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       *** MANDOS POST *** I have been thinking about writing another post about Britain and Brexit for some time, but every time I started it, there’d be literally another new dramatic twist, so I’d stop.  But now it seems like a corner is being turned. What the corner really is, we’ll still have time […]
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Why not put the unemployed geeks on the government payroll?

Brad DeLong says give everyone $10,000.  Just give it to them.  And Atrios says why not put us on the fed payroll?

Why not put us on the government payroll?

I’ve been making that proposal for months now, especially for laid off pharmaceutical workers.  There are thousands of us.  Pfizer alone laid off almost the entire research personnel of Wyeth Research in one fell swoop after they merged in 2008.  There are a lot of overeducated, unemployed geeks out there who need work.  And it turns out that pharmaceutical companies didn’t do themselves any favors by merging the pants off of each other.  The “patent cliff” is looming, some companies are already sliding over and the years of relentless merging, followed by restructuring has ruined their research units.  It’s not going to get better for a long time.  Couple that with the therapeutic areas that pharma thinks are too expensive and you have a medicinal catastrophe coming up with antibiotics, reproductive health and central nervous system drugs.

So, why not buy up some mothballed labs (there are a $^&*load here in New Jersey), and recruit from the local talent pool?  Get some equipment at auction, pay these people a decent salary (in NJ, you need to make more than a post doc or people will faint from hunger over their hotplates) and let it go.  See what happens.  There will have to be some precautions taken.  For example, for real discovery to take place, there has to be a firewall between research and the business office.  That doesn’t mean that there should be no accountability but it’s better if the MBAs are not allowed to meddle.  No more restructuring.

Anthony Nicholls, the founder of Openeye, a developer of computational chemisty applications, says that big business has forgotten the value of play in discovery.  In his last Ant Rant called Curing Pharma (1) Avoiding Hype Based Science, he discussed the trends that pharma talked itself into.  Ant calls them Hype, I call them get-rich-quick schemes that management’s constant thirst for ever increasing quarterly profits demanded from research heads.  Some of these schemes weren’t ready for prime time.  It’s not that they had no value.  It’s just that to really make use of the technology, you have to be able to play with it and explore it to see what it does and what it can be made to do.  Ant writes:

The only sure way to get to the other side of Hype Hill, to get to the real utility, is to play. You have to be prepared to let talented people goof around, sometimes with substantial budgets, and develop expertise. A couple of examples from outside our industry: Ray Dolby, who founded the eponymous Dolby Labs in 1976. He engendered a culture of experimentation that has had few parallels. His engineers could buy any equipment they liked, as long as it was less than a couple of hundred thousand dollars! Today Ray is worth $2.7 billion and his company has an enduring reputation for innovation as well as profits. Or consider when the British tried to interest the American armed forces in the Harrier JumpJet. After a few flights the American test pilots began in-flight manipulations of the adjustable thrusters that were only supposed to be horizontal in flight and vertical in takeoff, risking expensive structural failure but learning that the plane’s real value was maneuverability. It helps having “management” willing to buy you new toys if you break the old ones!

Play is not cheap: people playing means people not contributing to the apparent bottom line. Tati’s great Play Time, in the end, did not make money—it’s a risky business, movies and drugs. But if you want to innovate, to avoid the pitfalls of hype, you have to commit to play time—invest in constructing a climate of curiosity and experimentation. Let real science take root. And stick with it.

Such a government proposition would be very risky in this political and social environment.  But I think Ant has a good point.  It is very hard to be creative when you’re constantly under stress and where the management thinks you are a drag on the bottom line, therefore you must be miserable in your job.  Having fun at your job shouldn’t be considered a moral hazard.  The government could potentially strike gold by giving unemployed geeks some money and a lab and telling them to go play.  And just think, no marketing and advertising departments.  No executives competing for the biggest bonus.  No constant restructuring.  Down the road a few years, you get your drug candidates and the patents that now belong to everyone.  And a devastated state like New Jersey has productive overeducated geeks once again contributing to the state treasury while simultaneously redistributing our wealth to Alabama.

It’s just so crazy it might work!

One thing that probably *won’t* work is the idea that we are all going to become entrepreneurs without government intervention.  Maybe there are other industries where entrepreneurship is feasible but it’s not going to happen in the biotech field where the equipment, reagents and start-up costs are enormous and many moving parts are required to get the ball rolling.  In Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men, there was a suggestion after talking to a Swedish official about the Swedish economic meltdown that eventually, the people who were laid off would start their own businesses.  But we’re not Sweden.  Our safety net is collapsing and the money for a small garage biotech just isn’t there.  We need a big, integrated lab where people get their questions answered by popping down the hall to ask the resident expert.  So, if Obama administration officials are waiting for a thousand points of biotech light in NJ, they can stop holding their breaths.  What we need is for the government to employ us.

As for the value of play, here’s a couple of videos to mull over.  Remember the Finnish Baby Boxes?  A consortium called TUPA has designed a new type of baby box for Kela, the Finnish health ministry.  The layette (complete with condoms and lube) would come in the TUPA box instead of a cardboard box.  The first box shows what the TUPA box is good for (cradle, table, chairs, toybox, layette delivery box) and the second perfectly illustrates Ant’s point about the value of play.

Play your way to a new design:

The New Apostolic Reformation’s bat$#!^ crazies, Gender Glasses and CNN tells the (partial) truth about the 2008 primaries

Terry Gross did an interview with Peter Wagner, a leader of the New Apostolic Reformation or NAR.  NAR was one of the organizers of the prayer rally that Rick Perry attended.  This interview is jaw dropping.  I have to hand it to Gross for handling this well.  What she does is ask Wagner to talk about the emperor of Japan’s “marriage” to the Sun Goddess and he takes it from there.  It’s in the first part of the interview.  Go listen.

There’s a picture of Wagner of his wife.  They look so sweet.  He’s a rounder, more cherubic version of Colonel Sanders, she looks like one of those nice ladies you meet at a church bake sale who always makes those killer combo bars.  You would never know that they are a few nuggets short of a Happy Meal.  Their earnestness disguises a disrespectful hardness towards your personal belief system.  What *they* believe is inviolable.  What YOU believe is up for negotiations.  And they will never, never stop trying to convert you or pull the country over to their way of thinking.  It never occurs to them that they sound unhinged or that their belief system concentrates everything on an afterlife and nothing on ameliorating the suffering in the current life.  It’s narrow minded, conformist and judgmental.  They determine what is moral and if you don’t get with the program, you’re a target for evangelism or social shunning.

Sure, these people are making a living but don’t think for a second that they don’t believe it.  The sun goddess of Japan is a demon and the emperor had sex with her.

Uh-huh.

It sort of reminds me of this guy:

If you’re one of them, yes, you really do sound this crazy.  No, I cannot take you seriously.  I don’t care if I’m not going to paradise with you.

By the way, there is evidence that more  Americans identify themselves as atheists, freethinkers and naturalists.  Peter Wagner has his work cut out for him.

Note:  I see that @apostolicnews is now following me on Twitter.  Please note that I am not your typical elitist snob.  I know people like you personally, know what you believe, know what programs you watch and understand the way you think.  I reject your form of christianity not because I’m a snob but because I find it arrogant and disrespectful of other people’s belief systems and incompatible with goodwill to all people.  Save your breath.  You are not going to make any converts here.

**********

On another note, The American Prospect has finally gotten around to posting something about the hidden discrimination that women face in the workplace in the post Sexism’s Low Grade Fever.  Here’s a money quote:

The unwelcoming workplace isn’t a deadly cancer; rather, it’s a steady low-grade fever that wears you down by degrees (if you’ll forgive my pun). You can diagnosis this illness through one critical measure: Women rarely stay long enough to rise up through the ranks. Or because they rarely rise, they leave. That’s a loss of momentum for women’s careers and energies—and a loss of energy and talent for the organization that derides, diminishes, and disparages their work.

For instance, I’m reminded of a major nonprofit that produced an impressive, in-depth project related to violence against women. When I congratulated the women who’d produced it, they told me that their bosses had been openly hostile to the project—and had ignored, undermined, and belittled their efforts at every turn. They’d never have been permitted to do it, but they’d wrangled a grant for it on their own. The project made an enormous splash and got critical White House attention. But within months after they’d finished the project, all but one of the women who produced it were gone; they were either pushed out or departed on their own. The women had to work on creating successful careers within different organizations—a real loss of momentum for them and talent for the organization. The men who’d rolled their eyes at the project were left to collect the awards.

Yes.  It’s always a stupid idea until the woman is out of the way and then it’s suddenly brilliant for the guy who stands to benefit when she leaves.

It’s about a week too late and sounds very familiar.  Here’s a recent Confluence post on this.  And here’s another.   Actually, I can probably go back through the last couple of years to find similar posts that I wrote.  This is a big problem that has been simmering for quite a while.  I don’t know whether guys have gotten more blatant about it lately or whether it was always there.  Or maybe the problem is that enough women have developed enough expertise in their fields that the discrimination is severely hurting their careers and they’re just discovering that the behavior they’re coached to deploy doesn’t cut it.  The problem is that men aren’t cooperating and women have had enough.

E.J. Graff, the author, says we should quantify it?  (I think I suggested that first) Ok, but quantifying it goes beyond simply measuring salaries and promotions that Graff suggested.  In fact, if you only do that, you will miss all the memorable self-esteem and career crushing “features” that working in male centric environments have to offer.  By the way, did you know that Finland (yes, them again) has a program run by the government called Gender Glasses?  It conducts investigations of workplaces where gender discrimination is alleged.  One of the tools they use to ferret out the truth is statistics.  EVERYTHING can be measured, including how much men ignore their female colleagues.  Just mine the digital data that is already archived on the company servers.

If I were an enterprising politician, I’d run with this.

***********

One more thing: Peep pointed me to this post at CNN this morning that shows what a disaster the 2008 Democratic primary has been for the Democrats.  Most of this analysis is correct, although I disagree on a few elements.  For example, Obama’s “superior” organization in the caucus states was helped by the fact that no one who complained about being screamed at, jostled, locked out and overwritten at the caucus sites who was a Hillary supporter was actually taken seriously.  If superior organization means hiring operatives and thugs and bussing people in from an adjoining state to go to caucuses to make sure you win no matter what, then, yeah, Obama did a much better job at that than Clinton.  The other thing is that the way the DNC at first withheld and then awarded the delegates in Michigan and Florida at the May 31, 2008 RBC hearing completely invalidated the votes of every other Hillary voter in all the other primary states.  And the fact that this is what the DNC was planning all along was crystal clear shortly (like within a day) of SuperTuesday in early February 2008.  The fix was in that early.  Buying the superdelegates was just icing on the cake.

So, now it looks like buyer’s remorse has set in and Obama doesn’t have coattails.  No s#@%, Sherlock.  As Harold Ickes said at the RBC meeting, it was not a good way to start down the path of party unity.  Obama didn’t have the consent of half of his own party and those of us who witnessed what the party did to its stronger candidate will never forget how we were disenfranchised so it could anoint a banker financed, shmoozing political neophyte to the presidency during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  And don’t say, “Nobody could have predicted”.  We did.

(I love this comment from the CNN article:  THOUGHT OF THE DAY:  If you voted for Obama in 2008 to prove you weren’t a racist, please do our great country a huge favor and vote for someone else in 2012 to prove you’re not an IDIOT.)

There is still time to replace him at the top of the ticket.  To do otherwise would be extremely irresponsible.

Oh, By the way, whatever happened to this guy who gave away the entire NJ 121 vote delegation  to the candidate who lost the state in the primary in 2008?