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    • Interview Part 2: Politics Thru Climate Change
      This second excerpt from my interview is more interesting and longer. This is the second clip from my interview with Ian Welsh (Ian blogs at ianwelsh.net). For this segment, we went on a wild ride discussing the big picture mess that is US politics and society more broadly. I asked Ian what might happen if […]
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Monday: Rambling around

First of all: What Lambert Said.

Secondly, I found this story through an email message headlined, “Ayn Rand on the Public Dole” — which I think is a wildly dangerous joke (it doesn’t appear in the story.) Yes, we all know that Rand sneered at the very idea of a country feeling responsibility for it’s citizens. I’m sure she would have laughed her head off at the very idea of “It takes a village” … So what? The notion that people who are on Social Security are on the dole should stay as dead as she is.

Still, the irony is sweet:

Her books provided wide-ranging parables of “parasites,” “looters” and “moochers” using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her heroes’ labor. In the real world, however, Rand herself received Social Security payments and Medicare benefits under the name of Ann O’Connor (her husband was Frank O’Connor).


Cow Most Sacred: Why Military Spending Remains Untouchable

In defense circles, “cutting” the Pentagon budget has once again become a topic of conversation. Americans should not confuse that talk with reality. Any cuts exacted will at most reduce the rate of growth. The essential facts remain: U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without precedent in modern history.

. . .

What are Americans getting for their money? Sadly, not much. Despite extraordinary expenditures (not to mention exertions and sacrifices by U.S. forces), the return on investment is, to be generous, unimpressive. The chief lesson to emerge from the battlefields of the post-9/11 era is this: the Pentagon possesses next to no ability to translate “military supremacy” into meaningful victory.


Lambert is live-blogging the live-stream Al Jazeera’s live stream — and their blog. He’s on his 4th post now. It’s a good way to catch up on what’s going on in Egypt if you can’t be tied to your own PC.

This post at Naked Capitalism discusses the looting and government thugs.

Guest Post: Is the Egyptian Government Using Agents Provocateur to Justify a Crack Down On the Protesters?

Al Jazeera reported today:

[Al Jazeera reporter] Ayman Mohyeldin reports that eyewitnesses have said “party thugs” associated with the Egyptian regime’s Central Security Services – in plainclothes but bearing government-issued weapons – have been looting in Cairo. Ayman says the reports started off as isolated accounts but are now growing in number.

The Telegraph reports:

“Thugs” going around on motorcycles looting shops and houses, according to Al Jazeera. They say they are getting more and more reports of looting. More worryingly, one group of looters who were captured by citizens in the upmarket Cairo district of Heliopolis turned out to have ID cards identifying them as members of the regime security forces.

There’s much more — many links and a historical discussion of the practice.


Medicare for Everyone — That’s how I’d do it. Without universal health care for everyone, ideas like this are a complete waste of time:

White House to launch job-creating start-up effort

Senior officials are to launch a national campaign called “Startup America,” which will encourage private sector investment in startups and small firms, accelerate research and address barriers to success for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Officials are to announce that President Barack Obama will propose making permanent the elimination of capital gains taxes on key investments in small businesses, a White House official said.

Oh, and by all means, keep lowering those pesky business taxes.

Sunday, Knitting up a Storm

Alpaca and Silk Saroyan

I’m still working on finishing my daughter’s sweater, my sister in law’s scarf (photo above) and the Knitting Guild’s, Basics, Basics, Basics class. And I’m starting to feel kind of panicked.  If I don’t get these UFOs (UnFinished Objects) — how am I ever going to get to all the other lovely scarves that are calling my name?

And what about my original knitting theory: that if I’m knitting, I’m not eating?

Why Diets Make You Fatter — And What to Do About It

In this experiment, a group of dieters and a group of nondieters were given the task of comparing ice cream flavors. Participants in each group were divided into three subgroups. Before getting the ice cream, the first subgroup was asked to drink two milkshakes, the second subgroup was asked to drink one milkshake, and the third subgroup wasn’t given any milkshakes. Next, the researchers offered the groups three flavors of ice cream and asked the participants to rate the flavors, eating as much ice cream as they desired.

The results revealed that the nondieters ate as you might expect: those who hadn’t consumed any milkshakes ate the most ice cream, those who’d consumed one milkshake ate less ice cream, and those who’d consumed two milkshakes ate the least. The dieters, by contrast, reacted in the opposite way. Those who were offered no milkshakes before the taste test ate small amounts of ice cream, those who drank one shake ate more ice cream, and those who’d consumed two milkshakes ate the most ice cream!

The dieters, however, reacted in the opposite way — the more milkshakes they consumed, the more ice cream they ate. Why did they lose the capacity to regulate their intake? According to the researchers, this “counterregulation” occurs because a milkshake preload disinhibits a dieter’s usually inhibited or restrained eating, almost like a switch: “I’ve blown it anyway, so I might as well keep eating before I go back on my diet.” This is an almost irresistible incentive to go on eating well past physical fullness.

That is supposed to be news? Come on — The part I don’t get is how they got a bunch of “dieters” to participate in an all-you-can-eat-ice cream experiment!

Here in Kansas City the news is all about the huge storm that’s coming. Thanks to Susie Madrak, I now know that it’s another mega-storm — Take a look at that graphic. OMG. Enough is enough. Isn’t it?

Ah, well. More time for knitting, I guess.

Saturday: Stuff

Hi guys.  I’m still here but extremely busy this week.  Check back in a few days for more posts.

The wildfire sweeping North Africa and now spreading to Yemen reminds me of the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the downfall of the Soviet Union.  Exciting times.

Good wishes to the Egyptians in their struggle against corruption.  May it be accomplished with as little bloodshed as possible.

You can follow it here on Al Jazeera.

 

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.

In the wake

From last night’s state of the union address, it sounds like Barry got a personal coach.  Remember that meeting he had with the Big Dawg after the thumping the Democrats took last November?  The one where he had to figure out how he was going to eek out another stimulus package and extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class?  I’m guessing it went a little like this:

BC: Whooo-weeee! You really fucked up. Fucked up good.
BO: {{rolling eyes}} So, can you help me sell this thing? And listen, I don’t have a lot of time, Michelle’s got some girl scout christmas party or something.
BC: Yessiree, that stimulus package was a *dawg*. What did Christina Roemer tell you?
BO: Do we really need to go over this? It’s in the past and I just want to move…
BC: {{louder and sterner}} What did Christina Roemer tell you?
BO: $1.2 trillion but…
BC: $1.2 trillion. And you had majorities in the Senate and the House. A *filibuster* proof majority in the senate. I never had that.
BO: It wasn’t that easy. Ben Nelson and Joe Lie…
BC: Know what? Excuses are like assholes; everyone’s got one.
BO: {{silently fuming}}
BC: I don’t know Barry. I spent the fall workin’ my tail off for you and the Democrats but I’m tellin’ you. People out there are ticked off.
BO: Yes and…
BC: And now you’re going to have to deal with Republicans in Congress. Shit, Barry, you can’t handle this job when you’ve got everything going for you. What are going to do when they’re probin’ your underwear drawer? You think Michelle’s got no sense of humor now, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Wait until your first congressional hearing.
BO: Can we just get on with it? We haven’t got time.
BC: Oh, I have all the time in the world. You’re the one with the ticking clock. We’re going to do this MY way from now on, you follow?
BO: {{nods}}
BC: You do exactly what I tell you. Because you’re forcing me to go out there and defend this piece of shit. From now on, when I say “jump!”, you say, “how high?” Got that?
BO: {{nods and rolls eyes}}
BC: Don’t you look at me in that tone of voice. I’ll just get up and leave you here. I’ve got people in Haiti who need me more than you do.
BO: {{Grinds teeth}} Ok. What do you want me to do?
BC: Grab a pencil and a piece of paper and write this down…

And so Barry wrote.  It probably sounded just like that SOTU.

There are a few problems though.  Like, where is the money going to come from now that he’s given Republicans everything they ever wanted.  And that math and science education would sound a lot more convincing if the R&D industry hadn’t just laid off more than 100,000 jobs in the last year or so.  Also, I kind of resent the notion that American scientists are not as good as our Chinese counterparts.  Chinese scientists are pretty good, don’t get me wrong.  They work hard and they never complain.  But they’re not better than we are.  They’re about the same.  I’ve known excellent, innovative, dedicated Americans scientists out there.  A lot of them are unemployed right now.  There are just a whole lot more Chinese and Indian scientists in Asia who will work for peanuts.  No science fair frenzy is going to change the ruthlessness of business.

So, that part of his SOTU was stupid.  You just might not know it if you haven’t actually worked in the R&D industry and are witnessing the devastation.  I mean, what middle class person who grew up after Sputnik wants to hear that our scientific infrastructure is being decimated by the machinations of the finance industry and poor labor laws?  Better to blame it all on teachers, who through no fault of their own, were not trained to be crack math and science geeks.  Not that teachers should get a free pass.

The rest of it was a pipe dream.  Sounds good.  Until you realize that this is Barry and those critters out there are Republicans.  So many opportunities have been missed in the past two years that this is all very anticlimactic.  It would take a politician a lot more skillful than Barry to carry this off.

One thing that did stand out to me though is that he steered away from cultural issues, especially those pertaining to women.  He did mention DADT, that his administration was dragged into, kicking and screaming.  But women weren’t on his radar.  At all.  We’re the biggest invisible majority  in the country.  Before the midterm, we heard a lot about Lilly Ledbetter, which while being a step in the right direction, was not anything like a paycheck fairness law.  Also, no mention of the conscience rule, which makes me wonder if it will be one of the rules that gets eliminated when Barry reviews the rule books.

What I did hear between the lines is that corporations are going to get a tax break, because, by golly, they still pay too much, even if they pay nothing at all.  And there’s going to be more deregulation because, well, I have no idea why.  It’s always been my belief that the corporations are not necessarily the bad guys here.  They wouldn’t be able to get away with so much bad behavior if the rules weren’t so lax.  But here we are, loosing more up.  Is Obama also going to deregulate stuff for working people and unions?  I mean, fair is fair.  And we haven’t even talked about tax reform, which I suspect will come in the form of dropping the mortgage interest deduction for the promise of something else that is new and shiny.

I can’t put my finger on it but something smells really evil here.  Barry talked about strengthening Social Security and not forcing people to put all of their money on the stock market, which sounds nice at first.  But couple that with deregulation and tax reform and what if we’re looking at dropping the employer contribution to social security?  Oh, sure, you can still have your contributions fully funded.  You just have to do it yourself.  Now, you have a choice!  You can make up the difference in the employer side contributions of social security or you can put that money in a 401K.  Doesn’t that sort of achieve the whole social security privatization goal that Republicans have lusted after without technically destroying social security?  If you’re older, you make up the diff in social security; if you’re younger, Wall Street it is!

I hope I’m wrong.

So, to recap: Barry taking notes from Bill.  Cleaning up his act and dropping the endless prepositional phrases.  He cut out the buzzwords when he saw that we were on to him.  Has been paying attention to what is important to Americans but can’t pull any of it off without simultaneously sticking it to us with more breaks to big business.

Well good luck with that.

As for Ryan, please, PLEASE, stop telling me how much better he was or better he was than you thought.  The guy has the hair and smarmy sincerity of a television evangelist straight off the 700 Club.  Basically his message was fear.  That’s because his target audience is older, conservative voters on fixed incomes.  He chided us for being soft and wanting to retire someday.  Nothing is free and we younguns are going to have to toughen up and build some character or we’re going to drag the old people into the gutter.  Is that what we want???

Divide and conquer.  We’ve seen this before people.  Spare me the nauseating adulation for Ryan.  He’s as transparent as a jellyfish but without the warmth.

SOTU Live Blog: Spotting the buzzwords

"Michelle's Mai Tai was this big. No lie"

Hi there, sports fans.  It’s that once a year event again.  No, not the Superbowl, although, the Steelers are going again and this is a Packers free zone.

It’s the SOTU address.  Oh, joy.  When it comes to post SOTU critiques, we can expect the kool aide mainliners to sound a lot like Matt Bai did yesterday when he wrote about how Obama had to reach out to the online community.  (Warning: the following excerpt is nauseating.  Reader discretion is advised):

Mr. Obama is probably the most talented writer to occupy the office in the television age  (presumably, Matt is very young); his political career was made possible, in large part, by the candid memoir he wrote as a younger man. So it is hard to understand why he hasn’t tried to use that talent the way Kennedy capitalized on his personal charm.

You can easily imagine Mr. Obama sitting in front of a keyboard at the end of a long day, briefly reflecting on the oddity of a personal encounter or on the meaning of some overlooked event, or perhaps describing what it is like to stand in the well of Congress and deliver the State of the Union address. It could be that in order to expand the reach and persuasiveness of the modern presidency, Mr. Obama simply needs to be his online self — not so much a blogger as a memoirist in chief, walking us through history in real time.

It always feels better after you purge.  Do it now before the speech.

So, on with the show!  This year, I would like to invite corporate minions to chime in whenever they hear a potential consultant crafted buzzword.

Let’s try to not get petty.  Yes, Michelle is an amazon but do you know how hard it is to get clothes made for an amazon?  I’m only 5’9″ and a size 10 and let me tell you, nothing fits.  It sucks.  But I digress.

Let’s do this thing! Ready, set, buzzzz.

Tuesday: So low you could step on it

Even if the Journal’s darker account is more accurate, the executioner’s hand has been stayed for the moment. That’s a victory for the American people, who oppose these cuts by large majorities across the political spectrum.

It’s a victory for sound economic thinking. Social Security doesn’t contribute to the deficit, and retirement benefits get recirculated into the general economy. That contributes to job creation and growth.

And it’s a victory for progressives who mobilized and acted quickly to forestall any such move by the president in this speech, as had been rumored for quite some time.

It could also be a political victory for Democrats, if the Post depiction is accurate. Dems would then be able, in Lori Montgomery’s words, to “draw a stark line between the White House and key Republicans in Congress.”

And what is this great victory? OMG … your heart will swell with pride!

No Social Security Cuts in the State of the Union?

Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post just wrote an article entitled “Obama won’t endorse raising retirement age or reducing Social Security benefits,” where she reports that the State of the Union speech will not include any suggestions for cutting retirement benefits.

Although the story does go on to say that the State of the Union will likely include President Obama’s traditional call to “put everything on the table.”  So let’s not make ourselves too comfortable.

Monday: Famous Last Words

Monday mornings are typically a slow news day. Whatever’s been going on has been happening behind the scenes and it’ll take a day or so before it’s revealed to us. And today isn’t just a regular Monday, it’s the Monday before The State of The Union Address by the President. So. With that in mind, here are some of the stories that caught my eye this morning:


The San Franciso Chronicle is looking for trouble. It seems to me we’ve seen political parties written off before :

The Republican Party, as a brand, is dead in California.

That’s the eye-opening consensus of a crowd of political observers, lawmakers and strategists – Democrats and Republicans – gathered at a UC Berkeley symposium this weekend to mull over California’s defiantly blue status in the wake of a conservative tide that swept the nation in November.


Stupid answers to tough questions?

Obama pledges to put ‘economy into overdrive’ by 2012

“We’re going to build stuff, and invent stuff,” Mr Obama said on Friday. Regarding China, he said: “That’s where the customers are. It’s that simple.”


But, I want to know who’ll be assigned to cover the red carpet:

State of the Union Bipartisan Seating: Comity Central for Lawmakers

Dozens of lawmakers eager to appear bipartisan, if only for a few hours, answered the call. They range from New York Reps. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, and Peter King, a Republican, whose wife called the duo the “biggest loudmouths” in the House, to the bipartisan Congressional Women’s Softball Team.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will attend with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D), while Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) will become an item for the night.

“I think if Coburn and Schumer can sit next to each other, then probably just about everybody can,” Schumer said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”


There were stories a few months ago about the relationship between lack of sleep & obesity in adults. It turns out there is a similar relationship in children.:

Catching up on Z’s could curb kids’ weight

In the study, researchers monitored the sleep patterns of 308 children between the ages of 4 and 10 and and recorded their Body Mass Indexes or BMIs. They found that children who had regular sleep schedules and slept the recommended number of hours per night had the least risk of being obese or having unhealthy blood markers. In contrast, children who slept the least and had irregular sleep schedules had more than a fourfold increase in the risk of being obese and having unhealthy blood markers that indicate the beginning of other conditions.

But investigators also found that sleep-deprived kids who catch up during the weekend reduce that risk from four times to slightly less than three times the obesity risk of kids who get adequate sleep

“Lack of sufficient sleep can have major adverse consequences to the body, such as reduced memory and cognitive performance, lack of attention and focus and in children hyperactivity and ADHD like behaviors.” says Dr. David Gozal, physician-in-chief, for the Department of Pediatrics at Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago. “In addition helplessness and depression can develop,” he adds.

I am not at all surprised to see that they’ve found evidence that lack of sleep can affect memory and cognitive performance and other issues. One of the ways I know that I’m overtired from lack of sleep is that I forget the names of friends or common objects. It’s like there’s a hole where that information is — it’s gone. It totally freaked me out when it first happened. But, somehow I discovered that stepping back and getting sleep and rest pulled everything together again.

I hope this study gets the attention it deserves.


No details on this one but, it sounds horrible:

Domodedovo blast: Explosion rocks Moscow’s main airport

Moscow’s Domodedovo airport – the busiest in the Russian capital – has been rocked by an explosion that has killed at least 10 people.

Dozens more are thought to have been injured in the blast, which reports suggest may have been the work of a suicide bomber.

Emergency services are on the scene and tending to the wounded.

The airport is 40km (25 miles) south-east of the city centre, and is popular with foreign workers and tourists.


And you don’t need a link to Krugman but, this bit from today’s post fits into the discussions we’ve been having here:

The Competition Myth

But let’s not kid ourselves: talking about “competitiveness” as a goal is fundamentally misleading. At best, it’s a misdiagnosis of our problems. At worst, it could lead to policies based on the false idea that what’s good for corporations is good for America.


[Edited to add] And finally, the great Jack LaLanne died yesterday. He was a great man. As commenter, djmm said last night:

Mr. LaLanne changed everything when it came to how the American public viewed exercise.
1) He thought everyone should do it.
2) He showed them how to exercise with no special equipment (which made it affordable).
3) He encouraged both men and women to do weight training. (This is particularly helpful for women to lower bone loss.)
4) He made it fun.

He had a great life, apparently a great marriage and he was fit and active pretty much all of his 96 years. I wish we could all be so lucky!

RIP, Mr. LaLanne — bless you and thanks!

Here’s a clip from his early days. THIS is how I remember Jack LaLanne:


So that’s the news on my monitor — what’s going on in your stretch of the Internet?

Well, this is interesting. US Gov’t to dabble in drug discovery?

It looks like the NIH is going to start screening for new drugs.  Here’s a quick and dirty primer on how drug discovery works (via me):

There are two different paths to discovering a drug.  In the first path, a database of gene sequences are scanned for a potential “target”.  The target gene codes for a protein or receptor that is implicated in a disease state.  Biologists make the protein and use robots to test a library of potential “ligands”, drug compounds, against the target.  These libraries consist of hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of compounds.  When  a compound interacts with the target and elicits the right response, it is called a hit.  The hits are passed to a project team of biologists, chemists and drug designers who examine the hits, select the most promising ones, ie, the ones that look like they won’t be toxic or too hard to work with and which provide places for modification.  The team then engages in a years long struggle of iterations.  The drug designers propose modifications, the chemists make the modifications the designers suggest (or not, as the case may be.  Convincing a chemist to make a drug is the most challenging aspect of the whole endeavor, IMHO.) and the biologists test the new compounds and say “hotter” or “colder”.

There is a lot of other stuff going on in the background.  There are structural biologists who can sometimes crystallize the protein in question and make it a lot easier for the chemist and designers to see what the hell they’re doing.  Also, there are groups that test the compounds for properties other than how effective they are against the target.  Those things include toxicity, mutagenicity (how likely they are to cause cancer and birth defects), bioavailability (how easily they get into your system through the gut, stomach or blood-brain barrier), solubility (how easily they dissolve), metabolism (how your liver breaks them down and into what byproducts) and cardiotoxicity (does it make your heart spazz out).  Note that this list is not exhaustive.  The FDA is very strict about what goes into your body and drug discovery takes these regulations very seriously.

Once the potential new drug is ready, it gets passed to a development group for scale up and clinical trials.  This whole process takes a long, long, LONG time and there are many failures along the way.  It is also extremely expensive.

The other path is to bypass the gene target identification route and simply test a bunch of compounds, that are already sitting around, against a desired endpoint.  This is known as a phenotypic screen or high content screening.  In this case, the drug company does not know what the target is, well, not at first.  Instead, the tests that are conducted against cells and a desired outcome is noted.  After the phenotypic screen finds hits, it is sometimes possible to deconvolute the pathway that the compound affected and identify the targets.  In this scheme, the discovery process presumably starts out with drug compounds in the library that are already known to have desirable or promising safety profiles because they might have been worked on before for different projects but they weren’t active enough against the target they were made for.  But that doesn’t mean they can’t be used for something else.

The last pathway is what I think is going on with this new initiative at the NIH or at least that’s the way I interpret it.

There’s a lot of factual data in the NYTimes article about what the drug industry is up against.  It remains to be seen whether this new initiative will be good or bad for the industry or the public.  I can imagine many possible scenarios as to how it might turn out and some worry or encourage me more than others.

In any case, go read it and when you’re done, I’ll try to answer any questions you might have in a broad, general way.  I can’t speak for my industry or company and wouldn’t want to anyway.  But general information I can do.

Update:

Here’s a weird comment from the same article:

Great. So now taxpayers will be liable when there’s a problem. I hope there’s some kind of handoff program to private industry at some point in the program to avoid problems like that.

Soooo, let me get this straight.  The ability to sue is still of utmost importance.  Did I get that right?  Because, from where I sit, the class action lawsuits are part of the problem.  Everyone complains about not reining in the big finance guys but ambulance chasers looking for big bucks who glom onto adverse drug reaction reports like blood sucking ticks are all ticketyboo?  It’s *not* ok to curb the lawyers?  I mean, presumably, the government would not be interested in deliberate negligence and injury brought on by a joint venture, right?

Just curious.

Another commenter who doesn’t quite get how the industry works or didn’t check the graphs on the side of the page (they are pretty accurate):

Its about time. Our drug companies have lost focus on what is really important. All they concentrate on is profit and the FDA is complicit in its approval process. New drug application fees should be abolished also. One drug turns into 5 or 6 all with patents and huge costs are passed on to the US consumer. We do not need over half of these meds for they really do not benefit anyone other than the profits of big pharma. Do we actually need dozens of antidepressants or drugs for male impotence?

I’ve seen many good drugs taken off the market because of unexpected side effects.  It happens to all of the companies in the industry.  I’ve also seen drugs that the industry has spent billions of dollars and years to develop go before the FDA and get shot down.  There goes a huge investment.  It’s hard to justify taking that kind of risk with shareholders’ money, especially when money making drugs are going off patent and there’s nothing in the pipeline that can get approved.  If the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies are colluding with each other, you would expect a whole lot more drugs getting approved and the numbers simply don’t bear that out.  Sooo, I would safely ignore this commenter as dreadfully uninformed.

Sunday: What to do, What to do?

Susie Madrak has her own radio show on BlogTalkRadio.  On January 17, her guests were Eric Boehlert and Nicole Sanders.  They took a call from a woman whose unemployment benefits ran out last March.  MARCH.  Of 2010.  For almost a year, this woman has had zero income.  No unemployment, no little job, nuthin.  She’s spent all of her savings and is now living on a home equity line of credit to pay her bills.  And she called Susie, who’s doing the best she can with what she has too since being out of work for some time now, and asks what she can do to get lawmakers’ attention?

Susie talked about how the Communist party started organizing back in the Great Depression, preventing people from getting evicted and feeding the poor.  And back then, it got a lot of attention.  There were tent cities and Hoovervilles in Washington.  Evidence of poverty was everywhere.  It was the threat of a public uprising the finally got things moving.

Susie gave the standard answers about what can be done.  Show up at a congressman’s office en masse, hang out in front of the restaurant where he/she and friends have lunch, throw a tent city or two and call the local paper or TV station about it.  Butcha know, I don’t think that’s going to work anymore and as one of them said: the right has the biggest megaphones and they simply won’t report it.

The right knows their voters.  They motivate their voters to vote by romanticizing the fetus, by appealing to their religiosity.  If bad things happen to other people, it’s because they weren’t as pious and good as the typical Fox News viewer.  That same religiosity prevents the religious conservative from doing too much to help the poor by contacting their representatives and demanding action.  It’s because there is so much evil and bad and pain in the world that mankind does not have the capacity to clean it up.  Only god does.  So, we need to just wait for Jesus to come back, which should be any day now.  If you’ve ever wondered what the apocalyptic messaging in right wing propaganda has to do with anything, there’s the reason.  It’s to keep the older conservative voter who sees disturbing things from taking any action.

If Susie wants to know what to do, she is going to have to target these viewers to get involved.  One thing that temporarily woke people up was the sight of so many people suffering in the wake of Katrina in New Orleans.  Which means that the news machine will be very careful to never do that again.  So, if you can’t bring the news to the people, maybe you have to bring the people to the news.

Don’t isolate your older, more conservative relatives.  Tell them what’s going on because you’ve seen it personally.  Tell them what is happening to your unemployed friends.  If they ask why they’re not willing to relocate, tell them the truth.  There are no jobs.  Anywhere.  Be harsh with them.  They won’t want to see you.  But they’ll call and ask why you haven’t come to visit.  Tell them you’re trying to help your friends- who are unemployed and that they just don’t get it.  They’ll go on about how God is the only one who can clean this mess up.  Tell them that’s bullshit and Jesus wouldn’t want them to ignore the poor.  If they tell you that you’re friends did something wrong, tell them the only thing they did wrong was being born in the wrong part of the 20th century.  If they say, yes, it’s true, the older generation has it good in comparison, tell them, great!  We’re moving in with you.  With the bird.  And the kid who likes to play Edith Piaf songs all. the. time. and refuses to speak to you in anything but French and eats like there’s no tomorrow.  When they express some hesitation about that, tell them to turn off the fricking TV news.

As for Susie, I think she has a future in broadcasting but she really has to ditch her propensity to glom onto left wing memes.  I’m not saying stop being liberal.  I’m saying stop letting the left do your thinking.  On one broadcast a couple of months ago, I think Athenae was on, they got so frustrated with it all that they want to just ditch everything and go rustic, which is great if you have no dependents.  But in some respects, it reminds me of the older religious person’s decision to just stay in the house away from the evil men and sexual predators until Jesus comes back.  You can’t run away from the world’s problems when they seem insurmountable.  If you do that, the bad guys win.  They want people to feel helpless.  Learned helplessness is their goal.

The only way to win is to get together and fight back.  And if Susie hasn’t figured this out yet, the left’s support of Obama in 2008 has resulted in thousands of sparkling shards of leftiness with the incapacity to reform itself.  I keep appealing to people like Susie to stop blowing us off and join with us and let’s do something together.  But the left hasn’t given up on the stuff that doesn’t resonate with their potential allies who work for the big corporations the left condemns.  It’s incomprehensible to me that for all the intelligence the left claims it has that it hasn’t figured out yet that the corporations are not the ogres here.  It’s the rulemakers they help elect.  If the rules weren’t bent or destroyed, the corporations would go back to playing by the rules and merely scheming like grinches instead of running around causing havoc like Thing 1 and Thing 2.   Then there are people like us who voted for Hillary and are still personas non grata.  We’re always going to think Obama was the wrong guy for the moment.  But why would the left cut off half of its strength if it really want to make a change?  Let me ask you this, Susie, why haven’t you asked any of US on your show yet?   Not that we can’t host our own shows but that’s hardly togetherness, is it?

The left’s obsession with perfection mirrors the right’s eschatological fervor.  Neither one addresses the causes and concerns of people in the middle who still bitterly cling to their FDR era programs with track records of success for those who participate.  Both sides insist that if they can’t have everything their way, no one will get anything at all.  In this respect, the left does as much damage to its cause as the right does with its huge megaphones.

If you want to know why no one hears your cries, it’s because you haven’t joined with other voices.  And the men in charge, and it’s ALWAYS men, like it that way.  Power is the ultimate drug and no one is going to wrest it from them without a fight.  As long as the left remains broken, Susie and her tent cities are no threat to the power brokers.

In other news:

So, about that FICA 2% tax break.  I was just talking to my colleague about this the other day.  She was planning to roll that money into her 401K.  Hold off on that, I said, you never know how they’re going to take it out of your hide.  After all, you’re income tax may go up instead.  Sure enough, Carissa at Corrente discovered what the catch is in Making Work Pay Clawback.  You’re not going to like it.  I probably won’t like it a whole bunch more.  As a single person who only gets to claim Head of Household every other year, while still retaining the blessings of parenthood and a healthcare policy that requires that I am the major source of support for the kid, I pay an outrageous amount in taxes already but I’m well below the top tax bracket that actually gets…

wait for it

a break! Yep, if you’re in the 35% tax bracket, the amount of money you can make before you are taxed has risen.  For everyone else, the amount you have to make before the taxes kick in has dropped. Isn’t that special?  So, hold off on adding to your 401Ks, which only people who have paid off their mortgages can afford to fund adequately.  Not only has Obama managed to not soak the rich, he has given them additional breaks, acquiesced to a plan that underfunds social security, transferring that money to the general fund where it will be spent in Iraq, and raised taxes on our income.  In summary, the 2% FICA tax break does absolutely NOTHING to stimulate the economy. Well done!  Is this really the one we were waiting for?

Les Leopold at AlterNet attempts to answer the perennial question, “Why Do People Who Work in Finance Earn So Much More Than the Rest of Us?” Yes, I would like to know the answer to that question, as well as why it is that people who work in the corporate offices make so much more than the people who do the innovation and the hands on work to produce the products that make all the money?  And why is their gym nicer and their cafeteria food better?  Why is it they can use the mail service to ship personal items to international destinations while the people in the facility down the road can’t?  Shit, did I say that out loud?  Well, why???  What is it about dressing up and sitting behind a desk makes the people who make sometimes incredibly bad decisions so much wealthier than the rest of us?  The answer, as far as I can tell is that if you delegate your authority to other people to keep track of the money so that you can get actual work done, you run the risk that those delegates will reward themselves handsomely at your expense, and at a certain level of wealth, you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them.  It’s extortion.  That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.

Leopold does some calculations:

Let’s try a back-of-the envelope calculation of Wall Street’s net social value. Compare their bonuses and profits for roughly the last five years (about $500 billion) with the economic losses produced in the financial crisis the bankers caused (about $4 trillion in value destroyed, not counting the ongoing travails of the 22 million people who haven’t yet been able to find a full-time job). For every dollar “earned” on Wall Street, about 8 dollars were destroyed. (In case you’re suffering from financial amnesia and forgot how the financial sector single-handedly caused the economic crisis, please see The Looting of America. Chapter One can be found gratis on AlterNet.

I hate to break this to the educators but, it turns out if you really want your students to learn something, testing is one of the best ways to do it.  You know those endless stupid projects you have our kids doing where they have to map everything out on big pieces of expensive poster board with connections to all of the other concepts in the unit?  Turns out that might be a waste of parents time.  What researchers have discovered is that those projects impose an artificial organization and categorization system on students that is more easily and naturally achieved by simply testing them on the material as soon as possible after they learn it.  Go back to the pop quizzes, teachers.  Save yourself and your kids and their families a nights of exhaustion and despair.  From the NYTimes article:

Why retrieval testing helps is still unknown. Perhaps it is because by remembering information we are organizing it and creating cues and connections that our brains later recognize.

“When you’re retrieving something out of a computer’s memory, you don’t change anything — it’s simple playback,” said Robert Bjork, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved with the study.

But “when we use our memories by retrieving things, we change our access” to that information, Dr. Bjork said. “What we recall becomes more recallable in the future. In a sense you are practicing what you are going to need to do later.”

It may also be that the struggle involved in recalling something helps reinforce it in our brains.

It makes sense.  If you impose a little bit of stress on the student in the form of a quiz or test, they are forced to rapidly organize the information and discover where they are deficient so they can revisit the information later.  If you impose too much stress on them by forcing them to adopt another organization method, you not only screw up their intrinsic method but you create a life long hatred of projects.  JMHO.

Anyway, it’s in the journal Science, which is a stickler for peer review and details and stuff like that so as much as you may dislike the concept of testing for retention, you can’t completely dismiss this paper.  Well, you *could*, but it would be pointless.

Another article from the NYTimes proclaims that Obama is to press a centrist agenda in his SOTU address.  So, it looks like after three years of playing the political philosophical mystery man, Obama has finally found a place to dig in his heels and plant his flag — right down the middle.  Which has moved significantly rightwards since he became president.  Uh-huh.  I see this as a way to head off Bloomberg and his silly No Limits soiree.  Which means, the vast majority of people who are not making $200K a year and have to work for a living without a safety net are still screwed and unrepresented by this President.  Obama has finally found his constituents:

Mr. Obama previewed the themes in a video e-mailed Saturday evening to supporters who had helped in his election campaign. But the video made plain that his speech would be geared more broadly toward the political center, to independent voters and business owners and executives alienated by the expansion of government and the partisan legislative fights of the past two years.

The rest of you scientists and airline pilots and mathematicians turned uber programmers and burger flippers and unemployed journalists and part time morticians can go take a hike.

Lovely.  By the way, NYTimes reporters, the economy is *not* “picking up steam”.  My friends are just as unemployed as ever and the rest of us are in danger of joining them.

I’m so glad that I can say with pride that “I didn’t vote for him”.

About that abortion clinic from hell, Alternet has a followup.  Well, there are a lot of articles on this subject.  The story is very gruesome but just goes to show you that desperate women will overlook unsanitary conditions, illegality and their own health to get abortions when they decide they need them.  There is nothing that a senior citizen mainlining Fox News can do about it.  These women are never going to bond with or have any warm and fuzzy maternal instincts for the fetuses they carry.  There’s no amount of shame or inconvenience you can foist on them that will deter them.  The only thing you accomplish by stigmatizing abortion and forcing poor women to “Chase the Fee” is that you end up risking two deaths instead of one.

This is the first but certainly not the last legal clinic that resembles a back alley abortion mill.  There will have to be a lot more of them before the anti-choice contingent starts feeling the weight of all of the deaths and destruction and infertility it has visited on women.  They will have to feel it and be made to take the blame for it.