Mr. Big Stuff, who do you think you are?

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Anytime anyone questions the dogma of the theory of "free trade" as it applies in the real world, even though it cannot really be said to exist in the real world, that same individual is called all kinds of unpleasant names in the MSM. The name-callers might wish to acquaint themselves with the intellectual journey of the famed economist Alan Blinder, which appears today on the front page of the not-ruined-yet Wall Street Journal ($):

Mr. Blinder still believes the principle British economist David Ricardo introduced 200 years ago: Nations prosper by focusing on things they do best -- their "comparative advantage" -- and trading with other nations with different strengths. He accepts the economic logic that U.S. trade with large low-wage countries like India and China will make all of them richer -- eventually. He acknowledges that trade can create jobs in the U.S. and bolster productivity growth.

But he says the harm done when some lose jobs and others get them will be far more painful and disruptive than trade advocates acknowledge. He wants government to do far more for displaced workers than the few months of retraining it offers today. He thinks the U.S. education system must be revamped so it prepares workers for jobs that can't easily go overseas, and is contemplating changes to the tax code that would reward companies that produce jobs that stay in the U.S.

[...]

Blinder began to muse about this in public. At a Council on Foreign Relations forum in January 2005 he called "offshoring," or the exporting of U.S. jobs, "the big issue for the next generation of Americans." Eight months later on Capitol Hill, he warned that "tens of millions of additional American workers will start to experience an element of job insecurity that has heretofore been reserved for manufacturing workers."

At the urging of former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Mr. Blinder wrote an essay, "Offshoring: The Next Industrial Revolution?" published last year in Foreign Policy. "The old assumption that if you cannot put it in a box, you cannot trade it is hopelessly obsolete," he wrote. "The cheap and easy flow of information around the globe...will require vast and unsettling adjustments in the way Americans and residents of other developed countries work, live and educate their children."

In that paper, he made a "guesstimate" that between 42 million and 56 million jobs were "potentially offshorable." Since then he has been refining those estimates, by painstakingly ranking 817 occupations, as described by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to identify how likely each is to go overseas. From that, he derives his latest estimate that between 30 million and 40 million jobs are vulnerable.

Read this, too.

Did you know that Commentary has a blog? Here, Joshua Muravchik gets all personally insulting to Zbigniew Brzezinski, rather than dealing with his argument. Decades ago I read a review in an academic journal of Muravchik's (only?) book. The reviewer marveled at the fact that anyone could possibly have received a Ph.D. degree anywhere on the basis of such shoddy research. If this rings a bell with any reader, send it in ...

I fear that Michael Bloomberg has the potential to become a Ralph Nader with $500 million to waste. Think about it: Who is going to vote for a liberal, divorced Jewish billionaire except people who would have voted Democratic anyway? Bloomberg is a good mayor but bad, overall, for the country. He's been funding the Republican Party since he became mayor despite the fact that its leaders have all but declared war on the city. His record regarding the civil liberties of protesters at the 2004 Republican convention is absolutely abominable. If he goes on this ego trip -- currently being promoted by the very consultants who stand to get rich over it -- he will become the enemy of everything he professes to believe. And he certainly won't be the president. So he'll just be throwing away money that could, say, cure vitamin A deficiency in Africa or any number of far more worthwhile things. If the mayor has any friends who care about restoring some sanity to our government following the incalculable debacle of this administration, they need to talk him out of this folly.

This story, by the way, is pretty silly. Since when does Al Sharpton speak for anyone but Al Sharpton? This guy calls Bloomberg a "compelling candidate" in the first set of quotes, and we're supposed to take that seriously? Compelling to whom? The folks who helped pull off the Tawana Brawley hoax?

Forget about The Politico's mea culpa last week for whiffing on the John Edwards story. The Politico ought to apologize to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson for suggesting he's being hounded by questions regarding his "behavior with women," and to Sen. Barack Obama, for announcing he has a "Jewish problem." Read more about The Politico's reporting woes here.

Bad for the Jews: Why is The Israel Project dominated by extremist right-wingers like Frank Gaffney and Cliff May? Isn't AIPAC right-wing enough for you people?

I speak Italian.

Alter-Gangsta Rap Corner:

"Gin and Juice": This is even funnier than Ann Althouse and requires at least as much of a parental advisory. (Thanks, David Rudd.) It reminds me a little bit of this, which requires even more of a parental advisory. (Now try it a cappella. Even funnier, if possible.)

P.S. I don't get this one, but hey, Annie, check out those racks ...

From our sponsors:

The word "some," like the word "seems," generally means the journalist is full of it, here.

Politico and Drudge, twin sons of different mothers, here.

McCain Suck-Up Watch, continued.

"Default, dear Heather, is not in our stars, but in ourselves." Good line, bub. Here ($).

Robert Hughes on Dali and the surrealists, here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Richard Murphy
Hometown: Iowa City

Dr. Alterman:

Doesn't Mitt's wife have MS? When does Katie have the interview with the Romneys scheduled so she can advise them that some people think he ought to get out of the race?

Name: Brian P. Evans
Hometown: San Diego, CA

Now that we've learned that Tony Snow's cancer has returned, I'm sure all the media talking heads will now be asking whether or not he should listen to "those people" who say that the Administration's desire to keep him on the job is "callous and ambitious" and wonder whether or not he could possibly continue as Press Secretary with the "distraction" of having cancer.

And, of course, we'll hear the ponderings that this was all just a political ploy to feed his ambition. The timing, after all, is quite suspicious: Right after the Edwardses announced that they are dealing with cancer, along comes Snow with his "Me, too!" statement. Everyone can see that this was timed to engender sympathy and steal the wind out of Edwards' sails (and in case anybody missed it, that's sarcasm.)

Name: Traven
Hometown: Seattle

Eric,

How is Gonzales' assertion that he wasn't involved in the "deliberations" over the firing of the US Attorneys a defense? Shouldn't the Attorney General be intimately involved in such an important action as removing US Attorneys for cause? Is asleep at the switch now the Bush Administration's excuse for everything?

Name: Bill Skeels
Hometown: Raleigh

You should actually give Olbermann a view, not merely because of the substance, but to analyze how he does it. It's pretty remarkable.

The initial premise, the show they sold MSNBC, was clearly required to contain a lot of comedy. The first 2, usually 3, of the main Countdown stories are, however, quite substantive. He uses his interviewees right, too; sure, he has many MSM regulars (e.g., Richard Wolffe), but he uses them for what they know; how the spin is going, what's the evolution of the conventional wisdom. He uses a great range of real, interesting, experts on all manner of subjects (his usual suspects on matters military and intelligence put the big three to shame), and is, simply, an excellent interviewer.

On a typical night, I've already heard enough of one of the stories (blogs, Altercation, wherever), and so will skip that one.

Most of the last 25 minutes is disposable, fast-forward fodder. He knows it, it's totally over the top, complete with Keystone Kops tunes and the rest. But don't ever, ever, miss 'Worst Person in the World'. 1 or 2 of the 3 (worse, worser, worst) "awards" go to many of the usual suspects (Limbaugh, famously Bill O), but the technique is notable. By now, he's got millions thinking, reflexively, "Comedian Rush Limbaugh" (and not in a good way) when he cites one of Mr. L's forays. It's relentless, funny, and takes its toll. It's what works.

This doesn't even account for the special comments which have, almost always, said something that needed badly to be said, bluntly. The guy is doing a public service, and we can take heart from what he's doing, and take note of the techniques.

TIVO or VCR, 25-30 minutes, every night. Good stuff.

Name: Jordan
Hometown: Seattle, WA

Eric,

Why does anyone still fall for the Arlen Specter two-step? He's trumpeted on the news stations this weekend as one of three Republican senators coming out against Alberto Gonzales. Do you have any doubt that he is doing this to protect Gonzales and the Republican White House -- to once again prevent testimony under oath that could lead to real trouble for his party? From Anita Hill to his two-step on the illegal surveillance -- making big noise in the press while pushing a bill to provide amnesty to those who authorized the surveillance, this guy has been consistent. No surprise when we find out the provision slipped into the Patriot Act allowing appointment of interim U.S. Attorneys without Senate oversight came from Arlen Specter's office. I'd like to be proven wrong, but I suspect that when the hearings start, we'll see another of those phony "what did he know and when did he know it" performances which is finely calibrated to protect his party and president at all costs while putting forth a public face of searching for the truth.

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