• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Kathleen A Wynne on Pornhub Category: White H…
    William on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Kathleen A Wynne on Pornhub Category: White H…
    William on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Sweet Sue on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Trump Recruited for his S…
    bellecat on Trump Recruited for his S…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Trump Recruited for his S…
    William on Trump Recruited for his S…
    William on Trump Recruited for his S…
  • Categories


  • Tags

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

  • History

    October 2011
    S M T W T F S
    « Sep   Nov »
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    3031  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Eliminationist Rhetoric
      Real polarization in a country happens when different factions don’t accept the other faction has a right to exist. When you say “traitor”, or “go back home” or “you don’t belong here” what you’re saying is that someone doesn’t have a right to exist in your country. Traitor, in particular, is a strong word: traitors […]
  • Top Posts

  • Advertisements

Afternoon entertainment

I lived in upstate New York when I was a young teen and spent my hard earned babysitting money primarily on my little brother and the New York City Ballet Summer Season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Festival.  Matinees were about $2 bucks a pop.  Sometimes, I was forced to bring my little sister with me but I’m the only one in my family that turned out to be a ballet nut.  I saw every Ballanchine ballet Stravinsky ever scored and thought the Jerome Robbins’ ballets were quirky and fun.  (Afternoon of a Faun?  The Cage? Too good.)

I saw a ballet *like* this one back then.  My memory says it was called The Rehearsal and featured a corps dancer who had had a bit too much to drink.  This opening dance is from The Concert (or The Perils of Everybody).  You know, when the group has an off night?  Anyone who’s had to interact seemlessly with other people in a group has had this happen at some time or another.

Enjoy!  This is an open thread.

Advertisements

Resolving drug shortages shouldn’t be a political “opportunity”

The cancer hourglass runs fast

Barack Obama is finally starting to notice that there is a shortage in the production of some older prescription drugs and is offering some carrots and sticks to resolve the problem:

WASHINGTON — President Obama will issue an executive order on Monday that the administration hopes will help resolve a growing number of critical shortages of vital medicines used to treat life-threatening illnesses, among them several forms of cancer and bacterial infections.

The order offers drug manufacturers and wholesalers both a helping hand and a gloved fist in efforts to prevent or resolve shortages that have worsened greatly in recent years, endangering thousands of lives.

It instructs the F.D.A. to do three things: broaden reporting of potential shortages of certain prescription drugs; speed reviews of applications to begin or alter production of these drugs; and provide more information to the Justice Department about possible instances of collusion or price gouging.

Such efforts are included in proposed legislation that has been pending in Congress since February despite bipartisan support for its provisions.

The order, the first since 1985 by a president to affect the functions of the Food and Drug Administration, is part of a series of recent executive orders involving such disparate issues as mortgage relief and jobs for veterans. They are intended to show that the president, plagued by low approval ratings, is working to resolve the nation’s problems despite a Congress largely paralyzed by partisan disagreements.

Yes, by all means, let’s wait until there is a chance to shore up low approval ratings before we do anything.  After all, that colon cancer isn’t going anywhere.

Do you ever get the feeling that the president is playing “whack-a-mole”?  “Drug problem?  Didn’t we go after medical marijuana and that Mexican drug cartel?  What do you mean people can’t get their chemo?  WTF??  I’ve got three, no, two wars to deal with and these bankers breathing down my neck and those pain-in-the-ass occupiers who ruined my fund-raising dinner in the Bay area last week.  How am I supposed to keep up with all of this?  Wait!  How many months are there until the election?”

Um, yes, Barry, there are people who aren’t getting their chemo.  The FDA has been a disfunctional agency for years.  Politicized?  You betcha!  We can’t decide whether to make a spectacle of Plan B and regulation when we’ve got a bunch of looney Republicans in charge or to grandstand about drug safety to scare the hysterical consumers to hyperbolic levels in order to demonize Big Pharma (which hasn’t done itself any favors lately in the PR department).

Let me tell you, Barry, my dad died of cancer 15 years ago, that mother works fast when there is nothing to keep it in check.  Patients do not have the luxury of months.  And this stuff just pisses me off:

The president’s order is a modest effort that, while possibly helpful, is unlikely to resolve the problem soon or entirely. Administration officials characterized it as one step in a long and complicated effort. Indeed, Mr. Obama eschewed more ambitious proposals — like government drug stockpiling or manufacturing — that would have injected the government more directly into the nation’s drug market and cost more but that might have been more effective. [yes, by all means, let’s do as little as possible]

Still, Mr. Obama’s order and others he has issued recently reflect his belief in the power of government to improve people’s lives.  [which campaign operative dictated *that* line?] By contrast, top Republican legislators and presidential candidates have almost uniformly argued that resolving the nation’s economic and other problems depends mostly on scaling back or ending government regulations to allow the free market to function more effectively. No regulatory agency touches people’s lives more thoroughly than the F.D.A., which regulates 25 cents of every dollar spent by consumers.

I don’t need a political operative to tell me that Republicans are criminal.  No, really, they are.  The drug industry needs regulation.  It would be helpful if those regulations were updated to reflect changes in technology and the FDA is way past due for a modern overhaul of its data systems in general.  But if any Republican is out there beating a drum against regulations for pharma, they really should be in jail.  It’s not that the industry is deliberately bad or negligent, despite what the class action lawyer contingent would have you believe.  It’s not.  And I’d like to keep it that way.  Better to be safe than sorry.  But let’s get the damn agency working efficiently please.

But wait, there’s more!  I’ll bet that Obama isn’t even paying any attention on the thousands of R&D professionals that lost their jobs only last week.  Merck, Schering-Plough, Amgen and Novartis are only the lastest pharmas to toss their researchers to the curb adding to the hundreds of thousands of us already out there.  That means that there won’t be very many new drugs coming on the market in the forseeable future.  With Big Pharma falling off the “patent cliff” this year and next, the executives are throwing the labrats overboard at Wall Street’s behest in order to serve the shareholders and protect their compensation packages.  China and India are not ready to take on hardcore pharmamceutical research and many Asian companies are content to just make me-too drugs.  Expect a lost decade while we cool our geeky jets and seriously consider finding other professions instead of finding new cures.

Of course, it didn’t have to be this way.  Barry was so over his head when he came into office that looking out for the researchers was probably the last thing on his mind. Besides, who listens to the labrats?  They don’t make huge contributions to your campaign.  They never get invited to the White House to tell you exactly what’s going on.  No, why should the president listen to a bunch of disgruntled R&D workers who will only tell him how catastrophically their industry has been managed by the guys who hobnob over some “shrimp, cod and lentil soup” and creme pie with chocolate truffle shavings?   We just become part of clueless Jeffrey Immelt’s plan to outsource absolutely everything.  After all, if we had opinions and concerns what were important, we wouldn’t be laid off losers, would we?

And the patients and scientists pay the price.

So, what is Obama going to do to enforce his executive order?  He’s sending some sternly worded letters to make  sure manufacurers voluntarily comply.  {{rolling eyes}} Way to go, Barry.

***************************************************************************************

Damn, even in death, Steve Jobs never stopped inventing.  Best final words ever.

***************************************************************************************

On the Occupation front, Occupy Oakland is calling for a General Strike on November 2, 2011.  I think I will join this strike and urge the rest of my fellow recetnly unemployed researcher contingent to wear your labcoats on Wednesday in solidarity.  We’ve been screwed over by Wall Street too.

Love the solidarity orange.

Here’s a video of the California longshoreman’s union occupier throwing his support behind the strike (Copied shamelessly from Atrios’ page):

Sunday Morning Stuff

spooky October snow

Hi guys, I found a lot of stuff in the spam filter this morning and have released them.  I have no idea why your messages are getting sent there.  There’s no obvious trigger words or filtered IDs.  It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma.  I’ll have to be more diligent about fishing them out.

************************************************

It snowed here yesterday, quite a bit for October, actually.  My cable internet connection and ATT signal were fubared for part of the day yesterday. We didn’t get the high winds of the Nor’easter here in NJ but I hear that Manhattan was windy and snowy.  The occupiers in Zuccotti Park have a list of requests, if you are so inclined to help them weather the weather.  They would really appreciate socks and other cold weather gear.  If you have some stuff to spare, check out their donations page here.  The fire department confiscated their gas powered generators on Friday.  Yeah, that will make them leave.  Not.  I don’t think Bloomberg gets it yet.  Taking stuff away and making people uncomfortable only makes them want to stay just to get in your face.  Given that they’re not going to go away, preventing them from getting hypothermia might be the humane thing to do, not that I actually expect that billionaire mayors will do the humane thing.

**************************************************************

bemused_leftist says that some Tom.Brune from Newsday dude is asking Clintonistas to justify their support of Hillary and explain what we think she would have done differently.  I can’t find Brune’s request by bemused_leftist (can you provide the link?  If it gets spammed, just email me)  says it goes something like this:

“I’m picking up reports and suggestions here and there that many Clinton supporters have a nostalgia for the Clinton presidency that never was. And I have thought about that and wondered: What would or could she have done that Obama didn’t do, and what did Obama do that she wouldn’t or couldn’t do.
Have any thoughts on that?”

At first, I thought I would reply to this request by listing some of the things I thought she might have done differently.  Then I realized that that’s not really what Brune wants.  What Brune wants is to continue to frame Hillary Clinton as an undesirable candidate for reasons that are known only to Brune and people like him.  And my response is that it does not matter if Brune and his droogs think that Bill Clinton wasn’t the Greatest Liberal Hope of the 20th Century.  It also doesn’t matter what we think she might have done differently.

What matters is that 18,000,000 people voted for her.  I spoke to many of them by phone when I was campaigning for her in NJ and PA.  And ALL of the ones I spoke to  said they had nothing against Obama.  They just didn’t think he was ready, but judging by her performances in the debates, they thought Hillary was.

That’s it, Mr. Brune.  That’s all you need to know.  18,000,000 of us thought Obama wasn’t ready and Hillary was.  We don’t have to justify anything else.

However, YOU and the rest of the Obama contingent and the DNC *do* have to justify why you think it was acceptable to take those 18,000,000 votes and dispose of them at the convention.  YOU have to justify why it was OK to deny Hillary Clinton’s delegates a legitimate roll call vote during the convention.  YOU need to tell us why there wasn’t a debate on who would get the nomination because the delegate count between the two of them was slimmer than a gnat hair.

Come, come, Mr. Brune, let’s not have any hypotheticals and revisionist history.  We know what went on during the Clinton administration because unlike some Obama supporters, we were old enough to vote.  Just because you didn’t like her, and found him to be a flawed human being, doesn’t mean you have the right to tell us what we should be thinking.  You and your clueless cohort continue to dismiss our opinions and ask us to come up with reasons that you can shoot down.  And you shoot them down because you haven’t come to terms with why you rejected the best candidate you had in 2008.  I think we both know why you deep sixxed her.  We’ve seen enough so we know what lurks at the bottom of what might be called your souls.  There’s no reason for us to continue to play this game with you.

Here’s the bottom line, Mr. Brune.  There are still voters out there who prefer Hillary Clinton.  There are some former Obama voters who have snapped out of it and have had a change of heart.  There are some Republicans who are alarmed enough about economic conditions and have been impressed by her performance on a world stage.  And in the latest polls she is leading by wide margins against any Republican challenger the right wants to throw at her.  She beats them more soundly than Obama ever will.

You can’t change that.  It must be frustrating for you that we just don’t get it.  We just will not accept that getting what we actually want and voted for is not going to happen.  All of the “serious people” have decided that, in advance, and consider us silly women and crazy, delusional nutcases.  The trouble is our numbers are not going down.  We stubbornly resist the “serious peoples'” attempts to reason with us, which for some peculiar reason come off sounding like mocking condescension.

If it feels like the former Clintonistas and new converts are determined to drive the country off a cliff next year if they don’t get with the program and vote for Obama, then good!  Now you know what it feels like to be ignored and lead involuntarily into a period of economic instability by a president who is tragically unprepared to deal with it.

There’s your answer, Mr. Brune.  No, no, don’t thank me.

***********************************************

For those of you still wondering why the big deal over Steve Jobs, here’s another piece of the puzzle.  Back in February, Silicon Valley doges got together to host a dinner for Obama.  He was no doubt trying to get his donors all lined up in advance.  Steve Jobs wanted to plan the menu and thought that the chocolate cream pie the White House had ordered, along with the shrimp, cod and lentil soup was “too fancy”*.  Mark Zuckerberg was annoyed with John Chambers of Cisco who wanted Obama to get legislation passed that would allow him to not pay taxes on overseas profits.  Obama seemed annoyed too.  But Jobs wasn’t too pleased with Obama either:

Jobs, who had a coveted seat next to Obama, told the president about a growing need for engineers and pitched a popular idea in Silicon Valley: Grant any foreign student who earns an engineering degree in the United States a visa to stay upon graduation. Obama, though, said such a provision could only be included in the Dream Act, which would let illegal immigrants who arrive in the United States as minors and complete high school to become citizens — an idea opposed by congressional Republicans.

Jobs, who never had to worry about dealing with a loyal opposition at Apple, was not happy, saying later to Isaacson: “The president is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done. It infuriates me.”

Nonetheless, Jobs was willing to create an iCampaign for Obama’s re-election after the president followed up on another idea the Apple co-founder offered up: launch a national initiative to provide basic engineering courses at community colleges or tech and trade schools, whose graduates could supervise manufacturing plants in the United States. The lack of such workers, Jobs said, was a key reason Apple doesn’t set up assembly lines in America.

In the Walter Isaacson biography of Jobs, much is made of his “Reality Distortion Field”, Jobs irresistable charisma and belief that the impossible was attainable by sheer force of will of the people working on his projects.  This is probably a necessary trait for a president to have to some degree or another or he (or she) can’t lead.  And Obama, um, doesn’t.  Tom Brune might want to think about that because clearly, Hillary Clinton voters who watched her triumphing over the odds and the media during the primaries of 2008 detected the scent of a Reality Distortion Field.  It was strong enough that the Democratic party had to kill it.  But whatever.  Anyway, Jobs doesn’t have a very high opinion of Obama.  Jobs was a complex man and a bastard in many ways.  But one thing you can’t fault him for is his ability to size up people.  He had a knack for that and Jobs found Obama lacking.

By the way, has Obama ever followed up on Jobs request that community colleges and tech schools train new assembly line engineers? Anybody?  Tom?

*Interesting perspective on Jobs: He was a bit of an ascetic.  He had a weird aversion to a normal diet.  Jobs definitely ate to live and not the other way around.  He also thought buying 60,000 sq ft houses was an ostentatious and tasteless show of wealth.  He and his family owned several properties but he wasn’t into living in many of them.  His family home is nice but not plush or gargantuan by any stretch of the imagination.  His family didn’t have a live in staff of servants or a security detail.  For a billionaire, he lead a pretty modest life.  He was ambitious and driven but not by money or material things.  They did hang out with people who were into money.  Larry Ellison, who used to own one of the largest yachts in the world, the Rising Sun, invited Jobs and his family for excursions.  This prompted one of his kids to ask if they were going to take a ride with one of Jobs’ rich friends.  Too funny.

Good Morning

Cue the music

Some more bad news on the research front.  Earlier this week, Merck laid off a number of employees from the parent company and Schering-Plough, the company it merged with a couple years ago.  I can’t find a firm number for the total layoffs.  In some reports, it’s 17,000, in others it is 17,000 plus an additional 13,000.  That’s worldwide.  And while Merck has something like 91,000 employees worldwide, when it comes to laying off research, it comes primarily from the US side because American research workers have zero labor protections.  I would expect the loss from Western European research facilities to be light.  Estimated cost savings are $400 million out of a budget of $7.9 billion.  That is a huge research budget but that’s what it takes these days.  Drug discovery is very expensive.  Merck and Schering-Plough have facilities in the Northeast, particularly in Rahway, NJ, West Point, PA and Kennilworth, NJ.  Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline says he is getting heavy casualty reports in from the research professionals at Schering Plough (Kennilworth).  I know people who work at both companies and I’m very sad for them.  This is not a good time to be untethered from a steady income.  I hope they’ve prepared themselves.  The loss to the states of NJ and PA in tax revenue from cutting these well-paying jobs is going to be pretty bad.  So, this month we have Novartis, Amgen and Merck-Schering-Plough.  Wait, wasn’t there another one?  Too many to keep track of.  And more competition for me.  Well, I am in good company.  Some of the smartest people in the country, no, the *world* are now out of work.

Jay Ackroyd thinks that the desire to globalize is driving this and calling it “centrism”.  Jay’s anger and disgust is pretty clear but coming from the corporate world that most lefties hate, hate, HATE with all their souls, I see this a little differently.  For example, take the way Steve Jobs was pushed out of Apple back in the 80’s.  I’m listening to the biography by Walter Isaacson.  Jobs was no saint.  Back in the 80s, he was the heartless boss from hell.  I guess you could chalk that up to youthful immaturity but when the precariousness of his position at Apple hit him, he got a sense of how companies would work in the future.  John Sculley, the president Jobs hired to run Apple, was a marketing guy.  He didn’t understand the product he was manufacturing.  He wanted to spin off the creative part of Apple to a unit called Apple Labs, that would be run by Jobs.  It was a way to get rid of Jobs and his loyal creative types who wanted to act like pirates.  Sculley wanted employees to put Apple, the company, first.  People like Jobs wanted to put the product first.  It’s too bad that he acted like such an obnoxious, insulting immature brat because Jobs was right.  Most companies have followed the Sculley route.  They put sales and marketing and making money first.  And that’s what companies are for, to make money.  You’d have to be stupid if you had any altruistic aspirations for having a company.  But what marketing people fail to see is that without a product, you have nothing to sell.  If you short your R&D division, you’ll be cutting your own throat. It won’t happen overnight but it will happen.  And then you’ll be busily eating your seed corn to make those quarterly earnings, like Merck, Pfizer, Novartis, Amgen…  After Jobs grew up a bit and came back to Apple, he put the focus back on innovative products and now, the company is the most profitable in the world.

So what does this have to do with Ackroyd’s piece?  Well, if pharma is any indication of what is really going on, globalization is a fad.  That’s what the business people do.  They chase fads and trends.  They rarely follow up on their initial enthusiasm to see if the fads actually add to their bottom lines.  It’s the initial savings that they care about because that’s immediate, it’s quarterly and they think better in 3 month increments.  Pharma went through a period of mergers and acquisitions that did nothing for research and only enriched executives’ pockets.  But there have been other fads, like combinatorial chemistry, proteomics, siRNA, and genomics.  None of them turned out to be the panacea the Sculley class was looking for because the nature of biology is such that these technologies were just tools that we used to dig up more problems to solve.  They were never intended to be solutions all by themselves.  The newest fad is to relocate all of research (or what is left) in the bay areas, Cambridge,MA and San Francisco and San Diego, CA.  Presumably, the smartest people in the world graduate from MIT and Harvard and Stanford and UCSD.  That may be true.  But it may also be the case that only the wealthy and well connected can get into those schools anymore.  It also ignores the fact that for years, biomedical researchers came from all over the country, prestigious and unprestigious schools alike.  I’ve known excellent researchers who graduated from schools in Indiana, Colorado, New Jersey and Louisiana.  But this idea of educational exclusivity and capturing the elite is the new fad.  They will do the brain work and the hands on stuff will be carried out by a bunch of drones in China and India.  The corporate guys are marketing and sales and business school guys.  They think research and innovation can be broken down to a list of mind numbing chores and “just in time” off the shelf solutions while the “better people”, people like them in their social class, are graduating from ivy league schools and those people have the natural talent to manage the innovation process.  The corporation will take the profits gained by outsourcing.

And they are following this course of action and business not because it is good for the companies they serve but because they can.  The rules don’t apply to them anymore.  I’m not sure the goal was always globalization but now that there’s nothing to stop them, that’s what they’re going to do even if it ruins the product line.  The Sculleys of this world do not understand what motivates people who do research and who are inspired to innovate.  Here’s a clue: the most profitable product line of the world was designed by a college drop out and his rag tag bunch of unorthodox pirates who were left to their own devices.

So, Jay, I wouldn’t worry too much about the desire to globalize.  At some point, the grasshoppers will stop eating their seed corn because there will be nothing left, the big corporations you hate will find themselves smaller and their research divisions located in Western Europe and the fascination for the elite universities will be tempered by the reality that real innovation takes time and dedication and getting the right people *together* in one place.  At some point, the researchers in China and India will get fed up with studying hard for years only to be treated like cheap assembly line workers by the Sculley class.  It would also help if lefties took some time to understand pharma so they would stop contributing to the demise of biomedical research through bone headed ignorance.  But that’s another post.  Yeah, it may mean that the innovation infrastructure of the US is decimated.  But I wouldn’t be looking for meaning in any of this.  Think of it like water flowing in the path of least resistance.  There’s nothing intelligent about this, as in sentient beings planning to gut their product lines for the sake of a quick buck.  There’s no giant conspiracy to globalize.  It’s happening because we allowed it to happen.

When we block the path to a quick buck at the middle class’ expense, it will stop.  And we know this is possible because there are countries where the government has protected their innovative infrastructure.  When the dust settles and the corporations come to their senses, it will be the middle class in places like Germany and France who will be able to carry on.  If we want to be one of those countries, we have to decide that we want to reimpose the rules.  There’s no need to over analyze.  But I would like to point out that saving innovation here does not mean that we as a country will not be taking advantage of cheap labor elsewhere.  As Nucky Thompson says, “We all need to decide how much sin we can live with.”

In other news, if the election were held today, guess which politician would have the best chance of beating the Republicans?  It’s Hillary.  Yep, sorry lefties who hate Hillary, in a recent Time Magazine poll she beats the Republicans by larger margins than Obama does and she’s not even in the race (yet):

A national poll conducted for TIME on Oct. 9 and 10 found that if Clinton were the Democratic nominee for President in 2012, she would best Mitt Romney 55% to 38%, Rick Perry 58% to 32% and Herman Cain 56% to 34% among likely voters in a general election. The same poll found that President Obama would edge Romney by just 46% to 43%, Perry by 50% to 38% and Cain by 49% to 37% among likely voters.

Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2011/10/27/hillary-clinton-and-the-limits-of-power/#ixzz1cBO8BDMj

It always amuses me when the left starts to hyperventilate about the prospect of a Republican president next year and how evil that would be.  But when you give them a perfectly acceptable alternative of someone with a lot of experience, who is excelling in foreign policy, runs a global executive branch and has been able to stay away from domestic issues to emerge fresh as a rose, while being widely admired by world leaders and voters of both parties, they flinch when it turns out to be Hillary.  Apparently, they are MORE afraid of Hillary Clinton in the White House than Mitt Romney or Herman Cain or, gawd help us, Governor Rick “Good Hair” Perry.

No?  That’s not how it is?  There’s something I’m missing?  Oh, her Iraq War Resolution vote.  Yeah, she single handedly brought on the Iraq War.  Of all 99 senators who voted for that POS in 2003, HER vote counted more than anyone elses.  It was even more powerful than John Edwards’ IRW vote.  It had to be because the left was perfectly happy to forgive and forget that reckless phony.

I can just see them gearing up to spew some anti Hillary hatespiel.  No, no, save your breath.  No one cares what you think of Hillary anymore.  Your opinions are not more important than the rest of the electorate.  She should have her opportunity because the Democrats don’t really have anyone better, not even Obama.  No one is entitled to a second term.

But if you get stuck with a Republican in November 2012, you have no one to blame but yourselves.  Hillary wins over all of them, you passed anyway.

Yeah, why *did* we do that?

Johanna Sigardardottir, Prime Minister of Iceland

There is some convergence about why we slit our own throats to protect the bankers that is starting to gel in some thought provoking ways.

First up, if you haven’t read it yet today, is Krugman’s Friday column in the NYTimes from Iceland.  By the way, to get a better idea of what happened in Iceland and how it managed to get out from under its debts, check out Michael Lewis’s book, Boomerang, based on his tour of disaster capitalism around the world.  In short, the former Vikings got bored with fishing, jumped into the currency market, got WAAAAY over their heads in debt and when the crash came and the banks said paid up, basically said, “f^&* this s^*#, we’re not killing our country just because you won’t take a haircut.”  And they didn’t.  They devalued their currency and made the banks eat it while they salvaged their social safety net.

Krugman today asks why more countries didn’t take this kind of approach:

But it’s worth stepping back to look at the larger picture, namely the abject failure of an economic doctrine — a doctrine that has inflicted huge damage both in Europe and in the United States.

The doctrine in question amounts to the assertion that, in the aftermath of a financial crisis, banks must be bailed out but the general public must pay the price. So a crisis brought on by deregulation becomes a reason to move even further to the right; a time of mass unemployment, instead of spurring public efforts to create jobs, becomes an era of austerity, in which government spending and social programs are slashed.

This doctrine was sold both with claims that there was no alternative — that both bailouts and spending cuts were necessary to satisfy financial markets — and with claims that fiscal austerity would actually create jobs. The idea was that spending cuts would make consumers and businesses more confident. And this confidence would supposedly stimulate private spending, more than offsetting the depressing effects of government cutbacks.

[…]

But a funny thing happened on the way to economic Armageddon: Iceland’s very desperation made conventional behavior impossible, freeing the nation to break the rules. Where everyone else bailed out the bankers and made the public pay the price, Iceland let the banks go bust and actually expanded its social safety net. Where everyone else was fixated on trying to placate international investors, Iceland imposed temporary controls on the movement of capital to give itself room to maneuver.

So how’s it going? Iceland hasn’t avoided major economic damage or a significant drop in living standards. But it has managed to limit both the rise in unemployment and the suffering of the most vulnerable; the social safety net has survived intact, as has the basic decency of its society. “Things could have been a lot worse” may not be the most stirring of slogans, but when everyone expected utter disaster, it amounts to a policy triumph.

And there’s a lesson here for the rest of us: The suffering that so many of our citizens are facing is unnecessary. If this is a time of incredible pain and a much harsher society, that was a choice. It didn’t and doesn’t have to be this way.

It was a choice.  It was the same choice that Adam Davidson and Elizabeth Warren battled about in 2009.  In fact, that interview may be more revealing than it seems on the surface.  Michael Lewis suggests in his book that the Icelandic male is still a badass Viking who got a taste for marauding the modern way through speculation.  But it was Icelandic women who pulled their asses out of the fire.  In a similar way, when the recession started to affect the job market, Angela Merkel’s government decided to supplement the salaries of many workers who might otherwise have been laid off.  Other workers cut back to part time work, the advantage being that part time workers do not lose their skills due to extended periods of unemployment.  Merkel’s Minister of Labor is a woman.  As a result, the German economy has held up pretty well since the crash.  And just a few days ago, Christina Kirchner of Argentina won re-election for Presidentafter she vowed to continue her anti poverty programs while pissing off investors.

From L-R, Germany's Family, Labor and Justice ministers

I hate to start attributing remarkable virtue to women because there’s just not enough data on how women would behave if they weren’t punished for behaving outside social norms, that is taking risks, being agressive, looking out for one’s self.  Women who are ambitious are considered “political” and “calculating”. See this TedTalk from Sheryl Sandberg to understand this better.

But it is hard to ignore the data that we have that suggests that when the bankers get out of control, the countries that seem to be faring the best are the ones who have women as their stewards at the time of the crash.  Here’s another one: Julia Gillard, Australia’s prime minister is steering her country through economic turmoil solidly while her opposition, another Julie (think Michelle Bachmann) is hammering her over deficit spending.  But so far, so good for Australia who hasn’t yet succombed to conservative demogoguery in spite of its notoriety of being Rupert Murdoch’s birthplace.

Christina de Fernandez Kirchner, President of Argentina

Could we ever have a woman in charge in the United States?  We will have missed our opportunity to try out the experiment that would show whether a woman in the White House would do things differently than a man.  But maybe we should look on the 2008 election with fresh eyes.  I’ve always been troubled by the primary voting irregularities and the DNC’s massaging of the rules to favor one candidate over another.  And while the misogyny was awful, maybe there is something to the reaction to Hillary Clinton running for president that exposes a fault in our culture and government.

Women are underrepresented in Congress and many elected government positions.  That’s not news.  But what is it about our country that will not let it evolve?  Has it been the reintroduction of religion into the public sphere?  Has the return to conservatism been aided by the 40 year reaction to Roe v Wade that has been capitalised by Republicans?  I think this is something we need to get a handle on.  One of the things that bothered me most about the Adam Davidson interview of Elizabeth Warren is not that he rejected her argument.  It was *why* he rejected her argument.  He didn’t consider her a “serious person”.  And I think that is the heart of what is wrong with our culture.  Women are not taken seriously.

Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia

Think of how many times we have heard of women with their hands on the reins of power who have been prevented from exercising that power by men who think of themselves as more serious people.  Brooksley Born wanted to regulate derivatives. Robert Rubin and Larry Summers put a stop to that.  They called her “hard to get along with” and “not a team player”.  One of her assistants said that couldn’t be true because she was never issued a uniform, suggesting that Rubin and Summers were pre-disposed to not cooperate with her.  Then there was Sheila Bair of the FDIC.  She wanted to shutter some of the big banks.  But when Obama directed Tim Geithner to draw up a plan to close Citibank, Geithner sat on the project.  One of the reasons he gave was that he didn’t want to have to tell and work with Sheila Bair.  Christina Romer, Obama’s senior economic advisor told him that the stimulus package was too small by about $600 billion dollars and later that about $100 billion could be used to create a million jobs.  Obama mocked her and preferred Geithner’s plan to hers.

And then there was Hillary.  In 2008, just as the market was crashing, she made numerous appearances on morning talk shows advocating for a new HOLC type of program that would aid homeowners directly in order for them to keep their homes and continue to pay their mortgages.  By the time the crisis was upon us, the bankers had already nominated their man.

If we can see any trend at all in these examples of women as heads of state and women who were denied power it appears that they are calculating several moves ahead.  They look at their present set of circumstances and extrapolate.  They also tend to be more concerned with the soundness of society as a whole.  They focus on saving their safety nets, their labor markets and the wealth of the many as opposed to the demands of a few.  They are concerned with heading off future crises with new rules.  If we could generalize these trends we might say that these women (but not necessarily all women) value stabilization over risk taking.  A prosperous citizenry is one that is not subject to social or economic instability.  These women appear to prioritize and value societal stability.

That does not mean that men are incapable of this kind of leadership.  In fact, we have held up as examples male leaders who also behaved this way.  Leaders who immediately come to mind are Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.  Those people who check lawlessness and economic injustice that lead to instability are our role models.  We appreciate and recognize the leadership qualities in men but in women, we do not see them as attributes but as unserious.

Maybe this period of our country’s life will promote reflection of what we value and who is most capable of seeing our way through to a more stable future.  I think that Elizabeth Warren is finally benefitting from such reflection and re-evaluation.  The more examples we see of women leading their countries through economic crisis, the more we may be inspired to follow their lead and elect more women to powerful positions here. But I worry that the impetus to empower women in this country is very fragile.  And one of the things that troubles me the most is that we still have so few female pundits and voices of authority who are considered “serious people”.

Hillary Clinton, *not* president of the United States

A good example of this can be found at Greg Sargent’s The Plum Line blog at the Washington Post.  Sargent’s blog is pretty good for collecting the voices on the left who are considered up and coming and serious.  But almost all of his citations go to men on other blogs and prestigious online media outlets.  He frequently cites Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, Kevin Drum, Steve Benen, Dave Weigel, etc.  There are very few citations from women.  Sargent might reasonably argue that those men have the most access to the people in charge.  But then we must ask ourselves how it is that they got to be in those positions of power.  How did such young men, without families, maturity or even much work experience, get access?  It wasn’t too long ago that many of them were just bloggers themselves.  Meanwhile, a blogger with the writing and analysis skills of Digby is posting on Al Jazeera.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a sweet deal and well deserved, but cases like Digby are very rare.  We can think of a handful of others like Ariana Huffington, Joan Walsh and Rachel Maddow.  But how many of us consider them “serious people”?  Each one of them gets a label.  Ariana is one of the 1%.  Joan is a hopelessly compromised Democratic party loyalist.  Rachel Maddow is starting to be upstaged by Chris Hughes and is the token lesbian.  We see them as women first and not individual voices of persons who have unique thoughts and views.  Somehow, their personas are flawed.

In the future, Ezra, Matt and Kevin will grace the opinion pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post taking the place of the David’s, Brooks and Broder.  Joan will be making occasional appearances on Hardball, Rachel may move into anchoring the evening news somewhere and Ariana will be jetting off to interview some sultan in the desert but their opinions will not have the same heft.

When it comes time to make decisions about which road we will take and who will get saved and who will be tossed overboard to be eaten by sharks, it is the voices we have blessed with the title “serious” that we listen to.  And in our society, in the 21st century, in a country that started with so much promise and has evolved so quickly in most other respects, those voices are not women.  We are passing on the women who see the political and economic landscape from a perspective that favors stability.

It is not the only reason why we’re in this mess but it is one that is increasingly and embarrassingly hard to ignore.

Clap harder, CLAP HAAAARDER!!!

Typed “daily” into the Google search bar looking for the Daily Show, got DailyKos instead.  What the heck, let’s see what they have on the first page.  Oh, it’s a post by DemFromCT titled “What if the Economic News Gets Better?

{{faceplant}}

First, there’s an oh so brief blurb on the Greek sovereign debt crisis, that looks like it’s going to turn out ok anyway!  Isn’t that great??  The stock market is doing ok and the Euro bounced back, but we still hate Wall Street.  But our 401Ks are doing well, not that any Kossacks care about materialism and filthy lucre made on the backs of working people all over the world.  Dayum, do you see the slope on that curve?  It’s f%c^ing *awesome*!

But then, the post gets serious and discusses the GDP.

Right, who are we fooling?  Oh, right, these are Kossacks, who were used as a giant male fraternity party clueless focus group for the Obama campaign in 2008.  So, the bad news is that GDP was only 0.7% for the first half of the year.  The good news is that it was 2.5% in the 3rd quarter!  Isn’t that great?  That will keep those nasty wasty Republicans (boo!, hiss!  boo!) at bay next year because if this keeps up for the 4th quarter, we’ll have an average annual GDP for 2011 of …

… wait for it…

.

.

.

… it’s going to be good…

.

1.6%!!

{{cue the bad magician music}} Da-da-DA-DA-da-DA-da-DA-DA, Da-da-DA-DA-da-DA-da-DAAA!!

Uhhh, guys?  That’s not that good.  And you know what?  9.2% unemployment is a bigger number and likely to stick in the public’s mind a lot longer.  Just think about it: next year, presidential candidate’s debate, Obama gets up there and announces a sensational 1.6% GDP, pats himself on the back, because that is so Barry. Romney furrows his brow (provided he can actually move it) and says, almost sotto voce “9.2% unemployment”, shakes his head, glances at Obama, looks down at his podium, shuffles his notes, shakes his head again, sighs.

See where I’m going with this?   A GDP of 1.6% is anemic.  Check out this post from Brad Plumer at WaPo.  Here’s the money quote:

The economy grew at a 2.5 percent annualized pace in the third quarter of 2011, according to new Commerce Department data released this morning. Seeing as how plenty of economists were grumbling about a double-dip recession not too long ago, even modest growth counts as cheering news. But 2.5 percent growth won’t bring us back to full employment anytime soon. So how much growth do we actually need?

Short answer: A lot more. Back in August, the Congressional Budget Office released its revised GDP forecasts and predicted that the economy would gallop along with 3.6 percent growth between 2013 and 2016. Now, as Jeffrey Frankel has shown, government forecasters tend to err on the optimistic sign, but even in the CBO’s sunny scenario, we wouldn’t hit full employment until 2017.

It’s not enough to keep Social Security payroll taxes streaming in to keep the system going.  One year or two maybe we can make up the difference.  But four?  With another four more years of Barry at the wheel carrying on the Bush legacy and trying to make Grand Bargains with the Republicans to give away virtually all we have left?  What are you guys smoking over there?

The next part of the post is the funniest:

Sure, none of this changes the huge need for jobs or fixes the housing crisis, but with Obama pounding jobs bills and student relief (and some of it actually getting into the headlines and onto the news), it might just reverse the bad news coverage Obama has been getting this year.

It’s of special importance because the GOP really has nothing beyond economic frustration to run on. Their plan, be it this week’s flat tax, last week’s 9-9-9 or Paul Ryan’s disastrous roadmap is all the same: coddle the rich and screw the middle class. No one likes their plan, but with a tanking economy, no one is going to reward incumbents.

So what happens if a year from now, the economy isn’t tanking? Keep in mind the Republicans have no Plan B if America does well.

So, we admit that Obama has been a failure, just as we Conflucians predicted him to be back in 2008, given that he was an inexperienced, political unknown who seemed to flinch whenever anyone called him a Democrat and was being funded by Wall Street in vast quantities (We HATE Wall Street! Remember? But look at my 401K!!).  And we admit that he clusterf^&*ed the housing foreclosure crisis and the unemployment crisis and sure, it looks bad.  But that’s just because Obama keeps getting bad news coverage.  If he gets *good* news coverage, we unemployed people who can’t pay our mortgages will just let bygones be bygones.

And what’s this about the GOP plan to “coddle the rich and screw the middle class”?  I thought that was Obama and the Congress’s plan.  Isn’t it?  Because that’s what it looks like to me.  If Obama and the Democrats have the same plan as Romney and the Republicans, how are we supposed to tell them apart?  Better yet, why should I vote for either of them?  There are other options on the ballot and, who knows, by this time next year, there may be a third viable candidate.  The Occupy movement has unveiled a deep dissatisfaction with both parties.

What is Obama’s Plan B anyway?  I mean, if he wins re-election in 2012, he doesn’t have to have one, you nitwits.  Which is why you shouldn’t be giving him a pass.  You should be on his case and vowing not to vote for him unless he does something for you *before* the election.  Unless all you care about is your 401K.  (Didja see the slope on that graph??)  Even Steve Jobs told Obama that his poor performance on the economy was going to cost him the White House in 2012.  True story.  It’s in Jobs’ new biography by Walter Isaacson.  And we know that Jobs was pretty damn good at getting a feel for what people want.  (Have you checked the quarterly earnings for Apple these days??  Amazing!  Oh, but we HATE Wall Street)

Look, you Kossacks screwed up good in 2008 and as a result, the pain and misery for millions of Americans is going to continue for a long, long time if either Romney OR Obama wins next year. Yes, YOU, You are responsible. The best thing you can do is stop trying so hard to make this sound better than it is.  Stop lying to yourselves and each other.  If you want to make this better, tell Obama to step down now and let someone else with longer coattails take on the Republicans.  Even you guys can’t possibly be as delusional as DemFromCT’s post.

By the way, he could have stopped what happened in Oakland on Tuesday night if he really cared about citizens and their first amendment rights.  There’s an Iraq War veteran who is now in the hospital in critical condition because of this out of control overreaction by “riot police”, if that’s what we’re calling them these days.

I don’t know what is worse, that they knocked this poor guy out and seriously injured him or that they tried to prevent other people from helping him.  I haven’t been so disgusted with the behavior of police in a long time.  This is outrageous.

**************************

In a bit of good news, apparently, Elizabeth Warren’s embrace of the Occupy Movement hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of the people of Massachusetts who want to work for her senate campaign.  This is a picture of the people who volunteered on Tuesday to lend her campaign a hand.

Golly!  Can we clone her??

Precariat- Learn this word

No, precariat is not a misspelling of a group of single celled organisms.  It’s a very disturbing word, an ominous word, a word that has already arrived here in the United States and is slowly moving up the food chain:

Precariat- a social group consisting of people whose lives are difficult because they have little or no job security and few employment rights

It’s a portmanteau of “precarious” and “proletariat”.  A precariat is a person who doesn’t have a reliable job.  Precariats initially were service workers who may have been working a 40 hour work week, but maybe not.  A precariat could be called in to work a 6 hour shift, every other day and one long 12 hour day at some other point in the week or come to work expecting a full 8 hours but sent home after 2.  The amount of work can vary from day to day, week to week.  This worker typically has no benefits.

I think most of us can see right away the limitations of the precariat world.  If you can’t say for sure how many hours you’ll be working each month, can you afford to rent a nice apartment or buy a house?  Can you buy a new car?  If you have children, how do you schedule and pay for their child care?  Can you depend on your paycheck to feed them?  Work and living become precarious.  Here is a video about the precariat from The Precariat: the New Working Class:

Precariats usually spring up in countries where workers are not protected by unions or strict labor laws.  Right now, the UK is starting to come to terms with the precariat but in a way, the Welsh precariat has it good compared to the American version.  Here in the US, there is no national health care system or reasonably priced, government subsidized schools of higher education.  So, the land of opportunity in America is starting to look like the last place you want to live if you are forced into precariatism.

Another feature of precariatism is the appearance of the middle man hiring agency.  That agency stands between the employer and you.  The employer hands off responsibility of hiring and paying the worker.  The worker becomes a true human resource to be hired when needed and laid off when not.  Benefits and risks are born by the employee.  The hiring agency takes a cut of the worker’s pay, I hesitate to call it a salary because that would imply some kind of security and regularity.

A couple of years ago, we who were salaried employees would have looked down on the precariat with pity.  Now, we are one.  From my vantage point, this is the way the pharmaceutical industry has decided to handle its well educated, experienced workforce.  We are now service workers.  More and more of us can only find contract work.  The work is parceled out in 3, 6 or 12 month contracts.  There are no benefits.  In some cases, the worker pays both sides of the social security tax.  It is hard to plan where to live because you don’t know if you’ll be able to pay the rent.  You can’t make any major purchases on credit because there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to afford the car payment.

One of the reasons I suspected that the McKinsey reports of employers dropping health insurance coverage for their employees after the passage of the Affordable Care Act was true was because it fits so well with the precariat worker norm.  Since a universal mandate meant that workers would be legally compelled to spend whatever the insurance companies could charge for health insurance, the employer could cut this benefit out of their compensation packages guilt free. To escape the employer mandate, all the employer would have to do is make many of its permanent employees into contractors.  The number of layoffs would be expected to increase. Responsibility and risk would now be transferred to the employee.   You don’t have to be a highly paid consulting company or economist to see how this would work.  All you have to do is think a couple of steps ahead. Mandatory universal coverage without a public option or a single payer system that requires employers to pay in puts much of the American workforce at risk of falling from the middle class into the precariat.

The new middle man hiring agency becomes the new growth sector.  Expect to hear more horror stories of foreign students brought to the US by a hiring vendor promising that they will learn English only to spend their summer in a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania doing manual labor for subsistence wages.  Expect Hershey the company to deny all responsibility.  Or Amazon.  Or {{your company name here}}

It’s hard to say whether Barack Obama was onboard with this or whether he was so overwhelmed by his job that it never was evaluated properly.  But I think we can say pretty unequivocally that the acceleration of the expansion of precariatism within the American culture is related to the measures that were  or weren’t taken in the wake of the financial collapse.  So much attention was focused on shoring up the banks at taxpayer expense that homeowners were allowed to foreclose, jobs were allowed to disappear and healthcare reform was rushed through to score political points without much thought of how  those reforms would affect the workforce.  In fact, hardly any thought at all has been spent on the workforce.  Well, Elizabeth Warren was thinking about it for years but as Adam Davidson pointing out in that blistering Planet Money interview from 2009, Warren’s opinions didn’t really count because she wasn’t a “serious” person.  Did Davidson see the rise of the precariat?  Does he know that free lancing is going to appear at an NPR station near him someday?

If the US economy is in a slump right now, it may very well be because there are so many more precariats where once there were college educated salaried people.  In my own sphere, precariatism is the norm these days, not the exception.  It wasn’t like this before 2008.  But now, if you’re a precariat, you can not plan for the future.  There IS no future.  Everyday is a struggle and stress about where the next mortgage payment will come from, what will happen if the car breaks down, how to pay for the plumbing that keeps getting backed up or the last of the orthodontic appointments.  It’s the reason why so many grocery stores are shuttering their stores and why Lowes is laying off workers in the northeast and why people are hoarding their money instead of spending it.  And it will get worse until more working people realize what is happening to them.  The people who are kissing the whip today are going to be tomorrow’s precariats.

We have been subjected to years of politicians relaxing the rules for the 1% and tightening the rules for everyone else.  The rise of the number of precariats can be attributed to the politicians who let this happen.  We need to replace as many of them as possible.  Because it wasn’t too long ago that Americans were pretty cool with capitalism.  When we were all making money and productivity gains went to the middle class, we had a vibrant, robust economy.  But when the rules went out the window and labor came under attack from the superwealthy and the whip kissers who brainlessly listen to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Fox News, an opportunity arose to force many of us to live on the edge of a knife.  Now, those of us who didn’t necessarily want to be rich but wanted to work for its own sake are considered losers.  And the infection of the precariat is bound to spread.  There is no profession that is safe.  Once the public unions are broken, precarianism will be the norm, not the exception.  Your degrees cannot protect you.  Even senior citizens are not sheltered from the effects of precariatism because as the salaries disappear to be replaced with lower, precarious wages, the tax base will continue to shrink.  It won’t be that we don’t want to pay for social security. It will be that we just can’t anymore.

The 99% don’t want to live a precarious life.  We know who was responsible for the ruination of the American middle class.  We focus on the robber barons of Wall Street now but come November 2012, with a handful of notable exceptions in Congress, they ALL have to go, Obama included.

What the OccupyWallStreet protestors object to is the increasing economic injustice forced on the precariat and what they demand is that it stop.