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    • Trump/Clinton Debate Open Thread
      I used to get paid to watch these things. I don’t any more.  So… I’m going to go read a nice novel in a coffee shop.  Please feel free to talk about the debate in comments.  I will, actually, be curious to hear what people have to say, just not willing to sit thru so […]
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“Journalists” still doing it wrong

Some notes on the past 24 hours:

1.)Hillary got woozy and had to get dragged into a van. Later, we find out she has walking pneumonia. This is not a health emergency. It happens to many human beings. This may come as a shock but Hillary is human. She will recover from this. She can still do stuff from the comfort of her own bedroom while she’s resting. Maybe she can do a google + livestream AMA session. She could give a presser. Every. Single. Day. In her driveway. It’s not the end of the campaign. She just needs to “modify her schedule”.

2.)OMG, She did not notify the press the very nanosecond she was told she has pneumonia. That just goes to show how secretive she is. American journalist really need to be taught what confirmation bias is all about. But I digress.

What would they have said if she hadn’t shown up for that 9/11 ceremony? No, seriously, what would the front page look like if they had known she had pneumonia and decided to skip it? You know bloody well what they would have said. They would have said she was physically unfit to attend to her duties as president. Then they would have had a meltdown over the MEANING OF THAT DAY and how she was minimizing it.

3.)Journalists are never going to know everything about every candidate all of the time unless a cameraman follows her 24/7 even into the shower. Come on, people. This isn’t 1984.

4.) They are completely ignoring the real problem. If journalists knew that a giant cyclone was bearing down on DC with 350 mph winds and 20 inches of rain in an hour causing massive destruction and loss of life, would you expect them to report “partly cloudy and humid with windy conditions”? Of course you wouldn’t. You’d expect them to keep an eye on that weather system and update vulnerable citizens so they could prepare or get out of the way. You wouldn’t expect them to give it the same level of importance as the unexpected thunderstorm followed by a rainbow.

That’s why many people yesterday reported that they would rather vote for an unconscious Clinton over a conscious but personality disorder challenged Trump.

The goal is not neutrality. The goal is to report the news even if it means you have to warn people that some people are bad- because they are.

Stop demanding. Start reporting.

Things people should stop saying

1.) This is Hillary’s coronation: Um, no, this is the payoff for the hard work she put in to not one, but TWO grueling primaries. Plus, she’s not exactly new to the world of politics or work in general, considering that she is a lawyer, former first lady of Arkansas, former first lady of the United States, a US senator (elected twice) and a former Secretary of State. She was overqualified when she ran in 2008. This coronation thing is deeply offensive to millions of women who recognize her accomplishments and expect that she will get credit for them. No one has worked harder or longer for a nomination. Queens are merely born to their throne.

2.) Hillary isn’t likeable. Millions of primary voters who gave her the win would disagree. You can’t argue with the numbers.

3.) Bernie can convince the superdelegates that he’s the better candidate. Even if he could do this, which he can’t, what about the rest of us? You know, the people who voted for his opponent? Don’t we count? Isn’t Bernie worried that to overturn the outcome of this endless primary process would alienate the rest of us? Or is the thought that once again, we can’t be trusted to make up our own feeble minds and so a bunch of lefties who know better than us will unburden us from the hard decision making process. I think someone needs to have a talk with Bernie and his people to tell them to knock it off. No one is going to put up with that now.

4.) Neoliberal, corporatist, criminal, liar. You know, I never liked Obama but the best I could come up with was that he reminded me of a corporate ladder climbing shmoozer. In any case, the labels of corporatist and neoliberal don’t really have any meaning without context.Neoliberal compared to who? Corporatist in terms of what? I think drug discovery is more efficiently carried out in a medium sized corporate lab for an economy of scale and better collaboration. Does that make me a corporatist? If Hillary took a corporation’s campaign funds, like she takes everyone’s campaign funds, but didn’t favor them in legislation, does that make her corrupt?

Can we please stop demonizing Hillary Clinton? She’s just a human being. The sooner the losing side comes to grips with this fact, the sooner we can get on with it.

 

I’ve just gotta get a message to you…

Back in 2008, we were on Hillary’s radar. This year? Ehhh, not so much. That could be because of many different things, mostly because it’s 2016 and not 2008. Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems to me like Hillary has taken a step back from really, I don’t know, campaigning. This time around, someone has convinced her that she needs to be data driven, reach out to millenials and embrace Obama like there’s no tomorrow.

And I think that’s why the race is so close in Iowa.

Note that she was similarly cautious in early 2008 as well. Remember all the crap we heard on DailyKos about Mark Penn? But then the party decided to take the money and turned on her and she got to work actually appealing to people.

I’ve made no secret about my lack of enthusiasm for Obama but I will let someone else make my case for why should reconsider her strategy of clinging to him:

 

or maybe this person can do it:

“Elizabeth Warren Indicts Shockingly Weak Enforcement” with respect to the finance industry.

Or go to any NYTimes piece on the cost of health care in America that wasn’t solved by the ACA, like Even Insured Can Face Crushing Medical Debt.  One thing you can say for the Republicans, they’re like attack dogs on something when they’re aroused. Democrats seem to think that because people with preconditions and children are covered by the ACA, the rest of the losers in the Healthcare coverage olympics should shut the F^&* up about whether we’ll lose our shirts if we are inconveniently sick. That debate is so five minutes ago. It’s settled. Democrats think it was a bloody debate that the whole country was engaged in when, really, no one we know had anything to say in the matter. But, whatever, it’s over, for them. Let’s move on.

The problem is, in the last 8 years, the country has changed so radically that it’s hard not to get angry when you’ve been left out of the decision making process.

Who died and made them spokespersons of the gods who shredded our careers, decimated our retirement savings and created two classes of workers- those who were lucky to get employer based health benefits and those who have to pay those crazy deductibles out of vastly reduced salaries? If you haven’t been there, YOU’RE the one who should STFU.

On one of my recent posts about the fate of women over 50 who can’t get work, someone called the linked NYTimes article “clickbait”? Really?? Those of us who have been through it don’t think it’s trivial.

And then there are people who bogarted the message for the last 8 years and think everything is fine now, like the gay guy who cuts my hair who was all happy that now everyone is equal, isn’t it great? No, we are not all equal. What about the reproductive rights laws that are getting crushed in state after state? Seriously, I wanted to smack him except he had my hair in his hands. The fight for equality is not over just because you have marriage equality. NOW, it is your turn, LGBT people, to do what you can for women, who, just as our culture demands every time, patiently stepped aside and put your needs first. Pay it forward.

But I digress.

Or have I?

Have I mentioned race yet? No, I think that was my point. In none of the instances above has race been mentioned. Black lives do matter. But what has been done for the african american community in the last 8 years?  They’re still getting killed for no reason, have higher unemployment, are getting pushed out of neighborhoods by progress. I could go on and on because I see it everyday as I pass through some pretty sketchy neighborhoods on my way to work.

And to add insult to injury, we now have a bunch of smug silicon valley types proposing to give us a basic income that is devoid of any meaningful work. I could write a whole different post on how many of us have lost the jobs we loved and enjoyed that we will never get back not because they weren’t useful jobs or highly skilled but because some bunch of shareholders decided they needed better returns on their quarterlies. There will be diseases that won’t be cured because of that. Can a guaranteed basic income make up for that, Paul Graham? I guess Zika will be a good test case.

Anyway, this is all to say what I predicted a couple of years ago about Hillary running for president in 2016. Why would she want to do it? The country has changed so much and people are so angry that the person who captures the voters is going to have to have to be a force for a big change. No one wants another “Lifeguard in Chief”, as Stephen Colbert says for 4 to 8 more years. Ain’t no one got time or money for that anymore.

I saw Hillary campaigning her heart out in the last days of the primary season in 2008 but a campaign is not the same as actually governing and leading with vision. Is she a transformative politician? I don’t know.

I know that Trump would be a transformative politician but not in any good way. I see nothing good coming for women if Trump is elected. If he can get away with disrespectful behavior towards women during a campaign, then it will only encourage others to crack down even more on women’s rights after the election. Who will enforce current laws against discrimination? We can barely get Obama to take notice. Trump stands for power, wealth, men and, um, that’s about it. If you’re a dude and you have a good job that’s a one-off and you’re not an illegal alien, you’ll do great under Trump.

But a guy who has turned getting out from under bankruptcy smelling like a rose while leaving his workers high and dry into performance art does not meet my criteria for good presidential material. Plus, I think he’s a narcissist. It looks like he attracts other narcissists to his campaign. That right there is a bad thing, especially when the Republican party has spent the last 8 years making government ineffective. It’s one thing to hire a selfish, self-centered, unscrupulous, macho, physically repugnant guy (the sexiest thing in his pants is his wallet) to the oval office. It’s another thing to make it impossible for any good legislation to pass through Congress while he’s in office.

Bernie Sanders is a good guy and he’s at least trying to give the rest of us a voice. But where was he in 2012? Why no action when the finance industry buddies of the Oval Office put a screeching halt on any progress to help the middle class? Sure, the FiliBernie was awesome but why didn’t he run in 2012? For that matter, why didn’t Hillary run?

But I can see where the passion is coming from on the left. Finally, someone is making a stand for income inequality. He’s saying craaaazy things. They’re just so crazy that everyone likes to hear them. They’re the kind of crazy things that appealed to voters my uncle’s age before he and his age cohort was distracted by abortion, conformity, religion and fear. Everyone should have health care because the rest of the developed world has done it. How novel is that??  Some countries have single payer, some have nationalized, some work through private insurance. ALL of the successful ones have implemented price controls. Don’t tell me that it’s not politically possible.

Most of the Europe has college education at vastly reduced prices so that students don’t start their professional lives indentured. Don’t tell me that’s not politically possible.

We used to have decent pensions in this country so that people were not forced to put their life savings on the roulette wheel of a global casino like we currently do with 401Ks. Don’t tell me that a guaranteed pension is not politically possible.

That’s what the polls are telling Hillary right now. They are telling her to NOT tell US that what we want is not politically possible.

We have had 8 years of a very weak president whose administration seems to excel at one thing- convincing pundits and political party spokespeople to glorify his Lilliputian achievements. (Please, don’t even go there.) And the voters are told over and over again that if they aren’t sufficiently appreciative that their net worth and futures are significantly diminished, they’re racists. If they want anything for themselves other than endless more decades of sacrifice while finance types continue to harvest them, they’re told that it’s not politically possible. I have to wonder if David Brooks, our modern Wormtongue and master of learned helplessness and messaging is secretly in charge of Democratic Party strategy.

Yes, the electoral map is against us but what would happen if the party stopped saying “Elect us president even though there’s nothing we can do!”

That’s not the message voters want to hear. They want to hear that you’re going to try. They want to hear that you’ll go to the mat for them. They want to be assured in no uncertain terms that if they hand the reigns of power over to you and manage to give you the house and the senate too by some miracle, that you are not going squander another golden opportunity to fix it. If there is one genuine surprise this year, it’s that after many long years, it is finally safe and even good to call yourself a liberal Democrat. It would be a shame if the party failed to move on that.

So, Hillary, tell Robbie Mook and his data models to take a hike. I don’t want to be pressured to donate just because 3 other people in my neighborhood did it. (Stop sending those emails. They make me resentful and obstinate.) Besides, data models are like Palantiri that can lead you astray. You don’t know the end of the story yet so there is no need to lock yourself into a careful, professionally crafted campaign approach that is unresponsive to current opportunities and realities. Do not market to me. What is good for my cohort is good for the vast majority of Americans. There is no reason to data drive, divide and conquer. We need a restart button not principle components analysis.

I want to see you throw caution to the wind and send a message that is going to at least match Bernie’s that you are going to do something for us even if it looks like it’s not politically possible.

Dream the impossible dream, Hillary. Dream BIG.

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, Hillary Episode 1: Your biggest donors are hurting us

Google Pittsburgh in Bakery Square, East Liberty.

This is the first in a series as I try to catch Hillary up to what has happened in the last 7 years.

Back when she suspended her campaign in 2008, I thought her presidential hopes were finished. 2008 was her best year in terms of what she might have accomplished. After the financial collapse, there was an opportunity for a disciplined and knowledgeable president to force rehab on the malefactors of great wealth. Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, the malefactors recruited someone more pliable and easily dismissed. I’ll never forget the passages in Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men,  where he recounts the meetings Obama had with Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and Christy Romer. Obama would make an executive decision and Geithner would essentially blow him off and nothing would get done.

Anyway, what I could see happening after Obama won is that the bad deals on the financial clean-up and healthcare reform would get concretized. The changes to the workforce brought on by the massive layoffs and restructurings would lead to a different kind, but by no means better, kind of work environment for working people. And that’s pretty much what’s happened. Now, you could say that she’s working with what she’s got and I agree. In these circumstances, given what she’s got to work with, her policies are going to have to be more modest than the opportunities that might have presented themselves in 2008 would have created.

But if all you’re planning to do as president is tweak what is a sucky situation and slightly improve the status quo, then what’s the point of running? No, seriously. Wouldn’t that just make you Babysitter in Charge instead of a president? Oh, sure, Hillary would be a great babysitter, one of the best. No one is going to complain about her protecting us. By the way, that doesn’t mean she is a “hawk”, whatever that means. There are shades of gray. You don’t have to be one thing or the other. And she’ll probably be really good on infrastructure projects, especially broadband. That right there would be a not insignificant legacy. However, for working people who have been so busy trying to keep their heads above water that they are only now realizing how far out to see they have been dragged in terms of work security and income stability, that’s not going to be enough.

Hillary, you need to talk to your donors. Because right now, they can do whatever stupid shareholder value, McKinsey generated idea that pops into their heads and it’s going to hurt them. It is time that someone sat them down and told them that just because they are hiring people in India, or bugging out of NJ and we all need to adjust, doesn’t mean they’re going to save money in the end. In fact, they could be making their problems much, much worse.

Let’s take the latest examples of really stupid ideas in big pharma. It’s now more like, little disconnected, distributed pharma in a  very expensive part of the country. One of the latest Nature Alerts featured an article about the shortage of space in the Boston biotech belt and that the price of land in Cambridge Massachusetts is too expensive for new startups. In short, there’s very little land but big companies keep firing their R&D staff in Connecticut and New Jersey to relocate there. Now, the little start up companies to which we are all told we will find our pot of gold can no longer afford the cost of business there.

And we haven’t heard yet from the hapless souls who manage to get an invitation to work in Cambridge. Go read Derek Lowe’s comment sections on the latest relocation scheme to Cambridge of the virology division of BMS from Wallingford, CT. First, it should be noted that the business people are mostly keeping their jobs and relocating to a different site in CT. But by our calculations, the R&D staff is facing almost a 50% cut in personnel and the “lucky” ones will be relocated to… you guessed it. Cambridge. There’s a lot of anger and bitterness there. Housing prices are astronomical unless you live far from the city. If you live far from the city, your commute is long. Then there is the uprooting of families and finding new schools. Then, when they get there, there’s no guarantee that the job will be available for long. They will be expected to be ready to jump to a new job every couple of years.

And for what? What in God’s green earth would make all these companies decide that it HAS to be Cambridge or they aren’t truly living??

We have no f^&*ing idea.

Harvard is there and so is MIT. Ok, fine. But it’s not like there’s going to be a smorgasbord of people trading industry shattering techniques. Hell no. We all have secrecy agreements. You can’t just talk about what you’re doing over sushi with people from other companies or academic groups. Even 15 years ago the ACS meetings were becoming less and less useful and informative because presentations contained almost no relevant information, structures or data. It’s all protected by lawyers. So, the idea that Cambridge is some kind of hot bed of new open source learnings is just stupid. Do not let them tell you otherwise.

It’s not even like you even have to BE in Cambridge if by some weird chance you can actually share information. The internet makes location irrelevant. In fact, some of these companies farm out so much of their work to other companies that there’s no need for them to be in the same place geographically. Hey, if they want to break up their infinitely configurable corporate lab space and inefficiently run their research by having lab rats negotiate contracts with outside companies, complete with secrecy agreements so that they can become lightweight organizations free from the constraints of employees to whom they are obligated, let them do it and waste their money and talent. But in that case, they’d be saving a lot of money by relocating to Detroit.

And while we’re at it, why is it that the R&D people are the ones that have to make all the sacrifices? Why can’t an MBA who is after all just a bean counter live in a rust belt city? Aren’t they costing valuable office space for the shareholders if they’re located in Cambridge? I mean, if the almighty dollar is the reason why we are reconfiguring pharma, shouldn’t we eliminate the costs of things that don’t actually contribute to the discovery of drugs? If I were a shareholder, I’d want to know why the cubes have to be in an expensive high rise facing the Charles River. It’s not like an accountant or marketing person will have any reason to hob nob with the PhD superstars at Harvard so why are they there? Can’t we find plenty of English speaking MBAs in Hyderabad?

Speaking of rust belt cities, Pittsburgh, for example, offers a lot of culture and plenty of affordable housing for working people. We are not located in East Jabip, most people have all their teeth and this city has one of the most literate populations in the country thanks to Andrew Carnegie’s magnificent libraries. This is a great place to live and work with public transportation, a thriving university center with Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh at the center. There’s plenty to do here from an outdoor perspective and free jazz every Tuesday in Katz Plaza downtown. And we have internet. We even have our own Google headquarters. Why Cambridge? Or why not Cincinnati? I only ask.

But nooooo. They’re all going to squeeze themselves into a shoebox or run themselves off a cliff like lemmings. In the process, they’re uprooting a lot of scientists or just plain ruining their careers, and setting back drug discovery by decades. Somewhere on Derek’s comments section a commenter noted that drug discovery requires Leonardos not Mozarts. That’s because it takes a very long time to learn to be a drug hunter. There are software moguls who think they can speed it up by applying something like Agile principles and maybe they can have a minor effect on the middle layer of research. That is, the layer between routine analysis and project team level collaboration. There is a sweet spot consisting of protein groups and crystallography groups that might be amenable to that kind of intervention. But, in most cases, they’re already there. They’ve figured it out and work as a team and they don’t need no stinking software guy telling them how to do it.

The rest of the time, research just needs to grind through it, one cell assay at a time. It’s aggravating to the shareholders who have the attention span of a newt. Ok fine, Ditch the shareholders. No, seriously, they don’t seem to have any appreciation for this stuff. Outsourcing doesn’t make the process go faster, in fact it can cost money and time in the end. What looks like a sure fire way to cut costs and put money in the shareholders’ pockets just doesn’t in the end.

So, Hillary, the next time you meet with these guys, and they are almost always guys, ask them why they are doing what they’re doing. Does it really make sense from a business perspective? Is cutting R&D really the only thing these toadstools can think of doing to increase shareholder value? Aren’t there better ways to cut costs? Or is there a hierarchy of costs to cut that have nothing to do with actual productivity? Are these titans of industry deliberately overlooking the obvious in order to appeal to their MBA culture of smartness? What is the long term strategy or is there even a long term strategy? Is all this pain on the R&D side really necessary? And how does that result in new drugs? Is relocation to certain areas of the country really about costs and collaboration, or is it really about egos and classism? And ask to see the numbers. Tell them you’ll wait until they find them.

Someone needs to start asking these uncomfortable questions and getting straight answers. Because if you want to be the next president and champion for us, you’ve got to start getting the executive class to explain how their McKinsey generated restructurings actually work in the shareholders’ favor. I’m not seeing how it provides value over what we had when the industry was working through new technology but still producing blockbusters. Call me extremely skeptical.

Someone needs to start holding these people accountable for the havoc they are creating. If you’re not going to do it, don’t be surprised if the country doesn’t get all excited about your campaign. Do you really want to be another British Labour party politician?

Next week, does contracting everything out really work?

Presidential Campaign 2016 Kickoff: Ted Cruz, Hillary/Obama redux, notes on focus groups

Ahhh, campaign season. I guess we are officially in it now that Ted Cruz is going to announce. I don’t have much more to say about Cruz except that he is typical of his clan and will probably fluff the panties of the typical conformist, senior “I-got-mine-fend-for-yourself”, moralizing, judgmental, creationist conservative Fox News viewer. If there is anyone who has a different point of view, add it to the comments section.

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

Yesterday, commenter Perplexed left the kind of comment we have been dealing with for about seven years on his here blog. It was along the lines of blaming Bill Clinton for NAFTA (the deal was written by the time he took office. He tried unsuccessfully to get labor protections) and the financial catastrophe (for the record, the roll back of Glass Steagall was accomplished by an OVERWHELMING, veto proof majority in Congress. It was the Gramm-Leach bill, or something like that. Clinton couldn’t have stopped that train if he tried.). It is worth noting that Bill Clinton has said publicly that he regrets listening to some of his economic advisors. I’m guessing he particularly regrets the Summers and Geithner partnership that suppressed the warnings of Brooksley Born. I could go over other areas that I think the left protests too much in Bill Clinton’s record. He wasn’t perfect but he was the best president I have ever voted for and I don’t regret voting for him- twice.

But as for what happened in 2008 and why I think there WAS a difference between Hillary and Obama, I do have something to add. (By the way, I don’t buy the left’s facile excuses for why they preferred Obama over Clinton. These include, 1.) there was no difference between them 2.) We decided to let Obama go first and then Hillary and 3.) he ran an awesomer campaign. This is all bullshit. The real answer was Obama’s campaign donors offered the Democratic party more money for the following reasons.):

I think I understand your perplexity. Over the past 7 years, I’ve gone over this territory quite a number of times. I’m not going to go over it in detail today. But I do want to talk about something I think is the key to the whole Hillary/Obama mystery. There is genuine value in experience. A person who has spent a lot of time in government in various capacities has a lot of it. When we talk about the Clintons, we are talking about years of accumulated experience in many different areas and two major branches of government. We are talking about people who have done statewide politics and federal politics. They have foreign policy experience and legislative experience. Think of the first job you ever had. Now, think about all of the things you have learned since then. What you are today is a product of the opportunities you were presented, the risks you took, the envelopes you pushed. At one time, all these things were outside your comfort zone. But you either taught yourself on the job or you got an education or you learned from the experience of others. And with experience and accumulated knowledge and colleagues that you’ve known and worked with, comes power. For the Clintons, that power is substantial. They didn’t come into Washington knowing everything but they know quite a bit now.
Back in 2008, the financiers had a choice of two candidates to back. One had experience, a mentor, and a lot of mojo. That person would have known how to stand up for herself and which buttons to push, who to call and what to look for. She wouldn’t have been easy to control.
The other was a senator from Illinois with less than a single term to his name in Washington. He’d never worked on major legislation and all of the friends he had in Washington were bought for him.
If you were a big money entity and you saw a looming catastrophe coming at you and you wanted to make sure you controlled what happened to you, which one would you choose?

That’s it in a nutshell and something the right will ponder and roll around in its collective hive mind. That’s a pretty powerful motive to vote for someone. You could make a case that the political dwarfs that the right is planning to roll out won’t hold a candle to Hillary’s accomplishments and experience. Which brings me to my next point:

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

Notes on Focus Groups

If you are a writer or commenter on a political blog, your comments and writings will be mined for information about what makes you tick, the strength of your arguments and trigger words. The right does it and the left does it. They might even float someone over to ask a particular question in order to gather information. They will use this information to shape a narrative or crush your point of view. It happens.

This is all normal. Do not let it bother you.

It goes without saying that we do not disclose your email address or any other personal information to any entity. We’re not into that. We believe in privacy.

But don’t be surprised if you find that something you followed here or on another lefty or independent blog gets warped or exploited in ways you find unexpected. This is campaign season. It is what it is.

Other than that, feel free to contradict your own side. The left got pretty good at psychological manipulation in 2008. We like to poke holes in consensus reality. You’ll be safe here.

No need for apologetics

Oh, my!  Hillary has astounded the left blogosphere again.  She hasn’t backed off on her “war hawkishness” and for the first time in 6 years, she has actually defied the White House and admitted that their foreign policy was full of holes.  So, now all of the left’s assessment of her is proven true, TRUE, I say!  She would have taken us into a new war had she been president, she wouldn’t have stopped with earth, she would have declared it on the Martians and then where would we be?  I can almost see the caricature Hillarys filling the souvenir shelves in 2016, hair standing on end and eyes wild and terrifying like some older, plumper version of Galadriel on ring steroids.

Will you people get a grip?  You’re starting to remind me of the right.  Yeah, I went there.  Those people are black/white thinkers without nuance. The left’s absolutism when it comes to war and pacifism is starting to resemble that.  I’m not apologizing for Hillary.  You can go back to her senate days until the present and really read what she’s said to figure out where she stands.  She’s allowed to be wrong.  God knows, the left is extremely forgiving of other politicians who were much wronger than Hillary.  John Kerry and John Edwards were given free passes and they were clearly motivated by politics.  But she’s also allowed to be right and we have to look at the bigger picture of the globe and our unfortunate and damning dependence on oil to see what might be going on here.

In the last couple of weeks, I have wondered why it is that this region of the world is still so tribal, why authoritarian religion has such a grip on the inhabitants, why it hasn’t allowed them to evolve and who is behind all that religious hierarchy.  I mean, why is it concentrated so heavily in the area where oil is located and where there are global chokepoints to the flow of oil and other goods?  You’d think that living in such a strategic area of the world that these people would have a better standard of living than they do.  Why aren’t the best minds coming from the middle east?  Why are so many of them poor?  What is the connection of religion to power and which side is wielding it?  I’m sure there are papers on the subject. But it’s not my area and I’m dissatisfied and embarrassed by the shallowness of the discourse on the left when it comes to these questions.  All I ever hear is, “why are we there?”, “why are we spending money to bomb other countries?”, “when can we get out?”, “get out now!, Now!, Now!” and “See, that was a waste, they’re back to killing each other”.

Back in 2008, I tried to warn people over at DailyKos and here that getting out of Iraq wasn’t going to be easy and shouldn’t be rushed.  The Bushies went to Iraq to steal and experiment, and, in the course of that experimentation, trashed the place.  Pulling out was going to be destabilizing and we were probably going to have to stay longer whether we liked it or not.  And what happened?  The White House, ever in campaign mode, pulled out without stabilizing before the 2012 election and the place fell apart.  (See this Frontline episode on Losing Iraq.  The evidence damns the Bushies and the Obama administration.)

I keep coming back to responsibility.  We on the left seem to think that if we didn’t want a war and didn’t start one, we are not responsible for what happens when one happens despite our protests.  And that’s just not true.  Whether we like it or not, we will be forever associated with the other fellow bone headed, stupid, mean spirited Americans who were lead over a cliff by a bunch of greedy, selfish, destructive global “citizens”.  What you might consider “war hawkishness” might be responsibility to me.  And it sucks to be the more conscientious elder sibling.  It’s so much easier to take the easy way out and enjoy the credit, while it lasts, for making everyone happy temporarily by disassociating from the war as quickly, and as it turns out, as recklessly as possible.  But getting out quickly didn’t make things better, did it?  That high was timed to last a campaign season and very little thought was given to the morning after the party.

If anything, the Arab Spring, the collapse of Iraq and the civil war in Syria has confirmed my initial assessment of the two candidates in 2008.  Clinton was rehab and Obama was an enabler.

The latter won.

Addendum:  Some dirty hippies completely discredited themselves in the last couple of election cycles and need to take an old cold tater and wait.

 

The Desolations of Smaugs

Gotta make this quick so I can bop down to the farmers’ market in East Liberty.

Here are two posts that belong together.  The first is about the crazy amount of money that the wealthy are just sitting on and not investing.  In The World’s Richest People are Sitting on Gigantic Piles of Cash that aren’t Earning them Anything, we get confirmation of what we have suspected for some time, that is, rich people are hoarding money.  But the reason they are hoarding makes no damn sense.  Apparently, the wealthy are waiting for a market correction before they dive back in to investing and since that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon, they’re going to sit on the cash.  Now, I can understand that feeling if you’re a poor schlub like me, hoarding the miserable little bit of IRA you have left after several years of employment insecurity.  It makes less sense if you’re a plutocrat with more money than god.

Hmmm, maybe we should be wondering why the wealthy think there is going to be a pullback.

The second is about the consequences of hoarding all that money.  When the shareholders demand more money and less investment, companies tend to shutter their facilities.  Recently, Hoffman-LaRoche in Nutley, NJ closed it’s doors and is preparing to dismantle the site.  When I was a young chemist a long, long time ago, I visited the Nutley campus.  Like many research facilities, it was more like a small town with a gatehouse and a shuttle that delivered the visitor to her destination.  Now that Roche has decided to stop doing research in the US because shareholder value (and Americans are notoriously easy to lay off since they have virtually no labor protections whatsoever), the Nutley facility is about to undergo a radical transformation.  If it is anything like my facility where the rent the company was demanding from small startups was prohibitively high, they probably won’t get many takers.

In other words, if some of the scientists they laid off decided to get together and try to operate one of the buildings as a small incubator, they wouldn’t be able to afford it.  And these days, vulture capitalists want a lot of the research done up front so they don’t actually have to risk any money at all.  That makes research on small scale even more difficult to finance.  Rent, reagents and researchers are expensive.  So, if Roche can’t get any takers to rent its empty labs, it may go the route of some of the other companies in similar circumstances and demolish perfectly serviceable, and in some cases, brand new research buildings, rather than keep them on the books.

Lovely.

One final thing, Hillary Clinton gave an interview to Terry Gross, former Obama fangirl extraordinaire, the other day.  It got a little testy about half way through when Gross started pushing her on same-sex marriage.  Hillary talks primarily about her four years as SOS and seems to think that Edward Snowden had other options to spill the beans.  I’d have to differ with her there though.  Snowden had superuser privileges.  Anything he revealed while he was still in the US would trace right back to him very quickly.  You don’t give su privileges to many people, or at least I don’t think the NSA and its contractors would.  I could be wrong about that.  It seems a little sloppy to allow one person to download massive amounts of information and have no one notice.

Given the reaction of the Obama administration to leakers, I think Snowden did the only thing he could have done and I’m not unhappy that he did it.  I meet people everyday who are pretty non-political who are keenly aware of what Snowden revealed and they are not happy to know that the government has so much information on them.  Until Snowden, the conversation about spying on Americans was tepid at best.  Hillary should know by now that timing is everything.  Snowden forced door open and let the sunshine in a lot more quickly than some politicians might have found convenient but he sure did get their attention, didn’t he?  No putting the genie back in the bottle now or slowing that genie down now.

Ok, enough with the foreign policy stuff.  What about domestic issues?  I want to hear about that now.  No time like the present.  Let’s not put it off any longer.