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    • The Attack In Ottawa will be used to justify losing more rights
      Prime Minister Harper pretty much confirmed it: ‘Our laws and police powers need to be strengthened’ Yup.  Never let a crisis go to waste. I’m very sad that MPs and their staff were scared, and I’m sadder that a soldier lost his life.  But one attack does not justify increasing the police state.  However, if [...]
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Monday, Monday

Creative unemployment ad

Lots of stuff to do today so I’ll try to make this brief.

I saw this video from Bill Black at Naked Capitalism yesterday.  He has three practical demands that OccupyWallStreet should consider.  They are:

1.) Jobs Now

2.) Stop the foreclosures

3.) Jail the bankers

The jobs part got my attention because it makes so much sense:

And then I started to wonder, if a scientist could find work but the employer (this time a decent outfit) couldn’t afford to pay her enough to live on, how much would you pay to get her off the dole?  Collectively, as in a small one time donation.

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

Paul Krugman says that solar energy is following a Moore’s Law capacity vs cost trend and that pretty soon, it will cost as much to power your house by solar panels as from coal fired plants.  That’s great, because I have a lot of gadgets that cost me a small fortune to charge.  But don’t forget nuclear, Paul.  We might not be ready to build another plant soon, but it wouldn’t be wise if we didn’t explore the possibility of safe nuclear energy.  I’m a believer because I was raised by a nuclear reactor maintenance specialist.  So, I don’t sker easy.  Much of the rest of the developed world relies on nuclear energy with very few mishaps.  We shouldn’t take it off the table.  Or at least not until we can get our hands on more efficient batteries.

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

And here’s a little something for the Tea Partiers and the skeptics at the Crawdad Hole.  This is what life is like in Equatorial Guinea, the most unequal society on the planet:

Another dissident offered to show me an alternative view of Equatorial Guinea. He smiled when he saw me emerge from a car with presidential licence plates, then asked if I was sure I wanted to join him since the last foreign journalists in Malabo had been detained by secret police then deported.

We wandered around Campo Yaoundé, a community of 25,000 people in the midst of the capital. The bustling streets were so muddy it was hard to walk without slipping. Soukous and hip-hop pounded out of bars as young children walked around hawking clothes. A man offered to show me his shack, made from planks of wood with a corrugated iron roof. Inside were two rooms for the four people living there, with buckets of water stored by the door and intermittent power. Many houses had far more people crammed in.

“Welcome to my home,” he said with a rueful smile. “Maybe half the people in Malabo live like this. Not just the unemployed but teachers, engineers, even economists. It’s a long way from Sipopo, isn’t it?” There were a handful of books on his shelves bought in Spain. “We must be the only country in the world where there are no bookshops,” he said when I mentioned them. Despite tough circumstances, he offered to share his dinner of rice and stew with me.

The corrugated roofed shacks are where the teachers and engineers live.  “Pish-tosh!”, the Tea Partier says, “that will never happen here.  Besides, if they weren’t such parasites, they wouldn’t be living in tin roofed shacks.  Where is their entrepreneurial spirit?”

For those of you still kissing the whip, secure in your job thinking that you somehow “earned” that security because you’re just so damned virtuous, get a clue.  There will be no entrepreneurial spirit until the people sitting on the money supply are forced to hand it over to the people who earned it.  You can’t start a business without money.  This is what will slowly happen to the country you are so proud of and do not hesitate to proudly proclaim for the “In God We Trust” bills that get rushed through Congress while more and more kids get shoved onto food stamps.  Of course it could happen here.  It *is* happening here.  Thereisnospoon reported yesterday that his county is privatizing the libraries.  Let that sink in.  Where are you supposed to go to borrow books and use the internet when you can’t afford Amazon and Comcast?  Don’t your tax dollars pay for that library?  I know that mine do.  I pay nearly $7000 in property taxes.  I will occupy the library if they even think about privatizing it.

I keep pointing out the Irish Potato Famine for a very good reason.  The reason that so many people starved was only partially due to the failure of the potato crop.  The other failure was that of the populace of Britain that owned Ireland.  They thought that too much charity would be a moral hazard to the lazy, starving Irish farmer.  And then there were the businessmen who thought that laissez faire capitalism was the way to go.  If they didn’t have to impose austerity on the Irish because of their own losses, maybe so many people wouldn’t have died.  The Irish lost more people to starvation and emigration than any other country in history.  It took them more than a century to build back their country and economy only to have it dashed again by the crash of 2008.  More laissez faire speculators, more austerity, more misery.

Coming to a country near you if you don’t get a clue.

Friday, Friday! Gotta get down on Friday!

Let’s take a turn around the internet , shall we Miss Bennett?

Someone, beside *me*, really has it in for Jon Corzine.  The story about MF Global has been on the frontpage of the NYTimes every day this week.  In some cases, there have been several stories per day.  The one from yesterday was especially negative, not only for Corzine but for what his relationship with Obama says about the president’s judgement (remember that his judgement was Obama’s selling point in 2008).  Earlier this year, Gary Gensler, the head of the CFTC was proposing a rule to restrict the very same kind of trading that Corzine’s MF Global was doing and like Brookesley Born back in 2000, Gensler was overruled, this time by Corzine himself and a bunch of his lobbyist dudes.

As a former sovereign debt trader at Goldman Sachs, Mr. Corzine wagered that the European regulators would backstop any default. So even as dark clouds circled over Europe, he sensed an opportunity. Starting in late 2010, MF Global began to accumulate short-term sovereign debt of countries like Italy, Spain and Portugal.

MF Global financed these purchases through complex transactions known as repurchase agreements. In these, the bonds themselves were used as collateral for a loan to purchase them. The interest paid on that loan was less than the interest the bonds paid out, earning the firm a profit from the spread.

While that practice is quite common, the C.F.T.C. wanted to crack down on such lending in those instances when customer funds were used. The C.F.T.C. proposal would have also banned the use of client funds to buy foreign sovereign debt.

It is unclear whether the firm used client funds to purchase the risky bonds of Italy, Spain, and other debt-laden European nations, but experts say it is not unusual for such transactions to be paid for with customer money.

A person close to MF Global said the firm did not use client funds to finance these trades.

Leading the government’s effort to curtail these arcane practices was Gary Gensler, the chairman of C.F.T.C., who had worked for Mr. Corzine at Goldman Sachs. Mr. Gensler pushed for the proposed change in October 2010, and planned to bring it to a vote this summer.

MF Global has four outside lobbyists in Washington, tiny by Wall Street standards. But it was Mr. Corzine who marshaled the firm’s response to the proposal, lobbying most of the agency’s five commissioners directly. One commissioner said he visited with Mr. Corzine in MF Global’s headquarters, and acknowledged being impressed by the Wall Street titan, said a person with direct knowledge of the meeting who asked for anonymity because the meeting was private.

The C.F.T.C. polices the markets for futures trades. Staff members there often do not have a Wall Street pedigree.

Mr. Corzine’s background in finance made him highly credible, agency officials said.

Mr. Corzine’s efforts culminated on July 20, as the agency was preparing for a vote on the proposal. That day, MF Global executives were on four different calls with the agency’s staff. Mr. Corzine himself was on two of those calls.

One of the calls was with Mr. Gensler. Both men are active Democrats, and served on financial panels together recently.

Shortly after the calls, Mr. Gensler, aware that he could not push the vote through, decided to delay the proposal indefinitely.

In Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men, Gensler comes off as one of the few good guys in Obama’s administration who has a background in finance and knows how players like Corzine work.  In a recent brief interview with CNBC when asked whether there were other Wall Street firms with a sovereign debt crisis, Gensler just smiled and said nothing.  Gensler wasn’t able to do much better than Born against Wall Street’s lobbying arm with the rest of the CFTC board.  The good thing is that the rule isn’t dead, it’s just delayed.  The bad thing is that Barack Obama was prepared to make Jon Corzine his Treasury Secretary if Geithner resigned.  Come to think of it, why *didn’t* Geithner resign?  Did the risky trades at MF Global scare Obama off?

As of last night, Corzine had lawyered up with a criminal defense lawyer and this morning, he resigned from MF Global.  What kind of influence he personally had with Obama’s White House may make for some interesting election year fireworks.  And let’s not forget OccupyWallStreet who may just help ignite some true voter pushback on the Obama administration.  Call me crazy but my tinfoil antenna are starting to pick up signals that the opinion makers are starting to be embarrassed by Obama and are concerned that according to the models they are running, he can’t win against Romney next year.  Nate Silver suspects that Obama may be toast.

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

Good news!  Our national unemployment rate is down to 9%!  Isn’t that amazing?  Don’t tell anyone from Sanofi, Novartis, Amgen and Merck.  Let it be a surprise.

Also, don’t be surprised when the government is forced to revise that number upwards.

Meanwhile, in another bit of, er, good(?) news, the New York Times reports that the reports of increasing poverty are greatly exaggerated and anyways, poverty is not that bad these days.  You get food stamps!  See, if you’re not actually starving and suffering from kwashiorkor, you’re not really poor, even if you were solidly middle class last year.  This year, I will have paid more in taxes than required to support a family of four above the poverty level, next year I am at the poverty level. Good to know that impending homelessness, healthcarelessness and food stamps are not as bad as I think they will be.

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

In the battle of the pundits, David Brooks squares off against Paul Krugman.  David, who is really Wormtongue in disguise, constantly points out that if you have a college education, you’re doing pretty well during this recession compared to the great unwashed masses who only have high school diplomas.  THOSE people can’t get jobs because they are unqualified.  Truly successful people have college educations.  Oh, wait, Steve Jobs dropped out of college after his Freshman year.  Well, surely he’s an exception.  Wait, Bill Gates also dropped out.  And so did Mark Zuckerberg.  Jeez, does anyone in Silicon Valley have a Bachelor’s degree?? Yes!  Steve Wozniak has one.  He got it after he became a millionaire at Apple from designing the Apple II.

But surely, SURELY, they are exceptions, no?  Actually, David, none of my friends with multiple advanced degrees are doing very well right now.  Oh, there’s plenty of work to do.  It’s just mostly unpaid.  The people who need the help the most can’t find the funds and these are not greedy entrepreneurs of the kind that Brooks would admire.  They’re just not getting funded.  Well, it’s only cancer and other diseases.  But I will be sure to tell my friends at Sanofi, Merck, Novartis and Amgen that they are fully employed and prosperous because they graduated from college.  Let’s not let reality get in the way.

Paul Krugman, on the other hand, says the educated are not getting jobs.  He says this because he looks at all those graphs and correlations and mathematical thingies that David Brooks probably didn’t study when he was in college.  And Krugman is living in the middle of pharmageddon central.  All he needs to do is stick his head out the window to hear the agonizing cries of the chemistry PhD at the Frick lab only a few blocks down the road who cannot find a job.

That’s why Krugman is a god and David Brooks is still just a Wormtongue, whispering sweet distractions into the moneyed class’s ears so that they don’t have to feel, well, *anything* really, while he tells the rest of us that we’re worthless without a college education.  And the college educated trudge all the way to the unemployment office.  “Hi-ho, Hi-ho, it’s off to un-work we go”

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

And now for our musical interlude for all the high school graduates out there:

Real Life Stuff

Ayayayay!  Woke up about 15 minutes later than I planned.  Have to actually *be* somewhere this morning.  So, this is going to be short.

If there are any intrepid reporters out there who want to see what’s going on in the drug industry, check out the Drug Discovery Day activities at the CoRe building at Rutgers University.  There will be 50 companies and recruiters available.  You can be depressed directly or you could network and be depressed.  Choices, Choices!  Actually, I wanted to go to this but I have another event that might be more interesting, but we’ll see.

On the MF Global front, there were signs and implications a few months ago that something was up.  Enough signs that the White House was aware of it, albeit it on the late side.  Gary Gensling, former Clinton advisor and now head of the CTFC, became concerned last Thursday that MF Global was comingling is monies.  This turned out to be true.  The whole article has the feel of people trying to patch together a timeline so no one looks totally awful.

It’s not Monday but I still feel manic.

 

Sacrificial offerings and pleasing aromas

Update: Novartis announced today that it is eliminating 2000 jobs.  1000 of those jobs will come from the US.  700 positions will be added in China and India.  It sounds like a lot of IT jobs will be moved, but the way things are going lately, it’s probably just the start of things to come.  Says a financial analyst:

“Job cuts are happening [note the verb conjugation indicating present, not past, tense] in almost all large pharma companies,” said Tim Race, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG in London. “It’s a consequence of squeezing prices, squeezing profitability. Pharma companies are reacting to maximize profitability, which is something they should be doing anyway.” He recommends buying Novartis shares.

Yes, and when the profits are all gone, you can dump Novartis shares and all of the rest of your pharma sector shares and move on to the next big thing. After the research is gone, there won’t be any more profits to be made.  Well, it’s only medicine.  Let’s see that makes Amgen, Merck, Abbott and now Novartis.  Who’s next?  Anyone want to take a guess?  We haven’t heard from Glaxo Smith Kline for awhile…

Update 2:  I was pointed to this Scientific American blog post about how scientists are joining the occupy movement so clearly, I am not alone.  As one of the people in the accompanying video says, it doesn’t matter how many degrees you have, we don’t fund science in this country anymore.  Too true.  Well, there’s just no immediate profit in it.  Just ask any Wall Street analyst.  If you can’t get your research to pay off in the next quarter, what good are you??  If you are a labrat going to an occupy event, wear your labcoat and goggles so we can recognize each other.

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

I think the Republicans’ game plan is obvious now, wouldn’t you agree?  The idea is to starve the nation of jobs, keep everyone in a constant state of anxiety and make sure that the government does little if anything to put the country on its feet.  I’m looking at my first COBRA payment and it is not pretty.  No, not at all.

The strategy is to make Obama look so weak (as if he needed any additional help), that the country will turn against Democrats next year and make Obama a one-term president.  And you know what, Republicans?  I am ok with that.  Making Obama a one term president would probably be the best thing to happen to this country, but I’ll get to that in a sec.

In the meantime, those of us in the middle class will continue to make sacrifices.  I’m going to go off on a tangent here.  In NJ, we have some of the highest salaries in the nation and also the highest cost of living.  The amount of federal taxes we paid was also among the highest.  This year, I will have paid more in taxes than it would take to keep a family of four above the poverty level.  So, I’d like the Glenn Beck viewers to STFU about how lazy and parasitical unemployed people are.  In the last year of work, my group worked our asses off and still didn’t have enough time in the day to get it all done.  And we still suffered layoffs.  It didn’t make any difference to the tax collector.  This is a heads up to all of the currently employed Republicans who think they have jobs because of their virtuous behavior: you will have to pay taxes on your severance and unemployment benefits.  No, no, don’t feel shame about accepting unemployment.  Think of it as you paying yourself.  For however long it takes.  And it looks like it’s going to take a long time.

You will never be safe, never secure again.  You should start thinking of your job as temporary.  Do not make vacation plans, do not buy a house unless you can pay for it cash.  Do not get sick.  Do not have children that you expect to raise for 18 years.  Do not buy a new car.  Buy hand-me-down cars from family members who you know maintained them well.  Never leave your parents’ house. Get comfy in your childhood bedroom.  Do not get married to a person who doesn’t have health insurance and at least 6 months salary in the bank.  Do not get old.

Your job is to work at whatever job you can get for as long as they will keep you and to pay taxes so that big banks and military contractors can squander it away.

This is not the American Dream, this is the Republican Dream.  No, I don’t know why they want to do this with their country.  I think they just get a taste for power, for being in the group with the most money, and they find it easy to adopt the values of that ascendent group and they don’t know when to stop.  It’s time to stop.  This year I pay taxes; next year, I wont.  The unemployment situation is also starting to have an effect on Main Street.  Lowes is closing some stores in the Northeast.  The economy is just not picking up.  That will affect 1,950 jobs.  Around my area, several major grocery stores have packed up and left, along with some specialty stores like Linen’s and Things.  Now we have brand new strip malls with big boxy stores that are either empty or newly occupied by holiday decoration stores and dollar stores.  In the mall, Bloomingdale’s closes at 8pm.  And this is not Nebraska.  This is central NJ, about 36 miles from New York City.  Suburban poverty is increasing here.  (This article was hard to read because one of the suburbs mentioned in it was where my grandparents lived and where I graduated from High School.  It used to be so well cared for.)

And here’s something new for the chemists who were laid off.  ChemJobber is running something called The Layoff Project.  If you are/were a chemist/researcher who was laid off (and what chemist out there hasn’t been laid off in the past couple of years?), head on over to The Layoff Project and share your experience, what to do, not to do, and whether you decided to bag research altogether.  Here’s a heads up for the corporate people who “separated” us: the outplacement firms you signed us up with?  Not very helpful for a researcher.  They are geared to help *business* people find new jobs.  They have virtually no idea how to help scientists. That’s why there is such an emphasis on “marketing plans” and “networking”.  For a labrat, it’s completely impractical, if not impossible, to just bop on over to your target company’s hiring manager and discuss your marketing plan for half an hour.  For one thing, in most lab settings, it’s harder to get on campus than it is to get into Fort Knox.  For every layer of security, there is an opportunity for the guy with the jobs to cancel your appointment.  For another, chemists loathe anything business related because a.) we know that business people have no idea what the f%^& they’re doing or we would still have jobs and b.) business people are the ones who fired us.  And don’t tell us we need to sell ourselves.  Our field requires us to be in the lab.  That’s what we do.  The researchers who “sell” themselves are not in the lab, are they?  No, they’re busily wheeling, dealing and deliberately making their lab working coworkers look bad.  But when you hire the ones who are professional salesmen, then you have hired a salesman.  How they will do in a lab or in a position where they actually have to do the analysis is a different question.  So, please, HR people, make the outplacement people get with the program or just give us the money you would have spent on them.  I’ve gotten better advice from my state’s Department of Labor that has been diligently setting up seminars and collaborations with local biotechs and has a pretty good online resume builder and jobs database.

Obama’s jobs bill is looking more and more like a strategy to make the Republicans look bad.  For many of us in this country, we have no problem identifying Republicans as the culprit for the last 30 years.  Now, the Democrats are starting to join them but it’s still the Republicans who are driving this race to the bottom.  I don’t know whether any of this will sink into the brains of the people who watch Glenn Beck.  They won’t get it until it happens to them personally.  But whatever the game is, I’ve just become sick of games.  Really guys, I’m tuning you out.  First it was TV and radio, now I’m getting tired of reading about the horse race and the strategy in the rest of the media.  And the more media outlets I shut down, the less chance you will have to influence me directly.

But I do have one suggestion that I think would have a profound impact on the election next year.  I think Obama should make the greatest sacrifice and offer not to run again.  If he sincerely wants to do the right thing for the country, I don’t think there is a better way to do it.  And I’m not just saying this because he was a completely unscrupulous, unDemocratic bastard in 2008.  I’m saying this because he does not have the political skills to go up against the Republicans.  Four more years of inertia is not what the country needs or wants.  The White House pollsters and political operatives should start paying attention to the Occupy movement instead of just moving their mouths and making supplicating noises to it.  Four more years of Obama for many of us is just unthinkable right now.  It makes me want to not vote next year.  I will be so angry at the Democrats for forcing me to make another unpleasant decision that I might just punish the rest of the field for not standing up for the 99% who need a different political environment.  And no, I don’t think Obama is going to get any better in his second term.

If Obama doesn’t run, well, that just zaps the mojo out of the Republicans, doesn’t it?  I mean, isn’t that their whole reason for being this election season?  To get rid of Obama?  And that means they will have to work extra hard to make sure that all of his (half-assed, inadequate) initiatives fail, even the ones that will (presumably) help people.  That’s their goal.  But if you take Obama out of the picture, then all of the attention for the failure can be concentrated on the people who actually have the power to pass legislation, right?  What better way to expose the real movers and shakers in Congress from both parties.  Right now, Obama is a smokescreen that gives a lot of self-interested politicians cover for pleasing the rich and well connected.  Clear away the smoke and let’s expose them.

Who would be a replacement for Obama?  There are obvious answers but if the obvious don’t seize the moment, I’m sure we can find other vigorous candidates to defend New Deal policies that are necessary to pull us out of this slump.  And there’s no shame on Obama’s part.  He goes out as a hero for finally having the guts to do the right thing and call the Republicans’ bluff.  It says nothing about him as the first African-American president.  I mean, who cares at this point?  Is his family history really that important when people are losing their houses?  If he decides not to run, he leaves the bankers’ money kind of useless.  They could give it to Republicans but they would just be joining themselves to a very unpopular party.

Well, we know that the DNC will tut-tut any such suggestion.  Obama is their guy and they are going to stick with him regardless of what voters want because that’s just the kind of Democratic party they are.  No, don’t thank them.  They are doing it for YOU.  Going with Obama is safe.  It means no unpleasant disagreements within the party.  No distasteful primary battles or dinner party conversations about values and party platforms and all of that unseeeeemly stuff.

Hokay, suit yourselves.  It must be nice to have the confidence that you can shove another four years down our throats and we’ll just accept it because the alternative is sooooo much worse.  But as Daniel Kahneman wrote a few days ago in the NYTimes in Don’t Blink! The Hazards of Confidence, what you don’t know or don’t want to look at can come back to bite you:

We often interact with professionals who exercise their judgment with evident confidence, sometimes priding themselves on the power of their intuition. In a world rife with illusions of validity and skill, can we trust them? How do we distinguish the justified confidence of experts from the sincere overconfidence of professionals who do not know they are out of their depth? We can believe an expert who admits uncertainty but cannot take expressions of high confidence at face value. As I first learned on the obstacle field, people come up with coherent stories and confident predictions even when they know little or nothing. Overconfidence arises because people are often blind to their own blindness.

True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes. You are probably an expert in guessing your spouse’s mood from one word on the telephone; chess players find a strong move in a single glance at a complex position; and true legends of instant diagnoses are common among physicians. To know whether you can trust a particular intuitive judgment, there are two questions you should ask: Is the environment in which the judgment is made sufficiently regular to enable predictions from the available evidence? The answer is yes for diagnosticians, no for stock pickers. Do the professionals have an adequate opportunity to learn the cues and the regularities? The answer here depends on the professionals’ experience and on the quality and speed with which they discover their mistakes. Anesthesiologists have a better chance to develop intuitions than radiologists do. Many of the professionals we encounter easily pass both tests, and their off-the-cuff judgments deserve to be taken seriously. In general, however, you should not take assertive and confident people at their own evaluation unless you have independent reason to believe that they know what they are talking about. Unfortunately, this advice is difficult to follow: overconfident professionals sincerely believe they have expertise, act as experts and look like experts. You will have to struggle to remind yourself that they may be in the grip of an illusion.

And as we learned from Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men, Obama has a habit of surrounding himself with arrogant, overconfident men who turn out to be wrong over and over again.  I’d go big, Barry, and make the sacrifice.

Confidence Men: chapter 2- it gets worse

In this chapter, Suskind takes us back to 2007 as seen through the eyes of Alan Krueger, some Princeton economics dude, who was shopping his skills around to different campaigns even though he was technically an advisor to Hillary. You know, networking.

Anyway, he relates a meeting he witnessed with Obama and his economics team about why jobs suck these days, don’t pay well and are not secure. They went over what could be done about it and noted that the health care industry was booming. But that was only producing jobs like medical technicians, nurses and home healthcare aids. You know, “women’s work”. Obama said that men don’t want to do women’s work. They want to feel like men. Krueger was astonished at first because he’d never use such a term. Then he attributes Obama’s use of the term to his “writer’s sensibility”. {{cough! Bullshit. Cough!}}

Krueger comes up with the bright idea that the campaign should propose infrastructure jobs, like that’s so damn novel. *I* could have come up with that. Oh, wait, that was exactly what I asked Hillary Clinton about at YearlyKos2 in Chicago in august 2007. So, you don’t have to be an Econ genius to think through the problem. But in Hillary’s case, she already had plans to upgrade the broadband across the country and enter into public-private partnerships to expand the rail system in addition to fixing our roads and bridges.

But Obama wanted to concentrate on infrastructure jobs primarily because it would make the mens folk feel better about themselves if they didn’t have to do wimmins work.

I didn’t think I could like him less but I have surprised myself.

But here’s the problem with this approach:

1.) Even women don’t like womens’ work. I mean, really, Can you imagine an 8 year old girl answering the question of what she wants to be when she grows up with, “I want a low paying job doing work most men wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole!”. We grow up thinking we can be anything. The sky is the limit. I know *my* limits. I would suck as a daycare worker or a home health aid. I’m not saying that there is no one who doesn’t like doing this work or there isn’t dignity but most of us take those jobs out of necessity, not out of desire. And Barack Obama just reinforces how undesirable and undignified that kind of work is- for a man. Thank you, Barry. By the way, has anyone caught the latest episode of America’s Handyman on HGTV? One of the leaders is a woman. I’ll betcha no one was going to talk her into women’s work. It’s too bad more women don’t learn these skills.

2.) Obama and his advisors are already behind the curve. When so many PhDs in chemistry, engineering and astrophysics are out of work, it is the highly skilled that need help as well. This country can’t thrive without a vibrant technology sector and right now, a lot of high skilled jobs are being lost. It’s like a hemorrhage. What’s left is contract work. It’s low pay, unstable and doesn’t come with benefits. If we concentrate only on infrastructure projects for the He-Men, we leave out hundreds of thousands of potentially much better paying jobs in the technological industries where both men and women can find jobs they that give them a sense of identity and purpose.

I’ve already suggested how the government can buy up some empty lab space and put to work thousands of scientists to work on central nervous system and antiinfective drugs, two areas that the big pharmas have abandoned. We could sell the patents back to the government in exchange for decent salaries. That way, you would preserve the scientific infrastructure and put money back into the economy. So, where are the plans for that, Barry? You should have been Much more forceful in appointing Elizabeth Warren if you wanted to help the struggling middle class.

I’ll betcha Hillary would never have made these mistakes.

Stuff I will miss when I’m poor

It takes a lot of money to live in NJ.  I’m talking about mortgages, property taxes and food.  That right there will zap your unemployment check.  I take that back.  You can’t pay for your mortgage *and* eat on an unemployment check.  Even with a regular paycheck, it was hard to justify spending money on expensive vacations and I usually run my cars into the ground before I replace them.  Clothes were never a big issue with me because in this country, women are allowed to be skinny, plump, morbidly obese or petite, but they’re NOT allowed to be tall.  So few stores and designers accomodate my 5’9.5″ height (without making me pay a premium for a few extra inches of hem on very limited selection of super boring and unstylish clothing items) that I’ve learned to loathe clothes shopping.  You can be a size 16 and never pay a nickel more than a size 2 regardless of the extra fabric.  But ask for a dress where the waist cinches your waist and not your bust if you’re tall?  Impossible to get at any price.  How fair is that??  I guess if I were a nice size 5’4.5″  woman who looks good in anything, passing up new clothes might be a real hardship.  I might even enjoy shopping.  Since the American apparel industry has seen fit to thwart me all my life, this is not an issue for me.  But I digress.

So, while I have some money stashed away to keep me from involuntary anorexia, cuts will be made in the next month.  Politicians should keep this in mind when they put unemployment on the backburner or don’t give solving it their best effort. And I don’t mean just for fricking construction workers.  All I ever hear about is how some damn construction worker is going to get a job building a transcontinental automobile transportation thingy.  We’re not all construction workers, guys. In fact, we’re not all GUYS. Hello?!, Can we say gender discrimination in proposed jobs programs?  This Lesser Depression is hitting the sciences pretty hard, despite what the BLS is telling you (They’re about 5 years behind on their job category projections in the sciences).  You really can have a college degree and experience in a hard science and not be able to find a job.  And remember, I was one of those middle class people who was paying more in taxes last year than the yearly income required to keep a family of four above the poverty level.  Alabama might want to think about that before they let Jeff Sessions go on an idiot rant about the deficit.

To be cut:

1.) Dish Network- It’s ridiculously expensive given the fact that I only watch the premium channels.  Dish doesn’t offer a Premium only package, ala cart purchases are still not on the horizon and, frankly, I’m getting disgusted with having to subsidize the forty channels of ESPN and sports that I never watch, along with QVC, Lifetime, Oxygen and a lot of reality TV crap.  I never watch network or cable news anymore.  DeGrassi we can watch on Hulu.  I have an Apple TV and a subscription to Netflix.  I’ve called Dish about rejiggering the lineup but all they suggest is taking away the things I actually like to watch while leaving me with the stuff I consider garbage.  Besides, they announced recently that they are going for a more upscale clientele, which I no longer am. So bye-bye Dish.

2.) Dune perfume.  I ran out of my last bottle some time during the summer.  Worn it for years.  It’s my signature fragrance.  Perfume is bloody expensive but I love it.  I will continue to finagle teensy little samples of new perfumes from the Bloomingdales perfume counter.

3.) Clinque, MAC, Chanel makeup.  I shall have to make due with Revlon and tread carefully to avoid aggravating my sensitive skin.

4.) Haircuts.  There’s only one salon in my area that does it right.  They charge a small fortune.  I already go to them only once a year and get maintenance haircuts from a local salon I like less.  Oh, well.  Never had a pedicure.  Have had manicures twice in my life.  Won’t be missed.  But the hair thing might be a problem if I have to do interviews.

5.) Stopping by Wegman’s on a Sunday afternoon.  I used to love to do this.  I’d wander the aisles and sample the searing station and the cheeses, check out the fresh fish and seasonal produce.  An hour later, I’d have something incredibly delicious for dinner with a nice bottle of wine.  Not anymore.

6.) Eating out.  Anywhere.  Clearly, this has got to stop.

7.) Movies.  If it’s not on Netflix or iTunes, we will wait until it is.

8.) Pottery Barn, West Elm, Bed, Bath and Beyond, {insert furniture or home goods store here}.  If it can’t be found on Craigslist, in the free stuff category, we will pass.

9.) Home Depot, Lowes, {insert home improvement store here}.  I finished my kitchen so most of my home’s most expensive features have been replaced or finished in the past five years.  Yeah, I think crown molding would look nice on the soffit.  Too bad for me.  The bathrooms are the only rooms that still need some TLC.  Now that I know how to replace faucets and rewire appliances, I can do most of this stuff inexpensively.  Will consult craigslist for necessary items.

10.) Audible, iTunes, the iPad Apps store, Amazon.  These are dangerous habits.  You think, “Oh, it’s only 5 Beatles songs”, or “That looks like an interesting book and I could have it on my iPad in 15 seconds!”.  Before you know it, you’ve blown through half an unemployment check with stupid money sucking novels.  So, that’s out.  Will consult my bookshelf and the Gutenberg project.

11.) The Apple Store.  That place is like catnip for geeks.  It’s hard to pass it by and not bop in for *something*.  I like gadgets.  I am a gadget queen.  The BFF and I are very competitive gadget people.  My toys have to be neater and faster and more innovative than his.  The kid really does need a new computer so I might scrape together funds to get her a Macbook Air (before you PC people jump down my throat about cheaper PCs, save your breath.  I never liked PCs, don’t like Windows and don’t like the idea of troubleshooting and shelling out money for new anti-virus packages when I get infected. Been there, done that.  I’m sticking with apple.  And if the sucker has a problem, I can take it to the apple store to be seen by a genius where I will be able to sniff the gadgets.  I have to draw a line in the sand.  I will be poor but you can’t make me use a PC)

12.) Starbucks Verona roast coffee beans.  I shall make due with Columbian from the grocery store.

13.) Ikea.  Very addicting, especially the bottom floor.  There are so many cool little things that I never knew I needed until those diabolical Swedish merchandizing geniuses place it in an attractive setting where I can’t help but see it.  The Ikea designers seem so innocent with their sing-song voices and “Ha-dor!” bye-byes and non-judgmental, friendly, socialism-lite, sunny optimism but they are really just evil capitalists in disguise pushing clever furniture crack. Warning: Lack and Malm are gateway series.  Before you know it, you’ll be mainlining Isala and Hemnes and hanging out at Ikea Hack sites (I only tried it once) and you’ll need an intervention.  Still, if I have the extra money, I will go out of my way to get an almondy torte because the kid really likes them and even poor people need treats once in awhile.

14.) Gas.  It costs a lot.  We will be saving it for excursions where we can do a lot of errand running at one time and run a “travelling salesman” calculation to optimize every mile.

15.) Electricity and Gas.  I will become fanatic about shutting off every light and appliance that doesn’t need to be on.  I will be using solar battery lamps when it gets dark.  We will learn to live with lots of sweaters and cosy footwear.   The cockatiel will get a special blanky for his cage.  The programmable thermostat will be strictly monitored.  Violators will be prosecuted.

16.) Christmas.  It will be a very scaled back buying season.  Imagine the March sisters in Little Women.  Might go for a Charlie Brown tree instead of the 8 ft Douglas fir.  Or scour craigslist for an artificial tree if half of NJ hasn’t beaten me to it.

17.) The liquor store.  No more wine for dinner.  No more spur of the moment purchases of the latest boutique brewery seasonal batch.

18.) NJ Transit train to NYC.  At $28/person round trip and no discount for off-peak hours anymore, the kid and I would be spending $56 to take a slow train ride on the Raritan Valley Line, which doesn’t come frequently, with a transfer at Newark to NYC.  I could just park in Newark and take the PATH.  That’s the way I’ve been doing it in the last couple of years.  But the return trip on the PATH goes through Hoboken and then back to Newark.  It’s the most stupid, half assed system. In other words, NY and NJ have not really found an affordable, efficient option for daytrippers to the City.  Or they have found options but they refuse to go ahead with plans to implement them due to ideological reasons.  I love mass transit but not enough to spend $56.  So, the City is out.  That would also mean there’s no reason to maintain my Metropolitan Museum of Art family membership, where the kid took 7 weeks of drawing lessons for a bahgain, or the MOMA membership.  Broadway is completely out of the question.  Seats for a play are outrageous and even when I could afford them, I ended up sitting on the sides in the balcony.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a decent seat in the orchestra at a Broadway play.  At $300-400 a seat, I just figure those are for the rich, even middle class people need not apply.  Poor people can forget it.  Ditto with ballets and operas at Lincoln Center.  Loved it when I could afford to go, even in the nosebleed sections.  Must live without it now.  There are some nice local theatres, especially in Princeton.  So, we’ll go on very special occasions.

That’s just off the top of my head.  I will pinch every penny until my fingers bleed.  The piano teacher is a bit of a dilema.  The kid enjoys her lessons and even piano teachers need to eat.  We will see how it goes.  If the COBRA subsidy is reinstated, I *might* be able to fit in a lesson or two a month.  Even that will be stretching it.

It all adds up.  Multiply this by millions of people all across the country.  No money going to the IRS, no money going to merchants, no money to splurge a bit.  Just no money- period.

Thank you Republicans and President Obama.

One other thing: Number One child is auditioning this week for something special.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I will update with more specific information if she makes it.

Wednesday: You can have any color car as long as its black

Henry Ford was supposed to have said that about the Model T cars he was starting to roll off the assembly line.

The most recent incarnation of the current Democratic loyalist has this same attitude, it appears.  Any0ne who has been following the heartbreaky true story of a man on the edge, ThereIsNoSpoon, trying desperately to gather a flock of lost sheep back into the fold, while fighting his own private daemons, has heard something to the effect that Barack Obama is our leader and we aren’t going to ditch him.  Part cheerleader, part whicpcracker, part arrogant snot come to knock some sense into those brainless morons at Digby’s blog, TINS puts up with a lot of insults but those barbs just bouse off of him because the whiners are not going to get what they want from this president.  They might as well stop complaining and get in line.  Besides, all that complaining has shaken TINS faith and we can’t have that.

But with all of TINS insistence that Michele Bachmann (whooooo, scary, she’s going to bite you in your sleep!) would be so much worse as president in 2012, he fails to convince us that Barack Obama is that much of a prize worth fighting for.  In fact, many of Digby’s commenters have decided not to fight for him.  Or give money or maybe even their votes.  And why might that be?

Well, TINS is holding up Obama as our Democratic president who is the only thing stopping us from the Republican Horde from Hell.  But Obama’s performance through this debt criss has revealed that in some respects, he is to the right of John Boehner.  He is happy to offer up cuts in Social Security, a program that does not add to the deficit, and he does this voluntarily regardless of how this will impact the lives of recipients who use social security as their primary source of income.  Maybe $500/year less in income doesn’t sound like much to Barry but to grandma Edith, it could make the difference between buying something for her grandkids at Christmas or paying the heating bill.  That’s not a choice Grandmas or grandchildren around the country are going to appreciate.

If all TINS has to get us to support Obama is fear, he’s got his work cut out for him.  If Democrats surrender their principles and stop protecting the middle and working class, what would be the point of voting at all?  And it’s not so clear to me that saving Barry’s ass in 2012 is all that important.

Is TINS saying that Barack Obama is the best Democrat we could run in 2012?  There are no other Democrats in the entire party that could do a better job than Obama?  That would be quite an admission about the quality of the politicians who identify themselves as Democrats.  Obama hasn’t represented the party from the minute he started to run for President.  But TINS is trying to tell us that it’s Barry or nothing.  If not Barry, Michelle.  What a choice.

Or is it that TINS has tailored his affiliation to the Democratic party so narrowly that he can’t imagine any other candidate who would fit his criteria who could actually run.  That suggests that TINS and others like him who have a strangle hold on the political power structure would rather choke the life out of the party before they will entertain any other candidate, even if that candidate is more popular and more loyal to Democratic principles.  Or, is TINS suggesting that the party leadership will not allow a challenger no matter *what* the snippy voters want.  What do the voters know of politics?  They don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and all of the horse trading and petty insults and careful accounting of who kissed whose ass.  That’s right, they don’t know.  All the know is what they see and they don’t like what they see.  They want choices.  But the party may have decided not to give them one whether because Barry’s money is so good or their too afraid of a primary or because they don’t want to look like they’re losing face or they don’t want to take on the Chicago machine.

So, what TINS is is an errand boy from the guys in charge who is to deliver a message to the rank and file to say, “You have no choice.  It’s Barry or Michele and that’s final.  Get in line, NOW, or you will be responsible for bringing on catastrophe.”

That’s what I’m hearing.  I’m not hearing anything about a jobs program or saving the social safety net or exposing the Republicans as not being a party but the political arm of a group of uber wealthy investors who want to buy and sell pieces of America to each other.  What I’m hearing is that the Democratic party is not really a party that represents Democrats.  It’s a party that spends its time trying to manipulate its voters into doing what it planned to do anyway.  That’s not a choice.  And I am not sheep.

Democrats can continue to say there is no other choice than Barry and that’s true only if there is no Democratic party that I would recognize.  What they’re saying is that they know Barry is not a Democrat with true Democratic principles but they want you to ignore all of that and vote for him anyway because it’s final, goddammit, get with the program.  They’re saying that Obama is the icon that represents everything the Democrats believe.  He is their leader.  They will abide by his decisions whether they like them or not and we will have to get used to them too.  They are saying that it is impossible to primary Obama 15 months out from another critical election and that this would weaken Democrat’s chances of winning.

And we get…..?

I don’t believe this for a second.  This far out, the Democrats have choices.  They can replace this guy who doesn’t seem to know how to do his job and is a lousy negotiator and whose stupid decisions may be endangering all of their seats.  What is stopping them?  A bunch of prissy ivy league guys who don’t want to work for a woman?  Whose irrational clinging to Clinton urban legends is more important that the fate of millions and millions of unemployed people?

I guess so.

But everyone has choices, TINS.  We own our votes.  They’re more important to us that you might think.  And if Barry is writing us off because he thinks we’ll cave when Bachmann gets the nomination so he can go after the independent vote now, he’s got another thing coming.  He has to give us a reason to vote for him and right now, “You have no choice” isn’t doing it.  There’s *always* a choice.

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