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Happy Fourth of July and other stuff

dave-dicello_750There are no bad views in Pittsburgh on the Fourth of July. Some are better than others but you really can’t miss a good fireworks display. Best Spots are probably the Dravosburg and West Mifflin area,  Grandview, and a couple streets down from me. And there’s always Kennywood.

Happy Fourth!

Other stuff:

I’ve read in different places that Barack Obama may decide to become a venture capitalist after he leaves the White House, feeding on the corpses of geeks who ran out of early discovery money before they could develop their drugs into blockbusters.

Check out my post from 2011 on Their Plans for Us to get a better sense of what I’m talking about. And yes, the ACS representative really did say that those of us who were unemployed should borrow from “friends, family and fools” in order to work our asses off in our own start up for years before some venture capitalist came along to bail us out.

I’m reminded of the altruism, fairness study of monkeys who don’t think the game is fair if they get less than 30% of the fruit. But it’s OK if vulture capitalists cash in big on the backs of hard working researchers who should be grateful they get 1% back on their blockbuster patents they are forced to sell.

Well, he’ll be trying to fund cancer and orphan disease biological treatments and who can argue with that? If you have cancer or some metabolic disease, this is pretty sweet. But as I have said before, this kind of research has two major characteristics: 1.) It’s a business model that really does feed on the weak. A person with a life threatening disease will not complain about side effects, isn’t likely to sue you if you extend their lives and will pay whatever it takes to get better. Biologicals don’t have the same patent hurdles as many small molecule drugs and for cancer and life threatening orphan diseases they are “fast tracked”. In other words, the FDA will look the other way on many safety profiles. The potential profits are enormous. 2.) Other diseases will be deprioritized. Got heart disease, schizophrenia, or a life threatening bacterial infection? Too f&*(ing bad. Those small molecule therapies don’t get fast tracked, are subject to a lot of patients suing over side effects, are too difficult and expensive to research because of the blood-brain barrier or aren’t taken for long enough periods of time for the dough to roll in.

That’s the harsh reality. Vulture capitalism in new biological therapies is all about maximizing shareholder value while minimizing research at the cost of innovation in other areas. It puts researchers at risk because unless they are early geniuses or incredibly lucky, they will be job hopping from one shaky startup to another and it deprives harder science of the long term funding it needs to make progress.

But don’t take my word for it, listen to Chris Viehbacher, former CEO of a large pharmaceutical who is now into venture capitalism:

In Viehbacher’s view, Big Pharma is still trying to act in the way the old movie studios once operated in Hollywood, with everyone from the stars to writers and stunt men all roped into one big group. Today, he says, movie studios move from project to project, and virtually everyone is a freelancer. In biopharma, he adds, value is found in specializing, and “fixed costs are your enemy.”

Fixed costs are other words for “people who have spent most of their adult lives in a lab getting PhDs in very hard subjects”. These people require life sustaining things like food, water, shelter and money to pay off their student loans. Those things are baaaaad. They’re your enemy.Well, we’ll have none of that. But thanks to Chris Viehbacher, we have the entire working person’s grievance summed up in one paragraph.

By the way, Chris, specializing is important but even specialists have to work in project teams to do real discovery research. A star specialist is only effective if he or she can work in a team of people who put away their egos to focus on their goals. Pharma research has very, very few Mark Zuckerbergs (thank God). In fact, Mark Zuckerberg types who study molecular biology are just as likely to go work on Wall Street as a start up lab because they know where the money is when they have to make a living, didja ever think about that, Chris? But I digress.

and Chris also said…

“It is cheaper. But research and development is either a huge waste of money or too, too valuable. It’s not really anything in between. You don’t really do things because it’s cheaper. The reality is the best people who have great ideas in science don’t want to work for a big company. They want to create their own company. So, in other words, if you want to work with the best people, you’re going to have go outside your own company and work with those people … And, you want to work with them, why do they want to work with you? The reality over the last 10 years is, (a small biotech) wouldn’t get caught dead working with one of these big cumbersome pharma companies. Once you have a funding gap, suddenly there’s a much greater willingness of earlier-stage companies to work with Big Pharma. We’re looking earlier and people who are early need help.

It would take many posts to unpack what Chris is really saying in this paragraph. Let’s just say that to those of us who used to do this kind of research, this is transparent BS pitched to future investors and says more about the only thing that Chris and his droogs feel is a measure of success and value in life. This is from a man who likely never stepped foot in the labs he ran. Discovery sometimes takes a long time, patience and continuity. That’s how we do science. Everything else is either a get-rich-quick scheme or low hanging fruit built on the backs of others- who worked in those big corporate labs for years and years doing the heavy lifting in research.

But it’s the image of Viehbacher and his investors waiting around for early stage companies to have a funding gap, where presumably they can’t pay their top stars anymore, that really fuels my contempt for these predators. “Nice lead compound you got there. Be a shame if something *happened* to it.” This is venturing into Martin Shkreli territory.

And Barack Obama wants to be one of them?

Some presidents build libraries, some presidents build multinational charitable foundations, some presidents look for FDA loopholes, researchers on the edge of bankruptcy and desperately sick people to make a killing in the market.


Antecdotal evidence of *something*:

I walked to the bus stop the other day on the way home from work. The buses must have been piled up in traffic upstream because the sidewalk was crowded with about 100 people. That’s an estimate, probably a good one. I didn’t want to block the sidewalk so I stood where I could. It turns out it was in a line that was quickly forming in front of another line of people backed up against the side of a building. All of the sudden, there was a voice behind me, “Is there a good reason you stood in front of me??”. I turned around to see a tall African American man behind me. He looked casually dressed, like he just came from a Pirates game. I looked like I just came from my air conditioned office floor in a tech company with my company lanyard hanging from my neck. I just said “No” and turned away just as the bus pulled up.

It’s just the buses held up in traffic and crowded bus stops with no place to stand. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar, not a socio-political statement. Anyway, there was no way I could stand behind him because there was a f^*&ing building there and then, people standing in front of me. So, you know, we’re all in this whole bus thing together.

Then I got on the bus and stumbled on the foot of a white woman who was taking up way too much space (she wasn’t obese) on the side bench seating including sticking her legs out into the aisle. “Excuse me”, I muttered as I quickly took my seat down the aisle and across from her. She too was a casually dressed, graying blonde who looked her age. She gave me the stink eye for several blocks before she got off in mid town.

WTF?? I suddenly felt like the target for Trump supporters AND anti-Bernie people who wanted to pick a fight.

This is going to be an ugly summer.

I ran into a bunch of POC tweeters yesterday who just assumed I was a Bernie supporter because I didn’t think the turn to the left in the Democratic platform was a slap to Obama. The internet is a rough place and I’m used to it, but the level of anger and assumptions, including that I had deliberately used a “sepia toned” photo of myself for some nefarious purpose was hillariously over the top.

Look, POC, calm your g&* damned tits for crying out loud. It was eight years ago that Donna Brazile and Paul Begala fought it out on national TV over the Democratic party ditching its “old coalition” for “eggheads and African Americans”. (They both missed the point, IMHO) This year, thanks to an angry electorate and a definite shift in voter sentiment against getting the shitty end of the economic stick in the past eight years with no bankers going to jail and years of absolutely the worst job market since the Great Depression, the Democratic party seems to slowly be turning back to its roots and in the direction of the left.

Those of you who *think* this turn is a slap to Obama should seriously ask yourselves why the party struggling to embrace its identity with working people and more liberal values looks like it is disrespecting Obama.

I’m not saying your perception is wrong. I’m saying the reason is not what you think it is.

I’ll leave it at that. You’re smart enough to figure it out. It’s got nothing to do with racism.




38 Responses

  1. Charles Pierce says it is always about race, even when it is not. I don’t believe that but Pittsburgh is suspiciously south of Boston.

    • Honest to God, there’s no winning on the race thing. There’s no way to prove a negative.
      And the accusations are a distraction for the other shit that’s going on right under our noses with no scrutiny.

      • Oh, you’re exactly right. During the 08 campaign on my little blog read by two people, every time I posted anything critical of Obama I got at least one racist accusation. They were so routine I deleted them as soon as I saw them, and I never delete comments (well, unless they are threatening).

  2. Just one slight correction. Obama is not “thinking about becoming a venture capitalist.” He’s thinking about continuing as a venture capitalist, a career he’s been pursuing successfully for at least the past eight years.

    • I’m going to assume that federal law prohibits him from making money on adventures for which he has the capacity to influence the outcome until he leaves office. Let’s not make him a criminal just because he’s contemplating becoming the unscrupulous plutocrat I’ve always thought he was.

  3. Well, I think as far as the platform thing goes, Bernie injecting himself into what is going on there has caused problems. Bernie has been critical of Obama for a long time, has lived in frozen in amber lily white Vermont for half a century and so it’s easy to see where this came from and also Bernie has made some pretty stupid statements about African Americans. Basically he’s your typical socialist who is all about the “class struggle” and doesn’t understand nor care about some of the race problems that exist in the country. He thinks that the “class struggle” is everything. I have talked to people who were involved in some of the moments back in the 70s’ and they have said that Bernie’s mindset was pretty typical back then. Women were told they had to wait to gain rights until the “class struggle” was resolved. Same thing for all other groups along with women. Oddly enough Bernie’s supporters are now requesting Jill Stein step aside and let Bernie run on the Green ticket. Do we see a pattern her with regards to women? Hillary should step aside even though she won the most votes and Stein should step aside even though she is the legitimate Green Party nominee. All of that gets back to the mindset that women need to step aside in the “class struggle”.

    As far as your bus stop experience, unfortunately there are African Americans who believe all white people are racists. Trump is not helping on this account nor have the games Republicans have been playing with all this for quite a while now. Obama has not resolved the problem but frankly I never thought he would. Too many mentally deficient “brogressives” thought that he would magically bring racial harmony to the country.

  4. i would have guessed he would eventually landed in the health insurance sector. it is such a huge part of the economy. very few of the young ones want anything to do with the money sector so i suspect his tenure will be short lived. i hope he enjoys many years out of the public eye and on the golf course.

  5. Trump’s incoherent message works only because of racism. That and that alone is what gave him the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

    White working-class voters didn’t leave the Democrats over neoliberalism or anything else Dr. Jill Stein says was the cause. They left starting in the 1966 midterms because LBJ allowed POC into the New Deal. Republicans noticed this and developed the Southern Strategy as a result.

    • Are there not POC who are working people too? This isn’t about the Southern Strategy or racism. It’s often framed that way to deflect attention from what is really going on. And I’m not going to deny that there’s racism in America because clearly there is.
      No, that’s not it at all. It’s that the callous money men who have this country by the balls got everything they wanted when the financial system collapsed. They ruined us. They tread on the long term unemployed. And they fill their pockets everyday with money they get delivered straight from our paychecks into their hands. The president is and always has been one of them.
      It wasn’t about screwing just the old coalition. They screwed the eggheads and African Americans too.
      My objection to Obama was never about the color of his skin. It has always been about the content of his character, which is empty. The idea that he would even consider joining the vultures that fed on our careers confirms it.
      We’ve all been had.

      • RD, I think you’re overlooking something.

        After 1966, how did the money men’s hired politicians start harvesting enough votes to get enough conservatives elected to start repealing the Great Society, and even the New Deal?

        There weren’t (and aren’t) enough rich folks in this country to make an electoral majority.

        They got the votes, from a sufficient percentage of my fellow non-elite white USAmericans, by emphasizing “the social issues” (and foreign policy, to a lesser extent), which is dog-whistle for “Keep them uppity coloreds, wimmins, pothead hippies, and non-believers in their places, dammit!”.

        Nixon’s capo Ehrlichman admitted (hell, boasted), before he died, that the “War On (some) Drugs”, to name just one example, was really just a confidence scehme to suppress the African-American vote and the anti-war vote.

        Tribble Hair won the GOP race just because he started giving the Stupid Bigot vote nearly-pure China White racism, barely adulterated with respectability, right up the mainline, instead of the methadone-maintenance “dog whistle” the other Republicans have been giving the Stupid Bigots for 50 years.

        The Stupid Bigots now have the economy and government which they deserve. The problem with that is that people like you and I, who deserve better, also are stuck with the economy and government which the Stupid Bigots deserve.


        • I forgot to mention they also took advantage of the economic woes of the 1970s, stemming mainly from the oil shock, and also from the after-effects of the attempt to finance the Great Society AND a stupid, useless, unwinnable, semi-bankruptive war in Indochina, all without raising taxes.

          • However, I don’t think the economic and foreign-policy woes alone could have brought the conservatives to enduring power. The dog-whistling was indispensable.

            *dons freshly-folded, outrageously chic chapeau de Reynolds Wrap*

            Though speaking of foreign policy, there is a persistent story (of course, they’ve managed to bury any irrefutable evidence) that elements of the Reagan campaign cut a deal with the Iranian hostage-holders in 1980 to keep the hostages until after November to make sure Carter lost. I assume that, as usual, they left the Drugstore Cowboy himself out of the loop.

            [Mr. Rogers] “Can you say treason, boys and girls?” [/Mr. Rogers]

          • Two of the most influential books I have read in the last eight years are Liquidated, an Ethnography of Wall Street by Karen Ho and Flash Boys by Michael Lewis. I’d throw in the book by Neil Borosky as well for good measure.
            Did you ever play Pit? Yeah, imagine that at 300000000 meters/sec.
            They don’t care if you’re black or white or yellow or purple. You’re just an account number.

        • I’m not so sure the current crop of money men were old enough to influence anything. The people I’m talking about are reaping what others sowed. They don’t give a f}#^ about the southern strategy. They are light years ahead. Literally. They’re into high speed trading and have never known any other stakeholders in a corporation other than shareholders.
          We need to keep up. The southern strategy stuff was 50 years ago. The space age was surpassed by the IC age and Moore’s Law, and then by the Internet age and the biological revolution.
          We have to stop arguing about race. It would be like throwing a person a life preserver when they’re dying by fire.
          My problem with Obama was never about race. It was about his association with the arsonists. But he’s got a sophisticated PR team that keeps dangling this race thing in front of us and we can’t stop looking at it while they continue to torch the world.
          Citizens in countries all over the globe know there’s something wrong but they can’t quite put their fingers on it. The right thinks it’s about immigrant brown people; the left is closer to the truth but it’s too easily thrown off its kibble by GMO labeling and shit like that.
          They continue to miss who is doing what to whom.

          • All of what you say matters, but, again, where and how did the Malefactors of Great Wealth get the votes they needed to start repealing the Great Society and the New Deal, including the regulations which would, if left in place, have prevented the high-speed financial bubble society which, with good reason, you deplore?

            There were not, and are not, enough fat cats to make a numerical majority of the population.

            How did they bamboozle enough of their future victims into (unwittingly) voting for their victimization, if not by a “blame the Others” strategy?

            History DOES matter, Madoka damn it!

            And the “Southern Strategy” (that is, the “Blame The Others” strategy) is no longer relevant? Tell that to Tribble Hair. It’s been working like a charm for him. As you said, the Right still thinks it’s about immigrant brown people.

          • You don’t live down here, so you don’t understand how many of my fellow non-elite white Southerners still think the big problem is the Others. You’re correct that “blame the Others” is a distraction, but it’s a distraction which is still working.

          • (Sorry for the multiple posts, but I keep having afterthoughts. I wish I could edit posts like I can do on the anime forum which I frequent.)

            And as long as the distraction works, it remains relevant.

          • I agree that the high-speed bubble economy is a big problem, but you sound as if you are saying it’s the only big problem, and if so, I disagree with that.

          • At this point, it doesn’t matter how we got here. Yes, for historical reasons, we’ll want to write about it and educate people but propaganda works time and again because as human beings we tend to try to simplify complex information and we are herd animals.
            We have to stop worrying about how the majority of people got bamboozled and work on getting ourselves out if this mess as quickly as possible.
            It’s not about race. It’s not about ignorant trump voters or segregationists
            It’s about how all of us are getting trapped in a gigantic pincer maneuver. Are you going to lecture the army about what it did years ago when they’re moving in for the kill now? They don’t give a }%^*. And the people who were tricked into voting for them is no better off than the rest of us.
            The Democrats dropped the mic from 2000-2016. But it’s happening to all of us the world over regardless of party affiliation.

          • One more thing, as a country, we are over armed. It’s a really bad idea to have religious fundamentalism dominating our culture when there are so many guns around, guns we can’t track or number.
            The people who have them are reserving their right to overturn elections or anything they don’t like.
            They think they are being attacked by the election system. They don’t respect the majority and they’re not going to take it if they don’t have to. The real terrorism is subtle. It’s the silent threat that there are guns out there just waiting to be used at the right provocation. That’s what the NRA got with their donations. They got the power to intimidate the rest of us.

    • Jill Stein has shown herself to be an idiot. She’s pumping up Trump these days.

  6. At this point, it doesn’t matter how we got here.

    I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that.

    OTOH, I suspect you’re quite correct about the real purpose of the military-grade firearms in non-military hands.

    Meanwhile, given your profession, you might like this particular piece of manga & anime cuteness. :mrgreen:

    • I don’t know how Konata keeps from exploding every time she takes a bath. 😉

    • Lol! That’s fantastic. It’s so elemental.

      • Some of them are based on the character names; for example, samarium is represented by Sailor Moon. Others are based on the name of the manga/anime/game the character(s) come from; for example, chlorine is represented by some characters from Clannad.

      • And of course, whoever created this thing now needs to add boxes for the elements beyond copernicium.

  7. RD, I agree with what Ivory Bill is saying. Down here you see white people in broken down trailers as bad off as any African American and they will still vote for the people that will make their lives worse because the GOP gives them false self esteem with regards to skin color. Don’t let what Obama did burn up your eyes enough to see that is out there. However, it looks like the log jam just might break this year. I read where SC is turning into a swing state. SC the crown jewel of the GOP is getting ready to bolt the coalition. So there’s hope that perhaps they are fed up with being told that they’re better than people because they have white skin yet their children are starving to death.

    • Ok clearly I am not being clear.
      Let’s put it this way, we know that there’s a subset of so called human beings who spend a whole lot of time turning their anger on people south of them on the pecking order. These people can be manipulated to ignore the people on the other end of the pecking order who are the real bad guys. This is well known.
      Ignore these people. We spend way too much time thinking about them and asking ourselves why they do the things they do. They do them because they are gullible and unimaginative and mean. Let’s leave it at that. There will always be people like this on every country all over the world.
      I want you to instead focus on OUR side.
      We do a very similar thing for different reasons. We say, there’s a racial problem. This is true. And it’s very unfair and no one would argue with this.
      BUT at the same time we are wringing out hands about it, the bad guys have gotten even more sophisticated with stealing everything that isn’t nailed down and indenturing the rest of us.
      What does the left do? It says, we can’t take on the bad guys until we have a teachable moment about race. And we’re going to elect an African American president so that for eight years, you ignore what the thieves are doing to all of us, black and white, male and female, to concentrate all of your attentions on protecting this one man from any criticism so as to not appear to be racists.
      Do you see what I’m saying? The left has also been focusing its attention down the pecking order and not up.
      Meanwhile, the thieves are rapidly setting things up so that we will never get our stuff back.
      Now, the people in the right will tell you that there’s nothing we can do about the powerful. They get away with murder and that’s the way it’s always been. They forget the New Deal and the powerful labor movements of the 20th century. So, having incorporated learned helplessness into the core of their being, they turn their attentions on things they can do something about like taking food stamps away from poor kids or sending immigrants back to Mexico or making it hard for women to not become mothers. That gives them back their power.
      And on the right, we do something similar. We also act like there’s nothing we can do to stop the plutocrats. So we elect an African American president and we make sure gay people can marry, etc. it gives our side a sense of accomplishment. And the plutocrats are totally onboard with this. It gives those lefties something to do to make them feel important. But the most important thing they could be doing is challenging the policies enacted in the last eight years that make us more likely to be independent contractors paying for everything ourselves, living in debt and forced to put our precious savings into the global casino in the hands of financiers who were never held accountable for their actions and play the game on high tech fiber optic cables at the speed of light the better to cheat you with. THOSE people continue to fly under the radar while the more tender hearted of us wring our hands over whether there’s some ignorant redneck in Alabama who never got over integrated lunch counters.
      My hair has been on fire for eight years now and people still don’t get it. I guess it depends on your cohort. But I have seen the American success story turn to shit for every single one of my friends who still desperately cling to the vanishing threads of their biotech careers. It’s bad enough when a poor black kid can’t ever hope to make his way out of poverty. It’s even more ominous when the children of the highly educated and technologically savvy can’t do it either.
      Can you hear me now???
      I’m glad Bernie ran. He might not have been the most promising candidate but without him, we would have continued to think that it’s all hunky dory because of the relentless Obama PR machine telling us that only poor people suffer. There are a lot more poor people today than eight years ago and Obama has steadfastly identified with the plutocrats in every way.

      • You and I are talking past each other on this subject. I’m completely not talking about Obama with regards to the race thing. I’m just talking general culture.

        Anyway I have no contacts who are in biotech. All I can tell you is what has been happening here in GA and mostly it’s been not doing too great. GA has been in the top ten in UE for years but yet again the voters seem to be willing to accept that.

        Bernie at this point has destroyed everything he even said he stood for. You don’t act like a toddler because you did not get enough votes. You don’t help Donald Trump because you lost. He doesn’t seem to understand forming coalitions and working toward goals. He only seems to be a nihilist who thinks everything should just be blown up with no plan to really solve anything.

        • He’s not hurting anyone at this point. As long as he stops flinging poo at Hillary, he can make as much ruckus as he wants on the platform committee.
          She’s far ahead of him in elected delegates. His followers need time to accept this. Let’s leave them alone.

          • I unfortunately find his followers have bought into the same conspiracy theories that the Trumpsters have. At this point I don’t think he’ll endorse Hillary and probably won’t speak at the convention either.

        • Or maybe he’ll wring as much as he can out of the platform committee and then endorse.
          At this point, I honestly don’t care. It’s not going to change the outcome at the convention. Hillary is farther ahead of him in 2016 than she was ahead of Obama in 2008. Who cares what Bernie does? He’s got good ideas but he may have back benched himself and his supporters by holding out. It’s a self-inflicted wound. I’m not getting upset about it.

          • I think he’s mostly gotten all that he is going to get in the platform. I don’t care if he endorses either. It’s gotten to the point where it would be worthless anyway. He has completely relegated himself to the corner and yes, he did it all to himself.

      • You’re being clear enough, RD.

        Most of what you say makes sense to me.

        I simply disagree with the specific part of your argument which says the stupid bigots can be safely ignored, when political exploitation of the stupidity of the bigots is a large part of what made massive deregulation possible, which created the casino economy that you justly deplore.

        I don’t think the re-regulation which will be needed to dismantle the casino economy and the Second Gilded Age it has created, and return to the glory days of the Great Society, can be done until the bigots wise up and/or the USA becomes a brown-majority country.

        I think the latter possibility is more likely–the robber barons, in their blind greed for that sweet, sweet cheap labor, have thrown open the borders, gradually eroding that white bigot majority which made their return to the position of supreme power which their kind enjoyed in the First Gilded Age possible, and which sustains the barons’ position in this Second Gilded Age. (The GOP political operatives are smart enough to realize this, hence their continuing, shameless efforts at voter suppression and gerrymandering.)

        Again, we’ll just have to agree to disagree on the subject. As G6D said, we’re talking past each other. Peace out.

        • *sigh* Not for the first time, I wish I could edit my posts.

          When I said “…which made their return to the position of supreme power…”, “their” refers to the barons, not the bigots whom the barons exploit. I realized after I posted it that the antecedent was not entirely clear.

        • Stupid bigots are getting hammered too. Maybe they deserve it but as MLK said, an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.
          I might not want to spend time with them or agree with them on anything. But at this point, we have enough on our hands focusing our own attention on whose stealing stuff from all of us. You really want to help poor people and POC? Make sure the high speed plutocrats can’t rip us all off anymore.

  8. Thanks for the discussion!

Comments are closed.

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