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Thursday: Stupid MBA Tricks

Who here is sick of all Palin all the time?  Raise your hand.  Yeah, me too.  Neither side of the aisle will ever convince me they’re right.  I’ve got my opinion, mercifully untainted by media spin.  And like I have always said, you can’t get anything of value from cable news gasbags on TV going after each other.  Turn them off.  Once you do, you can form your own opinion without all that crap cluttering up your analytical thought processes.  Let the right and left fight it out while you focus on more important things.

On to more important things:

Yesterday, Derek Lowe at In The Pipeline posted on the absurd number of meetings that those of us in the corporate world have to attend:

Here’s a problem that I’ve seen at every company I’ve worked at, and there are good reasons to believe that it afflicts every company out there. That’s because I think it’s grounded in human nature: dog-and-pony-itis.

That’s the phrase I use for what happens to meetings over time. Many readers will be familiar with the process: a company gradually accumulates regular meetings on its internal calendar – project team meetings, individual chemistry and biology meetings inside that, overall review meetings, resourcing, planning, interdisciplinary meetings. . .everyone who’s anyone, in some companies, has to be calling a meeting of their very own.

Eventually, someone says “Enough!” and purges the schedule, replacing the tangle of overlapping meetings with A Brand New Meeting or two. These will actually discuss issues, for once, and people are encouraged to actually say what’s really going on with their projects. For once. And who knows, maybe that’s the case (for once) – but it doesn’t last.

Because every time, in my experience, the Brand New Meeting itself starts to collect barnacles. Over time, it becomes less useful, and more of a show. The music starts up, the Pomeranian dogs start hopping around and barking, and the trained horses make their entrance from the wings. It becomes more expedient to just get up and tell people the broad strokes of a project, especially the broad strokes that are actually working, and leave the messy details out. And gradually, other meetings spring up to try to take up the slack, since nothing ever seems to get done at the Brand New. . .

You’ve been there, right?  If you have any suggestions, send them to Derek.  My pet peeve is borg like IT departments who seem determined to make you fit into their one-size-fits-all computer build, forcing you to do endless workarounds that  impact productivity, which the MBAs are always screaming about.  What I find really annoying about this is that MBAs are constantly reshuffling the deck chairs to (try to) make us more productive (without any real inkling of what their business is about or how it really works) but they weirdly seem to overlook the IT department.  Selective pressure is constantly applied to the rest of us in a sort of Malthusian catastrophe scenario, taking out the good with the bad and making us to (even) more with fewer people (than we had when it was just merely difficult but is now next to impossible) but the IT department is given some miraculous exemption so that they may continue on as the neanderthals they are without ever having to evolve.  I heard similar complaints from people from other pharmas at the conference I attended last week but in this case, misery did not add to a sense of comraderie but continued frustration and despair.  There is simply no getting around the IT mafia and they are making our work so hard to do that some R&D users at other companies have literally begged the sys admins to disconnect them from the corporate network.

I don’t know what the IT department has on the MBAs (take that back.  I *can* imagine what they have, actually) but the ongoing ability of the MBAs to overlook the IT mafia is baffling and counterproductive.  As one colleague of mine noted yesterday, we’re constantly under threat of being outsourced if we don’t perform but IT never is.  Why can’t we shop around for out own IT vendors, especially if our business unit performs a particular kind of function with our computers that is 95% different than the typical Microsoft Excel user?  Good question.  I’m going to bring it up at the next Town Hall meeting.  It sounds innocuous enough.  You can’t *possibly* be fired for asking something like that.  Right?  RIGHT??

What are your pet business bugaboos or latest MBA Bull from on high that has your knickers in a twist?

In other news:

Commence the Kabuki!  In a sign of things to come, the House has repealed the Health Care Reform Act passed last year annnnd the Senate refuses to put it on the agenda.  From the NYTimes:

Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Senate have said that they will not act on the repeal measure, effectively scuttling it.

While conceding that reality, House Republicans said they would press ahead with their “repeal and replace” strategy. But the next steps will be much more difficult, as they try to forge consensus on alternatives emphasizing “free market solutions” to control health costs and expand coverage.

{{snort!}} Republicans just kill me with their sense of humor.  The health care reform bill passed last year *was* a “free market solution”.  It was about as free market as you can get and still call it reform.  Once again, Democrats have failed to capitalize on this fact.  They should be playing up the free market aspects while everyone comes to hate, hate, HATE the bill.  That way they can say, “See?  This is what Republicans say they wanted.  It’s free market.  They didn’t want competition from a public option or anything that would actually make it less expensive and more efficient for you, the consumer.  Why are the Republicans whining about it now?  What do Republicans want??”  Anyway, the reality is that open enrollment is over for the year so we’re stuck with the increased costs of coverage without any significant increases in, er,  coverage.  Well, except for the coverage of kids until they’re 26, which will be great for Brooke but sucks for all of those kids who just aged out and who weren’t covered in the past several years.  No soup for you.  It’s particularly tough on girls whose cost for insurance on the free market is absurdly high for minimal coverage.  I suppose that goes with the risk of pregnancy, which could be avoided if the health insurance plan covers the cost of birth control and abortion.

Speaking of abortion, the recent discovery of the abortion clinic from hell in Philadelphia invalidates any argument the antiabortion crew can come up with.  An abortion clinic was closed down recently when a raid conducted for illegal drugs unintentionally uncovered aseptic conditions so horrific it makes the stomach churn.  This excerpt of the grand jury indictment from Jeralyn is not for the squeamish:

The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again. Medical equipment – such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff – was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.

The people who ran this sham medical practice included no doctors other than Gosnell himself, and not even a single nurse. Two of his employees had been to medical school, but neither of them were licensed physicians….Among the rest of the staff, there was no one with any medical licensing or relevant certification at all. But that didn’t stop them from making diagnoses, performing procedures, administering drugs.

The AP story says that women from the NJ suburbs were ushered into slightly cleaner areas of the clinic for their late term abortions because they were wealthier and more likely to file a complaint.

It’s outrageous that women get treated like subhuman animals by these criminals and by the states themselves that force the more desperate and poor to wait until it’s too late before they have the money to undergo these unsafe and unsanitary procedures.  As the indictment says, “Pennsylvania is not a third world country” but this is where the antiabortion fanatics are taking us.  And it’s not like they don’t know better.  Many of the most fervent antiabortion foes are women my mom’s age who grew up in the 50′s and 60′s and have no illusions about what they are forcing on younger, desperate women.  You have to wonder what is motivating them to force us back to the bad old days.  But abortions will never end no matter how illegal they are.  This clinic gives us living proof of what is to come.  It is inevitable and Roe v. Wade can not stand in its way.  Ironically, Roe may be exacerbating the situation because it is easy to chip away at the exercise of reproductive rights without actually taking Roe away.  Roe is an incredibly weak and polarizing law. Women have to stop relying on it and refight this battle all over again using stronger arguments, laws and even an equal rights amendment.  Until then, expect to find a lot more of these clinics showing up in the news.

Joe Lieberman is retiring.  yay.  This news is anticlimactic.  He’s done his bit for the insurance industry and now he can leave.  Great.  Don’t let the door hit ya’:

Lieberman’s decision “enables him for the next two years to be an honest broker between Democrats and Republicans on issues that matter to him (stop laughing)— on national security, the debt issue and the environment,” said a Lieberman aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity because a formal announcement had not been made.

Kent Conrad, a blue dog from North Dakota, is also retiring.  Stu Rothenberg says that this will make it harder for the Democrats to keep their majority in the Senate.

What majority?  Last session, they had a filibuster proof 60 seats and it *still* wasn’t enough.  To have a real majority, any party has to out number the Republicans by a ratio of roughly 2:1. (Sorry, Tea Party lurkers.  You can’t join with Republicans to make them listen to you.  They are not on your side and haven’t been in about a century.) So, the loss of Lieberman and Rothenberg doesn’t mean squat.  The Democrats and the country has to get really serious about tossing Republicans out if they want to get stuff done for average Americans.  Prophylactic:  If you don’t like Democrats that much in majority, there’s no law that says you can’t start another party that can form a coalition with the Democrats to make Republicans a minority party for generations to come.  It’s a given that there will be substantial push back from both parties but, realistically, what choice is there?  You can either whine about it or do something about it.  Don’t like to vote for either party?  Field your own candidates.

In more promising news, Roche and Plexxicon have developed a new melanoma drug that significantly prolongs life, at least temporarily.  Of course, the clinical trials come with a price.  Some of the most desperately ill patients were given placebo.  This is a harsh but necessary reality in the discovery of new drugs.  The good news is that the FDA asked the companies involved to expedite the analysis of the trials so that patients in the placebo arm of the trial could cross over and receive the therapy.  So, kudos to Plexxicon and Roche- for now.  Don’t look over your shoulders, guys. Oncology R&D is very competitive right now and we’re all very busy.  Bwahahahahahhhhhh!

The NYTimes has a photo essay on the unemployed of Rockford, Illinois and links it to a story on how the White House is right on that unemployment thing!  uh-huh.  Where have I been hearing that the SOTU address is going to emphasize the deficit and shock doctrine solutions?

LOTs of good stuff in science today:

Nanopolymers can twist themselves into braid like structures.  Tres cool.

A new paper in Nature uncovers the process of transcription from DNA to RNA in the cell:

The main way the genome is “read” in a cell is through its transcription into RNA, the researchers explained. Until now, scientists have been able to detect which RNAs were produced, but have had a limited view of how much of the genome was being decoded, or “transcribed,” or what controls how fast these RNAs are made. The new technique enables them to watch this process directly.

“This lets you capture the cell in the process of turning the DNA into RNA at unprecedented resolution,” said Jonathan S. Weissman, PhD, a professor in the UCSF Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and senior author on the paper. “Before, we were typically studying the end product. Now, we can directly watch how these RNA messages are produced in vivo.”

And astronomers are busily coloring the night sky.  Coming soon to an app near you!

And now for something musical to get your mind humming throughout the day:

Please note:  This is a Palin free post and thread.

Wednesday Morning: The first Jewish President?

Hi guys, I have a bit of time this morning to add to SOD’s quicky.  So, let’s get to it.

I found this clip of Al Franken at Susie’s place.  He makes an excellent case for sticking to your principles especially when it comes to supporting American working families.  At the same time, he tears apart the Republican and Tea Party rationale for denying needy Americans the money to work, pay their COBRA bills and feed their kids in order to spare the deficit.   He talks about how we gave away trillions in taxpayer money to the banking industry to bail them out after they took the world over the cliff.  That was OUR money and now we’re supposed to take a haircut in order to keep the deficit from expanding?  American working families should have been the first people helped out, not merely an afterthought.  Many of the unemployed would still have jobs if it weren’t for those crooks.  But I digress.  Enjoy the clip.

Correct me if I’m wrong but does it feel like Al is picking up the burden of FDR Democrats everywhere?  He’s really matured (but not too much, I hope).  What would it be like to have the first Jewish president and have a White House Hannukah special on HGTV every year?

Some Health Care Industries are more equal than others

Also found at Susie’s place, here’s a piece from Miles Mogulescu at Huffpo about the deal that Obama cut with hospitals. Check out this little sample:

This is one of the great under-reported stories of the health reform saga. Much has been written about the Obama administration’s deal with big Pharma to continue to block Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices or to allow consumers to buy cheaper drugs from Canada, in exchange for Pharma running pro-Democratic ads and giving campaign contributions to Democratic candidates. That’s the reason, under pressure from the White House, that Senate Democrats voted down an amendment that would have allowed consumers to buy cheaper drugs from overseas.

But Obama’s deal with the for-profit hospital lobby to insure there would be no public option has, as best I can tell, only been reported in two articles in The New York Times. On August 13, The Timesreported that while President Obama had presented himself as “aloof from the legislative fray,” particularly in connection with the public option, “Behind the scenes, however, Mr. Obama and advisors have been…negotiating deals with a degree of cold-eyed political realism potentially at odds with the president’s rhetoric.” One of the deals reported in The Times article was the Pharma deal. The other was a deal with the for-profit hospital lobby to limit its cost reductions to $155 billion over 10 years in exchange for a White House promise that there would be no meaningful public option.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that one of the advisors that Obama has been listening to has been Michelle Obama who used to be an administrator in the hospital industry.  And now, here’s a story I heard from a friend of mine who is an expat from a country where health insurance is a government priority: A couple of years ago, her husband had to have hernia surgery here in NJ.  It was an outpatient affair.  He was in and out in four hours.  Wanna know how much it cost?  Go on, guess.  Give up?

$73,000.

Yup, that didn’t include the anesthesiologist or the surgeon.  It was just the hospital.  My friend was shocked so she called the insurance company to find out what gives.  It must have been a mistake.  The insurance company said, yes, that does seem excessive.  So, it renegotiated with the hospital.  The final bill came to $40,000 or roughly $10,000 an hour.  She’s still trying to figure out what they got for that money.  I’d like people to at least think about that when they are so quick to condemn what they see as the outrageous cost of drugs.  Those drugs can keep you out of the hospital.  And while I think the pharma CEOs made a strategic error lobbying the way they did, especially since it did absolutely nothing to resolve the underlying issues plaguing the industry, I have to wonder how it is we always focus our laser beam intensity on Big Pharma while the hospital industry comes up smelling like a rose.  I suspect it has something to do with the Democratic party’s reliance on class action lawyers for campaign contributions but I’ll save that for another post.  Let’s just say that both parties are responsible for the pathetic approach to health care reform.

Curing cancer one molecular target at a time

Target Cancer is a series  featured last week in the New York Times that’s right up my alley.   It’s about new drugs for the treatment of cancer, specifically melanoma, and the process by which medicine and the pharmaceutical industry carry out clinical trials.  It’s particularly interesting because it delves into how our evolving understanding of the molecular biology of the cell can be harnessed to tailor our treatment of disease to the individual.  Very encouraging.

Are these people for real??

Digby watches the Sunday morning talking heads so we don’t have to.  This week, Versailles gets it’s panties in a bunch trying to justify why they took down Desiree Rogers, the White House Social Secretary.  Sam Donaldson says she was violating some sumptuary law. Cokie Roberts tries to put a less embarrassing spin on the whole affair.  Krugman just shakes his head in disbelief.

These people should be humiliated, the sooner, the better.

Save the BBC webservices!

As most of you know, I am a podcast junky.  But what you might not know is some of the best podcasts on the web come from the BBC.  That’s why I was concerned to see that the BBC is planning to make cuts in their radio and web services.  The BBC does top quality work.  They have a rich variety of programs on history, the ascent of man, philosophy, radio drama, etc.  It’s hard to find American podcasts of this quality that are as consistently good and well funded.  (There are exceptions like This American Life and Backstory but they don’t have the commitment from our government that the BBC has so I always get the feeling that the best American cultural programming we have is ephemeral, dependent and desperate for donors to pony up five bucks every so often to pay for bandwidth.  Sort of like Lambert soliciting donations to keep the hamsters going.  Is this any way to run a public broadcasting service?  I’d pay for the privilege of supporting something like BBC Radio 4.

To give you a taste of what you might be missing, check out the BBC’s latest hit series, A History of the World in 100 Objects.  This podcast is on break right now so it’s a perfect opportunity to catch up on the first 25 episodes.  Start with the one on a stone cutting tool from the Oldevai Gorge.  Each episode is about 15 minutes long and includes pictures and video of each object being discussed.  If you like quiet afternoons at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you will love this series.

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