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      Prime Minister Harper pretty much confirmed it: ‘Our laws and police powers need to be strengthened’ Yup.  Never let a crisis go to waste. I’m very sad that MPs and their staff were scared, and I’m sadder that a soldier lost his life.  But one attack does not justify increasing the police state.  However, if [...]
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The NYTimes editorial fearmongering women for Obama

Maureen Dowd, one of only two females out of 12 op/ed columnists at the NYTimes

I guess the ladies will have to rescue Obama after all.  Today’s NYTimes editorial is all about those meanie Republicans who want to reinstate the Mexico City Rule and take away all our reproductive rights.

First, it should be noted that if you don’t want to lose your reproductive rights, don’t vote for downticket Republicans.  Oh, sure, there are pain in the ass anti-choice Democrats who should NEVER get another term but there are far, far more Republicans who are adamantly anti-choice.  And anti-labor.  And anti-consumer protections. And pro-neo-feudalism. And pro-war and authoritarianism.  And anti-Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  By the way, did you know that Medicare only got passed in the 60s when the number of Republicans in Congress was decreased to such an extent that they didn’t have the critical mass to obstruct it?  Yep, you can look it up.  Here’s a BBC-4 Witness segment on the birth of medicare and what it took to get it passed.

In short, just about everything Americans like had to be passed when Republicans were down for the count.  Otherwise, their method is obstruct, obstruct, obstruct.  It’s what they do.  So, if you vote for a downticket Republican or a Tea Party Republican, that’s what you’re going to get.  They’re into austerity and redistributing wealth -upwards.

Does that mean you should vote always for the Democrat?  Well, until there are more third party downticket candidates, yeah, probably.  I don’t like it either.  But for sure, voting for a downticket Republican is going to mean more austerity for YOU and not for their rich friends.  You can choose to ignore the evidence and history if you want but them’s the facts.

Second, who is in the White House makes absolutely no difference this year.  I know Democrats say that it does but there’s no evidence of that.  We’ve had 4 years of Obama and he unmasked himself during the first debate.  He doesn’t fight for Americans.  He capitulates to Republicans.  He doesn’t exercise his veto pen enough and he was quite happy to leave the Bush Conscience Rule on the books.  Oh, sure, he tweaked it but he didn’t remove it.  And in my opinion, removing it is significant.  As long as the Bush Conscience Rule is around, women will never be sure that their reproductive decisions can’t be overridden by someone else.

Now, I understand why the NYTimes would be carrying Obama’s water.  It’s not that the Times is particularly liberal.  But the paper of record does tend to put a socially forward face on it’s wealth protection policies.  It doesn’t like to think of itself as backwards like the Republican bible-thumpers and who could blame it?  It’s gauche and stupid and deliberately ignorant to be a Republican supporter these days.  Sorry, Republicans, but that’s the truth.  Of course, none of that matters if you win, right?  Then you can shove your ignorance on everyone else and make them eat it and that will make you feel better.  But it means that you WILL impose austerity on everyone, including yourselves, if you vote for downticket Republicans.

But at the top of the ticket?  Makes not a damn bit of difference.  And the reason it particularly makes no difference to women is because no one has to take women seriously.  They can scream about reproductive rights until their blue in the face.  Without someone taking you seriously, you get nowhere. And in the past four years, no one has been taking women seriously.  And a lot of the blame for that can be attributed to the Democratic leadership.  They allowed a pattern of sexism to develop since 2008 that has been unprecedented.

Let’s just put aside the 2008 primaries where Obama routinely attempted to diminish his opponent by saying things like,” periodically when she’s feeling blue“* Hillary goes negative, it was Obama’s intention when he took office to make sure the jobs programs were tailored for men because he was concerned that they would feel bad if they were encouraged to go into pink professions like nursing (It’s in Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men).  And he also made the White House a “hostile working environment for women” (Anita Dunn said this in Suskind’s book)  He also ignored the advice of Christine Romer, Sheila Bair and Elizabeth Warren, each one of whom had to go through Tim Geithner to get anything done.  Tim Geithner, if I recall correctly, was one of the guys who piled on Brooksley Born, the head of the CFTC back at the end of the Clinton years who wanted to regulate derivatives.

Obama was the guy who hired Larry Summers who once famously said that women didn’t have the same intellectual capacity in math and science as men. (guys, don’t try to sugar coat this.  I’ve read the transcript and he sure as hell said that and meant exactly what he said.)

The whole atmosphere in the past four years has changed towards women.  Tell me, ladies, am I just imagining that?  Are men more likely to act like you don’t have a brain, treat you dismissively and cut you off in conversations?  I’m talking about just conversations on the phone not in person where they can’t see whether you are too old to pay attention to.  It’s gotten to the point where I’m already prepared to battle when I place a phone call.  I’ve seen it happen to women at work and just casually.  We have lost whatever mojo we fought so hard to get over the past 50 years.  No wonder the Republicans think they can run over our reproductive rights.  We don’t count anymore and there are very few champions in the Democratic party who are powerful or interested enough to stick up for us.  It would be nice if we had more women running for Congress this year as Democrats but even that is hard to find.  The Democratic leadership in Maine decided it would put their money behind a guy who wasn’t even in their party rather than run a woman from their side for the Senate seat that Olympia Snowe is vacating.

We can’t even get above 17% representation in Congress, which is one of the lowest female government representations in the developed world.  It shouldn’t be any wonder why nothing that is important to us gets passed.  We can’t get economic reforms we like, the jobs programs we like, the wars we hate to stop or protection of our social insurance programs.  No one takes anything we want seriously because we don’t have the critical mass in Congress to change anything.

We have fewer women in government than Pakistan

Voting for Obama isn’t going to change that.  In fact, the only thing that will change that is running more women for office and in order to do that, we need to get more authority. And in order to do that we need to have a greater voice in the opinion pages of the countries papers and online news sources.

And if that’s going to happen, maybe it should start with the New York Times, which has a male to female ratio of op/ed writers of 10:2.  That means that men are 5 times more likely to have their concerns represented on the New York Times editorial page every week than women.  And one of those women is Maureen Dowd whose schtick has been to pile on the women that the guys hate.  That seems to be a survival strategy. (And how did that work out, Maureen?)  I can’t think of one unambiguously feminist voice on the pages of the Washington Post or New York Times on a regular basis nor do I see any parity at all when it comes to representation.

So, if the New York Times feels so strongly about the fate of women’s reproductive rights, now would be a good time to add more women to its editorial lineup.  May I suggest dumping Douthat or Brooks?  Or both?  Then, hire someone like Digby. I’m a little tired of the Ezra Kleins, Kevin Drums and Matt Yglesias types getting all the peach positions.  It’s time for the New York Times to practice what it preaches and hire some women.

Otherwise, I can’t take it seriously.

*You know the level of sexism is bad when Andrea Mitchell notices.

Kinder Kuche Kirche

If my German is correct, that title translates to Children, Kitchen, Church.

Yesterday, in response to the very ill-conceived and short sighted WORK bill that is being proposed by progressive Democrats, of all people, I posted an article about the German proposal to do roughly the same thing.  In Germany, the government coalition is proposing to pay low income women a stipend to stay home and take care of their kids instead of spending that money on badly needed daycare.  German women are the one European female constituency that is still constrained by traditional female roles because daycare options are so few.  I advise anyone who is still suffering from the delusion that all low income women need is more money thrown at them to read this article.  It spells out in detail why other options are more effective at bringing women out of poverty, the primary cure being good quality, low cost, subsidized childcare and training programs.  And a real jobs program.

This morning, reader Pips found a link to a photoessay of 19 German women explaining why they opposed the subsidy.  You can find the link here.  If you’re using Google Chrome, the browser will automatically translate the page into English for you.

So, what does it all mean?  Well, to me, non-poli sci, non-ivy league college graduate, non-young, white male paid blogger that I am, the election strategy of both parties this year is to appeal to white men and to force women back into their traditional role. That way, they look like they’re trying to do something about unemployment when they’re really not, and they get the bonus of appealing to conservative voters.  The big stink about SAHMs vs Working Moms should have tipped you off.  Other things to consider:

1.) The US Congress consists of about 16% females.  If the right wing noise machine starts catapulting the propaganda heavily, women in Congress haven’t got a chance to hold off any legislation that will have the effect, directly or indirectly, of keeping women out of the job market.

2.) We have two presidential candidates who have SAHM wives.  This is no accident.  Michelle could have been a champion for working mothers.  Her kids do not need full time care.  Heck, they didn’t even need after school care.  BTW, when Chelsea Clinton grew up in the White House it was Bill who used to help her with her homework.  Despite the absence of a full time, stay at home mother, Chelsea managed to overcome the deprivations of her childhood and turned out ok.  But Michelle decided to hang up her hard earned law degree and stay at home- gardening.  If you haven’t asked yourself why in the past 4 years, it is never too late.

3.) Ron Suskind wrote in his book Confidence Men about the Obama White House that when he took office in 2009, Barack Obama’s first priority in the area of unemployment was to put men back to work doing manly construction type jobs.  His idea was that men needed to feel like men and being unemployed was harshing their manly mojo.  Women’s jobs?  ehhhhhh, not so much.  Yes, Naomi Wolf’s TV orgasm about Obama’s “feminism” *does* look moronic in retrospect. Why do you ask?

4.) Women’s organizations are nowhere to be found.  No rally on the mall, no occupy events, no million hoodie march.  Nada.  I have no idea what they’re up to except they seem to be a lot more concerned with gun control and marriage equality than, you know, WOMEN.

5.) In the beginning of the Great Recession, men were losing more jobs because women were still overrepresented in teaching and public sector jobs.  In the “recovery”, more women are losing their jobs and are having a much harder time getting hired again.  Again, where are women’s organizations on this?  {{crickets}}

Bottom line: This is an attack on working women.  The male politicians of both parties have unilaterally decided that they are going to champion a child, kitchen, church role for women this election cycle and you are going to go along with it because you have no place to go (they think.  BTW, if you want to vote for a real African American Socialist for president this year, Stewart Alexander is your man. Not endorsing.  Just saying, there are choices.).  If you are a woman with a degree and you have an actual career, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to advance in it because the attitude that you are shirking both your motherly duties AND your work duties is going to become more commonplace.

We should have seen this coming 4 years ago.  Thanks for nothing, guys.

Sacrificial offerings and pleasing aromas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, no, no, no, no, no

Maybe I’m just suffering from a case of confirmation bias but Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men has confirmed everything I thought about Barack Obama and then some. Im about 2/3 through the book. Here’s a quick summary:

1.) This presidency is a study in missed opportunities. At one point, 13 bankers from Wall Street’s biggest offenders list were summoned to Washington for a face to face talk with Obama. They suspected it was just a ruse to get them all in one place before they were perp walked to face charges of financial mismanagement because that’s what *they* would have done. Nope. Obama wagged is finger at them, told them he was the only thing between them and the pitchforks and had them all practice the “we’re all in this together” team cheer before they stepped out to meet reporters. The bankers were surprised that they were never punished for anything. Tim Geithner had arranged their rescue and later, one banker said he deserved a big bonus for helping out. The next time they were summoned to Washington, they were previously engaged. They had lost their fear and Obama had lost his only hold over them.

2.) Obama was warned early on that taking on healthcare reform was a risky proposition because he wouldn’t get another shot at it. He didn’t listen. They told him to come out on the offense. He didn’t listen. They told him to have a rock solid plan before he tried it. He didn’t listen. It was a fiasco.

4.) He has no managerial skills. No, really, he just doesn’t know how to force the integration of ideas that he proclaims to want. People do what they want. Some advisors act like spoiled children. Others don’t do what he tells them to do. And he ignores his female staff. He doesn’t just act like a guy. He acts like they don’t exist. He doesn’t call on them at high profile meetings and treats them like they’re part of the furniture.

5.) About that “integration” thing? It’s like a concept a freshman undergrad gets after a philosophy class. It’s like a light bulb went off in his brain and for awhile, guys who really should have known better, were attracted to it like moths to a flame. But he has no idea how to implement it or even what it means exactly. I get the feeling that some former Obama staffers now treat his inspirations with contempt.

6.) He has an “Oh, wow, I’m president! Somebody pinch me.” attitude about his presidency. It must be heady stuff. He has reached his final goal. And he attributes it in large part to what he is, Barack Obama, the first African American president and son of a dude from Kenya. That right there will be his passport to success. Anything is possible because he is a vessel for the hopes and dreams of so many. Follow through? What about it? Isn’t that what staff are for?

7.). Somewhere in a penthouse in Manhattan, there is a Dabney Colemanesque character, a shriveled, white haired king maker who gave the go ahead when his lieutenant Robert Wolf told him that Obama was a good mark. Naive, pliable, in love with himself and ruthlessly ambitious.

In short, Obama reminds me of the worst of the CEOs who run big pharma. The company has big problems. It hires some guy with connections and a cool demeanor. The MBAs get to work rearranging the deck chairs. The rank and file learn to suck up. And research makes the sacrifices. When the whole scheme doesn’t work out, they do another deck chair rearrangement and research makes some more sacrifices. After four years, the board thanks the guy with the executive hair and hires a new one. The cycle repeats.

Real change takes courage and some sense of where you want to go. It also requires an ability to think 6 moves ahead. Obama fails in every respect. He has no clue. In a sense, I feel sorry for him. He’s so not cut out for this job at this time. But he’s in the oval office because guys like Suskind himself were dazzled by their own confirmation bias. His speeches must be inspiring because Obama was hired to be inspiring. He must be brilliant or what the f#%^ is he doing in the White House?

Give the guy a break and get him out of there.

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