• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    r u reddy on Give Democrats a piece of your…
    Mr Mike on Give Democrats a piece of your…
    paper doll on Give Democrats a piece of your…
    paper doll on Give Democrats a piece of your…
    paper doll on Give Democrats a piece of your…
    Propertius on Give Democrats a piece of your…
    katiebird on Give Democrats a piece of your…
    Mr Mike on Give Democrats a piece of your…
    Mr Mike on Give Democrats a piece of your…
    CB on Give Democrats a piece of your…
    Sweet Sue on Give Democrats a piece of your…
    r u reddy on Why Ebola spread in Dallas:…
    r u reddy on Give Democrats a piece of your…
    r u reddy on Give Democrats a piece of your…
    r u reddy on Give Democrats a piece of your…
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama big pharma Bill Clinton Chris Christie cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean Joe Biden John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Keith Olbermann Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare occupy wall street OccupyWallStreet Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Texas Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    October 2014
    S M T W T F S
    « Sep    
     1234
    567891011
    12131415161718
    19202122232425
    262728293031  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • The Technology of Violence and its effect on prosperity and freedom
        Prosperity is two things: 1) How much you can produce with your technology and social organization; 2) Who gets how much.   The second is determined by a number of factors, but the simplest is the structure of violence.  Those who aren’t good at fighting, don’t get as much of the surplus created by [...]
  • Top Posts

How MIT is going to kill scientific innovation in America

This is a quick one.

I found the blog Noahpinion as I was following a link from a silly article in The Atlantic from assistant finance professor Noah Smith at Stonybrook who thinks what the country really needs is 50 million more Asians.  Having worked with Asians I can tell you that they’re just like any other immigrant group.  Some of them are brilliant, some are average and some are highly overrated.  And just like other immigrant groups, many of them work incredibly hard when they come here.  But with so many of them laid off right now in my industry, I don’t think even they want 50 million more of them landing on our doorstep.

How would Noah Smith like it if there was another continent called Financia and, having an excess of well-trained finance specialists, they all wanted to move here and teach finance?  Not only that but because they stand out in a crowd with their blue hair, the hiring managers become fascinated with them and their well tested ability to express multivariate statistics without a calculator?  How many adjunct professors could Stonybrook absorb?  Think that over, Noah, and then, maybe you should get out more and see how the pharmaceutical industry and its hundred thousand of unemployed scientists are doing.  I think we can dispense with the notion that we’re all bad scientists because we didn’t get laid off piecemeal.  It was 19,000 at a clip.  Hardly discriminating, wouldn’t you say, Noah?  The last thing we need is more unemployed scientists who will work for peanuts.  I think there’s a finance paper in that somewhere.

Which brings me to the article that Noah discusses on his blog.  It’s about a paper written by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson about how all you really need to be a successful entrepreneur is an excess of hard work!  Go Team America!  I won’t even go into all of the details right now because it would take too long and my blood pressure wouldn’t like it.

Noah gets how faulty the reasoning is in this paper:

Given these assumptions, the result of the model is not hard to predict – when you let losers lose and winners win, innovators try harder. Not exactly a shocker, given the assumptions.
So is this model counterintuitive? I argue: No. Instead, it is intuitive. It seems to have been built using intuition, and its results confirm commonly-held beliefs about the difference between “cutthroat” and “cuddly” capitalism. So I don’t think it makes much sense for Acemoglu and Robinson to defend their research from the bloggers by saying that the purpose of academic research is to be counterintuitive.
OK, time for my second point. Mark Thoma wondered why Acemoglu, Robinson, and Verdier get the result they get. Isn’t it true that entrepreneurs have to take a lot of risk? And doesn’t that mean that social insurance, which reduces risk, should encourage entrepreneurs to take more risk, not less? How is it that Acemoglu et al.’s model avoids this effect?
Here is the answer: it’s built into the math. The authors assume that the only cost of entrepreneurship is effort. From the paper:

We assume that workers can simultaneously work as entrepreneurs (so that there is no occupational choice). This implies that each individual receives wage income in addition to income from entrepreneurship[.]

In other words, the authors have assumed away much of the risk of entrepreneurship! A failed entrepreneur gets paid exactly the same wage income as a worker who doesn’t try to be an entrepreneur at all! This automatic wage income reduces the risk of entrepreneurship substantially, and makes social insurance much less necessary for reducing risk.
How realistic is that assumption? Well, in the real world, entrepreneurs in rich countries have limited liability, and can pay themselves wages out of their start-up capital. This means that many entrepreneurs can earn a wage even as they work to start businesses. But this wage is often much less than they could have earned otherwise, and if their business fails (a statistically likely event), they will be unemployed. So the “no occupational choice” assumption probably reduces the risk of entrepreneurship, relative to the real world.
Also, the authors assume that entrepreneurs do not put up any of their own wealth as startup capital for their ventures, and they assume no heterogeneity between worker/entrepreneurs. This means that it is just as easy – and no more risky – for a poor person to start a successful company as for a rich person to do so.
So to sum up my second point, Acemoglu, Robinson, and Verdier have assumed a model in which:
  • Entrepreneurship is low-risk,
  • Rich people have no advantage over poor people when it comes to starting companies, and
  • Your probability of success depends entirely on how hard you work.
(No wonder liberals were not happy about this model, eh?)
So to combine my two points: When it comes to this kind of modeling, what you get out is pretty much what you put in. If you start off with the intuition that success is a function of how hard you work, and how hard you work is a function of how much the government will let you keep your hard-earned gains – in other words, if you start off with the intuition of pretty much every middle-aged conservative guy in America – then your model will probably spit out the result that countries face a tradeoff between redistribution and innovation…again, fitting perfectly with the intuition of pretty much every middle-aged conservative guy in America.

Pretty much.  Let me just add that the likelihood of this miraculous success coming out of the biotech world from all of the laid off scientists who don’t have the money for the start up costs to become entrepreneurs is vanishingly small.  You might be able to make this case of Silicon Valley type entrpreneurships.  In that case, coding and building new hardware are fairly predictable kinds of endeavors.  You *can* work extra hard and code yourself into exhaustion and the results of your coding depend solely on your energy level and cleverness.  You *can* design the next great iPhone device given Moore’s Law and the industrial engineers at Foxcomm who will rejigger the machines to your exacting specifications.  But this doesn’t work in biotech or pharmaceuticals because we don’t know what the f^(* we’re working with yet.

What the finance people don’t seem to get yet is that if they force the scientists into the entrepreneur environment without a safety net of any kind, they are going to get back LESS, not more innovation than they would have gotten than if they had provided us with steady salaries over a long period of time.  The problem is that it is hard to prove a negative.  There will be some innovation.  Some people will get lucky, independent of how much work they do.  Some people will have a breakthrough and it will seem miraculous.  The problem is that biology is so big and contains so many unanswered questions that the number of innovations that come out of just allowing people to work themselves to death without any visible means of support is going to be tiny compared to what the actual output could be.  And maybe that’s not important to the financiers who only want a handful of blockbuster drugs to make their billions off of.  But for patients with crippling diseases of all kinds, this period of just letting hard work be the main propulsion for innovation is going to be a tragic missed opportunity.

For some inexplicable reason probably having to do with the necessity of rationalizing why financiers and shareholders should take everything that isn’t nailed down to the detriment of everyone else’s livelihoods, the middle aged conservative is convinced that the rate limiting step when it comes to biotech is hard work.  If only those overpaid scientists would get off their fat asses and crank out more stuff or whatever it is they do in those labs, there would be more innovative discoveries to sell!  What’s really amazing is that they seem to have forgotten the billions of dollars large companies have spent on research on drugs that were never approved.  How is cutting back the research budget to zero supposed to work anyway?? One of these days, the middle aged conservative guy’s perspective is going to become discredited.  It will happen just about the time France and Germany become the world’s leaders in biotech.  While we starve the innovators, the cuddly governments will keep the fires going, allowing more innovation to happen without killing the innovators from exhaustion and bankruptcy.

Why wait?  Why not just have the government step in now and put our scientists to work?  Pay them decent salaries, put a floor beneath them so they don’t fall through it and fund research.  Sooner or later, it’s going to have to happen.  It is time for American finance people to come to terms with biological research as being a fixed cost, not a variable one and certainly not one that can do it all by itself.  Ain’t gunna happen.

Meanwhile, Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline reports on the latest casualty of the entrepreneurial biotechs:

It hasn’t been good over at Targacept. They had a big antidepressant failure a while back, and last month ended development of an ADHD drug, the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor ligand TC-5619.

They cut back staff back in the spring, and the CEO departed. Now the expected has happened: the company has apparently laid off everyone in research, and is conserving what cash it has to try to get something to the deal-making point. A sad, but familiar story in this business. . .sometimes companies come back after this point, and sometimes the event horizon turns out to have been passed.

More hard workers, probably a lot of Asians, scrambling for work on a daily basis is not a winning formula.

The sad state of journalism

I followed a link from a Jay Rosen tweet to this article in The Awl about the 2012 American Society of Magazine Editor (ASME) awards. This year, there were 25 awards and all 25 of them went to male magazine writers. There were *some* female nominees but they were vastly outnumbered by male nominees and there’s a good reason for that. Female writers don’t get the spotlight on prestigious magazines and they don’t get the plum assignments for long form journalism:

ASME doesn’t make its submissions public. They did, however, provide a glimpse into some data on what was submitted in the category of Profile Writing, one of the contested categories. Of the 86 submissions, 59 were written or co-written by men—which means 68.6 percent of submitted stories had a male author. (Thirty-six were written or co-written by women.) There was also a big imbalance in subject matter—the number of articles about men outnumbered those with female subjects by nearly a 2:1 ratio.

And for the nominations, of all given to individuals (not magazines), there were only 12 women writers out of 49 stories nominated. (One piece did not have a byline.)

One plausible explanation for this lopsidedness is that there are fewer women writing long-form journalism in general, particularly at those publications that tend to get nominated for National Magazine Awards. At the New Yorker, Harper’s, The New Republic and The Atlantic, for instance, less than thirty percent of the stories published in 2011 were written by women, according to this year’s VIDA Count, which did a gender breakdown of bylines in each magazine.

“The thing about the National Magazine awards is that the byline gap’s symptomatic of the overall problem in assigning to women,” said Ann Friedman, the executive editor of GOOD magazine. “It just sort of nicely forces a conversation that we should be having anyway.”

Magazines with mostly male editors often have more male writers in their networks, a factor that influences how many editors assign pieces. And women who write long-form pieces for the most prestigious magazines can have a hard time getting editors to connect with certain topics.

“I think that on an idea level, being a woman does work against you,” said Vanessa Grigoriadis, a National Magazine Award winner. “Because what you’re interested in is not what your editors are necessarily interested in. Right? They’re baby boomers living in Manhattan. They’re interested in something different.”

The above excerpt comes pretty close to the truth, I think. There are additional theories that what women write about in women’s magazines isn’t generally of interest to the general public, and women’s magazines don’t write long form journalism. These both ring true to me. I’m not interested in reading “ladies” topics. One of the articles that was slighted was about why more women are choosing to remain single. I think I might have even read that one but it didn’t leave a deep impression on me. I think the editors that cited this are looking at the problem with the wrong perspective. If they want to reward some women for writing topics of interest to women in a ragmag like Cosmo or Glamour, it’s easy enough to create a category for this. My fear is that as soon as its created, some editor will recommend a male writer to write for it.

I think there is a basic misunderstanding about what women want to write about. I doubt that women who want to write for well known journals are planning to write about things that only appeal to women, like some slightly more serious version of Carrie Bradshaw articles. It’s a little offensive to me to even suggest that. Women who read The Atlantic are reading it for the same reasons that male readers do.

No, what I want to read are articles on current issues of a broad general nature that are written by women. For example, Rachel Maddow’s book, Drift, could have made several great long form pieces. The same goes for Karen Ho’s book on Wall Street culture. That book beats anything I have read that was written by a male on the subject. It would make an excellent series of long form articles. Michelle Goldberg at Salon has written some award worthy articles on the dominionist movement in the US. How those articles got overlooked by ASME is a mystery to me.

Women are quite capable of writing substantial, analytical articles on current issues. That’s what I like to read. I want them to be able to compete in the same marketplace as their male colleagues and they CAN do it. I want them to get the respect they deserve for tackling tough topics with insight and brilliance and in a style that is interesting to read. So why aren’t there more female nominees?

My theory is that when push comes to shove, editors who have power and influence do not mentor women. Karen Ho, the anthropologist might have something to say about this. It may be due to the infiltration or extension of the ‘culture of smartness’. Take The Atlantic, for example. As the article above noted, less than 30% of the articles in The Atlantic are written by women. And how the hell did Matt Yglesias get a spot at Slate writing about the Mommy Wars? Jeez, it’s almost like he’s phoning it in. Why isn’t Melissa McKewn writing more biting commentary at Slate about what it’s like to be a feminist in this political environment? Was it his Ivy League degree? Connections? Sometimes, I get the feeling that journals are running a welfare program for males of a certain socioeconomic group. ‘Front Office’ positions are frequently occupied by males with pedigree or connections. How about Ezra Klein? Matt Taibbi? Ta-Nehesi Coates? Kevin Drum? These are the next generation of writers who are being mentored to be the opinion makers of the future and there are very few women among them. Women don’t get regular gigs at magazines. Maybe that’s why so many of them end up writing books. If they don’t publish in book format, the body of their work never sees the light of day.

And think of all of the really superb female bloggers who don’t get the opportunities that Kevin Drum or Ezra Klein have had dropped into their laps. Why is Digby only now getting to write occasionally for Al Jazeera? And in 2008, the best political blogger in long form was a mysterious woman from San Diego named Anglachel. Her posts on the Obama phenomenon and analysis of the history of the Democratic party were sheer genius. This was a female blogger whose mind was like a well tuned performance engine. She was very well informed and had a level of expertise in political science that easily bested most A list male bloggers. Her privacy might have had something to do with her not making the big time but how many people knew she even existed? How many people were too busy praising the milquetoast drivel of Kevin Drum? Good female commentary can bring a unique quality to journalism. The best female bloggers see an issue from a more holistic point of view. They make connections men tend to overlook and their posts are rich in metaphor.

Getting nominated for an ASME is directly proportional to getting the opportunity to write long form journalism at a magazine. If women are never considered as potential employees and protégées, they’ll never get those opportunities. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking why no one will read what women will write. Maybe we should be asking why they don’t get the assignments that would showcase their talents as writers, not just women writers.

They’re out there if only editors would bother to find them.

Before there was email…

Robert Clive sells the Indians some mortgage backed securities

Atrios had a post yesterday about an article in The Atlantic about the lying bastards mortgage executives at Bear Stearns.  As early as 2005, they knew that the mortgage backed securities they were selling were worthless, going so far as to call one of them “a sack of shit” in an email.

Surely, SURELY, this kind of careless, ruthless, greedy, fraudulent behavior is not unique to the 20th century.  But it’s hard to find a smoking email that demonstrates the crass opportunism and outright theft, resulting in a bonanza for the money makers and shit sandwiches for the little guy.

Oddly enough, at least one such piece of correspondence does exist.  Brooke brought it to my attention because the archaic language and formalities were driving her to distraction and she asked me to help her figure out what it meant.  Such innocence.  Even teenagers don’t know graft, corruption, bigotry and exploitation when they read it.

The document in question was a letter from Robert Clive (1725-1774), representative of the British East India Company.  to William Pitt, Representative of the British government.  Clive was a military guy in service to the Company who had just whupped the ass of one of the last Moghul emperors of India at the Battle of Plassey (my high school history is sketchy.  I missed this in the three high schools I went to.  Go figure.  The long and the short of it is that the Moghul emperors had gotten soft and let their viziers run things.  Although the Brits were ridiculously outnumbered, they made some local allies and overthrew the emperor.  Then, Clive started kicking the tires on the country he just won, after being confined for a century in a little corner.  He was writing to Pitt about a business opportunity.  You can go read it yourself but I will attempt to translate it into modern Wall Street financier email speak:

To: William Pitt

From: Robert Clive

Subject: Private IPO on India

Hi Bill, howz it going?  Hot as hell down here.  I know you want to be kept in the loop and you won’t believe this shit here in India.  Dude, you know I don’t lie (well, not to you) and you will not believe the market here.  I checked it out myself.

I kicked ass and took names at Plassey.  Everyone knows my name these days.  The Company is in great shape but I’m looking to the future and there’s a fortune to be made here.  I’m not shitting you.  The Company is holding things together for the moment.  I had to get them to send more guys here. But I could use your help.  I don’t think there will be any trouble and from the looks of the idiots who live here, it won’t be long before we own the whole damn country.  The local we put in charge after Plassey is a slippery dude.  He’s dicking around with his own guys.  Zero loyalty.  His kid is a son of a bitch asshole.  No one likes him.  So, we won’t need the whole fucking army.  Just a couple thousand Blackwater guys should keep things under wraps.  Can you hook me up with Eric Prince?

I don’t think the natives will go native.  (That’s a joke, son)  The Moghul dude has let the place go to Haiti.  If your stuff isn’t tied down, someone’s going to run off with it and there’s nobody running the show.  Fuck, they can steal your fucking house and there’s nothing you can do about it.  The cops are are always at the tea shop.  It’s like the fucking Wild West.  What’s theirs is theirs and what’s yours is theirs.  If you visit, make sure you GPS your laptop.  Anyway, the COO says the head honcho will go away if we can collect the money the other governors are supposed to send.  But the COO and I have come to a little agreement that the Company will pay it instead and in return we’ll govern the stupid fuckers.   What does the Company know about governing?  Shit if I know.  But look what those American idiots did when they elected that Obama guy.  I mean, what did *he* know about running a country?  But it doesn’t really matter. After the Moghul dude, we look like fucking angels.  As long as we’re the new sheriff in town and enforcing the law, we’re golden.

But the Company can’t do this alone.  That’s why I’m emailing you with this opportunity.  Can you get a meeting with your home office?  If the government wants to move in and run this show, I guarantee the Moghul won’t care as long as we continue to keep him in the manner to which he has become accustomed. (Where did I read that?  Maybe it was Pride, Prejudice and Zombies)  The rest we can split for ourselves.  The natives are sitting on a silver mine and don’t even know it.  We just help ourselves. And if the Moghul is happy, we get an exclusive.  It’s like a private IPO on India, dude.  The whole fucking subcontinent and we can totally lock out France and Holland and the rest of Europe.

The Company is chasing the Frogs out of Deccan as I’m typing this.  This is the big one, Bill.  I’m getting hard just thinking about it.  So, let me know when you can jump in.

Yadayadayada,

Bob

PS.  Send me some raw steak.  All they eat is rabbit food down here.  I’m going to puke if I have to eat another samosa.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Which periodically repeats itself.  The secret email we should be looking for was titled, “Private IPO for America” and was written some time in 2007.

Saturday: Chutzpah, pyramids and connections

Man, islands and all that rot.

I’m baaaaack!  It’s been a very busy week here in the surburban jungle of New Jersey as well as being snowy and gloomy and cold.  But next week, I’m in Sandy Eggo for a conference.  The extended forecast looks good.  Temps in the 60’s seem positively balmy.  I might even ditch my jacket.

But first, I wanted to go over a little something I read in The Atlantic article on The Rise of the Global Elite.  These guys have chutzpah.  Now, before we go any further, there’s nothing wrong with striking it rich.  If you have a good idea and you can make oodles of money off of it, go for it.  But if you do it here in America, you need to remember that Americans made it possible.  All of those people who pay taxes to make sure that there are standards and infrastructure and a well-educated workforce and a “classless” society that means you don’t have to kiss some poobah’s ass or spend the rest of your life as a downstairs maid even if you have the secret to the next killer app, made it relatively easy for you.

So, I was particularly apalled to read this:

The good news—and the bad news—for America is that the nation’s own super-elite is rapidly adjusting to this more global perspective. The U.S.-based CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds told me that his firm’s investment committee often discusses the question of who wins and who loses in today’s economy. In a recent internal debate, he said, one of his senior colleagues had argued that the hollowing-out of the American middle class didn’t really matter. “His point was that if the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that’s not such a bad trade,” the CEO recalled.

I heard a similar sentiment from the Taiwanese-born, 30-something CFO of a U.S. Internet company. A gentle, unpretentious man who went from public school to Harvard, he’s nonetheless not terribly sympathetic to the complaints of the American middle class. “We demand a higher paycheck than the rest of the world,” he told me. “So if you’re going to demand 10 times the paycheck, you need to deliver 10 times the value. It sounds harsh, but maybe people in the middle class need to decide to take a pay cut.”

Really?  What planet is this guy on anyway?  Does he know that when the typical American starts working, he/she gets a measly 2 weeks of vacation- prorated?  Two frickin’ weeks.  You have to work 5 years before you get that measly third week.  I work for an international company and even though our European cousins work differently and are always on task when they are at work, I have slowly come to the realization that they are not more productive than Americans.  But for some reason, Mr. Taiwanese Born Rich Guy isn’t picking on them and their 2 months of vacation a year and nice life affirming salaries or the fact that many European workers are covered by unions that make it nearly impossible to lay them off, even if the work goes elsewhere and there’s nothing for them to do.  They still get paid and no one is asking them to give up their middle class lifestyles.  Only Americans are.  If anything, Mr. Taiwanese Born Global Elite’s comment says more about Americans’ vulnerability to Reaganesque ‘rugged individualism’ messaging and failure to protect themselves.

Personally, I think workers need a bit of stress in their environments to keep them pushing forward and to prevent them from sliding into inertia.  But the stress levels of the American worker “goes up to 11″ these days.  We are very, very busy.  Eight hour days are a thing of the past.  There are fewer of us doing the work of more people.  If we could be there 24/7, which the middle level MBA beancounters seem to want these days, maybe we could catch up.  So, just how much *MORE* work would be acceptable to these people?  10X harder is physically and mentally impossible.  That’s not to say that there aren’t slackers who always seem to evade the lay off ax (and if anyone wants names…), but my experience, and those of my friends and former colleagues is that you can be extremely good at what you do and work your skinny little ass off and *still* get laid off.  The MBAs who make these decisions rarely look further than the next quarterly earnings.  Meanwhile, the outsourcing scheme doesn’t always work out so well and adds to the work of the people left behind in the states.

The problem is not that Americans don’t work hard enough or get paid too much.  If anything, wages have been pretty much stagnant since the 70’s, when adjusted for inflation.  Anyone who doubts that should see Elizabeth Warren’s youtube lecture on the collapse of the middle class where the result of the clamp down on wages is displayed in all of its miserly, stingy, mean spirited glory.  Many of us are one paycheck from insolvency, even with both parents working.  How much more of our paychecks should we sacrifice to make Mr Taiwanese Born Global Elite happy?  The problem is that our global overlords have no appreciation for the work that is done.  Or that in the case of those who have made money from technology, the body of knowledge is added to painstakingly over time by thousands of people until some young nerdy asshole comes along, reads the right papers or documentation, and makes some breakthrough discovery.  Maybe they need to sit down for an afternoon of James Burke’s Connections.

The point is, these people are sitting on top of pyramids, not just economically but in every other sense as well.  Under them are millions and millions of people both present and past who have made it possible for the global elite to have a Eureka! moment and cash in big.  That flash of insight could happen to any of us but it *won’t* happen nearly as frequently in the future if the global elite forget from whence they came.  It takes infrastructure, open and flatter societies, and communication with people who have crucial information.  That last part is something different that what Julian Assange envisions.  Innovation is much harder to do when information is locked down by entities protecting their data.  Information is power but proprietary information can be constipating.  So, what I’m getting from The Atlantic article is not that the global elite are critical of how much Americans are producing.  It’s that they are too wrapped up in themselves to understand that they are killing the global goose by cornering the market for themselves.  If they were really concerned that Americans were not producing enough, they might be more diligent about making sure that we have the broadband speed of Korea and not Romania.

But that would mean paying more in taxes and being accountable to their country and acting like citizens and we have seen that they are not willing to do any of those things.  So, we must conclude that they aren’t really serious about what they perceive to be Americans parasitical attachment to eating three squares a day and keeping a roof over their heads.  They just want it all for themselves.  Where’s that Malthusian catastrophe when you need one?

Moving on:

Also in The Atlantic, James Fallows is still concerned with the optics of Juan Williams firing from NPR.  For the record, I’m not at all concerned.  I was a long time listener to NPR, which *used* to have a very high reputation for quality journalism.  When Juan came on board, I noticed a distinct turn to more of the “he said/she said, we must present all sides of the story equally” type of journalism that I loathed in other media outlets.  I got so sick of listening to it that I stopped listening altogether and don’t donate anymore.  Yep, there probably are PC police at NPR whose minds are so wide open their brains have fallen out but, oddly enough, Ellen Weiss had retained enough gray matter to do the right thing in Juan’s case.  Williams has totally shown his colors.  He fits right in at Fox where pandering for profit is de rigeur.  Fallows can stop wringing his hands.  Maybe The Atlantic readers were sympathetic to Williams but there were a lot of former NPR listeners around here who were more than happy to see him go.  Fallows needs to get out and mingle more with people with higher standards.

In medicine, those of you parents out there who have decided not to vaccinate your children against measles, mumps and rubella can stop worrying unnecessarily. The whole scare was an elaborate fraud perpetrated by an unethical doctor in England who was being paid by a lawfirm to drum up business.

A 1998 study, that linked the MMR vaccine to autism, has been found to be false.

The investigation published in the British Medical Journal by Brian Deer lays out in detail, how the paper published in 1998 by British surgeon Andrew Wakefield, linking the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism was a deliberate fraud.

According to the investigation, a law firm that hoped to sue the vaccine manufacturers hired Wakefield. The law firm wanted Wakefield to provide scientific evidence that vaccines caused autism. Wakefield received roughly $750,000 for his efforts.

[...]

The analysis found that despite the claim in Wakefield’s paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, that in fact, the children’s medical records show that some clearly had symptoms of developmental problems long before getting their shots, BMJ says. Several had no autism diagnosis at all.

I read the BMJ articles (you may need a subscription) and the whole scam is a doozy.  Nothing but lies and falsified documents from the very beginning.  Some of the children profiled had development issues noticed months before the vaccination and at least one had a genetic defect that caused facial deformities that were recorded by pediatricians shortly after birth.

(For those of you who still cling to the notion that vaccinating your children is inherently dangerous, give it up already.  There’s not one single argument against innoculation that isn’t full of holes, from the autism link to the thimerosol thing to the “vaccine makers are trying to make money”.)

But, hey, where there’s money to be made, it’s OK to panic the developed world’s parents to stop innoculating their kids, put other kids at risk and break down herd immunity exposing adults to chicken pox, mumps and whooping cough.  It wasn’t personal.  It was only business. Way to go.

Do it yourself cremation-do not try this at home or buying a dilapidated chateau in France will make you crazy:

The village mayor, Pierre Sourdain, a farmer, says he liked Robert and Joanne Hall very much. All the villagers say the same: they were impressive, charming, self-possessed. (Saying that, the people in the village speak no English and Robert Hall – despite living here for 10 years – never learned French.) For years the Halls had been trying to get an ambitious golf project off the ground. They wanted to turn the chateau into an 18-hole golf resort with holiday cottages. That’s presumably what the file resting on the chair was all about, Mayor Sourdain says.

“It would have happened, too,” he says. “They would have made it happen. That’s the kind of man Robert Hall was.” He pauses and says, wistfully, “It would have been so good for the region.” There’s a short silence. Then he says, less confidently, “I’m sure it would have happened.”

On the evening of 4 September, Sourdain got a call from the gendarmes – something had happened at the château. It is a French custom for the gendarmes to call the mayor, as the representative of the people, to the scene of a crime or a terrible accident. He arrived to see the oldest son, Christopher, 22, with the gendarmes as they stood in protective suits breaking up a big block of concrete. Robert Hall was inside the house, crying.

[...]

Robert Hall had told the gendarmes that 24 hours earlier he’d had a drunken argument with Joanne during which she accidently fell, hit her head, and died. Then, during the hours that followed, he set her body on fire, put her remains into a builder’s bag, poured in concrete and hauled it on to the back of a lorry. All this happened behind the house, near the back gate, next to a row of half-built holiday cottages.

[...]

Catherine Denis, from the prosecutor’s office in Rennes, told a press conference later that week that when the gendarmes asked Robert why he burned Joanne’s body and encased her remains in concrete, he explained that she’d always said she wanted to be cremated and laid to rest in a mausoleum and he was simply respecting her wishes, albeit in a somewhat informal way.

The BFF is siding with the husband and says he was only carrying out his wife’s wishes, er, should she ever fall and die accidentally.  Something to think about when you write that prenup.

Just posted on Twitter, video of a girl arrested at a Metro station.  It’s hard to tell what it is that she did that provoked this kind of response.  It looks like she had an argument with a cop, he told her to leave, she said something rude as she turned around to go and he tackled her.  I gotta say that it looks very bad when a big strong guy is pinning a girl to the ground and her dress is hiked up above her pants and she’s struggling in vain to cover her butt and all the asshole dude can say is “Stop resisting”.  It is apparently now a crime to try to preserve your modesty.

And now for something completely different:

Bohemian Rhapsody for Four Violins.  (The global elite dudes would probably argue that the chinese can do this with half a violinist)

Thursday: Just get it done

Just Get It Done!

Those of us who live in the corporate world by day are coming to the slow realization that getting anything done in the era of outsourcing is becoming next to impossible.  The functions we once depended on are now being performed by mysterious outside groups who offer an off the shelf service that is not tailored to our specific needs or are so hobbled by the need to keep information secret that they can’t help us without contacting an inside third party or complicated by the redirection to new training requirements that must take place before we are able to perform an operation that used to take seconds but will now take hours.  We are scolded by snippy business types who can not possibly fathom why the people in R&D have not wasted hours and hours of our time to master the arcane minutiae and non-intuitive “user” interfaces for their business units, as if there were no other task more important.  Contractors are former employees hired back at vastly reduced salaries with concomittantly vastly reduced incentive for extending themselves even one nanometer outside of the tortured definition of services to help us with our problem or are disembodied voices with southern accents (I’m guessing Georgia) who do not make the effort to contact us at home during Christmas break to tell us our credit card info in our personal profiles (that THEY entered) is incorrect and the flight we thought we booked is now $800 over budget.  (Thank you very much, Billy Bob)

So much for cost saving measures.  Look guys, we don’t have time for this crap.  Just get it done.

The same goes for Congress.  I am getting tired trying to figure out what version of Kabuki theatre we are playing today.  Are the Republicans going to spend the next two years on focus grouped cultural issues because they know their base voters are senior citizens on limited incomes who watch Fox, are not employed and grew up in an era when women’s lives were constricted, gays were still in the closet and communities were as homogenous as vanilla milkshakes or are they going to block any measure to help regular Americans get back to work so they can blame Obama for the poor economy in 2012? (I’m guessing both)  Are the Democrats going let Republicans hang themselves and concede every mean spirited measure to them so Republicans can take the blame in 2012?  Is anyone going to step up and take responsibility for anything or are they are in it together to force some shock doctrine austerity plan on us so that the small evil group without any national fealty to whom they report doesn’t have to cough up any more money of their own?

In case you weren’t paying attention to the voters in 2006, 2008, 2010, we are losing our patience.  That doesn’t mean we are all panicking.  It means we don’t have time for this crap.  It makes us peevish and unpredictable. If you panic us, you may get something you did not expect. But don’t think we aren’t paying attention to who is doing what to whom.  We see the faux drama and we see the results and we are not amused.  You congresspersons are supposed to report to US, the citizens of the United States, not Dubai or the Caymen Islands.  Quit screwing around and get it done.

In the news:

The readers of the Washington Post were paying attention yesterday when the Post put up a poll asking readers to rate issues they wanted the new Congress to tackle and “jobs” was not among them.  Nor were several other issues like bringing the financial industry to heel or fixing the mortgage crisis.  You know, stuff that the average hard working American, who does not live in the swank suburbs around the beltway, actually cares about.  Eventually, in response to the pages and pages of comments in protest, WaPo relented and added Jobs but did not reset the poll results so the numbers were skewed.  The Republican talking points continued to nest at the top.  Way to go, guys.  “Non scientific poll” indeed.

Obama is replacing Rahm Emannuel with William Daley, who is currently employed by J. P. Morgan Chase.  Because having Rahm beating up the left on a daily basis wasn’t enough?  I only ask.

{{sigh}}

Natasha Chart pointed me in the direction of this American Prospect post that in turn refers me to an article in the Atlantic about how the wealthy see the rest of us wage slaves.  (Hmmm, Global Elites should really be issued their own passports identifying them as not citizens of any country and therefore not entitled to any country’s protections.  Sounds like a fair deal to me in exchange for disenheriting American children born to illegal housekeepers and landscapers.)  This gels with the other study referenced in the New York Times titled “The Rich Lack Empathy” (and water is wet)  about how rich people are less empathic people because they don’t have to be.  In other words, if you’re a working class bloke, you have to be nicer to people to get them to do things for you.  Business units might keep that in mind next time they need the inventors to come up with some get rich quick product.

Speaking of inventorship, I sympathize with Peter Daou and James Boyce in their suit against Arianna Huffington over the genesis of the HuffingtonPost.  You have no idea how hard it is to get on a patent when a chemist who uses your ideas wants it all to himself like some spoiled child clutching his toy screaming, “MINE!, MINE!, MINE!”  Then there’s the documentation and lab notebooks and powerpoint slides and time stamps and endless meetings with lawyers.  Been there, done that.  For what it’s worth, I’m siding with Boyce and Daou on this one.  In my best, “I am not a lawyer” mode, I find argument that the pieces that were proposed and assembled were not unique or innovative to be specious.  The functional groups on a new drug entity are also not unique.  They occur in nature, er, naturally.  It is how they are put together and whether they solve a problem not previously addressed that makes them new creations.  I think we can all agree that HuffPo filled a need that did not previously exist on the left.  Well, some may argue that it *still* doesn’t serve that need but it is without a doubt a huge success and if it didn’t have this quasi libertarian Clinton Derangement Syndrome side effect, probably not intended by its creators, it would be a great addition to the left blogosphere.

But what can you expect from Arianna Huffington, whose former husband spent a king’s ransom for a senate seat he did not win?  I would have graciously cut Boyce and Daou in for a share of the immense wealth the site has generated. It must really burn their oatmeal that Breitbart is taking credit.   Even a token million or two would have been sufficient.  It’s a way to say, “Thank You”.  But then, I am an empathic working class person, not Arianna Huffington, who only kisses the asses of the people wealthier than her.

Podcast for the day: Melvyn Bragg of In Our Time has a two part series on the Industrial Revolution.  These podcasts are frequently entertaining when Bragg impatiently tells his guests to get to the point.  I think part 2, Consequences of the Industrial Revolution, is more relevant to our present day events as Bragg and his guests discuss the impact of the industrial revolution on society in general and tease out why it is so important for industrialists that religion remain the “opiate of the masses”.  Stick with it.  There’s some meaty goodness there.

And now, for something completely beautiful.  Anaheim Ballet has a youtube channel where they showcase the elegance coupled with strength of ballet.  Here’s a video of athletic loveliness.

 

 

 

Tuesday: Let’s keep dancing.

So, here I am, waiting in breathless anticipation of the 200 emails from Clinton’s campaign, leaked by some well meaning campaign staffer who loves her country and only wants what is best for it, ie, a man who spent less time in the senate than most kindergartners spend in their first year of school before he decided he was ready to be president.  And when the sucker finally hits the news stands I’m thinking “This is it?”.  I don’t get it.

Where’s the fire?  Where is the flaming “Oh, $%*&! Unsend!, Unsend! Unsend!” email from Clinton herself?  Where is the email that shows that they were planning to sacrifice to Baal the many babies that were offered up by their all-too-willing parents at campaign events?

There was less panic and self-importance in these emails than you would see from the student director of a high school musical six weeks before the first performance.  “Focus, people!  If we don’t come together as unit, thinking, emoting, tap dancing together as one, what does that say about US and out committment to one another?  We will become nothing but a bunch of selfish individuals throwing up on each other’s shoes at a cast party.  Is that how you want to be remembered?!?!?  I swear to God that if we don’t get it together in the next 24 hours and you don’t show a higher level of committment, I will just walk out on this production.  ”  (Oh, $%@&!  Unsend!, Unsend!, Unsend!)

Jeez, Louise, if this is what passes for disarray these days, I have a bridge The Atlantic might want to buy.  The person who cherry picked these beauties, and who no doubt did it for pure, selfless and patriotic reasons, has no eye for really juicy material.  Where is the snark, the wit?  What these emails say to me is that Clinton failed to hire anyone with that certain flair that would make these emails worth the time it takes to read them.  The seller, er, archivist of these emails has no taste.  She can’t spot the collectible from among the vast body of the ordinary that pass for art these days.

{{sigh}}

I suppose I shall have to go back to waiting in breathless anticipation of Obama’s VP pick, which he is planning to blast to my iPhone at any moment now.

Chime, already, damn it! Chime!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 470 other followers