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“largely an insult to the intelligence of women”

That’s how Judge Korman describes the Obama administrations dogged resistance to selling Plan B over the counter without age restrictions.  By the way, did I mention that Korman is a Reagan appointee?  HHS secretary Sebelius and the justice department has requested a stay to Korman’s previous ruling on Plan B.

Korman noted:

“If a stay is granted, it will allow the bad-faith, politically motivated decision of Secretary Sebelius, who lacks any medical or scientific expertise, to prevail — thus justifiably undermining the public’s confidence in the drug approval process,”

And…

At one point in his ruling, Judge Korman notes that lawyers for the administration insist that allowing over-the-counter access to the drug for everyone while the government appeals the case would mean “uncertainty” for girls and women about whether they could get the drug.

The judge rejected that argument out of hand, saying that “this silly argument ignores the fact it is the government’s appeal from the order that sustained the judgment of the commissioner of the F.D.A. that is the cause of any uncertainty, and that that appeal is taken solely to vindicate the improper conduct of the secretary and possibly for the purpose of further delaying greater access to emergency contraceptives for purely political reasons.”

He also rejected the government’s argument that women might be confused about the drug’s availability if it was made available to everyone without a prescription and then later restricted because the government won its appeal.

Yep, that’s pretty insulting.

Want to know what else is insulting?

Pimping Lily Ledbetter as if real women in the real working world don’t already know that the Ledbetter law doesn’t give them paycheck fairness nor keeps the target off their backs if they ask Human Resources for salary comparison information.

Bowing to anti-abortion congressmen in order to pass an ill-conceived, labyrinthine, insurance industry friendly healthcare law.

Bending over backwards to kiss the asses of a 2000 year old boys club where all the members wear red beanies in order to enforce anachronistic traditions about the nature of women and forced motherhood.

Concentrating all of the administration’s skimpy job creation policies on manly construction projects because otherwise, American mens’ masculinity and egos might be threatened. (See Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men)

Making the White House a hostile working environment for female advisors. (same book)

Two campaigns’ worth of consultants, surrogates and paid bloggers flogging fear, uncertainty and dread over the Republicans taking away our reproductive freedom while the real actors in that scheme were the old boys club of the Democratic party arranging things to their satisfaction in smoke filled rooms.

In a way, I’m not surprised the Obama administration thinks it can get away with insulting the intelligence of women.  It’s worked so well for them this far.  Young women flocked to them in droves after the crazy shit Republicans did in the past several years.  But you’d have to be really stupid to not notice that the Democrats did nothing for women since Obama took office except continue to capitulate to the neanderthals in this country who have largely succeeded in turning back the clock on women’s freedom.

So, while I am encouraged to find that there are judges out there who still think women have brains and that they should be encouraged to exercise them in their own interest, I’m disappointed that so few women have actually bothered to do it.  Even now, some left wing bloggers insist that there was no difference between the Democratic candidates in 2008 when it came to advocating for women.  That kind of denial of reality and history simply strains credulity.

That just encourages the Obama administration to continue to treat us like children, and they to continue to behave like Duggaresque patriarchs of daughters they have sworn to “cover” until they hand us off to our husbands.

Tuesday: Reality Check

So, does anyone believe that the red beanie boys lost their case against no-cost contraceptives in the health insurance plan because Barack Obama has a deep commitment to women’s reproductive freedom or equality?

Or does he have a problem with women and he needs to throw them *just* enough of a bone to win their votes but not enough to piss off the religious too much?

It’s the latter.

While the percentage of Democrats who describe themselves as liberal has also increased since 2000, rising ten points, the Democratic Party remains much more ideologically diverse than the G.O.P. Roughly forty per cent of Democrats call themselves “liberal,” forty per cent call themselves “moderate,” and twenty per cent call themselves “conservative.”

“Such numbers explain why liberals seem destined to perpetual disappointment in Democratic presidents, who cannot lean too far left without alienating the party’s moderate-to-conservative majority,” Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute argues in a recent report.

So, if moderates are still crucial to Obama’s election, what do they look like? Over at Third Way, Michelle Diggles and Lanae Erickson take a deep dive into the data to show that the real swing vote for Obama is a group they call Obama Independents—voters who “liked and voted for [Obama] just 3 years ago… were the most ideologically moderate segment of the electorate,” and “are true swing voters, with one-quarter voting Republican in 2010 and one-quarter voting for President Bush in 2004.” This group, which we are likely to hear a lot about in the coming months, is disproportionately young, female, and secular, and it was hit hard by the recession. One quarter of its members are non-white.

If Obama goes, so does the free Lo-Ovral.

This is the problem with politicians who do not have a coherent worldview, and Obama never has had one.  He has not made any effort to craft policy that will advance women’s equality in the workplace or the doctor’s office.  It’s not one of his goals.  Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on his.  The problem with Democrats is not that their factions are all over the place.  The problem is that they try to cater to these factions without providing a coherent vision for the future.  There is nothing that sticks Democrats together under one united idea of how the country and world should work.  So, Obama careens from one interest group to another trying to thread the needle between pissing off the religious nutcases, who do have a particular worldview, whether we like it or not, and the rest of us.  Plan B is a contraceptive too far.  Women should get a majority vote from their family and pastors before an abortion.  But contraceptives are probably ok, according to the data mining algorithm.

He’s done the same on the banker/financial sector fiasco.  Instead of developing policy and solutions based on an understanding of what is wrong with the economy and having a vision of how it should work, he has taken an ad hoc approach and tries to cut deals with each player individually.  That is more of the Teddy Roosevelt model but it leaves us open to more misbehavior by the banks because there still aren’t any rules to keep them from gambling our money away and then expecting the government to bail them out.  He should have started with the premise that it is wrong to compensate gamblers for their losses and then figure out how to prevent that from happening again.

Well, you know the rest.  Obama is pandering here to his swing voters, who happen to be moderate, secular women of childbearing age, in order to get votes.  He’s going to save them a bunch of money between now and November.  But that won’t get them better jobs or jobs at all.  It won’t prevent Walmart from subtle sexism that prevents women from getting ahead.  It won’t make measurements of workplace parameters to prevent “he said/she said” accusations about discrimination that no one will take seriously.  He’s not interested in equality.  He’s interested in getting re-elected.

No, Obama’s decision to cover contraceptives is a one time only deal.  There’s no systemic change to the culture.  He is not an agent of change.  He is an agent of Obama and women are the worse for it.

Monday: Be Good for Goodness Sake

Ok, bear with me, these things are related.  I think.

I was idly surfing the web, as I sometimes do.  You do that too, don’t you?  And I ran across a podcast on the crazy super secret handshakes and decoder rings of the Church of Latter Day Saints aka the Mormons and that lead me to a playlist of a lecture on youtube on the modern secular movement.  As it turns out, people who identify themselves as non-religious, ie secularists, atheists, freethinkers, pastafarians etc) belong to a fast growing group here in the US.  Although the official number is around 3%, the leaders of this movement think that the number of non-religious Americans is about 10%.  Revealing your atheism is still pretty risky these days so there are probably more than the surveys say.  Compare that to the population of Jews in this country, which is only around 1.5%.  I find that number incredibly low but that’s probably because I live in New Jersey.  I know a lot of Jews.  So, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think there are a lot more atheists around than we think.  In fact, I live with one who announced her atheism at 9 yrs old just before she asked if she could have another cookie.

Anyway, one of the more accesible speakers on atheism has to be Dan Barker.  Barker became a born again Christian at the age of 15 and studied to be an evangelical, fundamentalist preacher.  He preached for 19 years before his side line as a composer of Christian music took him out of his comfort zone in fundamentalism and into mainstream Christian churches.  It was all downhill from there.  Before long he was learning liberal theology and reading stuff and asking questions.  Eventually, he decided that there was no god.  In his YouTube lecture on the subject, he relates his experiences as a secretly atheist preacher in the final days of his ministry and how awkward it was.  Finally, he came clean with his friends and relatives and sent them all a letter announcing his atheism.  Some of his friends dropped him.  Others loved him anyway.  In particular, his mother, a devout Christian, started asking her own questions.  It wasn’t long before she too gave up God, with some relief.  She said, “Being an atheist is great.  I don’t have to hate anyone!”

Dan Barker’s lecture is interesting.  He has a lot to say about  fundamentalist minds and their worldview that those of you who have grown up in normal families were fortunate enough to have missed.  Both he and another leader of the secular movement, Dr. Sam Harris, confirm what I’ve been said about arguing with fundamentalists.  Don’t.  I mean, don’t bother.  Their whole reason for being is to lure you into conversations with them for the express purpose of shooting down your belief system.  They’ve got their arguments all lined up like a gatling gun.  There is no give and take in these conversations.  They are not interested in your point of view.  You may think you are debating.  You are not.  And if you are the kind of person who routinely applies reason and logic in your approach to the world, a fundamentalist is not going to impress you.  Just politely excuse yourself and go get another cocktail.  In fact, let this be a warning to fundamentalists.  Don’t get into an argument with a person who applies reason and logic in his/her approach to the world.  You’ll just be wasting your precious time. Cross them off your life list.  They’re lost causes.  Find an easier mark.

So, the Dan Barker lecture lead me to The God Debate II where Sam Harris debated William Craig on morality.  This one was good too but I found Harris’s intro speech particularly illuminating.  My tin foil antenna picked up signal about how we may have ended up with the stupid decision on Plan B.  Take a listen starting at minute mark 27.35:

For those of you who want the short summary, here it is.  Harris went to a conference and met a bioethicist who was appointed by President Obama.  The bioethicist, a woman, took Harris to task for his condemnation of the Taliban’s treatment of women.  She asked what right Americans had to condemn forcing women into burqas.  That’s what the Taliban and Afghanistan valued.  Harris countered that he didn’t think it was good for the well being of women to be stuffed into bags and to be beaten for not wearing them and that the Taliban’s treatment of women resulted in low lifespan for women as well as high illiteracy, and maternal and infant mortality.  He was surprised by her attitude so he asked how she would feel about a culture whose religion dictated that the eyes of every third child should be put out because their scriptures said, “Every third one shall walk in darkness.”  The bioethicist said it wasn’t our place to judge.  Harris was amazed at this response since earlier in that conference, he’d heard this same bioethicist give an impassioned speech on the unconstitutionality and immorality of torture in detention.

What are we to make of that and what does it have to do with Plan B?  First, it seems to me that the bioethicist has no problem accepting international and constitutional legal proscriptions regarding torture.  But when it comes to matters of religion, there seems to be a hands-off attitude because to insert oneself between another person and their god is arrogant and cultural imperialism, even if the religious act results in another form of physical torture.  It’s not the torture that is the problem, it is the context in which the torture is carried out.  As long as the torture is religious in nature, the bioethicist felt that to give offense was worse than allowing the torture to happen.

In the past couple of months, the right wing nutcases have rolled out their campaign for “religious freedom”, which, from what I can tell, means sufficiently fanatical religious people have the freedom to shove religion down your gullet whenever and wherever they want or they will have a noisy, screaming, bloody tantrum.  Their religious freedom trumps your right to be left alone.  It’s simply not enough to be able to practice their religion at home and not be persecuted for practicing their religion in a place of worship.  No, they have to be in your face, 24/7, and be able to take their religion everywhere.

And it looks like President Obama is going to let them do it and let them push the envelope as far as it will go.  Because it is OK by him for the mayors of various cities to enforce petty little laws that truncate your right to protest government in public but no one in his administration will dare to condemn you for practicing religion any damn place you please even if everyone around you finds your values abominable.  It’s simply uncouth.  One doesn’t do such things.  It’s like discussing religion and politics at Easter dinner.  Very rude.  Besides, religious people are inherently moral beings, even if what they do doesn’t seem right to the rest of us.  Who are we to judge?

So, protestors chanting “We are the 99%” and non-violently camping in a public park?  Dangerous malcontents.  Fanatically religious, viciously ugly, men and women hatefully humiliating women outside an abortion clinic?  Moral upstanding citizens.  Scared 15 yr old teenager who let nature get the best of her thinking self?  Bad little girl.  Obama administration who overruled its FDA?  Benevolent moral father figure.  What about the rest of us who aren’t religious who don’t think the administration had any right to deny our high school daughters access to Plan B?  Why do I get the feeling that the answer to that question is another question?  “Why aren’t you religious?”

Should we be asking ourselves if only religious people in this country have rights?  And do those rights include the ability to invade other people’s privacy at will?  And what does Harris’s story about Obama’s bioethicist say about how the administration will handle other issues where law and religion conflict?  According to most religions, women are subservient to their husbands and fathers.  Is this what Obama is sanctioning with his Plan B decision?  Because that’s what it sounds like to me.  So, will it be OK for men to beat their wives into submission again?  Interfere with her right to get an abortion?  Deny her birth control?  Forbid her from getting a higher education or work?  Where does Obama draw the line?  Must we always meekly defer to the religious for fear of denying their freedom for imposing some legal standards of behavior on them?

And what are we to make of the new religious freedom campaign in this environment?  I’d say the Republicans and religious crazies know just which buttons to push with President Obama.  And they will keep pushing them as long as he lets them get away with it.  It could be just a re-election strategy or it could be his own personal philosophy.  When it comes to the religious, he’s non-confrontational.  Better to just let their morality lead and get out of the way.  Is this a backdoor way of allowing for the establishment of religion?  If you can’t question the religious and you allow their morality to make your decisions, then the rest of us are involuntary participants against our own consciences.

If this is the way Obama’s administration operates, expect to see a lot more catering to the religious right in the next year.  They’ll push and he’ll cave so that he isn’t perceived as overriding their right to follow their religious moral teachings, even if it means letting every third child walk in darkness or get pregnant in high school.

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

And on the right side of the aisle, Newt Gingrich drills into the dark recesses of the authoritarian follower’s unconscious and digs up an all too real sounding modern apocalyptic scenario.  In Among Gingrich’s Passions, a Doomsday Vision, the New York Times reveals Gingrich’s warnings about EMP, electro magnetic pulse.  The scenario goes like this: some crazy axis of evil country detonates a nuclear device in a certain stratum of the atmosphere over our country, the home of the free, land of the brave, and takes down the entire electrical grid.  Suddenly, nothing electrical will work.  Your refrigerator, TV, cell phones, trains, even some cars, all dead.  The wires of the grid irretrievably destroyed all over the country, the nation plunges into a period of darkness, chaos, starvation and danger.

There was a work of fiction written about this a few years back called One Second After.  Wouldn’t you know, Gingrich wrote the introduction for it.  {{rolling eyes}} I happen to have listened to this book because it was recommended on audible.  Not knowing that it was a work of propaganda, until after the intro, I listened to about half of it before I couldn’t take it anymore.  The book was designed for middle aged guys with a hero fantasy.  Picture Rambo crossed with the protagonist from a Tom Clancy novel, except with a patriotic, moral “family values” streak.  He’s rugged and good looking and he snags the best looking babe.  He’s wise, he’s tough, he has a gift for planning, strategy and war.  He takes care of his family first and doesn’t flinch when he has to execute people who don’t follow the law he has laid down who get in his way. He has no patience with civil liberties. It’s the kind of book only your annoyingly righteous brother could love and pack away with his stash of MRE’s and survivalist gear in the basement.

I think we can see who Newt’s target demographic is.  Newt is appealing to the apocalyptic nervous Nellies who want a strong, fatherly type who will get them through the coming tribulations with hard and fast authority.  There are no shades of gray in this world.  He’ll do what he has to do to keep his country safe from dangerous entities who want to kill us in the night.  He will be vigilant, he will be patriotic, he will not be soft.  And he won’t have any patience for basic constitutional rights or charity for others.  He will put the country on a war footing.  We’ll all be twitchy just waitin’ for someone to step out of line.  (By the way, have you read what Paul Krugman wrote about what happened to Hungary?  It’s a country that Gingrich could admire.)

I did skip ahead to the end.  You’ll be happy to know that the Army does finally come to the rescue at the end and that the lights do slowly come back on.  But the country is irreparably changed by then.  Most of the population is dead from starvation or just plain killin’.  And the hero rules his roost like a not so benevolent dictator while his neighbors and recruits worship him for saving them from what surely was the end of the world.

Newt is a little bit like Walt Disney.  He’s going to make his fantasies come true and it will be one scary E- ticket ride.

Thursday: Elections have consequences (with a long digression on Jon Huntsman and research in China)

Russians protest election fraud

Vladimir Putin is accusing Hillary Clinton of inciting insurrection.  “Occupy Russia” seems to have taken to the street in protest over fraud in the last election.  Here’s what we’re talking about in case you haven’t already seen it:

Isn’t that amazing?  Looks like punch card optical scan paper ballots are the way to go.

Throngs of young Russians hit the streets in protest.  And who was to blame for this?:

MOSCOW — With opposition groups still furious over parliamentary elections that international observers said were marred by cheating, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday accused Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton of instigating protests by baselessly criticizing the vote as “dishonest and unfair” and he warned thatRussia needed to protect against “interference” by foreign governments in its internal affairs.

Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia spoke in Moscow on Thursday.

Follow@nytimesworld for international breaking news and headlines.

“I looked at the first reaction of our U.S. partners,” Mr. Putin said in remarks to political allies. “The first thing that the secretary of state did was say that they were not honest and not fair, but she had not even yet received the material from the observers.”

“She set the tone for some actors in our country and gave them a signal,” Mr. Putin continued. “They heard the signal and with the support of the U.S. State Department began active work.”

Damn, she’s good.  All she has to do is say it’s “dishonest and unfair” and the entire Russian nation answers to her call.  She’s wild and crazy.  She can’t be stopped.  I’m telling you, if she had been elected as our president, she would have bent Congress to her will, tamed the restless oceans, stopped the planet from spinning on its axis…

Huh?  Oh, she couldn’t stop the DNC from stealing (blatantly on television with no hidden cameras) the Democratic primary away from her and fraudulently awarding delegates from Michigan to a guy who wasn’t even on the ballot?  Well, at least here in the US, we’re not sneaky about our election fraud.

But if anyone would know how it feels to be on the losing end of dishonest and unfair election procedures, it would be Hillary.  So, you know, there’s that.

It’s not like elections have consequences or anything.  After all, the Democratic party loyalists have been telling us for the last three years that Obama and Clinton were indistinguishable from one another.  I’m sure Hillary’s Secretary of Health and Human Services would have overruled her FDA administrator on the sale of the Morning After Pill, just like Kathleen Sebalius did:

The statements from the two camps pretty much stick dryly to issues of whether minors are mature enough to decide such matters. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said today “there is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential,” but noted that Sebelius had disagreed. Sebelius, in a statement, writes:

“It is common knowledge that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age. If the application were approved, the product would be available, without prescription, for all girls of reproductive age.”

NPR notes that today’s decision is “likely to prolong a fight that has raged for more than eight years,” so stay tuned.

That’s like saying, “we’re not going to let young, immature females have access to this pill to prevent the them from getting pregnant because they might use it”. And restricting access to Plan B so they end up having to get abortions at their tender young ages, exposing them to a bunch of wild-eyed crazies as they run the gauntlet from the car to the door of the clinic, accomplishes *what*, exactly?  Did you know that some of those crazies take pictures of the patients as they run that gauntlet and then publish those pictures?   Well, that’ll learn’em.  Young girls have to be taught very early that there is no age that is too young to be shamed, humiliated and punished for an infraction that her boyfriend will slide away from scott free.  I guess we should thank Sebelius for affording these girls an opportunity to mature.

I smell incense and old, celibate men with red beanies in this story somewhere.  Or, maybe it’s just more campaigning.  Obama needs the anti-choice vote now, since many women in his own base have his number.  The last thing he needs is a bunch of fundagelicals occupying Walmart’s ‘over the counter’ departments.  Because then, he would have to send out the goon squads to pepperspray them and drag them off to retention facilities where they wouldn’t be able to use the bathroom for hours and hours.  And one of them might have a cell phone and know how to use the video camera.  It would only be fair.  You can’t treat religious fanatics who want to impose their authoritarian worldview on the rest of the country differently than a bunch of non-violent, regular people who are just protesting economic injustice. (go read that link, it will make your blood boil) Some of us might see it as unfair that the fanatically religious are treated with greater consideration and respect. It might start a whole new round of protests and Obama and DHS think they just nailed the lid on the last round of protests.  Better to just let the ban stand.  It’s too messy in an election year.

Hmmmm, elections, fraud, protests.

There is one bright spot this week though.  Hillary’s speech in Geneva on Gay Rights are Human Rights was very well received worldwide. Of course, her State Department has been proactive about this from the minute she took office.  If you really believe it, you need to lead by example, which she has.  But the credit for the policy goes to Obama, who invited an gay rights are *not* human rights preacher to have a prominent role in his inauguration.  Well, this is an election year and he’ll take credit from whomever he can and wherever he can get away with it.  It worked so well in 2008. Did I mention that Hillary previously gave a speech on Women’s rights are Human Rights over a decade ago?  Oh, how quickly we forget that when we have to approve a controversial pill.  Let’s remember that Obama appointed Sebelius.

Speaking of appointments, remember Jon Huntsman?  He’s the Republican that some Democrats say they could reconcile themselves to vote for.  He was appointed as ambassador to China by Barack Obama.  He’s also the wealthy scion of a family who owns a company that makes chemicals.

My tin-foil antenna are twitching.  Be patient because this is going to be long.

It started with the layoffs.  Massive layoffs.  Thousands and thousands of people in the research industry being laid off since 2008.  For example, the company I used to work for, Wyeth, was bought by Pfizer in 2008.  In 2009, Pfizer laid off the vast majority of Wyeth scientists and support staff. 19,000 jobs including every one of my former colleagues.  Gone.  Let’s not pretend that 19,000 people had poor performance reviews.  I know for a fact that most of them were very competent scientists.  A few people that filled  a need in Pfizer’s labs were retained and sent to Groton, CT, where they live in constant anxiety as Pfizer capriciously rejiggers its reorg.  But Pfizer’s is just the most notorious of the recent bunch of layoffs.  There have been many, many others.

Then there were the very clear and unmistakable signs that the pharmaceutical company CEOs and Barack Obama were scratching each other’s backs in 2009.  Maybe they couldn’t get all they wanted from the healthcare insurance reform bill, and they didn’t.  But what if they could get Obama to look the other way while they dismantled research operations in the US and shipped them to China?  Derek Lowe posted yesterday about the last holdout, Merck, finally giving in and laying off scads of scientists (reports vary from 17,000 to 34,000 worldwide with the bulk coming from the US) only to plan to open a new facility in China that will employ 600 people.  There’s a very good reason why the shareholders should look skeptically at this new arrangement but I won’t go into that now.  Suffice it to say that this all about money and not about science.

But to get to the stage where the Mercks and other big pharmas could conduct research in China, there would have to be substantial negotiations and understandings with the Chinese government because it is the entity that can make or break your intellectual property agreements.  And big pharma is all about intellectual property.  They’re so secretive with their data that they don’t even let all of the scientists see it.  It’s strictly “need to know”.  Up until now, China’s research industry has been pretty good at making knock-off drugs based on what’s already published.  It’s a whole different animal when you have to do “first to market” research all on your own with biological systems that insist on doing their own thing.  But shareholders will find out.

Anyway, I found the passage in Barack Obama’s Osawatomie speech about science and research very disturbing.  He only mentioned encouraging “young” people to go into science.  And of course, that would make sense if you think you can raise a whole generation of mini-human calculators who never sleep because they have to finish their overwhelming load of math homework.  What I can’t figure out is how they’re going to turn those kids into scientists.  In China, there’s a certain amount of coercion involved.  You get tested and the government narrows your career choices.  Here, it’s not so easy.  You can force young people to spit out the answer to what is the derivative of sin(x), but you can’t make them like it.  Yes, we have a lot of Chinese scientists here in the US and some of them are brilliant.  Some of them.  Some of them are excellent technicians.  And some of them look like they were horribly miscast.

But back to the “young people” comment in his speech.  That was a tell to the those of displaced research workers. If you listened to Obama and the rest of the “serious people”, you’d think that there was a huge shortage of scientists.  And in some respects, they would be right.  I’ve never worked at a lab that wasn’t under some kind of hiring freeze.  The last lab I worked at had many unoccupied labs and offices.  Beautiful, new facilities with state of the art hoods and workflow and lots of natural light and very few chemists.  We just didn’t hire that many.  Projects were always fighting for the chemists that we had.  This was the result of mergers and re-organizations.  If anyone is curious as to why scientists have been less productive, this is part of the reason.  In the last decade, the shortage has become severe but it’s an artificial shortage.  There are plenty of chemists around.  They’re just out of work.  The chemistry has gone to China.  The chemistry isn’t any easier and the biological systems are the same.  But the workers are cheaper there.

So, we have a generation of scientists in their prime wage earning years sitting around not doing  chemistry.  So, why all of the focus on the young?  Obama has all of the talent he will ever need, including some excellent American trained Chinese scientists, right here, right now.  Do the business leaders really have him convinced that the average American kid can be force fed math and science and then lead a monastic existence because business won’t pay for the expertise?  What planet are they on?  Water seeks the path of least resistance.  Unless our government starts restricting career choices here as well, it’s not going to happen.  I suppose you could send all of the talented kids to college for free so they graduate without debt but if you don’t provide a decent living at the end of those 4, 6, 10 years, you’ll just end up with a lot of miserable drones in the lab instead of bright, creative thinkers whose brains are working optimally because they are doing what they love and they are compensated well for doing what most Americans can’t do.

And then I saw Paul Krugman’s blog post yesterday about how at a debate he had on Tuesday night, one of his fellow debaters made a point that our country was going through an unavoidable deleveraging process:

I continue to find Carmen Reinhart’s fatalist view puzzling. She agrees with me that we’re facing a demand-side problem — but insists that this problem can’t be solved quickly, that we need to go through many years of painful deleveraging that leave millions of potentially productive workers idle.

I agree that this is probably what will happen, given the political realities. But surely this is a huge failure of policy, not something we should accept as inevitable. It’s truly bizarre, if you ask me, to say that our economy suffers from too little spending, and that nothing can or should be done to increase that spending.

I happen to agree with Krugman.  There’s no need to do this.  It’s an artificial deleveraging created by the political and business class.  With respect to the research industry, it has to be. The demand for new drugs is certainly there, even if they are ridiculously expensive in this country. If you need it, you find a way to pay for it.  The discovery of new drugs can always be done more cheaply (don’t expect the savings to be passed on to you) but it can’t be done more quickly, not in this day and age when we are learning so much about biological systems and they continue to thwart us.  And business people are all about quick turnaround.  They need something to sell.  Big pharma is going off the patent cliff en masse this year and in the next several years.  The drugs that will be turning generic were discovered in the 90’s.  And right now, as a result of very poor management and mergermania, there’s very little in the pipeline to replace them.  The MBAs can try cracking the whip on Chinese scientists but the rate limiting step is the biological system which tends to stymie the FDA approval process.  You can’t get around that.  Plus, the Chinese need to learn how to do A-Z research and that’s going to take time.  Even if they’re brilliant, learning interdisciplinary problem solving skills takes years to develop.  So, why dismantle your US research apparatus?  Once it’s gone, and the present generation of scientists goes away, you’ll be no better off than the Chinese when the fantasy horde of young American uber scientists takes over.

It seems to me that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what it takes to do research and that the policy makers have bought into this misunderstanding.  Maybe the MBAs have made presentations with lots of numbers and made it look like a facile thing.  Just up the number of eager young geeks in this country that will work for a pittance and in the meantime, they’ll drink the milkshakes of the Chinese and voile!  Drugs galore.  But to do it, they need the cooperation of the Chinese government.  And that’s where Jon Huntsman comes into the picture.

Obama appoints the scion of a chemical company, who presumably has some inkling of how his industry works since he was raised in the family business.  And off he goes to make sure that what happened to Fellowes business machinery corporation joint venture with China doesn’t happen to Merck.  Do we have any proof?  I welcome any information that readers can send me but I think we can make an educated guess based on past statements and actions of Huntsman.  For example:

Huntsman Money made in China tests Obama’s Envoy’s 2012 Hopes, which features this nugget:

Huntsman Corp.’s revenue in China surged 57 percent from 2009 to 2010 during his ambassadorship, almost two decades after its entrance there, data compiled by Bloomberg shows. Its expansion in the world’s second-largest economy offers a target for rivals when U.S. unemployment is shaping the 2012 presidential race.

China has become a bigger and bigger issue in recent elections, especially exporting jobs to China,” said John Feehery, a Republican strategist in Washington who isn’t working with any of the presidential campaigns. “If I were an opposition researcher, I would have a field day with this.”

A Republican strategist says this.  But wait!  There’s more:

This is from Huntsman’s own issues pages on his campaign website:

America’s strength lies in our creative class, our entrepreneurial spirit, and in governance wise enough to allow our great companies to compete in the international marketplace. The countries that lead in defining the new trading system will be the countries that benefit the most. If we don’t assume the mantle of leadership, our economy will be relegated to competing in a marketplace defined by our competitors.

And who would those competitors be, Jon?  The US practically owns the pharmaceutical market.

Then there’s this:

Jon Hunstman on China- in his own words:

  • On How U.S. Companies can enter the Chinese market:

“I think the first step is getting to know and understand the China market. That means investing time, and it means investing one’s self, as a manager or a corporate leader in the fact you will be doing business together.It means at some level one has to develop a lao pengyou (old friend) relationship, if you will. You’ve got to develop some level of guanxi (interpersonal relationship) as they call it, if you’re to be taken seriously in China.

This takes time and sometimes unwestern-like patience. Regardless of which product you’re looking to sell or market in China, an early step should be to develop relationships and establish yourself as a credible business representative.” (Source: China Daily’sBusiness Weekly on October 22, 2002.)

Jeez, I wonder if he put that on his resumé when he sent it to Obama.

And then:

The Trouble Lurking Offshore for Jon Huntsman

But I’m not worried about Jon Huntsman’s prospects for election.  He hasn’t achieved frontrunner status yet, one of the few Republican candidates who hasn’t.  The irony is thick because if there was ever a politician who would warm the cockles of a businessman’s heart, it would have to be Jon Huntsman.  The problem for rabid Republican voters is that he was appointed by that “socialist” Obama.  And *that*, IMHO, is a problem for Obama.

Because, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that Obama’s passivity at the prospect of losing virtually all of his US research infrastructure is intentional.  This is the policy thing that Krugman was referring to.  It doesn’t have to be this way but Obama is letting it happen on purpose.  The biz guys want to lower their costs.  They could be making a decent profit like they did in the 80s and 90s but those are not the obscene profits they have become used to in the 2000s.  They are unwilling to lower their own expectations so we must lower ours.  They tell Obama that the reason their pipelines are empty is because US scientists are stupid and lazy and he probably believes that.  If you’ve never worked in a lab, you’d have no idea how false and unfair that is.  For one thing, labrats work like dogs.  For another thing, many of those labrats are Chinese.  Many of those Chinese labrats are the cream of the crop who came to study here after Tienammen Square and have no desire to go back to China.  So, in a sense, the biz guys are undercutting their own argument.  If they already have the cream of the Chinese crop, and they still have an empty pipeline, why do they think that going to China is going to help things?  Oh, they’re cheaper there.  Oh, Ok.  Well, alright then, let’s rip research right out of America.  Oh, sure, there will be a generation that will suffer but so what?  In the big scheme of things, a hundred thousand scientists are a drop in the bucket.  The economy will never even miss them.

Well, it’s not like I’m ever going to vote for Obama.  But it won’t take too long for my friends to put it all together.  And there goes New Jersey.  Did I ever mention how we have a nasty habit of electing Republican governors here?  Reliable states are only reliable until you impoverish their middle class.  And then those people who you called voters 4 years ago get all angry at the fact that they can’t pay their COBRA and their children are on reduced price lunches and their houses are underwater and they can’t sell and they don’t turn up for you when the election rolls around.  They say, “Fuck him, he’s an incompetent opportunist that sold our jobs to China and ruined our careers.  It can’t get any worse with a Republican because we have nothing left to lose. I’m staying home on election day.”

By the way, since there is nothing in the pipelines and the older drugs are going off patent, expect the costs of generics to start spiking.  You heard it here first.

Elections have consequences.

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