includes an arsenal of intellectual artillery, crisp prose, sharp insights and a gimlet eye for mainstream media's flaws.



Fareed Zakaria's perspective is similar, if the language is less laudatory. From p. 254 of The Future of Freedom:

In the world of journalism, the personal Web site ("blog") was hailed as the killer of the traditional media. In fact it has become something quite different. Far from replacing newspapers and magazines, the best blogs -- and the best are very clever -- have become guides to them, pointing to unusual sources and commenting on familiar ones. They have become the new mediators for the informed public. Although the creators of blogs think of themselves as radical democrats, they are in fact a new Tocquevillean elite.

This strikes me as essentially correct. Most blogs, most of the time, do not generate news -- and it's not always a good thing when they claim to have new info. What most blogs excel at is the sifting, sorting, and framing of information that's already in the public domain.

The best blogs do this with rigor, wit, and alacrity. The rest of us just use long quotes as a substitute.

NEW YORK TIMES UPDATE: Bill Keller has been named the new executive editor of the New York Times. I saw Keller for the first time last month at a Council on Foreign Relations event, and I'll say this -- if the executive editor gig doesn't work out, Keller has a bright future replacing Bill Maher on HBOs schedule. Keller is both funnier and smarter than Maher [Not that impressive a compliment--ed. I meant well].

Meanwhile, Howell Raines has apparently decided on a Shermanesque approach in departing from the Times -- burning every bridge possible. For more on this, go to the Times story linked above, as well as Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, and Mnoosweek.
THE GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS ABOUT PALESTINIAN POLITICAL SCIENCE: The good news is that -- in contrast to many of its neighbors -- there exist Palestinian political scientists independent of the state and contributing to the stock of useful knowledge about the region. For an example, click here.

The bad news is, good political science is vulnerable to the rule of the mob, as this New York Times story makes clear:

A mob attacked an eminent Palestinian political scientist today as he prepared to announce a striking finding from a regionwide survey of Palestinian refugees: Only a small minority of them exercise a "right of return" to Israel as part of a peace agreement.

The political scientist, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, the director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research here, had intended today to discuss for the Arabic-language press the tensions and complexities of Palestinian society. Instead, struck, shoved and pelted with eggs but not seriously injured, he wound up starkly illustrating them....

The rioters marched from Dr. Shikaki's office to Mr. Arafat's compound a few blocks away, where he received them, Palestinians here said. It was not clear if Mr. Arafat knew what they had done. (emphasis added)

Click here for the Voice of America report, which makes it clear that the idiotarians who ransacked the center don't seem to realize that the poll results suggest that the right of return issue is tractable rather than intractable.

Well, so long as this kind of behavior is not condoned by the public authorities, then -- oh, wait.

UGANDA, BOTSWANA AND AIDS, REDUX: This Financial Times article reinforces what I said last week about Uganda and Botswana being exemplars for the rest of Africa. The key grafs:

Only two African countries have over the past three years taken up an offer by a German pharmaceuticals company to make free donations of an important Aids prevention drug to poor countries.

Boehringer Ingelheim said that only Uganda and Botswana had taken delivery of supplies of nevirapine, the drug it offers free for use in preventing mothers from infecting their babies with HIV/Aids....

The company said that 44 countries were now taking part in the initiative and that it was working with a number of non-governmental organisations in Africa, but only two national governments in the region were involved. Four South African provinces had also applied for donations.

"We are not at all satisfied with how it is running," said Rolf Krebs, chairman of the private German company. "It is very frustrating."

Heavy customs charges, poor logistics and lack of the necessary healthcare infrastructure were some of the reasons why many African countries had not taken part in the programme, he said....

Nevirapine was the subject of a bitter political battle in South Africa where the constitutional court last year ordered the government to make it available to HIV-positive pregnant women following legal action taken by Aids activists.

That last graf is just devastating.

The FT article jibes with what Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist emphasized as necessary for fighting AIDS in Africa in a speech he gave last month at the Council on Foreign Relations:

The U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003 will provide $15 billion over five years to combat these global diseases. Equally important, it links for the first time the concepts of prevention, care, and treatment into a single comprehensive policy.

Remember ... this little virus was unknown in this country just 22 years ago when I was a surgical resident at Massachusetts General Hospital. Since then it has killed 23 million people.

Through this simple effort, 7 million new infections will be prevented. 2 million people will be treated. And 10 million HIV-infected individuals and AIDS orphans will be cared for.

But just as essential as the money, this law will build a new, robust infrastructure -- to better communicate with health workers, to educate, and to establish delivery systems.

And this infrastructure will serve as the foundation upon which a whole host of other medical and public health issues will be addressed for decades to come.

It's all about the infrastructure.

AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!!!: The blog just topped the 300,000-hit mark. Thanks to one and all for reading!
Friday, July 11, 2003
PAT ROBERTSON ACTING LIKE A FOREIGN POLICY DUMBASS -- AGAIN: Michael Totten and David Adesnik have already commented on this, but it's worth going into more detail.

Televangelist Pat Robertson's most notable contribution to the foreign policy debate since 9/11 was to say that Muslims were worse than Nazis, so we shouldn't expect much of use to come from his lips.

However, he's hit a new low -- defending Liberia's Charles Taylor. Here's a sample of what he's said on the subject (click here for more):

July 7: We have given money to a Muslim country, Guinea, and the rebels who are coming against Taylor are Muslims, and the fighting in Africa that's taking place right now is an example of the Muslims trying to overrun the Christian countries, and they're being funded out of Saudi Arabia. A huge amount of money is now going into what's now called the Democratic Republic of Congo to overturn and undermine. Same thing is happening in Ivory Coast.

It's country after country, but the State Department doesn't wake up, they don't understand what the game is, and consequently they make bad decisions. So we're undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country.

July 9: Ladies and gentlemen, I would remind the senators that we sent our troops to Kosovo to back up a Muslim group over there, to help them against the Christian Serbs. In this case, we're looking at Muslim rebels trying to overthrow a Christian nation.

Charles Taylor may be a Baptist, but he's also an indicted war criminal whose primary hobbies over the past decade were exporting war to the rest of West Africa and cooperating with Al Qaeda (link via Radley Balko). As Ryan Lizza observes in The New Republic:

Name the following despot: In 1991, he invaded a neighboring country, where his men committed wholesale looting and massive atrocities. In 1998, he personally met with a senior Al Qaeda operative now listed as one of the FBI's 25 "Most Wanted" terrorists. He is the single greatest threat to the stability of one of the most important oil-producing regions in the world. Saddam Hussein? No, Charles Taylor of Liberia.

What makes Robertson's advocacy for Taylor even more galling is his financial dealings with Taylor. According to Christianity Today:

In 1998, Robertson formed a $15 million company, Freedom Gold Limited, to look for gold in Liberia. In 1999, the company signed an agreement with the government of Liberia to begin gold-mining operations....

In a letter to the editor [in the Washington Post], Robertson denied that the Liberian government owned part of the company....

[Freedom Gold's manager James] Mathews acknowledged that the Liberian government will receive 10 percent of Freedom Gold's stock when the company goes public.

Mother Jones has the story as well.

The one potential upside to all of this is that Robertson has become so toxic that the evangelical community has started to distance themselves from him [UPDATE: some social conservatives have already distanced themselves from Robertson]. According to today's Post:

Other Baptist and evangelical Christian leaders said they do not share either Robertson's support for Taylor or his criticism of President Bush's call for the Liberian leader to go into exile. "I would say that Pat Robertson is way out on his own, in a leaking life raft, on this one," said Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm.

Allen Hertzke, a professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma and the author of a forthcoming book on evangelicals and human rights, said many religious conservatives "will be horrified" by Robertson's stance. "His comments really feed into the media critique of Christian conservatives, that they are not sophisticated, they don't care about others, all they care about are Christians around the world -- when in fact that is a caricature of the faith-based human rights movement," Hertzke said.

In his broadcasts, Robertson has portrayed the Liberian civil war as primarily a fight between Christians and Muslims. Serge Duss, director of public policy for the international Christian relief group World Vision, called that a gross oversimplification.

World Vision and other Christian organizations lobbied successfully this year for legislation banning the importation into the United States of diamonds from war-torn African countries. Taylor has been indicted by a United Nations-established tribunal for allegedly backing militias -- funded largely by the sale of diamonds -- that raped and maimed civilians during the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone.

Is the country finally at the point when Pat Robertson can just be ignored?

JOHN B. JUDIS, MEET LEON TROTSKY: In Salon today, John Judis argues that Howard Dean would get mauled if he became the Democratic nominee:

To put it in regional terms: Dean, a culturally libertarian New Englander who opposed the war, could virtually forget about winning any Southern or border states. Southerners are willing to support a Southern Democrat like Clinton with whom they can identify, but they will not vote for a Dukakis or Dean. Dean would not simply get trounced in the South: His candidacy would allow Bush to take the entire South for granted and move all his resources into states like Michigan and Pennsylvania that the Democrats have to win. In the end, Dean would be lucky to hold on to Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, D.C., Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota, California, Oregon, and Washington.

Wouldn't the other candidates do just as poorly? If Bush's popularity remains high, they might also be trounced. If, however, the economy continues to falter, and if Americans become skeptical about the benefits of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, a Democrat could defeat Bush -- though only if the election pivots on Bush's successes and failures and not on the qualifications of his Democratic opponent. The Democrats would be much better off in that case with a blander, more faceless, less exciting Kerry, Gephardt or even Lieberman (perhaps with Edwards, Florida Sen. Bob Graham, or retired Gen. Wesley Clark as running mate) than they would be with a fiery, controversial Dean.

Is Judis correct? Possibly, but that's not what interests me. What's puzzling about the essay is that Judis argued last year, in The Emerging Democratic Majority with Ruy Teixeira, that over the next decade the same demographic groups that are pushing Dean forward will make the Democrats the majority party (click here for their web site)

How does Judis reconciles this argument with what he says about Dean in Salon? Frankly, it's not clear to me that he does. Here's the key graf on this:

As the proportion of professionals in the workforce grows -- driven by the transition from an industrial to a postindustrial capitalism -- a candidate like Dean may eventually command a majority of the national electorate. Positions that now seem maverick -- like Dean's support for civil unions -- will eventually become mainstream, as women's rights and support for environmental protection have become. If Dean himself can gather a modicum of support from blue-collar and minority Democrats, he might even be able to win the Democratic nomination for president and face George W. Bush in the general election. The Democratic field this year is pretty mediocre. But if that does happen, it could lead to a long and unhappy fall for Democrats. Some of the factors that make Dean attractive to Democrats will not endear him to independent and Republican voters.

The implicit argument seems to be that the emerging Democratic majority is still emerging, and until that happens, someone of Dean's ilk will fare poorly in a national election. Wait until 2008, or 2012, and things will be different.

Maybe that's a correct assessment (although David Brooks makes a different demographic prediction). However, I kept flashing back to what one of Trotsky's biographers once said: "Proof of Trotsky's farsightedness is that none of his predictions have come true yet."

Thursday, July 10, 2003
HOW AFRICA CAN HELP ITSELF, CONT'D: Yankee Blog, responding to my Botswana post of yesterday, points out the following:

[M]ore than any kind of developement, their [Botswana's] wealth is due largely to the presence of some large diamond mines. While the country has not fallen into such unrest that even diamond mining is not productive, it is still difficult to see Botswana as a model for the rest of Africa. Botswana has one of the highest HIV rates, a life expectancy at birth of around 35 years, and unemployment somewhere between 20 and 40%. I doubt this is a great model for showing what happens when Africa is able to help itself.

Two responses.

First, Botswana's ample natural endowments make an excellent model for much of sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. The problem with these countries is not a lack of resource endowments, but the ability to exploit them in a way that leads to sustainable economic growth.

Second, the point about AIDS (which Virginia Postrel also made in an e-mail) is dead-on, as this CNN report suggests. The model African nation on this front is Uganda. The national AIDS commission has their own web site; according to this page, the percentage of the population infected with HIV has declined from 18% in the early 1990s to 6.5% in the end of 2001.

However, economic freedom plays an interesting role here as well. Click here for a very revealing CNN interview with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. One highlight:

Q: Why should people in Uganda pay for the R&D costs?

A: But ...why should they not? You see if they don't, you are really being naive, idealistic. These people are business people. They are in business because they make profits. First, they recover what they put into the development, and then they make a profit. How can you reasonably argue with them to produce these drugs at a loss to themselves? This is not common sense.

Then there's this quote from a speech Museveni gave last month to the U.S. pharamceutical lobby:

[The] real solution to the defeat of the pandemic lies in economic development and trade. In Africa, we have a terrain in which HIV, malaria, TB and other infections thrive to a degree nowadays unthinkable in Europe and the U.S. The common thread is poverty. For poverty creates an environment, physical as well as social, highly favorable to disease.

So, even as we mobilize our people to change their behavior to protect themselves against HIV, we have to promote broad-based economic growth that will lead to improvement in living conditions and levels of education. The surest path to that kind of growth is trade and investment

Indeed.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003
IRAN ROUND-UP: Alas, I was too busy with other things to post on Iran. Fortunately, the rest of the blogosphere is on the job.

For more info on the cancellation of Iranian student protests in Tehran today -- but not elsewhere -- go to Jeff Jarvis, Winds of Change, Oxblog, Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, James Lileks, Kevin Drum, and all of Pejman Yousefzadeh's posts for today.
I'M ONLY POSTING THIS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES: Kevin Drum posts about the net-savviness of the Democratic contenders for president. He first links to this story, which observes:

How popular on the Internet is [Howard] Dean these days? More popular than Madonna, Dr. Phil, or Alyssa Milano.

To which Kevin responds:

Hmmm, is that the best they could do? I mean, at least I've heard of Madonna and Dr. Phil, but who's Alyssa Milano? (emphasis added)

In the interest of general edification, I fear I have no choice but to link to various informative sites about Alyssa Milano here, here, here, here, and here.

My hands were tied here, people.

UPDATE: One reader e-mails, "Wow, great stuff on Alyssa Milano, but who's Howard Dean?" Heh.

HOW AFRICA CAN HELP ITSELF: Given the spate of recent coverage about Africa's political, economic, and humanitarian woes, it's worth pointing out Botswana as a clear success story. Canada's Fraser Institute just released its 2003 annual report on economic freedom of the world. In their press release, they point out the following:

The least economically free nations tend to be clustered in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. "But, even here exceptions show the power of economic freedom," says McMahon.

"Botswana has long had significantly higher levels of economic freedom than other sub-Saharan African nations and this is demonstrated by how much better off the people of Botswana have become compared to the citizens of other African nations," he explains.

In 1970, Botswana's per capital GDP was US$590, less than the sub-Saharan average of US$609. After three decades of relatively high economic freedom, Botswana's per capita GDP rose to US$3,950 while in the rest of Africa, where economic freedom levels were dismal, per capita GDP shrunk to US$564.

In the 2003 report, Botswana has the 26th highest level of economic freedom, tied with eight other nations including Japan and Norway.

Foreign aid and preferential trade agreements can help African countries, but only if they also help themselves.

GOOD NEWS IN AFGHANISTAN: I've been pessimistic about the state of affairs in Afghanistan, so I'm happy to highlight more positive news. Glenn Reynolds links to this USA Today story indicating optimism among Afghans regarding the current state of affairs in the country.

And this VOA story strongly suggests that Afghans do not want to see a return to Taliban rule. Ransacking an embassy is over the top, but it does indicate the salience of this issue to ordinary residents of Kabul.
PEACEKEEPING INSTITUTE TO STAY OPEN: In April I blogged about the Army's dubious cost-cutting decision to shut down the Peacekeeping Institute at the U.S. Army War College.

Looks like the Bush administration has changed its mind:

With guerrilla-style attacks escalating against U.S. occupying forces in Iraq, the Pentagon said yesterday it has put off plans to close the military's only institution devoted to the study of peacekeeping.

The Pentagon had decided to shut the Peacekeeping Institute at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., on Oct. 1 as part of a money-saving initiative.

The move was viewed as a sign of the Bush administration's lack of interest in peacekeeping duties and drew widespread criticism because of the war in Iraq and the intensifying resistance to the U.S. occupation.

"We've put on hold the earlier decision to close the Peacekeeping Institute, and we're in the process of reviewing its charter based on the operational environment right now," Pentagon spokeswoman Alison Bettencourt said.

"Obviously, there's Iraq. We also have forces in Afghanistan and the Balkans," she added. "Stability and support operations are increasingly important."

Congrats to the administration for moving down the learning curve on this one.

DEMOCRATS AND FOREIGN POLICY: Looking for links on my Dean essay in TNR Online? Here goes.

My previous blog post about Dean and Kerry is here . Dean's June 25th foreign policy speech (which Will Saletan savaged in this Slate article) is available on his official web site; his June 23rd speech officially kicking off his presidential campaign. comes from the official blog. The quote about free trade hollowing out America's manufacturing sector comes from this site. Here is Dean's Meet the Press transcript.

My appraisal of the other Democratic foreign policy platforms can be found here. The relevant Foreign Policy issue is here, as is a link for further reading on the positions of Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, and Lieberman. And, for good measure, here's a link to the Democrats for National Security web site, about which I blogged here and here.

The point that Dean makes about how the U.S. should act if it's a declining world hegemon has been made in the academy by Joseph Nye in The Paradox of American Power and John Ikenberry in After Victory.

Finally, my explanation for why Dean is wrong about the race to the bottom in the global economy is available here.

One final Dean link; this J.P. Gownder essay from Sunday's Washington Post suggests that Dean's Internet strategy isn't as revolutionary as people believe:

[H]ad Meetup.com helped Dean reach new constituencies, such as African Americans, other ethnic communities, working class people, non-liberals? Not based on what I saw. Without the Internet, it was likely that Dean would find support among affluent, white, liberal professionals. With the Internet, he attracted affluent, white, liberal professionals who spent a lot of time online. Meetup.com was just a continuation of politics by other means.

On Wednesday night, I attended another of Dean's Meetup.com meetings, this one at Boston Beer Works near Fenway Park. The crowd of 55 people was about the same, although a bit younger: No blacks, mostly men, another laid off dot-com employee, another laptop-generated video.


TAKING HOWARD DEAN SERIOUSLY: My latest TNR essay is up -- it's a sober appraisal of Howard Dean's foreign policy views. Go check it out.
VOLOKH AND BAKER: Eugene Volokh responds to the Dusty Baker question here, here, here, and here. The gist of Volokh's point is that, a) Baker may well be correct in his generalization, in which case he shouldn't need to apologize, and b) Even if he is wrong, there was no malicious intent in Baker's words: "they don't sound mean-spirited or insulting, and Baker gave no indication that he was going to act illegally based on those stereotypes." Read all of his posts for more on this.

Like Eugene, I have no clue whether Baker's generalization is factually correct, but my suspicion is that it is not (it certainly depends on the definition of "white."), which was my problem with the comment.

Another concern of mine -- and I'm walking right into Volokh's area of expertise on this -- is the slippery slope question. Eugene distinguishes between generalizations of physical conditions ("blacks perform better in baseball in hot weather") and those of moral character ("blacks are less coachable athletes"). The latter are examples of bad manners; the former are not.

Part of me wants to agree with him on this, because to disagree means applying a moral censure over a wider swath of conversations about race. Conversations about race in this country are circumscribed enough as it is, so I'm very uneasy with suggesting further constraints.

Volokh admits, however, that the physical/character dichotomy is "a subtle difference and one of degree," and "speculations about morals and ethics involve many more vague lines, subtle differences of degree , and unprovable propositions about human nature than even speculations about law do." Under Volokh's criteria, for example, is it permissible for a coach to make comments distinguishing between the races on a combination of physical and character issues, i.e., "Blacks do worse in pressure situations because their bodies generate excessive amounts of adrenaline under stress relative to whites?" I want the dividing line to be as clear as Eugene, but I'm pessimistic that it really is this distinct.

I don't think Baker should be penalized or punished for what he said. I agree with Eugene that this is a case of bad manners rather than anything more serious. But I still think he should apologize.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh responds to my response. Robert Tagorda also weighs in.
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
CAN DUSTY BAKER TAKE THE HEAT?: Dusty Baker -- the current manager of the Chicago Cubs -- was quoted making the following observation this past Saturday:

Personally, I like to play in the heat," he said. "It's easier for me. It's easier for most Latin guys and easier for most minority people.

"You don't find too many brothers in New Hampshire and Maine and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, right? We were brought over here for the heat, right? Isn't that history? Weren't we brought over because we could take the heat?

"Your skin color is more conducive to the heat than it is to the light-skinned people, right? You don't see brothers running around burnt and stuff ... running around with white stuff on their ears and nose and stuff."

Now there's a minor furor over the issue, as this USA Today story recounts. Some key grafs:

Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker, dismissing suggestions he made a racist assertion when speaking with reporters about day baseball, stands by his comments that black and Hispanic players are better suited to playing in the sun and heat than white players....

Harry Edwards, a sports sociologist who served on the faculty at the University of California-Berkeley for 30 years, called the comments "unfortunate and not totally informed" but said they weren't malicious....

"If a white manager made those statements, there's no question he would find himself in a group that includes Al Campanis and Jimmy 'The Greek' Snyder," Edwards said.

Baker, one of four African-Americans among seven minority managers in the major leagues, agrees. "But as a black manager, I can say things about blacks that a white manager can't say, and whites can say things about whites that blacks can't say."

Now, the problem I have with this is that Baker is not saying things only about blacks. He's making a comparative statement about different races -- blacks and Latinos are better at tolerating the heat than whites. There is no difference between the content of what Baker said and the content of what CBS Sports analyst Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder said fifteen years ago when he argued that blacks were better athletes because of the way they were bred as slaves. Snyder recanted; Baker is standing firm.

Should Baker apologize for making such uninformed and stereotypical remarks? Yes, he should.

UPDATE: Two e-mails worthy of note. The first from reader J.G.:

There's a great difference
between saying "eugenical breeding during slavery made blacks more athletic" and saying "people of African origin, because of the greater amount of melanin in their skin, can better cope with heat and the sun. In fact, Africans evolved with dark skin as a defense against the climate of their long-ago ancestors."

The second from reader J.B.:

Dusty Baker should first apologize for selecting for the All-Star Game a pitcher with an ERA exceeding 6. If he really thinks that saves constitute a meaningful statistic, given prevailing pitcher usage patterns and the rules governing saves, then someone should buy him a copy of Michael Lewis's Moneyball, along with all those old copies of Bill James's ground-breaking abstracts.

THE 2003 HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT: The Human Development Report 2003 will be released this week by the UN Development Program. The Financial Times provides a summary. The key grafs:

At the current pace of change sub-Saharan Africa will not attain international poverty reduction goals until the year 2147, more than a century later than hoped, the United Nations Development Programme's annual Human Development Report warned on Tuesday....

While substantial progress in China and India during the 1990s meant worldwide poverty reduction targets could be achieved, "a very significant hardcore of countries ended further behind (after the 90s)," says Mark Malloch Brown, the UNDP's head. Fifty-four countries (many from Africa and the former Soviet bloc) grew poorer, and 21 saw a decline in their human development indicators, such as life expectancy and education.

The report calls for renewed attention to this group of often small and landlocked nations, which are "perilously off track", and says rich countries must make a much more serious commitment to achieving the eight 'Millennium Development Goals', agreed in September 2000. They include halving extreme poverty by 2015, and creating of a "non-discriminatory trading and financial system".

At present, says UNDP, the EU's cash subsidy to each dairy cow exceeds its total per capita aid to the region, while US subsidies to cotton growers more than triple US government aid to sub-Saharan Africa. "Unless rich countries keep their pledges to deliver financing for development, the goals will not be met," it says.

Powerful stuff, somewhat vitiated by the UNDP's atrocious track record in statistical methodology. [How does that matter?--ed. I'm glad you asked.]

As recently as last year, the Human Development Report used currency market exchange rates, rather than purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates, to measure income disparities across nations. There is a consensus among economists that PPP exchange rates are far more accurate at converting income across countries (long story short, PPP rates cover nontradeable services better). Market exchange rates drastically understate the size of developing country economies.

By using market exchange rates, the Human Development Report concluded that global income inequality was vastly increasing. In committing this methodological sin, the UNDP provided prestigious but factually incorrect ammunition for anti-globalization activists. One could go even further to argue that in muddying up the clear positive correlation between globalization and reductions in global income inequality, the UNDP set back the development debate by half a decade.

This screw-up eventually led to the creation of a UN commission to study such gross statistical whoppers, but as of last year, no change in their calculation of income inequality.

According to their web site, Jeffrey Sachs is guest editor of this year's HDR. The general consensus is that Sachs is not an idiot, and this note suggests that the 2003 report should be an improvement over its predecessors.

SHOWDOWN IN THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES: Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to resign unless given more latitude in his negotiations with Israel, according to the AP:

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas threatened to quit as premier and resigned from a key body of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement Tuesday, reflecting turmoil within the Palestinian leadership over negotiations with Israel....

Abbas has been facing strong pressure within his Fatah movement to adopt a tough line on the prisoner releases. In a letter to Arafat, he said he would step down as premier unless he gets clear instructions from Fatah over how to handle contacts with Israel....

Palestinian leaders proposed Monday that Abbas and security chief Mohammed Dahlan meet with Israeli Knesset members to help press Palestinian demands for a prisoner release. The meeting has yet to be scheduled.

Israel holds an estimated 7,000 Palestinian prisoners -- an issue that threatens to become a major crisis between the sides -- and this week Sharon's Cabinet decided to free perhaps 5 percent of them. Israel thought the planned prisoner release would strengthen Abbas' position. But top Palestinian officials say its limited scope could weaken Abbas by making him look ineffectual.

This will be an interesting test for the Palestinian leadership. Abbas' primary lever of power is that the Americans and Israelis will actually negotiate with him. The question is whether losing that link is costly enough to force the rest of Fatah to back down.

NEW BLOG OF NOTE: A month ago I posted some recommendations for left-of-center bloggers as possible prospects for the left-of-center New York Times op-ed page.

Looks like some of them have decided not to wait, and are forming their own group blog instead, Crooked Timber. I heartily recommend it -- although Chris Bertram's description of the group effort is a bit over the top:

Crooked Timber is a cabal of philosophers, politicians manque, would-be journalists, sociologues, financial gurus, dilletantes and flaneurs who have assembled to bring you the benefit of their practical and theoretical wisdom on matters historical, literary, political, philosophical, economic, sociological, cultural, sporting, artistic, cinematic, musical, operatic, comedic, tragic, poetic, televisual &c &c, all from perspectives somewhere between Guy Debord, Henry George and Dr Stephen Maturin.

Monday, July 07, 2003
VIRGINIA POSTREL WANTS TO STEAL THE BLOGOSPHERE'S BREAD AND BUTTER: In this post on the disturbing tendency of commentators to escalate the rhetorical arms race as a way of capturing attention, Postrel concludes:

There is only one (partial) solution to this "impoverish[ment] of our political discourse." Just say no to reviews of and columns on stupid books. Discuss something more interesting. Easy advice to give. Hard to follow.

No kidding. What percentage of blogposts are denunciations of some blowhard on the political extremes?

Postrel's motivation for the post comes from this Andrew Sullivan comment on Ann Coulter:

In the ever-competitive marketplace of political ideas - in a world of blogs and talk radio and cable news - it's increasingly hard to stand out. Coulter's answer to that dilemma is two-fold: look amazing and ratchet up the rhetoric against the left until it has the subtlety and nuance of a car alarm. The left, in turn, has learned the lesson, which is why the fraud and dissembler, Michael Moore, has done so well.

It's worth pointing out that John Stuart Mill anticipated this problem in On Liberty, but believed it to be the lesser evil:

I do not pretend that the most unlimited use of the freedom of enunciating all possible opinions would put an end to the evils of religious or philosophical sectarianism. Every truth which men of narrow capacity are in earnest about, is sure to be asserted, inculcated, and in many ways even acted on, as if no other truth existed in the world, or at all events none that could limit or qualify the first. I acknowledge that the tendency of all opinions to become sectarian is not cured by the freest discussion, but is often heightened and exacerbated thereby; the truth which ought to have been, but was not, seen, being rejected all the more violently because proclaimed by persons regarded as opponents. But it is not on the impassioned partisan, it is on the calmer and more disinterested bystander, that this collision of opinions works its salutary effect. Not the violent conflict between parts of the truth, but the quiet suppression of half of it, is the formidable evil; there is always hope when people are forced to listen to both sides; it is when they attend only to one that errors harden into prejudices, and truth itself ceases to have the effect of truth, by being exaggerated into falsehood.

Indeed.

EXPLAINING BUSH'S DARE: David Warren ventures an explanation for Bush's dare to Iraqi guerillas. The key grafs:

They [Bush critics] notice that the U.S. forces in Iraq have become a new magnet for regional terrorist activity. They assume this demonstrates the foolishness of President Bush's decision to invade.

It more likely demonstrates the opposite. While engaged in the very difficult business of building a democracy in Iraq -- the first democracy, should it succeed, in the entire history of the Arabs -- President Bush has also, quite consciously to my information, created a new playground for the enemy, away from Israel, and even farther away from the United States itself. By the very act of proving this lower ground, he drains terrorist resources from other swamps.

This is the meaning of Mr. Bush's "bring 'em on" taunt from the Roosevelt Room on Wednesday, when he was quizzed about the "growing threat to U.S. forces" on the ground in Iraq. It should have been obvious that no U.S. President actually relishes having his soldiers take casualties. What the media, and U.S. Democrats affect not to grasp, is that the soldiers are now replacing targets that otherwise would be provided by defenceless civilians, both in Iraq and at large.

It's an interesting rationale, slightly tarnished by the fact that Warren is factually incorrect in stating that Iraq would be the first Arab democracy. The scholarly consensus is that Lebanon was a functioning democracy prior to the outbreak of civil war.

THE MANPOWER CRUNCH: That's the conclusion of Frederick Kagan, a military historian writing in the pages of the Weekly Standard (link via OxBlog). The key section:

We have already seen how chaos and civil war in Afghanistan in the 1990s provided the breeding ground for terrorists and a haven for the bases where they trained. If U.S. forces are reduced or withdrawn too soon, similar conditions in Iraq will nurture the al Qaeda operatives of the future. The U.S.-led attack could end up bringing about the very threat that prompted it in the first place--the proliferation of Iraqi weapons to terrorist organizations--if we do not finish what we have begun by establishing a stable and peaceful regime in Iraq.

This will not be accomplished, however, without the prolonged deployment of significant numbers of American ground forces. Smart weapons cannot keep peace. They cannot get schools and hospitals running, or keep electricity and water flowing, or keep hostile neighbors from attacking one another, or provide a police presence to deter looters and criminals, or hunt down and capture individual terrorists, interrogate them, and learn from them the nature of the organizations to which they belong, or find traces of a WMD program hidden carefully in a country the size of California. Only soldiers and marines can accomplish these tasks, and, given the size and complexity of the country, only in fairly large numbers. Given the unrest and political chaos that currently engulf Iraq, it is hard to imagine that the United States will be able to withdraw any significant portion of its 146,000 troops from that country in less than a year without compromising our vital objectives....

It is time to stop pretending that the United States can prosecute a war on terror, conduct peacekeeping operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia, and maintain the security of the homeland without a substantial increase in the size of the armed forces. General Shinseki, the recently retired Army chief of staff, warns us to "beware the 12-division strategy for a 10-division army"--and even he understates the problem. In truth, the armed forces need an increase in size of at least 25 percent.

This problem is not going away anytime soon. The war on terrorism requires statebuilding, which requires large numbers of personnel on the ground. Demands for intervention will not be going away anytime soon, as the case of Liberia demonstrates.

My five-cent analysis is that the problem here is that Rumsfeld has paid far more attention to altering the warfighting doctrine than to the resources and training needed for postwar statebuilding. As I noted ten weeks agohere, the administration seems to have boxed itself into a corner on this issue.

Developing....

UPDATE: I'm pretty sure the U.S. doesn't need to allocate so much manpower for this assignment.

Saturday, July 05, 2003
EMERGING FROM THE VACATION COCOON: As I have previously noted, vacation for me means that I tend not to pay attention to international news all that much. So, when I return to the world, I inevitably find myself astonished that certain events actually occurred. For example:

1) Did Sylvio Berlusconi really lose his composure altogether on the day he assumed the EU presidency? [UPDATE: Henry Farrell provides an astute analysis of the political fallout from this]

2) Did Antonin Scalia really use the phrase "so-called homosexual agenda" in a Supreme Court dissent?

3) Did an Oxford professor really tell a possible grad student that he would not work with him because of his Israeli citizenship? I'm glad OxBlog has been monitoring this one.

4) Did George W. Bush really dare Iraqi guerillas to attack U.S. forces? It's a bad sign when CNN reports that, "more than one White House official acknowledged that, at a minimum, the Bush line was open to misinterpretation."

5) Did Al-Jazeera really air a tape allegedly recorded by Saddam Hussein just because they couldn't prove that it wasn't Hussein (link via Kieran Healy)?
A WRAP-UP OF MY WORKING VACATION: For those who care:

Q: So how much work did you do?

A: Not a whole lot. The most interesting work experience was having to be a discussant for three erudite papers the afternoon that I landed in Budapest. Since I don't sleep on planes -- and since Lufthansa misplaced our bags for a few hours -- this meant showing up to this particular panel having slept only one hour in the past twenty-four and wearing the same clothes I'd flown in. Scarily enough, it was one of my better performances as a discussant.

I spent the next day doing more conference stuff, and then it was vacation time?

Q: So did you actually read all of the books you blogged about?

A: No, I didn't make it to the Harry Potter book. Got through the rest of them, however.

Q: And what did you think of them?

A: Well, I liked the book more than Robert Kagan did (subscription required) -- but that's not saying much. I'll be commenting more on this book in the future -- but I will say that I thought Kagan's TNR review was a bit over the top. I found Kavalier & Clayabsorbing. Devil in the White City has a good story to tell, but the author seemed to care more about dinner menus than the larger significance of the 1893 Colombian Expedition, which I found disappointing. Prague was an odd book, in that the author devoted more and more time to less interesting characters. It was a hoot to read a book about Budapest in Budapest, but without that novelty I'm not sure I would have finished it. My favorite book set in Budapest remains Tobor Fischer's Under the Frog. Actually, that's not fair -- Under the Frog is one of my favorite novels, period.

Q: And how was Budapest?

What a delightful city!! The cafés! (Click here for a panoramic look at one of the best cafés in the city, the Gerbaud.) The architecture! The desserts! The other desserts! The goulash! The blood sausage! The parks! The amazing tranformation of the place since the fall of communism!

Q: OK, I believe that's a wrap.
Thursday, July 03, 2003
BACK IN CHICAGO: But waaaaayyyyyy too jet-lagged to write anything coherent [And this is different from your normal blogging style in what way?--ed. I'm too tired to rebut even that point.]

More later.
Saturday, June 28, 2003
WELL, JUST ONE POST: I was going to write a quick post to say that Budapest is awesome, but then I read a Washington Post story stating that U.S. forces have put a stop to all local elections in Iraq, and that set me off.

The key grafs:

U.S. military commanders have ordered a halt to local elections and self-rule in provincial cities and towns across Iraq, choosing instead to install their own handpicked mayors and administrators, many of whom are former Iraqi military leaders.

The decision to deny Iraqis a direct role in selecting municipal governments is creating anger and resentment among aspiring leaders and ordinary citizens, who say the U.S.-led occupation forces are not making good on their promise to bring greater freedom and democracy to a country dominated for three decades by Saddam Hussein.

The go-slow approach to representative government in at least a dozen provincial cities is especially frustrating to younger, middle-class professionals who say they want to help their communities emerge from postwar chaos and to let, as one put it, "Iraqis make decisions for Iraq."

"They give us a general," said Bahith Sattar, a biology teacher and tribal leader in Samarra who was a candidate for mayor until that election was canceled last week. "What does that tell you, eh? First of all, an Iraqi general? They lost the last three wars! They're not even good generals. And they know nothing about running a city."

The most recent order to stop planning for elections was made by Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, which controls the northern half of Iraq. It follows similar decisions by the 3rd Infantry Division in central Iraq and those of British commanders in the south.

In the capital, Baghdad, U.S. officials never scheduled elections for a city government, but have said they are forming neighborhood councils that at some point will play a role in the selection of a municipal government.

L. Paul Bremer, the civil administrator of Iraq, said in an interview that there is "no blanket prohibition" against self-rule. "I'm not opposed to it, but I want to do it a way that takes care of our concerns. . . . Elections that are held too early can be destructive. It's got to be done very carefully."

If you read further, it's clear that what scares Bremer and others is the prospect of radical parties -- which are now better organized -- taking power.

I can see this, except it's also true that radical parties tend to act more like moderates once they face the prospect of governing rather than campaigning. By halting the electoral process -- and rewarding ex-generals -- the current policy seems to do little more than successfully alienating the people you most want to motivate in Iraq.

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