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Republicans are going to screw the blue northeast states over Irene

National Guard vehicle surrounded by Irene flood waters, Somerville, NJ, 08-28-11

Update: Corrected.  I had Ohio on the brain this morning for some inexplicable reason.  My bad.

So, we have devastating floods here in the Northeast and it’s particularly bad in NJ, NY and VT.  Only a few miles from my house, there are towns under water even after the flood control measures that were instituted after Hurricane Floyd in 1999.  I can’t imagine how much worse it could be.  Even my own house was flooded when the power went off and my basement sump pump couldn’t keep the water at bay.  The townhouses on my side of the street that never had floods before in the 26 years since these houses were built, now have wet basements, warped drywall, damaged furniture and the possibility of black mold that will lower our property values if something isn’t done about it as quickly as possible.

I’m lucky because my insurance policy covers this kind of damage but I also have a large deductible and now that I don’t have a job, I can ill afford to shell it out.  In this Lesser Depression, there are hundreds of thousands of families like mine in central NJ who are stretched to the limits financially when just a year ago we were paying some of the highest taxes in the nation and filling the coffers of other states, like Virginia.  Now, here come Republicans like Eric Cantor and Ron Paul who are stirring up resentment of the “heartland” voters who don’t want to pony up when it’s their turn to lend a helping hand.  From the NYTimes story Federal Austerity Changes Disaster Relief we get this little “mine, mine, mine!” moment from Cantor and Ron Paul:

Holding fast to their push for lower federal spending, top Congressional Republicans have argued that any federal aid in the aftermath of the double whammy of an earthquake followed by a hurricane should be offset, if possible, by spending less on other programs.

“Clearly when disasters and emergencies happen, people expect their government to treat them as national priorities and respond properly,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for Representative Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican and majority leader who has advocated offsetting emergency aid. “People also expect their government to spend their dollars wisely, and to make efforts to prioritize and save when possible.”

Representative Ron Paul, the Texas Republican who is seeking his party’s presidential nomination, has gone beyond that view to argue that the federal government’s role in disaster preparation and relief should be cut substantially. Mr. Paul said he saw little value in the Federal Emergency Management Agency, saying the federal approach has given birth to an intrusive bureaucracy and supplants what should be an area for private insurance.

“The bleeding heart will say, well, we have to take care of them,” Mr. Paul said on “Fox News Sunday,” calling FEMA “a gross distortion of insurance” and saying that workers for the agency “hinder the local people, and they hinder volunteers from going in.”

Let’s not let Obama off the hook here.  He went after the caucus states to “win” the nomination in 2008 but if he wants a second term, he would be very stupid to ignore our plight.  Actually, given his knack for capitulating to Republicans, we’re probably screwed.  Thank you DNC.

Lest anyone forget what it is we Northeast states contribute to the federal coffers, here’s a handy map from 2005 that in all likelihood, probably hasn’t changed significantly in 6 years.  See that little navy blue state hugging the Atlantic?  That is New Jersey.  For every tax dollar we send to Washington, we get 61 cents back.

 Eric Cantor’s state of Virginia benefits from New Jersey’s largess so I suggest that the first place we look to make cuts would be Ohio.  Let’s shave some funds off of your educational budget next year.  Or maybe we can cut back on your agricultural subsidies.  I can almost see the Virginia rural farmers, mean little faces screwed up with rage, angered beyond all reason that they have to fork over even one penny to keep some hapless, unemployed schlub in Somerville from losing everything he has.  Texas almost breaks even so it really should be more sympathetic but when have we ever expected Texans to act like their part of the Union?  Let that be a lesson to us bleeding hearts to be a lot more particular about the states we send our money to in the future.

We should set up a review panel to decide which of them is deserving.  I have a soft spot for Vermont.  It has never hurt anyone.  But do we really have to keep bailing out Alabama year after year?  Why don’t they just pay people in that state more money and impose a more progressive income tax?  And all those red states in the middle of the country.  There’s hardly anybody there.  (hmmm, didja notice how many of those states caucused for Obama in 2008?  And look at all the blue states that the DNC shafted. Yes, let’s just ignore all of the people in the most densely populated states.)  Shouldn’t there be a threshold level population before we give them our hard earned cash?  Maybe we can make them all take random drug tests or get tested for SDIs.  Yes!  That’s the ticket.  Let’s make all of those judgmental Tea Party voters pee in a vial periodically before we give their states money.  Oh, we know they aren’t really druggies (or DO we?).  We just think it’s only right that they undergo ritual humiliation and put in a couple hours at a crisis intervention session if they want our charity.  It will make us feel good about our superior, upstanding, moral lives.

Don’t piss us off or we’ll send Snookie after you.


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Antibiotics, R&D and patent reform

gram stained Staph aureus

I followed the link from Derek Lowe’s blog, In the Pipeline, to this abstract of a paper that was published in May of this year  about the dearth of antibiotics in big pharma’s pipeline:

The world is running out of antibiotics. Between 1940 and 1962, more than 20 new classes of antibiotics were marketed. Since then, only two new classes have reached the market. Analogue development kept pace with the emergence of resistant bacteria until 10-20 years ago. Now, not enough analogues are reaching the market to stem the tide of antibiotic resistance, particularly among gram-negative bacteria. This review examines the existing systemic antibiotic pipeline in the public domain, and reveals that 27 compounds are in clinical development, of which two are new classes, both of which are in Phase I clinical trials. In view of the high attrition rate of drugs in early clinical development, particularly new classes and the current regulatory hurdles, it does not seem likely that new classes will be marketed soon. This paper suggests that, if the world is to return to a situation in which there are enough antibiotics to cope with the inevitable ongoing emergence of bacterial resistance, we need to recreate the prolific antibiotic discovery period between 1940 and 1962, which produced 20 classes that served the world well for 60 years. If another 20 classes and their analogues, particularly targeting gram-negatives could be produced soon, they might last us for the next 60 years. How can this be achieved? Only a huge effort by governments in the form of finance, legislation and providing industry with real incentives will reverse this. Industry needs to re-enter the market on a much larger scale, and academia should rebuild its antibiotic discovery infrastructure to support this effort. The alternative is Medicine without effective antibiotics.

Imagine a world without effective antibiotics.  {{shivver}}

Note that the abstract says that the industry could be developing “another 20 classes and their analogues“.  To the public, those analogues might look an awful lot like “me too” drugs.  But that’s ok in this area because bacteria mutate at such a good clip that a moderately modified analogue could seriously throw them off kilter.  So, while it is important to also develop drugs that hit different bacterial targets, the analogues are still very necessary and important.

It’s not like there is a shortage of projects that the nation’s laid off overeducated geeks could be working on and like I said before, if the big pharma entities want to pass on antibiotics because they are too expensive and litigious, there are more than enough of those geeks who would happily work for the government for decent wages commensurate with the level of difficulty of our work.

What I’m worried about is patent reform.  There are proposals right now that would reform the patent system so that the patent goes to the person who files first and not the first to innovate.  The issue is of special importance to the software and cellular data industry who are getting tired of being sidelined by patent trolls.  But what if you’re a tiny biotech that just spent your kid’s college fund and granny’s nest egg discovering a potential drug?  On the surface, this seems very fair until you realize that many entrepreneurs, some of them involuntarily liberated from big pharma, don’t have large departments of expensive patent lawyers they can call upon to file an air tight patent.

Getting to the first to file stage may be close to impossible for many small biotechs to achieve without making a deal with a very big devil who is making them an offer they can’t refuse.  It could seriously dampen any enthusiasm for drug discovery in small companies especially if those companies are doing research in therapeutic areas that big pharma has abandoned like antibiotics and CNS drugs.

I just wish I had the confidence that the Congress members who are reviewing the reform legislation knew what they were doing and were committed to making the system fair for the little guy.  At the very least, we should study whether the “first to innovate” patent structure leads to more innovation than the “first to file” system of other countries.   What may save social media may end up causing a lot of infections down the road.

While NJ struggles with flood waters the White House tells us how to observe Sept 11

We’re still drying out here in central NJ. Route 206 now appears passable but Bound Brook, Manville, parts of Somerville and Neshanic Station are still flooded. I took a ride around town yesterday to see the extent of the damage. Despite the water in my basement (which didn’t even happen during Floyd in 1999), my area of town doesn’t flood. I have a big retention basin next to my house. I’ve seen that sucker fill to nearly overflowing but my basement is still dry. I think the power failure contributed to the watery basements because no one’s sump pumps were working.

But there are still parts of the area that are inaccessible. I couldn’t get into Neshanic Station. There’s a bridge over the South Branch where the water overflowed the top of the road bed in Floyd. That was pretty impressive. I’ll try to get some pics when the road opens to give you an idea of how high the water was. Parts of Manville and Bound Brook are under water, again. After Floyd, there was a $130 million flood control project built to prevent it from happening again. The water level this time was the same as with Floyd, which makes me wonder how much worse it could have been. News choppers have been whump-whump-whumping overhead for the past couple of days but roads to that area are blocked so no pics. I still have no Internet connection.

Meanwhile, back at the NYTimes, it looks like the editorial board has finally turned on the Obama administration. Maybe that was scheduled to happen anyway but they’re getting an early start. I can just picture some editor dude in a pinstripe Oxford, sleeves rolled up, tie loosened, peering over his glasses at his calendar watch, “Well, it’s a week before Labor Day. It’s a little early to be pulling the trigger but what the hell. The honeymoon is over and it’s good copy when he loses his cool.”

So, this twist of the knife has to do with the White House instructions to all of us on how we should commemorate 9/11 , because just like Michelle assumes we don’t know that fresh vegetables are good for our children, and the Obama operatives assume we haven’t figured out that the Lily Ledbetter Law hasn’t significantly improved our working lives, it also assume that we have NO Idea who caused the terrorist attacks on 9/11 or what the country’s response to it was. For those of you who have been asleep for the past 10 years, it was Al Qaeda and the country reacted with the equivalent of anaphylactic shock.

But take a look at how the piece is written. I find it very telling:

” The White House in recent days has quietly disseminated two sets of documents. One is framed for overseas allies and their citizens and was sent to American embassies and consulates around the globe. The other includes themes for Americans here and underscores the importance of national service and what the government has done to prevent another major attack in the United States. That single-page document was issued to all federal agencies, officials said.

After weeks of internal debate, White House officials adopted the communications documents to shape public events and official statements, and they sought to strike a delicate balance between messages designed for these two very important but very different audiences on a day when the world’s attention will be focused on President Obama, his leadership team and his nation.

The guidelines list what themes to underscore — and, just as important, what tone to set. Officials are instructed to memorialize those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and thank those in the military, law enforcement, intelligence or homeland security for their contributions since.

“A chief goal of our communications is to present a positive, forward-looking narrative,” the foreign guidelines state.

Copies of the internal documents were provided to The New York Times by officials in several agencies involved in planning the anniversary commemorations. “The important theme is to show the world how much we realize that 9/11 — the attacks themselves and violent extremism writ large — is not ‘just about us,’ ” said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal White House planning.

Some senior Obama administration leaders had advocated a lengthy program of speeches and events to mark the anniversary, but the final decision was for lower-key appearances by Mr. Obama and other senior leaders only on the days leading up to the anniversary and on Sept. 11 itself.

Mr. Obama in his weekly address on Saturday said that this year’s anniversary will be one of “service and remembrance.” ”

Oh, gawd, spare us the lengthy Obama teachable moment speeches. The less he says about 9/11, the better. I don’t want him trying to emote over a script constructed by Jon Favreau. Can we get Carolyn Maloney or Kirsten Gillibrand to do this? Here’s the speech I want him to give: “I can’t possibly do justice to the memory of those who lost their lives during 9/11. Seriously. I don’t [insert air quotes] “feel your pain”. So, I’ve been told by my political staff to let the victims’ families speak for them. I will be in the Oval Office that day, working diligently [by my standards] and with [what we hope to be perceived as] reverential silence, on a plan to put Americans back to work. Kirsten can take it from here.”

I don’t know if this piece was written with the intent to throw us off our Obama kibble (when we’re already anorexic) or whether the journalists and editors responsible are simply getting into fine horse race coverage condition and they aren’t giving it a second thought. They’re probably dog whistling to Andrea Mitchell. Jay Rosen has had quite a bit to say recently about the failings of journalists during campaign seasons But if this is what we have to look forward to for the next 15 months, it’s going to be ugly and brutal. It looks like Obama will be getting the full Hillary treatment minus the misogyny. While I can’t say he doesn’t deserve it, do we?

A little more news, people. A little less poli-operative tea leaf readings. We’ve still got high unemployment of overeducated geeks, and floods, and no sentient being needs another lesson on September 11 or how condescendingly cynical the Obama administration is.

Now, back to the basement…

Cleanup day

Hi guys, I have to clean up today. A lot of my stuff in the basement is ruined. It remains to be seen whether any of the furniture down there can be saved. There’s also a question of whether the DVR and media stuff were high enough above the water line. The nintendo accessories took a hit. And all of the three full boxes of American Girl clothing, furniture, and dolls that I lovingly packed into plastic bins not two weeks ago, toppled over into the silty water. My eldest daughter’s childhood memorabilia is probably beyond salvaging.

And then there are the walls. The fire department removes only enough water to keep your electrical connections dry. The rest just stands there until the water gets reabsorbed by the earth. All of this happened before I even knew the basement was flooded so there wasn’t anything I could do about it anyway. The basements on our side of the street have never flooded before so my neighbors and I thought we were safe.

We still have no power. The generators are droning away in the driveways of those few individuals who were lucky enough to have one or could borrow one. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But today, I have to air out the basement ASAP or mold will take hold. And without electricity, I can’t use a wet/dry vac or a fan or dehumidfier. My freezer is thawing out, though the beer was still cold enough last night. I’m headed out for coffee before I have to haul the contents of my basement out to the street.
Later…

irene

She’s coming in but it’s not bad yet.  Just rain bands.  A few minutes ago, the wind started to tune up outside the eaves.  If Irene is anything like Floyd, the badly named Bound Brook, NJ will be flooded once again.  I’m not too worried about flooding.  My basement is humid but it never floods and the town itself seems to always come out smelling like a rose, which when you consider how much it resembles the typical modern suburban dystopia, is not necessarily a good thing.

Ooo, yeah, now the wind is picking up a bit.  At first, it’s just a murmur, but now it’s starting to moan a bit.

So anyway, I have the first two seasons of Breaking Bad from Netflix and some spiced rum.  What are you drinking tonight?  BTW, has anyone heard from DandyTiger in Virginia?  Hope he’s doing ok and that the power will be on soon to charge all of the Mac batteries.

Battening down the hatches

Update: A friend of mine is stranded in Atlanta until Monday. His connecting flight to Philly was cancelled. Does anyone in the Atlanta area have suggestions for a good night’s sleep? List them in the comments. Also, anywhere to hear good live music in Atlanta tonight? Recommendations for local cuisine? I should mention that he is a newly independent entrepreneur. Some people are born entrepreneurs, some have entrepreneurship thrust upon them. My friend is in the latter category so economical suggestions will be given priority.

Hi all, I’m busy today trying to get all of the outside stuff fastened down so they don’t blow away.

Susie Madrak is back! Yay! But she could probably use some sugar in her bowl to offset the costs of the best health care in the world. So, visit her tip jar and tip generously, if you can.

Susie found this little ditty from Eric Cantor about what we storm ravaged Northeastern Liberal Elites can expect in the form of disaster relief from the federal government:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is insisting that “any potential emergency disaster aid be offset by spending cuts.”Huffington Post reports that “Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring on Friday declined to say where Republicans would look to make cuts to pay for a potential storm aid package.” Speaker John Boehner’s spokesperson “ducked the question altogether when asked if Boehner agreed with Cantor’s call for offsets for emergency aid.” Boehner and Cantor’s position is “a break from a bipartisan tradition” of immediately appropriating funds to help those in need following a natural disaster.

Can I just say that besides being mean-spirited and short sighted, I find this incredibly offensive to those of us on the east coast. The coast populations pay some of the highest taxes in the country and send more money to Washington that we get back. That money pays for farm subsidies and ethanol subsidies and wars we did not wish to engage in and all kinds of things that the “heartland” takes for granted. In fact, I’m tired of us always bowing and scraping to the holiness of the midwest and rural voters. They think way too much of their own self-importance.

Resentment and righteous indignation is NOT what the midwest want the coastal states to feel about them right now. Seriously. We share an awful lot of our money with them. Every year when I do my taxes, I’m shocked by the amount that I shell out to everyone else while I try to figure out how I’m going to pay for my own needs in this ridiculously expensive state. Even next year when I do them I will have paid more in taxes as a newly unemployed person than some voter in a midwest state makes in salary in a year. It pisses me off to no end to hear some financial domestic terrorist like Tea Party Eric Cantor shooting off his mouth about what we will and will not get in aid from the feds. Who the f%&* does he think he is?

The east coast suburbanites who may be washed out of their houses from Irene are going to come down on the Republican party like a hammer if there’s any monkeying around with the FEMA funds.

Don’t even go there, Eric.

Hurricane Irene poised to take out Northeastern liberal elite bloggers

That’ll learn them dirty f%^&ing hippies.  Whoo-hoo!  We really should get together and throw a hurricane party.  My house is just above the label that says “2pm Sunday”.

So much to do. Appetizers, beer, rum. Mostly get fresh water.  Natasha Chart tweeted a handy disaster preparedness list for those of us on the hit list.  Here’s a tip I learned when I rode out Hurricane Charlie in Naples, Florida about 5 years ago: fill your bathtubs up with water.  When the water stops flowing, you’ll want to use that water to flush your toilets.

When Floyd passed through here about 13 years ago, our water treatment plant was flooded and out for 2 weeks.  Yep, do you know how hard it is to keep a 2 year old clean for two weeks without showers and baths?  The mayor had a fireside chat every evening for 2 weeks to assure us that the water would be flowing any day now while his hair got greasier and greasier.  Ah, those were the days.  Such fun.  Speaking of fun, I really must clear that gutter above my deck while I have time…

The inaptly named Bound Brook, NJ after Hurricane Floyd, about 5 miles from yours truly

But it’s not just the NJ bloggers, and that would include Krugthulu who lives about 10 miles from me, it also includes Atrios and Susie Madrak.

Speaking of Susie, in case you haven’t heard, she’s in the hospital under observation for a possible heart attack.  As you may know, Susie’s been unemployed for awhile.  Health insurance is expensive.  By the way, did you know that the COBRA subsidy will end next week?  The subsidy helped pay 65% of the cost of COBRA for newly unemployed people, like me.  I’m not on COBRA yet but I can now look forward to paying the whole thing myself on my meager unemployment check starting next month when my severance benefits end.  Isn’t that special?  Stranded in NJ with a mortgage, no job and no COBRA subsidy.  I’m not sure what I’m supposed to live on and I’m probably not going to fetch top dollar on the flesh market on Craigslist anymore.  You’d think Obama would have made sure that this subsidy lasted until 2012 but you would think wrong.  It’s enough to drive a girl to socialism, I tells ya.

Anyway, if you have some spare change, now would be a good time visit Susie’s page and  make a donation to her tip jar.

Get well, Susie!  We need you back on Virtually Speaking Susie.