"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Heavy Things

Liz Penn writes
My favorite individual moment in a movie this summer occurs near the end of Spiderman 2. After untold travails (saving the world from a mechanical-armed human octopus, losing his girlfriend to a smug astronaut, having the last hors-d'oeuvre snatched out from under his nose at a humiliating party), the divided hero, Peter Parker/Spiderman (Tobey Maguire), finds himself holding up a huge wall of iron scaffolding that is about to crush his sweetheart, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). For reasons not worth going into here, a nuclear fireball burns nearby as the eight-limbed villain, Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) thrashes in his Miltonic death throes. Straining under the weight of the massive slab of iron, Spidey/Parker -- he's somewhere halfway between the two by this point, having dispensed with his red-and-blue disguise and revealed his human, bespectacled identity to those closest to him -- looks Mary Jane in the eye and says plaintively, "This is really heavy."
John Prendergrast, among others, has been all over the place trying to stop the Sudanese genocide in Darfur. I've seen him on Charlie Rose and on CSPAN speaking to a small college crowd at American University in DC. He's written op-eds for major newspapers and has appeared before House and Senate committees. Coupled with the efforts of Nicholas D. Kristof, Samantha Power, Julie Flint, Congressman Donald Payne and many, many others, enough pressure was put on the White House for it to name the beast. Secretary of State Colin Powell said "genocide" was occurring in Darfur, which must have been a first.

Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice say elections will go ahead in Iraq despite increased, pre-election violence by insurgents. The election in January will be another first and important milestone in the war on Islamic fundamentalism.

American soldiers and Iraqi police are venturing back into the Sunni triangle in what is essentially a war of attrition.
American forces entered the city of Samarra for the first time in months on Thursday, taking what appeared to be a small but significant step in their effort to regain control of contested Sunni areas north and west of the capital.

American commanders said their forces, accompanied by members of the Iraqi police and by national guard soldiers, drove into the city Thursday morning after gaining assurances from local Iraqi leaders that they would not be fired on. The local leaders said they sensed divisions within the insurgents' ranks between those who favored some accommodation with the Americans and those who rejected it, and felt secure enough to issue the temporary guarantee.

On Wednesday, in an interview with The Associated Press, Maj. Gen. John R. S. Batiste, the commander of the First Infantry Division, said his men were planning to go into Samarra whether they had a deal or not.

"It'll be a quick fight and the enemy is going to die fast," General Batiste said from his headquarters in Tikrit. "The message for the people of Samarra is: peacefully or not, this is going to be solved."
on this day in 1973

Didn't realize U2's One Tree Hill was partly about Chile:
And in the world a heart of darkness
A fire zone
Where poets speak their heart
Then bleed for it
Jara sang, his song a weapon
In the hands of love
You know his blood still cries
From the ground
(via Normblog)

Friday, September 10, 2004

Political Economy, Outsourcing and the American standard of living

Republican television journalist Lou Dobbs inveighs against offshore outsourcing in a new book. In a recent campaign speech, John Kerry attacked corporations again for sending jobs overseas. Daniel Drezner (pro outsourcing/free trade) writes about Paul A. Samuelson's new article which argues outsourcing will eventually lower America's standard of living.
So, in the end, I'm not convinced that Samuelson's dissent changes the substantive issues of debate. But as a political scientist, it is impossible to deny the extent to which Samuelson's article will alter the rhetorical balance of power in this policy debate. Samuelson will succeed in reigniting debate on this topic, as well as provide aid and comfort to those who wish oppose the practice of offshore outsourcing.
The New York Times article Drezner focuses on says
[Samuelson's] dissent from the mainstream economic consensus about outsourcing and globalization will appear later this month in a distinguished journal, cloaked in clever phrases and theoretical equations, but clearly aimed at the orthodoxy within his profession: Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve; N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers; and Jagdish N. Bhagwati, a leading international economist and professor at Columbia University.
Bhagwati and two other economists have respdonded. Arnold Kling summarizes the draft version of their response as follows
The authors point out that some of the concern is not about trade per se but about the accumulation of capital and know-how in China and India. They suggest that this could harm the U.S. if it reduces trade by eliminating the division of labor. That is, suppose that the U.S. stays stagnant, but China and India learn how to do everything that we know how to do. Then they will no longer export cheap goods to us, and we will lose. This, they claim, is what Samuelson's theoretical paper describes. If so, then it does not really describe outsourcing.
However, the Times piece notes
According to Mr. Samuelson, a low-wage nation that is rapidly improving its technology, like India or China, has the potential to change the terms of trade with America in fields like call-center services or computer programming in ways that reduce per-capita income in the United States. "The new labor-market-clearing real wage has been lowered by this version of dynamic fair free trade," Mr. Samuelson writes.

But doesn't purchasing cheaper call-center or programming services from abroad reduce input costs for various industries, delivering a net benefit to the economy? Not necessarily, Mr. Samuelson replied. To put things in simplified terms, he explained in the interview, "being able to purchase groceries 20 percent cheaper at Wal-Mart does not necessarily make up for the wage losses."
The problematic concept is "net benefit." Wages and commodity prices are only part of the equation. Profits is the missing variable. If American wages lower and prices lower too (because of cheap foreign labor), but not as much, the difference goes to profits and capital. Some of this will go towards new investments, but some goes into the pockets of wealthy investors. To sum up, the wealthy pocket the difference when competition causes wages to fall, but prices don't fall to match the loss of purchasing power of wage earners. As Drezner should know, this is as much a matter of politics, class war to be specific, as of economics.

The rational solution wouldn't be protectionism, but rather staid social democratic reforms, you know, the kinds of things the IMF asks governments to cut in exchange for loans. But would it be "inefficient" for these reforms to improve wage earners' standard of living in tandem with rising productivity without messing with protectionism and international trade? What occurred during the period of 1946-1973 would suggest it wouldn't be. Foreign workers will gain from international trade, even if their governments are much more oppressive than ours, and not only is this fair and just, it will benefit American workers in the long run in numerous, synergistic ways if international solidarity can be maintained.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Chalabi worse than Uday and Qusay?
To some this is because Chalabi "misled us." Toby Young has a review of Graydon Carter's new anti-Bush book in the New York Observer.
This volte-face must have been fairly sudden, since in that very same issue there was another David Rose piece, this one based on interviews with a series of Iraqi defectors, in which he detailed the appalling crimes committed by Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay, including torture, rape and murder.

Mr. Rose’s meetings with these defectors, as well as Mohamed Harith, were arranged by the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmad Chalabi’s outfit, which has subsequently been exposed as a fount of pro-war misinformation. All the so-called intelligence passed on by these "defectors" is now regarded as unreliable, even by the C.I.A. If Graydon was opposed to the war in Iraq, why did he allow the imprimatur of Vanity Fair to be used to lend credibility to Mr. Chalabi’s anti-Saddam propaganda? Perhaps he changed his mind about the war in the interval between commissioning the Uday and Qusay article and sitting down to write his "Editor’s Letter." (emphasis added)
So Uday and Qusay weren't that bad in Young's view.... It's common knowledge the C.I.A. has hated Chalabi ever since he publically faulted them for screwing up a military coup attempt against Hussein in 1996. He had warned them that the coup plotters had been infiltrated and compromised but they didn't listen. Many, many Iraqis better than Uday and Qusay - not hard to find - died because of the C.I.A.'s ineptitude and arrogance. And people think Chalabi is arrogant.

William Safire's take on the C.I.A is unique. He bashes the intelligence agency constantly, and rightly so, but doesn't think it should be abolished as Senator Roberts has proposed.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Mine Enemy's Enemy

Naomi Klein of No Logo fame penned a column recently where she opines "And Muqtada al-Sadr and his followers are not just another group of generic terrorists out to kill Americans; their opposition to the occupation represents the overwhelmingly mainstream sentiment in Iraq."

Who besides Manichean conservatives are arguing they're "generic terrorists"? "Terrorist" is an imprecise term. Nelson Mandela was once on the State Department's terrorist list. The central questions, though, are how many Iraqis support Sadr, if so in what manner and to what degree, and is he right to make war on the US forces. Klein writes "Before Sadr's supporters began their uprising, they made their demands for elections and an end to occupation through sermons, peaceful protests and newspaper articles. US forces responded by shutting down their newspapers, firing on their demonstrations and bombing their neighborhoods. It was only then that Sadr went to war against the occupation."

From what I remember, Sadr's followers went to war after US forces tried to arrest their leader for murdering a rival cleric in Najaf. Leftists Marc Cooper, Norman Geras, and Doug Ireland have written about Klein's "enemy of my enemy is my friend" logic. It doesn't register with Klein that many Iraqis - many Shiites - don't agree with a logic that's often been proven disasterous. Ayatollah Sistani, who's much more representative of the Iraqi mainstream, brokered a cease-fire between the Mahdi army and the US. The Iranian-based Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri, who was Sadr's mentor, has now withdrawn his support of Sadr. Both appreciate that Sadr isn't the way to democracy and an end to the occupation in Iraq.
Heather Havrilesky says she'll be blogging more often now that she's "swingle."