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      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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Sacrificial offerings and pleasing aromas

Update: Novartis announced today that it is eliminating 2000 jobs.  1000 of those jobs will come from the US.  700 positions will be added in China and India.  It sounds like a lot of IT jobs will be moved, but the way things are going lately, it’s probably just the start of things to come.  Says a financial analyst:

“Job cuts are happening [note the verb conjugation indicating present, not past, tense] in almost all large pharma companies,” said Tim Race, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG in London. “It’s a consequence of squeezing prices, squeezing profitability. Pharma companies are reacting to maximize profitability, which is something they should be doing anyway.” He recommends buying Novartis shares.

Yes, and when the profits are all gone, you can dump Novartis shares and all of the rest of your pharma sector shares and move on to the next big thing. After the research is gone, there won’t be any more profits to be made.  Well, it’s only medicine.  Let’s see that makes Amgen, Merck, Abbott and now Novartis.  Who’s next?  Anyone want to take a guess?  We haven’t heard from Glaxo Smith Kline for awhile…

Update 2:  I was pointed to this Scientific American blog post about how scientists are joining the occupy movement so clearly, I am not alone.  As one of the people in the accompanying video says, it doesn’t matter how many degrees you have, we don’t fund science in this country anymore.  Too true.  Well, there’s just no immediate profit in it.  Just ask any Wall Street analyst.  If you can’t get your research to pay off in the next quarter, what good are you??  If you are a labrat going to an occupy event, wear your labcoat and goggles so we can recognize each other.

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

I think the Republicans’ game plan is obvious now, wouldn’t you agree?  The idea is to starve the nation of jobs, keep everyone in a constant state of anxiety and make sure that the government does little if anything to put the country on its feet.  I’m looking at my first COBRA payment and it is not pretty.  No, not at all.

The strategy is to make Obama look so weak (as if he needed any additional help), that the country will turn against Democrats next year and make Obama a one-term president.  And you know what, Republicans?  I am ok with that.  Making Obama a one term president would probably be the best thing to happen to this country, but I’ll get to that in a sec.

In the meantime, those of us in the middle class will continue to make sacrifices.  I’m going to go off on a tangent here.  In NJ, we have some of the highest salaries in the nation and also the highest cost of living.  The amount of federal taxes we paid was also among the highest.  This year, I will have paid more in taxes than it would take to keep a family of four above the poverty level.  So, I’d like the Glenn Beck viewers to STFU about how lazy and parasitical unemployed people are.  In the last year of work, my group worked our asses off and still didn’t have enough time in the day to get it all done.  And we still suffered layoffs.  It didn’t make any difference to the tax collector.  This is a heads up to all of the currently employed Republicans who think they have jobs because of their virtuous behavior: you will have to pay taxes on your severance and unemployment benefits.  No, no, don’t feel shame about accepting unemployment.  Think of it as you paying yourself.  For however long it takes.  And it looks like it’s going to take a long time.

You will never be safe, never secure again.  You should start thinking of your job as temporary.  Do not make vacation plans, do not buy a house unless you can pay for it cash.  Do not get sick.  Do not have children that you expect to raise for 18 years.  Do not buy a new car.  Buy hand-me-down cars from family members who you know maintained them well.  Never leave your parents’ house. Get comfy in your childhood bedroom.  Do not get married to a person who doesn’t have health insurance and at least 6 months salary in the bank.  Do not get old.

Your job is to work at whatever job you can get for as long as they will keep you and to pay taxes so that big banks and military contractors can squander it away.

This is not the American Dream, this is the Republican Dream.  No, I don’t know why they want to do this with their country.  I think they just get a taste for power, for being in the group with the most money, and they find it easy to adopt the values of that ascendent group and they don’t know when to stop.  It’s time to stop.  This year I pay taxes; next year, I wont.  The unemployment situation is also starting to have an effect on Main Street.  Lowes is closing some stores in the Northeast.  The economy is just not picking up.  That will affect 1,950 jobs.  Around my area, several major grocery stores have packed up and left, along with some specialty stores like Linen’s and Things.  Now we have brand new strip malls with big boxy stores that are either empty or newly occupied by holiday decoration stores and dollar stores.  In the mall, Bloomingdale’s closes at 8pm.  And this is not Nebraska.  This is central NJ, about 36 miles from New York City.  Suburban poverty is increasing here.  (This article was hard to read because one of the suburbs mentioned in it was where my grandparents lived and where I graduated from High School.  It used to be so well cared for.)

And here’s something new for the chemists who were laid off.  ChemJobber is running something called The Layoff Project.  If you are/were a chemist/researcher who was laid off (and what chemist out there hasn’t been laid off in the past couple of years?), head on over to The Layoff Project and share your experience, what to do, not to do, and whether you decided to bag research altogether.  Here’s a heads up for the corporate people who “separated” us: the outplacement firms you signed us up with?  Not very helpful for a researcher.  They are geared to help *business* people find new jobs.  They have virtually no idea how to help scientists. That’s why there is such an emphasis on “marketing plans” and “networking”.  For a labrat, it’s completely impractical, if not impossible, to just bop on over to your target company’s hiring manager and discuss your marketing plan for half an hour.  For one thing, in most lab settings, it’s harder to get on campus than it is to get into Fort Knox.  For every layer of security, there is an opportunity for the guy with the jobs to cancel your appointment.  For another, chemists loathe anything business related because a.) we know that business people have no idea what the f%^& they’re doing or we would still have jobs and b.) business people are the ones who fired us.  And don’t tell us we need to sell ourselves.  Our field requires us to be in the lab.  That’s what we do.  The researchers who “sell” themselves are not in the lab, are they?  No, they’re busily wheeling, dealing and deliberately making their lab working coworkers look bad.  But when you hire the ones who are professional salesmen, then you have hired a salesman.  How they will do in a lab or in a position where they actually have to do the analysis is a different question.  So, please, HR people, make the outplacement people get with the program or just give us the money you would have spent on them.  I’ve gotten better advice from my state’s Department of Labor that has been diligently setting up seminars and collaborations with local biotechs and has a pretty good online resume builder and jobs database.

Obama’s jobs bill is looking more and more like a strategy to make the Republicans look bad.  For many of us in this country, we have no problem identifying Republicans as the culprit for the last 30 years.  Now, the Democrats are starting to join them but it’s still the Republicans who are driving this race to the bottom.  I don’t know whether any of this will sink into the brains of the people who watch Glenn Beck.  They won’t get it until it happens to them personally.  But whatever the game is, I’ve just become sick of games.  Really guys, I’m tuning you out.  First it was TV and radio, now I’m getting tired of reading about the horse race and the strategy in the rest of the media.  And the more media outlets I shut down, the less chance you will have to influence me directly.

But I do have one suggestion that I think would have a profound impact on the election next year.  I think Obama should make the greatest sacrifice and offer not to run again.  If he sincerely wants to do the right thing for the country, I don’t think there is a better way to do it.  And I’m not just saying this because he was a completely unscrupulous, unDemocratic bastard in 2008.  I’m saying this because he does not have the political skills to go up against the Republicans.  Four more years of inertia is not what the country needs or wants.  The White House pollsters and political operatives should start paying attention to the Occupy movement instead of just moving their mouths and making supplicating noises to it.  Four more years of Obama for many of us is just unthinkable right now.  It makes me want to not vote next year.  I will be so angry at the Democrats for forcing me to make another unpleasant decision that I might just punish the rest of the field for not standing up for the 99% who need a different political environment.  And no, I don’t think Obama is going to get any better in his second term.

If Obama doesn’t run, well, that just zaps the mojo out of the Republicans, doesn’t it?  I mean, isn’t that their whole reason for being this election season?  To get rid of Obama?  And that means they will have to work extra hard to make sure that all of his (half-assed, inadequate) initiatives fail, even the ones that will (presumably) help people.  That’s their goal.  But if you take Obama out of the picture, then all of the attention for the failure can be concentrated on the people who actually have the power to pass legislation, right?  What better way to expose the real movers and shakers in Congress from both parties.  Right now, Obama is a smokescreen that gives a lot of self-interested politicians cover for pleasing the rich and well connected.  Clear away the smoke and let’s expose them.

Who would be a replacement for Obama?  There are obvious answers but if the obvious don’t seize the moment, I’m sure we can find other vigorous candidates to defend New Deal policies that are necessary to pull us out of this slump.  And there’s no shame on Obama’s part.  He goes out as a hero for finally having the guts to do the right thing and call the Republicans’ bluff.  It says nothing about him as the first African-American president.  I mean, who cares at this point?  Is his family history really that important when people are losing their houses?  If he decides not to run, he leaves the bankers’ money kind of useless.  They could give it to Republicans but they would just be joining themselves to a very unpopular party.

Well, we know that the DNC will tut-tut any such suggestion.  Obama is their guy and they are going to stick with him regardless of what voters want because that’s just the kind of Democratic party they are.  No, don’t thank them.  They are doing it for YOU.  Going with Obama is safe.  It means no unpleasant disagreements within the party.  No distasteful primary battles or dinner party conversations about values and party platforms and all of that unseeeeemly stuff.

Hokay, suit yourselves.  It must be nice to have the confidence that you can shove another four years down our throats and we’ll just accept it because the alternative is sooooo much worse.  But as Daniel Kahneman wrote a few days ago in the NYTimes in Don’t Blink! The Hazards of Confidence, what you don’t know or don’t want to look at can come back to bite you:

We often interact with professionals who exercise their judgment with evident confidence, sometimes priding themselves on the power of their intuition. In a world rife with illusions of validity and skill, can we trust them? How do we distinguish the justified confidence of experts from the sincere overconfidence of professionals who do not know they are out of their depth? We can believe an expert who admits uncertainty but cannot take expressions of high confidence at face value. As I first learned on the obstacle field, people come up with coherent stories and confident predictions even when they know little or nothing. Overconfidence arises because people are often blind to their own blindness.

True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes. You are probably an expert in guessing your spouse’s mood from one word on the telephone; chess players find a strong move in a single glance at a complex position; and true legends of instant diagnoses are common among physicians. To know whether you can trust a particular intuitive judgment, there are two questions you should ask: Is the environment in which the judgment is made sufficiently regular to enable predictions from the available evidence? The answer is yes for diagnosticians, no for stock pickers. Do the professionals have an adequate opportunity to learn the cues and the regularities? The answer here depends on the professionals’ experience and on the quality and speed with which they discover their mistakes. Anesthesiologists have a better chance to develop intuitions than radiologists do. Many of the professionals we encounter easily pass both tests, and their off-the-cuff judgments deserve to be taken seriously. In general, however, you should not take assertive and confident people at their own evaluation unless you have independent reason to believe that they know what they are talking about. Unfortunately, this advice is difficult to follow: overconfident professionals sincerely believe they have expertise, act as experts and look like experts. You will have to struggle to remind yourself that they may be in the grip of an illusion.

And as we learned from Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men, Obama has a habit of surrounding himself with arrogant, overconfident men who turn out to be wrong over and over again.  I’d go big, Barry, and make the sacrifice.

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Stuff I will miss when I’m poor

It takes a lot of money to live in NJ.  I’m talking about mortgages, property taxes and food.  That right there will zap your unemployment check.  I take that back.  You can’t pay for your mortgage *and* eat on an unemployment check.  Even with a regular paycheck, it was hard to justify spending money on expensive vacations and I usually run my cars into the ground before I replace them.  Clothes were never a big issue with me because in this country, women are allowed to be skinny, plump, morbidly obese or petite, but they’re NOT allowed to be tall.  So few stores and designers accomodate my 5’9.5″ height (without making me pay a premium for a few extra inches of hem on very limited selection of super boring and unstylish clothing items) that I’ve learned to loathe clothes shopping.  You can be a size 16 and never pay a nickel more than a size 2 regardless of the extra fabric.  But ask for a dress where the waist cinches your waist and not your bust if you’re tall?  Impossible to get at any price.  How fair is that??  I guess if I were a nice size 5’4.5″  woman who looks good in anything, passing up new clothes might be a real hardship.  I might even enjoy shopping.  Since the American apparel industry has seen fit to thwart me all my life, this is not an issue for me.  But I digress.

So, while I have some money stashed away to keep me from involuntary anorexia, cuts will be made in the next month.  Politicians should keep this in mind when they put unemployment on the backburner or don’t give solving it their best effort. And I don’t mean just for fricking construction workers.  All I ever hear about is how some damn construction worker is going to get a job building a transcontinental automobile transportation thingy.  We’re not all construction workers, guys. In fact, we’re not all GUYS. Hello?!, Can we say gender discrimination in proposed jobs programs?  This Lesser Depression is hitting the sciences pretty hard, despite what the BLS is telling you (They’re about 5 years behind on their job category projections in the sciences).  You really can have a college degree and experience in a hard science and not be able to find a job.  And remember, I was one of those middle class people who was paying more in taxes last year than the yearly income required to keep a family of four above the poverty level.  Alabama might want to think about that before they let Jeff Sessions go on an idiot rant about the deficit.

To be cut:

1.) Dish Network– It’s ridiculously expensive given the fact that I only watch the premium channels.  Dish doesn’t offer a Premium only package, ala cart purchases are still not on the horizon and, frankly, I’m getting disgusted with having to subsidize the forty channels of ESPN and sports that I never watch, along with QVC, Lifetime, Oxygen and a lot of reality TV crap.  I never watch network or cable news anymore.  DeGrassi we can watch on Hulu.  I have an Apple TV and a subscription to Netflix.  I’ve called Dish about rejiggering the lineup but all they suggest is taking away the things I actually like to watch while leaving me with the stuff I consider garbage.  Besides, they announced recently that they are going for a more upscale clientele, which I no longer am. So bye-bye Dish.

2.) Dune perfume.  I ran out of my last bottle some time during the summer.  Worn it for years.  It’s my signature fragrance.  Perfume is bloody expensive but I love it.  I will continue to finagle teensy little samples of new perfumes from the Bloomingdales perfume counter.

3.) Clinque, MAC, Chanel makeup.  I shall have to make due with Revlon and tread carefully to avoid aggravating my sensitive skin.

4.) Haircuts.  There’s only one salon in my area that does it right.  They charge a small fortune.  I already go to them only once a year and get maintenance haircuts from a local salon I like less.  Oh, well.  Never had a pedicure.  Have had manicures twice in my life.  Won’t be missed.  But the hair thing might be a problem if I have to do interviews.

5.) Stopping by Wegman’s on a Sunday afternoon.  I used to love to do this.  I’d wander the aisles and sample the searing station and the cheeses, check out the fresh fish and seasonal produce.  An hour later, I’d have something incredibly delicious for dinner with a nice bottle of wine.  Not anymore.

6.) Eating out.  Anywhere.  Clearly, this has got to stop.

7.) Movies.  If it’s not on Netflix or iTunes, we will wait until it is.

8.) Pottery Barn, West Elm, Bed, Bath and Beyond, {insert furniture or home goods store here}.  If it can’t be found on Craigslist, in the free stuff category, we will pass.

9.) Home Depot, Lowes, {insert home improvement store here}.  I finished my kitchen so most of my home’s most expensive features have been replaced or finished in the past five years.  Yeah, I think crown molding would look nice on the soffit.  Too bad for me.  The bathrooms are the only rooms that still need some TLC.  Now that I know how to replace faucets and rewire appliances, I can do most of this stuff inexpensively.  Will consult craigslist for necessary items.

10.) Audible, iTunes, the iPad Apps store, Amazon.  These are dangerous habits.  You think, “Oh, it’s only 5 Beatles songs”, or “That looks like an interesting book and I could have it on my iPad in 15 seconds!”.  Before you know it, you’ve blown through half an unemployment check with stupid money sucking novels.  So, that’s out.  Will consult my bookshelf and the Gutenberg project.

11.) The Apple Store.  That place is like catnip for geeks.  It’s hard to pass it by and not bop in for *something*.  I like gadgets.  I am a gadget queen.  The BFF and I are very competitive gadget people.  My toys have to be neater and faster and more innovative than his.  The kid really does need a new computer so I might scrape together funds to get her a Macbook Air (before you PC people jump down my throat about cheaper PCs, save your breath.  I never liked PCs, don’t like Windows and don’t like the idea of troubleshooting and shelling out money for new anti-virus packages when I get infected. Been there, done that.  I’m sticking with apple.  And if the sucker has a problem, I can take it to the apple store to be seen by a genius where I will be able to sniff the gadgets.  I have to draw a line in the sand.  I will be poor but you can’t make me use a PC)

12.) Starbucks Verona roast coffee beans.  I shall make due with Columbian from the grocery store.

13.) Ikea.  Very addicting, especially the bottom floor.  There are so many cool little things that I never knew I needed until those diabolical Swedish merchandizing geniuses place it in an attractive setting where I can’t help but see it.  The Ikea designers seem so innocent with their sing-song voices and “Ha-dor!” bye-byes and non-judgmental, friendly, socialism-lite, sunny optimism but they are really just evil capitalists in disguise pushing clever furniture crack. Warning: Lack and Malm are gateway series.  Before you know it, you’ll be mainlining Isala and Hemnes and hanging out at Ikea Hack sites (I only tried it once) and you’ll need an intervention.  Still, if I have the extra money, I will go out of my way to get an almondy torte because the kid really likes them and even poor people need treats once in awhile.

14.) Gas.  It costs a lot.  We will be saving it for excursions where we can do a lot of errand running at one time and run a “travelling salesman” calculation to optimize every mile.

15.) Electricity and Gas.  I will become fanatic about shutting off every light and appliance that doesn’t need to be on.  I will be using solar battery lamps when it gets dark.  We will learn to live with lots of sweaters and cosy footwear.   The cockatiel will get a special blanky for his cage.  The programmable thermostat will be strictly monitored.  Violators will be prosecuted.

16.) Christmas.  It will be a very scaled back buying season.  Imagine the March sisters in Little Women.  Might go for a Charlie Brown tree instead of the 8 ft Douglas fir.  Or scour craigslist for an artificial tree if half of NJ hasn’t beaten me to it.

17.) The liquor store.  No more wine for dinner.  No more spur of the moment purchases of the latest boutique brewery seasonal batch.

18.) NJ Transit train to NYC.  At $28/person round trip and no discount for off-peak hours anymore, the kid and I would be spending $56 to take a slow train ride on the Raritan Valley Line, which doesn’t come frequently, with a transfer at Newark to NYC.  I could just park in Newark and take the PATH.  That’s the way I’ve been doing it in the last couple of years.  But the return trip on the PATH goes through Hoboken and then back to Newark.  It’s the most stupid, half assed system. In other words, NY and NJ have not really found an affordable, efficient option for daytrippers to the City.  Or they have found options but they refuse to go ahead with plans to implement them due to ideological reasons.  I love mass transit but not enough to spend $56.  So, the City is out.  That would also mean there’s no reason to maintain my Metropolitan Museum of Art family membership, where the kid took 7 weeks of drawing lessons for a bahgain, or the MOMA membership.  Broadway is completely out of the question.  Seats for a play are outrageous and even when I could afford them, I ended up sitting on the sides in the balcony.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a decent seat in the orchestra at a Broadway play.  At $300-400 a seat, I just figure those are for the rich, even middle class people need not apply.  Poor people can forget it.  Ditto with ballets and operas at Lincoln Center.  Loved it when I could afford to go, even in the nosebleed sections.  Must live without it now.  There are some nice local theatres, especially in Princeton.  So, we’ll go on very special occasions.

That’s just off the top of my head.  I will pinch every penny until my fingers bleed.  The piano teacher is a bit of a dilema.  The kid enjoys her lessons and even piano teachers need to eat.  We will see how it goes.  If the COBRA subsidy is reinstated, I *might* be able to fit in a lesson or two a month.  Even that will be stretching it.

It all adds up.  Multiply this by millions of people all across the country.  No money going to the IRS, no money going to merchants, no money to splurge a bit.  Just no money- period.

Thank you Republicans and President Obama.

One other thing: Number One child is auditioning this week for something special.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I will update with more specific information if she makes it.

Hurricane Irene poised to take out Northeastern liberal elite bloggers

That’ll learn them dirty f%^&ing hippies.  Whoo-hoo!  We really should get together and throw a hurricane party.  My house is just above the label that says “2pm Sunday”.

So much to do. Appetizers, beer, rum. Mostly get fresh water.  Natasha Chart tweeted a handy disaster preparedness list for those of us on the hit list.  Here’s a tip I learned when I rode out Hurricane Charlie in Naples, Florida about 5 years ago: fill your bathtubs up with water.  When the water stops flowing, you’ll want to use that water to flush your toilets.

When Floyd passed through here about 13 years ago, our water treatment plant was flooded and out for 2 weeks.  Yep, do you know how hard it is to keep a 2 year old clean for two weeks without showers and baths?  The mayor had a fireside chat every evening for 2 weeks to assure us that the water would be flowing any day now while his hair got greasier and greasier.  Ah, those were the days.  Such fun.  Speaking of fun, I really must clear that gutter above my deck while I have time…

The inaptly named Bound Brook, NJ after Hurricane Floyd, about 5 miles from yours truly

But it’s not just the NJ bloggers, and that would include Krugthulu who lives about 10 miles from me, it also includes Atrios and Susie Madrak.

Speaking of Susie, in case you haven’t heard, she’s in the hospital under observation for a possible heart attack.  As you may know, Susie’s been unemployed for awhile.  Health insurance is expensive.  By the way, did you know that the COBRA subsidy will end next week?  The subsidy helped pay 65% of the cost of COBRA for newly unemployed people, like me.  I’m not on COBRA yet but I can now look forward to paying the whole thing myself on my meager unemployment check starting next month when my severance benefits end.  Isn’t that special?  Stranded in NJ with a mortgage, no job and no COBRA subsidy.  I’m not sure what I’m supposed to live on and I’m probably not going to fetch top dollar on the flesh market on Craigslist anymore.  You’d think Obama would have made sure that this subsidy lasted until 2012 but you would think wrong.  It’s enough to drive a girl to socialism, I tells ya.

Anyway, if you have some spare change, now would be a good time visit Susie’s page and  make a donation to her tip jar.

Get well, Susie!  We need you back on Virtually Speaking Susie.