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    • Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 20, 2019
      by Tony Wikrent North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus Strategic Political Economy Economist Mariana Mazzucato has demonstrated that the real driver of innovation isn’t lone geniuses but state investment. [Wired, via The Big Picture 10-19-19] ….Mazzucato, an Italian-American economist who had spent decades researching the economics of innovation […]
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The world ends not with a bang but a PowerPoint presentation

My laptop is still out for repairs. I am preparing for a blow to my bank account. Tips gratefully accepted.

In the meantime, I had one credit left at audible so I downloaded the latest book on the coming zombi apocalypse, The Girl With All The Gifts. I don’t think I’m giving too much away by telling you it’s about zombies. Where would summer be without a zombie beach read?

I won’t get too much into the plot, because I can’t without totally spoiling it for you, but I did find the historical narrative on the apocalypse struck pretty close to what I imagine the truth will be.

The narrator says that after the initial phase of the infection, there was a brief calm and window of opportunity to do some emergency research. But while the pathogen was temporarily quiet, looking for new victims, “global capitalism” was still on a feeding frenzy, tearing the world apart as quickly as it could. Of all the elements of this book, I found this the most believable, I can almost see the suits on Wall Street trying to find a way to corner the market on respirators and disinfectants.

But what was really funny, but not belly laugh funny, unless you’ve been on the receiving end of the MBA masters of the universe bean counting strategy when it comes to research, was the plan that the capitalists, and governments at their mercy, put in place to take advantage of that brief lull to conduct some in the field R&D. They found two articulated buses used by the national science museums and retrofitted them with labs and bunks. Each bus would accommodate 6 scientists each, to be comprised of a mix of biologists and organic chemists. That’s two buses of twelve scientists total to save the world.

One can easily imagine the presentation of this plan and the slick PowerPoint slides to accompany it. On one slide would be the pretty picture of the buses, the next a floor plan where the air locks, microscopes and hoods would be. Then a breakdown of the costs on the next slide:

“The shareholders are prepared to commit $10 million to retrofit the buses, 12 FTE’s for the research. Salaries are competitive with academic research for post-docs at $37,000/year but this is unimportant. If they return, and their experiments are reproducible, we anticipate further renumeration to come from prizes so our costs there are minimal. In essence, this is a self-funding grant. It goes without saying that we will hold any patents and government will fast track approval. Any questions?”

Anyway, the timeframe of the book is years later and the survivors find the buses. No sign of the teams though. It turns out that the pathogen didn’t give them much of a break in the action and those 12 people were just pampered slackers who futzed around with the shareholders’ expensive equipment. Totally unproductive. The MBA’s should have just cut them out all together. What a fricking waste of money.

5 sponges. Highly recommended.

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Book Confluence: The Penelopiad

 For our first book club selection, we’ll be discussing  Margaret Atwood’s novella,  The Penelopiad: The Myth of Odysseus and Penelope

The Penelopiad retells the story of Homer’s epic poem, Odyssey, from the point of view of Odysseus’s wife Penelope.  Atwood’s Penelope seeks to set the record straight.  While Homer characterizes Penelope as a loyal, faithful wife, Atwood’s Penelope views her husband as a con, remarking “I knew he was tricky and a liar, I just didn’t think he would play his tricks and try out his lies on me.” 

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