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      I want to revisit this. Obama was the last person who had a real chance to change and fix things. A crisis is an opportunity. FDR used the Great Depression to change America. Reagan used stagflation to change America. Bush used 9/11 to change America. Obama could have used the financial crisis to change America. […]
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Mitch McConnell opens his kimono

Sorry about that image so early in the morning. Let me pass you some brain bleach.

What I am referring to is the peek at the Republican agenda that McConnell revealed yesterday. Let’s take a look, shall we? This bit is from the Washington Post:

“You know, I think the gridlock is going to end,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said in an interview Wednesday. “Senator McConnell knows how to make the Senate work and I think he’ll make us a bigger party, a better party, by . . . crafting bipartisan legislation.”

No, Rand, the gridlock is going to end because Republicans no longer have any reason to say “NO, Non, Nein!” to absolutely everything proposed by the other side of the aisle.  Republicans had their chance to craft bipartisan legislation for 6 straight years. In fact, every day of the last 3 congressional sessions was a new day for Republicans to wake up in the morning and say to themselves, “It’s a new day.  There are millions of Americans in dire straits waiting for us to help them recover from the financial mess of 2008.  I’m going to do something different today!  I’m going to propose bipartisan legislation.” That’s certainly what all of the media pundits are going to pressure the Democrats to do. But Republicans did not set this example for the past six years. Nope, not a one of them. Instead, they shutdown the government precisely to avoid bipartisan legislation. So, Rand is lying. I know because his mouth is moving.

The New York Times reveals a little more:

HEALTH CARE It is a delicate topic, but top Republicans acknowledge they cannot repeal the Affordable Care Act, particularly with Mr. Obama able to veto any such effort. They will no doubt take some repeal votes, but their initial focus could be on smaller changes.

For instance, a medical device tax used to pay for the law is opposed by lawmakers from both parties who represent manufacturers, and a repeal of the tax could pass Congress. And another group of Republicans and Democrats has also called for returning the health law’s definition of full-time work to 40 hours from 30, arguing that the lower limit is forcing too many people out of work because of employers’ efforts to comply with the law. Mr. Boehner singled out that measure as one that he would like to see advance.

Returning the definition of a full timer to 40 hours is supposed to help??  How is that supposed to work, Mitch?  If you’re not going to fully rescind Obamacare, it’s only going to make the part-time work crisis more severe.  By the time, Mitch is through, no one will be eligible for benefits of any kind.  Yeah, that will make things better.

Back to WaPo:

For more ambitious legislation, senior Republicans are discussing a fast-track procedure known as “reconciliation,” which would permit them to push a measure through the Senate with just 51 votes. Among the targets under consideration: tax reform, cuts to Medicare benefits and an increase in the federal debt limit.

The argument that the Democrats always made about Obamacare is that it was better than a sharp stick in the eye. Now, we’re going to get a sharp stick in the eye. You people on Medicare shouldn’t get too comfy either. Mitch is planning to cut your benefits. Oh, yeah, we tried to tell you but would you listen?? No. So, now you’re about to find out that Republicans don’t really give a crap about your biblical morality. They want your money. Every penny of it. They are all about stripping government down to the studs and giving its profit making potential over to their friends who helped get them elected. Fox News is just a front, a club, if you will, for you retired people to hang out and get captured like flies in a spider web.

But you’ll see.

Republicans hate Social Security and Medicare with a white hot passion. Medicare was passed during the Johnson administration only by overwhelmingly voting in Democrats to Congress so as to reduce Republican opposition to insignificance. Social Security was also passed over their dead bodies back during the Depression. Now that they are in charge, and we have an weaker president than even I ever thought possible in the White House, Republicans are going to do all they can to make sure they stamp both programs out or cripple them so badly that they may become worthless. You may indeed be the last generation that benefits from all your hard work. But it is my generation, who paid *extra* taxes into the surplus fund so that we could retire, and have almost no other pension benefits, that will feel the most severe pain. Because Republicans are going to cut a deal with you to screw us over and we are going to watch as you hastily pull the ladder up in order to save your own skins.

We’ve seen what is underneath the Fox News lovers kimonos too. And it is not pretty.

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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.

Dems may be looking forward to this briar patch

Well, as long as politicians insist on playing games, Boehner and McConnell may have put themselves on the losing end of this one.  Kevin Drum lays out the details of “The Blink” in Mother Jones:

  1. Next month Obama would receive approval to raise the debt ceiling $700 billion.
  2. A “resolution of disapproval” would then be taken up by Congress on an expedited basis (i.e., no filibusters allowed).
  3. If the resolution passes, Obama can veto it.
  4. If he vetoes it, it requires a two-thirds vote of both houses to override.
  5. If there’s no override, the debt limit is increased, but Obama would be required to lay out a “hypothetical” set of budget cuts totalling $700 billion.
  6. This would be repeated (in $900 billion increments) in the fall of 2011 and summer of 2012.
Kevin is dismayed and disappointed at how juvenile this is.  But if I were Dems, I would head for the fainting couch, hysterically weeping at how awful the deal is but they’ll have to do it because they haven’t got a choice.  It’s either this or defaulting and sending the world into a steepest economic descent.
Then, let the Republicans tie everything up, 3 times in the next year.  Let all the legislation that should have been passed be eaten up with time wasting demogoguery on the House floor.  While the rest of the country waits for the Republicans to move on already and do something about unemployment or step aside forgawdssakes and let the Democrats do something about unemployment, we will watch a rerun of Newt Gingrich’s bone headed hostage crisis of 1996 and we’ll get to see it 3 times!
 If the Democrats are smart, and so far, they haven’t demonstrated a surplus of intelligence. they’d propose cuts to military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, or they’ll propose a Millionaire’s tax or they’ll let the Bush tax cuts expire on anyone making more than $250,ooo.  It would be the responsible thing to do when so many people are out of work and can’t afford to pay their piano teachers or their mortgages (or the piano teachers who can’t pay their mortgages).  Are the Republicans saying they want even MORE people to lose their houses while they tie the Congress up in knots and drag Obama kicking and screaming to their chambers to beg them to be reasonable?  Because, at this point in time, I’m not sure that’s a calculation the Republicans should think they will profit by.  Fox News doesn’t look quite as reliable as a propaganda organ as it did a few weeks ago. And many of us are ready to ditch Obama in 2012 anyway.  If the Republicans want to play Red Rover, we’ll send Obama over in a heartbeat.  I mean, if it’s going to be only marginally less bad with him there anyway, why not just bite the bullet and vote for a truly nutty Republican like Michelle Bachmann and go for a Democratic House?  You know, make Democrats play defense for a change.
And when you think about it, electing Bachmann could have some benefits.  For one thing, a woman on the ticket would be hard to resist.  Sure, she’s a conservative who is ready to kill the New Deal but, as it turns out, so was Obama.  Sure, she’s not a proponent of reproductive rights but Obama isn’t exactly a Sensitive New Age Guy.  (Quelle Surprise!)  Anyway, the sooner we get rid of Roe v. Wade, the sooner we can work on equal rights for women that would restore choice by default and who’s to say that Bachmann wouldn’t be on-board with that?  Think of how the feminist movement would be energized and let’s face it, it’s about as anemic as it comes right now.  Besides, for all we know she’s a secret liberal, she’s just playing a conservative to win.   I’ll bet she’s really a brilliant mathematical genius who can do differential calculus with a blindfold and without a calculator.  (See?  *We* can make nonsensical assertions as well as any Obot in 2008.)
Just a thought {{tongue firmly in cheek}} but think about it, ladies, it’s passed time for us to take the White House and if a historical barrier has to be broken with a conservative, so be it.  It’s not like the concept has never been tried before.  Otherwise, we may never see a female president in our lifetimes and I’m kind of sick of waiting, aren’t you?   We could have had a competent, experienced, DEMOCRATIC female president but that lovable but crrrrazy activist base of ours will have none of it, so, why not the next best thing?  If you’re hoping to hurry the governmental Armageddon that will bring on a millenium of earthly paradise, you can’t go wrong with an Evangelical Christian.
But I digress.
If I were Democrats, I’d jump on this once in a lifetime opportunity to let the Republicans hang themselves.  By the time the election rolls around, they’ll be thoroughly sick of the game and voters will remember the ordeal the pols put them through.
That’ll learn’em.
This one’s for you, John Boehner: