• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on The Best Christmas Movie
    Propertius on The Best Christmas Movie
    atl on The Best Christmas Movie
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on The Best Christmas Movie
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Every time I hear Collins…
    William on The Best Christmas Movie
    William on Every time I hear Collins…
    riverdaughter on Every time I hear Collins…
    riverdaughter on Every time I hear Collins…
    girdharikeer on Every time I hear Collins…
    riverdaughter on Every time I hear Collins…
    riverdaughter on Every time I hear Collins…
    Ga6thDem on Every time I hear Collins…
    Propertius on Every time I hear Collins…
    William on Every time I hear Collins…
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama Bernie Sanders big pharma Bill Clinton cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donald Trump Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare OccupyWallStreet occupy wall street Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans research Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Texas Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    March 2019
    S M T W T F S
    « Feb   Apr »
     12
    3456789
    10111213141516
    17181920212223
    24252627282930
    31  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Open Thread
      Use the comments on this post to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.
  • Top Posts

“I don’t think it’s Ok”

Reposting this reply from Adam Schiff to the Republican demand that he resign as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

He speaks for me.

That went well.

Last night, Stephen Colbert announced that a consensus poll by fivethirtyeight found that the number of people who believed the president regarding the conclusions of Mueller’s investigation soared from 41.9% to 41.9%.

We should take some comfort in this. While it looks like there will always be a certain fixed number of people who will willingly believe whatever their chosen leader tells them, no matter how soft, weak, duplicitous, callous and criminal he is, there will be about 60% of Americans who are going to see through his sleight of hand.

Note that this doesn’t mean that 41.9% of Americans are stupid. Some of them might well be stupid and can’t think their way out of a paper bag. But I bet that they are the minority. No, the reason the 41.9% believe the stale orange marshmallow peanut has something to do with their personalities or the way they were raised or something like that. Who knows what happened to them for their consciences to become so fungible that they can be morally compromised by Donald Trump. Maybe its a failure of imagination because if I were really counting on a dictator to save me from the unwashed masses, I’d want someone who’s at least 80% compatible with my moral philosophy, is wise and is as hot as Viggo Mortensen.

Maybe there is something in it for the 41.9%, like power or connections or wealth. Or the average Trumper is just easily frightened. Mostly, I think Trumpism gives them the opportunity to feel better about themselves in some way. We can’t know why these people are so willing to screw the rest of us by clinging to Trump so tenaciously, like a wad of toilet paper to whatever extends the metaphor for you.

The rest of us know that there’s a massive coverup going on, that the underlying evidence of wrongdoing in the Mueller report must be worse than we ever imagined, and that efforts to suppress and cleanse the Mueller report before it reaches congress really does seriously matter. It would have been better for Trump if the full report had been released. At least he could have mounted a vigorous defense of whatever was in it.

But you can’t defend yourself against a vacuum and the absence of evidence doesn’t mean evidence of nothing. Which means that for the other 60% of us, the Barr letter has confirmed what we suspected.

He’s a crook. He’s a national security risk. The Mueller Report will show it. To the non-41.9%, it matters.

We didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.

************************

“I’m not pitching this very well, am I?”

Says Lloyd Evans of JW Survey in his interview by John Dehlin of Mormon Stories. In this second part of a three part interview, Lloyd and John compare Jehovah’s Witnesses vs Mormon theology and discuss such weighty topics as:

Do people poop in paradise?

Will you get your dead pet back in the resurrection?

What conclusions would the scouting team from the Starship Enterprise come to when they encounter a planet full of hot young sexless vegetarians?

Did Jesus’s body ascend into heaven or just his spirit and if only his spirit, what happened to his body?

And is 18th century ignorance bliss?

I never laughed so hard about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Or Mormons. Not to be missed.

The Letter

The letter written by Barr is not the Mueller Report. It’s a selective summary and interpretation.

Barr was selected by Trump because he has a reputation of covering things up that make Republicans look bad, like he did with Iran Contra.

All this letter does is run out the clock. Trump gets to crow that he was exonerated (he wasn’t) and Democrats spend the next 20 months subpoenaing and beating their heads against a brick wall.

The truth will eventually come out. The SDNY, EDVA, NYAG, and DC courts will likely have the last words. The corruption investigations pile up. Michael Flynn still cooperates.

But we all knew when Barr was appointed that his job was to make this all go away for the Republicans. That’s his job, to cover it all up. If it wasn’t his job, he’d just release the full report with minor redactions.

He hasn’t. So we’ll just have to take his word for it.

Sure.

“The role of Paul Manafort Will now be played by Lindsay Graham”

I’m not particularly interested in Lindsay’s motivations. Let’s just chalk it up to intense partisan loyalty and a win at all costs mentality. There’s a lot of money involved.

But what he’s doing by blocking the vote in the senate for release of the full Mueller report because he’s not done with Hillary’s email server, reminds me of what happened about 10 years ago in another country, specifically, Ukraine. Continuously bringing up Trump’s female rival with accusations of illegalities and calls to lock her up is exactly what Victor Yanukovich did to Yulia Tymoshenko.

In 2010, Tymoshenko lost the Ukrainian presidential election by 3.5%. Looks like it was right about the margin of error as these things go. Hmmmm…

Tymoshenko spent time in prison before her conviction was overturned. That was the result of an intense smear campaign orchestrated by…

Are you ready?…

Paul Manafort.

Yes! The man with the “blameless life” worked for Yanukovich and made sure that whatever little peccadillo that Tymoshenko did was blown up to be the greatest malfeasance in history. He probably had a Lisa Page-Peter Stzrok conspiracy as well and some dorky Sean Hannity type hyping the “scandal” 24/7.

Eventually, the people of Ukraine had enough and mounted a Euromaiden Revolution in 2014. Yanukovich was driven out of office and fled to Russia into the open arms of Vladimir Putin. Yulia Tymoshenko was released from jail, in poor physical shape, if I recall correctly, and Paul Manafort beat a hasty retreat leaving documents behind listing all the money Yanukovich paid him for his “help”.

So, we’re seeing a repeat of that play. Lindsay keeps putting Clinton’s email scandal out there, firing up the faithful to “lock her up”. But I’m betting the final act will be the same. Once Trump’s crimes are exposed, the mounting evidence will be harder to ignore. Add in some economic instability from his moronic trade deals, tariffs and “tax cut” that only went to the super rich, and we might see a Orange or Americamaiden Revolution in Washington.

Actually, I prefer green. It’s spring after all. We should wear green baseball caps with wind mills on them. You know, to own the MAGATs and just piss Trump off.

As for Lindsay, tarring and feathering is too good for him and probably illegal these days. But I wouldn’t mind if he was forced to leave Washington and back into the loving arms of whoever is leaving money on his dresser.

Random Thoughts

Kirsten Gillibrand- I’m beginning to think she and Elizabeth Warren are more formidable opponents to the GOP than originally thought. I LOVE Gillibrand’s ad about being brave. I think that’s a message that a lot of voters need to hear.

The GOP would have everybody scared crazy about Muslims and Mexicans and while we’re hiding under our beds, they clean the rest of the house out, snickering “suckers” as they leave.

I’m beginning to notice a pattern. Maybe I’m slow to this one. Whenever there’s a strong primary challenger, Democrats are going to start hearing something about that person that person that puts us off our kibble. In Gillibrand’s case, she has to appeal to more left voters. I’m thinking of potential Bernie or Warren voters. Gillibrand’s pressuring Franken to resign rubs them the wrong way. You can be sure that this narrative will be maxxed to the hilt.

Context matters. Gillibrand didn’t have the power to strip Franken of anything. The atmosphere that #MeToo created made Franken an ongoing target that Republicans would have used to distract us from everything Trump was doing. AND Franken, whether aggressive or not, had violated personal space repeatedly. It wasn’t going to go away.

Franken’s resignation was like giving up the rook on the left side. It put him out of play and rebalanced the moral authority of the Democrats. Franken’s a very smart guy and he probably recognized this. So he did the right thing and we got one more female senator in the bargain. If Gillibrand had a hand in that, she should get credit for it, not blame.

So, I caution everyone to not fall for these narratives that are designed to split us. Besides, a politician should be graded on more than just one awkward situation or negative vote. We should take a look at their record, their policies, their integrity.

With Warren, the narrative is to throw the swing voter or working class voter off their kibble. Warren’s policies are more likely to help those voters. Her specialty is the dual income problem, bankruptcy and consumer financial products. She made an impact before she was ever elected with the CFPB. The GOP has been gutting that bureau ever since because it protects consumers against bad financial advisors, pay-day loans and credit card company practices that screw the user.

Calling Warren Pocahontas is a clever thought stopping trick. It makes everything else that she says untrustworthy. The GOP is signalling here that it finds Warren’s policies appealing to the masses and dangerous to it.

We haven’t heard anything negative about Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden or Beto O’Rourke. Nothing that would stick anyway. Beto might have gotten some notice for acting like he owns the place and his DUI, but really, what else is there to say about the guy? He doesn’t have much of a record. I’m guessing that none of these guys are much of a threat to the GOP right now.

Amy Klobuchar got my attention for a split second. It wasn’t that her Minnesota Nice image was destroyed by her “boss from hell” reputation. That could have worked in her favor. No, it was more about her attitude that if she was elected, she’d just say “No!” to any innovative or working class policy. I just got the feeling that she isn’t into trying anything new, she’s not a big picture person and I’m not sure that telling voters to just suck it up is a good working strategy. Life might not be fair but that’s why we vote for new people. We expect them to try to make it fairer.

Kamala Harris seems to be floating under the radar. She’s formidable because she’s got California locked up. I haven’t heard any strong narratives around her. Maybe the opposition thinks that not mentioning her will decelerate her momentum.

Booker, I’m looking at him again. I’m open to him but, again, I want to see policy initiatives.

Bernie. I haven’t really got an opinion. We’re discussing Democrats that are running and Bernie is not a Democrat.

Tulsi? For all we know, the Russians are going to push her on us and she’ll end up as Trump 2.0: without strategic landscape and experience, more than capable of pandering to the evangelical vote, and weirdly sympathetic to war criminals. But she’s pretty. Gotta give her that. Is she enough of a babe to turn the working man’s head? IDK. Let’s just hope she fizzles out quickly.

**************************

Podcasts.

I listen to a lot. But recently, many of them have stopped putting full content on their site. Now, they put teasers to the episode you really want to listen to and those episodes are behind a paywall. There’s Slate Plus, Cafe, and whoever hosts After On.

Look, people, I *know* you have to get compensated for your work but I’m already subscribed to YouTube TV, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO, Audible, Spotify and iTunes. (Going to drop iTunes) I can’t add another subscription. If I’m going to subscribe to anything, it will be Nature or Science or Cell. I hate having to pirate papers.

Here’s my recommendation, get some common platform for your subscriptions. See what you can work out with Audible. If Amazon bothers you, try Tablet or whatever the hell that magazine app is called. Make me only have to subscribe ONCE at a reasonable price.

I know it’s only $35/year! Or $5/month! Or $10/every 3 months! But sooner or later, it adds up to real money and I’m being pinged for more and more of it.

Put your heads together and work it out.

*****************************

I get a lot of advice from well intentioned relatives and friends about the benefits of natural therapeutics for my illness. I consider all of them carefully and read all the adverse drug reactions I can find for them. That’s because some of the best chemotherapy agents are derived from nature. Yep. Vincristine and Vinblastine are derived from periwinkle and Paclitaxel comes from the pacific yew tree.

Here’s an image of Paclitaxel, my favorite drug du jour 🥰:

Not a medicinal chemist’s dream molecule to make in a lab (can almost see them rolling their eyes over drug designers’ crazy obsession with chiral carbons). So, it’s synthesized in cells now and then purified.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are no “bad” molecules. There are definitely substances that will hurt the body but natural products have no more virtue than something that’s synthesized in a lab and some natural products are fine as they are and only need purification and formulation.

In other words, use what works, read all adverse drug reactions and consult with your doctor and pharmacist.

A molecule is a molecule is a molecule. They don’t come with halos.

The Inventor. Or everything wrong with America. Part II

If you’ve watched The Inventor on HBO, or if you’re reasonably familiar with any high tech environment populated by venture capitalists, start up equity owners or day traders, you’ve probably heard the words “disruption”, “creative destruction” and “reality distortion field”. That last one was attributed to Apple founder Steve Jobs whose vision and drive frequently created an alternate universe where his employees did what was initially thought to be impossible.

It’s not impossible, it’s just a combination of Moore’s Law, new technologies and someone who could synthesize it all and think around corners. We’ve discussed previously how biology doesn’t really work this way. With living things, trial and error and long, hard slogging through experiment after experiment is how things get discovered. It’s just not very sexy to the vulture capitalist who’s going to expect some ROI in pretty short order.

In any case, it’s jargon and jargon is insidery stuff. If you’re part of the team, the cognoscenti, the cool kids, you use jargon. Jargon drives me crazy. Where I work now, there are quite a few people who think it’s ok to use “decision” as a verb and “ask” as a noun. For example, “For this feature, the ask from the users was…” or “I saw that task in my queue and decisioned it to the out bin”. Come on, people. You don’t sound smarter or more professional. What’s wrong with “made a decision” and a “request”?

A long time ago, I read a book for a business writing class called “Less Than Words Can Say” by Richard Mitchell, the Underground Grammarian. His message to business writers was to avoid jargon as much as possible. There are two good reasons for this: it’s vague and imprecise, and it leads to mental shortcuts, which can have practical consequences down the road. How do you know if you’re doing something correctly if there’s no clear definition of words or instructions?

We’re all familiar with jargon on the left. What exactly is a “neoliberal”? No one really defines the word but it sure sounds bad. Same with “corporatist”. Incorporation is just a way a business can organizes itself. A corporation by itself should be a neutral term. It’s how those corporate shareholders lobby their representatives and how laws are written that incentivize those corporations to make money that give the word its negative connotation. After years of biotech startups failing to thrive in the wake of the decimation of the research industry, you’d be hard pressed to find a chemist or biologist who wasn’t a little wistful for the corporate lab. Trust me, someday, you’re going to believe me when I say that pharma R&D is not your enemy. The MBAs who run the companies are. But I digress.

I’m bringing language up with respect to The Inventor because in some ways, the atmosphere that Elizabeth Holmes created at Theranos resembled a cult. She was the charismatic, unblinking, blue eyed Svengali who rallied her troops to even greater heights of self-delusion. Even the professionals who knew better where captivated by her ability to cheer them on. They were fighting a battle against an establishment entity, in this case Quest Diagnostics, and Quest was hell bent on destroying their business model and the future of healthcare.

If that kind of thinking sounds familiar, it’s probably because creating an enemy and describing how you’re crushing it with underdog determination and moxie is a technique that’s been around for millenia.

It can also be soul crushing. Because if you’re not relentlessly onboard with the vision, then you become a “subversive person” in the Scientology sense of the word. Elizabeth Holmes was notorious for firing or threatening anyone who harshed her mellow with inconvenient data or evidence of her dishonesty. One of her best scientists, Ian Gibbons, a guy with a wealth of experience and institutional knowledge, was one of the people who kept telling her the truth she didn’t want to hear. He was marginalized and lost his office and was on the verge of being fired when he committed suicide in 2012. Yep, that was a bad year for chemists and biologists. Jobs were in very, VERY short supply. (Well, steady full time work for an extended period of time is still hard to come by) The prospect that Holmes would fire him for not being a team player made him realize that his career in science was effectively over.

But it didn’t stop Theranos’ collapse. Their nanotainers and Edison machines never worked as advertised. The company compromised the health of many people in Arizona and frittered away almost a billion dollars. The truth catches up with you, no matter how many times you utter the words “disruption”.

*****************************

Found in my twitter stream:

🙄

The Inventor. Or everything that’s wrong with America. Part I

The Inventor, the documentary about Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes, debuted on HBO this week. Check it out if you have a subscription.

There’s also a podcast on the same subject, The Dropout, and a book, Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou, reporter for the WSJ.

A little background: Elizabeth Holmes came from a well connected family and went to Stanford for all of three semesters before she dropped out to start Theranos. Theranos promised to be able to diagnose illness with a little finger stick instead of a vial or two of blood. The nanotainer of blood would be fed into a black box called Edison and analysts would receive data from Edison that they would interpret and send back to the patient or the patient’s doctor.

Now, this actually sounds like a great idea. And someday, I think we’ll get there. Someday.

The problem is that Holmes was all of 19 when she started the company and if there’s one thing we in the pharma R&D industry learned from bitter experience is that biology is WILDLY different from a Intel Chip. It’s a YUGE difference. I can’t even tell you how big a difference it is. You think you have a problem making some calculation about Boeing airplanes that would keep them from suddenly plunging towards the ground but it’s nothing compared to systems biology or trying to figure out how to make a kinase inhibitor specific enough without triggering up and downstream ripple effects.

I guess that what I’m trying to say is that Silicon Valley vastly underestimates the challenges of a startup where biology is involved. It’s used to “trial and success” because everything it is doing is based on some man made object or code. The physics are pretty well understood. There’s nothing made there that can’t be unmade. You can predict or reason your way around every product. New stuff can be interesting but in the end, nothing is hard except for coming up with a good idea.

Biology is just not like that. Not even the assays are like that. And cells can be fickle and do whatever the hell they want for no apparent reason at all.

It’s not that Theranos wasn’t a good idea. It’s that a 19 year old with very little experience, or even many lab courses, was trusted with billions of dollars in start up money before she understood what “trial and error” means. Learning on the job is fine, as long as you understand that the learning will take a decade or two to really get the hang of it. It means reading a lot of papers, not just the business proposals and marketing glossies.

Sure, a really gifted person might have pulled this off. But when it came right down to it, Holmes was merely bright and had no idea what she was getting into.

There was one thing unusual about her. She didn’t blink. I’ll leave that nugget to the psych majors out there.

Some people will excuse her behavior and say that she was simply naive, got over her head and the lies spiraled out of control. But I don’t think that’s the whole story. Part II of this post will deal with her backers. What they say reveals a lot about how they see the world, success and inheritance. They’re wrong about most of it but, unfortunately, we’re forced to live with their rules.

There’s the rub.