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Krugman and I differ on Obamacare

This is sad.  I really like Paul.  We agree on so many things.  He’s one of the few people who is getting a clue about the myth of structural unemployment.

But with Obamacare, he’s hopeless.

I think it has to do with his own social isolation.  He lives in Princeton surrounded by some of the most successful individuals in the world.  Of course, all around him is the detritus of 6 years of dismantling of the R&D industry.  He only has to cross Route 1 to visit the now shuttered lab where I worked for 15 years. Some of the smartest people I know are having a really hard time figuring out what just happened to them.  But it’s unlikely that Krugman knows many of them, or any of the less accomplished people I know.

Here’s the part of Paul’s latest Conscience of a Liberal post on Obamacare that I resent most:

The current state of public opinion on health reform is really peculiar. If you’ve been following the issue at all closely, you know that the Affordable Care Act is one of the great comeback stories of public policy: after a terrible start, it has dramatically exceeded expectations. But hardly anyone seems to know that.

It’s easy to understand how that happens for Fox-watchers and Rush-listeners, who are fed a steady diet of supposed Obamacare disaster stories.

Um, I HATE Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.  I consider them to be on the same par as pneumonic plague.  They spread misinformation quickly and the effect is always malignant.  I don’t watch cable news of any kind and I don’t listen to Rush.  So, where could I have possibly gotten the crazy idea that Obamacare is a disaster waiting to happen??

Maybe it’s from my own data and observations.  Maybe it’s because the plans are not so great for the price.  Maybe it’s because some of us could afford the lousy premiums if we could get a subsidy but our incomes are too low to qualify (could someone please explain how that even makes sense??).  Maybe it’s the persistent feeling that Obamacare is leading to a less secure job market.  Maybe it’s because for some of us, it’s a choice between cashing in some of our IRA and facing a steep tax penalty to pay for our premiums or being forced into Medicaid where the state may collect our estates from our heirs when we are dead.  There are a million reasons why Obamacare might not be working so well for the rest of us, 40 million approximately.  If Obamacare is only reaching 7 million new subscribers, doesn’t that leave most of the 47 million uninsured still uninsured?

Here’s my take on Obamacare: It’s full of poison pills.  There’s just enough in it to help people with pre-existing conditions and some self-employed people to thrill the cockles of the liberal’s heart.  For everyone else, cost controls are not in place, there are no mechanisms to force competing carriers in a local market to cooperate with each other leaving the unsuspecting facing steep out of network costs, the unemployed are still mostly not covered (and they can’t afford the premiums anyway without a subsidy) and to get any kind of public option, aka Medicaid, you have to give up nearly everything you own and have spent your whole life working for.

This is not a good plan, Paul.  Most people do not live in Princeton or NYC.  They live ordinary lives with ordinary wages and this plan seems to have bypassed many of them.  Obamacare was cobbled together by a chief executive who seemed to want to wag his penis around instead of actually pushing for a well crafted piece of legislation.  Then it was severely compromised by Congress, first by Republicans who are malignant narcissists and then by Democrats who repeatedly sold out their constituents in a desperate attempt to prop up a guy who was not ready to be president.  Why the push to ram this extremely flawed piece of legislation through so quickly?  Why was it more important to save Obama’s ass than to ask him to do a good job?  Why aren’t enough liberals asking those questions?

Don’t insult us, Paul, especially those of us who are die-hard liberals who find the right wing utterly repugnant.  It’s not going to make Obamacare better and won’t help the party.  It reminds me of the days when anyone who saw through Obama in 2008 was called a racist.  It’s not fair and it’s beneath you.

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Once upon a time…

Merck chemists go into exile

Once upon a time in New Jersey about 20 years ago, there was a company called Merck that everyone I knew wanted to work for.  The streets of Rahway were paved with gold.  We jokingly referred to our own company as a training facility for Merck and Bristol Myers.  The best of the best worked there for two years and then went to Merck.

At local conferences, the Merck people showed up in a pack, smug, condescending, and cast an otherworldly pool of light around them.  THEY wrote their own proprietary modeling software.  Even as late as two years ago, when Pharmageddon got its groove on, there was something magical about Merck people.  They were like fading elves.

Alas, all good fairy tales come to an end and so it was with Merck this week where the rumor is that medicinal chemistry, that is the research part that makes your drugs from scratch, oh best beloveds, has been decimated at Merck.  The rest of the story at Merck is unclear at this moment.  We’re still trying to piece together whether Merck is going to outsource their synthesis to poorly paid foreign PhDs or whether management, who hasn’t synthesized anything but performance standards and political fantasy baseball for years, is going to don their too tight lab coats and nitrile gloves and go back to the lab.  That should be interesting.

Once upon a time, the US had world class public research.  Then the big companies decided they didn’t want to do research anymore and they would pharm out their research to academic labs.  And they wrote policies about how this would be accomplished and the politicians said it was good because many of them didn’t know what the heck they were voting for.  And then the Republicans decided to “drown government in a bathtub” and because they are like Godzillas in Tokyo, they were pretty indiscriminate about what they were knocking down.  It turns out that the NIH keeps getting hit pretty hard and grants are harder and harder to come by with higher and higher bars to jump over and endless hours slaving over documents.  That time could be used to invent new techniques but research is very expensive and someone has to pay for it.  So the academic scientist spends much of his or her time begging to keep the reactions going and the lab rats paid.

Recently, during the government shutdown, Francis Collins, the head of the NIH, said this about the sequester and the tragedy of what is happening to this country’s life sciences infrastructure:

The sequester hitting as it did in the middle of the year meant that about 640 grants that would have been supported and highly regarded by peer review are now not going to receive funds. And those ideas are not going to happen. And breakthroughs that they might have represented will not occur. We will not know what we’ve missed because it’s gone. Imagine 640 bright, motivated scientists on the brink of doing something powerful that could have changed the way in which we diagnose, treat, and cure cancer or influenza or diabetes or some rare disease that desperately needs an answer; it’s just not going happen. I would argue with anybody who says that’s a minor consequence. It’s not; it’s a major negative outcome and a tragedy for what had been the world’s most successful search-engine in biomedicine.

Other countries, meanwhile, have read our play book and see their future in trying to do what we used to do. As we seem to be backing away, they are increasing their support. And if people care about American leadership, they should be worried.

Unless something (it’s called C-O-N-G-R-E-S-S) stops the next set of cuts in the sequester, the problem is going to get a lot worse.

I don’t see a happily ever after ending to the story right at this minute but, you know, I’m a Tolkienist so I’m not ready to give up hope yet. The situation at the present time is this. We have private industry pulling out of research because the shareholders are like opium addicts who expect bigger and bigger quarterly hits.  Long term investment doesn’t play nicely in the sandbox with an “ownership society” where everyone and their grandma is expected to put their savings into mutual funds that analysts and managers can gamble with.  And we have idiots like Rush Limbaugh who yee-haw that the sequester is the best thing since sliced bread because liberals are sucking on it.  I wouldn’t wish a Charlotte Corday situation on my worst enemy but I wouldn’t think twice about wishing a drug resistant version of Fournier’s Gangrene on Rush Limbaugh.

In the meantime, some of us still can’t quit science.  After two years in the desert, I have to pinch myself because I now have access to all the journal articles I can eat.  I’m afraid to click on the “Full Journal Article” button sometimes.  It’s almost not real, like ruby slippers.  {{Oh, wow, oh, wow!}}  But it’s almost cruel too because it’s so uncertain these days.   What is granted can so easily be taken away, like coaches that turn into pumpkins at midnight.  Sometimes, I think I might have been better off if I’d taken my academic advisor’s advice and studied law.  Then I think I’d rather eat glass than study torts.

So, science, yeah.  You can barely make a living at it anymore and yet can’t quit the habit. The best I can do at this point is try not to frighten the new, untested, warriors in training that there be dragons out there and to pass on what a wizard once told me, “Don’t let anybody steal your bliss.”

 

Friday Fast: American school kids are out for the summer. Who feeds them?

This about control.

Certain conservative and otherwise intelligent voters are resentful that someone might be leeching off of them.  They all know someone who won’t pull his weight and that person becomes the template for how they see all poor people. For some reason, it never occurs to them that it might be the assholes on Wall Street who got massive bailouts and bonuses and a blank check in perpetuity to our Treasury department even after they blew up the world’s economy who are the biggest leeches of our tax dollars.  THOSE are the people whose behavior we should be trying to control and who are selfishly hoarding more money, goods and stuff they didn’t earn.  But we don’t hear the Republicans going after them.

No, it’s much easier to pick on people below you who can’t defend themselves.  Sauron’s Mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck continue to feed a steady diet of resentment to Americans who are lucky enough to still have jobs and haven’t felt the full impact of the Little Depression- yet.

Let’s examine what they bought with those food stamps.  Let’s take whatever joy there is left in their world, the last bits of food security, and rip that away too because it feels really good when we accuse the parents of hungry children of being lazy, stupid losers.

Some voters need to graduate from fourth grade.

The rest of us can give up our lunch today and donate our lunch money to organizations that help feed Americans who are currently suffering from food insecurity.  That is especially important for growing school children.  Schools out for summer and if they aren’t getting a free or subsidized lunch, many of them are going hungry.

I don’t need Michelle Obama to lecture me on childhood obesity when so many kids can’t get enough to eat.  And having the Republicans selfishly and cruelly deprive these kids of food stamps is beyond evil.

Here’s the link to Feeding America.

Here’s the link to NoKidHungry.

Here’s the trailer for A Place at the Table:

Two depressing videos

The first I found at NakedCapitalism.  It’s a post election summary on Real News Network about what is going to happen in the next four years.  That we’re going in the direction of favelas is no surprise to me.  But what most interested me was the bit in the last 10 minutes or so about what might happen in the vast sea of red in the middle of the country (and parts of Pennsylvania).  We are talking about nationalism.  I think the little diatribe that Rush Limbaugh went on today, as described by Matt Taibbi, suggests the germ of that is already out there.  There’s a bitter resentment about how Latinos, women, the LBGT community and african americans have exerted their “special privileges”.  As the economy falls deeper into recession due to ill-conceived austerity measures, we might see what seems like the sudden emergence of a true brown shirt movement.  Liberals will be the ones who stabbed the good citizens in the back when they elected Obama (not me!  I voted for Anderson and I have the iphone pic to prove it).  Anyway, just watch it.  It makes me think that the right wing conservative who watched Schindler’s List can not make the connection because liberal Democrats are not Jews.

The other video features Dave Swanson who argues that it is time for the left to start an movement/voting bloc independent of the Democratic party.

Wow! That’s original.  That would be like the idea that I had that we form a federation of liberal and allied groups to organize our efforts, lobby for our causes, vote as a powerful bloc and vet our own slate of candidates.

The difference is that when Dave Swanson says it, no one accuses him of being a racist and irrational Obama hater.  Now, it is chic to be critical of Obama.  It’s a fricking pain in the ass to be four years too early.

Either that or it’s the penis years effect.

Now, I’ve always been the type to say that we need to stop acting like our particular issue is THE most IMPORTANT thing EVER.  And I hate wordsmithing.  But I have noticed that women opinion makers on the left have an extremely hard time getting any kind of recognition or invitation to express their opinions- to anyone.  So, if Dave Swanson or Matt Stoller or anyone else is considering reinventing the wheel that we suggested a couple of years ago, it is my opinion that there MUST be a gender quota in the leadership and public relations department.  I’m even setting the bar pretty low at no less than 34% representation of women in leadership positions and as mouthpieces on TV and internet.  It’s the bare minimum.  To really be secure about our rights, we need to have a representative on the finance committee  Do you think I’m stupid??  The Board of Ed is not that much different than any other political institution.  It’s just on a smaller scale.  And we all know that Finance is where the action is.  Initiatives need funding and women’s initiatives need to be taken seriously.  So, no less than 34% representation on Finance.

If the left is getting the band back together, it’s time for the guys to stop bogarting the microphone.

Opposite Day on Rushbo

Hillary Clinton and Harvey Weinstein at Time's 100 Most Influential People Awards

Hey, according to Rush Limbaugh, Hillary Clinton is just a secretary!  And he calls us “libs” like it’s a bad thing!  {{snort!}}

If Rush is going out of his way to make Hillary look like nothing more than a typist, she must be having a pretty good week.  You can listen to her speech from last night’s 100 Most Influential People Awards here.  Heck, she’s having a pretty good month. Was it the badass Hillary texting or was it the chill Hillary chugging beer straight out of the bottle?  Or was it her phenomenal approval rating?  Gosh, who knows but we haven’t seen the right this bent out of shape about Hillary since 2008.  Relax, Rush, Nancy Pelosi says if we’re well behaved girls and boys, we can vote for her in 2016.  And Nancy has a bridge to sell us in San Franciso.

It’s delightful.  Hillary can handle Rush, I’m sure, but before long, maybe we can listen to Rush from his new home on blogtalkradio.  A girl can dream.

Ok, stop digging (or *keep* digging)

Rush just can’t help himself.  He’s on today, flinging poo again at Sandra Fluke, saying misleading statements and still implying that her level of sexual activity is economically unsustainable and she wants a bailout from other people.

At the same time, he is trying to sound contrite, no doubt because his loss of sponsors is taking a bite out of his big, fat ass.  And you know, it does sound like there’s real regret in his voice- for himself.  It would be so nice if we could hear even less of Rush, so keep it up, Rush.  No one with a brain is buying these non-apology apologies.

But as to this “War on Women”, both parties are in on it.  The Republicans whip their base into soft white peaks while the Democrats cynically try to take advantage of the outrage on the left, hoping that all the women will come flocking to them for protection.  They don’t have to actually do anything.  I don’t know which party is worse.  Neither one takes women’s interests seriously.

If there was ever a time for women to get what they wanted, it would be now.  If the “left” wants our votes, they need to prove it – before the election.  Otherwise, it’s a game to them.  They think we’re just a bunch of stupid girls.

What goes around comes around.  The Democrats have a lot of atoning to do before any woman in her right mind should take them seriously.

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

One other thing: A lot of people are telling me that I wouldn’t be happy with Obama no matter what he did.  Actually, that’s not quite accurate.  I *expect* him to do the best job that he possibly can given that he wanted this job so damn badly.  However, I saw no evidence that he was taking his future responsibilities seriously before the election and I see no evidence now that he’s learned much.  If I were a teacher I might have written, “Barack fails to live up to his potential”.  If I were a shrink, I’d question whether he really wants to be president.  If I were a person with half a brain, I might observe that he is adopting all of the characteristics of the bonus class that he serves and who funds him.  I think Americans deserve better than this from our president.

But one thing you can’t say is that I haven’t been consistent.  I didn’t think he was ready to be president because he didn’t have enough experience (check!), his slash and burn tactics during the 2008 election had a disenfranchising effect on the Democratic base and would wind up undermining the foundations of the party (check!) and he consistently used misogyny and sexism throughout the campaign and no one was held accountable for it (check!).  Bottom line: no good ever comes of a bad seed.  (check!, check!, check!)

That’s not hatred.  That’s disgust and disappointment. If you expect nothing, you get nothing.

Monday: God vs Occupy Heaven

I’m taking it easy today on the blogging.  No manifestos {{collective sigh of relief}}.  I’m going to catch up on some other stuff.  In the meantime, enjoy this very topical Mr. Deity video.  And if you like this one, Mr. Deity has a series with some well loved biblical characters reinterpreted for a contemporary audience. :-^

Oh, and keep the pressure on Rush.  If you don’t, he’ll just take another form, like a giant slorg, with more ranting about feminazis, gay people, muslims, liberals, etc, etc…  Women may be the ones who take him down but we’re doing everyone a favor.  So don’t let up.

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

During a recent photo-op, Nashville’s police department took their new $300,000 aerial drone out for a spin.  It promptly crashed right into the SWAT team‘s Bearcat vehicle.

Maybe there’s cosmic justice after all.