Groundhog Day

by John Quiggin on July 6, 2007

While looking back at whether Iraq was “all about oil“, I thought it might be a good idea to check on the US reconstruction program, and found the State Department report for April 2007. The lead items are electricity generating capacity and oil output, which used to be followed eagerly by those in the blogosphere arguing that the MSM were ignoring “Good News from Iraq”. As Tim Lambert and Jim Henley pointed out a couple of years ago, the same good news kept getting announced over and over again, but the prewar levels (average electricity output of 4300 MW, availability of 11 hours per day, oil output 2.5 million barrels per day (MBPD)) were never surpassed.

We don’t hear quite so much about good news from Iraq these days. The original good news blogger Arthur Chrenkoff shut up shop a while ago. Winds of Change picked up the baton, but seems to have given up. Google finds this site with three entries this year, none containing any actual good news, and this quasi-official site, apparently produced by the Defense Department, and mainly reproducing press releases. It’s not clear whether press releases containing bad news are excluded or whether no such releases are issued.

So, I’ll pick up the ball and summarise the news in the State Department’s report. At this stage, 99 per cent of the US money has been committed, and 87 per cent has been spent, so there’s no more where that came from. Adding “new”, “restored” and “maintained” generating capacity, we get a total of 4373MW, which, assuming 80 per cent uptime, would correspond to average output of around 3500MW. Oil shows a capacity of 2.7MBPD and output of 1.9MBPD. (Table is over the fold). Then there’s the usual schools and hospitals, but these days both schools and hospitals in Iraq are very dangerous places to attend.

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MoveOn and Voting

by Henry on July 6, 2007

I’ve just “linked a paper”: at my political science papers weblog that seems potentially pretty interesting to CT readers and others. Joel Middleton and Donald Green have written a “piece”: that tries to gauge the effects of MoveOn’s canvassers on voting turn-out. They estimate this by looking at situations where (a) the boundary of two voting precincts bisects a street so that people on one side of the street are in one precinct, and those on the other side are in the other precinct, and (b) where one of these districts had MoveOn organizers canvassing prospective voters, and the other didn’t. They then look at the voters on each side of the relevant street – this should eliminate potential bias (there’s pretty good reason to think that voters on different sides of the same street aren’t going to be measurably different from each other). When they do this, they find that people contacted by MoveOn canvasers seems to be 7% more likely to vote than the control population, which is a pretty significant difference. As Gerber and Green say, this is a nice result for the election turnout literature. But it has wider implications, as they note in an aside. There’s a lot of talk from Robert Putnam and others about how people are losing ‘social capital’ as the Internet becomes ever more important. Regardless of the underlying merits of the social capital thesis (personally, I’m pretty skeptical of it, at least in Putnam’s formulation), this provides smoking gun evidence that the Internet can enable greater participation than would otherwise have been possible, through allowing decentralized movements such as MoveOn to get the vote out more effectively.