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      I am unintersted in “hope.” Or as we called it in the Obama bullshit years, Hopium. Hope is not a plan. Hope is bullshit. Luck is real, but you don’t count on luck other than in the sense that the harder you work, and the more things you do, the more likely you are to […]
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#Brexit, appliances, eucatastrophes and GoT crackpot theories

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What has the EU ever done for us?

Hi everybody, I have to go mow the lawn. It’s a nice day out today and I want to get it over with so I can do more fun things. But first, some thots about Brexit.

David Cameron is a ditz. He called his voters’ bluff one too many times. Unfortunately, the people who voted for exiting the EU are dragging all of the young and well educated with them. It’s funny how this turned out to be a referendum on immigration and all those furiners taking jobs. Why is it that the well connected who are making out like bandits in the globalization deal escape scrutiny time after time?

I blame Rupert Murdoch. Wherever his “news” channels are strongest so is the redirection of righteous indignation onto the backs of the people who are least able to defend themselves.

Anyway, I wanted to point out that this globalization meme is truly stupid and well-meaning politicians should stop cuddling up to the propagators of this nonsense. Instinctively, we know that globalization is the excuse that is being used to tear down social safety nets. The reasoning is that goods for Americans, for example, are cheaper when they are made elsewhere. But is that really true?

Here’s a challenge: next time you’re in Lowes or Home Depot, go visit the appliance department. Try to figure out which refrigerators and ranges are made here in the US and which are made in Korea by price. There are brands that are made here in the US but they do not carry a premium price. In fact, the most expensive appliances, the ones that everyone wants and needs, are made in Korea. Not only that but sales reps will tell you confidentially that the current generation of those $3200 refrigerators are not supposed to last more than 7-10 years.

That’s globalization for you. And people buying new appliances know this in their bones. They know they’re being conned. What can you do? You can’t let your food spoil. But you gotta wonder where all the cost savings went. If the appliances are no longer cheaper but the labor is, then the difference is pure profit and it’s going into someone’s pocket. Not ours, obviously.

Globalization as we know it is really about a global casino, shareholder value, 401K’s. Did you notice that on Friday when the market dropped, we were all told not to look at our 401Ks? That’s what the gamblers would prefer. They don’t want you to look at how the value of your hard earned money, your retirement plan, is taking a plunge and will continue to do so. “Leave it alone, don’t think about it” is the message we get. Otherwise, you might get angry and they don’t want you to get angry and pull YOUR money out of THEIR market. Don’t look until we have to retire and find that all these monumental shocks left us with a lot less than the financial consultants said. They won’t promise you a guaranteed rate of return or even that you’ll have any principal left.And it’s all up to you. If you don’t plan, if you’re not playing the game correctly, well, it’s you’re fault for not being them.

I don’t buy the idea that nothing can be done about this kind of globalization. As Larry Elliott writes in his post in The Guardian:

The risk is that if the mainstream parties don’t respond to the demands of their traditional supporters, they will be replaced by populist parties who will. The French Socialist party has effectively lost most of its old blue-collar working class base to the hard left and the hard right, and in the UK there is a danger that the same thing will happen to the Labour party, where Jeremy Corbyn’s laissez-faire approach to immigration is at odds with the views of many voters in the north that supported Ed Miliband in the 2015 general election, but who plumped for Brexit last week.

There are those who argue that globalisation is now like the weather, something we can moan about but not alter. This is a false comparison. The global market economy was created by a set of political decisions in the past and it can be shaped by political decisions taken in the future.

A smart politician is one who will see Brexit as the eucatastrophe it is, no pun intended. It might be too late for a do-over in Britain, but the American election is months away. It is not too late to turn this ship around. Even if Hillary is ahead of The Donald, she should take a good look at how the landscape has changed and take advantage of it to craft new policies, policies that will ensure lasting political change. Obama failed to take advantage of his opportunities from 2008-2010. Hillary should sieze on hers now even at the risk of offending some of her donors in Silicon Valley.  The pressure on regular non-rich Americans has been building for years now. It got significantly worse in the last 8 years as the finance industry and big business benefitted from lax oversight to push more and more people into a Gig Economy. That’s where you’re valuable when you’re young and single and willing to job hop. But as soon as you grow up and want a steady job and a family and a house, the jobs mysteriously dry up.

Brexit shows us what can happen when voters have a chance to express themselves. Voters are angry and they are motivated and they want to make a point. David Cameron thought throwing them a bone of a referendum would be just another Scotland independence vote where the whiners and complainers would get trounced and shut up about it already. But he seriously misread the electorate. They’re sick of being taken advantage of and if they’re going down, they’re going to take everyone else with them. And just like the UK, we have a bunch of angry white guys with big erections that they are going to parade all the way to the voting booth. The economy is not booming, we aren’t doing well and unlike the angry Bernie supporters, who at least know who to blame, the Trump supporters will lash out at anyone who isn’t a white male American.

Better to give them policies that will curb the malefactors of great wealth and stop expecting the working class to foot the bill all time than to see us all wake up after the conventions feeling like we’ve been thoroughly f^&*ed.

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

Tonight is the season finale of Game of Thrones. Here are my crackpot theories about how what’s going to happen:

  1. We will find out tonight just who was the recipient of Sansa Stark’s letter and plea for help. Everyone assumes it was Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger. But I think Sansa has grown a clue in the last six years. She made a deal with someone in the Vale. Was it Lord Royce or SweetRobin? In any case, Littlefinger may be losing his edge. If you’re planning to come to someone’s rescue, make sure you get the specific reciprocal rewards on paper, preferably signed in blood.
  2. Whatever Sansa does, there will be a faction of fans who will be critical. They’ve been complaining for years now that she’s been too much of a passive pushover. But since she started taking control of her life this season and making some controversial decisions, they’ve become even more hostile and critical that “She’s doin’ it wrong”. Also, there are some fans who are very negative that she might be losing her girlish innocence to be replaced by a calculating survival mode. Thus Game of Thrones continues to reflect current political realities. Even in the fantasy realm, Cenk Uygar is tiresome, sexist asshole. The pattern is obvious, Cenk. Your slip is showing. Calm your tits already.
  3. What is in the crypts of Winterfell? I mean, seriously, there’s some secret lurking down there that we don’t know about. And why is it that “there must always be a Stark at Winterfell”? The first book opened in the crypts when Ned took Robert down there to check out Lyanna’s grave. But various characters are always finding some excuse to go down there and light some candles. Maybe this is what Littlefinger is truly interested in. Sansa’s just the cheesecake dessert.** Whatever is down there is what he’s really after.
  4. Tonight, we will probably get confirmation that R+L=J. Was Jon reborn last week under a bleeding star of the circular pattern of dead and dying bodies? Was the “salt and smoke” from the Ramsay’s burning victims and the sweat of battle? Will Melisandre be the ultimate sacrifice? Will she finally understand the signs she sees in the fire?

Add your own crackpot theories in the comments.

* *  Here’s another crackpot theory. We all know how Ramsay Bolton had a thing for cutting off various body parts from his victims. What if Ramsay did a bit of FGM on Sansa? I’ve been watching too much Game of Thrones to even be imagining this but I could see him doing it, considering what he cut off of Theon Greyjoy. In that case, Sansa may decide to become a born-again virgin and get her kicks from wielding power instead. Oooo, Cenk isn’t going to like that.

Dracarys.

Good Morning

Cue the music

Some more bad news on the research front.  Earlier this week, Merck laid off a number of employees from the parent company and Schering-Plough, the company it merged with a couple years ago.  I can’t find a firm number for the total layoffs.  In some reports, it’s 17,000, in others it is 17,000 plus an additional 13,000.  That’s worldwide.  And while Merck has something like 91,000 employees worldwide, when it comes to laying off research, it comes primarily from the US side because American research workers have zero labor protections.  I would expect the loss from Western European research facilities to be light.  Estimated cost savings are $400 million out of a budget of $7.9 billion.  That is a huge research budget but that’s what it takes these days.  Drug discovery is very expensive.  Merck and Schering-Plough have facilities in the Northeast, particularly in Rahway, NJ, West Point, PA and Kennilworth, NJ.  Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline says he is getting heavy casualty reports in from the research professionals at Schering Plough (Kennilworth).  I know people who work at both companies and I’m very sad for them.  This is not a good time to be untethered from a steady income.  I hope they’ve prepared themselves.  The loss to the states of NJ and PA in tax revenue from cutting these well-paying jobs is going to be pretty bad.  So, this month we have Novartis, Amgen and Merck-Schering-Plough.  Wait, wasn’t there another one?  Too many to keep track of.  And more competition for me.  Well, I am in good company.  Some of the smartest people in the country, no, the *world* are now out of work.

Jay Ackroyd thinks that the desire to globalize is driving this and calling it “centrism”.  Jay’s anger and disgust is pretty clear but coming from the corporate world that most lefties hate, hate, HATE with all their souls, I see this a little differently.  For example, take the way Steve Jobs was pushed out of Apple back in the 80’s.  I’m listening to the biography by Walter Isaacson.  Jobs was no saint.  Back in the 80s, he was the heartless boss from hell.  I guess you could chalk that up to youthful immaturity but when the precariousness of his position at Apple hit him, he got a sense of how companies would work in the future.  John Sculley, the president Jobs hired to run Apple, was a marketing guy.  He didn’t understand the product he was manufacturing.  He wanted to spin off the creative part of Apple to a unit called Apple Labs, that would be run by Jobs.  It was a way to get rid of Jobs and his loyal creative types who wanted to act like pirates.  Sculley wanted employees to put Apple, the company, first.  People like Jobs wanted to put the product first.  It’s too bad that he acted like such an obnoxious, insulting immature brat because Jobs was right.  Most companies have followed the Sculley route.  They put sales and marketing and making money first.  And that’s what companies are for, to make money.  You’d have to be stupid if you had any altruistic aspirations for having a company.  But what marketing people fail to see is that without a product, you have nothing to sell.  If you short your R&D division, you’ll be cutting your own throat. It won’t happen overnight but it will happen.  And then you’ll be busily eating your seed corn to make those quarterly earnings, like Merck, Pfizer, Novartis, Amgen…  After Jobs grew up a bit and came back to Apple, he put the focus back on innovative products and now, the company is the most profitable in the world.

So what does this have to do with Ackroyd’s piece?  Well, if pharma is any indication of what is really going on, globalization is a fad.  That’s what the business people do.  They chase fads and trends.  They rarely follow up on their initial enthusiasm to see if the fads actually add to their bottom lines.  It’s the initial savings that they care about because that’s immediate, it’s quarterly and they think better in 3 month increments.  Pharma went through a period of mergers and acquisitions that did nothing for research and only enriched executives’ pockets.  But there have been other fads, like combinatorial chemistry, proteomics, siRNA, and genomics.  None of them turned out to be the panacea the Sculley class was looking for because the nature of biology is such that these technologies were just tools that we used to dig up more problems to solve.  They were never intended to be solutions all by themselves.  The newest fad is to relocate all of research (or what is left) in the bay areas, Cambridge,MA and San Francisco and San Diego, CA.  Presumably, the smartest people in the world graduate from MIT and Harvard and Stanford and UCSD.  That may be true.  But it may also be the case that only the wealthy and well connected can get into those schools anymore.  It also ignores the fact that for years, biomedical researchers came from all over the country, prestigious and unprestigious schools alike.  I’ve known excellent researchers who graduated from schools in Indiana, Colorado, New Jersey and Louisiana.  But this idea of educational exclusivity and capturing the elite is the new fad.  They will do the brain work and the hands on stuff will be carried out by a bunch of drones in China and India.  The corporate guys are marketing and sales and business school guys.  They think research and innovation can be broken down to a list of mind numbing chores and “just in time” off the shelf solutions while the “better people”, people like them in their social class, are graduating from ivy league schools and those people have the natural talent to manage the innovation process.  The corporation will take the profits gained by outsourcing.

And they are following this course of action and business not because it is good for the companies they serve but because they can.  The rules don’t apply to them anymore.  I’m not sure the goal was always globalization but now that there’s nothing to stop them, that’s what they’re going to do even if it ruins the product line.  The Sculleys of this world do not understand what motivates people who do research and who are inspired to innovate.  Here’s a clue: the most profitable product line of the world was designed by a college drop out and his rag tag bunch of unorthodox pirates who were left to their own devices.

So, Jay, I wouldn’t worry too much about the desire to globalize.  At some point, the grasshoppers will stop eating their seed corn because there will be nothing left, the big corporations you hate will find themselves smaller and their research divisions located in Western Europe and the fascination for the elite universities will be tempered by the reality that real innovation takes time and dedication and getting the right people *together* in one place.  At some point, the researchers in China and India will get fed up with studying hard for years only to be treated like cheap assembly line workers by the Sculley class.  It would also help if lefties took some time to understand pharma so they would stop contributing to the demise of biomedical research through bone headed ignorance.  But that’s another post.  Yeah, it may mean that the innovation infrastructure of the US is decimated.  But I wouldn’t be looking for meaning in any of this.  Think of it like water flowing in the path of least resistance.  There’s nothing intelligent about this, as in sentient beings planning to gut their product lines for the sake of a quick buck.  There’s no giant conspiracy to globalize.  It’s happening because we allowed it to happen.

When we block the path to a quick buck at the middle class’ expense, it will stop.  And we know this is possible because there are countries where the government has protected their innovative infrastructure.  When the dust settles and the corporations come to their senses, it will be the middle class in places like Germany and France who will be able to carry on.  If we want to be one of those countries, we have to decide that we want to reimpose the rules.  There’s no need to over analyze.  But I would like to point out that saving innovation here does not mean that we as a country will not be taking advantage of cheap labor elsewhere.  As Nucky Thompson says, “We all need to decide how much sin we can live with.”

In other news, if the election were held today, guess which politician would have the best chance of beating the Republicans?  It’s Hillary.  Yep, sorry lefties who hate Hillary, in a recent Time Magazine poll she beats the Republicans by larger margins than Obama does and she’s not even in the race (yet):

A national poll conducted for TIME on Oct. 9 and 10 found that if Clinton were the Democratic nominee for President in 2012, she would best Mitt Romney 55% to 38%, Rick Perry 58% to 32% and Herman Cain 56% to 34% among likely voters in a general election. The same poll found that President Obama would edge Romney by just 46% to 43%, Perry by 50% to 38% and Cain by 49% to 37% among likely voters.

Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2011/10/27/hillary-clinton-and-the-limits-of-power/#ixzz1cBO8BDMj

It always amuses me when the left starts to hyperventilate about the prospect of a Republican president next year and how evil that would be.  But when you give them a perfectly acceptable alternative of someone with a lot of experience, who is excelling in foreign policy, runs a global executive branch and has been able to stay away from domestic issues to emerge fresh as a rose, while being widely admired by world leaders and voters of both parties, they flinch when it turns out to be Hillary.  Apparently, they are MORE afraid of Hillary Clinton in the White House than Mitt Romney or Herman Cain or, gawd help us, Governor Rick “Good Hair” Perry.

No?  That’s not how it is?  There’s something I’m missing?  Oh, her Iraq War Resolution vote.  Yeah, she single handedly brought on the Iraq War.  Of all 99 senators who voted for that POS in 2003, HER vote counted more than anyone elses.  It was even more powerful than John Edwards’ IRW vote.  It had to be because the left was perfectly happy to forgive and forget that reckless phony.

I can just see them gearing up to spew some anti Hillary hatespiel.  No, no, save your breath.  No one cares what you think of Hillary anymore.  Your opinions are not more important than the rest of the electorate.  She should have her opportunity because the Democrats don’t really have anyone better, not even Obama.  No one is entitled to a second term.

But if you get stuck with a Republican in November 2012, you have no one to blame but yourselves.  Hillary wins over all of them, you passed anyway.

Monday: Things that make you go, “Huh?”

Did someone declare Opposite Day and forget to tell me? Up is down, white is black, Fox is “fair and balanced”? This new reality may not last as long as it will take to wrap my brain around it. So, let’s study the entrails carefully to see what they portend:

  • In Faltering Economy Plays to a Clinton Strength, NYTimes reporter Jody Kantor describes Hillary Clinton’s stump speech on the economy in Indiana as being delivered with “sensuous detail”. Large throngs of voters are showing up for her appearances. Some are staring longingly into her eyes and mouthing secret messages? Where is the NYTimes reporter and what have you done with her, Jodi? Someone’s been up staying up late and reading too many policy papers. Either that or Hillary is really letting her hair down. Like, someone in the campaign took a look at the latest polls and said, “You know, your numbers go up when you’re flirtatious. Try doing something erotic on the globalization front.” Jeez and I thought it was only us geeks who got off on that stuff. But seriously, it’s a good read about Hillary’s thoughts on outsourcing and her vision of the green economy. She’s tapping into something. Very encouraging.
  • Sugar ‘n Spice ventured to the dark side to catch Obama on Fox News Sunday and found- that she liked it? Bill Kristol said nice things about Hillary? Wha’?:

    KRISTOL: He’s ahead. Primary voters usually like to finish the deal and sort of go with the winner. He outspend her 2.5 to one in Pennsylvania, and she beat him by 10 points. She is a better candidate than he is. That is the fact.

    He has run a better campaign than she has. He has won the caucus states. She has gotten more votes in primaries than he has. When voters actually go to the polls, for all the talk about Obama’s bringing out unprecedented new voters, blah, blah, blah, she beats him. She’s better than he is.

    Just go read it. Bill Kristol becomes a Sensitive New Age Guy. It’s not real. It’s almost like… journalism. Weird. Update: MABlue pointed me to this new column by Bill Kristol in the NYTimes Op section today called “Hillary Gets No Respect”. I’m feeling vertigo. Kristol is a sadist for upsetting my equilibrium like this. It’s either that or Republicans really hate McCain.

  • Barack Obama says that race is not a factor in US elections. Whew! That’s a relief. I guess I can put away my white sheets and hood. Did Obama tell the 90% of the African-American population that they can stop getting incensed over every little thing that a Clinton person says, ‘cos I’m not sure they got that message last week in PA or this week in NC. But anyway, it’s great to see that we can move past race for the rest of the year. I thought I was over it since, oh, I don’t know, kindergarten? (Wait, I didn’t go to Kindergarten. That probably explains my initial confusion) What a shock it was for me to find out that I an a latent racist because I didn’t think Obama was ready to be president. Learn something new everyday. Well, thank God I have been rehabilitated in time for November.
  • Oh, wait, Donna Brazile says “There will be blood” if the African-American population doesn’t get Obama as its nominee. As if all of the regular, hard working, professional and working stiff African-Americans have time to start a revolution and torch the place if a neophyte, pandering, first term senator from Illinois who plans to sell them out if he wins doesn’t get to be the BMOC in August and some more deserving, harder working, concerned for their well being, more qualified female senator does. Like they don’t have better things to do with their time like most average Americans and are all just chomping at the bit to throw away decades of progress because Donna Brazile thinks they should be enraged. Yep, Donna is still an idiot. All’s right with the world.

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