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Talk to the hand

Obama gave a speech yesterday in Osawatomie, Kansas.  Kansas, if I recall correctly, was one of the birthplaces of the populist movement (Katiebird can fill us in).  So, the media was all aflutter yesterday that Obama was giving a populist speech.  It was even drawing comparisons between Obama and Roosevelt.  No, not Franklin D., *Teddy*.  I have nothing against Teddy but he started out as a Republican and became a Progressive.  Is the media suggesting that Obama is ready to give up his Republican party values and become an Progressive as well?  Is Obama running as a third party candidate?  If he’s running as a third party candidate, hoping to pick off the independents and centrists and bull moose types, who’s running as the Democrat?

What else did Teddy do?  He was the creator of the Square Deal.  From what I know of the Square Deal, it was a program to make the playing field more fair for workers.  The executive branch would use its power to bust monopolies, promote anti-trust suits and negotiate between companies and workers.  And that was definitely a step in the right direction.

The problem is that it relied on what the executive branch decided was acceptable on a case by case basis.  It was Teddy’s cousin Franklin that set down rules.  Teddy set the bar, Franklin set it much higher.  We are still living with Franklin’s legacy, barely, as far as a social safety net.  But today, our business environment looks a lot like 1928.  Clearly, Teddy’s efforts were insufficient.  It’s not enough to make ad hoc decisions on what is fair or unfair.  That’s too easily reversed by the next president.  What we need are rules.

But I did detect one eeeeeensy, weeeeensy hint that *maybe* Obama’s speechwriters are vaguely aware of the destruction happening to the research industry as well as part of the cause:

In today’s innovation economy, we also need a world-class commitment to science, research, and the next generation of high-tech manufacturing.  Our factories and their workers shouldn’t be idle.  We should be giving people the chance to get new skills and training at community colleges, so they can learn to make wind turbines and semiconductors and high-powered batteries.  And by the way – if we don’t have an economy built on bubbles and financial speculation, our best and brightest won’t all gravitate towards careers in banking and finance.  Because if we want an economy that’s built to last, we need more of those young people in science and engineering.  This country shouldn’t be known for bad debt and phony profits.  We should be known for creating and selling products all over the world that are stamped with three proud words:  Made in America.

Ok, so what should we make of this passage?  He acknowledges that bubbles and financial speculation are driving smart people towards careers in finance.  Check.  He acknowledges that if we want the economy to grow in the future, we have to encourage people to go into science and engineering. Check.  Wait.  That’s *young* people he’s talking about.  What about the thousands and thousands of people in their prime wage earning years who can’t currently pursue their career dreams in science because the hot shot MBAs needed to merge and score big bonuses?  What are we?  Chopped liver?

Look, Barry, you won’t get young people to go into science if their parents can’t get jobs in STEM professions.  And don’t give me that bullshit about how we’re not as bright as the Chinese.  If China was as awesome as the business community thinks it is, it would have already solved all of the major health problems plaguing us today.  It wouldn’t need a reverse brain drain of all the American trained Chinese scientists going back to China to do research.  As I’ve said before, getting good grades in math is necessary but not sufficient to be a good scientist.  And no smart kid is going to want to go into a career where jobs are so insecure that you can’t own a house or pay for your kid’s college educations.  Business majors get to enjoy their weekends.  How are you gonna keep them down in the lab after they’ve seen Wall Street?  The jobs have to be stable, they have to pay reasonably well and commensurate to the difficulty of the majors, and they have to have benefits.  How are you going to do that when all of the research corporations are shedding jobs so they can hire staff back as cheap, disposable contractors with no benefits?  Where is that plan??

By the way, do the speechwriters and business guys Obama talks with have any idea what real innovation entails?  I see that word thrown around a lot but get the feeling that the people using it have no idea what it really means.  Can we please stop using it until someone gets a clue?  It’s becoming meaningless.  And to those of us who have been involved in research, the last thing we need is more people cheapening what we do and behaving like it is like some kind of special pizza that can be ordered whenever the craving hits.  Innovation doesn’t just happen, even with the most talented people at your disposal (as the big pharmas will find after a few more years in Massachusetts). It takes a lot of hard work and a long term commitment to projects no matter what obstacles might arise.  The business community is completely antagonistic to the concept of “long term commitments”.

You have to solve the STEM unemployment problem NOW.  And the first place to start is not by invoking Teddy.  You have to channel Franklin.  What we need are good labor laws.  What we need are rules to make the corporations behave and do right by us. What we need is a STEM jobs initiative.  I still contend that $1 billion could go a long way to putting many of us unemployed chemists back to work making real wages with benefits. There is plenty of empty lab space available in the Northeast.  Buy some of it and put us back to work discovering drugs in therapeutic areas that Big Pharma has abandoned, such as anti-infectives and neuroscience.  Did you know that Novartis was just the latest big pharma company to decide to abandon neuroscience research?  Yep, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, it’s too hard.  There’s that blood brain barrier thing that the drugs have to bypass and then there is the interminable wait for FDA approval and years of expenses.  So, we will just have to live with dementia because there’s no profit in curing it.  That’s what we’re leaving on the table, Barry.  And there are thousands of us who used to do that kind of research who are sitting idle.

Talk is cheap.  Putting us back to work has real, tangible consequences.  If you want new discoveries, you have to start now.

We’re available.  You don’t need to wait for the young.  We STEM researchers are already here.  Call us.  Or talk to the hand.


In other news, Hillary Clinton gave a speech in Geneva declaring that Gay Rights are Human Rights.  And unlike the president, Clinton’s State Department actually followed through on policies that protected gay employees.  She did that shortly after she moved into Foggy Bottom:

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will soon announce that gay American diplomats will be given benefits similar to those that their heterosexual counterparts enjoy, U.S. officials said Saturday.

In a notice to be sent soon to State Department employees, Clinton says regulations that denied same-sex couples and their families the same rights and privileges that straight diplomats enjoyed are “unfair and must end,” as they harm U.S. diplomacy.

“Providing training, medical care and other benefits to domestic partners promote the cohesiveness, safety and effectiveness of our posts abroad,” she says in the message, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

“It will also help the department attract and retain personnel in a competitive environment where domestic partner benefits and allowances are increasingly the norm for world-class employers,” she says.

“At bottom, the department will provide these benefits for both opposite-sex and same-sex domestic partners because it is the right thing to do,” Clinton says.

Among the benefits that will now be granted gay diplomats: the right of domestic partners to hold diplomatic passports, government-paid travel for their partners and families to and from foreign posts, and the use of U.S. medical facilities abroad.

Integrity means following your words with actions to match them.


Digby has good post on the right’s sickening anti-choice campaigns for next fall.

Personally, I think the feminist movement really dropped the ball when they got Roe v Wade and called it a day.  A right to privacy is not the same as equality.  Women have ALWAYS had a right to an abortion.  Nature provided us with that unalienable right. What we haven’t always had a right to was a “safe” abortion.

Drop Roe and take away the right’s reason for being.  Roe is a target that they will continue to chip away at until it is meaningless.  And then where is your precious equality?

Go for equality first and then dare the bastards to get in your way.

And fergawdssakes, next time there is a race between a man and a decent woman candidate, pick the woman.  2008 should be a year that will live in infamy in terms of gender equality.  That was the year many Democratic women took leave of their senses to vote for a guy who showed open contempt for them throughout the campaign season and beyond.  The actions of women like Naomi Wolf and Katha Pollit were beyond stupid.  No wonder today’s feminists are so fricking clueless.


Homemade Holiday Gift of the Day- Russian Tea Mix

Russian tea is a warm, citrusy, spicy drink perfect for a cold winter day.  Add a little whiskey or vodka for the adults for the evening.

Russian Tea

2 cups Tang

1 cup powdered iced tea mix (unsweetened)

3 oz lemonade mix

1 cup sugar (optional)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 mason jar with label and ribbon


Into one large bowl, mix all ingredients.  Scoop into mason jar.  Label and beribbon.  To make tea, add 2-3 spoonfuls into a cup of hot water.  Adjust to taste.

The original recipe calls for a cup of sugar but it’s already sweet enough, IMHO.  Adding more sugar will just make your teeth hurt.  You can always add sugar to your cup if you need it.  But if there’s too much sugar in the mix, you can’t take it out.