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    • On Wikileaks Actions In This Election
      The last post, a guest post by Mandos, on Wikileaks releases concerning Clinton, has spawned a lot of controversy in comments. All of which we both expected. So here’s my quick take on Wikileaks. First, Wikileaks failure at redaction in Turkey was bad. Really bad. I am not going to defend Wikileaks on releasing almost […]
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The Republicans “Oh S^&*!” Moment

oh_ebd37d_221443I suspect it came on Tuesday when they realized they would have to run with The Donald they had.

They bet the whole enchilada on Hillary getting indicted. This apparent truth absolutely floors me but they seem to have talked themselves into it. How could they lose? After all, Jim Comey is one of their guys: lifelong, conservative, hard-ass Republican. Remember how he and John Ashcroft were buddies?BUT, as we have seen before, Comey has a conscience. Not much of one. It struggles under the weight of so much indoctrination from his party. Nevertheless, it surfaced at his press conference on Tuesday, buried underneath all that robotic recitation from Newt Gingrich’s “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control”, the primer that juvenile Republicans cut their teeth on.

Comey is … an apostate.


They just could not believe that he wasn’t going to step forward and save them from the spectacle of Hillary Clinton talking about policy and issues with Donald Trump during debates this fall. She’s not supposed to be there. Bernie is, or someone else that hasn’t been sufficiently vetted by the Democrats.

Here they were, having blown off their own primaries, confident that Comey was going to disqualify Hillary from running for president. Then they’d be home free, baby! It wouldn’t matter who their nominee was. The Democrats would be a broken party with a power vacuum at the top, babbling incoherently on CNN about climate change or something. Gowdy had to conclude the Benghazi fiasco last week, having found nothing but a series of unfortunate events. But the emails were going to finally nail Hillary FOR-EVER. Bwahahahahahhhhhhhh!

And it didn’t happen. Did they hear Comey right? Did he say no charges? No reasonable prosecutor would indict?

What about an UNreasonable prosecutor? Can we get one of those?

Turns out this is not possible.

You know, this batch of Republicans aren’t too bright. They’re not like the 90’s era Republicans who made House of Cards look like hopscotch. They haven’t got the media savvy of the Bushies who manipulated the American public into endless war and came up with such jolly and memorable slogans as “Cut and Run” and “Freedom Fries”.

OMG, this fall is going to be so ugly. They are going to get slaughtered at the polls.


Gunfight at the Cleveland Corral

ok-corralIt just keeps getting better on the right side of the aisle. Digby posted about a request from 2nd Amendment group that wants attendees to the Republican convention to be able to carry guns.

You would think that the Quicken Loans Arena’s refusal to allow guns on the premises would be in compliance with the concept of presidential candidates requiring Secret Service protection. Think Robert Kennedy. But that’s not the way these people see it. They see it as a violation of their constitutional rights.

You know what? I think they should be able to do it. Yeah, why not? At least for one night before the roll call vote when all of the candidates are out of the room, let’s just let everyone bring their guns and settle it. We’ll lock them all in and let the debate begin. Whoever has the most delegates standing at dawn the next day wins the nomination.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, The Donald and sad face Cruz are about to go mano a mano over their wives. Someone posted one of many of Melania Trump’s scantily clad modeling poses and Trump insulted Cruz’s wife Heidi, who is no model.

And this is supposed to make us believe that Trump is the worst misogynist in the world. Really? Worse than Cruz who purports to love strong women? Ted Cruz’s evangelical base has no respect for strong women. Women were born to be helpers to men and to defer to them in all things in Cruz world. So, you know, save your breath, Ted. We’ve seen what nearly forty years of Republican “family values” have done for women.

If Ted gets the nomination, he and his fanbase will be all over Hillary the Strong, tearing her down any way they can. Butcha know, the voting booth is a private place, and provided women can actually circumvent the regressive voting restrictions designed to keep them out, they can even the playing field this November. Think about that, Ted. We’re the majority of the population. That’s potentially a much bigger cohort of disaffected voters for 2016 than in 2008. Even Heidi might come over to the dark side. Ted will never know. Bwahahahahahahhhhhhh!

As for The Donald, his stupid comb over and self-tanner accidents, we can only come to one conclusion when we see beautiful, smart Melania Trump by his side:

The sexiest thing in Donald Trump’s pants is his wallet.

I keep thinking the Republicans can’t continue to parody themselves without truly endangering their party’s viability but I seem to underestimate their constituents’ tolerance of more and more crazy.

Are we watching the death of the Republican party or will they manage to pull themselves out of this at the last moment? Have them finally mutated one too many times?

And if it does fall apart, what will rise to take its place? Who will the Koch’s throw all their money to? My best guess is that they’ll continue to support down ticket Republicans. But does The Donald have the power to take them all down?

Oh, Please! PLEASE!, carry guns to your convention.


Citizens United, Undue Influence, The BITE Model

This has been a surprisingly difficult post to write. I attribute this partially to what I am doing at work, which consists of speed learning. Not that I’m complaining (as long as my contract keeps getting renewed) but my mind has been busy retraining some circuitry and that means some other stuff has to join the queue.

The other reason it has been difficult is because I can’t believe no one has covered this territory before. If could be that others’ have but I don’t have the time right now to put in a lot of research as to how much it has been fleshed out. I know that some Twitter people have been busily picking up on the language and words used to describe the candidates. It’s good to see they’re being proactive but it’s probably not enough. So, I’ve had a difficult time figuring out how to jump into this topic.

And then there is the left blogosphere that seems to be dragging itself into the Hillary Clinton camp somewhat reluctantly. Sometimes, I see the briefest flashes of “snapping” out of their eight year self-imposed trance but I can’t tell if this is due to genuine insight or whether there are marching orders from party leadership or a little bit of both. Having read David Brock’s book Blinded by the Right, it’s my guess that the Media Matters people and affiliated blogs are more aware, to one degree or another, of the concept of undue influence, regardless of how much smoke got in their eyes in 2008. I can read between the lines in some blog posts. There is groupthink to some degree but there is also an underlying independence of thought that I think needs to be encouraged. In any case, there are some signs that the snapping might be real because connections have been made.

So, why am I grouping “Citizens United”, “Undue Influence” and “The BITE Model”? Let me tell you a little story about a conversation I recently had with a relative. I really like this person. He’s a senior but he’s interesting, smart and a little bit weird. But I can also tell where he gets his news. So, we were talking about health care and I mentioned that I don’t really have insurance. Oh, I have something that barely meets the requirements of the ACA but it’s not really insurance. And he says indignantly, “Why don’t we have insurance like they have in England where everyone is covered?!! That would be so much better than Obamacare.”

This was interesting to me because that sentiment should set off alarm bells in the right wing media empire. That is definitely NOT what they want their voter base to be thinking about. Because, what would happen if there was a politician who would somehow figure out a way to show these voters that getting what they want is not an impossibility after all?

I pointed out to my relative that in the US, we have several kinds of alternate health care models to choose from that match what he wants. Medicare and Tricare popped immediately to mind. He thought it would be great if we could all have Medicare but politically, it could never get passed. (BTW, I’m not advocating any particular model without cost controls on hospitals and providers. That’s probably the real impediment.) So, I pointed out to him that we would probably not get a real affordable health care system as long as Republicans were in charge.

His immediate response was: “All politicians are alike. It doesn’t matter what party they belong to.”

That, my friends, is a thought stopping idea and it was planted there by someone who has undue influence on a whole bunch of voters. The reason why I know this is that it was so quick. He may have a point in that Democrats hide behind Republicans in order to not offend their donors but I don’t think his thought process on the political reality was that well developed. I suspect he’s been trained to respond to the trigger about Republicans. Because you can bring up any subject and the minute you say “Republicans don’t like the idea you like”, the “All politicians and parties are the same” sentence flies out of their mouths without thinking. Republicans are going to be able to use that trigger in the upcoming election cycle. Anybody else is going to have to think of a way to get around it. And that’s going to be a problem because Citizens United has made it much easier for people with money to buy the means to apply undue influence.

“Duh”, you say, “Tell me something I didn’t know”. Ok, here’s where the connections are not being made: that money is being very effectively used to buy undue influence in a way you might not have considered before.

You may be wondering what I mean by undue influence. Undue influence originates from the law and since I am not a lawyer, I’m not going to discuss what that means exactly. The easiest way to understand it is to think about how elderly, possibly infirm people might be manipulated by their caretakers to sign over their estates. But the term is now being applied to mind control and can refer to any person or group, religion, political party that has the ability to influence others. Check out this video on Undue Influence 101 from Steve Hassan’s site Freedom of Mind to get a better understanding of what undue influence is.

What the Citizens United ruling did was allow a flood of money to infiltrate media and PACs. If you have the money, you now control the microphone. And if you control the microphone, your information is going to be able to influence the thoughts and emotions of your target audience. And once you are able to control their thoughts and emotions, you can control their behavior. There are many methods of carrying information. The obvious ones are TV, radio and newspapers. These are the primary sources of information for seniors. But more of them are now using Facebook (God knows why, I hate that thing). The more ways that money can control the means of disseminating information, the more thoughts and emotions can be influenced, the more behavior can be controlled. And now, the right wing controls almost all of the relevant information resources.

This is what is involved in the BITE model shown below:

Again, you may be saying to yourself that this is not new information. You already saw the correlation years ago or you’re starting to really get annoyed by it now because you’re finally starting to see what the New York Times has been up to with regard to covering presidential candidates.

But you would be missing the big picture. The big picture is that this is the way cults indoctrinate their devotees. These people do not know that they’ve been indoctrinated. They don’t know that they’ve had thought stopping ideas implanted in them. They don’t know that their fears of death, hell, abandonment, shame or ostracism have been tinkered with. They don’t know that the outrage over the so-called “War on Christmas” serves a very useful purpose. They don’t know that David Brooks is a master at writing posts that enforce “learned helplessness”. They are totally oblivious to it. They’re walking around like a bunch of Moonies spewing crap about “parasites” and “slackers” and “government is bad” when deep down inside, there is a conscience that objects to injustice but keeps getting strangled by thought stoppers.

This is what our Supreme Court majority allowed when they ruled on Citizens United. These are five smart men (interesting how they are all men). It is incomprehensible to me that they didn’t know what they were doing when they made this ruling. I’m sure they knew EXACTLY what was going on, especially John Roberts. What they did was allow the cult-like indoctrination of an entire country by people who have a lot of money and can buy more and more microphones, infiltrating every bit of information that comes though every media source and the “friends” you accept on Facebook .

That’s my first attempt at showing why we can’t have nice things. I’m not letting Democrats off the hook on this. What happened in 2008 was unconscionable. I’m delighted to see some bloggers in consternation about how they are supposed to defend Hillary Clinton when they’re up against this incredible media resistance and how irritating it is that all these young Ivy League graduates are jumping to the head of the line in major media publications to plant nasty trigger words about Hillary in the minds of their readers. Ha! Just wait until those same reporters start writing about how all those bloggers have tired interfaces or are catering to their older, elite demographic or something to that effect. Suddenly, their pretty little posts will lose their freshness and relevance. It’s going to happen. You heard it here first. It won’t matter how intelligent or pithy you are.

The question is, what are you going to do about it?

There’s a tsunami of money headed your way.

Is that a promise or a threat?

From the NYTimes:

Republicans Say They’ll Act Fast to Push Their Agenda


Rise of the Nones (and other things Democrats should pay attention to but probably won’t)

David Campbell, Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, gave an interview to Mormon Stories just before the midterm elections. He discussed the rapidly rising number of people, especially Millenials, who chose to not have a religious identification. They’re called Nones. What’s surprising about the Nones is that they are responding to politics when they say they have no religious affiliation. Apparently, they are so disgusted by the religious right and its alliance with the Republican party, and its the socially backwards, environmentally unfriendly policies, that they would rather have no religion at all. In other words, religious Republicans are God’s worst PR nightmare. Well worth a listen. Check it out here.

Other things:

Maybe it’s not clear to the rest of the Democratic party but the primary focus of the Republican party is economic. They don’t like taxes, paying for education for the lower classes, or labor. That whole weekend thing ruined the last century for them. If Americans end up living like factory workers in Bangladesh, what’s that got to do with them?

Democrats are all about saving the planet and moving forward. But there is a rift in the Democratic party. It became painfully clear in 2008 when the party ditched its “old coalition” for the “creative class”. (New readers should go back to the beginning of this blog in January 2008 to see how this happened) Can I stop here and say that to the Masters of the Universe, the designations “old coalition” and “creative class” are meaningless? If you don’t have the money to go to Davos, you don’t count and neither does your Ivy League degree. Sooner or later, you will wear the livery.

So, anyway, I saw on the NYTimes where the Republicans are going to play up this rift. They are going to aggressively push for the Keystone Pipeline and the rollback of EPA regulations. I predict that the “creative class” is going to frrrrreeeeeaaaaak out. Cue the tearing of garments and gnashing of teeth.

Meanwhile, the “old coalition” is suffering from wage stagnation. And before the creative class loses interest in this issue, it should go read Derek Lowe’s blog In the Pipeline about what wages are like for the people who do the real creative innovation in the biotech industry. The finance industry (foolishly) thinks it can hire a bunch of newly minted Harvard post-docs and pay them well to do a bit of lab work before they are shunted into project management where they will direct a bunch of foreign CROs. For this, they will be paid handsomely- at about the same rate as the medicinal chemist with 20+ years of lab experience and an incalculable advantage in actually, you know, getting a project through the research phase. But I digress.

So, there is the rift. And Republicans are going to drive a truck right through it. The most vocal Democrats with the biggest mics are going to be screaming bloodily murder about the pipeline and ignore the wage slaves. That will play directly into Republicans’ hands.

Now, I’m not saying that the pipeline is not important and I am not a climate change denier but what Democrats really, really need are more people who identify with them and care about these issues. And the best way to get no pipeline and better environmental policy is to make sure that those people at the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs are satisfied to the level that they can focus on pipelines and climate change. They need to get their heads out of worrying about their paychecks before they can concentrate on the EPA. To do that, the Democrats have got temporarily put their screaming about the environment on hold and focus with laser like intensity on eroding labor standards, wage stagnation and an artificially created unemployment crisis where too many people are on the verge of losing their jobs all the time.

Can they do it? I am optimistic. Just repeat after me: “It’s the economy, Stupid”. Take the power to divide us away from Republicans. Do not stop until you win. THEN shut the pipeline down.

Scary things 2014

The Republicans have a stranglehold on the House, might take over the Senate and the only thing standing between them and our social security benefits is Barack Obama.

Cue the panicked screaming.

What’s even scarier is there are Fox News watchers who are so soaked in lies and delusion that they will have absolutely no idea what hit them until it’s too late.  A lot of very bad things could happen in two years.  On the other hand, maybe the Republicans have to have free reign so people can see what they’re really all about.  Telling people not to watch Fox doesn’t seem to be working.  It just might take some very, very tough love and a heavy dose of betrayal before they get it.  Of course, this might be the last time many people have an easy time voting.  Once they’re in power, it will be more difficult to dislodge them.  All bets are off for voting in 2016, especially for women.  Because if I were the Republican party, I’d busily get behind initiatives to make it much harder for women and poor people to vote.  I mean, harder than it is now.  Much harder.

The rest of us should assume the brace position.  

In which I differ with Derek Lowe over NIH funding

Typical private industry lab circa 2014

Derek Lowe, blogmaster over at In the Pipeline, took issue with NIH Director Frances Collins contention that if the NIH budget hadn’t been cut in the past decade, we might have had an ebola vaccine by now.  I remarked on the Vox article about this very same topic last week.  However, I’m siding with Collins on this topic.  True, he might be using the very scary disease of ebola to make his point but it is a valid one.

To get an idea of what the NIH has been up against, I recommend that readers review the congressional testimony on the ebola outbreak from last week.  I believe it was Anthony Fauci who laid out the problem.  It goes like this:

  1. The NIH identified the need for an ebola vaccine about a decade ago.
  2. (This is the crucial part) The NIH is engaged in basic research.  We are talking very, very basic research.  Like, identifying the genes and sequences and making them available to other researchers, or studying how the virus works and propagates, or figuring out which enzymes chop up the viral proteins, or how the viral proteins are exposed to the rest of the body.  That’s the kind of research the NIH does.  And sometimes, the research is so preliminary that there are mistakes that get published that industrial labs have to figure out when they try to replicate the results in the lab.  Not a criticism.  It happens.  You only have so much money to do the research and sometimes, it’s not enough to double check your results.  I get it.  But it does make it harder for your private industry partners to figure out what’s going on and sometimes means that projects need to take detours to unpack mechanisms and rerun assays and such.  In other words, REAL RESEARCH.  That’s just the way science works, much to the finance industry’s chagrin.
  3. So, the NIH tried to get a private industry partner to help finish the research on the vaccine and develop it.
  4. But during the same decade, private industry was going through a chaotic destructive process brought on by the “patent cliff”.  That is, the blockbuster drugs that fueled industry research suddenly went off patent.  In response, the shareholders who were not about to take a haircut just so some lab rats could continue to do research for them, decided to take the money and run.  That precipitated Pharmageddon, where I and my colleagues got tossed out of corporate labs by the hundreds of thousands.
  5. The NIH couldn’t find a private industry partner until the last couple of years when Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) decided it would take a risk and start working on one.
  6. In the meantime, in the last couple of years, the Republicans have lost their freaking minds over the budget and would rather let every government institution rot in hell before they would approve any funding.  This is about the same time we wrote a blank check to AIG, and other lords of the finance industry (see Neil Barofsky’s book).  Then the Democrats came up with this great idea of a sequester, you know, to call the Republicans bluff.  And the raving mob that calls itself the Republican party took the deal and slashed NIH funding by 20%.  The Democratic leadership that came up with the boneheaded, backfiring sequester idea should be kept away from sharp objects for their own safety.
  7. So, to recap: NIH needed a vaccine but couldn’t find a private partner for nearly a decade.  Private industry contracted at a time when additional research and development is crucial.  Regular NIH funding is not sufficient for it to develop a vaccine on its own.

This would probably be a good time to insert some Paul Krugmanesque graph that shows the equilibrium between private and public investment in scientific research.  This one should show that when private industry stopped funding research, the corresponding expected increase in public spending was notably absent.

Derek has a libertarian streak and works for one of the last small molecule drug discovery companies in Cambridge.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it does skew his perspective just a tad.  Not only that but Derek is operating in the old world order when we tested every therapeutic treatment to death.  That’s clearly not happening with the ebola treatments.  Those suckers have been fast tracked like nobody’s business.  We are treating ZMapp like it’s a cure for ebola when it’s nothing of the sort.  It’s just that it’s the only thing we’ve got.  ZMapp is so early in development that back in the old days of real drug discovery, it might have been killed in a project portfolio review before it ever made it to development.  And the vaccines?  Well, normally, they’d go through many stages of development and testing for safety, efficacy, and side effects with an expanding number of trial recipients at each stage before it was approved by the FDA.  Forget that.  In this epidemic in West Africa, with number of exposures increasing exponentially, no one has time for these niceties (though I can just see some lefties screaming about how we killed West Africans with an untested vaccine that triggered a cytokine storm or autoimmune disease.  Wait for it.  You know it’s going to happen.  There will probably be a movie about it featuring some ruggedly handsome Liam Neesom type and a earnestly beautiful lady scientist detective out to uncover the awful truth of corporate exploitation of poor third world citizens.).

The real world is not so simple but there definitely is money at the bottom of this mess.

I’ve worked on both sides of the problems in both industry and in academia, if only briefly.  But I got a good look at what it’s like to do research on NIH grant money and it’s not pretty.  Most of a principal investigator’s time is spent preparing grant applications.  It’s very bureaucratic and, I suspect, very political.  If there isn’t a retrospective analysis on the amount of grant money that goes to the Ivies that leave the rest of the academic labs starving for funds, there really should be.  Not every breakthrough has to happen at Harvard.  The polio vaccine, for example, was developed in Pittsburgh.  Oh, yeah, how many of you knew that Jonas Salk worked for the University of Pittsburgh? True story.

And yet, it was about a year ago that I got a call in my office at Pitt from a researcher in the immunology group who had just lost her job because of the sequester.  It was last year at about this time that we had to cut back sharply on ordering chemicals and lab supplies for my lab because grants were on hold, also due to the sequester.  Even today, I see positions at Pitt for the kind of work that I used to do but the hours are part time.  Really??  You expect scientists to do protein production, extraction and crystallization experiments on a part time basis?  That’s the craziest thing I have ever seen.  You can’t just interrupt an experiment half way through the week because you’ve run out of hours.  That makes me think that the people posting the positions aren’t serious about how many hours they expect the researcher to be available.  It’s deceptive and weird and unrealistic.  But that’s life on soft money.  Here today, gone the next.  Yet the cells still need to be fed, lysed, protein collected, spun, purified, etc, etc, etc.

Friends, Americans, countrypersons, this is no way to run a research infrastructure.  Ok, sure, it’s the way to run a research infrastructure if you don’t want to do it like Americans used to do it.  If you are content to run a research infrastructure like Bolivians do it, fine, do it this way.  But don’t complain later that nothing of significance happened on the science front from 2008 onward.  Don’t complain that the NIH is not telling the truth about funding.  It can’t be all things to all people without a steady funding mechanism that isn’t going to be subject to violent shocks brought on by crazy people who get elected to Congress.

Here’s the bottom line.  If liberals expect the NIH to do all of the things that they *think* it already does, it needs more funding.  It needs waaaaaaaay more funding than it already has.  It needs as much funding as private industry used to pump into its own research coffers but no longer does.  It needs billions and billions more.  It has to become what private industry used to be but no longer wants to be.

And if Republicans are committed to free enterprise at all costs, it’s going to have to get tough with private industry drug discovery and force it to take on research that it sees as unprofitable.  It needs to have a serious talk with the bonus class and shareholders about greed at the expense of public health.  Isn’t that what the GOP is all about?  Morality?

That’s just the honest truth.  The NIH is not private industry.  If we want the NIH to replace private industry, which has abandoned certain, critical research areas because it can’t make the kind of profits that shareholders demand nowadays, we need to put more money into the NIH and fund researchers properly and seriously.  That is the point that Frances Collins has been trying to make.

Liberals have a complete misunderstanding of what the NIH does or is capable of doing.  Libertarians have an inflated view of what private industry can do, sometimes because they are living in one of the last holdouts of productive private industry drug discovery (that could end at any time, so don’t get too comfy, Derek).  But once you have lived in both worlds, you can see what a shambles the whole system is.  It’s unsettling and alarming.