Plan B

A couple of years ago, my supervisor Larry gave me a couple of pieces of advice. The first was that layoffs were coming and I should keep my head down, my mouth shut and do my work. I loved working for Larry just as I loved working for Isabelle, my previous supervisor. My job was my bliss. I was able to work in the lab again and learn new things with Larry and apply what I learned previously with Isabelle. Guys, there is nothing better in this world than doing something you enjoy for your living. It was better than making obscene gobs of filthy lucre. Well, I could go on but you get my drift.

I didn’t always follow his first piece of advice. I’m way too opinionated and when I’m worried, I’m easily distracted but when the layoff came, I was genuinely surprised that it hit our group because we were so freaking productive. So, I fell back on Larry’s second piece of advice: Have a Plan B.

One of the things job counselors will tell you besides the fact that you must sell yourself like Wilbur the Pig without the benefit of Charlotte’s Web is that you should not take just any job. I realize that’s easy for me to say because I saved a wad of cash before my layoff and got a nice severance package. Nevertheless, I’m glad I took my time deciding what my next move would be. I realized pretty early on that I did not want to go back into corporate research. That’s not to say I didn’t like it. It’s pretty clear that I loved it and think its probably the way to go if you want to do world class research in the private sector. Corporate labs benefit from an economy of scale and shared resources. But the truth is that the pharmaceutical industry is broken. I mean Seriously, fatally broken right now and while the grasshoppers are busily eating their seed corn, it’s harder to get research done. Then there is the whole lack of a PhD thing that shouldn’t make a difference when you need an experienced modeler/structural biologist (trust me, experience is essential), but somehow has become maniacally important in this job market.

I was very lucky to get some part time work with some former colleagues of mine who decided to bring industrial research to academia. I love this job too but it’s not going to pay the bills in New Jersey when the stash runs out, which will be in the not too distant future.

And then there is the kid who had a few years of high school left when I was laid off. I figured it was probably best to keep her in her present situation and not move her right away. I think this was the best decision for her because she needed the continuity even if she absolutely hates New Jersey with a white hot passion. Next year, the kid will be a senior and through with most of her AP classes. She can take classes at a local university. She’s ready so that’s a load off my mind.

So the time has come to implement Plan B. And what, you may ask, is Plan B? Plan B is to move back to Pittsburgh and live less expensively and without debt.

To that end, I’ve bought a house. :-)

When I close on it next month, I will own it free and clear. It’s in a semi-urban hellhole and about a block and a half from the bus line that will take me into the city in about half an hour. I’ll be looking for a job there soon and fortunately, because I won’t have a mortgage and won’t need a car everyday, I’m not going to stress over how much money I need to make. The house has a big yard so there will be raised bed gardening happening although I intend to spray the veggies if I have to. Screw that organic stuff. I want yield. Ok, maybe I’ll go easy on the pesticides. I can’t wait to try to grow fruit trees on an espalier.

For a short period of time, I’ll be living in two states. The house I’m buying was a foreclosed property but the bank closed on it months ago. It needs a bit of work but it’s got a nice layout and it’s on a lovely street. So, while I’m having the roof fixed and retaining walls repaired, I’ll be seeing the kid through the last months of school here in NJ.

Then, I’m blowing this pop-stand. It’s been real. Never again will I walk into a house and have an epiphany that the bank owns me and everything I have.

I can hardly wait.

Go get Karen Ho’s book and read it NOW

Last night, I read more of Karen Ho’s book, Liquidated- An Ethnography of Wall Street and it should be required reading for every literate person in America.  I am not exaggerating.  But if you read it late at night, it might just scare the bejeesus out of you so keep your light on when you go to bed.

What scares me the most is how true it rings to my own experiences at work over the past two decades.  Ho writes like an academic.  This is not a beach read.  You will have to reread passages if you’re not familiar with how finance works.  Her descriptions of capitalism and securities over the country’s history are not easy to get through.  But it’s worth the effort because “vampire squid” does not begin to describe the horror that is Wall Street and what it has done to this country. Somewhere in this book Wall Street is referred to as “parasitical and predatory” and I’d say that’s just about right. But it is precisely Ho’s detached, dry academic style that makes the details so disturbing and makes this book more effective than Occupy Wall Street at focussing our attention on the real culprit of our middle class demise.

Several times while reading this I’ve had to stop and ask myself if all this is true or if I’m just being duped by confirmation bias.  But having seen the evidence of what the pressures of Wall Street have done to Big Pharma since the 80′s, Ho’s hypothesis makes too much sense to deny.  All the pieces fit neatly into place.  And now I realize that I missed my true calling in life.  I should have been an anthropologist because I haven’t missed a thing except some of the backstory that only a person of Karen Ho’s socioeconomic privileged background would be able to ferret out.

I’m only half way through the book so I don’t know if Ho has any recommendations but I know what would get Wall Street’s attention, and I think I’ve mentioned this before: sell your 401K.  Yep, get out of the market altogether.  As long as you have investments in that thing, you and the country will never be free.  And to tell you how much Wall Street has a grip on you, that very suggestion probably made you choke on your Starbucks, right?  You’ve been told for decades that it’s the height of irresponsibility to spend your retirement account (who says you have to spend it?).  You’ve been made to feel like a stupid person eating your seed corn if you take that money out.  Or the fact that the taxes you have to pay for early withdrawal are outrageous makes you think twice about it.  Believe me, I know how you feel.  I have all of my retirement savings tied up in two 401K accounts and the thought of taking it out and paying that criminal excise tax makes my blood boil.  You can bet our buddies at the big investment banks were behind that.  They want access to your money and they want to make it as painful as possible for you to take it away from them.  And it’s not even that they want to play with your hard earned dollars at the casino, although that’s true.  It’s that trapping you and your money in the stockmarket means they can fashion this country’s political system any damn way they please.  Your agency will be harnessed to *their* political goals.  The more you give them, the less you will get back.  The whole goal is to atomize the welfare state so that each person is left completely vulnerable and on her own, a single individual plugged into the Wall Street system without any other means of support.  If the market goes down, YOU go down with it.  So, cash in the 401K if you are unemployed and stop making contributions.  Or if you can’t do that, try to get out of stock funds.  One or two people won’t make any difference to them but millions?  Yeah, that ought to make them blink.

If I and my colleagues hadn’t experienced the effects of Wall Street first hand in the most painful way possible, I would think that Ho’s book was an over the top diatribe against Wall Street.  But Ho does something that the left does not expect.  She rescues the word “corporation”.  Half way through the book, you will start to realize what I have been trying to say for a couple of years now.  Corporations that produce things and employ thousands of people are not the enemy here, or at least the people who work for them and the products are not the enemies.  Even corporate management didn’t start off as bastards, even if some of them have not been overly friendly to labor.  You might say that corporate money has too much influence in politics but as you read the book, the reasons behind that become clear.  And if lefties continue to throw themselves against the word “corporation”, they are only going to be wasting their time.  It is too imprecise.  There are industries that work through corporations and then there are the big investment banks on Wall Street and they haven’t always been the same.  Teasing the agents apart at this point in time is going to be tricky but necessary.

Anyway, just read it.  Make sure you have your Teddy Bear to clutch in the middle of the night.

One very interesting fact from Ho’s book: Wall Street investment banks recruit heavily from a handful of prestigious Ivies.  There are two in particular that the bulk of Wall Street analysts and associates come from: Harvard and Princeton.  I’m not surprised about Princeton.  A few years ago, when I was trying to get Brooke into a private school that wouldn’t drive us all crazy, I toured several in the Princeton area and was surprised to see all the cable business channels running on multiple tv screens in the student lounges.  The kid was waitlisted, probably because we asked for financial aid.  But I digress.  The investment banks seem to think that Harvard and Princeton nurture their students in a way that make them perfect for Wall Street.  They’re smart, driven, ambitious, used to the finer things in life and they are looking for the next Harvard after graduation.  A few others get their attention, like MIT and Wharton.

But investment bankers do not like to recruit from Yale.  They don’t trust Yale graduates because they think they are too liberal.

So, maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that when Wall Street knew it was going down in 2007, it recruited a presidential candidate from Harvard and passed on the one from Yale.

Oh, and Ho uses the word “schmooze” to describe the front office guys (almost all of them are guys) who use their relationships and connections to get to the top.  Some of them didn’t learn a thing during their investment bank’s finance training classes.  Apparently, you don’t have to know anything about finance to climb the corporate ladder to success.  You just have to know the right people and be really good at golf.

Monday: Colbert’s brilliant ad

I have a post knocking around in my head about the after effects of the 2008 election season on women but it’s not quite there yet.  In the meantime, add me to the growing list of admirers of Stephan Colbert’s, sorry, JON STEWART’S SuperPAC ad.  For those of you who missed it last week, Colbert gave up his PAC to his business partner, Stewart, when he decided to form an exploratory committee to run for the President of South Carolina.  As the owner of a SuperPAC, legally he can’t coordinate it with his campaign committee or even know what it’s up to but he can transfer ownership of the PAC to his business partner and if they chat now and again about stuff and it looks like the two entities share the same vision, that’s merely coincidental.

Anyway, here’s the ad:

So, let’s talk briefly about the pros of this ad.  What I like the most about this ad was that it expresses in 30 seconds what I have been trying to say less successfully for a couple of years now.  There is a place for corporations in the American business landscape and we don’t need to always be hostile to them.  Those corporations are not people but they are made up of people.  Those people make the widgets or build the cars or design the airbuses or discover the drugs.  To do and build on this scale requires teams of people, working together, and sometimes, this just works more efficiently when they work in a corporate environment.  It’s like a department store where everyone needs what’s in the everyone else’s department.  For example, you can’t do drug discovery very easily outside of a corporation.  Those of us who are out of corporate settings realize that the level of coordination and high start up costs, coupled with the reluctance of banks to lend and vulture capitalists to invest, make new drug discovery companies very risky propositions.

Colbert doesn’t take any shots at those people who work for corporations.  The left could take a lesson from that.  He is not offending anyone who due to the circumstances of where they live or what their talents are, end up working for corporations.  Those people are not evil and they shouldn’t feel any shame for not being able to build a car or develop a drug all by themselves or with a couple of friends in a garage.  The “you ought to be ashamed for working for {{insert nasty corporation here}}” attitude is thick in the left blogosphere.  It is very offensive.  Yes, I think that most of the lefties who have this attitude, especially those who want desperately to fit in, have no idea how incredibly offensive they can be.  And insulting.  Did I mention that?  Failure to discriminate the portions of a corporation that are responsible for all the pain and suffering from the people who are suffering, including some of the corporation’s workers, leads to a lot of resentment towards the left from people who should be its allies.  Over and over again, the left’s insistence on moral purity alienates it from the very people they say they want to help.  It’s not helping, guys.  So, stop doing it.  It’s insulting to condemn people who work for corporations -who are in the rank and file.

It’s quite another thing to be critical of the people who run corporations and seem to be in it only to enrich themselves or gain some kind of social status.  THOSE people really do have a problem.  But the average assembler, engineer, CADD designer or labrat?  No, these people deserve your respect.  Stephan Colbert gives it to them and puts the blame where it belongs- at the top of the corporate ladder.

Now, Colbert is taking well deserved pot shots at Romney.  But I think we can see that down the road, he’s going to have a problem.  Because Barack Obama is indistinguishable from the corporate overlords who yank his junk.  In fact, this is the primary reason why I couldn’t support him.  He is their creature.  He is a schmoozer who rose to the presidency because he embraced the corporate executive culture.  He adopted their values and their tactics.  Do you think Obama is the first dude who rose to the top of an organization who had absolutely no idea what the business does for a living or how it operates?  Heck no, the country’s corporations are stuffed to the gills with guys like that.  Their prestigious Wharton B. School MBAs, Harvard law degrees, personal connections and ability to kiss ass, while cold bloodedly, unscrupulously and ruthlessly stabbing their competition, are their tickets to success.  The fact that they run companies or governments where thousands or millions of people are dependent on good decision making is tangential to their personal goals and aspirations.  Their success story doesn’t involve making a brilliant new product or turning around a struggling enterprise in a changing economy.  It involves their own personal struggle and self actualization.  They write books about the ascent of man told from their own intimate experience.  They are testaments to rugged individualism in the boardroom and fortitude on the back nine.  This is Obama’s reality.  It has nothing to do with YOU.  Why are you making unreasonable demands on him?  Hasn’t he shown you the way to accomplishing your own dream?  That’s what he was born to do: to make his own personal experience something that you can aspire to.  That was the secret to his electoral success in 2008.  He convinced a whole generation of Whole Foods shoppers that they were special people who could be the ambitious, intrepid masters of their own personal universes.  Yes, You Can!  Yes, You Can!  {{rolling eyes}}.

There are other reasons to not want him for four more years as president, like, he’s not a good politician and he’s lousy at making policy.  If you wanted someone who would have come to the White House prepared to make good policy and stick with core Democratic values, Hillary Clinton was your guy.  According to Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men, Obama had no idea how to actually do policy.  He has some kind of vision and then says to his minions, “Go do it!”.  He gives them very little guidance beyond that.  And that’s because he either doesn’t believe what his corporate overlords tell him not to believe or because he just doesn’t have the experience or interest to buckle down and concentrate on the task at hand.

Unfortunately, this is the person the Democrats keep saying (at this time) that they want in the White House for four more years.  I am of the opinion that until the Democratic party is willing to sit down and negotiate with its voters, those voters would be well advised to go on strike.  After all, we have zero influence over the Republicans.  There’s nothing we can do or say that will ever have any effect on them.  But we might be able to persuade Democrats that they will be in the political wilderness for a generation if they don’t get their shit together.  And then, we should find a third party candidate to the left of the Democrats, it doesn’t matter who it is, and vote for that person.  If Romney wins in November, I guarantee that you will not know the difference when it comes to who is occupying the White House, ask any of the thousands and thousands of laid off scientists who Obama ignored in the past 3 years while their corporate overlords slashed their way through the payrolls and pension funds to “enhance shareholder value” and their own bottom lines.  Obama was an accomplice to the serial killing of the American scientific infrastructure.  He was golf buddy to those homocidal maniacs.  So, why reward the Democrats by voting for him?  Congress is a different thing.  I’d primary every incumbent congresscritter of either party with few exceptions.

Now, can Citizens for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow craft an ad that takes on the Democrats?  That remains to be seen.  If the PAC is to be successful, it has to motivate Democrats to take action, it can’t simply be content to trash Republicans.  Because when November rolls around, the Republicans will once again rile up its Christian conservative base to go to the polls.  To go to the polls, you need motivation and Republicans seem to be highlighting “religious freedom” this year, as in, anything the Democrats propose will be an infringement on the rights of fundamentalist Christians with Fox induced Acquired Stupidity Syndrome to push their Old Testament tribalism on the rest of us who don’t give a damn.  But right now, what is motivating Democrats to go to the polls?  Having new, more vigorous blood in the party would motivate many of us Democrats in Exile.

Saturday: Misdirection

Melissa McEwan also wakes up and smells the coffee (HT ugsome):

But as I read Feingold’s words—not the right guy—a not fully formed thought that has been hanging around the edges of my consciousness suddenly came sharply into focus: Obama is not the right guy.

It’s not (just) that his policies are insufficiently progressive, or even insufficiently Democratic, and it’s not (just) the arrogance, the hippie-punching, the bipartisan blah blah, the 12-dimensional chess, and it’s not (just) his tepid, half-assed, pusillanimous governance and his catastrophic ally fail. All of these things are just symptoms of this basic truth: Obama’s not up to the job.

I don’t mean he’s not up the job of being president; I mean he’s not up to the job of being presidentright now. I’m sure he’d have made a fine president some other time, some decade of relative peace and prosperity, where the biggest demand on his capacity was “don’t fuck it up.”

But that is not the time in which we live.

We live in a time of crumbling empire and crumbling sidewalks, of failed wars and a failing economy, of social conservatives versus social justice, of a race between the middle class and the ozone layer to oblivion. We balance precariously on the brink of America and America 2.0, where hard decisions must be made about whether we are going to use our resources to keep giving gold-plated bootstraps to the already-privileged or start reinvesting in our fraying social safety net and brittle bridges.

We don’t need a steward; we need a leader. Not just any leader, either. We need the second coming of FDR. And Obama just isn’t the right guy.

I don’t pretend to know who the right guy, or gal, is—but I know with a clarity that rings like churchbells that it ain’t Obama.

This is correct.  It is not racist to say so.  It is simply an observation based on a careful evaluation of the data.  Melissa could have reached this same conclusion three years ago, and I and thousands of other R&D professionals might still have  jobs, but we’ll put that aside for now.

We have a bigger problem.  Progressives can still be bamboozled.  They still have buttons that are pushable.  For example, in the same post, Melissa excerpts a portion of Feingold’s Netroots Nation keynote speech that speaks to the issue of corporations where he says:

“I think it’s a mistake for us to take the argument that they like to make that, ‘Well, what we’re going to do now is, we’re going to take the corporate money like the Republicans do and then after we win, we’ll change it.’ When’s the last time anyone did that? Most people don’t change the rules after they win by them. It doesn’t usually happen. It never happens,” Feingold said. “You know what? I think we’ll lose anyway if we do this. We’ll lose our soul when it comes to the issue of corporate domination.

I happen to agree with Feingold that people who win by taking huge sums of corporate campaign contributions or by bending the rules or cheating do not change the rules after they are elected. That’s why I couldn’t vote for Obama after he didn’t protest the way voters from Florida and Michigan were treated in the 2008 primaries.  The process was extremely unfair to them, and by extension the rest of the Clinton voters. But he didn’t lift a finger to protect their votes because to do so meant that he _might_ lose the nomination.  It wasn’t in his best interest to do that.   It wasn’t that hard to eliminate Obama from my presidential material list based on his attitude towards voters back in February 2008.  This is the guy who wrote off Appalachia.  A whole swath of the country plagued by generational poverty and rapacious coal companies.  Just wrote them off.  Don’t need those votes or voters.  They can go jump in a slag heap.

Your vote is sacred.  Once it can be taken away from you, you have no power.  This was more important than any corporate cash in 2008 and progressives missed it because they were misdirected. It wasn’t the money, it was the cheating.  Repeat after me: “I will never vote for a politician who approves of nullifying the votes of 6 million people because if I can’t trust him to do the right thing *before* the election, I sure as hell can’t trust him to do it afterwards.”

Same with congressmen and senators and presidents and *superdelegates* who sell themselves to big corporate entities.  They aren’t going to make the rules fairer for the rest of us because that might mean they will lose.  Don’t expect them to do the right thing after the election if they are willing to sell themselves for big corporate donations before the election.

The only way to change this dynamic is to change the rule makers.  You need to vote out the people who are whoring themselves for corporations and *particularly* the finance industry.  Don’t say it can’t be done because you don’t have a choice.  You must find a way.

But there is a degree of misdirection that progressives are prone to following to their detriment.  What Feingold is doing is highlighting the evil heart of every corporation.  Corporations are the problem, he seems to say.  Bullshit.  That’s like blaming the candy for being sweet.  Corporations exist for a reason.  It’s very hard for some industries to operate in any other way than a corporation.  Let’s not act like children who don’t understand the concept of the corporation.  They can’t be eliminated without harming our economy.

But they can be reined in.  There’s no reason in the world why we should let them get away with murder.  In fact, we’d be doing them a favor if we weren’t so permissive.  Corporations are out of control right now eating everything in sight like a plague of locusts.  They’re self-destructive.  Pretty soon, they’re going to run out of things to eat and we will all suffer, MBAs and shareholders alike.

We used to have rules to make sure corporations didn’t have the upper hand in every interaction with their employees.  We need to bring them back.  We used to make sure they couldn’t offshore their profits to avoid taxes.  We need to reinstitute them. You probably can’t do anything about the Citizens United ruling until one of the more conservative justices dies but for all we know, Sotomayor and Kagan aren’t a whole lot better.  They just haven’t had a case to demonstrate how bad they are.  You have to wonder why Bader-Ginsburg doesn’t retire so she can be replaced while there is still a Democrat in the White House.  But she’s the last truly liberal justice on the court.  When she’s gone, Obama may very well appoint a stealth justice.  After all, who is really pulling his strings right now?

So, Feingold’s remarks are both right and irrelevant.  This is the environment you operate in.  Some American industries need a corporate model.  Corporations pay obscene gobs of cash to easy congressional representatives and Senators who will write rules that are favorable to them.  If you want to make the rules fairer, don’t get mad at the corporations.  That’s not leading with your head and right now, you need to be cool and detached from the emotional string pulling crap. The corporations are not the ones who can change the rules.  You need to go after the rule makers.  You need to primary some incumbents with strong primary opponents.  Use the money you would have donated to the Democratic party and feed it to people who wouldn’t be able to run in a party primary without kowtowing to the party line.  Don’t donate to Act Blue or the DCCC or DSCC or what ever D org is calling you this week.  You need to set up a separate funding mechanism that is outside of the Democratic party’s control or influence and recruit your own candidates.  You need to become the progressive equivalent of the Christian Coalition.

To become really successful, you will have to reunite with the part of the party you willingly jettisoned for Obama in 2008.  Make up with the working class voters of all educational backgrounds, the unions and women of all ages.  You might have to abandon the creative class arrogance and the knee jerk responses to anything that isn’t crunchy granola.  The good thing is that there are plenty of liberal values that you *can* agree on, especially when it comes to the economy.  Stick to them and you can win.  (I think Katiebird has four simple phrases that represent values that will work, where the heck are they…?)

The beast you have to starve is the party.  Yeah, they’ll still get their money from corporations but you can drop your money in a different pile.  And if other people do it and they tell two people and so on and so on, the pile of cash will get bigger and bigger and pretty soon, you can replace the rulemakers with people who vote for your interests and not some corporation’s.

The question is, do progressives have the balls to do it?  Because from what I can see, the problem is not a lack of cash, it’s a lack of courage.

*************************

Here is Katiebird’s 12 Word Platform:

1. Medicare For All.
2. End The Wars.
3. Tax The Rich.
4. Jobs for Everyone

That should do it.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Wednesday: Stuff the Left Does that Drives Me Nuts

Busy, busy, busy, guys.  This is just a free form post of stuff the Left does that bugs the shit out of me.  For the record, I consider myself on the left -liberal side of the spectrum.  But my mind is not so wide open that my brains have fallen out.

1.) Blaming corporations for everything.  Yes, corporations are the bad boys of America.  They pushed the envelope too far.  If Margaret Heffernan, the author of Willful Blindness, is to be believed, they are staffed at the top by a bunch of preening assholes who are short term thinking, self serving and not necessarily working for the shareholders.  But it’s hard to do some kinds of work without the support of a corporation.  That’s just a fact.  The miserable, whining lefties can cry all they want about how unfair and mean and BIG and POWERFUL corporations are and how they run everything with obscene, unholy gobs of cash.  That’s like blaming the candy for being sweet.  No one says that politicians have to do their bidding.  If you don’t like what corporations are getting away with, change the fricking rulemakers.  It really is that easy.  And don’t be surprised if politicians are the ones behind the “corporations are the source of all evil in the world”.  It takes the eye off the ball, which is the politician.  So what if corporations can purchase more TV adds than Ron Popiell?  These days, you can watch TV for days without seeing a single political ad if you don’t want to.  When it comes to winning an office, the average Joe has as good a chance as anyone using social media.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is just doing a haka.

2.) Single payer is the holy grail of healthcare reform.  Mebbe.  Mebbe not.  We won’t know until we discuss all of the options.  Wedding ourselves to one answer and repeating it over and over again like it’s some kind of mantra could cloud our judgement.  It’s better to find out what successful national healthcare policies have in common, distill the salient virtues and try to match those virtues as closely as possible.  That might mean single payer or it may mean something else.  Lefties who insist that there is only one way to do this are boxing themselves into a corner and not thinking creatively.

3.) Big Pharma is Satan cubed.  There are big problems in pharma.  Some of these problems pharma did to itself.  No, no, don’t try to wiggle out of it.  Taking the easy route with merger and acquisitions has ruined research.  You can blame researchers all you want but keeping the beatings up until we all become cheaper to employ is not going to work.  In fact, it will backfire.  It will only make us not want to do science anymore, which, if I remember my microeconomics correctly, will cause a scarcity in scientists, making us more expensive to employ.  So, this strategy is doomed, DOOOOOMED, I say, to failure.  If people can go through life making a lower middle class living without having to learn the Hamiltonian equation, they will.  In fact, you can live your entire existence without ever once having to learn Organic Chemistry and your lifestyle might actually improve, if current trends persist.  So, if you want good researchers, you will have to make it worth their while to study the shit that 99.9% of the population in any country in the world won’t touch with a 10 foot pole. But I digress.

The reason why lefties deride pharma at their peril is because if you want good healthcare reform, (see point #2), pharma *should* be a necessary and indispensible part of the package and will help keep costs down.  Yes, sports fans, if you can prevent strokes, heart attacks, asthma attacks, psychotic episodes, epilepsy, diabetes and a whole host of other maladies from clogging up your emergency rooms and taking up valuable hospital beds, pharma is worth every  penny.  An ounce of prevention is worth a couple billion dollars in cure.

Think about that next time you want to bash pharma.  Which would you rather pay for?  Some obese, diabetic, cardio case waiting to happen sucking up thousands of dollars a day with IVs out the wazoo or some monthly prescriptions for ace inhibitors, insulin and cholesterol lowering drugs?  This is not rocket science, oh ye self proclaimed “our side is smarter than their side” lefties.  Whether or not pharma is effective in delivering this message is another problem.  Your stupidity will show.  Give people a choice between going to the hospital with some life threatening crisis and taking some pills everyday and they will choose the pills every time.

5.) Roe v. Wade is the holy grail of womens’ rights and must be protected at all costs.  In fact, the opposite is true.  The longer Roe is out there, the more our rights will be eroded by fundamentalist nutcases who are goaded by neo-feudalist politicians who know a good issue when they see it.  Democrats are also guilty of using Roe as a political football.  It shouldn’t have escaped the left’s attention (but it looks like it probably has) that the Obama campaign amped up the fear factor with respect to Roe in order to terrify women into voting for the Sun King.  Yes, Democrats are just as cynical and self-serving as Republicans when it comes to womens’ rights.  Let’s not sugar coat this.

You can’t build your rights on abortion.  Drop this pointless, losing, distracting battle to protect Roe and go for equality.  Are women equal?  Do they have the same rights as men under the law?  If they do, then you can set your own terms when it comes to abortion, preferably one that rewards responsibility and develops guidelines that the majority of people in this country can live with.

There’s more but I’m out of time.  Ciao for now.

Dear Big Dawg, “This is our future”

Howyadoin’.  I catered the primary cocktail parties in 2008 and occasionally, I do pick up jobs here and there for RD and the other FP’s.  I’m a working class kind of guy working on my degree in nutrition and physical training.  Going to open a spa someday for all those rich ladies with too much time on their hands and too much lard on their asses.

Anyway, I saw that you were stumping for Ms. Blanche down in Arkansas.  And I read some of your remarks about who was funding her opponent.  It sounded to me like you were trying to make out like union people are “special interests”.  But then I thought that was probably just Politico taking your speech out of context again.  Bill Clinton could never mistake hundreds of millions of working class Americans as “special interests”.  I mean, the unions gave us the weekend and most of us don’t even have to belong to one.  I live for the weekends.

Then Florence, you remember her?  Did the coat check deal for the cocktail parties?  She’s been getting all crazy with that SyFy channel stuff and she starts watching this Caprica show about some brainy teenager hacker girl who gets blown up but comes back to life in the body of a robot through some transfer of the bits of her life that comprise her soul that fit on one of them USB drives and voile, a cylon is born.  I guess you have to follow these things to really understand it.  Florence says she’s doing a lot of coat check gigs in corporate HQs and the dudes sound just like this Graystone character.  Take a look:

Imagine that.  A subhuman race that does all the work and never needs to be fed.  Or paid even.  And they don’t complain.  It’s like a shareholder’s wet dream. When the cylon’s arm comes off and it spills the glass of water all over the table, that, my friend, is what you call a visual metaphor.

Ehhh, whaddaygonnado?  It’s the future, Bill. It’ll probably all turn out ok in the end. It’s not like this has all happened before or will happen again. I think that’s called a cultural reference, Bill.

By the way, I read this comment by Anne on TalkLeft about what some White House Senior Official said about Blanche winning.  Dollars to donuts it was Rahm.

And the reason the AFL spokesperson (5.00 / 2) (#21)
by Anne on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 09:01:41 AM EST

shot back with “We are not an arm of the Democratic Party,” is because, according to the Politico article referenced in the post, a WH spokesperson said they’d

“flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet” in the “pointless exercise” of supporting the failed bid of Bill Halter to unseat Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

Vale went on to say:

“If that’s their take on this, then they severely misread how the electorate feels and how we’re running our political program. When we say we’re only going to support elected officials who support our issues,” said AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale. “When they say we should have targeted our money among some key house races among Blue Dog Democrats — that ain’t happening.”

Disturbing on a number of levels.

For one, the public dressing-down of unions for working to help defeat Lincoln and supporting the other Democrat, and for not assisting in the election of more Blue Dogs should make it obvious that the New Dems and this administration have disdain for and are indifferent to the interests of the working men and women that unions represent, that they believe their own political interests far outweigh the interests of the people.

For another, the Rahm Emmanuel plan to stock the Congress with more and more Blue Dogs continues apace.

So, where does this leave us liberals and progressives?  Well, considering that the New Dems have not stopped trying to throw us out of our own party because we have refused to submit to the Stepford treatment that would render us compliant and quiet, I’d say we have three tasks: make more noise and refuse to be ignored, work harder to throw their craven a$$e$ out if they continue to ignore us, and, think very seriously about using some of that energy and anger to form, if not a new party, a strong and visible bloc whose votes cannot afford to be dismissed out of hand.

Hey, you take care, Bill. Stop by for a drink sometime. And if you see the Missus, tell her we’re here for her. But all in all, we would have backed Halter. Just sayin’.

A Tale of Two Parties: Myths, Realities and Strategies in the General Election

What Happened?
What Happened?

Now that the shock and disbelief of Election Night have passed (and I must admit, I feel no small relief to finally have the matter decided), I find myself more able to analyze what happened on Tuesday. And unsurprisingly, it isn’t the tale the media told us.

We are all supposed to believe that the Democratic turnout was enormous and unprecedented. The youths and the AA’s came out in droves. It was an outpouring never seen before for the most Unifying and Post-Partisan Candidate Ever! We are also supposed to believe that Obama’s electoral strategy of expanding the map into the South and West through that turnout was successful, and that his Holy Awesomeness was recognized throughout the land. Yea, verily, he is the President of All The People! (Yes, I heard a pundit on MSNObama actually say words to that effect on Election Night.)

Yet, in fact, none of these things are actually true. All the assumptions above are based on nothing but pretty stories – indeed, I might say, with a hat tip to Bill Clinton, “fairy tales.”

Commenter Cognitive Dissonance mentioned this yesterday, but I had already seen bloggers State of Disbelief and Edgeoforever mentioning it on PUMA sites during the day. From EOF’s site, let’s take a look at the actual turnout numbers this year, compared to the numbers in 2004, the election between the Worst President Ever and Senator John Kerry, a man for whom I gladly voted.

2004
62,040,606-Bush
59,028,109-Kerry
411,304 Nader

2008
63,507,800 – Obama
56,151,859 – McCain

Youth voters only ^ 1%
AA voters ^ 2%

So, this enormous and unprecedented turnout for Obama was only unprecedented for a Democrat. It amounted to 4.5 million more votes than John Kerry, and only 1.5 million more than Bush. The PUMA factor is being estimated at between 2.7 million and 2.9 million, and we must not forget the role of the much-investigated ACORN in registering all those new voters, some as many as 72 times each. As usual, stories of election fraud will be suppressed by the corporate media, since their favored candidate has won once again; but I suspect that ACORN contributed greatly to those surprising numbers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. In any case, the PUMA numbers were very close to matching the “massive turnout” numbers for Obama.

One myth down.

The second myth is that Obama could win without PUMAs because he was going to “expand the electoral map.” He felt he even had a chance in deep red states like Kansas, but counted on states like North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado and Virginia to make up for his possible losses in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Obama’s map held up, and even improved in the General Election (although many of the red states Obama thought he would win stayed red).

However, in the primaries Hillary Clinton disputed that map, and so did we. The numbers were simply not there for Obama. But we didn’t realize that he would have a lot of help – not just from ACORN, but from…Republicans.

As we know, Barack Obama is the most scandal-ridden Democratic Party nominee in recent memory. He is our Rudy Giuliani, whose mob ties, failures of judgment on 9/11 (putting the emergency response center in the World Trade Center so he could see it from his bachelor pad) and inveterate and classless womanizing caused him to self-destruct in the primaries. Yet where were the 527 ads against Barack Obama this year? They wouldn’t even have had to lie this time, the way they shamefully did in 2004 about John Kerry’s military service.  Obama repeatedly insulted working-class voters, cementing his elitist creds in a way Al Gore and John Kerry never did or could. Obama really DOES hang out with domestic terrorists. Obama’s pastor, mentor and friend of 20 years is an unrepentant, America-hating misogynist and racist, who is close friends with renowned anti-Semite and whackjob Louis Farrakhan. Obama’s associates in Illinois are being investigated and indicted. His birth, his education and most of his life are shrouded in mystery. The slightest bit of investigation uncovers a mountain of dirt and doubt. In addition, his choice for Vice President made Dubya look well-spoken. So why did the Republicans not do what they do best, and destroy the opposition?

There is nothing else to conclude other than this: the Party hung McCain and Palin out to dry. They threw the election. Influential conservative commentators pulled their punches, and some even backed Obama openly. KKKarl Rove was on the teevee saying that an Obama win was inevitable. The media leaked stories of chaos within the campaign regarding McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. The Republican Party allowed Governor Palin to be savaged in the press (and it is still happening), despite the brave statements of a few Republican women when she was first introduced to the public. Senior Republicans snarled that she was not ready, inexperienced, an embarrassment. Key Bush figures like Colin Powell and Scott McClellan endorsed Obama. The evangelical base never supported McCain, despite the addition of a Christian conservative to the ticket. This behavior was a shocking departure from the Party of the past, which had always followed Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment.

The effect of all of this undermining was undeniable: 56 million voters came out for McCain, and 62 million voters came out for Bush.

We don’t know what the PUMA factor was, since a lot of PUMAs voted third party, left the top of the ticket blank, or wrote in Hillary. Some even stayed home in protest. Those PUMA votes would neither have gone to McCain nor Obama. However, if we assume for theoretical purposes that about a third of PUMAs voted McCain, that means that at least 7 million fewer Republicans voted for McCain than Bush.

The short-sightedness of these voters astonishes me, for John McCain and Sarah Palin were the only shot the Party had at redemption. They were rebranding the Party as the Party of feminism, tolerance, government oversight and responsible spending. That brand is now lost to the Republicans. The Democrats will never regain that brand either, because they trashed the person who exemplified it, Bill Clinton, in order to gain Barack Obama. The Republican Party Leaders found themselves a Democratic George Bush, and they did everything in their power to help him win.

Some well-meaning Republicans think they can rebuild the Party by going “back” to conservative principles. Sorry, but wow! Get a clue, guys: Republicans never govern the way they say they will. George W. Bush was beloved by the base, and he was completely anti-conservative. The government grew huge under his Administration; spending was out of control; and he all but destroyed the Constitution with his faith-based initiatives and unprecedented seizing of executive power in the name of “National Security.” Of course, he “kept us safe” too; that is, if you forget that 9/11 happened on his watch and so did the anthrax attacks, and that he created thousands of NEW terrorists by instigating two invasions and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Well, if Bush is what you love, oh Republican voters, have no fear: Barack Obama seems poised to continue smoothly in the tracks laid so deeply by George W. Bush. There will be no oversight of anything, with a one-Party government in power; out-of-control spending will certainly continue; and faith-based initiatives and warrantless wiretapping are both enthusiastically supported by the Senator from Illinois. Oh, and Joe Biden promises us death and destruction within six months, so you may get your terrorist attack too. Well-done, folks! And I feel so lucky, living in New York! Golly gee, I sure hope I live through Obama’s first term, unlike 3,000 of my compatriots in Bush’s first term, and so many, many thousands more in his second. But hey, what does it matter as long as you all get what you want?

Poor John McCain and Sarah Palin. Poor Bill and Hillary Clinton. They are career politicians without a Party. Both Democratic and Republican Party Leaders teamed up with the media to elect Barack Obama this year. No one else ever had a chance.

I am sure that within a few months of Barack Obama’s inauguration, we will know a lot more about what he intends to do to, er, for, America. One thing we know for certain is that the media never, EVER likes the candidate that is good for our country. They liked Reagan. They liked Bush. How’d those guys work out for us?

As I said before, I understand the joy that so many Americans are feeling. But if you look at the reality of what happened on Tuesday, you will see that it was a very ominous sign. Yesterday, Russia felt emboldened to announce a very aggressive move that they had been threatening to make for months. The stock market fluctuated wildly yesterday, but ended up down 145.44 points – an extremely unusual event on the day after an election - and today, it is plummeting further. I fear that things are going to get worse for Americans before they get better.

I do have faith that our democracy will survive, however; but only if enough of us are willing to discard our party loyalty and work together to make it happen. I invite everyone of all political stripes to join us in the effort to become more than hopeless pawns of the corporations that run our media and our political parties. I will have an updated blogroll soon, which will provide more information about things you can do to help.

In the meantime, while we organize and focus, stay strong, my fellow Americans, and remember this quote:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead
US anthropologist & popularizer of anthropology (1901 – 1978)

PUMA POWER!!!

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