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Thursday: Rhetorical Talk about Rhetorical Jobs for Non-Virtual People

Words, words, words, yeah!

So, Obama gave a speech last night about removing troops from Afghanistan and bringing some home by the end of the year and blah-blah-blah.  Didn’t we hear this kind of crap before about Iraq? And how did that turn out?

Let’s examine What Obama REALLY Said last night:

For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as president, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al-Qaida; reverse the Taliban’s momentum; and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country. I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to drawdown our forces this July.

Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

First, we stopped combat operations in Iraq as well.  How many troops are still there?  More importantly, how many of those same troops are still under fire and presumably have to fire back?

Second, what is the definition of a “steady pace”?  100 troops per month?  1000 troops per month?  For how many months?  If planes carrying 100 troops leave Baghdad twice a week and planes carrying 300 troops leave Kabul once a week, how many months would it take to reduce the total number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by 50%?  You may use a calculator and a scratch paper to complete this problem.  Please show all work.  Partial credit will not be given for incomplete or incorrect answers.

Third, who says Obama is even going to be in office in 2014?  But more than that, are we going to increase the number of contractors and mercenary types in Iraq and Afghanistan to replace the troops we are removing?  If not, *prove* it.  If so, how much are the contractors going to cost?  Imagine Iraq and Afghanistan are cylinders of unequal height and diameter.  What must be the rate of replacement to remove US military troops from these two cylinders and refill them with Blackwater Soldiers of Fortune?  (Do saddle points make you nauseous?.)

I only ask.

As Greg Sargent notes at The Plum Line, Obama chose his words carefully to suggest that the money saved in Afghanistan would be used to solve problems here at home:

* Was Obama’s Afghanistan speech persusasive? One of the key political challenges Obama faced last night was to persuade the public that he’s winding down the war fast enough at a time when its costs are skyrocketing even as we face chronic unemployment and a fiscal mess at home. Hence his claims that “the tide of war is receeding” and that it’s time for “time for nation building here at home.”

The deliberate choice of the latter phrase seemed designed to persuade Americans that the Bush-initiated post-9/11 war era is slowly but inevitably coming to an end, in order to buy some political space to continue the mission at levels that are (not quite) acceptable to the military commanders and won’t draw sustained attacks from Republicans.

Nice try.  But one of the first things that my mom said when she heard of the drawdown bringing troops home  was “And where are THOSE people going to find jobs?”  Good question.  Barry??  Bueller?  Bueller?

A bit of a cart before the horse, eh?  Maybe the best thing to do is to propose a real jobs program for real people.  But Dave Dayan at FDL says the idea in Congress is to say the right words, sprinkle some magic fairy dust on the jobs program, whine about how mean the Republicans are and get back to ignoring the unemployed:

The Senate Democratic leadership – all of them, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Patty Murray, Debbie Stabenow and Mark Begich – planned a morning press conference today where they will call for job creation measures, or stimulus, to be included in any debt limit deal. They will say that deficit reduction cannot bring Americans back to work, and that recent soft numbers for the economy demand that jobs get the primary attention. According to the press release “they will urge the negotiators to consider new proposals to boost hiring in the short term at the same time that they pursue a plan to bring down the debt in the long term.” The phrase “equal priority” is in there as well.

Before Democrats let the narrative completely get away from them, this was the basic idea – stimulus now, doing no harm and even helping the economy through the rough patch over the next year or two, with deficit reduction to come later. But obviously, Democrats and the White House thought that the rough patch had ended with a few decent months of job creation, and so job creation was put on the back burner, at least in the context of the debt limit talks and the deficit deal. Now, with the new numbers, it’s clear that reducing the deficit will just put the country in a bigger hole.

There’s a sense that this is mainly rhetorical. Democrats have seen Republicans obstruct even the most piddling of jobs bills in the Senate. Yesterday the reauthorization of the Economic Development Administration, an old Great Society program, failed to break a filibuster. The reauthorization gave just a few hundred million more to the program, and was more than offset by the successful passage of the elimination of ethanol subsidies. Republicans still didn’t vote for it. Sen. Reid said yesterday,
“I don’t like to question my colleagues’ motives, but whether they work with us to pass these policies, or continue opposing ideas they once supported, will tell us a lot.”

I guess I can tell the bank that I am going to pay the mortgage too but in a couple of months, they will realize I was just being rhetorical.  I can only hope that the foreclosure documents are rhetorical as well.  Luckily for prospective employers, the Supreme Court has now made it safe to stiff female employees in the wage department because, after all, how are you going to prove it?  We all know that enlightened management treats all employees equally regardless of gender.  Anyone who is making less must be doing something wrong, Scalia seems to say.  For the knuckle draggers, the new Supreme Court Paycheck Fairness and Non-Discrimination policy should save some money.  How very Dred Scottian of them.  Whose going to an employer now for discrimination?  Maybe Dems can use it as a selling point in the new jobs program!

In the meantime, the job prospects of the liberated R&D professional are not going to get any better for, ohhhhh, I don’t know, about 9 years?  Check out this graph that Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline found on the “Patent Cliff” for the major pharmas:

That, my droogs, is a seriously scary picture for two reasons.  (Three, actually) One, it means that there are very few new and innovative drugs coming to market that will take the place of the older, more toxic ones, and that current drug shortages should be expected to continue.  Two, it signals that the system is broken.  There have been plenty of submissions, very few approvals.  Three, it means that things won’t start leveling out for us displaced sciencey geeky types until 2020 or longer.

Now, it might be the case that a lot of little companies, and the NIH roadmap for translational research, will pick up some of this slack. But that roadmap is in its infancy, no one knows quite how to implement it and it still takes years and years to develop a drug.  The R&D professionals will be trying to tough it out in smaller companies with less modern equipment, fewer resources and lower overall compensation.  It will be like moving the clock back on research by several decades.  Yeah!  That’ll make the young’uns want to study math and science more!

My offer still stands: we’re here, Democrats and Republicans.  Give us some retired lab space, decent salaries and all the reagents we can eat and we’ll make you antibiotics, CNS drugs and work on the other therapeutic areas that the bigger companies have abandoned.  All we ask is that you get rid of the merger and acquisition folks and let us decide how to use the money without the pressure of the quarterly earnings report.  We sell the patents to the US government.  Voile!  You can’t get a better value than that.

You want to concentrate on nation building here at home?  Save your scientific infrastructure.  We can even train some troops to work in the labs.

It could happen.  And that’s not just rhetoric.  That’s a jobs program.

30 Responses

  1. Glenzilla:

    So even under the most “aggressive” withdrawal plan the President is considering — one that he and media outlets will undoubtedly tout as a “withdrawal plan” (the headline on the NYT front page today: “Obama to Announce Plans for Afghan Pullout”) — there will still be “twice the number” of American troops in that country as there were when George Bush left office and Obama was inaugurated. That’s what “withdrawal” means in American political parlance: doubling the number of troops fighting a foreign war over the course of four years.

  2. Arthur Silber:

    Assuming all 30,000 of the “surge forces” leave, 70,000 U.S. troops will remain. Well, there’s “leaving” and then there’s leaving. Moreover, as we are always told about such matters, all this is subject to “conditions on the ground” — which means only that the U.S. government will do whatever the hell it believes is required to maintain dominance and control. And, not at all by the way, Afghanistan is especially crucial to ongoing U.S. plans for geopolitical dominance; see this post, as well as the Robert Higgs article I excerpt: “CENTCOM’s Master Plan and U.S. Global Hegemony.” I therefore state, as I have many times before: WE ARE NOT LEAVING.

    • Do you miss us, myiq? Wanna offend some progressives again?

      • Geez, can’t y’all just kiss and make up? 😉 It takes a half-dozen browser tabs just to keep track of the current and former Conflucians.

        Apropos pretty much nothing:

        The erosion of the nation’s scientific and research infrastructure isn’t confined to pharma ( although that’s obviously the area of most immediate concern to you). The US basically told a whole generation of high-energy physicists to emigrate to Europe back when the SSC shut down in ’93. NASA’s been on life support for decades. The great industrial research labs, like Bell Labs, are gone or just a shadow of their former selves – victims of takeover fever, short-term investor psychology, and the rise of finance-types everywhere. It’s happening everywhere (at least in the US).

        Hope the job hunt is going well.

        • 1.) myiq can come back any time he wants. So far, he doesn’t want. There are a couple Conflucians who I would want to come back. A couple of others have permanently burned their bridges. A couple more are just really busy these days.

          2.) Yep, the scientific infrastructure meltdown has been going on for some time now. Around here, it was the satellite people, the particle physics people and the Lucent people. Lucent was a particularly sad and ugly affair because it was accelerated by the spin off. In general, Americans seem to be fascinated and envious of the business elite and not so much of the labcoated geek. We were all just raised wrong I think.

          3.) Job hunts are not fun.

  3. This is a sagging poll numbers stunt. Nothing more.

    Yeah, he puts extra troops in Afghanistan and then wants a Nobel Prize for pulling *some* of them out. And I bet you are right, RD, he is replacing them with more expensive Blackwater mercenaries – because austerity.

  4. Slightly off topic: Michael Lind in Salon on “Why The GOP Should Nominate Barack Obama in 2012”. 😈

    • I swear, these writers can’t think their way out of a paper bag:

      In his book “The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House,” Bob Woodward described a Clinton administration meeting in 1993: “Where are all the Democrats?” Clinton bellowed. “I hope you’re all aware we’re all Eisenhower Republicans,” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “We’re all Eisenhower Republicans here, and we are fighting the Reagan Republicans. We stand for lower deficits and free trade and the bond market. Isn’t that great?”
      The Obama administration is the third Clinton administration — or perhaps the fifth Eisenhower administration, following the four combined terms of Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton (by comparison to both, Richard Nixon, as president, was a New Deal liberal). Under the influence of Treasury secretary and master fundraiser Robert Rubin, the Mark Hanna of the modern Democratic Party, Clinton scrapped the “putting people first” agenda he had run on in 1992 and focused on rapidly balancing the budget — a longtime obsession of fiscal conservatives in the Eisenhower-Rockefeller tradition, rather than supply-siders in the Reagan-Kemp tradition.

      Clinton did not come into office expecting to become a moderate Republican. He came in expecting to appoint Lani Guinier to Attorney General. He expected to pass a real health care reform bill. He was pissed off that his administration was being held hostage by the bond market. And he STILL managed to appoint liberals to the Supreme Court, raise taxes on the rich and drive the unemployment rate to some ridiculous level. He had a Democratic majority for a very short period of time and he still managed to come out smelling like a rose after 8 years of the most vicious attacks from the media and the special prosecutor.

      But we’re supposed to forget all of that and should believe that he meant to run the White House like Eisenhower. The sarcasm goes right over Michael Lind’s head.

      Obama never professed to be a liberal and hardly a Democrat. He said from the very beginning that he admired Reagan. But we’re supposed to believe he is following in Clinton’s footsteps.

      Lind and his buddies are a danger to themselves and others.

      • Oh, but Riverdaughter, if he does not say bad things about President Clinton, he can’t be taken seriously by “people who matter” (You know, the ones who lack the sense to read your amazing posts.)

        Yes, it is annoying. But I will give him a bit of credit for beginning to see that President Obama is a Republican (as was clear to us in the 2008 primaries).


      • Lind and his buddies are a danger to themselves and others

        Hope the box his word processing software came in doesn’t have any sharp edges.

  5. well he does make pretty speeches 😆

  6. Well, the U.S. government is hiring people to work in IRAQ. I guess that’s where the jobs will be. Funny how we’re “getting out of Iraq” We’re not going anywhere in Afghanistan either.
    Senior Oil and Gas Advisor: Deadline is July 05, 2011.
    Senior Police Advisor (Iraq): Deadline is July 05, 2011.
    Program Manager/Contracting Officer’s Representative (Iraq): Deadline is July 05, 2011.

  7. I just screened for a Phase I study by Shionogi Inc: Bioequivalence study of 2 60 mg Ospemifene tablet Batches-pharmacokinetic study in healthy fasted postmenopausal females.

    For 2 weekends and 6 returns pays $900. Since I need money I’ll do it. And read Paul Auster’s The Music of Chance while I do it.

    O I almost forgot. This drug is to make your vagine slippery again ladies, without the molecules, I presume, that may contribute to breast or uterine cancer. To match the Cialis and Viagra stuff you know, so seniors can keep getting it on. If they are fugging they won’t cause trouble in other ways, eh?

    Too bad Fousult didn’t have this info at his disposal when he wrote the genealogy of sexuality. Fits right into the power/knowledge matrix.

  8. Obama’s rhetoric is to fool us liberals again. Propaganda words and buzz concepts.

    Fug me once shame on you, fug me twice shame on……

  9. Your point about if things go on as they are ,the new drugs will not be there this well taken. But since no one would be able to afford them if things go on as they are anyway ….it’s 6 of one half a dozen of the other. What’s needed is a system like your offer being taken up….perhaps someone will. It would cost relatively little with a tremendous gain .

    All these parasite suits known how to do is run though a businesses wealth and kill companies …that’s all.

    • The parasite suits are just doing their jobs with the incentives that are already in place. Killing the host is not the goal of the parasite unless it can reproduce and leave the body. So, there’s a good reason to believe that when the hosts start dying, the parasites will too. After all, there aren’t too many industries the suckers can jump to now.
      I think their days are numbered. The pace of business these days is such that fortunes can be won and lost very rapidly if you’re not careful. And the suits are definitely not being careful. Remember Enron?
      I might be over sooner than we think.

  10. Senator Schumer is proposing a tax repatriation holiday (5% rate instead of 35%) on foreign profits for GE, Facebook, Google, et al. with a diversion of those reduced receipts into a national infrastructure fund – there should be no holiday, companies should be forced to repatriate profits in definite time periods or suffer penalties, and the increased receipts could then be used to support great ideas like this.

    We should all generally be demanding that our tax dollars be used for this exact sort of productive investment. They can find 14 trillion (that we know about) to to prop up and re-inflate zombie banks, it’s time for Wall Street and corporations to share so that we can all recover.

    • Does this mean that Tweety will be going after Chucky?

      Research will follow manufacturing to Asia and a lesser extet to France and Germany.

      We are so lucky that the patent for asprin expired before Big Pharma got control of the government

      • There is a limit to which research can go to Asia. There aren’t very many researchers trained in the art of drug discovery. Most of them are located here in America. The Chinese and Indians most likely to start companies in China and India don’t want to move back. So, Asia is starting off with a bit of a disadvantage. Maybe the Indian Dr. Reddy’s can do it but China is going to have to figure this out and it’s so not easy.

        The problem with aspirin is that it was probably on the market before 1938. The FDA is reviewing drugs that were prescribed before 1938 and is requiring companies that make these older drugs to get new approvals or update their production facilities or both. Some companies have decided to close these facilities down before they have to comply with new FDA regulations. Hence the shortage of some chemotherapy and other drugs.

        Time to stop bashing Big Pharma (Thanks Ralph Nader, so helpful-NOT!) and try to figure out how to fix this very serious and growing problem.

        • Ahh gee whizz. Cripes and milk. Ralph Nader is NOT the source of the problem. He just isn’t.

          He’s effectively (and tragically) been neutralized for years, given the amount of public good he had a direct hand in bringing about, such as Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Consumer credit disclosure law, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Freedom of Information Act, the Law that established Environmental Protection Agency, National Automobile and Highway Traffic Safety Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), Pension protection law, Safe Water Drinking Act, Whistleblower Protection Act.

          And he’d be among the first to line up behind and fight tenaciously for your excellent proposal here.

          • Right, he’d be there behind us- with his class action lawsuits for every unavoidable drug interaction that shows up. It’s a movable feast for his buddies. It costs consumers BILLIONS and has had a chilling effect on research.
            Nader is the antithesis of MBA culture but he’s as big a contributor to the problem as any corporate hack. I have seen lawsuits severely a company and found Nader’s legacy all over it.
            The answer is not the middle. The problem requires study and out of the box thinking. Nader does not provide that.

          • Wasn’t Nader the guy who proclaimed there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between Bush and Gore?

            I’d call that a monumental error in judgment.

          • Yeah, I’m sorry, but you’re a scientist so some proof that doesn’t sound like my cousin’s dog’s trial lawyer heard of Ralph Nader and so he is Ralph Nader? I guess, fairly to you, you may not agree that say, support for “free speech” means tolerance for abhorrent speech, as preservation for the right of judicial redress means tolerance for abhorrent ambulance chasing class action lawsuits, but to equate support of a principle with being “buddies” with those who abuse it strains credulity, and the facts don’t support the hypothesis (other than pressing a charge against overbilling of medicare, I’m hard pressed to find Nader personally involved in a suit of any kind).

            But finally, if you seriously think that MBAs and Nader are equally culpable, you deserve your fate really. You choose a kind of willful ignorance, albeit borne of more than legitimate rage. Your analyses are strikingly similar, almost word for word to Hedges, Nader, Chomsky, et al. until the last moment when you turn and lay down pattern fire against the left, the very persons that would be your strongest allies. It’s the functional equivalent of “keep your government hands off my medicare” really, a kind of tragic Orwellian trap where even a scientist of your self-professed caliber keeps coming up with 2+2 = 3.

            So I’m gone, though I’ll still hope this most excellent program you’ve ideated comes to pass (as I’d directly benefit), since the latest reports suggest dengue fever may be in my future courtesy of climate change’s effect on the expansion of mosquito habitat. Any maybe one day you’ll be more than a tantrumming child who can rage with instead of against those who will prove the ultimate real allies.

          • I guess, fairly to you, you may not agree that say, support for “free speech” means tolerance for abhorrent speech, as preservation for the right of judicial redress means tolerance for abhorrent ambulance chasing class action lawsuits, but to equate support of a principle with being “buddies” with those who abuse it strains credulity, and the facts don’t support the hypothesis (other than pressing a charge against overbilling of medicare, I’m hard pressed to find Nader personally involved in a suit of any kind).

            The period goes inside the parentheses.

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