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    • Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 17, 2021
      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 17, 2021   Strategic Political Economy “You lost. Stop acting like you won” [White Hot Harlots (lyman alpha blob), via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-14-21] “The abortion issue has been lost. I cannot fathom any plausible near or medium-term scenario in which the actually existing American left mounts a successfu […]
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Thursday: Here it comes

UpdateII: If you’re an ex-pharma scientist who has been laid off recently (and who in central NJ isn’t?) you really have to read this post on In the Pipeline about what Pharmaceutical CEOs really think of you.  It’s about Chris Viehbacher of Sanofi (waving “Hi!” to all the ex-sanofi people).  I’m past the stage where this kind of thing strikes me as anything but unintentional humor.  But people who actually care about preserving what’s left of research in this country and how long and hard researchers work only to be misused and discarded by the bonus class, should take note.  Pretty soon, all you’re going to be able to buy are overpriced generics.  No new drug entities will be coming out of drug discovery because there won’t *be* any drug discovery.  No one will want to work under these conditions.  This is the clearest explanation of how the bonus class wants to turn professionals into precariats that I’ve ever read and it’s coming to a workplace near you.

Update: Andrew Breitbart is dead.  He was 43.  Fox News is reporting that he died of natural causes but there’s nothing natural about dying at 43.  I’m going with apoplexy.  This must be very unexpected and sad for his family.  Or maybe not.  Rageaholics tend to be difficult.  Maybe his blood vessels just refused to cooperate any longer.  Let this be a lesson to Glenn Beck.

The Republicans have us in a vise and now they’re going to start turning the screws.  The NY Times reports today that speculators are going to push gas prices to over $5/gallon this summer. That’s going to wreck further havoc on the economy:

HOUSTON — Gasoline for $5 a gallon? The possibility is hardly far-fetched.

With no clear end to tensions withIran and Syria and rising demand from countries like China, gas prices are already at record highs for the winter months — averaging $4.32 in California and $3.73 a gallon nationally on Wednesday, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. As summer approaches, demand for gasoline rises, typically pushing prices up around 20 cents a gallon.

And gas prices could rise another 50 cents a gallon or more, analysts say, if the diplomatic and economic standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions escalates into military conflict or there is some other major supply disruption.

“If we get some kind of explosion — like an Israeli attack or some local Iranian revolutionary guard decides to take matters in his own hands and attacks a tanker — than we’d see oil prices push up 20 to 25 percent higher and another 50 cents a gallon at the pump,” said Michael C. Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research.

For the typical driver who pumps 60 gallons a month of regular unleaded gasoline, a 50-cent increase in price means an extra expense of $30 a month.

Ooo, can’t you just feel Michael Lynch squirming with delicious anticipation at the prospect of explosions in the Strait of Hormuz?  Hey, kiddies, do you remember the first oil crisis in the 70s when people were stealing gas from each others cars and gas was rationed?  Remember the line of cars around the block to the gas station early in the morning?  Remember when Daylight Savings Time was extended into the winter and we trudged to school in the snow in the dark?  Were those good times or what?

Now, before people go off half cocked about Iran, understand that this has absolutely nothing to do with Iran.  Iran is just an excuse to push up gas prices.  The oilmen need some kind of cover for the politically motivated cruelty they’re about to impose.  They’re probably counting on the left to take the bait and have a shit fit over Iran, because lefties don’t think this out any better than average Americans who just want to get to work without spending half of the grocery budget.  The average American doesn’t have time to investigate all of the causes of the spike in gas prices that is severely impacting their lives.  Who are they going to believe anyway?  You can’t trust the NY Times.  Remember what they did on the Iraq War.  No, it’s just going to look bad for Obama.  Why can’t he *do* something?

But gas is just part of it.  There are all of the downstream industries that rely on transportation.  The price of everything is going to go up, particularly food.  And since the Lesser Depression started, there are a lot more people struggling on smaller incomes and significantly smaller salaries.  It’s going to hurt.

What *is* Obama going to do?  He wasn’t particularly good at dealing with the bankers when they threatened domestic terrorism.  They pretty much got everything they wanted.  We footed the bill to bail them out.  And Obama’s going to be dealing with a Congress that’s going to be campaigning during the summer.  A hostile House isn’t going to want to cooperate by punishing the speculators.  They’ll just point to Iran and Obama when their constituents start screaming about gas prices.  And it will work.

It doesn’t matter who is in charge when the pain is inflicted, it’s going to look bad for them.  Gas prices are just the tip of the iceberg.  You can bet the Republicans have a lot more up their sleeves.  And in a way, you can’t really blame voters for reacting as they will.  Obama is in charge and he’s shown over and over again that he’s completely useless in alleviating misery.  Maybe another president would have handled this differently but we’re stuck with Obama.  And voters are bound to feel like they were betrayed.  They went to the polls in 2008 to elect a Democrat and instead got a guy who’s not really comfortable with party labels.  He’s into conciliation and negotiation with the interested parties in private conference rooms away from the public.  Let’s not get the legislative process involved here.  It’s too messy and real people will get involved.

Just because I can see what the Republicans are up to doesn’t mean I approve of Republicans.  But politics has devolved from public service to a vicious “winner takes all” game.  And in this kind of environment, it doesn’t help that your champion is a guy who has no idea how to play.

As Olympia Snowe suggested yesterday about her retirement, these kinds of maneuvers are meant to corner the opposition:

“Everybody’s got to rethink how we approach legislating and governance in the United States Senate,” Ms. Snowe said in an interview on Wednesday. She shook her head at how “we’ve miniaturized the process in the United States Senate,” no longer allowing lawmakers to shape or change legislation and turning every vote into a take-it-or-leave-it showdown intended to embarrass the opposition.

The target is Obama, the rest of us are collateral damage.  I’m sick of this game and ready to take my ball and go home.

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

Speaking of that Times article on Olympia Snowe’s retirement, we have the writers lamenting the demise of the centrists in the Senate:

Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the senator often considered the most conservative Democrat, and Ms. Snowe, seen as the most liberal Republican, will both be gone next year, as will Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent who left a Democratic Party that would not tolerate his pro-Iraq war stand. They follow a parade of centrists out the Senate doors in recent years, including the Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh; a Republican-turned-Democrat, Arlen Specter; and two Republicans-turned-independents, James M. Jeffords and Mr. Chafee.

You know, none of us Democrats or Democrats in Exile are wasting any sleep on the imminent departure of Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson or recent departure of Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh.  They were part of the problem, always trotted out to broker a deal just before some vote where Democrats were expected by their constituency to take a principled stand.  And for years now, Democratic voters have been fighting with their party leadership about what direction the party is going to go.  Arlen Specter is a perfect example of this.  The Democrats would rather back a former Republican than put all of their resources backing the guy who actually won the primary.  A similar thing happened with Hillary in 2008 where she was constantly undermined by her own party apparatus who very clearly had its thumb on the scales for Obama.  The party leadership has a bad habit of punishing the voters who insist on actually, you know, voting. As the years roll on, they’re giving us fewer and fewer reasons to go to the polls.

This health care amendment of Blunts should be an interesting one to watch.  How many Democrats are going to defect to pass it, allowing religious employers to start making exemptions for things they don’t like?  Will the Jehovah’s Witnesses stop covering life saving blood transfusions?  Will Christian Scientists stop covering everything?  What about Scientology’s conscience when it comes to psychology?  Will bipolar, schizophrenic and depressed patients now have to get their engrams expunged in place of prescription drugs?

Blunt’s bill is just another wedge issue.  It’s a way to test the Democrats and separate them from one of their constituent bases.  Will they cave to the religious and screw women or will they uphold the principle of separation of church and state in favor of the hussies?  Stay tuned.

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

Jay Ackroyd praises Amanda Marcotte’s defense of women’s sexuality even though it is inconsistent with Amanda’s well known toadying for Barack Obama, a man who thinks women should have their menfolk and pastors weigh in on whether or not to have an abortion.  Let’s remember that Amanda passed on the woman in 2008 who was the staunchest defender of women’s rights and sexuality.  Delusions of hipness and loyalty to a party tends to override Amanda’s loyalty to her own sex no matter how much lip service she gives.  If Barack Obama and the Democrats think they can win this election by appealing to the religious and limiting women’s sexuality, they’ll do it in a heartbeat.  If you want progress on defending women’s sexuality from unwanted intrusion, it’s not the Republicans you have to warn people against.  They already know THAT enemy.  It’s the wishy washy, compromising pols of the Democratic party who are our worst enemies.

How much do you want to bet that if Obama signs a bill that includes Blunt’s amendment, Amanda will think up some excuse to deflect anger over Obama’s capitulation to the religionists at the expense of women’s sexuality?  It’s only meaningful if Amanda turns her back on Obama and Democrats like him, which she will never do.  She’s just a cowardly apologist whose actions do not match the power of her prose.

Jay, don’t be a Doormat Democrat like Amanda.

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

This new Trustus Pharmaceuticals episode would be funnier if job counselors weren’t advising laid off scientists to get certification in all of this trendy MBA nonsense. This is the wave of the future:

Domo ariegato, Bitch!

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

It has come to my attention that the forces of evil are spreading rumors that this site originated the birther movement.  I don’t particularly care for having to climb the water tower with a bucket of paint in order to defend our honor but nothing could be farther from the truth where birtherism is concerned.  We have always said that birtherism had no basis in reality and that people who insisted that it did were not welcome here.  It’s true.  You can comb through our archives.  We’ve told birthers that they’re wasting their time and that it doesn’t matter if your father was Osama bin Laden himself, if you were born in the US, you have a shot at the Oval Office.  Anyone who says otherwise is cracked.  And anyone who refuses to believe that the birth certificate that Obama produced was sufficient evidence of his natural citizenship without having a similar shit fit about any other politician they don’t like, is a hypocrite.  We asked PUMAs to focus on policies and behaviors that we could actually measure because there was plenty of material to work with in that regard that didn’t require an elaborate conspiracy theory.  Sorry, that’s the way I see it and have always seen it.

By the way, PUMA just means Party Unity My Ass.  It was an expression of disgust with the way the 2008 primaries were conducted to eliminate more than half of the Democratic base from participation.   It wasn’t ultra leftist at this site.  We’ve always said we’re FDR style Democrats in Exile.  I’m not sure there are any ultra leftists left in politics these days. I mean, what is that?  Pol Pot?

I’m betting that there are a lot of Democrats who have watched the last four years of anemic “leadership” from Obama who regret getting on our case in 2008, though they will never admit it in a zillion years.  As the saying goes, “One step ahead makes you a leader, two steps ahead makes you a martyr”.

The fate of civilization is in the hands of air traffic controllers

There are some pretty good posts this morning that really should be read.

Avedon Carol writes about the wealthy and well connected and the centrists who deceive for them.  In “Did I say ‘overlords’?, I mean ‘protectors’ (Avedon is a Chiron Beta Prime fan), she writes :

The arch-conservatives believe that the rich – the aristocracy – should run everything, and the rest of us should be “losers” who are poor and miserable and have to live a hard-scrabble existence in which we literally have to beg them for jobs, alms, and mercy. They recognize that the world can be ordered differently, that there can be democracy and freedom and a decent living for everyone, they just think it shouldn’t be that way, it should be their way, because they are morally better than us and should be able to lord it over us. They have worked tirelessly (and effectively) for more than 30 years to undo democracy, and they knew just what they were doing.

The Centrists, by their statements and position papers, believe this choice no longer exists – that the “new rules” of “globalization” mean that democracy and a better life, decent wages, worker safety and all that jazz are just no longer possible. We will have to live according to the desires of the arch-conservatives – not because it is morally right, but because there is simply no other option. We are no longer in an aberrant situation where democracy can be a realistic hope and workers can be treated like human beings. We “have to” “compete” with China, and that’s that. Somehow, these centrists have all managed not to notice more than two centuries of American and European history and thousands of years of world history, not to mention many changes in their own lifetimes. They have failed to read any economic charts or to make any coherent conclusions about the direct and visible results of policy choices.

Avedon goes on to suggest that the Centrists in charge are being deliberately deceptive or they wouldn’t be doing this because it’s stupid.  I’m not so sure about that.  I think the problem is that the nation became stratified when we weren’t paying attention.  I noticed it when I visited the executive office building half a mile away from the labs.  The suits aren’t like you and me.  They have no idea what we do and how much they depend on us.  Well, they might get a clue if they are ever diagnosed with a cancer whose program was disrupted by multiple mergers and layoffs and stupid pet MBA tricks, but I digress.

There is a class system in the US.  It started with the financial overlords and is now filtering its way down to everyone.  I blame Jack Welch.  He started the ridiculous “rank and yank” performance system that major corporations and Enron have taken such a shine to.  That system supposedly rewards competitiveness and drive but what it really rewards is loyalty.  The more you suck up to the person who ranks you, the better the chances that you will keep your job.  And the people who rank you are more likely to reward people like themselves.  It’s human nature.  So, the corporate aristocracy tends to make corporate aristocrats.  When it gets to the labs, it gets really ugly because then people start to hoard resources.  Stabbing colleagues in the back to make them look bad so you can look good to the people who can reward you becomes a real art form in the lab.  The problem is that all this politicking doesn’t lead to any real work.  When your livelihood depends on where you went to school and what your pedigree is, it doesn’t matter so much what you do once you get a job.  It’s a self perpetuating caste system.  America did not become a great nation by using a caste system.  It became great by breaking it.  Some of our best innovators weren’t even college graduates.  Think Edison and Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.  Today, those guys couldn’t even get an entry level position in their own companies.

So, the stratification and castification of American culture has been happening right in front of us but we haven’t seen it, mostly because we don’t come in contact with the classes very often.  I didn’t know that the executive building cafeteria served gourmet entrees and had a registered dietician on staff to customize your lunch.  I didn’t know that they could still send packages internationally at vastly reduced costs through the company mail system but that the lab rats couldn’t.  And I didn’t know how snippy and insulting the purchasing department could be until one of its members humiliated a PhD biologist for having the temerity to ask what SAP stood for during a presentation of the kludgy application during a NEW, new purchasing procedures rollout.

Those people up the road don’t know who you are.  You work with your hands or you deal with customers or you’re in a smelly lab with gross ecoli thingies, whatever those are, and they don’t see you, especially if they don’t have to.  And the centrists come from this class of people.  Things get done and chickens get shrinkwrapped into neat, sterile packages and drugs get synthesized but those people up the road have compartmentalized the process and do not associate *people* with the outcomes.  I recently met a former pharma advertising person working in an apple store.  He can’t find a job after his layoff (but I’ll bet his severance package was much more generous than mine) so he works at apple part time.  He says he was laid off because there was nothing in the company pipeline.  I will venture that he had never until that day ever met someone who had worked on that pipeline.  I was that person.  So, I asked him if maybe there was nothing in that pipeline because of all of the mergers and re-orgs and laying off people like me meant that research was broken?  Did he even know that 100,000 of us scientists were laid off right now, NOT working on the pipeline?  He got a funny look on his face.  I think he finally got it.  But it takes a guy losing his cube in the executive office building and who now works at an apple store for the classes to finally get to know one another.

The other two posts are by Matt Taibbi who I think might even come from the 1% but has a conscience in spite of it.  Well, he seems to have grown a conscience since 2008, for which we can be grateful but we are still stuck with Obama.  Anyway, he comes down hard on Obama and Tim Geithner in Government-Enron Style where he writes:

In other words, Geithner and Obama are behaving like Lehman executives before the crash of Lehman, not disclosing the full extent of the internal problem in order to keep investors from fleeing and creditors from calling in their chits. It’s worth noting that this kind of behavior – knowingly hiding the derogatory truth from the outside world in order to prevent a run on the bank – is, itself, fraud!

This is exactly the mindset that led Lehman to the abuses of the “Repo 105” accounting trick, in which loans were disguised as revenues in order to prevent the outside world from knowing the dire state of the bank’s balance sheet.

Now Obama and Geithner are engaged in the same sort of activity, only they’re trying to prevent a run not on an individual bank, but the entire American financial services sector. Geithner seems really to believe that if fraud were aggressively policed, and the world made aware of the incredible extent of the illegality in our markets, that international confidence in the American financial sector would plummet and our economy would suffer – and suffer, incidentally, on Barack Obama’s watch.

Better, apparently, the Band-Aid the problem now, and let the real mess happen later on, on someone else’s watch, or at least in a second term, when there’s no need to worry about re-election.

I’m particularly worried about this since so much of my savings is tied up in my 401K and as far as I can tell, the 401K system is a racket.  It’s the way middle class people can get a tax break, now, in exchange for putting their life savings, and all of the extra money they have, in the hands of sociopaths with a pathological gambling addiction.  Remember, they don’t know us because they never bother to meet us so all that money has no real meaning to them.  It’s just like the instant $200 Monopoly money given to them through our paycheck withdrawals.  It’s an automatic “Pass Go and Collect”.  It just shows up in the accounts.  The brokers don’t wonder how it got there.  They don’t think about what workers had to give up in real time to put away those hundreds of dollars a month for the future.  The future happens to other people.  Finance people live in the present.  They deny themselves nothing.

The other Matt Taibbi post is about the clueless plutocrats in A Christmas Message from America’s rich.  Some of these insults from the 1% have appeared elsewhere but Taibbi drills down to the real message the rich are sending us:

People like Dimon, and Schwarzman, and John Paulson, and all of the rest of them who think the “imbeciles” on the streets are simply full of reasonless class anger, they don’t get it. Nobody hates them for being successful. And not that this needs repeating, but nobody even minds that they are rich.

What makes people furious is that they have stopped being citizens.

Yes, that’s the problem.  The rich have stopped being citizens.  They see themselves as citizens of the world.  They can move their pawns around a global chessboard and so far, the nations of the world have been unable or unwilling to stop them.

That got me thinking about a proposal I have floated before.  If they’re not going to act like citizens, do we really have to let them live here?  I wouldn’t want to propose violent actions, because that would be wrong and no one wants another round of the French Terror.  Ok, some people do but not me.  No, in fact killin’s too good for some of them.  What I would prefer is if they had an extended vacation to some tropical destination, like, oh, I don’t know, the Cayman Islands, perhaps?  In fact, why don’t we let the union first screwed by the 1% and their bought and paid for president have the first crack at this?  When ever a 1%’ers private jet checks in for a landing, divert the plane to the Cayman Islands.  Let’s let the rich hobnob with their own class.  They can spend more time with their money.  And they don’t really need satellite or underwater cables to carry their internet traffic.  Just cut them off.  Let the predators play a game of real-life Survivor on Grand Cayman where they can fight each other for the best views and snorkel sites.  in fact, why not relocate the support staff?  It’s not their fault the rich have to go somewhere.  Then the bankers and brokers and investment class can clean their own toilets and administer their own antibiotics and mow their own golf courses and maintain the water treatment plants.

Well, it’s a start.  We still have to figure out a solution for the yachts, though those yachts ain’t going nowhere without a crew.  If I were a crew member, I would revel in my new found power.  While the rich dudes are asleep in their sleek, mahogany paneled staterooms, just cut the engines and abandon ship.  Yeah, take the only lifeboats with you and the keys to the helicopter.  Pull the fuses out of the electrical panels and consign them to the watery deep. Disable the GPS devices.  After you take the best wines and delicacies, dump all of the food overboard.  Let them float for a few days.

If they’re really as smart and successful and productive as they claim to be, they’ll figure out a way to get out their predicament.  But while they’re working on that, we’ll have time to blockade their way off the islands and bar their entrance to any port.

If they’re not going to be good citizens, they can’t have a country.  We’ll lease the Caymans to them for $500,000,000,000/year.  After a few years, they should be reduced to the economic status of Haitians.