Sunday shorty on SOPA

Update: This has probably occurred to others but just hit me that SOPA is really just an election year shakedown.  The Republicans are raking in money from the media congloms while the Democrats are raking in money from, er, everyone.  It’s no lose legislation, or so they think.  It’s like playing with fire and the average American is going to get burned.

Can we get rid of all of them?

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Politico reports (or reimagines) that Obama is walking a thin line on SOPA.

I know, I know, stop laughing.  When has Obama ever walked a thin line on  any legislation that the major media conglomerates want so badly they are nearly peeing themselves with anticipation?  AND it’s an election year.  Can’t you just see him weighing his options?  Should he piss off Google, Wikipedia and Mark Zuckerberg who are trying to keep the internet relatively free of interference so it can continue to grow and flourish, or Disney, Sony and the other media conglomerates who refuse to evolve?  The bottom line is the thin line he’s looking at. Donations, donations, donations.

Says Politico:

The administration did not take a definitive position on SOPA or PIPA on Saturday. But it was clear that the White House — while calling pirated movies and knockoff pharmaceuticals on the Web “a real problem” in need of a legislative solution — isn’t enamored of either bill.

“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet,” the administration officials said. “Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small. “

Yeah, just like NDAA should not include innocent US citizens who are mischaracterized as terrorists just because they protest.

Ok, I’m just not following the pharmaceutical industry’s angle on this.  But that may be because the industry’s lobbying group is listening to its IT departments’ recommendations on how to keep proprietary information proprietary.  From a scientist’s point of view, this could be a big mistake- for the scientists while providing a useless placebo to the MBA class who think they finally have it all nailed down.

For one thing, Big Pharma’s IT departments are bloated organisms that do one thing extremely well: service the MBAs at the expense of R&D.  Everyone must have the same stupid image of Windows on their desktops, while scientific applications, which is what you might *think* are business critical, are treated like redheaded stepchildren.  “Linux?  How do you spell that?”  No, seriously, I actually had that question from the Helpless Desk one time.  When we point out that it might behoove them to get a separate system admin to service the in silico sciences people, they always scream that it’s going to cost too much and they give us a part time contractor without a system password.  Then, they turn around and hire some flunky who will maintain a version of Internet Explorer that died sometime during the Jurrasic.  In other words, the people the MBAs have been laying off have been the wrong people but since IT keeps Excel and the email services functioning, they were more than happy to pour obscene gobs of cash into the Microsoft money pit.  The system is not secure, it’s out of date, and IT takes forever to update and secure anything.  SOPA is not going to help keep the bad guys out of the corporate intranet.  Everyone knows this but the guys in the executive suites.

Secondly, the corporate lawyers who are supposed to be keeping up with technology so they can tailor contracts accordingly, can’t handle anything outside of a Windows environment.  I heard about this problem last year when I went to a conference on Proteins in San Diego last year.  There were several sessions on computational environments and everyone had the same complaints.  The legal eagles in the R&D departments understood that Amazon’s cloud service hired much better security experts than the Big Pharma folks could ever hope to find.  The R&D legal eagles had no problem signing off on cloud service contracts and new technologies.  It was the corporate legal team that stumbled, again and again, because they were used to Microsoft contracts and anything new looked like Martian to them.  How does SOPA address either of these issues?

Then there is the issue of outsourcing your work to China.  Ahhhh, maybe THIS is the problem.  Well, yes, this is a problem.  This is what you get when you *think* you can keep a few “stellar” {{snort!}} designers and intellectual property here in the US, kill off the careers of all of the other people who once did the design and lab work and ship the hands on work off to China.  For some strange reason, the MBA class appears to believe that people who work in laboratories are mindless drones who assemble drug molecules like a factory worker assembles widgets.  What they neglect to understand is that people who go into science because they actually like it are probably not going to be happy as widget assemblers.  Their minds are too active for that.  Not only are their minds too active, they tend to start wondering why they’re living like slaves and doing this very hard work for some rich asshole MBA in Connecticut.  Are they going to be content to just look at the structure of the molecule they are supposed to make and never wonder what it’s for?  Or let’s say they know what the target is.  Are they supposed to just sit on that information and not try do some scaffold hopping and lead optimization?  What’s to prevent them from doing that?  The contract?  And that’s going to be enforceable by whom?  China?  Riiiighht.  It’s almost as if the MBAs cannot possibly imagine that anyone other than themselves would be any good at exploiting loopholes and outright theft. They might speak a different language but it would be foolish to assume that they don’t know opportunity when they see it.

As it turns out, you can’t ship your lab work off to India and China for a quick profit the way the MBAs thought they could.  We tried to tell them this but they wouldn’t listen.  It takes a long time and lots of hard work to get a new drug.  You can hire cheaply there but you will have to hire more people to get the economy of scale in research you were hoping for and *still*, you will be at the mercy of the fricking organism.  Cells just do not cooperate the way you think they should and there’s no performance incentive scheme you can chain them to in order to make them docile and compliant.  Threatening to starve cells if they don’t produce doesn’t usually work.  In the meantime, you have completely dismantled your US research infrastructure, poured billions into new facilities in Asia and your pay off may still be decades away.  Congratulations.  You may have to go into hiding in a few years when the stockholders come after your heads.  Heads up, Congresscritters, you really need to address this NOW. Novartis just laid off a bunch more this week and it’s not over yet.  There are hundreds of thousands of researchers out there who can’t find work and we are just going over the patent cliff.  Wheeeee!

So, what does this have to do with SOPA?  Damned if I know.  Whatever it is the management of Big Pharma is trying to accomplish will probably just backfire on them.  They haven’t had a very good track record in the last 15 or so years.  And now that they’ve fired us all, there won’t be anyone else to blame.

In the meantime, what can we expect of Obama?  I imagine it will go something like his recent signature on the NDAA.  He will express reluctance and regret and deep reservations.  He’ll be torn.

And then he’ll sign it.

Unless it doesn’t pass at all.  I hear that Jan. 18 is an internet blackout day.  Hmmm…

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