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      “He denounced “15 years of wars in the Middle East” — a rebuke of President George W. Bush — and pledged to help union members, coal miners and other low-wage Americans,” this traditionally Democrat sounding politician continued, “These are the forgotten men and women of our country. People who work hard but no longer have […]
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America makes rest of world nervous

We are a train wreck in progress. Some observations in the past couple of days:

1.) Donald Trump is like the ultimate blog troll before you figured out how to keep him from posting in your comments section.He camps out there with his other annoying droogs and writes inflammatory jackassery.

2.) “I am not politically correct” is just another way of saying “I don’t give a flying f^&* about anyone else’s feelings”. I used to think it was a response to Democratic operatives using accusations of racism to shut up critics of Obama and maybe it started out that way. But this has gone way beyond that. Now it’s just an excuse to use the worst bullying behavior.

3.) According to Republicans, “All Constitutional Amendments are equal except some are more equal than others.” I actually heard one on CNN say something to the effect that sure, we should have investigated the shooter more thoroughly to stop him from doing his worst but he was a native born American citizen and, therefore, his right to buy assault weapons could absolutely not be violated.

WTF, Republicans. Seriously. There is nothing sane or rational about this position. Ok, nevermind. Most of you still don’t believe in evolution or climate change either.

4.) It took 8 years but I am finally on Obama’s side. His righteous indignation yesterday was the correct response to Donald’s stupid self-aggrandizing belligerence. I only wish that he had been able to muster as much passion over the fate of the long term unemployed or the monumental greed and callousness of the bankers.

The bad thing is that we have to continue to witness this battle of the politicians in the wake of a tragedy. Unfortunately, it’s necessary. The Democrats can’t be cowed by an orange blowhard into looking passive. It’s a power dynamics thing.

 

 

Maybe not the most tasteful metaphor in light of the massacre in Orlando but still apt. You can’t meet overt aggression with passivity. Donald and his droogs will jump all over that.

Nice to see Hillary making the point about how we can’t take shampoo on a plane but anyone in American can buy an assault weapon. Can we get Bernie to join in?

We can’t all get along until we can make Donald STFU.

Religious Extremism, Guns and Public Safety: Pick 2

You can’t have all three.

Discuss.

BTW, when I say “Religious Extremism”, I am referring to any religion. There are many more Christian extremists in this country than there are Muslims. A lot of them have guns.

Mountain Meadows Massacre? 120 people killed

David Koresh? 76 people killed

 

Soft Targets

It’s horrible what has happened in Orlando.

But no one should be surprised. We’re the stupidest country on the planet for passing the Patriot Act but allowing just about anyone to buy guns.

The right wing noise machine and The Donald are going to start whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment. But anyone who thought it was a good idea to invade Iraq (for the oil, let’s be honest. The WMDs were just a convenient excuse) and then destabilize the country by withdrawing before the country could defend itself against ISIS, should know that they exacerbated the possibility of terrorism.

No one, including overbearing right wing, belligerent gun nut Americans deserves to have their innocent children gunned down in a nightclub. But you have to wonder if they thought that soft targets are only located in Europe.

How about that 2nd amendment?

Phase out the 401K

401k-624x416There is a post in the NY Times today about the way companies that layoff their workers and replace them with H1B visa holders also require those workers to keep their mouths shut about what is going on.

The non-disparagement clauses might be partially responsible for the conventional wisdom that we need more STEM graduates when clearly we don’t. Long time readers of this blog know that I and my colleagues were laid off in NJ when our site closed. In fact, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania, the Northeast Corridor, laid off hundreds of thousands of invaluable researchers and replaced them with… nothing. In some cases, brand new research facilities, some built for very specific studies that cost millions of dollars to build, were mothballed or even destroyed.

That’s right, it made more sense to the bottom line to destroy valuable lab space than keep the facilities with the upkeep, maintenance and taxes on the books. The people? What about them? It’s interesting to me that the braintrusts who decided to lay off all those scientists and planned to rent out the buildings to new start ups had a hard time finding renters. Who did they think they were going to rent to? The same scientists who were laid off didn’t have the funds for the start ups that were meant to replace the large corporate labs. They were too stressed trying to find any work in any state while keeping their families in the expensive northeast and mortgaged houses out of foreclosure. So, the “rent the labspace to the old labrats” scheme turned out to be a bust and now the buildings have to come down.

There are a couple of states that benefitted from the destruction of the research industry. Those would be Massachusetts and California. The business models were changed from small molecule research to biologicals. But number of jobs created is small. Only a tiny fraction of those laid off were invited to go to Cambridge. Medicinal chemistry in this country is decimated. Compounds can be made very cheaply in India. There’s still research in graduate school labs but it does not begin to make up for what has been lost.

It’s not like there’s not enough biology to research and anyone in the research industry knows that training is not the problem. These are some of the most highly trained people in the world who have to continue reading the latest papers to keep up. Soooo, that’s not it.

What could be driving the frenzy to dismantle the country’s research industry? Hmmm, what could it be, what could it be.

Well, in some companies, the decision to close the site was followed a few days later by an email to all employees from the finance department that congratulated itself on reducing costs and creating a nice quarterly profit. Sort of a “You who are about to die, we salute you!” email.

When they say it’s not about money, it’s about money.

Working Americans have been forced to participate in their own destruction through the 401K. We invest in funds that are rewarded when companies merge, consolidate and layoff. Companies are sold like baseball cards, drained of their assets and left as hollow shells of what they used to be. Research is expensive. Paying for experience is expensive. Better to ship that out if you can, hire only short term contractors, buy up companies with a promising drug lead and lay off their early research staff.

In the meantime, the portfolios will grow and now the masters of the financial universe have brought us into the game, some of us unwillingly. We are now complicit, watching the quarterly earnings reports and demanding more shareholder value. Because there are no pensions in our old age. This is how we make our money- on the backs of our fellow Americans.

And let us now turn our attention to the H1B visa holders who unfortunately have no rights here. If they lose their jobs, they can be sent back to their home countries. It doesn’t matter if they have lives, relationships or property here. Those are risky luxuries. And it doesn’t help that these people may eventually get green cards. Some green cards are so narrowly tailored so as to make getting a new job after a layoff very difficult for the bearer.

It’s all because of the vast amounts of money that used to be tied up in safe, boring but reliable pensions that are now splashing around the world like colored scrip in a global game of Life. The greed of the financiers and titans of industry is gargantuan. The analysts who work for them on Wall Street are incentivized to accumulate as much wealth as possible, with as much risk as possible in as short a time as possible. If they lose money, the government will cover it or some stupid firefighter will take the hit. It’s their fault if they didn’t go to Harvard and make the right connections.

The 401K is at the heart of everything that is wrong with the current economic system. It encourages risk taking, it incentivizes avarice, it propels the short term investment cycle, it causes the outsourcing, it destroys industries and it is now starting to affect productivity. Because when you sacrifice your talent for youth and low wages, and then force everyone to account for every billable minute, you force the workforce to reinvent the wheel and cause anxiety and distraction in the offices with endless paperwork and minute swapping.

Phase it out. Get rid of the pyramid scheme. Disincentivize short term investment and greed. If we don’t tackle the 401K, all the unions in the world won’t make a dent. There will be no need for them when we are all independent contractors in the gig economy looking over our shoulders for the next layoff and becoming more angry by the minute.

This is the legacy of the last eight years when no bankers were held responsible and no hearings were conducted to ferret out the root causes of so much risk and destruction while the companies held revolvers to the heads of their laid off staff and told them to not say a word about what was happening to them. Funny, the CEOs don’t have any problem telling the researchers what they think of them and how expendable and exploitable they are.

It’s about the money. The 401K fuels the Gig Economy. It’s the Gig Economy, Stupid that’s undermining the middle class, causing income instability, family instability and a drag on spending. Get rid of it.

Quick Takes on @SenWarren etc

1.) Lizzie Warren took an ax and gave The Donald forty whacks:

That’s going to leave marks.

2.) It’s the Gig Economy, Stupid. In the last week, I have heard both Grover Norquist and Gary Johnson praising the Gig Economy or the 1099 economy as if it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread and everyone’s secret wish is to be a small business owner.

I don’t think anyone in the research industry really wants to be in the Gig Economy and be in a start up funded by vulture capitalists. Small businesses are great for people who are bakers or accountants. For scientists? ehhhh, not so much.

And then there is the paperwork and the taxes to manage. Plus, you lose your Obamacare subsidy and have to pay it all back if you underestimate your income. And income can be variable. Then there’s saving for retirement, saving for future bouts of unemployment, because most self-employed people do not get unemployment benefits.

The Gig Economy will ruin the middle class faster than anything. It leads to income instability. When you can’t count on your income, you can’t buy cars or houses. It’s hard to have kids because you may not be able to afford them throughout the 18 years of their early lives. The gig economy means having to pick and follow your job, something I saw happen to a lot of my former colleagues who had their jobs in one state and their families in another. In short, it sucks and very few people want to live this way.

I can’t imagine why Grover and Gary keep pushing this. It only appeals to young single guys. Well, there you go.

If I were Hillary, I would steer clear of praising the self-employed and small business person too much. Most of us don’t want to go there.

3.) I still like Bernie. Seriously. If I weren’t such a cold hearted pragmatist, I could have felt the Bern. I certainly got warm enough. He’s right on so many issues and that’s why he got so much support.

He went off the tracks by not realizing that the rest of us had a right to our own votes and opinions. Our votes are legitimate too. Delegitimizing Hillary’s voters has been a feature of Bernie’s supporters. They share that with the Obama supporters of 2008. Some of them are probably the same people. Bernie should ditch these people. They are ruining his reputation.

Things people should stop saying

1.) This is Hillary’s coronation: Um, no, this is the payoff for the hard work she put in to not one, but TWO grueling primaries. Plus, she’s not exactly new to the world of politics or work in general, considering that she is a lawyer, former first lady of Arkansas, former first lady of the United States, a US senator (elected twice) and a former Secretary of State. She was overqualified when she ran in 2008. This coronation thing is deeply offensive to millions of women who recognize her accomplishments and expect that she will get credit for them. No one has worked harder or longer for a nomination. Queens are merely born to their throne.

2.) Hillary isn’t likeable. Millions of primary voters who gave her the win would disagree. You can’t argue with the numbers.

3.) Bernie can convince the superdelegates that he’s the better candidate. Even if he could do this, which he can’t, what about the rest of us? You know, the people who voted for his opponent? Don’t we count? Isn’t Bernie worried that to overturn the outcome of this endless primary process would alienate the rest of us? Or is the thought that once again, we can’t be trusted to make up our own feeble minds and so a bunch of lefties who know better than us will unburden us from the hard decision making process. I think someone needs to have a talk with Bernie and his people to tell them to knock it off. No one is going to put up with that now.

4.) Neoliberal, corporatist, criminal, liar. You know, I never liked Obama but the best I could come up with was that he reminded me of a corporate ladder climbing shmoozer. In any case, the labels of corporatist and neoliberal don’t really have any meaning without context.Neoliberal compared to who? Corporatist in terms of what? I think drug discovery is more efficiently carried out in a medium sized corporate lab for an economy of scale and better collaboration. Does that make me a corporatist? If Hillary took a corporation’s campaign funds, like she takes everyone’s campaign funds, but didn’t favor them in legislation, does that make her corrupt?

Can we please stop demonizing Hillary Clinton? She’s just a human being. The sooner the losing side comes to grips with this fact, the sooner we can get on with it.

 

What are you going to do? Bleed on me??

One more time:

California is still counting but I think it’s over guys.

I know that you wanted a revolution but as Thomas Jefferson once wrote,  “all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed”.

There’s a good chance that the people who voted for Clinton do not see her has the corrupt, deceitful, corporatist, neoliberal that you do. They see her has a person who has been thwarted for 25 years and has had to claw her way to this pinnacle with little or no help from anyone. And Bernie was good for her. The long, hard slog may have made her too practical. What Bernie gave her was a wake up call about where the country’s mood actually is.

But you know, you can not predict how this general election season is going to go. There’s a possibility that we could have a wave in the Senate. Is change likely in the House? Probably not, but I’m a Tolkienist, so anything is possible as long as we meet each new experience as it comes along without giving up hope.

Anyway, this is what *we* wanted but maybe not what *you* wanted. We aren’t going to apologize for it.

Come, Patsy.

 

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