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      I want to revisit this. Obama was the last person who had a real chance to change and fix things. A crisis is an opportunity. FDR used the Great Depression to change America. Reagan used stagflation to change America. Bush used 9/11 to change America. Obama could have used the financial crisis to change America. […]
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Faking an Orgasm for Obama.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re in bed with the guy and he’s just not that good. He thinks he’s Dirk Diggler but he zigs when you zag. He sticks his tongue in your ear and you really hate that. And you just know he’s going to go on and on and on and never get to the point unless you hurry things along.

And you can’t stop thinking about that guy you were with last night.

I think you’re going to have to fake it tonight, Dems.

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Tolkien Quote of the Evening

“Never laugh at live dragons.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Repeat after me, Duncan

Nobody outside of your little circle of Democrats gives a flying fuck about what you call “neoliberalism“.

Yes, you think there is a big, dark ugly political philosophy behind neoliberalism.  We are aware of the theories. To me, it sounds like you have blown up the neoliberal boogieman disproportionately to its actual effect.  But we don’t care.  No, we do not.

We have our own theories about what the Clintons were up to and we simply disagree with you.  We disagree strenuously because we weren’t brain dead during the past 20 years.  We know how to keep score.

Give up already.  It’s bad enough that you committed us to 4 years of Obama with Gitmo, Kill Lists and 9.8% unemployment in NJ.  Remember, in 2008 he was touted as the cure for “neoliberalism”.  And how did that turn out?

Don’t make us dislike you.

Commence the defensive whining about Clinton

Well, that didn’t take long:

Whether or not he deserves any credit – and he certainly deserves a lot of credit for some bad things – what I think has been lost is the fact that the latter half of the Clinton years were good times. Good times in a way that that hadn’t been experienced since the late 60s or so. I don’t just mean in terms of purely quantifiable things – though the numbers there are good – it was also the case that there was a real sense of optimism. America, we’re back, bitches! It wasn’t all a horror story in the previous couple decades, but “morning in America” ads aside, there was a feeling of stagnation.

Dems have plenty of reasons to be mad at Bill Clinton, but for those wondering why there’s fondness – it’s because the economy boomed and he ultimately kicked their asses.

I was a Democrat and ran for the Board of Ed on a Democratic ticket back when Clinton was president and I don’t have any reason to be angry.  Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all the reasons why people in Atrios’ clique think I *should* be mad at him and it’s not like I’m politically naive and don’t know what they’re talking about. Perhaps they overestimate their own self-importance and authority.  Or it just might be the case that a good chunk of the Democratic base (more than half), analyzed the data with their own set of criteria and expectations, which are no less legitimate, and came to a different conclusion.  And you’re never going to be able to convince us otherwise no matter how hard you try.  We only end up resenting the people who seem determined to rewrite history to reflect their own cultural biases.  They just frustrate our will, leave the Democratic party in a permanently broken state and make it easier for Republicans to win. I’m pretty sure that’s not what they want but they keep undermining their party with their futile attempts to make us change our minds.  It’s like they can’t evolve until they’ve stamped out every bit of good feelings we have for the Clintons.  They seem to be on a mission to delegitimize our perceptions.  I don’t think this is a good use of their time or effort.  It’s like an evangelical fundy spending 40 years trying to convert a non-believer.  At some point, it becomes disrespectful and we have to disassociate ourselves from the zealots.

Except for the Gramm- Bliley bill, which passed thru Congress with a veto proof majority, I just don’t see Clinton’s terms as a string of bad things.  Atrios’ little ditty sounds a lot like Reg and the People’s Front of Judea complaining about the Romans.

Whatever you think of Clinton, Obama can’t hold a candle to him.  Not even close. I can’t see either Clinton compromising our civil liberties or turning their backs on the unemployed or soon to be homeless for even one year compared to Obama’s four.  Clinton is a true politician and did Obama a huge favor last night that he didn’t deserve.  Some  of us don’t even recognize the Obama that Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Bill Clinton talked about last night.  THAT Barack Obama is a fictional character and we all know it.

I hope Clinton got something out of it, but don’t hold your breath for Hillary in 2016.  We were cheated out of that possibility by the people in Atrios’ tribe of Democrats.  And he would have to be politically naive to believe that the powers that installed Obama over our objections will ever let someone like her run unless they are defeated and scrubbed from the party.  It is my mission to deprive those people of power and that’s why I am voting third party this year.

But in any case, the proof is in the data, which Atrios readily admits to, as much as he doesn’t like it.  People like Bill Clinton because he was a good president, a masterful politician and their lives improved while he was in office.

Alas, beautiful theories destroyed by ugly facts.  Or, in this case, ugly theories destroyed by beautiful facts.

Junk DNA and really bad timing

The NYTimes has an article about a “flotilla of papers” that are coming out on Junk DNA.  Junk DNA was, up until recently, thought to be just irrelevant pieces of DNA that hitched a ride with the real genes in your body.  As it turns out, they’re much more important than that:

As scientists delved into the “junk” — parts of the DNA that are not actual genes containing instructions for proteins — they discovered a complex system that controls genes. At least 80 percent of this DNA is active and needed. The result of the work is an annotated road map of much of this DNA, noting what it is doing and how. It includes the system of switches that, acting like dimmer switches for lights, control which genes are used in a cell and when they are used, and determine, for instance, whether a cell becomes a liver cell or a neuron.

In one of the Nature papers, researchers link the gene switches to a range of human diseases — multiple sclerosislupusrheumatoid arthritisCrohn’s diseaseceliac disease — and even to traits like height. In large studies over the past decade, scientists found that minor changes in human DNA sequences increase the risk that a person will get those diseases. But those changes were in the junk, now often referred to as the dark matter — they were not changes in genes — and their significance was not clear. The new analysis reveals that a great many of those changes alter gene switches and are highly significant.

“Most of the changes that affect disease don’t lie in the genes themselves; they lie in the switches,” said Michael Snyder, a Stanford University researcher for the project, calledEncode, for Encyclopedia of DNA Elements.

So, you might ask how we missed the importance of junk DNA while we were doing all that sequencing and stuff.  To understand how junk DNA functions, we have to stop thinking about DNA as a 1 dimensional string of letters (A, T, G, C) and start thinking about it as a three dimensional object.  Picture a spiral telephone cord, if you’re old enough.  Remember what happened to that sucker when it got twisted?  It kind of bunched up?  Imagine that cord wrapped around an octet of soccer balls called a histone.  And then those octets are twisted and assembled into a chromosome and we all have 23 pairs of chromosomes.  Here’s a pic from the EMBL (European Molecular Biology Laboratory) blurb on the ENCODE papers:

When a cell has to transcribe or duplicate a gene, it has to unwind parts of that structure to locate the string of nucleotides to work on.  That part everyone knew.  But there were long strands of material that didn’t seem to perform any function in the gene sense- until they were twisted.  Then, the location of the junk DNA to the gene that was actually transcribed made sense.  The Junk DNA can affect the transcription of the gene because it is functional when the DNA strand is twisted and puts it proximal to the gene of interest.  Proteins work in a similar way.  In a 1 dimensional sense, the sequence of amino acids is meaningless.  It’s only when a sequence is twisted into its 3 dimensional shape that the right amino acids come in contact with or form functional relationships with each other.  When the amino acids are stretched out, the important amino acids may be far apart from each other on the string and do not look like they relate to one another.  It’s only when you compare sequences of related proteins that you see the patterns that indicate the active site of the protein.

Anyway, this is kind of a big deal and I will probably scoot on down to Princeton’s library to read some papers on the whole thing.  There will be reams and reams of data.  This could be very important to cancer research because recently, we have been looking for biomarkers, genes that are common for a particular cancer, and the results have been ambiguous.  But if junk DNA can explain why some genes get switched on inadvertently and others don’t, that might open up a whole new area of drug research.  It’s the kind of thing that people like me and my former colleagues could probably be retrained to do pretty easily.

Unfortunately, industrial R&D has been laying us off left and right and upside down and academia does not have the funds to absorb us.  So, here we are, all kinds of data and no place to go.

I suppose we *could* just work without pay and be selfless and shit.  But there are already people doing that and besides, at some point, our kids need caloric intake as much as any banker’s brats.

Anyway, this discovery comes at a really bad time for the life sciences professional.  It’s not like we’re not out here.  Structural unemployment is NOT the problem.  And this kind of research can be done from the home office so no one even has to move.  It’s just that no one wants to pay for it.

I love this bit of the article:

The new result “is a stunning resource,” said Dr. Lander, who was not involved in the research that produced it but was a leader in the Human Genome Project. “My head explodes at the amount of data.”

Yes, I’m sure all of our heads will explode.  There are more than enough projects to keep every scientist I know over their heads in work for generations to come.  It’s such a shame that hundreds of thousands of us aren’t doing it because some rich assholes in the finance industry see research only as a money pit.

It’s an even worse shame when the political parties either don’t want to acknowledge or don’t care that our scientific industry is dying in this country.  If there was ever a reason for the government to invest in a jobs program that would put thousands of people back to work, this would be it.

By the way, this article in Slate about how wonderful the job market is for the STEM PhD is total bullshit.  I’m living in ground zero where PhDs are getting laid off all around me on a daily basis and most of them regret they ever chose science as a career.  They love science but they sure don’t like being the new precariats, overworked, overeducated and expected to suck it up when they get laid off.  It tends to cool one’s enthusiasm for the lab pretty quickly.  Many are getting out of science altogether and are training to become teachers (probably expected to work without pay) and lawyers.  That’s in addition to their PhD.  This stupid article is how the structural unemployment crap gets spread and it’s pretty unbelievable to those of us who are living through the nuclear winter of the R&D industry.