Friday, June 22, 2007

My moral midgetry

Following a link at Fairer Globalization, I came across this Moral Sense test at Harvard.

It's an eight question test in which an action is described and then you are asked to award damages.

In the scenarios I was given, I awarded an average of $129 in fines. The average response of all test takers was approximately $72,000.

So, clearly, I'm a heartless bastard. [And you also like to make fun of short people!!--ed.] Or, I'm more willing to blame fortuna than people when bad but (largely) accidental things happen.

Take the test and let me know how moral you are.

posted by Dan at 06:28 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Name this blog phenomenon!

Apparently the Encyclopedia Brittanica now has a blog. Michael Gorman is using it to harumph at the myriad ways in which the Internet has destroyed all that is great and good in scholarship and high culture. His first post opens with "The life of the mind in our society suffers, in many ways, from an increase in credulity and an associated flight from expertise." You get the drift -- this is not the first time Gorman has done this.

Over at Inside Higher Ed, Scott McLemee critiques Gorman's critique. He closes with this point:

What really bothers the neo-Luddite quasi-Mandarin is not the rise of digitality, as such. The problem actually comes from “the diminished sacredness of authority,” as Edward Shils once put it, “the reduction in the awe it evokes and in the charisma attributed to it.”

But it’s not that all cultural authority or critical intelligence, as such, are vanishing. Rather, new kinds are taking shape. The resulting situation is difficult and sometimes unpleasant. But it is not exactly new. Such wrenching moments have come repeatedly over the past 500 years, and muddling through the turmoil does not seem to be getting any easier.

Plowing similar ground, Henry Farrell asks:
I can see why the Encyclopedia Britannica has an urgent interest in pushing this line, but I don’t understand why the intellectual standards of argument among its appointed critics is so low (and they aren’t an aberration; I understand that they’ve made somewhat of an effort to publicize these pieces and get them talked about).
To answer Farrell's question, you need to recognize the phenomenon of Bigthink Online Criticism (BOC), which proceeds as follows:
1) Pre-existing cultural institution finds itself under threat of being ignored/devalued/losing cultural cachet in relation to online substitutes;

2) To stave off irrelevance, said institution commissions BOC essay;

3) BOC essay, to roil the waters, overstates to a greater or lesser degree the various flaws that online substitutes possess;

4) BOC essay is posted on the net, while various online and offline commentators are alerted to its presence;

5) Online community reacts with outrage, linking and critiquing the BOC essay repeatedly, making it the topic du jour.

6) For a brief moment, declining cultural institution staves off slide towards irrelevance.

7) The more Manichean the BOC, the longer the boomlet of attention.

I humbly request my readers to name this gambit.

UPDATE: Brittanica's Tom Panelas e-mails the following:

If nothing else you should be aware of the fact that Gorman's posts are part of a larger forum on the Web 2.0 movement generally, and that it includes people who disagree sharply with him, such as Clay Shirky, danah boyd, and Matthew Battles, as well as others who disagree with him by degree, such as Nicholas Carr. If you and Henry think Britannica is "pushing a line" by publishing Gorman's opinions under his name on our blog, it follows then that we are also pushing the lines of these other people. Since Clay Shirky's posts, among other things, have some strong criticisms of Britannica, we are therefore pushing criticism of ourselves. What our motives for this might be I’ll leave it to you to divine, but you might consider an alternative explanation: that we’re simply having a debate among people with different views.

By the way, if you really think the intellectual standards are low, please take a look at what Shirky, Battles, and Carr have written. (danah hasn’t posted yet; she’ll be with us next week.) If, after that, you still think the level of discourse is substandard, please feel free to raise it by adding your own comments.

posted by Dan at 03:16 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

How should I feel about Fred Thompson in 2008?

Gideon Rachman went to hear Fred Thompson give a big foreign policy speech in Lodon and came away unimpressed:

I'm afraid that what he had to say was utterly platitudinous.

The US is "an inspiration for all those who seek freedom"; Tony Blair is a "gallant friend" of America; the uncoupling of the Atlantic alliance would be a bad thing. Winston Churchill was a great man; Neville Chamberlain was not so great. We should worry about Iran because - "If we know anything from modern history, it is that when fanatical tyrants pledge to wipe out an entire nation, we should listen." He even had the nerve to quote that Harold Macmillan line about the biggest problem in politics being "events, dear boy, events." Haven't heard that one before.

Admittedly, he was marginally more interesting in the q&a.; He thinks it would be a good idea to blockade Iran, which he describes as a "very, very serious threat." He still thinks it was right to invade Iraq and that there is some evidence that the surge is working. But he is clearly worried that American politicians are going to pull the plug prematurely - "We have a multi-year plan, which the political process might give only weeks or months."

As for the goal in Iraq - "We need to do everything possible to avoid the appearance of utter weakness." And America needs to strive to leave the country in something "better than terrible conditions." That, at least, struck me as a fairly realistic assessment of what is achievable.

I find it hard - or perhaps just alarming - to imagine Fred Thompson as president. He seemed to me to be not terribly bright.

Click here to read Thompson's speech and judge for yourself. After reading it, I'd say two things:
1) His sense of humor is better developed than his policy recommendations for the Middle East.

2) You ain't gonna find a lot of difference between this speech and Mitt Romney's Foreign Affairs article.

What do you think?

posted by Dan at 02:12 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How should I feel about Bloomberg in 2008?

So Michael Bloomberg has left the GOP, and is enticing media hordes about the prospect of a 2008 campaign (though Howard Kurtz dissents). He's the Time "action hero" of the week.

Should I be interested in him? Matt Yglesias thinks so:

From a Reason magazine perspective, it seems to me that a Bloomberg Administration is likely to be substantially more libertarian than either a Democratic or a Republican one would be. Bloomberg, however, is specifically identified with a brand of trivial nanny-stating -- indoor smoking ban, trans fat ban -- that seems to be to aggravate libertarians in a manner that's out of proportion to the actual significance of the policy issues.
Over at Lawyers, Guns & Money, Scott Lemieux advises libertarians to be cautious: "there is a serious reason libertarians should be skeptical of Bloomberg: the appalling string of arbitrary detentions with no serious justification during the 2004 GOP convention."

What do you think?

posted by Dan at 01:59 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My latest bloggingheads throwdown

My latest bloggingheads diavlog was supposed to be with the lovely Megan McArdle, in which we revealed various clothing and other indiscretions from our past. Scandalous information about the both of us was revealed.

Alas, there was a technical glitch, and so that diavlog will now not be seen again until Bob Wright releases the DVD version of "Bloggingheads: The Lost Tapes."

As a substitute, go check out my diavlog with Bob Wright. Topics include:

1) Should a blogginghead be monogamous or play the field?

2) The depressing situation in Palestine;

3) The depressing situation talking about Palestine in the United States;

4) How can the U.S. regulate Chinese industries?

5) What will technology do to China?

6) The globalization of American sports

7) Why everyone will like Knocked Up and why no one should see the Fantastic Four sequel.

Oh, and along the way Bob cajoles me into issuing a public challenge.

posted by Dan at 01:52 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Outsourcing to Jonathan Rauch on immigration

Your humble blogger has been mute about the immigration bill that is either dead or not dead -- I can't rememberwhich iteration we are at right now.

In the interest of economy, and in improving the debate on this subject, I will simply outsource my position on this to the National Journal's Jonathan Rauch:

[T]he Senate bill was worse than it needed to be. On the legal side of the immigration equation, there are easy trade-ups to be had. In fact, even a National Journal columnist with no apparent qualifications could write a better bill.

And what might that look like? Glad you asked.

  • First, raise the number of legal immigrants by about 50 percent, to about 1.8 million a year. That meets the economy's demonstrated demand for workers.

  • Second, provide pathways to permanence. Bring in these 1.8 million people on temporary visas, say for three to five years, with the promise of permanent legal residency (a green card) if they stay out of trouble, pose no security risk, and work or get a college degree.

  • Third, don't micromanage who gets in. Allocate visas using a simple three-way formula that gives about equal weight to family, work, and education: 600,000 family visas for close relatives of citizens and green-card holders; 600,000 work visas for people who are sponsored by an employer and have less than a bachelor's degree; 600,000 education visas for people who hold a bachelor's degree or higher, with first call going to those who also have employer sponsorships or family ties.
  • There is no chance, at the moment, that this plan will be adopted. But there is some chance that making the case for it might help clarify what the country should be shopping for in an immigration reform measure.

    The most basic decision any immigration bill needs to make is this: How many immigrants does the country need and want? Bizarrely, this was the one question that the debate over the Senate bill did not seem to concern itself with. Even finding estimates for total immigration under the Senate reform proved dauntingly difficult until the Congressional Budget Office published some projections last week.

    Hat tip: Virginia Postrel.

    posted by Dan at 07:57 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    You be Newsweek's guest editor!

    I find little to cavil about Newsweek's sympathetic profile of Angelina Jolie ("look, she's gone from Billy Bob Thornton's ex to being good at acting, adopting and international public diplomacy!")

    Well, OK, there is this rather odd section:

    Earlier this month Jolie was invited to join the Council on Foreign Relations, the elite club for the American foreign-policy establishment. It's no room for lightweights. Her fellow members include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Jimmy Carter, Diane Sawyer and Bill Clinton.
    To my dying day, I will be vexed by one of two possibilities:
    1) Reporter Sean Smith sees Diane Sawyer as a foreign policy heavyweight;

    2) An editor at Newsweek read Smith's draft and though,"not enough heavyweights... better add Diane Sawyer."

    posted by Dan at 11:55 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    A&W; sells me on MacDonald's

    While engaging in my monthly hotel workout regimen, I caught a new ad by A&W; restaurant. The gist of the ad was that McDonald's was not to be trusted because... wait for it... they used beef from New Zealand. As opposed to A&W;, which only uses American beef.

    Having been to New Zealand,, that ad actually made me want to go out a buy a Big Mac. Because New Zealand grass-fed beef tastes much, much better than American corn-fed beef.

    posted by Dan at 11:29 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    The rise of trans-Pacific regulatory conflict

    In the past two days there have been two stories in the press suggesting that the U.S. will be butting heads with China and India over a variety of regulations.

    On Sunday, the Washington Post's Marc Kaufman writes that the growth of pharmaceutical imports is triggering health and safety concerns:

    India and China, countries where the Food and Drug Administration rarely conducts quality-control inspections, have become major suppliers of low-cost drugs and drug ingredients to American consumers. Analysts say their products are becoming pervasive in the generic and over-the-counter marketplace.

    Over the past seven years, amid explosive growth in imports from India and China, the FDA conducted only about 200 inspections of plants in those countries, and a few were the kind that U.S. firms face regularly to ensure that the drugs they make are of high quality.

    The agency, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of drugs for Americans wherever they are manufactured, made 1,222 of these quality-assurance inspections in the United States last year. In India, which has more plants making drugs and drug ingredients for American consumers than any other foreign nation, it conducted a handful.

    Companies based in India were bit players in the American drug market 10 years ago, selling just eight generic drugs here. Today, almost 350 varieties and strengths of antidepressants, heart medicines, antibiotics and other drugs purchased by American consumers are made by Indian manufacturers.

    Five years ago, Chinese drugmakers exported about $300 million worth of products to the United States. Eager to meet Americans' demand for lower-cost medicines, they, too, have expanded rapidly. Last year, they sold more than $675 million in pharmaceutical ingredients and products in the U.S. market.

    After the pet food scandal that triggered fears over the safety of human and animal foods imported from China, experts say medicines from that country and from India pose a similar risk of being contaminated, counterfeit or simply understrength and ineffective.

    "As the manufacturing goes to China and India, the risk to human health is growing exponentially," said Brant Zell, past chairman of the Bulk Pharmaceuticals Task Force. The group represents American drug-ingredient makers that filed a citizen's petition with the FDA last year asking the agency to oversee foreign firms more aggressively.

    "The low level there" of follow-up inspections, "combined with the huge amount of importing, greatly increases the potential that consumers will get products that have impurities or ineffective ingredients," he said.

    FDA officials say that they are not aware of any health problems caused by drugs imported from India or China and that the American companies that import them usually do their own quality and safety testing. But the agency acknowledges that it is virtually impossible for it to know whether poor-quality or contaminated drugs from lightly regulated Asian plants have caused patients to get sicker or remain ill, especially because patients and doctors are unlikely to suspect poorly manufactured drugs as a problem.

    Meanwhile, in USA Today, Jayne O'Donnell reports about another brewing regulatory problem -- lead levels in childrens' jewelry:
    The Chinese government opposes a proposed U.S. standard limiting the amount of lead allowed in bracelets, necklaces and other jewelry sold for children.

    All but three of more than 30 Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls for lead in children's jewelry since 2003 were for China-made items. The others were made in India.

    The Chinese government said in comments to the CPSC that it's not necessary to limit the lead content to the proposed 0.06% by weight because much of the lead wouldn't seep out of jewelry so would "do little harm for children." China's comments are the only ones opposing the CPSC proposal. A final regulation is likely by early 2008.

    CPSC says 20,000 children were treated in emergency rooms from 2000 to 2005 after swallowing jewelry. The number doesn't include choking incidents. A 4-year-old boy died last year after swallowing a charm that was 99% lead.

    CPSC is concerned that children can ingest unsafe levels of lead after putting necklaces and other jewelry in their mouths, even briefly. If they are also exposed to lead in their homes or drinking water, there can be a cumulative risk. Lead poisoning can lower the IQ, cause learning disabilities and lead to kidney or liver disease.

    Along with being the target of nearly all of the lead jewelry recalls, China-made products have made up half of CPSC's overall recalls for at least two years, says acting Chairman Nancy Nord. Recalls of China-made products have been steadily increasing since 2003.

    "It is absolutely imperative that all manufacturers understand that if they are going to sell products in the U.S., consumer protection has to be one of their main concerns," she says.

    In the comments, Guo LiSheng, a deputy director general in China's Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said the agency agrees with the U.S. that children's health and safety need to be protected but believes putting warning labels on the jewelry "may be more efficient than setting the limit of lead content."

    If you read both articles, these two cases are not identical. There appears to be a strong justification for ratcheting up the lead regulations, while problems with pharmaceutical imports remain more hypothetical than real.

    Going forward, it will be interesting to see whether affected domestic industries will be lobbying for regulatory barriers rather than more overt forms of protectionism. The thing about regulatory barriers is that they are not always protectionist in motivation. And that's precisely what makes them more attractive for import-competitive sectors.


    UPDATE: Thanks to Nicholas Weaver for sending me this New York Times story by Walt Bogdanich on Chinese resistance to regulatory investigations. Definitely worth a read.

    posted by Dan at 08:07 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (1)

    Friday, June 15, 2007

    Cato Unbound, part deux

    The Cato Unbound debate about All Politics Is Global continues with response essays:

    1) Ann Florini, "Globalization Is Transformative."

    2) Jeremy A. Rabkin, "While Great States Sleep."

    3) Kal Raustiala, "Globalization and Global Governance."

    My response to the critiques can be found here.

    posted by Dan at 09:42 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

    The massive disincentive to blog about Israel/Palestine

    The following is a typical e-mail I've received in the wake of posting about Norman Finkelstein:

    Anyone questioning the intellectual scholarship of Mr. Finkelstein really needs help. to simply say that he is accomplished does not do service to his record of superior scholarship which is there for everyone to see. Were he not a critic of Zionism he would be feted from on high for his academic achievements. I was not surprised that a Catholic Priest made a mealy mouth decision not to grant tenure on such a political decision and then lied in my opinion making matters even more suspicious by saying that ouside influence had no...who makes up these lies? Father H.'s phone lines are still blazing with threats from ADL Mr. D., Foxman, considering the Blackmail that Zionism has put on the Catholic Church for their so-called non assistance to the Jews in peril and their perceived coziness with the Nazis during the second W.W. However the Zionist have no quarter from which to truly attack Finkelstein on and they are now in helter skelter mode drunkenly flailing at any thing that Finkelsteins, ala J. Carter. Finally for the record and for sometime now ANTI-SEMITISM has not intimidated the investigators or human beings from observing what Israel is doing in Palestine and condemning them for what it is, genocide. a legitimate personage has "pulled the covers" off that cat(Zionism/Racism)and Zionist apologist are schreeeching to high heaven at being exposed. Dan's bullshit piece about Finkelstein is just another attempt at cover. he admits that he dosen't know what he's talking about when it comes to Finkelstein. I suspect that he really does but has no response to the truth thats printable. If he believed that Finkelstein got a raw deal then he should have stated that instead of listing all the negatives in his text about Finkelstein which makes Dan suspect to the reader. Israels murderous policy of theft of land,lies,targeted killings,walls, racist highways,killing of international observers,and unjust occupation against the Palestinian(short list) People is an international crime in the exact same way that the German Administration under Adolph Hitler and what he did to European Jewry was a crime. Liars such as Dershowitz and loonies such as David Horowitz only expose the Israeli desperate attempt to promote transparent false propaganda. The arrogance of how one should criticize newish people what words one can say and not say is a first in the history of mankind and will not stand. And now comes Dan, with a kinder gentler "objective" detachment The People of the world are united in their condemnation of Zionist blackmail by accusatory designation and use of the term anti-semitism to try and stop the debate concerning the Palestinian genocide committed by Israel since 1948 and continuing. The truth will be told whether Zionist like the way it is told to them or not. The world must unite to bring all the mass killers from the U.S. and Israel to the world court of Justice for their mortal sins against humanity.

    posted by Dan at 09:37 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

    I want to believe the Zagats -- I really do

    Nina and Tim Zagat have an op-ed in today's New York Tmes about why Chinese food in the United States is substandard. I should sympathize with their argument:

    Twenty years ago, American perceptions of Asian food could be summed up in one word: “Chinese.” Since then, we have developed appetites for Korean, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese fare. Yet while the quality of the restaurants that serve these cuisines, particularly Japanese, has soared in America, Chinese restaurants have stalled. For American diners, the Chinese restaurant experience is the same tired routine — unimaginative dishes served amid dated, pseudo-imperial décor — that we’ve known for years....

    There is a historic explanation for the abysmal state of Chinese cuisine in the United States. Without access to key ingredients from their homeland, Chinese immigrants working on the Central Pacific Railroad in the 1860s improvised dishes like chow mein and chop suey that nobody back in their native land would have recognized. To please the naïve palates of 19th-century Americans, immigrant chefs used sweet, rich sauces to coat the food — a radical departure from the spicy, chili-based dishes served back home.

    But today, getting ingredients is no longer an issue. Instead, the principal obstacle to improving Chinese fare here is the difficulty of getting visas for skilled workers since 9/11. Michael Tong, head of the Shun Lee restaurant group in New York, has said that opening a major Chinese restaurant in America is next to impossible because it can take years to get a team of chefs from China. Chinese restaurateur Alan Yau planned to open his first New York City restaurant last year but was derailed because he was unable to get visas for his chefs.

    If Henry Kissinger could practice “Ping-Pong diplomacy,” perhaps Condoleezza Rice could try her hand at “dumpling diplomacy”? China and the United States should work together on a culinary visa program that makes it easier for Chinese chefs to come here.

    Hmm.... reducing barriers to exchange, increasing globalization of cuisine... I should be on this proposal like white on rice.

    Except that the Zagats' policy solution does not explain their policy conundrum. Immigration barriers should have a roughly equal effect on all Pacific Rim cuisines, not just China's. Why would it be the case that Chinese cuisine in the U.S. is particularly disadvantaged by vsa restrictions?

    Three possibilities:

    1) Because China has a larger internal market, there is more innovation and competition at home, leading to more frequent innovations. Without a reliable transmission mechanism (i.e., migrating chefs), Chinese cuisine in China will improve at a faster rate than in the U.S.A.

    2) Law of averages. There are 41,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S., but only 9,000 Japanese restaurants. If quality is a function of quantity, then the average Chinese restaurant will simply be of poorer quality than other cuisines.

    3) Innovation in a different direction. As this Washington Post story from last year suggests, American restaurants tend to innovate by using new cooking styles to present more traditional foods. Indeed, as the Zagats observe, this tendency is strongest in cuisines that have been here for a while -- like Chinese. This roils devotees of "pure" national cuisine, but deights everyone else.

    I'm willing to endorse more culinary trade as a matter of principle, but I'd still like a good explanation for this conundrum.

    Take it away, Tyler Cowen!

    posted by Dan at 09:06 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

    This is my brain when it's cranky

    Matthew Rojansky has a post at Across the Aisle on energy independence that caused me to bang my head against the wall in sheer frustration for a few moments.

    Rojansky reacts to a DC panel on energy, the environment and national security at a Center for American Progress/Century Foundation conference. After all of the panelists politely point out that the goal of energy independence is neither possible not worthwhile. Rojansky replies:

    Alright, I see their point. It’s not immediately clear that even the optimal combination of conservation and alternative energy technologies can keep pace with growing demands for energy, meaning we will continue to need energy imports to fuel the US economy. Cutting off foreign energy sources would, by that reasoning, make us less competitive, and more “isolated” in a negative sense.

    But there’s another side to that coin.

    Energy is a zero sum game. Unlike trading technologies or other complex goods, trading energy commodities does not create value. In fact, the immutable laws of physics dictate that transmission of oil, gas or any other store of potential energy costs more energy the farther it has to travel. At some point, in fact, you could expend more energy to transmit a gallon of gas than you could ever get out of that gallon, resulting in a net energy loss.

    Thus, importing energy from abroad only works as long as that energy is both cheaper to extract and transport than it would be to generate here at home, and–here’s the real key–as long as the governments that control the resources are willing to sell them to us.

    OK, to put this as simply as possible -- trading energy commodities creates value in the same way that trading any other kind of good creates value. The reason we import energy from other countries is that, as Rojansky observes, "is both cheaper to extract and transport than it would be to generate here at home." As a society, the U.S. gains value by having the market take resources that might have (inefficiently) gone into energy extraction and reallocating them into producing goods and services in which the United States has a comparative advantage (indeed, one of those goods and services might be, you know, a new innovative technique to more efficiently extract energy resources). Trade, in this sense, has the same effect as a technological innovation -- it widens the variety of efficient means through which a society can obtain goods.

    Trading energy is not a zero sum game.

    This doesn't mean policymakers should necessarily let the market operate in an unfettered manner. There are clear non-economic reasons to intervene (Rojansky argues that foreign suppliers might decide one day not to sell their energy to the U.S. That's a red herring, because any move in that direction hurts them more than us). Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will likely require investment in alternative forms of energy. The political externalities of high energy prices are also undesirable. However, even factoring in the political externalities, the U.S. should not aim for energy independence. Why waste resources on eliminating that last drop of imported oil, when perfectly stable and friendly economies like Canada, Mexico, Norway, and Great Britain are willing to seel their energy to us?

    Rjansky closes his post with the following critique:

    The experts I cited above object to the energy independence slogan only because they perceive it as a red herring. They would argue it is a distraction from broader conservationist goals that will, in reality, have the same important impact in reducing our dependence on foreign oil, while combating global climate change by reducing carbon emissions. Certainly, climate change is very important, and a preoccupation with energy independence for security’s sake alone might lead us to transition to US-sourced fossil fuels, like coal and oil from ANWRA, that produce just as much harmful carbon as Middle Eastern oil and gas. But to call energy independence a bad idea destroys the only common ground in this debate, and hence the best chance for meaningful progress on both national security and climate change.

    Policymaking is 10% reasoned argument and 90% political compromise, as I’ve been very recently reminded, and I am surprised that such an impressive group of Washington insiders would be so short-sighted about our national interest.

    Policymaking is also a bit about being trapped by slogans. The slogan on this issue should be energy diversification, not energy independence. The former is both economically feasible and politically desirable. The latter is neither.

    posted by Dan at 08:16 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    A pop quiz for Senators Baucus, Graham, Grassley, and Schumer

    The Financial Times' Eoin Callan, Krishna Guha, and Richard McGregor report on a bipartisan effort to introduce a bill aimed at punishing China for currency manipulation:

    China came under increased pressure to revalue its currency on Wednesday as a bipartisan group of US senators introduced legislation designed to push the Bush administration towards a full-blown trade dispute with Beijing.

    The bill would send exchange rate disputes to the World Trade Organisation by treating them as unfair export subsidies and includes a range of sanctions. The move will increase pressure on the White House to toughen its stance on Beijing.

    Lawmakers say China’s fixed exchange rate subsidises its exports and has contributed to a record annual bilateral US trade deficit of $233bn (£118bn)....

    The legislation has gathered momentum in the Senate and would allow US companies to appeal for anti-dumping duties on Chinese goods based on the distorted value of the currency.

    The bill was introduced by Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate finance committee, and co-sponsored by Charles Grassley, ranking Republican on the committee. It is also backed by Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham, who previously proposed a unilateral 27.5 per cent US tariff on Chinese goods that would have violated WTO rules. A tougher version of the bill is being prepared by a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives.

    Mr Schumer said: “This breakthrough proposal is like nothing else because it’s tough, wide-reaching and WTO-compliant. The previous legislation got China’s attention; the purpose of this legislation is to force change.”

    David Christy, a lawyer at Miller and Chevalier, said any attempt by the US to apply anti-dumping duties against Chinese goods based on the value of the country’s currency could fall foul of WTO rules.

    The US Treasury, meanwhile, again shied away from branding Beijing a currency manipulator in its semi-annual currency report to Congress.

    Meanwhile, Chris Nelson reports on how hearings on the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement went earlier this week. Nelson is usually respectful in his language, so this passage is particularly telling:
    Deputy USTR Karan Bhatia and [Assistant Secretary of State] Chris Hill spent the morning being whipped, insulted, and generally abused, on a bipartisan basis, by the House Foreign Affairs' subcommittee on trade and terrorism - an interesting combination of jurisdictions.

    If this trend continues, and if the Administration cannot organize a fact-based presentation which manages to offset the emotional, fundamentally fact-bereft bombs being thrown, KORUS is a dead letter....

    The Members came armed to the teeth with attack questions prepared by the Auto Caucus, and Chairman Brad Sherman let them make their opening statements unedited for the first 47 minutes.

    Bhatia and Hill were then given 5 minutes - timed to the milisecond - to summarize their testimonies. So absurdly out of balance was the process that Sherman actually banged his gavel to interrupt Bhatia's testimony as it sought to answer the key auto questions already thrown at him.

    Hill had on the table with him a copy of the book "The Power of Faith and Fantasy", and one suspects it took all his diplomatic gravitas to refrain from flinging it at Manzullo, when he was bitterly insulted for the sin of helping Chrysler organize a display of certain products on his embassy residence's lawn, while serving as US Ambassador in Seoul....

    The impassioned speeches also offered brilliant insights such that the Administration's claims for good jobs being created by FTA's could not possibly be true, because when you have a trade deficit, that means there has to be a big job loss.

    We're not making this up. In fact, on one level, this hearing was an insult to the intelligence of Congres.

    However, on the political level, this hearing was serious as a heart-attack, as it shows that until or unless the US business interests which would benefit from KORUS get organized and step foward - services, banking and investments, etc. - that the Auto Caucus can win by bullying and the Big Lie.

    And in fairness to the Members who unwittingly embarrassed themselves this morning, they are at least honestly reflecting the pervasive angst over globalization which political America is wrestling with these days.

    Clearly, Congress is upset about U.S. trade policy. And when congressmen are upset, stupid policies usally follow.

    Here's a multiple-choice question to the proposers of the new China bill:

    The American economy is experiencing rising interest rates and worries about rising inflation. Neither of these trends bodes well for average Americans.

    What's the best way for Congress to exacerbate this trend?

    A) Subpoenaing White House aides.

    B) Getting mired down over earmark reform.

    C) Fret about Congress' low standing in public opinion.

    D) Raise the price and increase uncertainty of import flows?

    I'm sure Chuck Schumer, eminent economist, will figure out the correct answer.

    Meanwhile, James Pethokoukis worries that Congress is partying like it's 1929.

    posted by Dan at 08:54 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

    My soft spot for the Stassenites

    Over at Slate, John Dickerson has story that crops up every four years -- the indefatigable, perennial and completely obscure presidential candidate:

    While covering the Republican and Democratic debates last week, I thought I might have a shot at eating a late breakfast at the Merrimack candidate-free. John Cox, the Republican superlongshot, has an office above the restaurant, but I knew he was away, trying to wangle his way into the Republican debate. So, I knew I wouldn't run into him. I thought I was in the clear. I sprinted toward the door, then slowed down briefly to pull the handle. "Are you a reporter?" asked a man standing on the sidewalk. He was typing on a laptop he'd perched on one of the newspaper machines. Busted.

    His name was Robert Haines, and he was running for the GOP nomination. He'd been shaking hands on the corner since early in the morning. "I usually get the first spot," he said, pointing to his maroon Mazda 626. In the window was a small laminated sign that read, "Robert Haines for President." He explained his parking strategy. "In the first spot people can see the side of your car from the road. These other candidates wouldn't know something like this, but I know the ins and outs. I know what it takes. I've been running here since 1992." Haines once lived in Denver but moved to New Hampshire with his family so that he could get pole position....

    Haines didn't "want to get into" what he does when he's not running for president but stressed that he has a master's degree in applied solar energy and other educational qualifications that made him an expert on energy issues. A social and fiscal conservative, he opposes amnesty and—surprise—favors a strong national defense. He objects to all presidents named George Bush. He even ran against the current president in the 2004 Republican primaries, when most of us in the media thought Bush ran unopposed. "I came in fifth in the 2004 New Hampshire primary," he said, taking off his sunglasses to wipe them. (He got 579 votes. I looked it up.) "These other candidates didn't have the guts to run. You follow me?" He finished a lot of sentences with this question.

    I find something unbelievably charming about the Harold Stassens of the world, but I honestly don't know why. In theory, these kind of people should repel me. If you think about it, what's endearing about a guy whose ego is so out of proportion to reality that he thinks he should be president?

    I think what I find endearing is that, deep down, these guys know their odds and yet they persist anyway, election cycle after election cycle. That requires a mixture of optimism, faith in one's abilities, and partial self-delusion that is quintissentially American.

    posted by Dan at 08:37 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

    Politics, economics, globalization, academia, pop culture... all from a untenured tenured perspective

    Main home page
    Main blog page
    About Me
    Search My Blog
    Favorite Blogs
    Book Recommendations
    Books of the Month (June 2007)

    Reviews of

    "Sharp but informal commentary on politics and foreign policy." -- The New Republic

    "Dan Drezner is terrific.... Excellent blog." -- Andrew Sullivan

    "Dan's stuff is always worth reading." -- Eugene Volokh

    "One of the essential weblogs." --

    "Old battle horse of the blogosphere." --

    "Soft porn." -- Amitai Etzioni

    "Monday morning quarterback... conservative robot... the very foundation of troubles in this country." -- not-so-random readers

    Contact me at:
    (But click here to read my e-mail policy)

    Search the Site

    Try advanced site search

    Favorite Blogs

    TNR's Open University
    Glenn Reynolds
    Andrew Sullivan
    Mickey Kaus
    Virginia Postrel
    The Volokh Conspiracy
    Josh Marshall
    Crooked Timber
    Real Clear Politics
    Kevin Drum
    Across the Aisle
    Economist's Free Exchange
    TNR's The Plank
    NRO's The Corner
    TAP's Tapped
    America Abroad
    Duck of Minerva
    Opinio Juris
    Brad DeLong

    Jeff Jarvis
    Mystery Pollster
    Mark Kleiman
    Meryl Yourish
    Megan McArdle
    Marginal Revolution
    Michael Munger
    Chris Lawrence
    Matthew Yglesias
    Hit and Run
    Cold Spring Shops
    Stephen Green
    Outside the Beltway
    Pejman Yousefzadeh
    Laura McKenna (11D)
    Phil Carter
    Joe Gandelman
    Winds of Change
    Andrew Samwick
    Greg Mankiw
    Dani Rodrik
    Roger L. Simon
    Tom Maguire
    Greg Djerejian
    The American Scene
    Post Global
    Democracy Arsenal

    Recent articles online

    "The New New World Order."
    Foreign Affairs, March/April 2007

    "Mind the Gap."
    The National Interest, January/February 2007

    "Davos' Downhill Slide."
    Los Angeles Times, January 21, 2007.

    "The Grandest Strategy Of Them All."
    Washington Post, December 17, 2006

    U.S. Trade Strategy: Free Versus Fair
    Council on Foreign Relations Press, September 2006.

    "The Trouble With Blogs."
    Chronicle of Higher Education, July 28, 2006

    Complete online article archive

    Blog Archives

    June 2007
    May 2007
    April 2007
    March 2007
    February 2007
    January 2007
    December 2006
    November 2006
    October 2006
    September 2006
    August 2006
    July 2006
    June 2006
    May 2006
    April 2006
    March 2006
    February 2006
    January 2006
    December 2005
    November 2005
    October 2005
    September 2005
    August 2005
    July 2005
    June 2005
    May 2005
    April 2005
    March 2005
    February 2005
    January 2005
    December 2004
    November 2004
    October 2004
    September 2004
    August 2004
    July 2004
    June 2004
    May 2004
    April 2004
    March 2004
    February 2004
    January 2004
    December 2003
    November 2003
    October 2003
    September 2003
    August 2003
    July 2003
    June 2003
    May 2003
    April 2003
    March 2003
    February 2003
    January 2003
    December 2002
    November 2002
    October 2002
    September 2002

    Area studies
    Book club
    from Blogger
    homeland security
    international relations
    My very important posts
    New Republic
    The blog paper
    the blogosphere
    thesis ideas
    Trade and Development
    U.S. foreign policy
    website maintenance

    See full archives listing

    Recent Entries

    My moral midgetry
    Name this blog phenomenon!
    How should I feel about Fred Thompson in 2008?
    How should I feel about Bloomberg in 2008?
    My latest bloggingheads throwdown
    Outsourcing to Jonathan Rauch on immigration
    You be Newsweek's guest editor!
    A&W; sells me on MacDonald's
    The rise of trans-Pacific regulatory conflict
    Cato Unbound, part deux

    Site Credits