• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on The reason I won’t be voting f…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on A blurb from a blurb that summ…
    William on A blurb from a blurb that summ…
    bellecat on A blurb from a blurb that summ…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on A blurb from a blurb that summ…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on A blurb from a blurb that summ…
    riverdaughter on A blurb from a blurb that summ…
    Niles on A blurb from a blurb that summ…
    trinity12305 on A blurb from a blurb that summ…
    jmac on A blurb from a blurb that summ…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Things that should be obv…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Things that should be obv…
    William on Things that should be obv…
    William on Things that should be obv…
    William on Things that should be obv…
  • 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

    June 2019
    S M T W T F S
    « May    
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    30  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Why The Consensus Environmental Predictions Are Wrong
      So, a little bit ago I noted that with temperatures of 70 degrees in the arctic, we could expect permafrost to melt, and that would release methane. Methane is a lot stronger greenhouse gas than carbon, in the short run, and there is a lot held in arctic permafrost. It was suggested that this was […]
  • Top Posts

  • Advertisements

Repeat after me, Duncan

Nobody outside of your little circle of Democrats gives a flying fuck about what you call “neoliberalism“.

Yes, you think there is a big, dark ugly political philosophy behind neoliberalism.  We are aware of the theories. To me, it sounds like you have blown up the neoliberal boogieman disproportionately to its actual effect.  But we don’t care.  No, we do not.

We have our own theories about what the Clintons were up to and we simply disagree with you.  We disagree strenuously because we weren’t brain dead during the past 20 years.  We know how to keep score.

Give up already.  It’s bad enough that you committed us to 4 years of Obama with Gitmo, Kill Lists and 9.8% unemployment in NJ.  Remember, in 2008 he was touted as the cure for “neoliberalism”.  And how did that turn out?

Don’t make us dislike you.

Advertisements

Commence the defensive whining about Clinton

Well, that didn’t take long:

Whether or not he deserves any credit – and he certainly deserves a lot of credit for some bad things – what I think has been lost is the fact that the latter half of the Clinton years were good times. Good times in a way that that hadn’t been experienced since the late 60s or so. I don’t just mean in terms of purely quantifiable things – though the numbers there are good – it was also the case that there was a real sense of optimism. America, we’re back, bitches! It wasn’t all a horror story in the previous couple decades, but “morning in America” ads aside, there was a feeling of stagnation.

Dems have plenty of reasons to be mad at Bill Clinton, but for those wondering why there’s fondness – it’s because the economy boomed and he ultimately kicked their asses.

I was a Democrat and ran for the Board of Ed on a Democratic ticket back when Clinton was president and I don’t have any reason to be angry.  Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all the reasons why people in Atrios’ clique think I *should* be mad at him and it’s not like I’m politically naive and don’t know what they’re talking about. Perhaps they overestimate their own self-importance and authority.  Or it just might be the case that a good chunk of the Democratic base (more than half), analyzed the data with their own set of criteria and expectations, which are no less legitimate, and came to a different conclusion.  And you’re never going to be able to convince us otherwise no matter how hard you try.  We only end up resenting the people who seem determined to rewrite history to reflect their own cultural biases.  They just frustrate our will, leave the Democratic party in a permanently broken state and make it easier for Republicans to win. I’m pretty sure that’s not what they want but they keep undermining their party with their futile attempts to make us change our minds.  It’s like they can’t evolve until they’ve stamped out every bit of good feelings we have for the Clintons.  They seem to be on a mission to delegitimize our perceptions.  I don’t think this is a good use of their time or effort.  It’s like an evangelical fundy spending 40 years trying to convert a non-believer.  At some point, it becomes disrespectful and we have to disassociate ourselves from the zealots.

Except for the Gramm- Bliley bill, which passed thru Congress with a veto proof majority, I just don’t see Clinton’s terms as a string of bad things.  Atrios’ little ditty sounds a lot like Reg and the People’s Front of Judea complaining about the Romans.

Whatever you think of Clinton, Obama can’t hold a candle to him.  Not even close. I can’t see either Clinton compromising our civil liberties or turning their backs on the unemployed or soon to be homeless for even one year compared to Obama’s four.  Clinton is a true politician and did Obama a huge favor last night that he didn’t deserve.  Some  of us don’t even recognize the Obama that Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Bill Clinton talked about last night.  THAT Barack Obama is a fictional character and we all know it.

I hope Clinton got something out of it, but don’t hold your breath for Hillary in 2016.  We were cheated out of that possibility by the people in Atrios’ tribe of Democrats.  And he would have to be politically naive to believe that the powers that installed Obama over our objections will ever let someone like her run unless they are defeated and scrubbed from the party.  It is my mission to deprive those people of power and that’s why I am voting third party this year.

But in any case, the proof is in the data, which Atrios readily admits to, as much as he doesn’t like it.  People like Bill Clinton because he was a good president, a masterful politician and their lives improved while he was in office.

Alas, beautiful theories destroyed by ugly facts.  Or, in this case, ugly theories destroyed by beautiful facts.

Cocktail Hour: Resistance September

Update: Bev Hendricks writes that Hal David has died. He was 91. David was the lyricist for many collaborations with Burt Bacharach.  Instead of playing a song, I thought I’d post the lyrics to one of my favorite Hal David songs, Alfie.  Some songs never go out of style and this one is perfect for 2012.:

What’s it all about, alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What’s it all about when you sort it out, alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, alfie,
Then I guess it’s wise to be cruel.
And if life belongs only to the strong, alfie,
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above, alfie,
I know there’s something much more,
Something even non-believers can believe in.
I believe in love, alfie.
Without true love we just exist, alfie.
Until you find the love you’ve missed you’re nothing, alfie.
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you’ll find love any day, alfie, alfie.

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

Lambert says he thinks the problem is malaise.  Atrios says he just doesn’t think the election matters anymore.

I think it’s a case of learned helplessness.

It’s like being half drowned a dozen times. No matter what you do, someone is still going to try to drown you. After awhile, you stop struggling.

And this has been my point all along. We *KNOW* they’re trying to drown us so we should make it really, really hard for them to do it. As long as we still have a vote, we have the power to make the powers that be miserable. We don’t have to eat our poisoned mushrooms. Resistance isn’t useless.

You shouldn’t be surprised if learned helplessness is exactly what they are trying to create. The people who don’t think these things through all the way seem to think that if they vote for Obama this year that the beatings will ease up. They will never ease up until we decide we’re not putting up with it anymore.

If Obama loses this year, the next two years will be pretty tough on us. But it might be of shorter duration than if Obama wins. It’s not even like the Republicans are the only ones into promoting misery anymore. Only that Obama gets away with it because he has a D after his name.

It would have been better if we had agitated for Hillary this year. That would have shaken them up and there is still time.  Nothing is settled until the balloons drop in Charlotte.  But the left has been very well conditioned against her. So, in a way, they’ve contributed to their own demise. The tools to fight this thing were there all along like Dorothy’s ruby slippers.

So, what’s it going to be, left blogosphere?  Are you going to give in or are you going to resist?  Are you going to jump on Obama’s bandwagon, knowing that he’s going to ignore you or are you going to stand up and step away from the party and give it something to worry about?

What do you have to lose?  Let’s put it this way, what do you have to gain by helplessly letting them deep six you?  Get up and resist.  Let the Democratic party worry about what that means.  You are not under any obligation to give up your vote for nothing in return.  When we say jump, they should ask how high.

This year, we need to seriously consider looking after our own interests.  I’ve proposed an organizational model before.  We need to put something like that in motion.  Call it the Federation for Democratic Reform.  It has a catchy abbreviation.  It could be an umbrella group for various left of center organizations.  We need to draft a platform, organize some committees, get some lobbyists and vet some candidates to run for office.  Discuss.

Rico’s tending bar and the drinks are on me.  I’m having a Blue Moon.

If you’re out there and you’re reading and you’ve had enough, play your own resistance song.

All Very Predictable

Today, Atrios wrote:

I imagine I’ll write a version of this post a million times, but the people in charge are failures. If, in January 2009, I given a rough outline of what would happen in policy, the economy, and the financial system over the next 3.5 years, people would have thought I was crazy. No one would have believed that the people in charge would tolerate such sustained high unemployment. And yet they have. It is indeed a choice. They can make things better but they have chosen not to.

And on December 20, 2008, I wrote:

Face it, Obots.  Obama is the biggest triangulator we have ever had.  We know this because he has already won the election but he acts like he’s scared of his own shadow.  He has plenty of backup in Congress and an angry constituency that is ready to tar and feather any Republican that gets in his way.  What is stopping him from promising to rescind “don’t ask, don’t tell”, the Conscience Rule and Gitmo?  What is stopping him from loudly demanding that the Treasury account for every penny right this minute?  What is stopping him from getting ahead of the game on HOLC?  He’s not in office yet but there is no downside to adjusting his rhetoric so that he can ask and demand anything he wants.  He ran like Genghis Khan but if he wants to be a real Messaiah now, there is nothing Hillary or Bush or Rove or the outgoing Republicans can do about it.  He is *not* operating in the same environment as Bill Clinton.  In fact, everything has changed.  Everything but Obama’s approach to politics.

HE seems to be stuck in the triangulating past.

Why is that Glenn?  I’ll tell you why.  It’s because Obama has been bought and paid for.  And not by you.

It wasn’t that hard to figure out.  Everyone was hoping he would do the right thing.  But the writing was on the wall early in the primary season and it only got clearer as the year went on.  It was the way the campaign operated, who was giving him money, the propaganda and screaming at Hillary Clinton to get out of the race after she had racked up big wins on SuperTuesday and then Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, the misogynism directed at Hillary and Palin, the telecomm immunity bill after the RBC hearing forced Clinton to suspend her campaign.  If you weren’t smitten with Obama, it was a lot easier to read.  I suspect that women and working people (low and middle class alike) were a lot more literate with that kind of stuff.

I keep circling back to the primaries not because I am *trying* to be annoying but because it was all right there, staring us all in the face.  Everything you needed to know about Barack Obama and who he was really going to represent was right there. He wasn’t even hiding it all that well.  It’s just that if you were already infatuated with the guy, nothing he said or did was going to make you abandon him.  The dude was a nasty piece of work, his whole campaign was scripted and he reeked of corporate ladder climber.

The damage the primaries had on the political system is incalculable.  The primary votes were compromised and redistributed, the convention was rigged and now, we are stuck (I’d replace him but that’s just me) with a candidate who is not the Democrat he ran as.  The party has a huge wedge driven between its major constituencies.  The whole damn caucus doesn’t operate like it’s a Democratic caucus. How will we ever be able to piece all of this back together and make the nomination procedure trustworthy again? You can bet the Republicans are going to use this as a model for future electoral skullduggery.  All this sacrifice for the self-actualization of one man who hadn’t earned all of the support he was getting.  Was it worth it?

Of course, there was nothing to stop Obama if he’d wanted to be the biggest M&^*(F^()ing liberal this country has seen since FDR.  But right off the election, he was already lowering expectations because he never had any intention of being the reformer the left wanted or that the country desperately needed.

And, yes, Atrios, people thought I was crazy.  Being prematurely correct is a surefire way to get yourself banned from all the A list blogrolls so, you know, I’m not surprised that the left blogosphere is having a Condi Rice “no one could have imagined” moment.  The truth hurts and no one wanted to hear it in 2008.  I’m only relieved to see the people I respected the most finally coming to terms with it.

Liquefaction

I’m on the way to the garage this morning.  Yellowish oily liquid is seeping from the left front tire area.  Could this be a symptom of imminent failure?  I’ve noticed another expensive sounding noise from my front wheel drive on my commutes to Philly this week.  The last thing I want is to be stranded on 95 during rush hour.

{{sigh}}

Some interesting things on the interwebs to look at:

Atrios is doing his Top Ten Wankers of the Decade.  These are really good.  Check out who he’s tagged so far and pray you don’t make his top ten list.

8th Runner Up : Richard Cohen

9th Runner Up: Megan McArdle

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

Yesterday, Digby featured a clip from Chris Hayes show on MSNBC where his panelists discussed what is wrong with those people on Wall Street.  The most interesting panelist was Karen Ho, professor of anthropology at University of Minnesota, who conducted some field work on Wall Street while she was employed there as a management analyst.  She wrote it all down in a book called Liquidated, An Ethnography of Wall Street.  (If you’re going to download an ecopy, go with Amazon.  It’s $10 cheaper than iBooks.  No audible version available.  Dang!)

I read a bit of it last night before I fell asleep and Ho and I come to strikingly similar conclusions.  Hard to believe that this post it a year old already but check out my farewell on my last day of work last year after I was laid off.  You don’t need to be an anthropologist to see what’s going on but all of the background research helps.  Basically, what we’re seeing is the trickle down effect of the finance industry’s management and compensation system on the rest of corporate life.  The finance industry values “increasing shareholder value” (or at least it says it does) and all incentives are directed towards that goal.  Long term productivity strategies are chucked out the window because the finance guys and the corporate CEOs have to satisfy quarterly expectations.  It’s my grasshopper theory.  They’ll keep eating away until there’s nothing left and they don’t care what happens afterwards because of IBGYBG (I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone).

Now, how these assholes got to be in charge is the territory of the anthropologist.  Here’s what I am seeing in the pharma industry.  You only get a job these days if you a.) graduated from an ivy league university or other prestigious lab, b.) you know the right people and they offer to mentor/protect you (it helps if you are in the possession of a Y chromosome) or c.) play political games with the confidence of a grand master.  None of those three things guarantees that you will be good at discovering groundbreaking new drugs.  Trust me on this.  I’ve met ivy league PhDs fresh out of school and they need seasoning.  Industry is a whole different animal than graduate school.  I don’t care how smart you are, translating that smartness to practical drug discovery is an art.  Some master it quickly, some take more time.  But an ivy league degree is no guarantee of success.  It could mean that the candidate is so burned out by the time he/she gets a decent salary that the best years are behind them, but I digress.

What seems to matter is the perception of “smartness”.  A person with this quality can do no wrong.  Pedigree and connections are essential for this perception and as you can imagine, if you are from a working class background, it is much, much harder to obtain these things.  You may not have the economic means to stick it out for 10 years to get your PhD or you may not have been able to get into the best colleges.  You’re probably not a legacy or part of some favored ethnic group.  In other words, it’s harder to get the pedigree or connections you need.  We are rapidly devolving back to Jane Austen’s world where people fight for a “living” and socialize with the expectations of making favorable “connexions” to get that living and where where your relatives are on the social ladder is likely to save or doom you.  Your intrinsic worth or aptitude with learning new things or hard work and achievements are not necessarily going to save you.  A lot depends on your willingness to kiss up to the level above you and your ability to keep credit for your own work.  Not an easy task because if you don’t already fit among the “smart” class, your own work looks like luck or the work of other people.

Ho’s book also explains how it is that we ended up with the crazy and insecure working life most corporate employees live in.  We are always worried about the next layoff.  The pace of work is exhausting.  You don’t realize it when you’re in it.  It’s only after you’ve been away from the toxic environment that you realized how much stress your body has been under from the constant restructurings, mergers, downsizing and increased workload burden.  And at the bottom of it all, you’re constantly made to feel like you’re only a drag on the bottom line.  It looks like I wasn’t imagining it when I got the feeling that the executives up the road considered the research staff to be little more than the laborers who worked with their hands.  It was obvious in the way we were spoken to whenever we had to go outside the lab environment to get something done.  It was apparent in the percs.  Their cafeteria was better, no question about it, and they didn’t pay more for that.  They had a nicer and bigger gym, better classes.  They were able to mail their personal packages to Europe at a discount. They stopped letting the lab staff do that.  The computers were set up to make life easier for the marketing department.  If it made life a lot more difficult for the chemists, too f^&*ing bad.  We were told to stop whining or risk our jobs.  In fact, our jobs were made much harder by the absolute disinterest of the executive branch.  Research just got to be one workaround after another and lots of them.

We are seen as expendable.  I think the executive class has made a huge mistake assuming that those of us who have been liberated will be so ingenious without money that we will make discoveries in our garages that they can swoop down and buy for pennies on the dollar.  It’s not as easy as they think.  In fact, our jobs are much harder than they gave us credit for.

And I hate to bring up politics at this point but after reading just the opening chapters of Ho’s book, it becomes pretty clear that the Obama administration is infested by the “smartness” crowd.  Indeed, Obama himself is a prime example of this class.  It is no wonder that Larry Summers was one of Obama’s appointees.  Summers is the former president of Harvard and is on the board of advisors of hedge funds like DE Shaw, run by a billionaire biologist.  Pedigree, pedigree, pedigree.

Gotta go.  Will let you know how the book turns out.  Should be interesting.  But everything I’ve read so far has been independently confirmed by the research staffs of the major big pharmas.  I’m not sure what can be done about it.  I guess we’ll have to wait until the players are gone.

Later taters.

What’s wrong with this picture?

The NYTimes had an article yesterday about Indian college students attending American schools.  But something about this just doesn’t sound right:

NEW DELHI — Moulshri Mohan was an excellent student at one of the top private high schools in New Delhi. When she applied to colleges, she received scholarship offers of $20,000 from Dartmouth and $15,000 from Smith. Her pile of acceptance letters would have made any ambitious teenager smile: Cornell, Bryn Mawr, Duke, Wesleyan, Barnard and the University of Virginia.

But because of her 93.5 percent cumulative score on her final high school examinations, which are the sole criteria for admission to most colleges here, Ms. Mohan was rejected by the top colleges at Delhi University, better known as D.U., her family’s first choice and one of India’s top schools.

“The problem is clear,” said Kapil Sibal, the government minister overseeing education in India, who studied law at Harvard. “There is a demand and supply issue. You don’t have enough quality institutions, and there are enough quality young people who want to go to only quality institutions.”

American universities and colleges have been more than happy to pick up the slack. Faced with shrinking returns from endowment funds, a decline in the number of high school graduates in the United States and growing economic hardship among American families, they have stepped up their efforts to woo Indian students thousands of miles away.

Representatives from many of the Ivy League institutions have begun making trips to India to recruit students and explore partnerships with Indian schools. Some have set up offices in India, partly aimed at attracting a wider base of students. The State Department held a United States-India higher education summit meeting on Thursday at Georgetown University to promote the partnership between the countries.

Ok, let me see if I’ve got this right.  American universities are seeing a decline in the number of American high school graduates and an increase in the number of students seeking financial aid. But every year, the exclusive top tier universities take great delight crushing the hopes and dreams of the best high school students America has to offer.  In fact, some schools think it’s a mark of distinction to turn down so many overqualified students each year.

BUT, then they go ahead an offer quite substantial scholarships to Indian students.  And let’s be clear about this, there is no shortage of foreign students, especially Asian students at quality American universities.  In the hard sciences, they are the dominant demographic.  The problem is in India where the number of qualified students exceeds the number of top ranked university slots so we offer them our limited seats because… ??

So, overqualified but poor American students will be rejected and similarly qualified Indian students will be lavished with money.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we are still good enough to attract a foreign clientele even if we are their “safe schools”.  But this is a real slap in the face to thousands of American high school students who can’t get a foot in the door and who routinely burn themselves out only to receive rejection letters.  Then there are the mountains of student loans they have to take out just to get through the second tier colleges who admit them.

This is why occupywallstreet is attracting so many people to its movement.  Education is extremely expensive and now we have to compete with Indians for the few slots and scholarships in our own country, as if the high school product here, which has generated many Nobel prizes over the last century, is somehow not quite good enough anymore.

Disgraceful.

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

Other Stuff:

Atrios says that the Galtian overlords don’t know what’s best for them:

Sure their lawyers and accountants and lobbyists might have a pretty good idea what some specific provision might mean for them, but there’s no reason to think that they really understand how to run the macroeconomy for their benefit. I think a lot of the mess in the housing/mortgage markets post-bubble was due to the fact that the securitization contracts were poorly done, giving mortgage servicers very bad incentives, but I also think a lot of the mess was because the banskters didn’t really know what was good for them, or at least their companies. It’s hard to imagine that large scale principal modification with some sweeteners from the government, along with bankruptcy cramdown, wouldn’t have actually been better for both the macroeconomy and the banks.

This is true of the pharmaceutical industry, which for the past 15-20 years has been run by a bunch of MBAs who do not understand the business they run.  They’ve made a business out of merging companies to the detriment of their research pipelines.   It’s almost like they have a complete disconnect between the money they play with and the actual source of that money.  It’s all catching up with them now with the patent cliff looming.  You’d think that some political types would want to fix this problem but apparently not.  It’s just a simple case of companies acting like adolescents with very permissive parents.  Someday, they’re going to end up in rehab.

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

Krugman says he thought occupywallstreet was imminent back in 2008:

…Occupy Wall Street site today, reminds me of the closing passage in my introduction to The Great Unraveling:

I have a vision – maybe just a hope—of a great revulsion: a moment when the American people look at what is happening, realize how their good will and patriotism have been abused, and put a stop to this drive to destroy much of what is best in our country. How and when this moment will come, I don’t know. But one thing is clear: it cannot happen unless we all make an effort to see and report the truth about what is happening.

It *was* imminent, Paul.  There were those of us who saw the manipulation of the Democratic primary process in 2008 as a deeply disturbing harbinger of things to come.  We were alarmed more than heartbroken that our candidate didn’t win.  We thought that the foundations of the Democratic party were fatally compromised.  So, we said, Party Unity My Ass and went to Denver to protest.  And we were promptly marginalized and called racists.  After the election, we tried to form a movement but some people wanted to go back to their old progressive tribes and others wanted to join the Tea Party, against our advice.  In any event, nothing was going to get going until Barack Obama was shown to be the politician we thought he was.  That is, one with an outsized ambition who was bought to serve the overlords and who didn’t have much political talent.  Now that the honeymoon is over with Obama, suddenly everyone is aware of how corrupt the system is and how little influence the rest of us have in Congress or in the electoral process at large.

You didn’t have to be a Nobel winning economist to see it.  All you needed to be was an menopausal, uneducated, working class, sino-peruvian lesbian type that the Obama campaign used to characterize us as, even though no one I know fit that description.  So, welcome to Party Unity My Ass, Paul, one of the early ancestors of occupywallstreet.  We will send you our new members package with complimentary white sheet and hormone replacement therapy samples.

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

Oh really?  Go read this post at Susie’s place.  It will make your blood boil.  And then, go to Occupytheboardroom and give these bastards a piece of your mind.

Why not put the unemployed geeks on the government payroll?

Brad DeLong says give everyone $10,000.  Just give it to them.  And Atrios says why not put us on the fed payroll?

Why not put us on the government payroll?

I’ve been making that proposal for months now, especially for laid off pharmaceutical workers.  There are thousands of us.  Pfizer alone laid off almost the entire research personnel of Wyeth Research in one fell swoop after they merged in 2008.  There are a lot of overeducated, unemployed geeks out there who need work.  And it turns out that pharmaceutical companies didn’t do themselves any favors by merging the pants off of each other.  The “patent cliff” is looming, some companies are already sliding over and the years of relentless merging, followed by restructuring has ruined their research units.  It’s not going to get better for a long time.  Couple that with the therapeutic areas that pharma thinks are too expensive and you have a medicinal catastrophe coming up with antibiotics, reproductive health and central nervous system drugs.

So, why not buy up some mothballed labs (there are a $^&*load here in New Jersey), and recruit from the local talent pool?  Get some equipment at auction, pay these people a decent salary (in NJ, you need to make more than a post doc or people will faint from hunger over their hotplates) and let it go.  See what happens.  There will have to be some precautions taken.  For example, for real discovery to take place, there has to be a firewall between research and the business office.  That doesn’t mean that there should be no accountability but it’s better if the MBAs are not allowed to meddle.  No more restructuring.

Anthony Nicholls, the founder of Openeye, a developer of computational chemisty applications, says that big business has forgotten the value of play in discovery.  In his last Ant Rant called Curing Pharma (1) Avoiding Hype Based Science, he discussed the trends that pharma talked itself into.  Ant calls them Hype, I call them get-rich-quick schemes that management’s constant thirst for ever increasing quarterly profits demanded from research heads.  Some of these schemes weren’t ready for prime time.  It’s not that they had no value.  It’s just that to really make use of the technology, you have to be able to play with it and explore it to see what it does and what it can be made to do.  Ant writes:

The only sure way to get to the other side of Hype Hill, to get to the real utility, is to play. You have to be prepared to let talented people goof around, sometimes with substantial budgets, and develop expertise. A couple of examples from outside our industry: Ray Dolby, who founded the eponymous Dolby Labs in 1976. He engendered a culture of experimentation that has had few parallels. His engineers could buy any equipment they liked, as long as it was less than a couple of hundred thousand dollars! Today Ray is worth $2.7 billion and his company has an enduring reputation for innovation as well as profits. Or consider when the British tried to interest the American armed forces in the Harrier JumpJet. After a few flights the American test pilots began in-flight manipulations of the adjustable thrusters that were only supposed to be horizontal in flight and vertical in takeoff, risking expensive structural failure but learning that the plane’s real value was maneuverability. It helps having “management” willing to buy you new toys if you break the old ones!

Play is not cheap: people playing means people not contributing to the apparent bottom line. Tati’s great Play Time, in the end, did not make money—it’s a risky business, movies and drugs. But if you want to innovate, to avoid the pitfalls of hype, you have to commit to play time—invest in constructing a climate of curiosity and experimentation. Let real science take root. And stick with it.

Such a government proposition would be very risky in this political and social environment.  But I think Ant has a good point.  It is very hard to be creative when you’re constantly under stress and where the management thinks you are a drag on the bottom line, therefore you must be miserable in your job.  Having fun at your job shouldn’t be considered a moral hazard.  The government could potentially strike gold by giving unemployed geeks some money and a lab and telling them to go play.  And just think, no marketing and advertising departments.  No executives competing for the biggest bonus.  No constant restructuring.  Down the road a few years, you get your drug candidates and the patents that now belong to everyone.  And a devastated state like New Jersey has productive overeducated geeks once again contributing to the state treasury while simultaneously redistributing our wealth to Alabama.

It’s just so crazy it might work!

One thing that probably *won’t* work is the idea that we are all going to become entrepreneurs without government intervention.  Maybe there are other industries where entrepreneurship is feasible but it’s not going to happen in the biotech field where the equipment, reagents and start-up costs are enormous and many moving parts are required to get the ball rolling.  In Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men, there was a suggestion after talking to a Swedish official about the Swedish economic meltdown that eventually, the people who were laid off would start their own businesses.  But we’re not Sweden.  Our safety net is collapsing and the money for a small garage biotech just isn’t there.  We need a big, integrated lab where people get their questions answered by popping down the hall to ask the resident expert.  So, if Obama administration officials are waiting for a thousand points of biotech light in NJ, they can stop holding their breaths.  What we need is for the government to employ us.

As for the value of play, here’s a couple of videos to mull over.  Remember the Finnish Baby Boxes?  A consortium called TUPA has designed a new type of baby box for Kela, the Finnish health ministry.  The layette (complete with condoms and lube) would come in the TUPA box instead of a cardboard box.  The first box shows what the TUPA box is good for (cradle, table, chairs, toybox, layette delivery box) and the second perfectly illustrates Ant’s point about the value of play.

Play your way to a new design: