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      Apparently Obama is angry at progressives for attacking the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  “What I am averse to is a bunch of ad hominem attacks and misinformation that stirs up the base but ultimately doesn’t serve them well. And I’m going to be pushing back very hard if I keep hearing that stuff,” Obama told a small [...]
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Seth’s Sleepless Night

Seth Andrews at The Thinking Atheist recently returned from Australia to his hometown in Oklahoma. This is just after Mike Pence signed the RFRA bill in Indiana. Welcome home, Seth!

Seth went to a birthday party where all his relatives are “Christian” and they wasted no time talking about “The Signs”. Jet Lag and The Signs. Sounds like the name of an alternative jazz-rock fusion group. Nope, what came out instead was a perfect, well, rant would undercut the seriousness of the monologue. Let’s just call it a monologue.

Here it is. It’s called Coexist?

Unlike Seth, I am willing to coexist with the religious. I’m not an atheist but I have strong sympathies in that direction. So, I have no problems with liberal Christian denominations. But I consider myself an enemy of fundamentalism of any kind and this country has given Christian fundamentalists way too much attention and deference.

Yesterday, I met a man from Syria while I was at work. He was frantic. I think he needed someone to talk to. He said he was employed by the Saudi Royal family. I got the impression that it was his job to manage the families properties. But recently, he was kicked out of the kingdom- because he was a Christian. Not a good move. His wife is a dentist. They had to leave. They were able to get out of the middle east. Some of his friends are refugees in Sweden or other places in Europe. HE, he regrets to say, ended up in the United States. He thought that when he got here that because this is a Christian country, there would be some help for him. Not so. He has a job washing dishes. His wife can’t practice. He has an autistic son. He doesn’t know where to go for help.

His friends landed in countries that have a real safety net and health care. He has nothing.

Thank you, Fox News!

Serial update: What Susan Said

Ok, one more post on Serial. Hey, it’s Sunday.

If you are addicted to Serial, you really should be reading Susan Simpson’s blog at The View from LL2. Susan is a DC criminal lawyer. In her spare time, she’s been combing through the trial transcripts, police interviews, and FOIA requests to try to piece together what might have actually happened to Hae Min Lee. Is it likely that Adnan Syed, her ex-boyfriend, actually killed her? So far, and based on what she’s been reading, Susan is leaning heavily in the “Adnan didn’t do it” direction.

Her latest post is about Hae’s new boyfriend, Don, and his unbelievably sketchy “air-tight” alibi. Don’s story is that he couldn’t have killed Hae because he was working all day. He worked for Lenscrafters at the Owings Mills Mall where Hae worked but on the day Hae disappeared, he filled in a shift at the Hunt Valley Lenscrafters. But what Susan has found out is that the Hunt Valley Lenscrafter location didn’t need Don that day, the timecard showing Don was there was produced several days after the franchises produced his other timecards, the employee number on the Hunt Valley time card is different than his Owings Mills employee number, it was newer, and Don’s mother is the general manager of both stores. There are some performance reviews that show that Don was a problem employee. He seems to have been immature, hot-headed and had a history of fudging his time. Still, Susan explicitly says she doesn’t think Don was involved in the murder. She just thinks that with all this stuff from the store, the cops dismissed him too soon as a suspect while zooming in on Adnan with laser like intensity.

But the thing that got my attention is something Susan wrote in her comments section. This is about the timeline of the murder and the fact that Adnan has an alibi for most of his day but the cops keep coming back to him. Here’s what Susan said:

The state’s timeline wasn’t designed to reflect the truth, it was designed to prevent Adnan from being able to raise a defense. By having a timeline that could shift a million different ways, any alibi evidence can be rendered meaningless by simply shifting the times to something more convenient for the prosecution.

This is what is currently going on in the heads of the Adnan Guilty crowd over at Reddit. So, Asia has the 2:15-2:40pm time period covered and the track coach is pretty convincing when he says he saw Adnan at 3:30pm, even though he didn’t take attendance. (The track coach says he spoke to Adnan about Ramadan) But there’s that 50 minute window between the library and track. Fifty minutes! He could have intercepted Hae in the parking lot, driven her car somewhere secluded, strangled her, walked to a pay phone, popped the trunk for “neighbor boy”, no, wait, popped the trunk for Jay in the Best Buy parking lot, no, that’s not right either, popped the trunk for Jay at Jay’s Grandmother’s house, then rushed back to the school for track at 3:30pm.

Right.

What Susan is saying is twofold: 1.) Forget the timeline. The state is going to move that around to suit its needs. It wants Adnan to be the guilty party, therefore, if the only free period of time is when Adnan goes to the bathroom to take a pee, the state will find a way for him to murder Hae between unzipping his fly and tapping off. The state is convinced that Adnan did it so it will find a time. 2,) The state doesn’t actually have a theory of the crime. This is the more important thing, IMHO. If it can shift the timeline around in order to convict Adnan, that means it doesn’t know when the crime was committed. And because it doesn’t know when the crime was committed, it doesn’t know where, or by what means (manual strangulation, but how did she get the blunt force trauma to her head?), or when the car was moved or when the body was buried. That’s because the state has no physical evidence tying anyone to the crime or forensic evidence that pins down when the crime happened.

The state is making stuff up in plain sight and so far, no one seems to be getting this point. The state hasn’t got a case. It doesn’t have a theory, except Adnan did it. That’s all it’s got. It stopped investigating after it settled on Adnan. It didn’t follow up on Don’s time card, it didn’t ask the forensics experts about how long Hae might have been dead before she was buried, it didn’t check out other murders of young women in the area, it didn’t try to figure out how Hae was strangled in her car or even if the murder took place in the car at all, it didn’t check up on the wrestling match schedule (it turns out there wasn’t a wrestling match the day she went missing) or whether she had something else she wanted to do (she did). All of these other unknown unknowns? Not important to the state. It still has no idea what happened to Hae, who was there, how it was done, when it was done or for what purpose. All they’ve got is this ex-boyfriend. That’s it.

Ineffective assistance of council is only the tip of the iceberg here. Adan’s lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez should have pointed this out: The state still doesn’t have a clue and it keeps shifting the timeline around because it didn’t do its job. How can you even have a suspect if you don’t know where, when and how the crime even happened? This farce of a case was made up out of increasingly thin air and the state and the justice system threw a person behind bars on less than nothing.

Weird conversation

CoWorker 1: When’s your last day?

Me: Sunday, I start my new job on Monday.

CoWorker 1: Where are you going?

Me: To blahdiblah Co. It’s the downtown office.

CoWorker 2: Oh, I wouldn’t want to work down there.

Me: Why not?

CoWorker 2: I hate driving downtown.

Me: (laughing) I’m not going to drive. I’m taking the bus.

CoWorker 2: Why are you going to take the bus?  I would never take the bus.

Me: I don’t want to drive, I don’t like to sit in traffic. I can read when I’m on the bus. I don’t have to pay for parking. I love the bus.

CoWorker 2: {{blank look}} I would never take the bus.

Me: Why? You said you don’t want to drive downtown.

CoWorker 2: {{long pause}}  I like driving my own car.

Ok, this is stupid. I have talked to a lot of people in Pittsburgh who think the bus is a lowlife conveyance device. My experience is that a lot of younger educated people don’t want to drive. It’s expensive, it’s inconvenient, it’s time consuming. So, they are moving to more urban neighborhoods and riding their bikes and taking the buses. When I worked in Oakland, the buses were full of regular people who got off at the Whole Foods stop and read on their iPhones during the trip.

It is the older boomers who have this really negative attitude towards mass transit. They can’t figure out why a person would rather commute to work via a bus. It’s easy. You drive your car to the busway, park the car in FREE PARKING, get on the bus to your destination. Think of it like a shuttle. It extends the life of your car. You will avoid accidents. You will avoid parking fees. The busway makes it easy to drive your car to the store on the way home after you get off the bus.

Duh.

I don’t know who is propagating all the negative mass transit propaganda around here (because I don’t watch the local news) but this is silly.  The bus system is one of the best things about Pittsburgh but someone has average older people convinced that its sole purpose is to import the ghetto to their neighborhoods. That kind of attitude is disgusting and deprives the rest of us of cheap, efficient transportation.

Good Luck, Indiana!

Indiana, how very Van Gogh.

I crossed the country 5 times by car when I was a kid and passed through Indiana on four of those trips. It’s a little unfair to say that Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa are boring states but I just can’t remember much about them except straight roads and a hynotically homogenous landscape. I think I might have left a bathing suit in a motel bathroom in Indiana. The pool was nice, that much I remember.

Other than that? Fields and fields of fields. So, you know, Indiana doesn’t have much going for it to begin with.

Now, it has even less.

Well, at least the religious fundamentalists who were violently oppressed by female pro-contraceptive guerrillas and gay men demanding wedding cakes can sleep peacefully at night now. They can unbar their barn doors and beat their swords into ploughshares, which are much more useful in Indiana.

You’re free! Free!, I say!

(Let’s not go to Indiana, it’s a silly place.)

Employment Index: STEM professions, updates

This is not me, I swear.

It’s been a long time since I did a post on this subject. That’s because for a very long time, nothing much happened. That’s not to say that I haven’t been busy. I have career counselors who are working hard so that I can get a real, permanent full time job. But it has been all up hill, day after day.

I actually did have a full time job, briefly. But the hours were not conducive to carbon based life forms and the benefits were laughable. I might have stayed there but I could barely pay to keep the lights and wi-fi running. This is what I think the employment statistics are really showing. The jobs out here are baaaaad. Nevertheless, I was in good company. I worked with an archaeologist and a software developer, both of whom were very underemployed.

So, I resigned and have taken a job with a temporary staffing agency. The pay is better, the bennies still subpar. I am *finally* starting to get phone interviews after an 8 month drought.

A couple of people have posted about the STEM profession statistics that lately got a bit of notice. Only 25% of those people with a degree in a STEM profession are employed in their degree field. Quite a few of the people I used to work with are no longer doing research. Some have become adjunct professors, some are teaching in private schools, some are doing medical writing, some real estate, one went to law school. Some went to Cambridge because they were the remnant of our closed facility and got laid off- again. And people ask me why I don’t want to go to Cambridge.

Some other interesting things I have noticed. I have job alerts that are still running from when I set them up in 2011. It looks like the pharma industry is sending weak but faintly detectable signals that it is trying to hire more computational chemists. In particular, I am seeing postings from a large and well known company looking for comp chemists. Of course, you still need a PhD, blah-di-blah-di-blah. Fine, whatever. {{OMG, if I see one more “PhD” requirement for these positions that do not actually require a PhD, I’m going to scream}} But the posting has been out there for more than 30 days with no takers. You would think a headhunter would have found someone by now. Nope. It’s just sitting there unfilled. Not sure what that’s all about.

It could be that there’s some pompous hiring manager who is laying out some unattainable standards and no one looks worthy. Or maybe the most likely to apply are just not into it now. From my own perspective, I’ve been burned- badly– and I am very, very leery of relocating in order to work for a company that was pretty straightforward about its previous massive layoff decisions. Now, if someone wants to contract with me to do work from my home in Pittsburgh, I’m all ears. Or if I only have to show up for facetime once every couple of weeks and do structure based drug design from my home office, that’s cool too. Fortunately, comp chem is the kind of job that makes that easier to do than most chemistry positions. Still, the industry laid off a lot of people in their prime, interrupted their research mid career and told them to fend for themselves. From my own personal experience, I was at my peak performance mentally when I was laid off. Call me a late bloomer. Then I had to shift gears downward because I wasn’t in the same environment nor did I have the same steady stimulation. That induces a state of mental inertia. Ramping back up would be, um, interesting. There would be a lot of catching up to do. Not impossible but it does make one wonder what the point of the last four years of mothballing me was.

The most experienced and smartest among us have mostly gotten on with life in a different job to one degree of success or another. Asking them to get intellectually and emotionally invested in research again with very little guarantee of a lasting career might be asking too much from them, especially when they will probably end up socking the money they make in some conservatively invested fund or hide it under the bed in preparation for the next layoff. If you can’t actually spend the money you make, it does make you wonder whether the job is worth it. Perhaps this will be the lasting damage of Pharmageddon.

The last thing I want to mention is onboarding. This is ridiculous. I have had to fill out papers for a background check that asked me to list every place I have lived since I was 18 years old. If you don’t have a permanent full time position somewhere, the amount of documentation you need to provide to prove you’re not a criminal or lowlife waiting to steal the company’s paper stock is over the top. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to how many background checkpoints you will be asked to provide. A pee test is mandatory and, Ok, fine, you can have my pee. Test away! I am boring when it comes to pee content. But the other stuff? Does a job application have to be this humiliating? Nothing is off limits.

I will say this: elderly people have no idea what the work environment is like these days and I’m going to bet that most senior women do not have the proper documentation to get a job. They will have to be experts at web searching old addresses if they’ve ever moved or changed jobs. They will need to provide all kinds of drivers license information, birth certificates, and social security cards. Every name change has to be properly documented. It’s a giant pain in the ass. Imagine having to show your papers to everyone you meet- all. the. time.

I’m not sure what the purpose of this is. Even lowlifes and ne’erdowells have to have a way of making a living. How does one rehabilitate themselves or mature if these infractions follow you all your life? We’re not just talking about criminal actions, we’re talking about credit checks and stuff. I don’t consider myself a risky employee and it still makes me nervous. Technically, I’m between jobs. I have tendered my resignation from one but my background check isn’t complete for the new one. What happens when the checker confuses me with the person with the same name who has a record like Lindsay Lohan’s? (This has actually happened during a real estate transaction. I was shocked at how much trouble that other Riverdaughter had gotten into. The DWIs were over the top.) Nevertheless, as long as she comes to work sober and does her job, what’s it to the employer?

Anyway, it’s not me! I’ll sign an affidavit if I have to!

So, that’s the update. I hope this saga comes to an end soon. I hate this much paperwork. It’s either endless applications or endless onboarding. One thing is for sure, once you have lost your first class citizen status with a full time job and all the benefits that your employer’s safety umbrella provides, it is very hard to get back in.  It doesn’t matter if the layoff wasn’t your fault, the system seems determined to blame you anyway.

I guess this is the place where I should list all of the applications I have submitted since I started this series. I’ve lost count, honestly. I know that I have applied to one company for 31 positions and have attended several job fairs where they were the starring employer. So far, nada. I have a spreadsheet of applications that I need to update. Let’s just say that it’s a lot. Forgot to mention that I had to prove my Microsoft Office skills. I scored advanced for Word and Excel and I think I am an expert in PowerPoint. But Outlook? WTF?? That should have been a slam dunk and I was only average. Weird. I think there was something wrong with the shortcuts I was using or something. Anyway.

Stuff about Ted Cruz

You can never tell if someone who really shouldn’t be president for reasons that should be obvious will rocket to the top of the charts. Take Ted Cruz (Please!).

A little bit of background. He’s from Texas and he’s a Republican. Gosh, I’m really sorry about stereotyping but those are two strikes against him right there. He went to Princeton and Harvard. Alan Dershowitz says he’s brilliant. (Hey, my academic advisor said I was brilliant too and told me I should go to law school. Then I majored in Chemistry and found out that it would take me 23 years before I would ever feel brilliant again.) OooOOoooo! He’s an O’Reilly type: a guy who should know better who is making his fortune by pandering to bitter, mean spirited, judgmental senior women who think he’s so dreamy because he’s “godly” and “macho”. Quick, someone find out if Ted Cruz has ever reported from a “combat zone” in Argentina.

Politically, think George W. Bush but this time with brains to actually carry out the most regressive, callous policies the uber right can dream up.

Here’s some additional information from a site called isidewith.com. (By the way, I haven’t taken any survey for this site so I have no idea how they scored my answers with Ted Cruz’s political issues. I’m not sure who gave the answers for me but I feel strongly about some of the issues where I’m shown to be “meh”. Interesting.)

Looking at these answers from Cruz, let me just say that I am skeptical about some of them. For example, Cruz doesn’t really give an answer on whether he believes in evolution. A good Christian fundamentalist does not equivocate about evolution. He shouldn’t be on the fence about it. Of course, he did go to Princeton, home of a major Presbyterian seminary. Princeton is pretty non-fundamentalist. No one at Princeton would take Ted Cruz seriously about anything if he said he didn’t believe in evolution. Trust me on this. I used to live in the area. So, either he’s lying to his peers who offered to help his career or he’s going to be lying to the public. Someone should pin him down on this.

He also doesn’t believe in national parks. Huh. I guess he would be Ok will putting up some tacky MacMansion in Yosemite or a neon covered resort and casino on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

Ahhh, here’s a good one: he is against Net Neutrality. So, in essence, he is ok with the idea that the cable companies can restrict what you see or can download. He is fine with some group of rich people making some sites speedier to download and some not so speedy. Or just being unavailable. Or curtailing your ability to speak your mind on Facebook or the comments section of your favorite news site or blog. Yep, Ted Cruz would be Ok letting the cable companies do that.

He’s against government funds for research. The private sector should be doing research. That’s right, research investigators, get used to beans, threadbare clothing and a lifetime of poverty. For some strange reason, both the left and the right would like for you to save them out of the goodness of your own hearts, caloric intake and shelter requirements be damned. Go figure.

So, that’s a little taste of Ted. He sounds like another clone of the conservative movement. The minute you try to compromise with someone like him, he’ll move further right. And then right again. He’ll keep moving right until we reinstitute slavery, rescind suffrage for women and eliminate social security because it’s a commie plot.

The problem with someone like Cruz is that there are too many people out there who simply will not believe that people like him are serious about eliminating social security. They think it is so sacred and embedded in American culture that people like Cruz would not dare touch it. And that’s true – as long as he doesn’t get elected and/or doesn’t get elected with a Republican majority in Congress.

So, see that he doesn’t.

Presidential Campaign 2016 Kickoff: Ted Cruz, Hillary/Obama redux, notes on focus groups

Ahhh, campaign season. I guess we are officially in it now that Ted Cruz is going to announce. I don’t have much more to say about Cruz except that he is typical of his clan and will probably fluff the panties of the typical conformist, senior “I-got-mine-fend-for-yourself”, moralizing, judgmental, creationist conservative Fox News viewer. If there is anyone who has a different point of view, add it to the comments section.

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

Yesterday, commenter Perplexed left the kind of comment we have been dealing with for about seven years on his here blog. It was along the lines of blaming Bill Clinton for NAFTA (the deal was written by the time he took office. He tried unsuccessfully to get labor protections) and the financial catastrophe (for the record, the roll back of Glass Steagall was accomplished by an OVERWHELMING, veto proof majority in Congress. It was the Gramm-Leach bill, or something like that. Clinton couldn’t have stopped that train if he tried.). It is worth noting that Bill Clinton has said publicly that he regrets listening to some of his economic advisors. I’m guessing he particularly regrets the Summers and Geithner partnership that suppressed the warnings of Brooksley Born. I could go over other areas that I think the left protests too much in Bill Clinton’s record. He wasn’t perfect but he was the best president I have ever voted for and I don’t regret voting for him- twice.

But as for what happened in 2008 and why I think there WAS a difference between Hillary and Obama, I do have something to add. (By the way, I don’t buy the left’s facile excuses for why they preferred Obama over Clinton. These include, 1.) there was no difference between them 2.) We decided to let Obama go first and then Hillary and 3.) he ran an awesomer campaign. This is all bullshit. The real answer was Obama’s campaign donors offered the Democratic party more money for the following reasons.):

I think I understand your perplexity. Over the past 7 years, I’ve gone over this territory quite a number of times. I’m not going to go over it in detail today. But I do want to talk about something I think is the key to the whole Hillary/Obama mystery. There is genuine value in experience. A person who has spent a lot of time in government in various capacities has a lot of it. When we talk about the Clintons, we are talking about years of accumulated experience in many different areas and two major branches of government. We are talking about people who have done statewide politics and federal politics. They have foreign policy experience and legislative experience. Think of the first job you ever had. Now, think about all of the things you have learned since then. What you are today is a product of the opportunities you were presented, the risks you took, the envelopes you pushed. At one time, all these things were outside your comfort zone. But you either taught yourself on the job or you got an education or you learned from the experience of others. And with experience and accumulated knowledge and colleagues that you’ve known and worked with, comes power. For the Clintons, that power is substantial. They didn’t come into Washington knowing everything but they know quite a bit now.
Back in 2008, the financiers had a choice of two candidates to back. One had experience, a mentor, and a lot of mojo. That person would have known how to stand up for herself and which buttons to push, who to call and what to look for. She wouldn’t have been easy to control.
The other was a senator from Illinois with less than a single term to his name in Washington. He’d never worked on major legislation and all of the friends he had in Washington were bought for him.
If you were a big money entity and you saw a looming catastrophe coming at you and you wanted to make sure you controlled what happened to you, which one would you choose?

That’s it in a nutshell and something the right will ponder and roll around in its collective hive mind. That’s a pretty powerful motive to vote for someone. You could make a case that the political dwarfs that the right is planning to roll out won’t hold a candle to Hillary’s accomplishments and experience. Which brings me to my next point:

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

Notes on Focus Groups

If you are a writer or commenter on a political blog, your comments and writings will be mined for information about what makes you tick, the strength of your arguments and trigger words. The right does it and the left does it. They might even float someone over to ask a particular question in order to gather information. They will use this information to shape a narrative or crush your point of view. It happens.

This is all normal. Do not let it bother you.

It goes without saying that we do not disclose your email address or any other personal information to any entity. We’re not into that. We believe in privacy.

But don’t be surprised if you find that something you followed here or on another lefty or independent blog gets warped or exploited in ways you find unexpected. This is campaign season. It is what it is.

Other than that, feel free to contradict your own side. The left got pretty good at psychological manipulation in 2008. We like to poke holes in consensus reality. You’ll be safe here.

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