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      To recap: French Taxi drivers went on strike, beat cars with metal baseball bats, and damn near shut down Paris’s airport. As a result, France arrested two French Uber executives. It has also been seizing the cars of Uber drivers. Unions work. Violence, done smart, works. (French truck drivers, when they want something, will en-masse [...]
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Eucatastrophe is Greek

A eucatastrophe is a term and plot device invented by JRR Tolkien. It means something that happens in the story that at first looks very bad, like, Merry and Pippen being captured by the Orcs and taken off to Isengard. That looks like a it could have ended the book right there. Merry and Pippen fall into Saruman’s hands and he either holds them hostage until they cough up what they know about the ring or he sends them to Sauron. Either way, there would be no battle of Pelanor Fields. Ooo, there’s another eucatastrophe when Theoden falls to the Nazgul but then Eowyn kills it anyway.

So, the point is, in each of these cases of catastrophe, the actors see a way thru the disaster and change the course of the story for the good of many.

We should keep this in mind because the Greek crisis is a perfect opportunity to change the course of economic history, provided the actors look for a course through the disaster to act for the good of many instead of the selfish demands of a few.

in any case, when the dust settles, we will know who is on our side and who is working for the small evil group who thinks it runs the world and to which no one we personally know belongs.

Hey, Hillary Episode 1: Your biggest donors are hurting us

Google Pittsburgh in Bakery Square, East Liberty.

This is the first in a series as I try to catch Hillary up to what has happened in the last 7 years.

Back when she suspended her campaign in 2008, I thought her presidential hopes were finished. 2008 was her best year in terms of what she might have accomplished. After the financial collapse, there was an opportunity for a disciplined and knowledgeable president to force rehab on the malefactors of great wealth. Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, the malefactors recruited someone more pliable and easily dismissed. I’ll never forget the passages in Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men,  where he recounts the meetings Obama had with Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and Christy Romer. Obama would make an executive decision and Geithner would essentially blow him off and nothing would get done.

Anyway, what I could see happening after Obama won is that the bad deals on the financial clean-up and healthcare reform would get concretized. The changes to the workforce brought on by the massive layoffs and restructurings would lead to a different kind, but by no means better, kind of work environment for working people. And that’s pretty much what’s happened. Now, you could say that she’s working with what she’s got and I agree. In these circumstances, given what she’s got to work with, her policies are going to have to be more modest than the opportunities that might have presented themselves in 2008 would have created.

But if all you’re planning to do as president is tweak what is a sucky situation and slightly improve the status quo, then what’s the point of running? No, seriously. Wouldn’t that just make you Babysitter in Charge instead of a president? Oh, sure, Hillary would be a great babysitter, one of the best. No one is going to complain about her protecting us. By the way, that doesn’t mean she is a “hawk”, whatever that means. There are shades of gray. You don’t have to be one thing or the other. And she’ll probably be really good on infrastructure projects, especially broadband. That right there would be a not insignificant legacy. However, for working people who have been so busy trying to keep their heads above water that they are only now realizing how far out to see they have been dragged in terms of work security and income stability, that’s not going to be enough.

Hillary, you need to talk to your donors. Because right now, they can do whatever stupid shareholder value, McKinsey generated idea that pops into their heads and it’s going to hurt them. It is time that someone sat them down and told them that just because they are hiring people in India, or bugging out of NJ and we all need to adjust, doesn’t mean they’re going to save money in the end. In fact, they could be making their problems much, much worse.

Let’s take the latest examples of really stupid ideas in big pharma. It’s now more like, little disconnected, distributed pharma in a  very expensive part of the country. One of the latest Nature Alerts featured an article about the shortage of space in the Boston biotech belt and that the price of land in Cambridge Massachusetts is too expensive for new startups. In short, there’s very little land but big companies keep firing their R&D staff in Connecticut and New Jersey to relocate there. Now, the little start up companies to which we are all told we will find our pot of gold can no longer afford the cost of business there.

And we haven’t heard yet from the hapless souls who manage to get an invitation to work in Cambridge. Go read Derek Lowe’s comment sections on the latest relocation scheme to Cambridge of the virology division of BMS from Wallingford, CT. First, it should be noted that the business people are mostly keeping their jobs and relocating to a different site in CT. But by our calculations, the R&D staff is facing almost a 50% cut in personnel and the “lucky” ones will be relocated to… you guessed it. Cambridge. There’s a lot of anger and bitterness there. Housing prices are astronomical unless you live far from the city. If you live far from the city, your commute is long. Then there is the uprooting of families and finding new schools. Then, when they get there, there’s no guarantee that the job will be available for long. They will be expected to be ready to jump to a new job every couple of years.

And for what? What in God’s green earth would make all these companies decide that it HAS to be Cambridge or they aren’t truly living??

We have no f^&*ing idea.

Harvard is there and so is MIT. Ok, fine. But it’s not like there’s going to be a smorgasbord of people trading industry shattering techniques. Hell no. We all have secrecy agreements. You can’t just talk about what you’re doing over sushi with people from other companies or academic groups. Even 15 years ago the ACS meetings were becoming less and less useful and informative because presentations contained almost no relevant information, structures or data. It’s all protected by lawyers. So, the idea that Cambridge is some kind of hot bed of new open source learnings is just stupid. Do not let them tell you otherwise.

It’s not even like you even have to BE in Cambridge if by some weird chance you can actually share information. The internet makes location irrelevant. In fact, some of these companies farm out so much of their work to other companies that there’s no need for them to be in the same place geographically. Hey, if they want to break up their infinitely configurable corporate lab space and inefficiently run their research by having lab rats negotiate contracts with outside companies, complete with secrecy agreements so that they can become lightweight organizations free from the constraints of employees to whom they are obligated, let them do it and waste their money and talent. But in that case, they’d be saving a lot of money by relocating to Detroit.

And while we’re at it, why is it that the R&D people are the ones that have to make all the sacrifices? Why can’t an MBA who is after all just a bean counter live in a rust belt city? Aren’t they costing valuable office space for the shareholders if they’re located in Cambridge? I mean, if the almighty dollar is the reason why we are reconfiguring pharma, shouldn’t we eliminate the costs of things that don’t actually contribute to the discovery of drugs? If I were a shareholder, I’d want to know why the cubes have to be in an expensive high rise facing the Charles River. It’s not like an accountant or marketing person will have any reason to hob nob with the PhD superstars at Harvard so why are they there? Can’t we find plenty of English speaking MBAs in Hyderabad?

Speaking of rust belt cities, Pittsburgh, for example, offers a lot of culture and plenty of affordable housing for working people. We are not located in East Jabip, most people have all their teeth and this city has one of the most literate populations in the country thanks to Andrew Carnegie’s magnificent libraries. This is a great place to live and work with public transportation, a thriving university center with Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh at the center. There’s plenty to do here from an outdoor perspective and free jazz every Tuesday in Katz Plaza downtown. And we have internet. We even have our own Google headquarters. Why Cambridge? Or why not Cincinnati? I only ask.

But nooooo. They’re all going to squeeze themselves into a shoebox or run themselves off a cliff like lemmings. In the process, they’re uprooting a lot of scientists or just plain ruining their careers, and setting back drug discovery by decades. Somewhere on Derek’s comments section a commenter noted that drug discovery requires Leonardos not Mozarts. That’s because it takes a very long time to learn to be a drug hunter. There are software moguls who think they can speed it up by applying something like Agile principles and maybe they can have a minor effect on the middle layer of research. That is, the layer between routine analysis and project team level collaboration. There is a sweet spot consisting of protein groups and crystallography groups that might be amenable to that kind of intervention. But, in most cases, they’re already there. They’ve figured it out and work as a team and they don’t need no stinking software guy telling them how to do it.

The rest of the time, research just needs to grind through it, one cell assay at a time. It’s aggravating to the shareholders who have the attention span of a newt. Ok fine, Ditch the shareholders. No, seriously, they don’t seem to have any appreciation for this stuff. Outsourcing doesn’t make the process go faster, in fact it can cost money and time in the end. What looks like a sure fire way to cut costs and put money in the shareholders’ pockets just doesn’t in the end.

So, Hillary, the next time you meet with these guys, and they are almost always guys, ask them why they are doing what they’re doing. Does it really make sense from a business perspective? Is cutting R&D really the only thing these toadstools can think of doing to increase shareholder value? Aren’t there better ways to cut costs? Or is there a hierarchy of costs to cut that have nothing to do with actual productivity? Are these titans of industry deliberately overlooking the obvious in order to appeal to their MBA culture of smartness? What is the long term strategy or is there even a long term strategy? Is all this pain on the R&D side really necessary? And how does that result in new drugs? Is relocation to certain areas of the country really about costs and collaboration, or is it really about egos and classism? And ask to see the numbers. Tell them you’ll wait until they find them.

Someone needs to start asking these uncomfortable questions and getting straight answers. Because if you want to be the next president and champion for us, you’ve got to start getting the executive class to explain how their McKinsey generated restructurings actually work in the shareholders’ favor. I’m not seeing how it provides value over what we had when the industry was working through new technology but still producing blockbusters. Call me extremely skeptical.

Someone needs to start holding these people accountable for the havoc they are creating. If you’re not going to do it, don’t be surprised if the country doesn’t get all excited about your campaign. Do you really want to be another British Labour party politician?

Next week, does contracting everything out really work?

Lest you think I am exaggerating…

… about how dangerous undue influence can be, check out Confederate Pam’s twitter feed. When I first saw her tweets popping up at #freebree, I thought she must be a troll or something. Her stuff is so over the top it’s a wonder she hasn’t been banned by Twitter for hate speech. But it looks like she is the real thing. She hates African Americans, healthcare and gay people. And she’s got a special place in her, well, let’s not call it a heart, for liberals.

She could be one of my sister’s friends.

Oh, and she seems to watch an awful lot of Fox News. Hmmm…

I’m sure there’s no correlation. Butcha know, you are who you hang out with.

Just sayin’.

Who are they still fighting?

I saw this earlier today but am happy to make the video go viral.

Bree Newsome took down the Confederate battle flag at the South Carolina statehouse. Watch as she climbs the pole and quotes the good parts of the bible (you know, the parts that are about not being afraid):

I was wondering when someone would finally get around to doing this.

But my question is, if it’s not about race (call me skeptical), who do the confederate battle flag supporters think they are still fighting?

And I don’t completely buy it that it’s just Scots Irish rednecks. There’s something bigger and far more menacing behind it if they can keep that middle finger in flag form up for 150 years. That flag means the war is never going to end. It means that there are forces in this country who think they are entitled and are going to make it as difficult as humanly possible for the rest of us to move away from feudalism, aristocracy and privilege. They’re going to keep this battle up with the North for as long as it takes and we the rest of us are told over and over and over again to compromise and give in and respect their Southern pride.

The people who love that flag have no respect for the rest of us. They don’t care about your climate. They don’t like public schools because ignorance is a good way to keep the help in line. They feel it is their right to do what they want with their property and they are never going to get over having some of it emancipated away from them.

Bree is awesome and brave. Thank you, Bree.

But in light of what happened last week, it shouldn’t have to take a bill and six months of waiting for a legislative session to get that flag removed from the statehouse. It’s the very least that South Carolina legislators could do before the sun set on the Thursday after the shooting.

Update: The FreeBree IndieGoGo page started by Credo is up to more than $43000 and growing at a really fast clip! After they bail Bree out, maybe they can apply that money to other courageous non-violent acts.

Proud Nations

rainbow-wallpaper-18Congratulations to everyone out there who can now share equally in the benefits of marriage that the state provides. That’s justice. No longer will same sex couples find themselves locked out of hospital rooms, denied tax breaks and excluded from other benefits that heterosexual couples have taken for granted for centuries.

Just out of curiosity, I girded my loins and went over to Fox News to check out the reaction from the hysterically nauseated homophobes who think that this ruling is going to precipitate the end of civilization as we know it. It’s always amusing to watch their reactions, especially since they seem to be in denial about what modern heterosexual married couples do to each other in bed. But, whatever. Not my problem.

But I did see this little bit of stupidity on their breathless “the-World-is-going-to-end-now-that-the-gays-can-marry” page. Take a look:

We don’t have to guess about the sociological implications of Friday’s decision. Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, contends that the legitimization of same-sex unions in Scandinavian countries has caused the heterosexual marriage rate to drop dramatically, while the number of children born out of wedlock has risen, resulting in numerous societal problems.

The reason for the drop in the heterosexual marriage rate is clear:  if marriage can be redefined to include any and every relationship, then why bother to marry at all? Anytime you counterfeit something, you cheapen the value of the real thing, and gay marriage is “counterfeit marriage” (In fairness, heterosexuals have also been cheapening the value of marriage for years through adultery and divorce.)

As a Christian, I am most concerned about the spiritual implications of Friday’s decision. During the oral arguments for this case on April 28, Justice Kennedy noted that the traditional definition of marriage “has been with us for millennia. It’s very difficult for the Court to say, ‘Oh, well, we know better.’”

Friday, the Supreme Court said in essence, “We know better than God how to define marriage.”  For thousands of years both Christians and Jews have believed in both the Old and New Testament definition of marriage that was  written by Moses and affirmed by Jesus Himself when He said that God “made them male and female … For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-5).

Jesus taught that sex was a gift from God between one man and one woman in a marriage relationship. Any variation from that—premarital sex, adultery, polygamy, unbiblical divorce, or homosexuality—is a deviation from God’s original plan for sex.  Friday’s Supreme Court decision represents a collective shaking of our fists in God’s face saying , “We don’t care what You say about life’s most important relationship. We know best.”

The guy who wrote this about the effects of marriage in Scandinavia clearly doesn’t understand the research but this is really how these people think.

They don’t get it that the reason why marriage rates are down in Scandinavia is because the social safety net there is so strong, and, I’ve heard from people who have actually lived in Sweden that the culture worships children, that there is no need to get married if you become pregnant. The parent-child relationship is considered so important that the state makes sure that it’s strong with economic assistance and job security. In Finland, for example, each new baby gets a gift box of clothes, diapers, blankets and other goodies (including condoms for the parents). The maternity box even serves as a first bed complete with a mattress. How cool is that? I’ll tell you, it’s very cool. And it doesn’t matter how much money you have. Every child is entitled to the same start in life in Finland. That’s so, so, what’s the word? Enlightened, or kind, or fair-minded or something.

Commie slacker parasite newborns in Finland get these things in a maternity box without putting any of their delicate scrumptious skin in the game

Even if Scandinavian countries didn’t force their citizens to get gay married, they would still have this incredible safety net for children and their parents regardless of marital status. There is no shame or economic pain attached to having children out of wedlock in Scandinavia so there’s no need to get married. Imagine that! Having children because you want them regardless of whether you are married. Why, that would almost make abortion unnecessary.

As for cheapening marriage, the exact opposite is true with this supreme court ruling. In fact, it shows just how valuable marriage is to all people who can derive real tax benefits and other privileges from the state sanctioned married state. It kind of reinforces how important that license is. If you’ve got it, your retirement bennies are transferable, your property is covered, you can give your trusted partner the authority to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated. You know, important stuff. Now, gay and lesbian couples can have those very valuable benefits. That’s all this ruling means.

Of course there’s more to it than that from a societal point of view. It does give married same-sex couples the dignity they’ve been forced to carry all by themselves. By the way, is there something seriously wrong with Clarence Thomas or what? I’m beginning to think he has some kind of personality disorder. But if what Atrios calls “the Olds” don’t want to join the party and celebrate, fine, let them go sulk in a corner. Their opinions are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

It’s really too bad that so many people felt coerced into marriage back before the Pill and are projecting their envy and bitterness on the rest of society. They do have a choice. They can be Calvinistic crepe hangers or they can let their Grinchy little hearts grow 5 sizes by enjoying other people’s happiness. But they seem determined to not only refuse to evolve but also to prevent other people from evolving too. And their chosen media seems willing to support their stubborness. I ask myself, what’s in it for Fox News and the wealthy people it represents? Because when they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money. Well, Fox News is catering to the olds now but that’s not going to last forever.

Anyway, that brings us to the whole silly so-called “Christian” thing.

I don’t care.

No, seriously.

I don’t care what you believe. It’s none of my business. In any case, if the bible is nothing more to me than bronze age and iron age writings and not some divinely inspired rule book, then it’s useless to keep bringing it up as something I need to pay attention to. There are better sources of morality than that book.

Just like it’s none of your business to decide what people do in the privacy of their own homes between two consenting adults. There’s absolutely no reason for you to get involved in that. I’m not interested in your reasons for why you think this is your business or why it makes you feel superior to judge and criticize people so wholly unconnected with you in an attempt to shame them and deprive them of their happiness.

If that’s what it means to be Christian these days, it’s not a very good recruiting tool. That’s what the current research is showing as well. It’s anti-evangelical. Not only is it not working, it’s turning people off from the Republican party. That’s got to be of some concern to the small evil group who runs Fox News and the world to whom no one we know belongs.

Republican cruel, harshly punitive “you’re on your own” brand conservatism and fundamentalist evangelical so-called “Christians” are inextricably tied to one another in the minds of voters now. You just wait and see, somehow, the party has to ditch you people to make itself look cool and attractive again. It’s coming. And if it’s as cruel to you as you have been to the LGBT community, African Americans, poor hungry children and the unemployed, well, you have it coming. It will probably look something like the Republican party aggressively courting libertarians and younger people who have been forced to pay the freight on every little thing your generation took for granted. They’ll start looking at your Social Security benefits as something they shouldn’t have to pay for. Generational warfare.

But for you diehard “Christian” homophobes, I just think that’s a waste of time to be grumpy, unattractive, religious bigots, After all, it’s not gay people who are making working peoples’ lives miserable and eroding our quality of life. Where people, gay or straight. put their naughty bits, has nothing to do with the erosion of the middle class or income instability or exploitative profit mining of American working people by the wealthy and well-connected or whether the conservatives that frequent Fox News really, really hate Social Security with a white hot passion (because they do).

Funny that Fox News would spend its fury on same sex marriage and abortion when the plight of the long term unemployed gets completely ignored.

I don’t think that Jesus would approve.

Hillary’s Speech: Sooooo close

I missed the speech when it was live but that’s ok because I read the transcript. I recommend this, by the way, because you should be evaluating your candidates in a cold, dispassionate manner. I really mean this. Even today, I read a post from Digby who said 1.) Hillary doesn’t give a speech like Obama, implying that Obama is some kinda terrific speech giver, and 2.) She was never much impressed by Obama’s speeches anyway.

What the hell does that even mean, Digby?

Well, from my own personal experience, I found Obama’s speeches to be almost unlistenable. His sentences were so full of sequential prepositional phrases that I lost track of his point part way through. But if you’re the kind of person who wrote those kinds of papers as an undergrad and got rewarded for them by some overworked and underpaid TA, I can understand why you might be overly impressed by them. Besides, after the amazing similarity of Obama’s “Just Words” speech with Deval Patrick’s “Just Words” speech and other deconstructions of Obama’s speeches, I just couldn’t take him seriously. He and his speeches were manufactured and field tested by other politicians first. I suspect Digby means the same thing but it’s still not fashionable to go against the consensus reality in the party to say this so she has to say that Hillary doesn’t give a speech like Obama does.

For this, I am eternally grateful.

In general, I think it was a good kick off speech. She is channeling Roosevelt. That’s good. I think she has her mind in the right place. She also makes reference to drug discovery and there is some indication that she’s not entirely ignorant of what has been happening to the R&D field.

I also like what she says about immigrant workers. But there is a potential tie in with something I’ll get to in a minute that I think is the major flaw in this speech. As for immigrants, there are two possible audiences she may be addressing. The first audience consists of illegal immigrants who are long time residents. It’s wrong to split up families and even worse to deprive talented young students of a future just because they were brought here as children and didn’t have any choice in their immigration status. The other group of immigrant workers are high tech workers. I’ve worked (and am working) with many of these people. Let’s face it, they are treated like “just in time” cogs in a vast machinery with little thought given to their families or futures. I do favor quotas, by the way. There are plenty of well educated people in the biotech industry that are still struggling to make ends meet after the brutal layoffs of the last 7 years. But if you have to import tech workers, give them long term green cards and don’t tie that to any particular employer. These workers are human beings, not resources.

Now, onto the major flaw.

The highlight of the speech was supposed to be about growing the middle class and helping the poor with opportunity. Hillary tells the story of a single mother who was attending classes and working and asking her why this process has to be so hard?  And while I liked the direction of her “Four Fights”, they aren’t going to go far enough. What is the point of fighting to make something that is one zillion times hard only half a zillion times hard?

Hillary talked about incentives to make businesses concentrate on long term investments. That’s going to mean taking on the 401K elephant in the room. We can’t have the entire nation watching their quarterly statements for a boom cycle based on the layoffs of their friends and neighbors. What is she planning to do about that?

It’s also great that she talked about giving people sick days. If you are a temp on contract, like I am, you don’t really get sick days or at least nothing like the reasonable time off policies that I had for 23 years.

But it was these two items that caught my eye and made me wonder. Here’s the first one:

“I will give new incentives to companies that give their employees a fair share of the profits their hard work earns.”

I don’t like this. It smells too much like “profit sharing”. And some of you may be asking, what’s wrong with that, RD? Why are you harshing my mellow, fergawdssakes?? I’ll tell you why. I have seen the way one of America’s biggest companies does profit sharing. Their very poorly paid employees get up at 5:00am twice a year to head on down to their workplace to attend an employee profit sharing meeting where they are made to listen to “pep rally” speeches by management about how “everything is awesome!” and play silly games for door prizes. Then, for giving up the one day of the week when they can sleep in, they are given measly “profit sharing” checks averaging less than $50.00. Ta-Da! Isn’t that nice??

No, it is not. It is not nice if the incentives are still going to the management at the top and what the ordinary worker gets is humiliation and just enough money to cover the gas to work and back for the week. But that’s just part of what’s annoying about profit sharing that I’ll get to in a moment.

The other item that caught my eye was this:

“And today’s families face new and unique pressures. Parents need more support and flexibility to do their job at work and at home.

I believe you should have the right to earn paid sick days.

I believe you should receive your work schedule with enough notice to arrange childcare or take college courses to get ahead.”

Ok, let’s just cut to the point here. The thing that I really needed to see her mention in this speech which didn’t come out of it was:

“If we are going to grow the middle class, then working people need income stability. That’s right, no more part time, half time, under time, everything but full time, contract only for a brief period of time working conditions. We need the vast majority of working people to have regular full time jobs without constant churn, impending unemployment and income instability. Because otherwise, people will not have confidence in their future and won’t be able to invest or buy things like homes or college educations.”

That is what I wanted to hear and that is not what I am hearing.

The absence was very noticeable.

Cue Bernie Sanders to step up to fill this void. Elizabeth Warren also understands this.

A real champion is going to go there. A real champion has to be able to look these donors in the face and say, “You need to fix this problem with income instability because these are people you are dealing with, not resources. Your economy depends on their economy. No, I am not kidding and profit sharing is not income stability. Nice try. Do I looks stupid to you?”

That’s what Roosevelt did. I mean Franklin. He put a steady stream of money in families’ pockets by stabilizing their incomes. Yes, part of this was through infrastructure jobs and private-public partnerships and I am all in favor. But if you do not have the income stability piece in place, it isn’t going to kick start the middle class enough.

As Atrios is always saying, “give people money”. Actually, you don’t even have to do that. Most people don’t want to sit around collecting unemployment and god knows, most companies are understaffed now, running the remaining staff into the ground. What they need is a stiff kick in their asses to stop hoarding cash and making poor investment and M&A decisions, and more incentives to hire people full time.

Maybe I’m too close to this issue. No, I don’t think so. It’s happening to everyone and making the entire workforce twitchy. Plus, with the constant employment churn, people are either taking their experience with them (a lament I recently heard from a manager about his contractors) or not getting enough experience at all. It undermines everything else. Flexibility means different things depending on whether you are an employer or employee.

So, that’s where I am with this speech. I am waiting to see the policies.

Recently, someone referred to my support of Hillary as dogmatic. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t do dogma of any kind. I would have called my support loyal. And I still support Hillary. She is the best candidate we have for many, many reasons. Bernie is a close second for me because he reminds me of what Democrats used to stand for.

And I don’t mind that she has friends in high places or that she knows people in the finance industry or Silicon Valley. I don’t see any evidence that she is taking orders from those people- yet. But she needs to really understand what is at stake here and that means feeling not what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck but to be constantly worrying about what is going to happen when the paychecks stop and having to sell yourself all of the time on the job market. When searching for a job becomes a full time job, even when you’re employed, that’s a problem that needs to be addressed because it is a serious impediment to the growth of the middle class.

You can use that line, Hillary. It will be a big hit at campaign rallies. You’re welcome.

Citizens United, Undue Influence, The BITE Model

This has been a surprisingly difficult post to write. I attribute this partially to what I am doing at work, which consists of speed learning. Not that I’m complaining (as long as my contract keeps getting renewed) but my mind has been busy retraining some circuitry and that means some other stuff has to join the queue.

The other reason it has been difficult is because I can’t believe no one has covered this territory before. If could be that others’ have but I don’t have the time right now to put in a lot of research as to how much it has been fleshed out. I know that some Twitter people have been busily picking up on the language and words used to describe the candidates. It’s good to see they’re being proactive but it’s probably not enough. So, I’ve had a difficult time figuring out how to jump into this topic.

And then there is the left blogosphere that seems to be dragging itself into the Hillary Clinton camp somewhat reluctantly. Sometimes, I see the briefest flashes of “snapping” out of their eight year self-imposed trance but I can’t tell if this is due to genuine insight or whether there are marching orders from party leadership or a little bit of both. Having read David Brock’s book Blinded by the Right, it’s my guess that the Media Matters people and affiliated blogs are more aware, to one degree or another, of the concept of undue influence, regardless of how much smoke got in their eyes in 2008. I can read between the lines in some blog posts. There is groupthink to some degree but there is also an underlying independence of thought that I think needs to be encouraged. In any case, there are some signs that the snapping might be real because connections have been made.

So, why am I grouping “Citizens United”, “Undue Influence” and “The BITE Model”? Let me tell you a little story about a conversation I recently had with a relative. I really like this person. He’s a senior but he’s interesting, smart and a little bit weird. But I can also tell where he gets his news. So, we were talking about health care and I mentioned that I don’t really have insurance. Oh, I have something that barely meets the requirements of the ACA but it’s not really insurance. And he says indignantly, “Why don’t we have insurance like they have in England where everyone is covered?!! That would be so much better than Obamacare.”

This was interesting to me because that sentiment should set off alarm bells in the right wing media empire. That is definitely NOT what they want their voter base to be thinking about. Because, what would happen if there was a politician who would somehow figure out a way to show these voters that getting what they want is not an impossibility after all?

I pointed out to my relative that in the US, we have several kinds of alternate health care models to choose from that match what he wants. Medicare and Tricare popped immediately to mind. He thought it would be great if we could all have Medicare but politically, it could never get passed. (BTW, I’m not advocating any particular model without cost controls on hospitals and providers. That’s probably the real impediment.) So, I pointed out to him that we would probably not get a real affordable health care system as long as Republicans were in charge.

His immediate response was: “All politicians are alike. It doesn’t matter what party they belong to.”

That, my friends, is a thought stopping idea and it was planted there by someone who has undue influence on a whole bunch of voters. The reason why I know this is that it was so quick. He may have a point in that Democrats hide behind Republicans in order to not offend their donors but I don’t think his thought process on the political reality was that well developed. I suspect he’s been trained to respond to the trigger about Republicans. Because you can bring up any subject and the minute you say “Republicans don’t like the idea you like”, the “All politicians and parties are the same” sentence flies out of their mouths without thinking. Republicans are going to be able to use that trigger in the upcoming election cycle. Anybody else is going to have to think of a way to get around it. And that’s going to be a problem because Citizens United has made it much easier for people with money to buy the means to apply undue influence.

“Duh”, you say, “Tell me something I didn’t know”. Ok, here’s where the connections are not being made: that money is being very effectively used to buy undue influence in a way you might not have considered before.

You may be wondering what I mean by undue influence. Undue influence originates from the law and since I am not a lawyer, I’m not going to discuss what that means exactly. The easiest way to understand it is to think about how elderly, possibly infirm people might be manipulated by their caretakers to sign over their estates. But the term is now being applied to mind control and can refer to any person or group, religion, political party that has the ability to influence others. Check out this video on Undue Influence 101 from Steve Hassan’s site Freedom of Mind to get a better understanding of what undue influence is.

What the Citizens United ruling did was allow a flood of money to infiltrate media and PACs. If you have the money, you now control the microphone. And if you control the microphone, your information is going to be able to influence the thoughts and emotions of your target audience. And once you are able to control their thoughts and emotions, you can control their behavior. There are many methods of carrying information. The obvious ones are TV, radio and newspapers. These are the primary sources of information for seniors. But more of them are now using Facebook (God knows why, I hate that thing). The more ways that money can control the means of disseminating information, the more thoughts and emotions can be influenced, the more behavior can be controlled. And now, the right wing controls almost all of the relevant information resources.

This is what is involved in the BITE model shown below:

Again, you may be saying to yourself that this is not new information. You already saw the correlation years ago or you’re starting to really get annoyed by it now because you’re finally starting to see what the New York Times has been up to with regard to covering presidential candidates.

But you would be missing the big picture. The big picture is that this is the way cults indoctrinate their devotees. These people do not know that they’ve been indoctrinated. They don’t know that they’ve had thought stopping ideas implanted in them. They don’t know that their fears of death, hell, abandonment, shame or ostracism have been tinkered with. They don’t know that the outrage over the so-called “War on Christmas” serves a very useful purpose. They don’t know that David Brooks is a master at writing posts that enforce “learned helplessness”. They are totally oblivious to it. They’re walking around like a bunch of Moonies spewing crap about “parasites” and “slackers” and “government is bad” when deep down inside, there is a conscience that objects to injustice but keeps getting strangled by thought stoppers.

This is what our Supreme Court majority allowed when they ruled on Citizens United. These are five smart men (interesting how they are all men). It is incomprehensible to me that they didn’t know what they were doing when they made this ruling. I’m sure they knew EXACTLY what was going on, especially John Roberts. What they did was allow the cult-like indoctrination of an entire country by people who have a lot of money and can buy more and more microphones, infiltrating every bit of information that comes though every media source and the “friends” you accept on Facebook .

That’s my first attempt at showing why we can’t have nice things. I’m not letting Democrats off the hook on this. What happened in 2008 was unconscionable. I’m delighted to see some bloggers in consternation about how they are supposed to defend Hillary Clinton when they’re up against this incredible media resistance and how irritating it is that all these young Ivy League graduates are jumping to the head of the line in major media publications to plant nasty trigger words about Hillary in the minds of their readers. Ha! Just wait until those same reporters start writing about how all those bloggers have tired interfaces or are catering to their older, elite demographic or something to that effect. Suddenly, their pretty little posts will lose their freshness and relevance. It’s going to happen. You heard it here first. It won’t matter how intelligent or pithy you are.

The question is, what are you going to do about it?

There’s a tsunami of money headed your way.

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