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    • Ferguson and the brokenness of America’s “Justice” System
      There isn’t much to say that others haven’t, but let’s go through it anyway: There was never any chance that Darren Wilson would be charged; the prosecutor acted as defense attorney, not as prosecutor; A grand jury, for all intents and purposes does what the prosecutor tells it to; Doing the announcement at 8pm at [...]
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The problems with mergers

No nuts for you.

Tim Wu at the New Yorker wrote a piece about the all too predictable outcomes when United merged with Continental back in 2010.  There were sharp increases in fares in newly uncompetitive markets and a gradual decline in overall service.  I think the decline goes back even farther than that when United eliminated or sharply reduced pensions for flight crews and pilots back in the early naughties.  I remember distinctly the beaten down and depressed looks of the flight attendants on one of the flights I took from Philadelphia to Denver when I was on my way to a conference. When asked, the flight attendant made some remark to the effect that she had lost a lot in retirement benefits. It felt like we were hurtling towards Soviet era customer satisfaction with poorly compensated and indifferent flight attendants. Was this really what United wanted its customers to experience: a demoralized employee workforce, fewer services and a plethora of new fees, the profits from which were not going to the employee pension fund?

By the way, Tim, that ritualized abuse that you feel Americans are experiencing after the approved mergers of airlines and cable companies, for example?  I call it “exploitative profit mining”.

Then I saw that the New York Times Magazine was doing a big story on the lack of productivity in drug discovery (which I have been predicting for years now) and maybe it was time to go back to “trial and error”.  Now, I’m not going to say they’re wrong because we have tried proteomics, genomics, combinatorials, target based drug design, RNA interference and a whole lotta other “omics” type technologies and none of them have pulled off the “immaculate reception” to save the game that they promised to deliver.

But the thing that really made me laugh was the idea that any bean counter is going to let the R&D division go back to “trial and error”. My last impressions of the industry just before Pharmageddon was that “trials and errors” were distinctly money wasting activities. First, there was no metric that could be applied that could accurately determine exactly how many trials would be necessary to achieve the desired outcome. Secondly, there was the negative word “error”. Error implies failure, not a measurable objective, like a lead in the pipeline. To MBAs and the finance industry that now direct drug discovery research, it is important to minimize negative outcomes like errors, nevermind that it is the way the scientific method works and that we learn as much from error as success. Errors are the way we eliminate dead ends and turn our attention to more promising avenues. It’s how we work the kinks out of all those “-omics” technologies. Whatever. Executives would much prefer “predict and succeed”, which is theoretically a better use of time and money but rather less like science.

We might also try to eliminate the mergers and acquisitions of the drug companies by bigger drug companies, a trend that has interrupted project after project in the last two decades and caused the elimination of entire therapeutic areas. The increase in mergers occurred at the same time that biology is undergoing a 21st century scientific revolution. The finance industry’s unchecked enthusiasm for trading drug companies like baseball cards has blighted many promising new technologies and the careers of thousands of highly trained scientists, hence, no new blockbuster drugs. We probably do not need to conduct any additional trials and errors in merger experiments before we kill off the field entirely.

Just my non-MBA opinion but the lack of blockbuster drugs in the pipeline was entirely predictable fifteen years ago by those of us who experienced the joys of constant M&As. Maybe the bigger problem is that the MBAs never asked those of us in the trenches about the effect of mergers on productivity. Hmmm, one can only imagine why…

Derek Lowe and his insider commenters weigh in on the New York Times Magazine as well.

I’d be a lot more sympathetic to these women…

if their “choices” didn’t make their attitudes towards everyone else so fricking smug.

Here’s the deal, ladies: you were such bitches during the 90s and naughties about how superior you were that you managed to obstruct the efforts of working mothers to get better after school child care and other things that you are now just realizing you desperately needed.

And you dissed the very people you now wish to become.

The rest of us slogged through the childrearing years as best we could with zero help from you and your holier-than-thou crowd showing up at school board meetings lording it over everyone else.  I was there.  We battled it out in corporate America and in the suburbs, where you couldn’t be bothered with us, but were always around to offer a generous dollop of guilt about how much volunteer work you did.  Hey, when you work a full time job, raise two kids, take classes in the evening and stay up until 1am arguing with a bunch of clueless libertarians over the construction of a new high school for three years, you tend to think that the Opt-out generation has got a lot of nerve criticizing the rest of us about chaperoning the class field trip.  (Did that too.)

Now, you want your old jobs back and are surprised that you can only make a fraction of your former paychecks and, geewillikers, it’s hard to take care of kids and work at the same time.  No shit, sherlocks.  What do you think we’ve been putting up with since we graduated from college?  What do you think the job market’s been like since the Little Depression when the economy came crashing in on our heads after your husbands blew up the world? Cry me a river and go tell it to the chaplain. You really owe us an apology first.

And here’s what they’ve been opting out of (from the same article):

Men, too, are feeling the crunch of excessively demanding work. They now report more work-life stress than women do, according to the Families and Work Institute. They also may be penalized more than women if they try to accommodate their work schedules to the needs of their children, as research appearing in the June issue of The Journal of Social Issues shows. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that some husbands find themselves eyeing their wives’ lives at home with envy. “Men want to say we’re more than a paycheck,” Ted Mattox told me. “There has to be something more than going to work for 50 years and dying.”

Yes, but that’s the American Way where we work harder than any other developed country on earth and, unlike every other developed country on earthhave zero mandated paid vacation days.

If you don’t like the way this America works, you’ve got to change America.

Opting out is not an option.

Saturday Morning News and Views

Good Morning, Conflucians!!!!

I’ve been surfing around the ‘net for awhile, and I’ve come up with a somewhat eclectic collection of links that mostly ignore current events in Washington DC. These are some stories that caught my eye. What are you reading? Is there anything big happening in the Village that I missed?

First up: more evidence that Professors with Harvard degrees are no better than the rest of us regular folks.

From the NYT: Professor Said to Be Charged After 3 Are Killed in Alabama

Three faculty members at the University of Alabama in Huntsville were shot to death, and three other people were seriously wounded at a biology faculty meeting on Friday afternoon, university officials said….a biology professor, identified as Amy Bishop, was charged with murder.

According to a faculty member, the professor had applied for tenure, been turned down, and appealed the decision. She learned on Friday that she had been denied once again.

The newspaper identified Dr. Bishop as a Harvard-educated neuroscientist. According to a 2006 profile in the newspaper, Dr. Bishop invented a portable cell growth incubator with her husband, Jim Anderson. Police officials said that Mr. Anderson was being detained, but they did not call him a suspect.

[….]

Officials said the dead were all biology professors, G. K. Podila, the department’s chairman; Maria Ragland Davis; and Adriel D. Johnson Sr. Two other biology professors, Luis Rogelio Cruz-Vera and Joseph G. Leahy, as well as a professor’s assistant, Stephanie Monticciolo, are at Huntsville Hospital in conditions ranging from stable to critical.

This is a terrible tragedy that also demonstrates that academics are no more immune to rage, violence, or psychological dysfunction than anyone else. I was thinking about how horrible this must be for the students at UAH, and then I read this.

From MSNBC: Professor charged in university shooting

Gina Hammond, a UAH student, told WAFF that she lobbied the University of Alabama trustees to allow students with gun permits to carry their weapons on campus. She was turned down.

“I’m scared to go back to school,” Hammond said. “However, if they were to allow me to carry my pistol on campus, I would not be as scared.

“… I’m sorry that nobody in that room had a pistol to save at least one person’s life,” Hammond said.

OK, I’m not sure allowing everyone to carry guns on college campuses is the solution to this kind of tragedy. Maybe it would have been better if Dr. Bishop hadn’t had access to a firearm. Then maybe she could have calmed down a little bit, thought things over, and started looking for another job.

Here’s another odd, sad story along similar lines: Psychiatrist Tips Off Police about Her Husband’s Paranoia and Weapons Stockpiling

Gregory Girard, 45, is now being held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing tomorrow in Salem District Court, where he pleaded not guilty yesterday to multiple weapons charges.

Police arrested Girard late Tuesday night after a brief standoff outside the 23 Bridge St. condo where he had been living with his wife and their 16-year-old son.

Girard had a huge collection of weaponry in the family’s home and a shooting range in the attic.

On Monday, Girard’s wife, a psychiatrist, contacted police to express concern about her husband’s increasing paranoia and apparent stockpiling of weapons, Segal said.

Kristine Girard told police that while her husband hadn’t threatened her, she was afraid to return home after an argument.

She said her husband had recently told her, “Don’t talk to people, shoot them instead,” and “It’s fine to shoot people in the head because traitors deserve it,” Segal said, reading from a police report.

This guy is too old to have recently developed schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenics sometimes function fairly well. Perhaps he has suffered with the disorder for years and has taken medication that helped him, or perhaps he has some other type of bipolar disorder that can lead to psychotic episodes (bipolar disorder or major depression are possibilities).

Regardless, this man has some kind of severe psychological disorder that wasn’t caused by attending tea party demonstrations or admiring Sarah Palin as the prog blogs have been busy implying. More nutty interpretations of a psychologically troubled person’s motivations at TPM here and here. Meanwhile, right wing blogs are focusing on the fact that Girard’s wife is psychiatrist who works in Cambridge, MA.

Guess what you Obot morons, psychiatrists are subject to human failings just like Harvard education professors and all the rest of us “ordinary people.” Get a clue, why don’t you? This is a human tragedy, and the man has a 16-year-old son who is probably really upset right now.
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Mixed Emotions

Mike Leibovich of the New York Times Magazine wrote a profile on Chris Matthews for this Sunday, titled, The Aria of Chris Matthews. The piece depicts an insecure man with the hyperactivity of a 4 year old on 10 bowls of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs. It’s much as you might expect. Matthews doesn’t think he’s sexist, doesn’t think he’s ever acted disrespectfully towards women on his program and hates Hillary for reasons I still can’t understand but may be rooted in his intense desire for acceptance by his peers. (More on this later.) In the meantime, here are a few passages that made me go Hmmmmm.

For example:

Friends say Matthews is wary of another up-and-comer, David Gregory, who last month was given a show at 6 o’clock, between airings of “Hardball.” It is a common view around NBC that Gregory is trying out as a possible replacement for Matthews. Before the flight from Cleveland to Washington took off, an NBC staff member noted that Matthews, Russert and Andrea Mitchell were all on board, and if the plane were to crash, it would devastate the network’s talent pool. Matthews quipped that Gregory was outside the plane arranging for just that. (“I hadn’t heard that,” Gregory told me. “I’m quite sure he was joking.”)

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