Update: On MSNBC, Adam Green announces that Debbie Stabenow has signed on, too. Post[...]
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The vote to move to consideration of this bill has passed, 62-30. Ben Nelson voted "no." Blanche Lincoln voted "yes," but only after an amusing/pathetic dance. Both senators from Maine, along with the retiring Voinovich and the newly elected Scott Brown[...]
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For the anti-choice groups, it's Stupak Coathanger amendment or nothing.
The new White House health care bill doesn't change the more lenient Senate-passed abortion provisions, and now the pro-life group known as Susan B. Anthony's List is saying that it will pressure pro-life lawmakers to oppose the compromise.
More than 30 pro-life organizations have called for the final plan to include language written by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MN), and signed a letter to President Obama and Republican Congressional leadership asking that "protection of life" be the top priority at the health care summit.
National Right to Life piles on. They will accept nothing less, it seems, than a measure to essentially force private insurers to give up on providing abortion coverage--never mind that it's a legal, medical procedure, one that is often medically necessary. The Nelson provision is barely "more lenient" than Stupak, but not restrictive enough for those who would control all of our uteruses.
What this means for Pelosi in trying to bring together her House caucus is unclear. There's never really been a solid count of how many votes Stupak could peel off, and certainly that's not clear if all the other pieces of the bill come together and the pressure grows to pass it.
Scott Brown just voted "yes" on the jobs bill in the Senate. Time to start teabagging[...]
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I've been arguing for the last four months that we have entered a New Normal era in which the combination of a naive embrace of free trade, aggressive use of automation and a substandard education and retraining system, has left the United States in a position where it can no longer create enough jobs for its citizens. Yesterday, the New York Times ran a long piece on permanent unemployment that started with this chart.
This is the largest number and percentage of long-term unemployment since the Labor Department started keeping the stats in 1948. But this is not a new issue--it has been building for the last three decades.
During periods of American economic expansion in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, the number of private-sector jobs increased about 3.5 percent a year, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, a research firm. During expansions in the 1980s and '90s, jobs grew just 2.4 percent annually. And during the last decade, job growth fell to 0.9 percent annually.
I've been reading Free Trade Doesn't Work by Ian Fletcher for the past week and he makes a compelling case that tenured economists who propound the theories of free trade that the Wall Street Journal and the Cato Institute then popularize, are completely disconnected from the real world outside the academy.
For example, it has been obvious for 35 years now that America's economy needs to be internationally competitive. But many academic economists disparage the very concept of competitiveness, mainly because it has no accepted definition.
We of course have aided our commercial rivals by American firms aggressive embrace of outsourcing. When Boeing decided to outsource many of the components of its new 787 Dreamliner to Asia and Europe, it not only surrendered its intellectual property, but ended up surrendering its control over the assembly and had to delay the introduction of the plane by two years. Ultimately they decided to end many of the outsourcing contracts and return to the US.
We are about to enter a new era of green manufacturing: solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal, high speed rail and hybrid cars. We need to build these technologies in America. Fortunately companies like GE are getting on board to return their factories to the U.S., but we also need to protect the start-ups against aggressive Asian and European dumping. As Fletcher points out the notion of the tariff is embedded in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. We should not be afraid to use it. Cynics will say we have no power over the Chinese because they would sell their huge portfolio of Treasury Bills if we ever levied a tariff on their solar panels. This is nonsense. As Bill Gross would tell you, the Chinese can't unload $1 trillion worth of bonds overnight and any large sale would become a self-fulfilling prophecy to the downside. Let's say they try to sell $1 billion of bonds worth $100 each. The next morning the value of their remaining portfolio of $900 billion might be cut by $100 billion as the market reacted.
As I've said for two years, America is entering a new era of lowered consumption and increased savings and investment. It is foolish to think that the 45 year old men in the New York Times article are going to find jobs in high finance or high tech. If we do not begin rebuilding our manufacturing economy we will enter an era of civil strife and conflict that will make the recent Tea Party rebellions look tame.
Scott Rasmussen released a new poll of the Iowa governor and U.S. Senate races today. Rasmussen surveyed 500 "likely Iowa voters" on February 18.Given Rasmussen's usual "house effect" favoring Republican candidates, I expected the numbers to be worse for[...]
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Max Blumenthal just posted his video from his weekend at CPAC. Max used to be able to go to these things and post some great guerrilla videos, but nowadays they all know what he looks like and he attracts a crowd of camera-carrying wingers.
He also manages anyway to elicit some prime goofiness when Hannah Giles, the woman who posed as a prostitute in James O'Keefe's ACORN videos, defends O'Keefe when Blumenthal asks why O'Keefe and Breitbart falsely pretended that he had worn an outlandish "pimp" outfit into those ACORN sessions (he hadn't). Blumenthal wonders why O'Keefe was putting on this "minstrel cycle" (I think he meant "minstrel show"), and Giles responded:
Giles: But James is a man. He couldn't have a menstrual cycle.
Then a right-wing kook tried to argue that the Black Congressional Caucus was an innately racist organization since it excludes whites. Nevermind that the difference between minority civil-rights organizations and white supremacists is that one is about defending people's civil rights, the other is about taking them away. Minority caucuses, unlike white-supremacist organization, are not about demonizing and belittling and disenfranchising other people. Equating minority caucuses with hate groups is the height of wingnuttery.
But the best was reserved for Breitbart, who wouldn't even deign to engage Blumenthal in a reasoned debate over the facts of the matter involving Max's on-point reportage about O'Keefe's dalliance with white supremacist Jared Taylor.
All Breitbart could manage was rage and spittle:
Breitbart: You're ridiculous. You are a joke. You are a despicable human being -- the lowest life form that I have ever seen. Your entire job is trying to destroy people with Alinsky tactics.
Explain to me what your political philosophy that you have, other than this nihilist --
Blumenthal: Did you want me to finish what I was gonna say, which is that --?
Breitbart: Not particularly, you've already said it.
Blumenthal: Well, then, do you have anything -- do you have any more insults?
Breitbart: You try to destroy people. I don't care -- yes, absolutely. I could go on for a year. You're disgusting.
I cannot believe that you're fighting your father's battles. I can't believe what you did to Christopher Hitchens, you are -- you have been programmed by some ungodly creature to be this character of hatred.
Blumenthal: So the --
Breitbart: Accusing a person of racism is the worst thing that you can do to someone.
Blumenthal: So you're defending Jared Taylor?
Breitbart: I'm not at all! Of course I'm not!
Blumenthal: Sounds like you're defending Jared Taylor.
Breitbart: No it isn't! No, you --
Blumenthal: John Derbyshire?
Breitbart: What do you mean? -- What are you talking about?
Blumenthal: I don't know. I mean, this is an event with two people who believe that whites are genetically superior. And Marcus Epstein planned it --
Breitbart: Kevin Martin was there debating at the Georgetown Law Center! You think -- this smearing tactic --
Blumenthal: Kevin Martin ended the event with his arm around Jared Taylor. He's from a total -- a front, a front group, he's from a front group that defends white nationalists.
Breitbart: Make your case. Make your case.
Blumenthal: I made my case.
Breitbart: This isn't a case, that's guilt by association, you punk.
Blumenthal: Why are you so angry?
Breitbart: Because you're a punk you destroy people.
Blumenthal: Your face is trembling.
Breitbart: Because you try to destroy people's lives through innuendo!
Blumenthal: I'm not calling any names.
Breitbart: Innuendo! We're done with you! Innuendo! Innuendo! In order to destroy people's lives! You're the most despicable life form I've ever seen!
Yeah, that's right: Andrew Breitbart has the chutzpah to accuse someone else of indulging in "innuendo" in order to "destroy people."
And what Blumenthal reported wasn't "guilt by association", which by definition involves irrelevant associations; whereas these associations are entirely relevant, since they speak directly to O'Keefe's motives and his ideology. Guys like Breitbart love to shout "guilt by association!" whenever they're called out for playing footsie with white supremacists, but they have no idea what it really means.
All in all, it's quite the hilarious spectacle. Somehow, Jonah Goldberg's description of Breitbart as a "crack addict on ten espressos" sounds about right, if understated.
This is a guest note by Stephen M. Walt. The essay, which TWN encouraged Walt to publish after outlines of it appeared in private correspondence, first appeared on Walt's Foreign Policy blog. Walt is the Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
On Grabbing the Third Rail
Last week a colleague who has been facing repeated and unfair attacks in the media and the blogosphere (for making arguments that cut against the conventional wisdom) sent around an email asking a number of friends and associates (including me) for advice on how to deal with the attacks.
Having been smeared in similar fashion myself, I circulated a list of the lessons I learned from my own experience with "grabbing the third rail." A few of the recipients thought the list was helpful, so I decided to revise it and post it here. If any readers are contemplating tackling a controversial subject--and I hope some of you will--you'll need to be ready should opponents decide not to address your arguments in a rational fashion, but to attack your character, misrepresent your position, and impugn your motives instead.
If they take the low road, here are ten guidelines for dealing with it. (The advice itself is politically neutral: it applies regardless of the issue in question and no matter which side you're on.)
1. Think Through Your "Media Strategy" before You Go Public. If you are an academic taking on a "third rail" issue for the first time, you are likely to face a level of public and media scrutiny that you have never experienced before. It is therefore a good idea to think through your basic approach to the media before the firestorm hits. Are you willing to go on TV or radio to defend your views? Are there media outlets that you hope to cultivate, as well as some you should avoid? Are you open to public debate on the issue, and if so, with whom?
Do you plan a "full-court" media blitz to advance your position (an article, a book, a lecture tour, a set of op-eds, etc.), or do you intend to confine yourself to purely academic outlets and let the pundits take it from there? There is no right answer to these questions, of course, and how you answer them depends in good part on your own proclivities and those of your opponents. But planning ahead will leave you better prepared when the phone starts ringing off the hook and there's a reporter--or even someone like Bill O'Reilly or Jon Stewart--on the other end. Don't be afraid to listen to professional advice here (such as the media office at your university or research organization), especially if it's your first time in the shark tank. It's also a good idea to let your superiors know what's coming; deans, center directors, and college presidents don't like surprises.
2. You Have Less Control Than You Think. Although it helps to have thought about your strategy beforehand, there will always be surprises and you will have to think on your feet and improvise wisely. Sometimes real-world events will vindicate your position and enhance your credibility (as the 2006 Lebanon War did for my co-author and myself), but at other times you may have to explain why events aren't conforming to your position. A vicious attack may arrive from an unexpected source and leave you reeling, or you may get an unsolicited endorsement that validates your views. Bottom line: life is full of surprises, so be ready to roll with the punches and seize the opportunities.
3. Never Get Mad. Let your critics throw the mud, but you should always stick to the facts, especially when they are on your side. In my own case, many of the people who attacked me and my co-author proved to be unwitting allies, because they lost their cool in public or in print, made wild charges and ad hominem arguments, and generally acted in a transparently mean-spirited manner. It always works to your advantage when opponents act in an uncivil fashion, because it causes almost everyone else to swing your way
Of course, it can be infuriating when critics misrepresent your work, and nobody likes to have malicious falsehoods broadcast about them. But the fact that someone is making false charges against you does not mean that others are persuaded by the malicious rhetoric. Most people are quite adept at separating facts from lies, and that is especially true when the charges are over-the-top. In short, the more ludicrous the charges, the more critics undermine their own case. So stick to the high ground; the view is nicer up there.
4. Don't Respond to Every Single Attack. A well-organized smear campaign will try to bury you in an avalanche flurry of bogus charges, many of which are simply not worth answering. It is easier for opponents to dream up false charges than it is for you to refute each one, and you will exhaust yourself rebutting every critical word directed at you. So focus mainly on answering the more intelligent criticisms while ignoring the more outrageous ones, which you should treat with the contempt they deserve. Finally, make sure every one of your answers is measured and filled with the relevant facts. Do not engage in ad hominem attacks of any sort, no matter how tempting it may be to hit back.
5. Explain to Your Audience What Is Going On. When refuting bogus charges, make it clear to readers or viewers why your opponents are attacking you in underhanded ways. When you are the object of a politically motivated smear campaign, others need to understand that your critics are not objective referees offering disinterested commentary. Be sure to raise the obvious question: why are your opponents using smear tactics like guilt-by-association and name-calling to shut down genuine debate or discredit your views? Why are they unwilling to engage in a calm and rational exchange of ideas? Let others know that it is probably because your critics are aware that you have valid points to make and that many people will find your views persuasive if they get a chance to judge them for themselves.
6. The More Compelling Your Arguments Are, The Nastier the Attacks Will Be. If critics can refute your evidence or your logic, then that's what they will do and it will be very effective. However, if you have made a powerful case and there aren't any obvious weaknesses in it, your adversaries are likely to misrepresent what you have said and throw lots of mud at you. What else are they going to do when the evidence is against them?
This kind of behavior contrasts sharply with what one is accustomed to in academia, where well-crafted arguments are usually treated with respect, even by those who disagree with them. In the academic world, the better your arguments are, the more likely it is that critics will deal with them fairly. But if you are in a very public spat about a controversial issue like gay marriage or abortion or gun control, a solid and well-documented argument will probably attract more scurrilous attacks than a flimsy argument that is easily refuted. So be prepared.
7. You Need Allies. Anyone engaged on a controversial issue needs allies on both the professional and personal fronts. When the smearing starts, it is of enormous value to have friends and associates publicly stand up and defend you and your work. At the same time, support from colleagues, friends, and family is critical to maintaining one's morale. Facing a seemingly endless barrage of personal attacks as well as hostile and unfair criticisms of one's work can be exhausting and dispiriting, which is why you need others to stand behind you when the going gets tough. That does not mean you just want mindless cheerleaders, of course; sometimes allies help us the most when they warn us we are heading off course.
One more thing: if you're taking one a powerful set of opponents, don't be surprised or disappointed when people tell you privately that that they agree with you and admire what you are doing, but never say so publicly. Be realistic; even basically good people are reluctant to take on powerful individuals or institutions, especially when they might pay a price for doing so.
8. Be Willing to Admit When You're Wrong, But Don't Adopt a Defensive Crouch. Nobody writing on a controversial and contested subject is infallible, and you're bound to make a mistake or two along the way. There's no harm in admitting to errors when they occur; indeed, harm is done when you make a mistake and then try to deny it. More generally, however, it makes good sense to make your case assertively and not shy away from engaging your critics. In short, the best defense is a smart offense, even when you are acknowledging errors or offering a correction. For illustrations of how my co-author and I tried to do this, see here, here, and here.
9. Challenging Orthodoxy Is a Form of "Asymmetric Conflict": You Win By "Not Losing." When someone challenges a taboo or takes on some well-entrenched conventional wisdom, his or her opponents invariably have the upper hand at first. They will seek to silence or discredit you as quickly as they can, so that your perspective, which they obviously won't like, does not gain any traction with the public. But this means that as long as you remain part of the debate, you're winning. Minds don't change overnight, and it is difficult to know how well an intellectual campaign is going at any particular point in time. So get ready for an emotional roller coaster--some days you might think you're winning big, while other days the deck will appear to be stacked against you. But the real question is: are you still in the game?
The good news is that if you have facts and logic on your side, your position is almost certain to improve over time. It is also worth noting that a protracted debate allows you to refine your own arguments and figure out better ways to refute your opponents' claims. In brief, think of yourself as being engaged in a "long war," and keep striving.
10. Don't Forget to Feel Good about Yourself and the Enterprise in Which You Are Engaged. Waging a battle in which you are being unfairly attacked is hard work, and you will sometimes feels like Sisyphus rolling the proverbial stone endlessly uphill. But it can also be tremendously gratifying. You'll wage the struggle more effectively if you find ways to keep your spirits up, and if you never lose sight of the worthiness of your cause. Keeping your sense of humor intact helps too; because some of the attacks you will face ar bound to be pretty comical. So while you're out there slaying your chosen dragon, make sure you have some fun too.
-- Stephen Walt
Excuse me, but where’s the buck stop? Evidently in the Obama era, it stops with Rahm, anywhere but with Barack Obama. That’s because Democrats are having a terrible time figuring out what they do if the problem really is the President.[...]
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It looked for a time like even Harry Reid's stripped-down jobs bill might stall with less than the required 60 votes, but at least two Republicans -- Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Olympia Snowe of Maine -- have joined with the Democrats, which should[...]
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