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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Work notes

Notes to self:

This week, the Washington Post is running a series on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and rogue states. Wednesday, they covered nuclear weapons (they included a companion article on dirty bombs), today the piece is on biological arms. I guess that means Friday's paper will cover chemical weapons.

For my sabbatical project: I need to examine (buy?) Jeremy Rifkin's The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream. I looked it over at the bookstore today, but am trying not to add more stuff before the final leg of the move to Boston.

Has anyone read the book? I'd be interested in any feedback. Borders had it shelved with its business/management books.

Happy New Year. Go Watch TV. Or Sleep.

Guest Blogger Paul Parker

The New York Times reports that "Internet Use Said to Cut into Time Watching TV, Socializing".
some4,800 randomly selected people reported on computer usage.

According to the study, an hour of time spent using the Internet reduces face-to-face contact with friends, co-workers and family by 23.5 minutes, lowers the amount of time spent watching television by 10 minutes and shortens sleep by 8.5 minutes.

The researchers acknowledged that the study data did not answer questions about whether Internet use itself strengthened or weakened social relations with one's friends and family.

"It's a bit of a two-edged sword," Mr. Nie said. "You can't get a hug or a kiss or a smile over the Internet." Many people are still more inclined to use the telephone for contact with family, he said.


Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Natural Disaster, or Ready for Rapture?

Guest Blogger Paul Parker

The Bushies are well known for being thin skinned. Today this quality seems to be helping the victims of Sunday's tsunami. the New York Times reports,Irate Over 'Stingy' Remark, U.S. Adds $20 Million to Disaster Aid and the Washington Post reports Aid Grows Amid Remarks About President's Absence .

Both articles feature Administration responses to Monday's comments by a UN official about the lack of aid from Western countries.

But the Post article give a little clearer hint of the shame that has led Bush to take more heightened interest. No, not the growing death toll, but Bush's nemesis, Bill Clinton, who in an interview with BBC radio called for a coordinated international response. The Post continues,

Explaining the about-face, a White House official said: "The president wanted to be fully briefed on our efforts. He didn't want to make a symbolic statement about 'We feel your pain.' "

Many Bush aides believe Clinton was too quick to head for the cameras to hold forth on tragedies with his trademark empathy. "Actions speak louder than words," a top Bush aide said, describing the president's view of his appropriate role.

Actions? or Inaction? That seems to be the rub for the international community. The remainder of the article is filled with paragraphs like this:
Some foreign policy specialists said Bush's actions and words both communicated a lack of urgency about an event that will loom as large in the collective memories of several countries as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks do in the United States. "When that many human beings die -- at the hands of terrorists or nature -- you've got to show that this matters to you, that you care," said Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.
So the Ranch is in damage control mode, and tonight's news will report that Bush held an NSC meeting on Wednesday, and issued a statement.

As for our stinginess, it must be acknowledged that the aid total of $35 mil brings us up to about even with the low end estimates of the Inaugaral festivities. Further, we mustn't think only in terms of direct monetary aid by the US (or our willingness to send an aircraft carrier):
the State Department acknowledges on an official Web site that its direct economic aid is "the smallest among government foreign assistance programs" but that the "true measure" of American generosity should include private money.
Undboubtedly US private aid is pouring in. Its not clear however, whether the religious End Timers are giving donations, or rejoicing: over at RaptureReady.com, the Rapture Index has been raised on account of the earthquake. Oh, plus under category 33, the Antichrist, its noted that the EU is looking for a new president.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Political Capital Indeed...

Guest Blogger Paul Parker

More “lowlights,” this time Showbiz lowlights from the LA Times (sub required):


We can only imagine what happened after they saw "Alien vs. Predator": Police arrested Melissa and Sean Davidson after the Georgia couple became embroiled in a violent argument after seeing "The Passion of the Christ" in March. The couple left the theater debating whether God the Father in the Holy Trinity is human or symbolic. According to police, Melissa suffered injuries to her arm and face while her husband, Sean, had his shirt ripped off and a stab wound on his hand.

Not that his ex-wife would necessarily agree with him: Musing on the great political leaders of modern times, Ethan Hawke told an interviewer this year: "Martin Luther King Jr. suffered from infidelity, so did John F. Kennedy. You're more likely to find great leadership coming from a man who likes to have sex with a lot of women than one who's monogamous."

I suppose the following comes under the heading of lowlights too:

Tuesday’s Washington Post reports that “Bush Expected to Delay Major Tax Overhaul” until 2006, citing the battles over social security and budget cutting that are first in line.

This does not mean that no real changes are underfoot. The Post article clearly suggests that one proposal is receiving favor, and the major provisions umistakably continue Bush’s desire to cut taxes on unearned income and shift them onto middle class folk.


Under what has become known among lobbyists on K Street simply as "Option 5," Bush's previous tax proposals would be enhanced, not replaced. Washington would create lifetime savings accounts and retirement savings accounts to replace the current array of tax-preferred savings accounts for retirement, education and health care.

A lifetime savings account would allow each person to save up to $5,000 a year, shielding capital gains, interest and dividend income from all taxation. Unlike existing tax-favored accounts, the money could be withdrawn at any time for any reason. A family of four could shield $20,000 a year from investment taxation, and since few families could save that much, capital gains, interest and dividend taxation would effectively end for the vast majority of Americans, the Treasury study said.

Meanwhile…

And corporations would be allowed to immediately deduct -- or "expense" -- from their taxes a portion of the cost of business investments, instead of having to slowly write off those costs based on complex depreciation allowances.

How to pay for this?

To cover the cost of the tax changes, the plan would tax the value of an employee's health insurance benefit as if it were income. "Most Social Security benefits" would also be taxed as income, the report says. Finally, the plan eliminates the itemized deduction for state and local tax payments.

Yes, I can see why K Street would like this plan. As Paul Harvey says, “No known connection, but…” the NY Times ran the following story today: “That Line at the Ferrari Dealer? Its Bonus Season on Wall Street.”

Regarding the delay on his ambitious agenda, one might also speculate that Bush did not earn as much “political capital” from the November election as he claimed. Delaying tax reform for a year does have the advantage of forcing a vote on the eve of the off-year election – a tactic he and Rove appear to favor – but also carries the potential disadvantage of Bush being even more unpopular than today. Tuesday’s LA Times reports “Reelection Honeymoon with Voters Eludes Bush, Polls Say:.” Suspect number one is the Iraq War:


"A lot of the talk about momentum and agendas and political realignment is overdone, in the sense that it all depends on this contingent fact of how Iraq goes," said William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard.


Also:


One person who met with Bush the same day a U.S. military mess tent was bombed in Iraq described the president as "distraught."

Well, those were (mostly) Americans. As for the late-breaking NY Times headline, “24 Die in String of Iraq Insurgent Attacks,” 19 are Iraqi police, haven't they received the word that they need to do more to take control of their country?


Monday, December 27, 2004

Toward the end of the year...

Guest Blogger Paul Parker

There was a lot of handwringing among Democrats after the November election. An article in Monday's NYT reports, "
Politically Inclined Filmmakers Say There Is Life After the Election."
Reporter Nancy Ramsey quotes Erroll Morris (The Fog of War) as saying
"If people were motivated to make films because of their concern with the policies of the first administration," he said, "it's hard to argue that those concerns were allayed on Nov. 2."

Further,
Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, whose most recent book is "Letters to a Young Activist," suggested that politically minded filmmakers produce "quick and dirty docs" that are "very issue-specific, such as one on our choices in Iran." He also suggested that those "who feel trapped inside the blue-state ghetto might think about how they can crack out of it, make films that Ohioans might pay attention to."

More on the media:

Toward the end of the year, newspapers run "best ofs" -- I emailed myself the NYT lists on television, books, and film and I'll be looking around for others this week. With any luck, at least I'll get time to read a book review or two on some of the top books. I am a fan of "The Office," and recorded their three hour special this weekend, and my wife loves "Desperate Housewives." Otherwise, I am clueles on the TV recs.

The Seattle Times ran an article Monday flipping this upside down, addressing state "lowlights," several of which are politically related. Well, the one about the Spokane Streakers, whose car was stolen with their clothes inside, while they were inside Denny's may not be political. But here's one:

• A nasty U.S. House race between Republican Cathy McMorris and Democrat Donald Barbieri included negative ads on both sides, including one in which national Republicans dredged up allegations of questionable business dealings by Barbieri's since-deceased father. McMorris refused to denounce those ads, which prompted the Lewiston Morning Tribune on Oct. 7 to print the following correction: "An Oct. 1 editorial referred to Washington state Rep. Cathy McMorris, R-Colville, as a 'classy candidate.' This page regrets the error."

• The state is investigating whether Liberty Bell High principal Steve McCoy told a struggling student he needed math, science and English skills to become a successful drug dealer. Investigators hired by officials in Winthrop, Okanogan County, found little doubt that while meeting with the 14-year-old boy, his parent and teachers, McCoy told the boy he would need science so that when he opened a meth lab he wouldn't blow up his house; English to talk his way out of being busted by police; and math so that he would know how many grams of dope he was getting for his money. McCoy said the statements were taken out of context and that he was trying to show why numerous professions need math and science.




Sunday, December 26, 2004

Sea, sand...and snow?

My family and I spent Christmas at the beach. It was cold, but we've walked around on the dock and on the beach.

Before noon on the 26th, however, it started snowing.

It didn't stop until about 5 pm, which meant that around 3 inches of snow accumulated! My kids were happy for the snow, since we left town before the big storm in Louisville this week.

So we played Monopoly, drank a few early cocktails and had a snowball fight on the beach.

Then, we came home to a locked beach house. Oops.

It was my first B&E.

As you can tell, I'm still not following the news.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

The allure of the Feds

Guest blogger Paul Parker

The McCarran Ferguson Act exempted insurers from federal regulation in 1947. This billion dollar industry is regulated by states, which are largely overmatched by insurers: underfunded, and lacking the expertise to regulate effectively.

The industry is a wonderful example of the problems of a free market. Company revenues come in part from premiums, but also from investment income. When investments are flush, insurance companies compete dearly for premium income—often selling policies at an actuarial loss. Then when investment incomes fall, some insurers leave the market, while other insurance companies ratchet up prices.

Consumers experience swings in pricing and availability of insurance; they complain to legislators, who then call for restrictions on lawsuits. This happened in the 1970s, in the 1980s, and in the 2000s. A law shifting products liability suits to the federal courts nearly passed Congress in the 1990s, but Majority Leader Lott larded special projects into the bill, and embarrassed people into voting it down. President Bush has indicated tort reform will be high on his domestic agenda during his second term.


And here in Missouri, the new Republican governor Matt Blunt will undoubtedly sign legislation restricting lawsuits that the Democratic governor Bob Holden vetoed. Is this reform necessary? Americans “know” people sue too much, but the evidence points the other direction: the state insurance department finds that Missouri has had one of the most profitable malpractice insurance businesses in the country, and that lawsuits against physicians have declined steadily, but to what end?

For example, the number of claims – which affect future payments -- has been falling, and the average payout has increased only 5 percent since 2000. But companies more than doubled their estimates of ultimate payments over the past two years, and at least one major carrier tripled its rates.

No matter, the push to restrict access to courts continues.

But some attention is being paid to the insurance companies. Recently, NY Attorney General Elliot Spitzer has pursued lawsuits against insurers. And the LA Times reports today that “Insurers Back U.S. Oversight:” insurance companies are rethinking their anti-federal regulation stance.


"Five years ago, our members would have said no to any federal involvement whatsoever," acknowledged Joseph Annotti, vice president of the Property Casualty Insurance Assn. of America. "But increasing frustration with disjointed state regulation is beginning to turn the question from being 'state versus federal' to being 'good regulation versus bad regulation.'


The article reports the lawsuits by Spitzer, and other AGs, as well as a five year old law that removed barriers to financial industry firms – banks, insurers, securities firms – from competing in each other’s turf.


"If anything could argue for federal regulation, it's this," said one industry executive. "The old saw was that it's better to deal with 50 monkeys than one gorilla. But when the monkeys are angry, the gorilla starts to look more attractive."


The issue for consumer advocates is whether the gorilla will be king of the hill, or merely stuffed: some consumer groups believe that this is merely meant to knock the teeth out of stronger state regulation. That would be a nice piece of irony: Republicans support turning power back to the states, until those states prove competent to do the job with which they have been entrusted?

Friday, December 24, 2004

Guest Blogger Paul Parker
(on a 19.6 kbps dial-up; its -6 degrees, but sunny)

In the previous post, Rodger discussed car decals. Around Missouri, we had oodles of the “W” stickers this year; the guy is a brand. But yes, far more of the ribbons: yellow “support the troops” and red-white-and-blue “God bless America” were most common.

Now for a few headlines

According to today’s LA Times (sub req) the environmental racist arsonists in Maryland wanted to draw attention to their Cavalier Racing Club. Chevy can’t buy that kind of advertising.


"There's no oath, nothing signed in blood," the attorney said. "They race together; they eat at Wendy's and Denny's together; they get together and fix up their cars. They do anything a group of 20-year-olds would do."

According to today’s Post, “Powell Advised Bush to Add Iraq Troops.” No, not in the buildup to the war:

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair last month that there were too few troops in Iraq, according to people familiar with official records of the meeting.

No wonder Powell did not rate a Medal of Freedom. Meanwhile, Donald Rumsfeld visited Mosul today to try to rebuild his soiled reputation.

The Post also has a behind-the-scenes look at a White House Public Liason officer, whom the headline calls, “Pipeline to the President.

Goeglein will be an influential, if little-seen, player in coming years, too, working with conservatives to create private Social Security savings accounts, overhaul the tax code, outlaw same-sex marriage, and limit the number and size of lawsuits. If a Supreme Court vacancy emerges, Goeglein will be Rove's point man dealing with the political right over who should become the next justice. After all, it was Goeglein who three years ago created an influential coalition of conservatives to pressure lawmakers to approve Bush's judges in the Senate and prepare for the next Supreme Court fight. That group has raised as much as $5 million and is planning to lead the charge for conservative justices.

Familiar stuff to policy wonks, not so familiar to those who vote based on candidate image.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Decoding the Decals

During the fall, many friends and students pointed out to me that they frequently saw Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers, but hardly ever saw "W" or Bush-Cheney. Various bloggers also commented on this too.

Since millions more people voted BC than voted KE, the lack of BC stickers seems pretty odd. Maybe my acquaintances just didn't drive in Bush country? Because I live in a blue part of a red state, this seems plausible, if unlikely.

However, in the past month, I've visited a fair sampling of red America: Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. I think I have an explanation for the relative paucity of decals for the incumbent.

Bush-Cheney supporters often had this decal (or magnet) on their car instead:



For my postmodern readers, let me also note something else I observed about these stickers. A lot of people put them on their cars sideways, which makes them look a little like this common Christian emblem:



In any case, the yellow "support our troops" ribbon stickers easily outnumber the Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers on cars across red America.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Hit the Road Jack

I'm blogging from an undisclosed location in West Virginia. So far, no sign of Dick Cheney or Ned Beatty (who is actually from Louisville).

Thanks to the tech team at the University (thanks Matt!), I'm now blogging with the Mozilla Firefox browser! I guess that means I've officially entered the 21st century...and said "so long" to Bill Gates. Well, at least when I'm browsing.

After 58 hours without a high speed internet connection, I'm glad to be back in the fast lane. Unfortunately, I don't think there's going to be any more such access for a couple of weeks. Continue to expect light blogging.

Sorry for the lack of content. I've spent the past 48 hours running errands, getting the back yard ready for winter, and packing.

Besides, I've scanned the headlines and really can't find anything Worth talking about.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Happy holidays!

Well, in a few hours I have to turn in my cable modem. For at least two a half weeks, I won't have consistent access to a high speed internet connection.

That's likely to reduce my blogging.

Never fear. Guest bloggers Avery and Paul are quite likely to reappear. I told them they could post freely for a couple of weeks.

For your reading pleasure, I might also recommend some interesting information about the Ohio and Florida elections. RDF at corrente pointed me to this piece on a "prima facie case of election fraud" (that's a quote from Ohio's statute) and Rotten in Denmark quotes extensively from the sworn affidavit of Clint Curtis, computer programmer.

Enjoy!

And happy holidays.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Person of the Year?

Time Magazine will reveal its "Person of the Year" early next week (the issue goes to print at 3 am Sunday). The weekly's editor (Jim Kelly) was on Charlie Rose tonight and talked about a variety of possibilities.

Likewise, blogger Gawker speculated about some of the leading candidates.

Kelly mentioned the possibility that bloggers might be named. He specifically mentioned the lawyer known as "Buckhead" who helped topple Dan Rather because of its broadcasting of apparently forged Bush military records.

Gawker mentions Wonkette...

Hmmm.

If bloggers are named as "Persons of the Year," I hope Kevin Drum is highlighted. And Digby.

Drum is my pick for blogger of the year, basically because Billmon stopped blogging.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Hard work

As an academic, I frequently find myself in conversations with friends, relatives and students trying to explain exactly what I do in the summer when I'm not teaching...and what I do during the workweek when I'm not in the classroom. For years, I've typically spent only about 6 hours per week behind the lectern, so how can I be busy?

Regular Americans like to brag about how hard they work. I have friends in law and business who not only make a point of reminding me of the long hours they log, but also add that they typically do not even take the full vacation time offered by their firms. Nobody gets ahead, makes partner, or concludes sales by taking time off from work.

Why am I mentioning this?

Well, for one thing, I'm about to take a sabbatical from teaching. Yep, those 6 hours per week were just too overwhelming.

Also, my project will investigate the apparent fissures in the so-called "western security community." Of course, I'll be looking at foreign policy interests and behavior to try to figure out if the US is at risk of losing major allies in Western Europe. However, I've already been thinking a great deal about a variety of social and political differences between the US and Europe, between Americans and "Europeans."

Thanks to the Bush administration, the US is about to engage in a major national debate about the future of Social Security. Very many European countries have far more advanced social welfare programs of all sorts: health care, day care, retirement, family leave, etc. Yet, rather than moving towards their example, the US is apparently going to consider policies that might rollback the signature achievement of FDR's "New Deal."

Back to work...er, back to the question of vacation.

Should Americans envy Germans?
The average German worked 1,444 hours in 2002, compared to 1,815 hours for the average U.S. worker and 1,707 for the average Briton. Among industrialized nations, only workers in Norway and the Netherlands worked fewer hours.

With 30 days of vacation and 12 public holidays, German workers enjoy nearly twice as many free days as their counterparts in the United States, who on average have just 23 days off each year. And even those figures don't include another 12 days taken off by German employees each year due to sickness, training and other leave entitlements.
So Americans work 371 more hours per year than do Germans. That amounts to 7 hours more per week. Nearly a full work day! Or, more than a full work day to the average German.

Thanks to a highly developed work ethic...or perhaps a corporate-dominated economy...Americans do not often seriously consider the alternative possibilities.

Nope, Americans like to embrace hard work.

You probably remember President Bush, in the first debate with Senator Kerry, saying the following:
In Iraq, no doubt about it, it's tough. It's hard work. It's incredibly hard...

Of course, we're doing everything we can to protect America. I wake up every day thinking about how best to protect America. That's my job. I work with Director Mueller of the FBI. He comes into my office when I'm in Washington every morning talking about how to protect us. There's a lot of really good people working hard to do so. It's hard work.
Maybe I'll spend some time in the next few months thinking about ways to frame this question in such a way that we can all take more days off without regret or guilt.

Rest assured, I'll be working hard on this during my sabbatical.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Now we know

Today's Louisville Courier-Journal has this interesting story: "Foundation releases donor list."

For many years, the newspaper has been trying to find out the identities of donors to the McConnell Center for Political Leadership at the University of Louisville. As you may have guessed from the name, the Center is named for Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is a graduate of the University's Department of Political Science.

McConnell helped raise funds for the Center, which gives scholarships to undergraduates from Kentucky, brings in speakers, funds trips (including to China), etc.

Here's the issue: The University launders donations through its Foundation, argues that the Foundation is a private (not public) entity, and then says it has no legal responsibility to disclose the Foundation's business.

A court ruled that the Foundation was a public entity and thus has to disclose its donors who do not explicitly request anonymity. In short, the Kentucky Open Records Law applies to the Foundation.

Basically, some critics of these types of Centers (many other members of Congress have them too) argue that corporations and wealthy individuals can make "back door" secret campaign contributions to members of Congress by writing these checks.

Think about it. Members of Congress often funnel pork to local projects, including to universities. Campaign contributions must be disclosed. How better to fund both pork and campaigns privately and secretly?
"Very often these companies give to these foundations or charities as a way of currying favor with a senator," said Larry Noble, executive director of the group [Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based campaign finance watchdog].

"(McConnell) has a number of loyal donors and companies that support him and they'll go wherever he directs. This is a tried and true method of supporting a member of Congress," Noble said.
The University has long argued that wealthy individuals and corporations value their privacy. Otherwise, I've heard more than one person argue, they will be asked for money by everyone.

Does that pass the laugh test? Even the donors say no:
But officials of some corporations and foundations that gave to the McConnell Center said they had no desire to keep their names private.

"Toyota's never made any secret of our contribution to the McConnell program," Barbara McDaniel, a spokeswoman for Toyota Motor Manufacturing of North America, said yesterday.

The company has given $833,333 to the McConnell Center since it was created, including a $250,000 gift pledged last month.

McDaniel said the company had told UofL it was willing to publicize the gift.

Former UofL President John Shumaker had sent Toyota officials letters saying their gifts would be kept anonymous.
The names of 62 donors are still secret, as the judge ruled that individuals who specifically request privacy may have a right to it. That part of the decision is under appeal. 40 unnamed individual donors gave donations totaling $6 million.

Who were the biggest donors? Well, this group plus Toyota gave over $8.7 million of the 11.2 million raised to date (for red entries, see correction below):
Alliant Health System (Norton Healthcare), $1,020,000
Brown-Forman Corp. $425,000
David A. Jones, $1,000,000 (this is the former Humana executive)
James Graham Brown Foundation, $650,000
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, $771,767 ??????????
Mildred V. Horn Foundation, $504,500

Papa John's, $1,008,430
Philip Morris Cos. Inc., $450,000
RJR Nabisco Foundation, $500,000
The Humana Foundation Inc., $800,000
United Defense, $500,000
United Parcel Service, $400,000
The "liberal" Brookings Institution gave $400, though that isn't the smallest figure listed.


Disclosure: since some of my scholarship is on transparency, I've sometimes been interviewed by the local papers about this issue.

Correction: The newspaper put McConnnell Center donations in boldface. Nonboldfaced listings were donations to the Foundation for other purposes. A C-J reporter pointed out to me via email that the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation should not appear on my list above.

Likewise, remove Alliant, the Mildren Horn Foundation, and Papa John's. That takes away $3.2 million and the math actually works out better now.

Sorry for my error.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Blog news

Everyone should know that blogging might be slow for awhile. I apologize and recommend people check out Wampum's "Koufax Award" nominees to find some good reading.

In additional to normal pressures -- a writing deadline, holiday shopping and travel, etc. -- I'm preparing for a little adventure beginning January 1, 2005.

From January through May, this blogger is going to relocate to Boston. I'm on sabbatical and will be a Research Fellow "working on a project comparing and contrasting ideas of security and world order among Western security community members."

Well, I'll be working on that project as soon as I finish a couple of others. Hopefully, those "side" projects won't be too distracting.

In any case, I'm grateful to the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard for agreeing to be my host.

Seven years ago, I spent my sabbatical in the basement tapping away on my computer (actually, I'm there right now). This one promises to be different.

Now, anyone know how I can obtain some Red Sox tickets without taking out a second mortgage?

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Internationally Sanctioned Preventive War?

Did Russia embrace the Bush Doctrine last week? Judith Ingram of the Associated Press filed an interesting story on December 4, 2004. This version is from the Chicago Tribune:
MOSCOW -- Russia might use cruise missiles and strategic bombers in preventive strikes against terrorists outside its borders, the commander of Russia's air force said Friday.

Russian leaders have claimed a right to pre-emptive strikes before, for example threatening neighboring Georgia that it would pursue Chechen rebels allegedly fleeing to its territory.

But Gen. Vladimir Mikhailov's comments to the ITAR-Tass news agency aired Friday were the most direct yet in Russia's increasing rhetoric on attacking terrorists abroad. Mikhailov did not specify what targets the air force could potentially go after....

"If ordered, our missile-carrier aircraft will attack the terrorists with long-range, highly precise cruise missiles and aerial bombs. We will make use of everything we have," Mikhailov said.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and other top officials have said that preventive strikes against terrorists could involve all means except nuclear arms but they did not specify the use of strategic bombers.

ITAR-Tass commented that Russia had initiated discussion of preventive strikes over a year ago "due to Washington's regular employment of this method in international affairs."
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has previously issued his own Bush Doctrine:
"If I believed that there were going to be an attack, a terrorist attack on Australia and there was no alternative but action being taken by Australia I would unhesitatingly take it to prevent that attack occurring."
Are big powers lining up to embrace preventive war? I previously blogged about a report that even France may be turning to the strategy.

Obviously, this may be a critical juncture in world politics. States have long rejected preventive war...since, well, it has traditionally been viewed as a pretty bad idea, promoting war when it might well be avoidable.

In the pages of Foreign Affairs, Lee Feinstein and Anne-Marie Slaughter recently argued for an international "duty to prevent" certain kinds of threats to international security. Specifically, they discuss threats from WMD and terrorists, though they appropriate some of the logic of the "responsibility to protect." While preventive use of force should be a last resort, Feinstein and Slaughter argue that the international community now has to consider it given the realities of surprise attacks with devastating implications.

Feinstein and Slaughter do not toss aside the just war principles, nor do they abandon many newer ideas about the use of force. For example, they would want the Security Council to make the call on the use of force.

In the last two weeks, the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change released a report that makes essentially this same case for using force: WMD threats may justify prevention, but the world needs to agree about when to use that force. The Security Council is the appropriate decision-maker.

Last year, the EU issued a statement about this problem that was somewhat similar as well.

OK, since I'm compiling sources (in preparation for a paper, actually), it is probably worth thinking about how the Bush administration's Proliferation Security Initiative fits into all this. I blogged about that previously as well.

The key questions: is a new normative understanding in the works? If so, what are its parameters?

Friday, December 10, 2004

Human Rights Day

Just over a week ago, I appeared on local TV because the station wanted someone to explain Amnesty International's (AI) position on police department acquisition of taser weapons.

As the campus faculty sponsor of the student organization, I agreed to appear and explain the policy.

In honor of Human Rights Day, let me quote from an Amnesty press release:
Many US police agencies routinely use tasers to subdue unarmed, non-compliant individuals who do not pose a serious danger to themselves or others. For example, police have used tasers against unruly schoolchildren; mentally disabled and elderly people; and people who simply argue with officers. Often, individuals have been subjected to repeated shocks, sometimes while in restraints...

AI is calling on the US state, federal and local authorities to suspend all use of tasers and other electro-shock weapons pending a rigorous, independent inquiry into their use and effects.

Where US agencies refuse to suspend tasers, the organization urges that they limit their use of tasers strictly to situations where the alternative under international law would be use of deadly force, with strict guidelines and monitoring.
Sometimes, suspects have mysteriously died in police custody after the use of a taser.

In my college debate days, I researched and often presented a case on the police use of deadly force. Often, in those days, departments could shoot at "fleeing felons," effectively acting as judge, juror and executioner. Hundreds of suspects died annually from police use of deadly force and a disproportionate number were minorities.

It is my understanding that policies have mostly changed to reflect what was then the FBI policy (also employed in NYC and some other localities). Police can now use force in self defense, or to defend others directly threatened by a suspect.

Hey, that's kind of like like international law on military force!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

This page intentionally left blank

Back in graduate school, I used to call the Pentagon's public affairs office pretty regularly and request copies of various documents: Soviet Military Power, the Annual Report by the Secretary, Strategic Defense Initiative reports, etc.

A lot of those documents had pages towards the front that simply said: "this page intentionally left blank."

Apparently, DoD still does this.

So, why am I blogging this topic?

Last week, I graded about 50 hand-written essay exams. This week, I graded about 75 papers. Figure about 6 pages per paper...and that's 450 pages of reading...and I was expected to make comments...

So, I'm tired and my brain is blank. Fried.

It was all I could do to watch Kansas beat TCU in hoops, 93-74. I wasn't even that disappointed that "The Daily Show" didn't have a political guest.


Note: Hey, I wonder if those old SMP documents have any resale value? I may have the full run...apparently, not much. Oh well, at least I still have one of the rare copies of Baseball Prospectus 1996.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Trade lunch

Today, I attended a lunch meeting of the Louisville Committee on Foreign Relations. The guest speaker was Alan Tonelson, who is a research fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council Educational Foundation.

These luncheons are supposed to be off-the-record, so I won't comment directly on his remarks. I will say that they were quite interesting and I broadly agreed with the implications of his argument. However, since Tonelson's views are quite public, I can highlight a bit of political sleight-of-hand in his standard (published) rhetoric.

Essentially, Tonelson is an economic nationalist with protectionist leanings. He writes often about the dangers of the enormous U.S. trade deficit.

As he argues, U.S. trade policy isn't really about opening markets for export purposes. Sure, there is some of that, but especially with large and poor states like China and India, the purpose of trade policy is to allow American-based transnational companies to find low cost workers.

Tonelson correctly stresses the fact that American workers are finding their jobs outsourced as a result of this policy. He also worries a lot about the enormous trade deficits created by this policy, as well as the resulting foreign debt and the declining value of the dollar. Economic catastrophe could be just around the corner.

Transnational companies, many U.S.-based, are of course walking away with a huge part of the surplus value of labor -- from Chinese labor, Indian labor, etc.

A substantial portion of those profits, on the other hand, are spent or saved in the USA. How does that effect foreign debt calculations? I'm not enough of an economist (there's an understatement) to say...but I think Tonelson's failure to grapple with it directly makes his argument seem misleading.

In any event, the manufacturing job losses are real, but Tonelson doesn't stress another enormous problem in the US. The Bush tax and budget policies have re-created enormous deficits, which does create foreign debt when T-bills are sold to Europe and China. Plus, the Bush domestic tax and economic policies have exacerbated the very same adverse distributional consequences of the trade policy.

Tonelson seems opposed to budget deficits, but I cannot find a concern with the distributional consequences of the Bush tax cuts. In fact, he seems to advocate consumption (value added) taxes that are often viewed as regressive because the poor spend so much more of their income, living as they do month-to-month instead of on a trust fund.

Bottom line: US workers lose their jobs, corporate titans profit, and then the latter get big tax cuts. I agree with Tonelson that this is a problem.

We could try to save the jobs, but I'm pretty dubious that can happen. Comparative advantage is a powerful economic force and I'm not sure that the US will expend its political power anytime soon to prevent manufacturing and tech-related jobs from going to Mexico, China or India.

However, we could have a lot of control over domestic economic and tax policy.

If "America" (if we can imagine a national trading state in this globalized economy featuring transnational businesses) found a way to distribute its enormous trade profits in a far more egalitarian fashion, then Americans would have little to worry about.

However, in reality, corporations like Walmart (which Tonelson disparages) pays its workers crappy wages without benefits to sell those cheaply produced goods. The federal government slashed welfare and refused to consider national health care even as it sends huge tax cuts to the most affluent members of society.

Sure, Walmart keeps cutting prices, which does help consumers. The $250 VCR I bought in 1987 can be replaced for well under fifty bucks nowadays. However, at some point, the US has to think seriously about bigger distributional effects of trade and how to address those consequences as a matter of national policy.

Bluntly, if transnational companies are to get the cheap labor they want, then they have to pay some costs. Higher taxes could be funneled into job retraining programs or national health insurance. How about a living wage? Perhaps a guaranteed annual income? How about a shorter work week? All those ideas and many more deserve serious attention.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Uptake update

During the Thanksgiving break on this blog, my guest Avery posted a fine piece on "Giving Uptake on Moral Values." Benjamin Baeker read the piece and linked it on his own blog.

Avery also posted it to the Cardinal Philosophy blog and received some additional interesting feedback that placed this somewhat abstract topic squarely within the context of current electoral politics.

Most importantly, Avery (a philosophy professor) has now written "Uptake redux," which I strongly encourage everyone to read. It is excellent, but I've long had a soft spot for interesting discussions of rational choice theory and philosophy.

Basically, Avery thinks about "giving uptake" as a public good and discusses various game theoretic strategies for achieving it. He speculates that conservatives may have figured out a way to privatize uptake!

Wouldn't this be a good topic for Crooked Timber? Henry?

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Fog of War

Tonight, I finally watched "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara" (2003) by film maker Errol Morris. It won an academy award for Best Documentary.

"The Fog of War" is a disturbing movie, but well worth a viewing. Essentially, Morris just lets 85-year old McNamara talk to the camera, while he shows relevant archival footage.

If you don't know McNamara's background, you will after the film. He was a Harvard professor, an executive at Ford Motor Company (the first leader not from the Ford family), Secretary of Defense from 1961-1967, and then President of the World Bank until 1981.

The Vietnam discussions are unsettling of course, but for me the most troubling parts of the interview addressed McNamara's time in World War II.

McNamara explains how the U.S. bombed and burned something like 65 Japanese cities before the atomic strikes against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing over half the civilian populations of those cities. In Tokyo, the best known firebombing, an estimated 100,000 people were killed in one night as the city burned.

As it happens, I spent the day working on a paper about the Bush doctrine, which addresses threats from weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists or rogue states.

The World War II memories put current concerns in a different context. Conventional bombings can be quite devastating in their own right -- and war is a very blunt instrument for pursuing national security goals.

I've seen McNamara speak twice, once in 1987 or 1988 at Stanford, when he primarily talked about missile defense (if I recall correctly) and once a couple of years ago (post 9/11) when he discussed militarization, war and disarmament. Later that night, I had dinner with him and a few other faculty and students.

Maybe I'll blog more about that night some other time.

Meanwhile, see "The Fog of War."

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Must have been #101...

The New York Times has published its list: 100 Notable Books of the Year.

Hmmm. I haven't read any of them...at least, not all the way through.

I've read "significant" chunks of the 9/11 Commission Report. Since I assigned some chapters for my American Foreign Policy class, that is not much of a claim.

I should read Richard Clarke's book Against All Enemies and have read excerpts around the web. Plus, I've seen him selling the book on multiple TV programs.

Also, I fully intend to read Graham Allison's book on Nuclear Terrorism. Sometime...maybe on sabbatical.

I am familiar with Ron's Suskind's book on Paul O'Neill's time at Treasury, The Price of Loyalty, thanks largely to extensive coverage by Brad DeLong.

Thanks to a co-author, I've cited Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack. Plus, I read many of the original stories in the Post. Does that count?

I blogged about Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas. I've watched him on C-SPAN...does that count?

My Dad owns Bill Clinton's My Life, so I guess there's an outside chance I might read it on some future visit. It looks more like a doorstop.

My wife was going to read Philip Roth's The Plot Against America for her book club, but the library copy didn't arrive in time. If we eventually buy the paperback, we'll probably both read it (though I don't read that much fiction).

Somehow, Nayef Samhat's coauthored book Democratizing Global Politics didn't make the list. Must have been #101...


Thanks to NewMexiken for the link to the Times.


Update: So, what did I read this year? Well, some academic books of course. Many were reviewed for the Grawemeyer prize so I probably shouldn't just list them here. I blogged about reading Robert Kagan's Of Paradise and Power (my copy is signed because I got to interview the author for a campus forum)....and I read Martha Finnemore's The Purpose of Intervention.

In my free time, I read a lot of Raymond Chandler, Evelyn Waugh's Scoop (thanks Chris Y.), an assortment of Graham Greene, Elmore Leonard, and James Ellroy, some baseball non-fiction books (including one by Rob Neyer, a former Jayhawk like me)...and some Kinky Friedman. I'm almost done with Steven Jay Gould's collection of baseball writings, which I received for Christmas last year.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

In or out?

According to news reports, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was asked to remain for a second Bush administration. Given how well the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq went, which was directly supervised by the Pentagon, this is a bit of a surprise. I guess this means Rumsfeld isn't going to be held to account for Abu Ghraib.

By the way, did everyone notice that there's new evidence of prisoner abuse with photographic evidence provided by the Associated Press? The Navy is investigating. A member of the service (or a spouse) apparently posted the photos on the internet.

Meanwhile, American Ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth resigned after only five months in office -- though he will apparently stay until January 20. Reports suggest that Danforth wanted to be Secretary of State and was disappointed when the job went to Condi Rice.

Kofi Annan is the Secretary-General of the UN, not a member of the Bush administration, though he intends to stay on the job until his term ends. At least one US Senator, Minnesota's Norm Coleman, is hungry for his resignation (and there are allegations that Annan's son may have received a payoff in the oil-for-food scandal), but US Secretary of State Colin Powell has praised Annan again and much of the world has rallied behind Annan. It looks like the S-G will survive, at least for now.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Google Scholar, Steroid-Free

The countdown to my sabbatical starts Monday once classes end at noon. At that point, it all hinges on the grading and I am already finished with the essay tests. Still, nearly 60 papers await my attention and that means over 400 pages to mark.

In preparation for the sabbatical, I've been toying around a bit with Google Scholar. For example, I entered a phrase related to my project: "good international citizenship." That yielded 58 results and the top one was predictable, a piece I read a couple of years ago by Nicholas Wheeler and Timothy Dunne. Their title begins with the search phrase.

Next, I clicked on the information, "Cited by 12," for that piece and also tracked down a lot of other leads. [February 1, 2013, update: now cited by 120!]

For academics, this seems like a tremendously valuable resource.

Or, it is a great way to waste time, googling friends and academic critics (should you be lucky enough to have any).

Oh, given the latest news headlines from the world of baseball, I should reveal that I did not use any steroids to prepare this (or any other) post on the blog.

Who needs steroids with Google Scholar? Caffeine will suffice!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Helping Internally Displaced Peoples

Today, the University of Louisville announced the 2005 winner of the $200,000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.

James Carroll, a writer for the local Courier-Journal newspaper wrote a fine article about the winners and their ideas for helping "internally displaced peoples."
Francis Deng, a former U.N. special representative and a former Sudanese foreign minister, and Roberta Cohen, a senior fellow of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, developed global standards for aiding as many as 30 million people displaced by civil war or natural disaster.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article too, if you have a subscription.

Note that internally displaced persons are not refugees. Indeed, because the latter are granted certain protections under international law, the former often face far greater hardships in their lives. Bluntly, many are displaced as a result of the policies made by the very same governments that they would depend upon for any relief.

Sovereignty is a major barrier to international efforts to provide assistance.

Deng and Cohen have argued for a "responsibility to protect" these internally displaced persons and their work has been quite influential over the past decade. Recent attention given to the crisis in the Sudan, for example, partly reflects the success of their project. Their work has helped create new global understandings about the need to resettle and reintegrate the displaced. Here's what Deng had to say when questioned about his work in specific states:
"Look, I come here recognizing this is an internal problem, it falls under your sovereignty, and I'm respectful of your sovereignty. But I don't see sovereignty as a way of closing the doors on the international community's concerns with the suffering of people needing assistance and protection.

"I see sovereignty as a concept of responsibility by a state to protect its citizens, to give them the assistance that they need," Deng said.

"And if the state cannot do it because of a lack of resources or a lack of capacity, then it should fall on the international community."
Again, this is becoming a widely accepted way of viewing the problem:
Bill Freylick, director of the refugee program for Amnesty International USA, said Cohen and Deng "are very effective advocates, and they have done really a remarkable job in influencing heads of state, ambassadors to the United Nations, the heads of U.N. humanitarian agencies and the nongovernmental field as well."

...Freylick said Cohen and Deng took the sovereignty defense of nations that want to avoid international scrutiny and "turned it on its head."

"They have broken new ground," he said. "The guiding principles on internal displacement have shifted the focus on uprooted people generally to create a much broader recognition of the human-rights violations that face people who are essentially refugees except that they haven't crossed an international border."
Deng and Cohen said that the cash prize "will be spent on the project they direct on internal displacement."

Disclosure: I oversee the administration of this prize.

Note also: the "responsibility to protect" logic has also been employed by some to discuss a "duty to prevent" unconventional security threats from rogue states with WMD and/or terrorists.

This has implications for the debate about the so-called "Bush Doctrine," but for now I'll reserve further comment on the continued life or death of that policy.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Vote with your wallet

The holidays are approaching and many people will celebrate by shopping.

Free tip: readers may want to spend their money on products and services from companies that lean left in their corporate giving.

To that end, skippy the bush kangaroo had some useful links. For example, click here for help with "Progressive Shopping."

You'll learn that these companies support left leaning politicians and/or causes (at minimum, they give soft money to Democrats): Costco (who knew?), Netflix, Ben & Jerrys (Ok, that was a gimme), Borders Books, Foot Locker, Gymboree, LL Bean, J Crew, Skechers, Starbucks, Black and Decker, Hasbro, Sharper Image, Mattel, Nordstroms, Barnes and Noble, Big Lots, and Bed Bath and Beyond.

The means shoes, toys, games, dolls, books, CDs, DVDs, towels, toaster ovens, electric drills, discount goods, clothes...it's all there.

Happy shopping.

Oh...and don't forget to give to your favorite charities too.