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      A couple days ago I was thinking about the problem of surveillance states and I realized “this problem is likely to become less of one because of climate change.” And I started thinking about all the opportunities and good things climate change makes possible. My grieving was done. My pre-grieving, I suppose. I see grieving […]
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Malignant Christianity

Yesterday, Fresh Air with Terry Gross featured an interview with Rachel Tabachnik who recently wrote a post at Alternet about a new religious movement called the New Apostolic Reformation. Paul Rosenberg wrote a followup post titled “The Biggest Religious Movement You Never Heard of: Nine Things You Need to Know About Rick Perry’s Prayer Event“.  I highly recommend these pieces to those of you who are not familiar with this new cult of evangelicals who are planning to conduct spiritual warfare on an institution or religious affiliation near you.

I don’t know what effect they will have on the political system if they ever get a politician in the White House but if we give them some rope, they just might hang themselves.  I call them malignant because they really don’t care what sect of Christianity *you* believe.  There is only one truth according to them and it is the one they define.  They have absolutely no respect for your religious beliefs.  They don’t believe in tolerance.  They’re cultlike in that they have cultivated a mindset and thought stopping ideas and it is impossible to argue with them.  You can’t reason with people whose minds exist in a parallel universe.  They are end timers who put their faith only in God.  They are waiting for a critical mass of Jews to accept Christ before the end.  Unlike some evangelicals, they don’t necessarily believe in the Rapture.  They expect that they will have to go through the tribulations on earth before Jesus comes.

In many respects, they are indistinguishable from Jehovah’s Witnesses.  This is pretty surprising.  When I was a kid, Jehovah’s Witnesses were thought of as eyes-glazed-over zealots with no sense of humor and a stubborn streak of anti-intellectualism.  Now, a whole new generation of evangelicals has adopted their theology lock, stock and barrel and probably don’t even know it.

These new apostles claim they don’t belong to any church.  They belong to a movement.  Their movement is obsessed with the idea of demons everywhere, another feature of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Yep, if you are a freemason in the Midwest, you just might find a bunch of these people standing on the lawn to your temple, driving a stake in the grass and praying fervently to drive the demons out.  In most other respects, they are like the religious right.  Adamantly anti-abortion, they also think that homosexuality is perverted.  It’s not just that they think it’s immoral, the very thought of gay sex is mentally and emotionally revolting to them.  I find this aspect really weird but it does tell you something about the age of some of these participants.  Bedroom practices for gay and straight couples don’t really differ a lot these days but you don’t hear the religious right spazzing out about married heterosexuals performing oral or anal sex.  If it’s immoral to use the wrong orifice, it’s wrong for anyone who does it.  Consistency, people.  It would make you a whole lot more credible.

They also seem to think that the government has too much of a safety net and that the responsibility for helping people in need belongs to the church.  This is really strange because these people don’t belong to physical churches and they detest the mainstream religious institutions so who’s supposed to be doing this stuff for the poor?  And what do the poor have to give up in exchange?  It’s funny how these people think the unemployed are parasites after people such as myself paid more in taxes in a year than some of them made in salary.  We’re out of work but we still pay taxes on severance benefits (if we’re lucky enough to get them) and our unemployment checks.  But when the severance is gone, so are the taxes.  You’d think that the New Apostolic Reformation would be banging down the doors of Congress to get politicians to focus on unemployment but you would be wrong.  Because these new apostles don’t believe in the government of man.  They’re waiting for the end time to come.  Any effort towards solving the economic crisis would be a waste of time and besides, that would deprive them of their ability to look down on anyone not like them.

I call it malignant.  It spreads and it causes great harm to the body without providing any positive benefits.  Tabachnik says it’s gaining in popularity but I would hazard a guess that it will become a lot less popular after 2012 when the obsession with Mayan numerology takes its course and we’re all still here in January 2013. Or when Glenn Beck exhausts his good will among the survivalists.  Or when Rupert Murdoch finally has to explain himself before a Congressional committee.

But keep the malignancy aspect in the forefront of your mind.  The New Apostolic Reformation has nothing to offer this country or the world or you personally.  The politicians who pander to it probably don’t either.

Fantasies and Choices

Lambert has an extended conversation with Amanda Marcotte over whether Hillary Clinton would have made a better president. Amanda and many others, argue that it’s all speculation and we’ll never know and blah, blah, blah, {{rolling eyes at all of the Democratic party loyalists who are, once again, either complicit or getting sucked into spreading the talking points of the people who were so damned wrong the first time}}

Look, it’s very simple:

1.) You were wrong about Obama; we were right. We never expected Obama to be an effective counterweight against the Republicans. That’s precisely why we didn’t vote for him in the primaries. Our whole reason for voting for rejecting him was that he had no idea what he was getting us into and the Bushies were leaving a mess behind. We didn’t want a neophyte for president in 2009. If anyone had a fantasy about the presidency, it wasn’t us. We knew what was coming and Obama’s failure comes as neither a shock or disappointment. We are not disillusioned. We didn’t buy the HopeyChangey stuff in the first place. That is a propaganda ploy that was covered in 8th grade social studies. Were the Obama contingent absent that day? So, why should we listen to your faulty reasoning for a second campaign season?
2.) The campaign really hasn’t even begun yet. There is still time for a substitution, whether it is Hillary or someone else with balls.
3.) NONE of us want to sit through 4 more years of Obama. Period.
4.) Regardless of how primary challengers have affected the electoral prospects of an incumbent in the past, this is a completely different economic and political reality. We are not simply dealing with malaise. This is a Lesser Depression. What we need now is something completely unpredictable.
5.) While speculation about Hillary’s presidency may strike some of the left as intellectual masturbation, it is inappropriate for them to substitute *their* judgement for ours. We want a choice. Choices are what make democracy work. We present choices to informed voters and they decide what they want. Why don’t Democrats believe in Democracy? Or is it that the Amanda Marcottes of the party, who made a huge mistake in 2008, insist on representing themselves as the superior intellects to the rest of us who they persist in mischaracterizing as working class, uneducated women?

Really, who the F^&* does Amanda Marcotte and Rebecca Traister and Jonathan Capehart and ThereIsNoSpoon etc, etc, etc think they are???

You threw a tantrum in 2008 and had to have your way. You bought the Obama brand without question and got all of the rest of us into this pickle. And it wasn’t even like he ran away with the nomination by a landslide. The nomination was a squeaker and he only won because the party changed the rules so it could ignore the will of the largest, most Democratic states in the country. He didn’t run a brilliant campaign. He ran a ruthless one and he bought a lot of superdelegates with the money from the finance industry. And because of the cluelessness of the left activist base, a good chunk of the middle class is suffering with no end in sight. Some of us (yours truly) have lost jobs and livelihoods because you insisted on putting an untried, inexperienced, political cypher in a job he wasn’t ready for. We told you that over and over and over again. He’s not even a real Democrat from what I can tell. And now you guys presume to tell US that we can’t have a choice in the matter of the next presidency?

First of all, that’s not true and never was true. We always have choices. But if you think this argument about fantasies and Hillary Clinton are going to persuade us, you are the ones who are out of touch with reality. Obama is not working out. The management, that would be us, would like to make a change. It is time for the party to get a clue and get him to step down so someone else can have a crack at it, presumably someone who is a real Democrat.

Whatever problem you have with Hillary Clinton, I guarantee you that it isn’t nearly as bad as the problems the unemployed have with Obama right now. No one is *ENTITLED* to a second term. And it is sheer fantasy for the Democrats to try to push a failure on us a second time when there is time to prevent it. The people who are in fantasy mode are the ones who think that Obama’s second term is going to be better than his first. Hillary told us what it was going to be like and she was right:

Amanda and Rebecca and Jonathan are in denial. They’re in denial because they are afraid. They’re afraid because the Republicans could win. The Republicans could win because the economy is really in bad shape. The economy is in really bad shape because Republicans are obstructive assholes and because Obama didn’t know how to deal with them. He doesn’t know how to deal with them because he didn’t have that part figured out before he ran and he doesn’t have a political philosophy. But fear tactics are not going to get Obama re-elected. We’re not buying it, Amanda. The party needs to stop being so craven and scared and replace the guy at the top because we are not voting for him next year.

Suck on that, Amanda.

PS: I can’t remember where I read this but some columnist wrote that there have been suggestions of a write in campaign for Hillary in Iowa. Now, I don’t know if she could be drafted or if she even has an interest. But if she won the Iowa caucuses anyway, that would send a very strong message to the party that Obama does not have the confidence of the voters. That assumes that there won’t be spillover from Illinois. I fully expect that Iowa and other caucus states don’t let the Obama campaign get away with the blatantly obvious fraudulent and unethical practices they did in 2008. For the record, Obots, that kind of behavior is not just rough politics. It’s immoral behavior that deprives voters of their rights and fair reflection. But if you put up with it, you should not be surprised with the guy does the same thing to you.

Tripoli is falling to rebel forces

Another one bites the dust.  There are rumors that Qaddafi’s security detail has surrendered to the rebels. According to news reports, NATO air cover has been instrumental in allowing the rebel forces to succeed.  Tripoli is celebrating.  Libyans in the streets singing and beeping car horns.

But the US News media has some explaining to do.  Coverage of this event here in the US has been subdued.  There are no tweets from the State Department, which usually has Obama’s propaganda team taking credit for this kind of thing.  There are no live news feeds with one exception.  Andy Carvin’s twitter stream points to the live stream from Sky TV.

You can watch the events live here at LiveTVCafe.net  Alex Crawford has been reporting live as she accompanies the rebels as they advance on Green Square.  Green Square is the coup de grace.  The rebels are less than a kilometer away.  Crawford’s live feed has been temporarily loss.  Sky News is still covering the celebrations in Libya in the wake of the rebel’s path.

Update: There are reports that Qaddafi’s son, Seif, has been captured.

Qaddafi’s government mouthpiece, Musa Ibrahim, just gave a government response where he claimed a high body count and blamed NATO for the fall of the Qaddafi regime.  What was amusing about his speech was the Sky News split screen with Ibrahim on the right claiming that Libyans in Tripoli were terrified of the rebels with live coverage of those same Libyans partying in the street on the left side of the screen.  Some spin just doesn’t sell.  Ibrahim also says that the rebels are tribalists who are out to exact revenge against Qaddafi’s forces, which only goes to show you that if you’re going to be a dictator, you should practice a more moderate form of oppression.

Also, Here’s a pic of the celebrations of the events in Tripoli that are happening now in Benghazi courtesy of Al Jazeera.

Geek Tweet of the Day:
RT @Citizen_4537c84 Twitter tells me that Gaddafi is both dead & captured. He is clearly Schrödinger’s dictator. #Tripoli #Libya

Before Obama takes credit for the end of Qaddafi’s reign in Libya…

Let’s remember who had to drag Obama kicking and screaming to enforce a no-fly zone to keep up the momentum of the Arab Spring uprisings:

.As the United States and allies began their airstrike against Libya over the weekend, several news outlets reported on the growing tension between Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was allegedly annoyed that the president had been taking so long to commit to a plan in Libya. “Obviously, she’s not happy with dealing with a president who can’t decide if today is Tuesday or Wednesday, who can’t make his mind up,” a friend of madame secretary told The Daily’s Josh Hersh, whose delicious March 17 piece on Clinton’s frustrations is a must-read. The source continued, “And she doesn’t have any power. She’s trying to do what she can to keep things from imploding.”Clinton’s allies in her push toward action in Libya were, among others, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and security adviser Samantha Power.According to this morning’s Playbook, “the front page of today’s Times of London, [contains] the tease, ‘The three women who persuaded the President to take action,’” accompanied by photos of Clinton, Rice, and Power.

According to Josh Hersh’s account of the tension between Obama and Hillary, Obama wasn’t above sarcastic remarks that smack of the same kind of s^%* you hear from a typical male who pisses you off:

Obama himself made light of her strong feelings for supporting the opposition in a speech last week at the Gridiron Club Dinner, an annual gathering that traditionally features a stand-up comedy act by the president.

“I’ve dispatched Hillary to the Middle East to talk about how these countries can transition to new leaders — though, I’ve got to be honest, she’s gotten a little passionate about the subject,” Obama said to laughter from the audience.

“These past few weeks it’s been tough falling asleep with Hillary out there on Pennsylvania Avenue shouting, throwing rocks at the window.”

Who knows if the rest of that article is true but the GridIron Club presumably records these events so we can probably assume that he really did say that.

I’m guessing it went something like this:

Let’s hear it for the girls.

They’re all like that, Atrios

Atrios marks Hershey as the worst company in America today for hiring foreign students and then paying them subsistence wages and charging them more for rent.

But Hershey is hardly an exception. This is the way more and more corporations are operating. The goal is to meet quarterly earnings so costs must be cut. That usually means labor costs are minimized. So, the company lets go of expensive full time workers with benefits and hires them back as inexpensive contractors. They do it through an official blessed vendor. That vendor hires contractors based on the company’s needs. Sometimes, when there is a special request, the vendor subcontracts the hiring process. Everyone makes out in the process except the worker, who usually ends up footing the bill for all the benefits he/she has lost. With every intervening middle man, there’s a cut off the top of the worker’s wages.

Now, you might think that only low level, unskilled labor would be subject to this scheme. But the truth is that there are large international pharma companies that operate this way now. The industry as a whole has lopped a huge number of scientists off their payrolls recently and can now hire them back as contractors at vastly reduced salaries and no bennies. The big company doesn’t have to deal with the sausage making. It’s the vendor that takes care of that. And the big vendor doesn’t have any control over what the little vendor does. So, the cost of labor decreases and no one is responsible.

Corporations are necessary. I wish the left would come to terms with this fact. They’re not inherently evil. Certainly, the people who work for them are not. But the people who run them have had the rules rewritten in their favor in recent decades so they can get away with just about anything these days. Since we need corporations, it’s important that we change the rule makers if we want to make life fairer for all of us. Right now, they’re like adolescents who have very lax parents. This is not necessarily a good thing because so much of the business has been sacrificed to feed the shareholders, and their 401ks, that productivity is no longer optimized. Shredding the workforce will catch up to them. And having a bunch of under compensated highly skilled workers at your site means they will only do what they are paid to do and no more. That is a waste for both the employer and employee.

The individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act was struck down in an appeals court last week. I suspected that the mandate gave businesses an excuse to lay off even more people because as long as employees had to pay for their own health insurance in the future, the company was off the ethical hook to offer it to them. But the blessed vendor scheme is just picking up steam. Expect more stories like Hershey’s to come to a workplace near you.

I don’t have any patience for this crap anymore and I’m not going away

Jonathan Capehart in the Washington Post is the latest pundit to tell us to stop pining for Hillary and give Obama some slack.  He agrees with Rebecca Traister at Salon who just wishes the rest of us would STFU already.  Capehart puts the blame on the Republicans who thwarted Obama’s first term, even though he started said first term with a solid majority in one house and a filibuster proof majority in the other.  But these are the two paragraphs that caught my eye because they border on the absurd:

By agreeing with Traister, though, I’m not giving Obama a pass on some of the anger and frustration the base has with him. The president has made mistakes. He pursued priorities that I believe will be judge kindly by history but are being judged negatively right now by the American people. And Obama hasn’t been as effective weaving the narrative of his administration as he was at reminding us of who we were as a country at the 2004 Democratic Convention.

The president needs to do a better job of focusing on the near-term priorities the American people have been clamoring for and the long-term issues that will leave this country better than he found it, fighting for those issues and story-telling. With Obama trying out themes on his bus tour that we’re bound to hear in the fall, delivering those themes with a snap in his voice that surely thrilled his supporters hungry for him to fight and leaking news of a post-Labor Day speech on jobs and the deficit, it appears he has already begun.

Obama’s going to try out “themes” with a “snap in his voice”.  Has Capehart been paying attention to the less than thrilled supporters who have abandoned Obama lately?  They’re not coming back.  They’ve finally seen the light like I did three years ago.  Once you see what’s going on, it’s hard to unsee it.   If there has been one thing Obama has been good at it’s disillusioning the leftist activists who worked so hard for him last time.  I’m hoping we can get the band back together and reunite the two coalitions of the party before Obama rolls out too many “themes”.

Does anyone really believe that just because Obama tests out some campaign themes that he’s going to rally the troop?  How come he didn’t test those themes out in January of 2009?  I’ll tell you why.  He didn’t believe in using the force of government to head off a lingering Lesser Depression.  He had his chance to do it and … he didn’t.

This is why the calls for Hillary Clinton to jump in are not going to go away.  The buyer’s remorse has to do with the very reasonable expectation that Hillary would have been a lot more proactive than Obama was in January 2009.  Do we really believe that she would have taken office and let the economy languish during her first year in office, that she wouldn’t have aggressively championed a bigger stimulus package and a mortgage program to help struggling homeowners?  Can any of us see her getting the news from Christina Romer to ask for $1.2 trillion in stimulus and have her say, “Ehhh, that’s probably too hard to get through Congress.  Let’s go with what Tim proposed and the market will take care of itself”

No, nobody who has been paying attention to the way Hillary and Obama conduct business that she would have been as passive and inept as this president has been.  And the thought of what might have been is deeply frustrating and maddening to those of us who have lost our jobs and are about to lose everything else.

Now, a lot of political party operatives will tell you that it is impossible to change the nominee, that’s it’s unheard that an incumbent is not entitled to a second term.  But to leave Obama in place risks losing the White House.  And I suspect that he has very short coattails.  I sure as hell don’t want to see him campaigning with any of my Congressional delegation members.  I live in an area where high tech jobs have been smashed to smithereens and all I ever hear about is how we have to retrain ourselves to take the jobs of the future.  How much more futuristic do we have to get???

What the political environment needs right now is something completely unpredictable.  Voters are getting really tired of not having a choice.  If Hillary jumped in, she’d be where all of those pent-up, frustrated votes would go.  It could be electric.  She is the most logical candidate to field, seeing as she appeals to a large number of voting constituencies.  But if there is another candidate with her viability and appeal, I’d consider him/her.

But all I ever hear is how I should stop whining about it because we’re stuck with Obama, who if he wins, will have even LESS incentive to take on the Republicans or do anything that will put government to work for us.  Yes, I’m supposed to just suck it up while my savings dwindle and my family falls out of the middle class while he tests his “themes” and makes more promises he does not intend to keep.  (We’ve been paying attention)  This campaign is not about the success of Obama’s “themes”.  It’s about correcting inequity, writing new rules and getting people back to work.  That Obama responds to our plight with a series of “themes” does not thrill me or make me want to vote for him any more than the first time he rolled out his marketing campaign in 2008.

I’m not voting for any of the candidates presented to me so far.  I will choose a third party candidate.  And I’m not shutting up or going away.

Friday: Well, this is interesting- NIH request for information on the future of biomedical research

From Jared Berstein's blog. If you havent' found a job after 6 months, your chances of getting are slim.

A few months back when I was still working, the American Chemical Society held a webinar with some people from the Bureau of Labor Statistics where they proceeded to tell us that unemployment was really, really low for chemists.  The disconnect was astonishing until we realized that the BLS hadn’t collected data since before the Lesser Depression began.  The pharmaceutical industry has laid off something like 300,000 people since 2007 and this time, the sales division did not take the biggest hits. In my own immediate family/friends, not one of us has a full time job with benefits for the first time in our working lives.  We are all either un or under employed without health benefits and are barely managing to scrape by with paying our rents and mortgages after the industry lured us out to the most expensive part of the country to live and then stranded us here.  And we are not high school dropouts.  We all have degrees, some of them PhDs from prestigious universities, in physical or natural sciences and our performance evaluations were good.  Some of us even got performance awards (for the second year in a row!) a month before we got our pink slips.

Well, it seems like the NIH is trying to get some new data.  As Derek Lowe reports on In the Pipeline:

A reader passes along this request for comment by the NIH. The “Advisory Committee to the NIH Director Working Group on the Future Biomedical Research Workforce” is asking for thoughts on issues such as the length of time it takes to get a PhD, the balance between non-US and US workers, length of post-doctoral training, the prospects for employment after such is completed, general issues relating to whether people choose biomedical research as a career at all, and so on.

If you are in the industry, let me rephrase that, if you once had hopes to work in the industry but have had those hopes brutally dashed after you spent years slaving away over a hotplate, you may want to contribute your constructive input.  You have until October 7, 2011 to do it.  Go to this form.  Try not to get tears and snot on the keyboard while you’re filling it out.

From the  NIH website on this RFI, here’s some of the information they are interested in:


This Notice is a time-sensitive Request for Information (RFI) requesting input into the deliberations of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director Working Group on the Future Biomedical Research Workforce.


The Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) has established a working group to examine the future of the biomedical research workforce in the United States (seehttp://acd.od.nih.gov/bwf.asp for charter and roster).  The group will gather information from various sources including the extramural community, and will develop a model for a sustainable, diverse, and productive U.S. biomedical research workforce using appropriate expertise from NIH and external sources. The model will help inform decisions about how to train the optimal number of people for the appropriate types of positions that will advance science and promote health. The working group will recommend actions to the ACD and to the NIH Director.

In its initial deliberations, the working group identified the following issues as important to consider when developing a model of the future biomedical research workforce:

  • The balance between supply, including the number of domestic and foreign trained PhDs and post-docs, and demand, i.e. post-training career opportunities.
  • Characteristics of PhD training in biomedical research, including issues such as
  • The length of the PhD training period.
  • Recommendations for changes to the PhD curriculum.
  • Training for multiple career paths (including bench and non-bench science).
  • Characteristics of clinician-research training including issues such as
  • The balance between MDs and MD/PhDs
  • Career development of clinician-researchers.
  • Recommendations for changes to the curricula for training clinician-researchers.
  • Length of Post-doctoral training.
  • The ratio of PhD students and postdoctoral fellows on training grants to those supported by research grants.
  • Possibilities for professional/staff scientist positions and the level of training required for such positions (e.g. PhD or MSc degrees).
  • Issues related to the attractiveness of biomedical research careers (e.g. salary, working conditions, availability of research funding)
  • The effect of changes in NIH policies on investigators, grantee institutions and the broader research enterprise.

I’d like to thank whoever is responsible for getting this together for actually taking an interest in the issue, even if it is years too late to save our careers or the underlying infrastructure that all Americans are counting on to produce the results we have taken for granted in modern times.  If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that the number of PhDs produced is irrelevant if no one wants to hire you.  Regardless of your degree level, studying the sciences is not for the faint of heart.  It takes dedication to master some difficult material, perseverance to learn new information and years and years of practice before you’re any good.  You can get your 10,000 hours in graduate school or on the job.  Some non-PhD scientists are extremely capable and some PhDs come to industry with lots of attitude but no practical skills.  But whatever the degree level and regardless of where we are located in the world, there just aren’t a whole lot of us who have the skills to do research at this level.  We need to be compensated accordingly.  At some point, research becomes an art.  It’s not something that can be broken down into assembly line, just-in-time parts.  It operates best when there is “frictionless” collaboration, when the physical barriers that separate groups are minimal and leadership is partitioned away from the bean counters.