Quick Notes about Pittsburgh

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Parrothead pastries at The Oakmont Bakery

There are a couple of posts in the NYTimes today that are full of praise for the economic recovery of Pittsburgh.  (Here and a Krugman post here.)  So, I thought I’d throw in my 2 cents.

First, I love it here.  People are just nicer than they are in Jersey.  And there are fewer of them.

Second, it is true that you can get higher incomes in places like Boston and San Francisco.  A lot of people who lost their good salaries in NJ due to Pharmageddon decided to try their luck in Massachusetts because that’s where all the lemming CEOs pharma companies relocated a fraction of their workforce and where there are a bunch of start up companies.  And I thought about that- for about 15 seconds.

Although the chances of finding a job up there for me is slightly greater than in NJ, job insecurity comes with it.  I heard from a lot of people who were transferred there or got a job in a start up there or were already working there and they hated it.  They were scared to death of losing their jobs, the cost of living was astronomical and the commute from the burbs to Cambridge proper is ridiculous.  It was even more ridiculous when you consider that even with their good salaries, they couldn’t afford to live close to work.  So, I crossed it off my list.  I didn’t want to drag a teenager to a place where I could lose another job and spend all my money on rent and taxes because my salary was high.  It sounded like an unreasonably risky thing to do for a job.  I have no idea what the bonus class is thinking but I think it has something to do with the status of being near Harvard and MIT.  In my humble opinion, that is not a good enough reason in the age of internet to risk your staff’s domestic security and increase its precariousness.  Precariats are under too much stress to be innovative creative types.  You can’t whip and threaten them and expect them to discover all the time.  Nah-gah-happen.

When I sat down and did the math, I figured that I could have the same standard of living in Pittsburgh, on a much more modest salary, as I would in Cambridge or NJ AND because I own my home without a mortgage, I am not in danger of losing my house if the job goes away.  I can eek out a living here as a bartender and still live reasonably well.  Fortunately, I won’t have to relearn how to pour but if I had to, it wouldn’t have been an issue.

So, I’m glad that Pittsburgh is now being held up as a model of urban renaissance because it deserves it, although it would be great if the bus capacity went back to what it was 20 years ago.

Gallows humor about Pharmageddon

Merck recently announced a shakeup- again.  Yeah, yeah, but this time they really mean it.  In response, a commenter at In the Pipeline wrote this Onionesque report:

Subject: FW: Merck in the News
MERCK TO CUT WORKFORCE 120 PERCENT

NEW YORK, N.Y. (AP.com) – Merck will reduce its workforce by an
unprecedented 120 percent by the end of 2013, believed to be the first
time a major corporation has laid off more employees than it actually
has.
Merck stock soared more than 12 points on the news.

The reduction decision, announced Wednesday, came after a year-long
internal review of cost-cutting procedures. The initial report concluded
the company would save $1.2 billion by eliminating 20 percent of its
85,000 employees.

From there, said a spokesperson, “it didn’t take a genius to figure out
that if we cut 40 percent of our workforce, we’d save $2.4 billion, and
if we cut 100 percent of our workforce, we’d save $6 billion. But then
we thought, why stop there? Let’s cut another 20 percent and save $7
billion.

“We believe in increasing shareholder value, and we believe that by
decreasing expenditures, we enhance our competitive cost position and
our bottom line,” he added.

Merck plans to achieve the 100 percent internal reduction through
layoffs, attrition and early retirement packages. To achieve the 20
percent in external reductions, the company plans to involuntarily
downsize 17,000 non-Merck employees who presently work for other
companies.

“We pretty much picked them out of a hat,”.

Among firms Merck has picked as “External Reduction Targets,” or ERTs,
are Quaker Oats, AMR Corporation, parent of American Airlines, Lockheed,
Boeing, and Charles Schwab & Co. Merck’s plan presents a “win-win” for
the company and ERTs, said the Merck spokesperson, as any savings by

ERTs would be passed on to Merck, while the ERTs themselves would benefit by the increase in
stock price that usually accompanies personnel cutback announcements.

“We’re also hoping that since, over the years, we’ve been really helpful
to a lot of companies, they’ll do this for us kind of as a favor,”.

Legally, pink slips sent out by Merck would have no standing at ERTs
unless those companies agreed. While executives at ERTs declined to
comment, employees at those companies said they were not inclined to
cooperate.

“This is ridiculous. I don’t work for Merck. They can’t fire me,” said
Kaili Blackburn, a flight attendant with American Airlines.

Reactions like that, replied the Merck spokesperson “are not very
sporting.”

Inspiration for Merck’s plan came from previous cutback initiatives,
said company officials. In January of 2005, for instance, the company
announced it would trim 15,000 jobs over two years. However, just a year
later, Merck said it had already reached its quota. “We were quite
surprised at the number of employees willing to leave Merck in such a
hurry, and we decided to build on that,”.

Analysts credited the short-term vision, noting that the announcement
had the desired effect of immediately increasing Merck’s share value.
However, the long-term ramifications could be detrimental, said Morgan Stanley analyst Beldon McInty.

“It’s a little early to tell, but by eliminating all its employees,
Merck may jeopardize its market position and could, at least
theoretically, cease to exist,” said McInty.

The spokesperson, however, urged patience: “To my knowledge, this hasn’t
been done before, so let’s just wait and see what happens.”

I laughed at first and then thought, that’s pretty much how they do it.

Well, at least the guy who wrote that has a future at some satirical online newspaper.

Friday Science Horror Stories

So, what does that make this, the third or fourth week of rainy weekdays?  I can’t remember.  The grays just blur into one another with teasers of blue sky.  Yes, we had a very nice weekend last week but it’s happened so rarely lately.  Mostly, it’s drizzling when I wake up, I have all kinds of plans to sand my deck and replant the bed out front where the creeping juniper used to be and I just have to sit on all of those things until the sun comes out.  No use in renting a sander unless I have a good four hours of no rain and I just can’t count on that these days.  The forecast is for more unpredictable precipitation until next Tuesday, although I might catch a break in the cloud cover tomorrow.  So, there’s hope that I can finish the f^(*ing deck.

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Update for my pharma friends:

Chemjobber has a post about visitors to the White House and how many of them have been from the science industry. Very interesting. Jeffrey Kindler, the ketchup king and now deposed head of Pfizer, was there many, many times.  Hey, did I mention that Pfizer decided recently to stop offering employees pensions so that they could risk all of their retirement money in 401Ks?  And Chris Viehbacher, he of the “good scientists don’t want to work for big pharmas” fame, (which indicates that he’s never actually gotten down from his lofty perch and spoken to any of the good scientists in his own labs), was there on March 11, 2011, about four months after his company bought Genzyme and proceeded to lay off most of his new acquisition’s chemists.

Well, they probably didn’t want to work for a big company anyway so, you know, conscience clear, and all that.

If you’re in the pharma industry,check it out and see if a CEO has been to visit the president or his advisors and viciously lied to them or collaborated with them or whatever those guys do in the White House.

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I’m almost done harping on Pharmageddon.  Yesterday, I had a conversation with a reporter from the Washington Post who says he is looking into the high number of layoffs among STEM professionals. (Many thanks to everyone who helped get the word out.  We appreciate it.)  Let’s hope there’s a crack in the cloud cover on this issue.  Either I’m paranoid that the present elected officials don’t want anyone to know how our scientific infrastructure has been decimated, or those same elected officials are dumber than a box of rocks and will believe anything the bonus class is telling them about structural unemployment, or there are too many scientific morons on the Republican side of the aisle in Congress, or they’re all being mislead by the out-of-date numbers of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. None of those possibilities give me peace of mind.  On the other hand, since there are so many of us out of work right now, we should look into replacing the clueless in Congress with our own geekier representatives.  At least there are two good years of employment and health bennies to look forward to.

Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline has a question for the ex-pharma crowd: What’s the craziest misinformation you’ve heard about the pharma industry or science in general?  He’s listed a couple that I’ve heard over and over again.  The first is that industry has found the cure for cancer and it’s sitting on it.  Friends, I know that anyone who reads this blog is smarter than the average smartass lefty blogger so I shouldn’t have to tell you this but that idea makes no f^&*ing sense.  If industry had the cures for cancer, they’d be marketing the hell out of them and charging whatever the market would bear, which would be plenty.  If you’ve ever had a family member who is terminally ill with cancer, you know that you would mortgage your house to buy him a cure and the guys in the marketing department of Trustus Pharmaceuticals know it too.  So, this is a ridiculous idea.  The truth is both good and bad.  We’re getting closer to understanding the mechanisms of cancers but we’re still a long way off from beating it.  What we need is more money and more commitment from our governments.

The second idea is that all of the science comes from government funded grants.  While it’s true that grants fund a lot of basic research, it is NOT true that industry takes that already discovered and perfect drug and markets it for a profit.  No, no, no, no, noooooooo.  At best, industry gets a clue from academia, maybe some insight, a mechanism, and occasionally a germ of a drug in its earliest form.  What industry does is accumulate all of the information about the proposed target as it can, sifts through it, determines if there is something it can work with, and then sets about doing the years and years of research it takes to develop those ideas into a therapy.  It’s a long hard slog that involves many steps of biology, chemistry, pharmacology and animal models to get to the point where *maybe* there’s a drug in there somewhere.

That doesn’t diminish the government’s role in funding research.  This research is vital to what comes after.  But it’s like Edison’s 1% inspiration followed by industry’s 99% perspiration.  And along the way, industry is able to add insights to the original problem.  We’re not just applied science monkeys.  We make our own discoveries along the way and add to the body of knowledge on a subject through our own papers and presentations.  That, in turn, helps feed science in general.  The more knowledge that’s out there, the more chances that academia and industry will find places to collaborate.  We are now seeing a lot more collaboration between academia and research.  And while that’s a good thing, academia needs to be funded more generously for new collaborations to work optimally and to boost academia’s contribution past that 1% inspiration.  Biology is undergoing a modern, “paradigm shifting” revolution right now.  We can’t afford for any government lab to be underfunded or our nation will be left behind.

What our elected officials need to do is make sure that the people who fund the collaborations benefit as well as the industries that develop the ideas.  Can we do it?  Sure we can.  We just need to think of the American people as stakeholders.

And here’s what will happen if we do not take this challenge seriously.  A recent article in the NYTimes says that American Physicists fear that we are losing our edge:

When three American astronomers won the Nobel Prize in Physics last year, for discovering that the expansion of the universe was speeding up in defiance of cosmic gravity — as if change fell out of your pockets onto the ceiling — it reaffirmed dark energy, the glibly named culprit behind this behavior, as the great cosmic surprise and mystery of our time.

And it underscored the case, long urged by American astronomers, for aNASA mission to measure dark energy— to determine, for example, whether the cosmos would expand forever or whether, perhaps, there might be something wrong with our understanding of gravity.

In 2019, a spacecraft known as Euclid will begin such a mission to study dark energy. But it is being launched by the European Space Agency, not NASA, with American astronomers serving only as very junior partners, contributing $20 million and some infrared sensors.

For some scientists, this represents an ingenious solution, allowing American astronomers access to the kind of data they will not be able to obtain on their own until NASA can mount its own, more ambitious mission in 2024.

But for others, it is a setback. It means that for at least the next decade, Americans will be relegated to a minor role in following up on their own discovery.

American scientists are facing a real dilema.  If our government is not going to invest in basic research, we will be putting ourselves decades behind.  As science accelerates in the rest of the world, we will fall back even faster.  Pretty soon, America will start to resemble one of those 2nd world countries where corruption is pervasive and where government is permanently underfunded and the number of Nobel prizes going to that country’s scientific infrastructure is vanishingly small.

We are at Robert Frost’s “two roads diverged in a yellow woods”.  The decisions we make now will affect the way our country develops.  Are we going to continue to cater to the conservatives who insist on allowing ignorance on evolution, climate science and private sector funding take us down the road to scientific obscurity or are we going to recommit to taking the lead in science and technology and demand that the wealthy step up, pay their taxes and help us refund our efforts so that American citizens, the stakeholders, benefit?  Can we afford for so many Americans to feel entitled to their ignorance?

Anyone?  Anyone?  Barack?

BBC-4: The End of Drug Discovery

I see you out there rolling your eyes.  “Oh, Jeez, there goes RD, running around with her hair on fire about Pharmageddon again.  Why doesn’t she just pick a hobby, like gardening, and shut the f^&* up already?”

Right?  I mean, for some of you out there, it’s just so much easier if your pre-formed political tribalism has given you all the answers you need about pharma and you don’t have to think about us anymore.  “I mean, big pharma is evil, well, not you personally, RD, but you know, the people you used to work for.  And they want to poison everyone for profit and make up diseases to make money and no one really needs anti-depressants.”

Ok, now you’re starting to talk like crazy scientologist Tom Cruise, jumping all over the couch and sneering at Brooke Shields for the audacity of getting post-partum baby blues.  It’s a dangerous attitude and self defeating.  By knowing what’s really going on and understanding the limits and obstacles of drug discovery, you’re a lot less likely to get flim-flammed by the MBAs, the lawyers and political lackeys in the future, right?  Please say yes, because we are trying to get through to you and it’s not easy.  There’s a lot of deprogramming to do.

Anyway, I know a lot of you won’t listen to me and when I post on this subject, I get crickets in the comment threads, either because you’re still drinking the kool-aide that STEM jobs are the way of the future or because it’s all too tiresome.

But this BBC-4 program on the death of drug discovery is really good and it’s only 38.00 minutes of your time.  They interview researchers and explain how the drug discovery process happens, clearly.  They say the same thing I’ve been saying for the past several years but this is the BBC and they say it all with that clipped British accent, so, you know, credibility and all that.

You can listen to this while you’re cleaning out the litter box and sorting your recycling.  You owe it to yourself, your fellow human beings who will get sick someday and need your help, and to us, the dedicated and now out of work professionals who slaved over a hot shaking incubator to make you drugs.

We need your help.  It’s that important.

Now, click here.

They came for the chemists, but I said nothing

because I was not a chemist.  And why would I want to stick up for pharma chemists anyway?

Right?

We came behind the steelworkers, computer programmers and factory workers.  How many of us said anything?

This evening, I ran into a former colleague of mine in the grocery store.  She’s a chemist and one of the lucky few who has a job in Massachusetts.  She’s also Chinese but has been here for a long time.  Even though she has a job, she knows it could be temporary.  The lab she is moving to is much smaller and dingier than the one she is leaving.  She says she feels like a grad student again.

She told me that Astra-Zeneca just closed a new lab facility.  Beautiful new labs, closed, and everyone laid off.  The CEO is walking away with $65,000,000.  She’s beyond disgusted.  But there was something even worse on the horizon.  She says that the industry is adopting the work habits of the Chinese.  In China, employees live away from their kids.  The grandparents look after them.  They might live halfway across the country.  It is expected.  In fact, there are a lot of things that the Chinese put up with that Americans are now going to have to put up with.

This is the way it is.  We’re going to have the lifestyle of the Chinese with none of the benefits.

And when I say we, I mean YOU too.  We are the high tech, educated, cutting edge life scientists and this is the way the new business model is going to treat us.  You’re next.

If you don’t say anything, they win.

The Poster Child of “The Strategy of No Strategy”: Pfizer

Pfizer is trying to reinvent itself by shrinking, according to the New York Times. I can’t say that I’m surprised.  The CEOs and financial guys are still living in their own worlds.

The Strategy of No Strategy is strong in this one.  Oh such tasty morsels in this article.  Where to start.  How about this paragraph full of chewy goodness:

Pfizer — once the Big in Big Pharma — is making a radical shift, one being watched closely by the rest of the industry. It is getting smaller.

Last week the company announced it was selling its infant nutrition business to Nestlé for $11.85 billion, and it is expected to divest its profitable animal health business by next year. At the same time, the company is slashing as much as 30 percent of its research budget as part of a plan to focus on only the most promising areas, like cancer andAlzheimer’s disease.

1.) It’s getting smaller only 2 years after it made itself bigger.  Pfizer bought up Wyeth and laid off every single one of my friends and former colleagues in research.  It hired back a handful and sent them to Groton, CT.  I’ll get to Groton in a minute.

2.) It’s getting rid of valuable assets to concentrate on cancer and Alzheimers.  And why those two therapeutic areas, you ask?  Allow me to get cynical.  Well, more cynical than I already am.  These two diseases progress rapidly and the sufferers are almost desperate for a cure, cancer drugs get fast tracked for approval, toxicity profiles are relaxed, you can pretty much charge what the market will bear, and even if the drugs fail the patients rarely complain.  So, quick approval and no class action lawsuits.  What’s not to love?  Looks like you Lupus sufferers and schizophrenics are SOL though.

“It’s not necessarily smaller per se, it’s focused,” Ian C. Read, Pfizer’s chief executive, said in an interview Tuesday. “We are at our heart a biopharmaceutical company focused on applying science to improving people’s quality of life. That is what our core is. That is what will determine our success.”

{{rolling eyes}}

This part is good:

Drug executives are asking themselves: “What is it that we now face, given that in the past decade — when everything was going right — we didn’t build with this future in mind?” said Jeremy Levin, who oversaw a similar reorganization of Bristol-Myers Squibb and is about to take over as chief executive at Teva Pharmaceuticals.

At Pfizer, skeptics have questioned the decision to shed some of its most profitable units in favor of doubling down on the risky pharmaceutical business. Pfizer’s nutrition unit grew by 15 percent and animal health by 17 percent in 2011, while its pharmaceutical sales dipped by 1 percent. And Pfizer has suffered some notable flops over the last several years, including the failure of an experimental cholesterol treatment that was seen as a potential successor to Lipitor and poor sales of an inhaled insulin drug that the company eventually abandoned.

So, in the past decade, when everything was going right, why did Pfizer decide to eat smaller companies and lay off all the research staff and put companies and projects in a state of limbo while they merged, and how could that *possibly* result in not building with the future in mind?

Now it’s selling off it’s most profitable divisions.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that it’s doing it to pay off the shareholders, who must be obeyed after all:

The acquisitions, some said, turned Pfizer into a Frankenstein’s monster — a giant stitched together from the scraps of smaller companies that lurched forward with little purpose.

“I think the company sort of lost their way in the years before the Wyeth acquisition,” said Catherine J. Arnold, an analyst for Credit Suisse.

Ya think?  Hey, how about the next time a merger is in the works, we actually ask the people discovering drugs whether it is a good idea.

Oh and about that plan to cut research costs by 30%:

Even so, the company’s decision to cut research budgets as it is planning to recommit to its pharmaceutical core struck some as risky. Mr. Gordon, the Michigan business professor, called it a “magic trick.”

It’s a magic trick, however, that most major pharmaceutical companies are also trying. “The question is how do you remain successful and sustain your operations if you’re investing less and less in R&D?” said Kenneth I. Kaitin, a professor and director of Tufts University’s Center for the Study of Drug Development. “The answer to that is to try to find a new way and a more efficient mechanism for discovering and developing drugs.”

If you want to discover more drugs, cut research!  Everyone is doing it.  Let me just suggest to the “smartness” crowd and masters of the shareholder universe that the reason you don’t have any blockbusters is because you treated research like a red-headed stepchild while you were busily merging your little hearts out and collecting bonus checks.  “A more efficient mechanism for discovering drugs” now means outsourcing to China all the grunt work while trying to buy licenses for drugs from struggling and desperate former research staff who will sell them for a tiny fraction of what they may be worth.

Pfizer plans to reduce its research budget from $9.4 billion in 2010 to $6.5 billion to $7 billion this year. It closed a research center in Britain and has been trimming its facility in Groton, Conn., and moving resources to areas closer to universities in Boston and Cambridge, England.

In 2011, the company ended 91 projects, canceling programs aimed at treating bladder infection, for example, as well as one to treat nasal symptoms from allergies. Company executives have also said they will be on the lookout for smaller acquisitions to fill gaps in their portfolio, and will expand partnerships with academic institutions.

Mr. Read said the cuts would not affect the areas that the company has prioritized. “Most of what I cut had a low probability of success,” he said.

Those projects had an even lower probability of success after tens of thousands of research jobs were cut, the budget was slashed more times than a libidinous teenager in a horror movie and the rest of the staff was made to play a game of musical chairs moving from Princeton and Pearl River to Groton to not Groton but we don’t know where yet to Cambridge.  I’ve heard reports that the few former Wyeth staff have been laid off more than once since the merger.

Pfizer has to be the poster child of The Strategy of No Strategy.  They’ve abandoned some of their hardest, smartest workers, and I know some of these people so I know how good they are, to chase get-rich-quick-schemes from the oh so cleverer people at Harvard and MIT and then get Chinese PhDs at a fraction of the cost to churn out compounds in Shanghai.  Pfizer has completely abandoned the idea that it takes 10-15 years to discover and develop a drug, and that continuity of research is crucial.  Pfizer first acquired and then ripped apart all of the smaller pharmas under it to become a bloated behemoth of a leviathan that could be consumed by shareholders in wild abandon.  It’s left a big gaping hole in the pharmaceutical landscape and so far as I can tell, not one politician has bothered to find out why our drug discovery expertise is disappearing right before our very eyes.

Right about now, it is dawning on Wall Street, the CEOs and the investors that they have unleashed Pharmageddon and that they’ve made some big mistakes, not least of which is that the profits that can be shared are slowing down to a mere trickle.  Nevermind all the scientists who no longer have careers, what about their bonuses?? I don’t know about bonuses. My former colleagues and I should be worried about our pensions.  That big pile of cash is going to look mighty tasty and we are all headed for a seniority of deprivation if we don’t figure out a way to stop them from consuming it all.

Thursday: Things that shouldn’t need to be said but…

1.) Susie Madrak found this post by George Lakoff that I think everyone in the left blogosphere should read and commit to heart.  It’s about the Santorum Strategy and what is really going on with the Republican primary.

Liberals tend to underestimate the importance of public discourse and its effect on the brains of our citizens. All thought is physical. You think with your brain. You have no alternative. Brain circuitry strengthens with repeated activation. And language, far from being neutral, activates complex brain circuitry that is rooted in conservative and liberal moral systems. Conservative language, even when argued against, activates and strengthens conservative brain circuitry. This is extremely important for so-called “independents,” who actually have both conservative and liberal moral systems in their brains and can shift back and forth. The more they hear conservative language over the next eight months, the more their conservative brain circuitry will be strengthened.

This point is being missed by Democrats and by the media, and yet it is the most vital issue for our future in what is now being discussed. No matter who gets the Republican nomination for president, the Santorum Strategy will have succeeded unless Democrats dramatically change their communication strategy as soon as possible. Even if President Obama is re-elected, he will have very little power if the Republicans keep the House, and a great deal less if they take the Senate. And if they keep and take more state houses and local offices around the country, there will be less and less possibility of a liberal future.

I think I’ve said this before (I’ll see if I can find the links to my posts about it) but it bears repeating because the A list bloggers don’t seem to be getting it: the reason why the Republican primary is dragging on is because it works in the Republicans favor.  It changes the national dialog and keeps the issues that Republicans want to talk about out there in the media all the way to August.  Don’t be surprised if there is a brokered convention.  They *want* the whole nation sitting on the edge of its seat waiting to see who the Republicans crown.  That means they can talk about deficit reduction, entitlement reform and women’s reproductive rights for a long, long time. By the time they are done, the general public will believe that reducing the deficit at all costs is the most important thing in the world and that no one should pay for anyone’s health insurance, much less birth control.  If you made the stupid lifestyle decision to be born human and indulged in living, putting your body at risk, that’s YOUR problem. Romney and Santorum are in this together for this tag team event and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Republicans have already issued primary voters their votes in advance.  It only looks like chaos to the lefty bloggers sitting smugly at the top of Maslow’s pyramid.  But come August, the Democrats, who should have been championing Occupy Wall Street without trying to co-opt it (see more on this below) are going to be scrambling to control the message.  Never underestimate the Republicans’ desire to win.

PS: I need a job, George.  Call me.

2.) Lefty bloggers are wasting their time talking about Sarah Palin.  If Democrats need independent women’s votes, maybe they should stop assuming that Palin is the cause of their defection from the Democratic party.  She’s not.  There are just as many of us out here who are independent liberals who are Democrats in Exile, who do not give a flying fuck about what comes out of Sarah Palin’s mouth.  Frankly, we’re turned off by the Palin bashing, not because she’s a viable politician (she’s not) but because she’s a human being and we’re just tired of the left using Palin as the dumping ground for their current round of misogyny.

Can we move on from Palin already?  She disgraced herself last year during the  Gabby Giffords shooting episode and before that when she teamed up with her chum, Glenn Beck.  Palin had a choice after 2008.  She could have become a legitimate politician on the right, and still not to our tastes, or she could have become a hack.  She chose the latter.  Let’s move on.

Palin is not relevant in this election season.  OBAMA is relevant this election season.  Nothing Palin tells women who have flocked to her, and this woman is not one of them, is going to persuade them to vote for a Republican.  What might persuade them is the persistently lagging economy and anger at Obama for doing such a lousy job as president.  We could have had a V8 but we got watered down tomato juice instead.

The rest of us independent liberals are shopping around for a third party.  I would advise the Democrats to stop touting Lilly Ledbetter as the Paycheck Fairness Act.  Not only is this stupidly deceptive, women are not fooled.  It’s an insult to our intelligence.  Even we can figure out that there is still no fairness in our paychecks, if we are lucky enough to still have them.  And instead of being proactive about reproductive rights, the Democrats are not making a full throated defense of them against the Republican juggernaut.  We are going to remember who took down Rush.  It wasn’t president Obama.

By the way, if some of this diatribe about Palin sounds like something the Republican right wing nut cases are saying, it’s because even those vile mouths of Sauron have a point.  Stop being dicks, Democrats.  You’re playing right into their hands.

I’m still hopeful for a third party candidate.  The two major parties are busy talking amongst themselves and leaving the voters out of it.  They are leaving the American electorate on the table.  Some decent politician could see this as an opportunity of a lifetime and consider running as an Independent New Deal Democrat.  Think about it.

3.) When they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.  The reason why the Republicans are pulling out all of the stops over paying for women to have sex is because they are working for insurance companies.  Insurance companies do not want to have to pay for this.  They are going to pass the costs onto someone.  Are you kidding?! Did you think the CEO of United Healthcare is going to take a cut to his bonus just because some broad in Washington wants to have sex?  Please.

The argument that Democrats are making that this will actually save insurance companies money doesn’t ring true to me.  Right now, all of the women who aren’t covered by the birth control mandate are bearing the costs by themselves.  That is saving the insurance companies money.  The vast majority are already preventing unwanted pregnancy related expenses for the insurance companies.  But let’s say that the companies end up paying for some unexpected surprises.  The cost of a pregnancy is already factored into the negotiations the insurance company has made with doctors and hospitals.  There’s a flat fee for an uncomplicated delivery.  That could easily be eclipsed by 10 years of oral contraceptives.  And now, they are going to be covering millions of women that they previously didn’t have to cover.  Of course it’s a hit to their bottom line.

If the Democrats were smart, they would have adopted the message of Occupy Wall Street and associated the insurance companies with the 1%, which they are.  They are trying to make a profit at the expense of your health.  They are collecting much more in premiums than they will ever pay out to you.  It’s immoral.  They’re making money hand over fist and giving themselves huge bonuses at your expense.  It’s immoral.  They’re greedy bastards and they’re making you feel dirty for asking for something that should be your right as a premium paying individual.  It’s immoral.

But Democrats are not smart.

3.) Speaking of the morality of Occupy Wall Street, the way that Democrats participated in muting the occupy movement (temporarily) may come back to bite them in the ass.  As I have noted before, the Republicans have a moral worldview and the Democrats do not (will try to find link to my post on this.  Must make better tags.  Sigh.).  You may not like the Republicans’ worldview but there’s no question that any American you ask can explain what it is.

What the Democrats currently have is everything on the table on a slippery slope and no backstop.  Not a winning formula.  They could have let the Occupy movement build momentum and then coasted to a win on its slipstream.  They could have said, “Hey, those dirty fucking hippies have a point!  The 1% *are* greedy fucks who are destroying the American middle class.  Maybe we should redefine what it means to be successful.  Maybe we should make the system more fair and help everyone achieve their goals so that America is number one again in innovation and prosperity.  Maybe we need to treat hard working Americans with more respect and champion their free speech rights.  Maybe we should stand up with them and labor against the soul destroying corporate class. Maybe we should force bankers to be good American citizens.”

But the Democrats did none of these things.  In fact, the Democrats were ultimately behind the DHS riot police interventions and the FBI surveillance and the infiltrations.  Oh, no, you say?  Well, who the hell else is in charge of the executive branch these days?

So, you gotta ask yourself, why is it that the Democrats would be more willing to engage in a strategy to enforce learned helplessness in anyone who wants to change the conversation and redirect it away from the ubiquitous Republican austerity message machine?

Who are the Democrats working for?  Hint: it’s not for you.

4.) Greg Smith, formerly of Goldman Sachs, now joins the ranks of the unemployed, possibly forever, after he immolated himself on the Op/Ed page of the NYTimes.  I hope he has a stash to fall back on.

I believe Smith.  I think he was what he says he was and do not question his descriptions of business as usual in the hallways of Goldman Sachs.  Let’s not forget that Jon Corzine was once a top executive at Goldman Sachs and look what wonders he did for the muppet investors of M. F. Global.  Or the Democratic base for that matter.  He has a habit of taking what is not his and giving it away to the undeserving.

Anyway, lest any of us in the pharma research forget, it was Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan who coordinated the merger mania that lead to Pharmageddon and all of the jobs we have lost in the past several years.  They do not care that what they are doing to the research industry is destroying it and is going to result in a vastly reduced portfolio of new drug therapies in the future.  All that is important is extracting the last bits of wealth from these ailing industries for the big shareholders and gigantic bonuses for themselves.  The ruined lives and careers that are left in the wake of these restructurings and mergers do not matter to them at all.  We’re losers, muppets and carrion.

This is not going to stop as long as executives are rewarded for short term planning.  It’s really not their fault that they behave the way they do.  It’s what they get paid for.  When we stop rewarding them for it, they’ll stop destroying us and not a second before.  It is stupid and foolish to expect them to act like decent human beings when they don’t have to.

So, what are Democrats planning to do to make sure the incentives are directed towards long term investment and prudent risk and financial stability?  Fuck if I know.

5.) Last but not least, I was looking at the lineup for the Reason Rally and while I am impressed by the great speakers who are going to be big draws for the Humanist, Freethought, Skeptics and Atheist movement, I was a little disappointed to see that many of them are not American.  If the Reason Rally organizers are trying to get attention for their voting bloc, it would be a good idea to ask Dawkins to serve more as MC, rather than headliner and let the American superstars take center stage (Dan Barker, Greta Cristina, Adam Savage etc.).  Otherwise, this rally is going to backfire.  You can already see the spin the Republicans are conjuring up.  Don’t fall into their trap.  I know that the rally attendees are going to be good, hard working, patriotic Americans who want reason to prevail over superstition.  That is what you need to work with.  The last thing you want is an international lineup of eggheads, much as I like Dawkins.  You need to have speakers who can connect with their audience, who come from a genuine place in the American experience and who lead Americans to a better way.  Sort of like this guy, Jerry Dewitt, former Pentacostal-Dominionist pastor and current executive director of Recovering from Religion, who in the span of 12 minutes manages to honor Tim Tebow, Christopher Hitchens, Thanksgiving and Christmas in a genuine, uplifting, positive  and non-theistic way:

Can I get an “Amen!”?

Recovering from Religion is an organization that is helping clergy and other believers make a transition away from more oppressive religious sects.  Dewitt says he gets a lot of inquiries from conservative Christians, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses because these communities tend to isolate their members so when a believer tries to get out, they lose much more than their religions.  They lose their families, community, sometimes their jobs, and they lose their identities.  Dewitt calls it “identity suicide”.  It’s a hard transition to make but people of good conscience who can no longer bear living a lie need a place to go where they will find acceptance and help.  Imagine Jinger Duggar trying to escape her captors and looking for a safe mental haven.  That’s what Dewitt is trying to provide.  So, if you are looking for a place to make a charitable contribution this year, consider donating to Recovering from Religion.  For every person who comes out of the spell, there is one more American who can help set the country back on the right track.  I think this is a mission that is worthy of our support and may even cough up a few bucks myself from income tax return.

By the way, I am astonished by the number of freethought meetings and organizations there are in the reddest states of the union.  I’m talking about Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Nebraska.  These people are very active and they are posting their meetings and media podcasts all over youtube.  Here in NJ?  Ehhhhh, not so much.  I guess that’s because New Jerseyans already feel comfortable as godless heathens and don’t feel the need to organize. I think they’re wrong.  The suburbs of central Jersey are sometimes indistinguishable from the bible belt.

Friday: The Stupid Continues

More fallout from the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to kowtow to it’s noisy but small group of elderly ultra religious social conservatives (whose numbers are shrinking at an alarming rate) and drop funding to Planned Parenthood.  This bit from John Raffaelli, a board member, sums up just how smug the social conservatives have gotten:

Her comments directly contradicted those of John D. Raffaelli, a Komen board member and Washington lobbyist, who told The New York Times on Wednesday that Komen made the changes to its grant-making process specifically to end its relationship with Planned Parenthood. Mr. Raffaelli said that Komen had become increasingly worried that an investigation of Planned Parenthood by Representative Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida, would damage Komen’s credibility with donors.

Komen gave Planned Parenthood $700,000 last year — a tiny portion of its $93 million in grants — to finance 19 separate programs. A growing number of religious organizations had become concerned that donations to Komen would benefit Planned Parenthood and had advised members not to give to Komen. Rather than risk offending some donors with a relatively small portfolio of grants, Komen decided to largely cut off Planned Parenthood, Mr. Raffaelli said.

To Planned Parenthood, that decision amounted to a betrayal of the organizations’ shared goal of saving lives through breast screening programs. Ms. Richards, Planned Parenthood’s president, said her organization was gratified by the support the controversy has brought.

“We provide care to one in five women in America, and over the last two days it seems we’ve heard from every one of them, through Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and all sorts of ways, “ Ms. Richards said. “It’s a true show of women standing for women.”

Over 30 years, Komen became one of the most successful disease advocacy organizations in the world by making pink ribbons and the fight against breast cancer as prevalent a symbol here as baseball and apple pie.

Avoiding this kind of controversy was the very reason Komen chose a quiet ending to its relationship with Planned Parenthood, Mr. Raffaelli said. And he said Komen was bitterly disappointed that Planned Parenthood was using Komen’s decision to raise money.

Notice what is really outraging the board at Komen.  It’s not that they haven’t cured breast cancer or spared one woman the pain of losing her breasts or life.  No, the outrage is that Planned Parenthood is benefitting from the Komen’s ill-advised, boneheaded decision.  How dare Planned Parenthood not take defeat humbly?!  Don’t they realize that the most powerful breast cancer organization in the world has just given them orders to drop their abortion services or suffer the consequences?  Doesn’t Planned Parenthood recognize shame when it is shoved in its face?  Who do these (slightly soiled and socially unacceptable) people think they are by assuming they can raise money for their filthy deeds?

I think we can deduce the kind of people Komen mingles with.  They’re not the kind of people who would ever need to visit Planned Parenthood.  They’re the kind of people who see the breast cancer screening activities of Planned Parenthood as a small auxilliary activity of their pro abortion empire.  They’ve never been a poor college student or working class woman or even middle class woman with a gap in her health insurance coverage.  It is inconceivable why anyone would want to contribute money to THAT GROUP.  In their minds, and the minds of their friends, Planned Parenthood has a reputation that is roughly equivalent of a crack den or a massage parlor.  I think Komen is just now waking up to the fact that millions and millions of American women do not see it that way at all.  This is what happens when growing income inequality separates the moneyed from everyone else.  They just have no idea how the other 99% live.

Sadly, I know exactly the kind of people Komen is trying to appeal to.  I’ve had dinner with these people.  Some of them are pretty well off and are otherwise kind and generous.  They just have this weakness where social issues are concerned and a blind spot about who actually uses services like Planned Parenthood.  Their obsession with homosexuality and abortion tears churches apart and their wealth gives them the power to withhold their money from any organization that does even one teensy tiny thing they don’t approve of.

Komen should have held firm and told these people to back off.  If preventing breast cancer is the goal, all of the money in the world won’t work unless it is put in the hands of the people who can actually detect and prevent breast cancer.  There’s no point sitting on a pile of cash if you don’t intend to use it.

Which brings me to my next item…

Astra-Zeneca announced the layoffs of 7700 people yesterday.  AZ is closing their site in Montreal, Canada.  Pharmageddon is hitting Montreal pretty hard, which makes me more than a little concerned for one of my favorite Canadian computational chemistry vendors.  I wonder how long they can survive in this environment and am hoping they are working on a new business model.

Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline covered the Astra-Zeneca layoffs yesterday and discovered this little nugget:

And AZ seems to be all but getting out of pain/CNS, cutting down to a few dozen people who will do external collaborations. Oh, and they’re buying back 4.5 billion dollars worth of stock, instead of spending that money on what the company tries to make a profit on. So there is that. If you’d like to hear AZ tell you how all this is making them more productive, here’s the press release.

Yes, you read that right, AZ is destroying the careers of almost 8000 scientists and support staff so that they can buy back stock.  Just concentrate that wealth even further.  Don’t dilute it.  And you know, I’m all for it.  I hope my 401K isn’t invested in AZ stock because the company isn’t going to grow any time soon.

Derek has a new post up today about AZ in Waltham, MA.  It looks like the shadow man is hanging over that site as well and AZ is playing the same game that Pfizer and other pharmas have done to their staffs:

Pfizer has done this to their people before, as have other companies in the throes of layoffs, and it’s the only way I know to actually push morale and productivity down even further in such a situation. You come to work for weeks, for months, not knowing if your, your lab, or your whole department is heading for the chopping block. All you’re sure of is that someone is. And will your own stellar performance persuade upper management to keep you, when the time comes? Not likely, under these conditions – it’ll more likely be the sort of thing where they draw lines through whole areas. Your fate, most people feel at these times, is not in your own hands. A less motivating environment couldn’t be engineered on purpose.

But that’s what AZ’s management has chosen to do at their largest research site in North America. I hope that they enjoy the results. But then (and more on this later), these are the people who have chosen to spend billions buying back their own stock rather than put it into research in the first place. It’s not like the score isn’t already up there on the big screen for everyone to see.

Been there.  Done that.  The shadow man hung over our site for about 2 years.  I don’t know what made us think the company would spare us.  In the final months before we were laid off, the lights were dimmed, the labs rearranged, whole departments were abandoned, their gleaming robotics collecting dust.  The hallways were darkened and we navigated our carts down allies cluttered with discarded lab equipment.  Chemists roamed the corridors with pale skin and dark circles under their eyes from lack of sleep, like zombies, with slowed gaits and unfixed gazes, turning inwards towards some bleak vision of the future.  No, I am not exaggerating.  My lab partner and I were so busy we hardly noticed the change around us until we met one of the living dead chemists in the hallway.  We were so caught up in our own research and making such good progress that we had no idea that we would be the first to go.  And no, it didn’t matter that our work was stellar or had gotten praise or that we had gotten Christmas bonuses for outstanding performance.  When the cut came, we were stunned.  But an email from the corporate guys up the street let us know that because our jobs were sacrificed, the company had met and exceeded its quarterly projections.  That was supposed to make us feel better.

There should be a law about sending out tasteless and painful email like that to employees you still want to work for you for four more months.  But it’s almost like the MBAs didn’t know we existed or that we had feelings and children we had to break the news to.  I understand that the AZ folks have been fully informed of the stock buy back program and must be feeling really peachy about it now.  Waltham folks should get their affairs in order.  When you start to work under the shadow man, your site’s days are numbered.

And here’s a little dark comedy production put together by a pharma chemist with YouTube handle ZombieSymmetry.  This is what passes for pharmaceutical research in this country these days.  It is trickle down Wharton MBA:

This is EXACTLY the kind of crap we had to put up with. And this:

I realize there are some smug and resentful liberal types out there reading this who have zero sympathy for pharma workers. Personally, I think you’re lacking a compassion component to your personality or are letting your political dogma interfere with your understanding of a crucial component of your country’s research infrastructure. I won’t call you stupid because that wouldn’t be nice because that wouldn’t be true. But your attitude is incredibly naive.

Pharmageddon should matter to you and you should see it as an opportunity to rejigger pharmaceutical research to work for YOU and not the small evil group that runs everything and to which no one we know belongs. Right now, the research community needs you to grow a clue and help them so they can help you. Without them, you are going to face rising costs in generic drugs and will become reliant on China for any new drugs that get discovered. Is that what you want??

Didn’t think so. Now, grab onto the research that is slipping away and pull hard.

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In case the politicians start singing about green shoots being just around the corner in yet another recovery summer, here is more evidence that it’s not happening in the pharma/biotech sector where the workers with the best educations are.  This layoff list is from FiercePharma and is just from *this year*.  We’re only three days into February and this is what we’re looking at:

If I were a politician in NJ, NY, PA, CT, MA or CA, I’d be shitting bricks right now.  The loss of highly paid, technical and biotech jobs has been enormous and we know that politicians have been sticking their fingers in their ears singing “la-la-la”.  Democrats haven’t done a damn thing to stop the job losses.  They have allowed the grasshoppers to hollow out these companies and take everything for themselves.  We’re left fending for ourselves in an environment when money for research is scarce and vulture capitalists are waiting to swoop down and take advantage of any new discoveries we can find from working our asses off.

Everyone will pay for this with higher drug costs, and fewer new and safer discoveries.  What has been allowed to happen is criminal.  Don’t expect us to reward incumbents with our votes.

Tuesday: The state of science

Staph Aureas colonies growing on what looks like a blood agar plate

Guys, the state of science in this country is truly messed up.  Pharmageddon continues with the big research companies still laying off in high numbers, especially here in the US, and getting out of certain research areas. (Jeez, 2009 was a very bad year for US scientists.  58,000+ of us let go in an industry where hiring freezes have been the norm for over a decade.) Some of those research areas might be important to you even if you don’t know it right now.

For example, did you ever wonder how your great grandparents coped without antibiotics?  We’re only a couple of generations away from the dark ages when unchecked infections lead to gangrene and amputation, sepsis and death.  But have you ever wondered how little it would take to get that whole ball rolling?  Well, here’s one modern account that should chill you to the bone.

Meet Lucy Eades, youtuber extraordinaire.  Lucy has been documenting her family’s evolution in intimate detail for several years now.  Lucy and I have wildly dissimilar lives.  She’s young, blond, pretty and busy with three children under the age of five.  She’s into homebirths, cloth diapers and attachment parenting.  I like dropping in on her channel because it’s like watching a documentary on some exotic culture I will never visit.

Last November, just after Thanksgiving, her daughter Jacelyn scratched herself below the waistband of her underwear.    No biggie, right?  Wrong:

The day after on Saturday she asked why it was so itchy as she was trying to find comfort while rubbing & scratching at it. I talked to her about how wounds can itch as it heals & it’s best not to touch because any open wound could become infected & that would result in an ouchie…more so in kid friendly terms.

Sunday she pointed the area saying it hurt & upon inspection I noticed a pimple. Not sure if it was a pimple or not, ant bite, or what, but a small pimple look alike bump that hurt. Nothing more.

Monday morning after she woke we immediately looked it over & noticed a small black dot in the middle of it. Aside from that nothing else had changed. We were thinking maybe a spider bite? Never know when you stay in a hotel. Called the Dr and we brought her in later that day during one of their open “sick” appointment time frames. Dr said it could be staph, we’ll keep an eye on it. Since we had just battled staph (what 2 weeks ago? if that?) that it was a likely that even if it wasn’t staph it could turn to staph. She prescribed us some oral & topical antibiotics and gave us instructions for hibiclens, etc. for if we needed to use them eventually we wouldn’t have to bring her back in & expose her to more winter illnesses being passed around. She was fine at this point. Nothing hurt, we went about our day.

Tuesday-Wednesday is when my memory starts to fail me. At some point she becomes uncomfortable & it’s confirmed staph. We were told staph is on every surface every person & we naturally have it on our skin because of this.Some are effected while others are not. Some people with open wounds are more susceptible to staph than others for no known reason. Jacelyn is one I guess. We go fill the script at the pharmacy on Wednesday and resort back to warm soaks in the tub & attempting to squeeze out the infection with no success. Dr office swapped patient information & called in wrong prescriptions. We received anti-fungal meds.

Thursday we call the Dr office back still trying to get the right meds & to inform them that the infection appeared to be spreading. She had a fever, her hip/leg hurt, & it was no longer draining the way it should resulting in a massive hard rock like lump. Her skin was even starting to look raw in that area. They said she needed the antibiotics for a while & it would help. That evening I told Joel I wasn’t comfortable with the situation & I was taking her to the children’s hospital.

It was officially Friday by the time we arrived here (still here). She was running a 102 fever at arrival. They set up the IV’s & talked about procedure in depth with me. They had to sedate her using three different types of medicine. We talked about all our options, pros, cons, side effects, etc. The whole works. I apologized for being annoying but told him I wanted to be as informed in this process as I could be.

In walks 2 nurses, the Dr, a medic & 2 other employees. This goes from being scary to serious feeling. It was like one those ER episodes where 50 rush in the room all doing something different. One dose of sedation was enough to put a grown 200+ lb guy under.

What follows is a nightmare of bad reactions to sedation, two surgeries to remove dead tissue and drain the wound, and a hospital quarantine.  Jacelyn has MRSA, Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus.  MRSA has developed resistance to standard antibiotics and some strains of MRSA are resistance to Vancomycin, which has been considered the last line of defense.  Ironically, MRSA is dangerous because of the overuse and improper use of antibiotics.  Nevertheless, you would think that the drug companies would be all over this area of research, designing new antibiotics or different approaches to combatting bacterial infections.

You would be wrong.  This is one of the therapeutic areas that big pharma can’t wait to dump, along with reproductive health and central nervous system (CNS) drugs.  That’s because they’re difficult, expensive to develop, have narrow safety profiles, or, in the case of women’s reproductive health, prone to class action lawsuits.  Women have been their own worst enemies when it comes to reproductive health.  Some feminists have a tendency to see every therapeutic agent as a weapon of the patriarchy to control their bodies.  As if.  And side effects are unavoidable, although we’re getting better.  But the cost of defending what was intended to cure has become so expensive that pulling out of these areas is more cost effective than sinking more money into research.

It takes a long time and a lot of clinical trials to get a new antibiotic approved.  Not so much with oncology where the life or death nature of the disease leads to speedier approval of new drugs. And in the case of cancer treatments, there are far fewer lawsuits when the drug doesn’t work out quite as well as hoped.  Patients’ families are grateful for any extension of life.  So, that’s where pharmaceutical companies are putting their money. It’s a callous and mercenary business decision.  It wasn’t always like this but this is what results after mergers, quarterly earning mania, a quirky, capricious, anachronistic FDA and the high cost of defending lawsuits have worked their own special magic for a couple of decades.  No more research on antibiotics.  Don’t expect that big pharma will care about your staph infections or birth control after you’ve sued their asses off.

Yes, they’re greedy bastards at the top but that’s a different topic.  They weren’t always this bad.

So, sports fans, we’re getting perilously close to the days when a simple break in the skin could kill you.  Lovely.

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Katiebird sent me a link to this article about scientific publishing and plagiarism by two University of Kansas bioinformatics researchers.

In the technical world of bioinformatics, the two University of Kansas computer scientists were riding high in 2009.

Mahesh Visvanathan and Gerald Lushington published three articles with an international audience. They were invited to make a poster presentation at a conference in Sweden.

Although a lack of airfare kept them from going, their real problem wasn’t a tight travel budget — it was plagiarism.

Portions of all three of their articles had been lifted from other scientists’ work. The entire summarizing statement in their presentation had come from someone else’s journal article.

In an endeavor such as science that relies on original work and trustworthy information, plagiarism and fraud seem out of place. But misconduct is being detected with increasing frequency. And while it may be that the scientific community is just getting better at sussing out fraudsters, some scientists fear the problem is growing.

Competition among researchers has taken on a harder edge, they say. More scientists are competing for limited grant money, faculty appointments and publication in top journals. This intense rivalry makes it tempting for some to cut corners and fudge results.

The number of scientists caught committing fraud remains small, but each case can cause real harm, from wasting time and resources of other scientists who follow false leads to putting lives in jeopardy with bogus health findings.

There is a difference between the kind of plagiarism that the Research Works Act is supposedly trying to address where researchers frequently lift methods, diagrams and pictures from other papers routinely.  That’s a kind of excusable plagiarism because new work frequently is dependent on older work.  In that respect, the RWA could have a chilling effect on scientific publishing if it were rigorously enforced.  It’s quite another thing when your conclusions and whole paragraphs of explanatory text are lifted straight out of someone else’s publication.

But the pressure to publish is intense and, unfortunately, there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there who rationalize about what they’re doing.  While I can’t comment on how rife the academic world is with examples of plagiarism from other people’s publications, I suspect that the practice is alive and well in the corporate setting where the Wall Street financier’s value system has trickled down to the laboratories.  Well, you can hardly blame the more senior people for doing it or rationalizing about it later.  Their pedigree and PhD creates a field of excellent and  superior brainwaves around them that the more junior people can’t help but pick up and be influenced by even when the senior person has done little to nothing on the project.  Sort of like Lady Catherine DeBourgh in Pride and Prejudice who credits herself with a sensitive prodigy’s talent in music and would have been a great musician had she only learned to play.  Or the rationalizer’s work/family circumstances are more important than the person’s who actually did the work.  Or the rationalizer needs a green card.  Or <fill in the blank>.

If you have the power to steal a colleague’s work, the reasons for doing so aren’t hard to conjure up.  It’s your word against theirs.  With the patent lawyers sitting on publications and project data for so long, it’s easy to slap your name on a paper or patent when the actual inventor is out of the way.  All the skullduggery and credit stealing happens before the paper ever hits the journal or patent office.  Who’s going to know?  I’ve even heard that in some companies and departments credit is awarded to favorite underlings like a reward for loyalty.   Those favorites can swoop down on a project in its final stages and hog all of the years of credit to themselves at the last minute.  You’d think this would be an ethical problem requiring accountability and punishment. Not so.  It’s just the way things are done.  Not all companies operate this way but the current layoff environment makes it more common and brazen.  Yep, research is a sick business.

Well, it will all sort itself out in the end and the researchers who are left can always go into sales if they are ever exposed.

Science is baaaaaad  for you, children, Very bad.  You’ll spend years working and studying on project for which you will get no credit and end up flipping burgers at McDonald’s. Run away! Run Away!

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Susie Madrak cites a post today about how 3 female regulators’ warnings about the impending financial crisis were ignored.

Bies was a central bank board member from 2001 to 2007. Several times in the transcripts she said she was worried about the housing bubble.

Bies warned fellow board members that exotic mortgages — for instance, negative amortization loans in which balances become bigger and not smaller over time — were too dangerous for consumers.

She warned about the Wall Street-created securities backed by risky mortgages.

“I just wonder about the consumer’s ability to absorb shocks,” she said at Fed meeting in May 2006.

“The growing ingenuity in the mortgage sector is making me more nervous as we go forward in this cycle, rather than comforted that we have learned a lesson. Some of the models the banks are using clearly were built in times of falling interest rates and rising housing prices. It is not clear what may happen when either of those trends turns around.”

Later in 2006 she told Fed board members: “A lot of the private mortgages that have been securitized during the past few years really do have much more at risk than investors have been focusing on.”

Bies is an economist and was a former Tennessee banker. But the two most powerful men at the Fed and the Fed staff dismissed her concerns.

That May meeting was Ben Bernanke’s second as chairman of the Fed. He said the cooling off of the housing market was a “healthy thing.” And that “so far, we are seeing, at worst, an orderly decline in the housing market.”

In June 2006, Tim Geithner, then president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said that “we see a pretty healthy adjustment process under way. … The world economy still looks pretty robust to us.”

A Fed staff report said: “We have not seen — and don’t expect — a broad deterioration in mortgage credit quality.”

Tim Geithner, Tim Geithner… Where have I heard that name before?  No, no don’t tell me.  Let me work this out…

Tol’ja

White House vs Women: Joe Biden Does it Wrong

Obama and Women: Two views

Um, I’m glad that the rest of the blogosphere is starting to pay attention to the way womens’ expertise is ignored in the public sphere and especially by the Democratic White House and party in general.  We here at The Confluence have been covering this very thing for a couple of years now, including one post that cited the story about the female musicians who get orchestra seats after they’ve auditioned behind a screen.   Wow, that’s an old reference.  You’d have to look long and hard to find it, unless someone already found it for you in other posts, like:

The Gender Gap and Female Bodied People

Yeah, why *did* we do that?

WTF?? Another example of how Sexism costs us all

Bairly Downgrading the FDIC

There are many more on the topic.  Try keywords “Sexism Costs” or “Costs of Sexism”.  Well, it’s not like it’s plagiarism or anything.

Unless someone is going to say they invented the Plum Line Metric too.  (that would be here, and here as well) Then I will have to raise a snit.

Welcome Susie!  We will send out our complimentary new members package complete with white sheet (‘cos an accusation of racism is just around the corner) and you starter pack of hormone replacement therapy.   No, no, don’t thank us.  Most members don’t.

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