• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Trump Recruited for his S…
    bellecat on Trump Recruited for his S…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Trump Recruited for his S…
    William on Trump Recruited for his S…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Trump Recruited for his S…
    bellecat on Trump Recruited for his S…
    William on Trump Recruited for his S…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Trump Recruited for his S…
    Ga6thDem on Trump Recruited for his S…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Trump Recruited for his S…
    William on Trump Recruited for his S…
    Icel Teck on Trump Recruited for his S…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Trump Recruited for his S…
    Niles on Trump Recruited for his S…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Trump Recruited for his S…
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama Bernie Sanders big pharma Bill Clinton cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donald Trump Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare OccupyWallStreet occupy wall street Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans research Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Texas Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    July 2019
    S M T W T F S
    « Jun    
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    28293031  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • The Problem With Neoliberal “It’s Never Been Better” Triumphalism
      Saying that humanity is currently the best off it has ever been (a dubious proposition in any case) is like saying “I’ve never been warmer” as you burn down your house. People like Pinker have been trotting out stats to claim that we’ve never been better off. Those stats are questionable, based on a definition […]
  • Top Posts

  • Advertisements

What Susie Said…

From her post Extradition:

You may have caught the grand kabuki of Great Britain insisting it is a matter of preserving international law that they extradite Julian Assange for his alleged sexual crimes.

As Ian Welsh reminds us, Chilean dictator Pinochet had women raped with specially trained dogs, and Britain wouldn’t extradite him.

 

 

Advertisements

Tuesday: The state of science

Staph Aureas colonies growing on what looks like a blood agar plate

Guys, the state of science in this country is truly messed up.  Pharmageddon continues with the big research companies still laying off in high numbers, especially here in the US, and getting out of certain research areas. (Jeez, 2009 was a very bad year for US scientists.  58,000+ of us let go in an industry where hiring freezes have been the norm for over a decade.) Some of those research areas might be important to you even if you don’t know it right now.

For example, did you ever wonder how your great grandparents coped without antibiotics?  We’re only a couple of generations away from the dark ages when unchecked infections lead to gangrene and amputation, sepsis and death.  But have you ever wondered how little it would take to get that whole ball rolling?  Well, here’s one modern account that should chill you to the bone.

Meet Lucy Eades, youtuber extraordinaire.  Lucy has been documenting her family’s evolution in intimate detail for several years now.  Lucy and I have wildly dissimilar lives.  She’s young, blond, pretty and busy with three children under the age of five.  She’s into homebirths, cloth diapers and attachment parenting.  I like dropping in on her channel because it’s like watching a documentary on some exotic culture I will never visit.

Last November, just after Thanksgiving, her daughter Jacelyn scratched herself below the waistband of her underwear.    No biggie, right?  Wrong:

The day after on Saturday she asked why it was so itchy as she was trying to find comfort while rubbing & scratching at it. I talked to her about how wounds can itch as it heals & it’s best not to touch because any open wound could become infected & that would result in an ouchie…more so in kid friendly terms.

Sunday she pointed the area saying it hurt & upon inspection I noticed a pimple. Not sure if it was a pimple or not, ant bite, or what, but a small pimple look alike bump that hurt. Nothing more.

Monday morning after she woke we immediately looked it over & noticed a small black dot in the middle of it. Aside from that nothing else had changed. We were thinking maybe a spider bite? Never know when you stay in a hotel. Called the Dr and we brought her in later that day during one of their open “sick” appointment time frames. Dr said it could be staph, we’ll keep an eye on it. Since we had just battled staph (what 2 weeks ago? if that?) that it was a likely that even if it wasn’t staph it could turn to staph. She prescribed us some oral & topical antibiotics and gave us instructions for hibiclens, etc. for if we needed to use them eventually we wouldn’t have to bring her back in & expose her to more winter illnesses being passed around. She was fine at this point. Nothing hurt, we went about our day.

Tuesday-Wednesday is when my memory starts to fail me. At some point she becomes uncomfortable & it’s confirmed staph. We were told staph is on every surface every person & we naturally have it on our skin because of this.Some are effected while others are not. Some people with open wounds are more susceptible to staph than others for no known reason. Jacelyn is one I guess. We go fill the script at the pharmacy on Wednesday and resort back to warm soaks in the tub & attempting to squeeze out the infection with no success. Dr office swapped patient information & called in wrong prescriptions. We received anti-fungal meds.

Thursday we call the Dr office back still trying to get the right meds & to inform them that the infection appeared to be spreading. She had a fever, her hip/leg hurt, & it was no longer draining the way it should resulting in a massive hard rock like lump. Her skin was even starting to look raw in that area. They said she needed the antibiotics for a while & it would help. That evening I told Joel I wasn’t comfortable with the situation & I was taking her to the children’s hospital.

It was officially Friday by the time we arrived here (still here). She was running a 102 fever at arrival. They set up the IV’s & talked about procedure in depth with me. They had to sedate her using three different types of medicine. We talked about all our options, pros, cons, side effects, etc. The whole works. I apologized for being annoying but told him I wanted to be as informed in this process as I could be.

In walks 2 nurses, the Dr, a medic & 2 other employees. This goes from being scary to serious feeling. It was like one those ER episodes where 50 rush in the room all doing something different. One dose of sedation was enough to put a grown 200+ lb guy under.

What follows is a nightmare of bad reactions to sedation, two surgeries to remove dead tissue and drain the wound, and a hospital quarantine.  Jacelyn has MRSA, Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus.  MRSA has developed resistance to standard antibiotics and some strains of MRSA are resistance to Vancomycin, which has been considered the last line of defense.  Ironically, MRSA is dangerous because of the overuse and improper use of antibiotics.  Nevertheless, you would think that the drug companies would be all over this area of research, designing new antibiotics or different approaches to combatting bacterial infections.

You would be wrong.  This is one of the therapeutic areas that big pharma can’t wait to dump, along with reproductive health and central nervous system (CNS) drugs.  That’s because they’re difficult, expensive to develop, have narrow safety profiles, or, in the case of women’s reproductive health, prone to class action lawsuits.  Women have been their own worst enemies when it comes to reproductive health.  Some feminists have a tendency to see every therapeutic agent as a weapon of the patriarchy to control their bodies.  As if.  And side effects are unavoidable, although we’re getting better.  But the cost of defending what was intended to cure has become so expensive that pulling out of these areas is more cost effective than sinking more money into research.

It takes a long time and a lot of clinical trials to get a new antibiotic approved.  Not so much with oncology where the life or death nature of the disease leads to speedier approval of new drugs. And in the case of cancer treatments, there are far fewer lawsuits when the drug doesn’t work out quite as well as hoped.  Patients’ families are grateful for any extension of life.  So, that’s where pharmaceutical companies are putting their money. It’s a callous and mercenary business decision.  It wasn’t always like this but this is what results after mergers, quarterly earning mania, a quirky, capricious, anachronistic FDA and the high cost of defending lawsuits have worked their own special magic for a couple of decades.  No more research on antibiotics.  Don’t expect that big pharma will care about your staph infections or birth control after you’ve sued their asses off.

Yes, they’re greedy bastards at the top but that’s a different topic.  They weren’t always this bad.

So, sports fans, we’re getting perilously close to the days when a simple break in the skin could kill you.  Lovely.

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

Katiebird sent me a link to this article about scientific publishing and plagiarism by two University of Kansas bioinformatics researchers.

In the technical world of bioinformatics, the two University of Kansas computer scientists were riding high in 2009.

Mahesh Visvanathan and Gerald Lushington published three articles with an international audience. They were invited to make a poster presentation at a conference in Sweden.

Although a lack of airfare kept them from going, their real problem wasn’t a tight travel budget — it was plagiarism.

Portions of all three of their articles had been lifted from other scientists’ work. The entire summarizing statement in their presentation had come from someone else’s journal article.

In an endeavor such as science that relies on original work and trustworthy information, plagiarism and fraud seem out of place. But misconduct is being detected with increasing frequency. And while it may be that the scientific community is just getting better at sussing out fraudsters, some scientists fear the problem is growing.

Competition among researchers has taken on a harder edge, they say. More scientists are competing for limited grant money, faculty appointments and publication in top journals. This intense rivalry makes it tempting for some to cut corners and fudge results.

The number of scientists caught committing fraud remains small, but each case can cause real harm, from wasting time and resources of other scientists who follow false leads to putting lives in jeopardy with bogus health findings.

There is a difference between the kind of plagiarism that the Research Works Act is supposedly trying to address where researchers frequently lift methods, diagrams and pictures from other papers routinely.  That’s a kind of excusable plagiarism because new work frequently is dependent on older work.  In that respect, the RWA could have a chilling effect on scientific publishing if it were rigorously enforced.  It’s quite another thing when your conclusions and whole paragraphs of explanatory text are lifted straight out of someone else’s publication.

But the pressure to publish is intense and, unfortunately, there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there who rationalize about what they’re doing.  While I can’t comment on how rife the academic world is with examples of plagiarism from other people’s publications, I suspect that the practice is alive and well in the corporate setting where the Wall Street financier’s value system has trickled down to the laboratories.  Well, you can hardly blame the more senior people for doing it or rationalizing about it later.  Their pedigree and PhD creates a field of excellent and  superior brainwaves around them that the more junior people can’t help but pick up and be influenced by even when the senior person has done little to nothing on the project.  Sort of like Lady Catherine DeBourgh in Pride and Prejudice who credits herself with a sensitive prodigy’s talent in music and would have been a great musician had she only learned to play.  Or the rationalizer’s work/family circumstances are more important than the person’s who actually did the work.  Or the rationalizer needs a green card.  Or <fill in the blank>.

If you have the power to steal a colleague’s work, the reasons for doing so aren’t hard to conjure up.  It’s your word against theirs.  With the patent lawyers sitting on publications and project data for so long, it’s easy to slap your name on a paper or patent when the actual inventor is out of the way.  All the skullduggery and credit stealing happens before the paper ever hits the journal or patent office.  Who’s going to know?  I’ve even heard that in some companies and departments credit is awarded to favorite underlings like a reward for loyalty.   Those favorites can swoop down on a project in its final stages and hog all of the years of credit to themselves at the last minute.  You’d think this would be an ethical problem requiring accountability and punishment. Not so.  It’s just the way things are done.  Not all companies operate this way but the current layoff environment makes it more common and brazen.  Yep, research is a sick business.

Well, it will all sort itself out in the end and the researchers who are left can always go into sales if they are ever exposed.

Science is baaaaaad  for you, children, Very bad.  You’ll spend years working and studying on project for which you will get no credit and end up flipping burgers at McDonald’s. Run away! Run Away!

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

Susie Madrak cites a post today about how 3 female regulators’ warnings about the impending financial crisis were ignored.

Bies was a central bank board member from 2001 to 2007. Several times in the transcripts she said she was worried about the housing bubble.

Bies warned fellow board members that exotic mortgages — for instance, negative amortization loans in which balances become bigger and not smaller over time — were too dangerous for consumers.

She warned about the Wall Street-created securities backed by risky mortgages.

“I just wonder about the consumer’s ability to absorb shocks,” she said at Fed meeting in May 2006.

“The growing ingenuity in the mortgage sector is making me more nervous as we go forward in this cycle, rather than comforted that we have learned a lesson. Some of the models the banks are using clearly were built in times of falling interest rates and rising housing prices. It is not clear what may happen when either of those trends turns around.”

Later in 2006 she told Fed board members: “A lot of the private mortgages that have been securitized during the past few years really do have much more at risk than investors have been focusing on.”

Bies is an economist and was a former Tennessee banker. But the two most powerful men at the Fed and the Fed staff dismissed her concerns.

That May meeting was Ben Bernanke’s second as chairman of the Fed. He said the cooling off of the housing market was a “healthy thing.” And that “so far, we are seeing, at worst, an orderly decline in the housing market.”

In June 2006, Tim Geithner, then president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said that “we see a pretty healthy adjustment process under way. … The world economy still looks pretty robust to us.”

A Fed staff report said: “We have not seen — and don’t expect — a broad deterioration in mortgage credit quality.”

Tim Geithner, Tim Geithner… Where have I heard that name before?  No, no don’t tell me.  Let me work this out…

Tol’ja

White House vs Women: Joe Biden Does it Wrong

Obama and Women: Two views

Um, I’m glad that the rest of the blogosphere is starting to pay attention to the way womens’ expertise is ignored in the public sphere and especially by the Democratic White House and party in general.  We here at The Confluence have been covering this very thing for a couple of years now, including one post that cited the story about the female musicians who get orchestra seats after they’ve auditioned behind a screen.   Wow, that’s an old reference.  You’d have to look long and hard to find it, unless someone already found it for you in other posts, like:

The Gender Gap and Female Bodied People

Yeah, why *did* we do that?

WTF?? Another example of how Sexism costs us all

Bairly Downgrading the FDIC

There are many more on the topic.  Try keywords “Sexism Costs” or “Costs of Sexism”.  Well, it’s not like it’s plagiarism or anything.

Unless someone is going to say they invented the Plum Line Metric too.  (that would be here, and here as well) Then I will have to raise a snit.

Welcome Susie!  We will send out our complimentary new members package complete with white sheet (‘cos an accusation of racism is just around the corner) and you starter pack of hormone replacement therapy.   No, no, don’t thank us.  Most members don’t.

OWS Theme Song auditions

Susie Madrak has been searching youtube for a good theme song for OWS and there are some good ones out there.

But I love this song for so many reasons.  First, it has a good beat and it’s easy to march to.  Second, what could be more appropriate than a song from Les Miserables?  Isn’t Les Miserables French for “the 99%”?  I think it is.

I’ve rolled this song out before but I’m going to do it one more time to see if I can win any converts.  Add your suggestions in the comments.

Here it is: Do You Hear The People Sing

Holy Hemiola!  This might really be the one.  It looks like the original occupation of Wisconsin’s state house featured a flash mob version of the song.  The melody is simple, the lyrics can be adapted.  It’s easy to learn.  What’s not to like??

Here are the Wisconsin lyrics:

  • Do you hear the people sing, singing the songs of working men?
    It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again.
    When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums,
    there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes.
    Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?
    Beyond the mass parade, is there a world you long to see?
    Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free.
    Do you hear the people sing, singing the songs of working men?
    It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again.
    When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums,
    there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes.
    Will you dedicate your all so that our freedom may advance?
    Some will stand and some will fall. Will you stand up and take your chance?
    Let’s fill the Rotunda ’til everyone joins in the chants.
    Do you hear the people sing, singing the songs of working men?
    It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again.
    When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums,
    there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes.

Battening down the hatches

Update: A friend of mine is stranded in Atlanta until Monday. His connecting flight to Philly was cancelled. Does anyone in the Atlanta area have suggestions for a good night’s sleep? List them in the comments. Also, anywhere to hear good live music in Atlanta tonight? Recommendations for local cuisine? I should mention that he is a newly independent entrepreneur. Some people are born entrepreneurs, some have entrepreneurship thrust upon them. My friend is in the latter category so economical suggestions will be given priority.

Hi all, I’m busy today trying to get all of the outside stuff fastened down so they don’t blow away.

Susie Madrak is back! Yay! But she could probably use some sugar in her bowl to offset the costs of the best health care in the world. So, visit her tip jar and tip generously, if you can.

Susie found this little ditty from Eric Cantor about what we storm ravaged Northeastern Liberal Elites can expect in the form of disaster relief from the federal government:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is insisting that “any potential emergency disaster aid be offset by spending cuts.”Huffington Post reports that “Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring on Friday declined to say where Republicans would look to make cuts to pay for a potential storm aid package.” Speaker John Boehner’s spokesperson “ducked the question altogether when asked if Boehner agreed with Cantor’s call for offsets for emergency aid.” Boehner and Cantor’s position is “a break from a bipartisan tradition” of immediately appropriating funds to help those in need following a natural disaster.

Can I just say that besides being mean-spirited and short sighted, I find this incredibly offensive to those of us on the east coast. The coast populations pay some of the highest taxes in the country and send more money to Washington that we get back. That money pays for farm subsidies and ethanol subsidies and wars we did not wish to engage in and all kinds of things that the “heartland” takes for granted. In fact, I’m tired of us always bowing and scraping to the holiness of the midwest and rural voters. They think way too much of their own self-importance.

Resentment and righteous indignation is NOT what the midwest want the coastal states to feel about them right now. Seriously. We share an awful lot of our money with them. Every year when I do my taxes, I’m shocked by the amount that I shell out to everyone else while I try to figure out how I’m going to pay for my own needs in this ridiculously expensive state. Even next year when I do them I will have paid more in taxes as a newly unemployed person than some voter in a midwest state makes in salary in a year. It pisses me off to no end to hear some financial domestic terrorist like Tea Party Eric Cantor shooting off his mouth about what we will and will not get in aid from the feds. Who the f%&* does he think he is?

The east coast suburbanites who may be washed out of their houses from Irene are going to come down on the Republican party like a hammer if there’s any monkeying around with the FEMA funds.

Don’t even go there, Eric.

Hurricane Irene poised to take out Northeastern liberal elite bloggers

That’ll learn them dirty f%^&ing hippies.  Whoo-hoo!  We really should get together and throw a hurricane party.  My house is just above the label that says “2pm Sunday”.

So much to do. Appetizers, beer, rum. Mostly get fresh water.  Natasha Chart tweeted a handy disaster preparedness list for those of us on the hit list.  Here’s a tip I learned when I rode out Hurricane Charlie in Naples, Florida about 5 years ago: fill your bathtubs up with water.  When the water stops flowing, you’ll want to use that water to flush your toilets.

When Floyd passed through here about 13 years ago, our water treatment plant was flooded and out for 2 weeks.  Yep, do you know how hard it is to keep a 2 year old clean for two weeks without showers and baths?  The mayor had a fireside chat every evening for 2 weeks to assure us that the water would be flowing any day now while his hair got greasier and greasier.  Ah, those were the days.  Such fun.  Speaking of fun, I really must clear that gutter above my deck while I have time…

The inaptly named Bound Brook, NJ after Hurricane Floyd, about 5 miles from yours truly

But it’s not just the NJ bloggers, and that would include Krugthulu who lives about 10 miles from me, it also includes Atrios and Susie Madrak.

Speaking of Susie, in case you haven’t heard, she’s in the hospital under observation for a possible heart attack.  As you may know, Susie’s been unemployed for awhile.  Health insurance is expensive.  By the way, did you know that the COBRA subsidy will end next week?  The subsidy helped pay 65% of the cost of COBRA for newly unemployed people, like me.  I’m not on COBRA yet but I can now look forward to paying the whole thing myself on my meager unemployment check starting next month when my severance benefits end.  Isn’t that special?  Stranded in NJ with a mortgage, no job and no COBRA subsidy.  I’m not sure what I’m supposed to live on and I’m probably not going to fetch top dollar on the flesh market on Craigslist anymore.  You’d think Obama would have made sure that this subsidy lasted until 2012 but you would think wrong.  It’s enough to drive a girl to socialism, I tells ya.

Anyway, if you have some spare change, now would be a good time visit Susie’s page and  make a donation to her tip jar.

Get well, Susie!  We need you back on Virtually Speaking Susie.

 

Really, Matt?

I just finished listening to Susie Madrak and Matt Stoller from last night’s blogtalkradio broadcast of Virtually Speaking. Highly recommended. For the most part, they’ve got the Obama situation right. Matt Stoller gets a bit closer to Obama’s psychology when he talks about how Obama has seen liberalism and rejected it. The New Yorker profiled Obama back in 2008 and came to much the same conclusion. Essentially, Obama sees New Deal liberals as cockeyed optimists who aren’t dealing with reality, in spite of the empirical evidence that says they are right. They’re too naive and confident in government’s ability to work for fairness and equality. In particular, Obama had a problem with his *mother* not his father. She was a bit too idealistic for his refined tastes. So, he rejected liberalism for tradition and convention. Some of us detected this early but couldn’t quite put our finger on why he seemed to be such a passive Democrat but this paragraph gets to the heart of what Obama’s political philosophy really is:

Obama’s mother is, in his portrayal, an American innocent out of Henry James: a young girl who ventures into the world believing that things are as they seem to be; that a person’s story begins when she is born and her relations with other people begin when she meets them; that you can leave your home without fear of injury or loneliness because people everywhere are more or less alike. She had no idea what she was getting into when she left Hawaii—no idea that only months before she arrived Indonesia had suffered a failed but brutal coup and the killing of several hundred thousand people. Eventually, somebody told her what had happened, but the knowledge didn’t change her. “In a land where fatalism remained a necessary tool for enduring hardship,” Obama writes, “she was a lonely witness for secular humanism, a soldier for New Deal, Peace Corps, position-paper liberalism.” She had a faith, inherited from her father and resistant to experience, “that rational, thoughtful people could shape their own destiny.” She should have counted herself lucky for emerging from the experience with only a second divorce and two bewildered children. “Things could have turned out worse,” her son wrote. “Much worse.”

It seems that Obama would rather Americans accept their fate, embrace fatalism to see them through hardship and stop trying to reshape their lives through vision and rationality. Obama is the antithesis of the New Deal Democrat. He just doesn’t believe in it.

That profile also contained a critique of Obama’s vs Clinton’s approaches to persuading the public on policy. Their conclusion was that she was just better at it because she understood what was at stake and could frame the argument in a way that described what the little guy was up against and then propose well crafted solutions to solve the problem. I can attest to that personally. In 2007, I got to ask Hillary the final question at her break out session at YearlyKos2. I asked her about infrastructure because I was very interested in mass transit and only a few days before YearlyKos2, a bridge collapsed in Minneapolis. She did exactly what the New Yorker article described. She framed the problem, identified the players and proposed concrete solutions. Her answer was detailed and thorough and convinced me that she really knew what she was talking about.

I don’t know where Matt was at the time. Probably waiting to get into a meeting with John Edwards or the Big Kahuna himself.

But anyway, the good stuff ended right about there. Matt says he was conflicted in 2008 but all I remember from Matt Stoller at that time was that he resembled so many of the people who were *trying* (not too hard) to be neutral but really, really, REALLY wanted Obama to win like the voice over narrator of the anti-Nader Anonymous video. I suspect that Obama totally made Matt cry sometimes. Then Matt goes on to say the State Department is messed up, which reminds me of all of the “Hillaryland at the State Department” articles we see in the Washington Post and New York Times whenever the electorate starts having buyer’s remorse over Obama. Then he complained that she didn’t apologize over her Iraq War Vote. Yes, Matt, Hillary Clinton, the senator from fricking New York was the single most important vote and primary reason the Iraq War Resolution passed even though she specifically and strongly urged Bush to let the UN weapons inspectors do their jobs and only go to war as a last resort. That she failed to wear a hair shirt and plead for your forgiveness demonstrates a shocking lack of obsequiousness on her part. Then there was a gratuitous slap from Susie about PUMA, which I don’t think either of them really understood. While there were plenty of PUMAs who were all about Hillary and plenty of the rest of us who hoped desperately that the party would come to its senses before the convention, PUMA was actually a movement that came to life after 18,000,000 votes were trashed at the RBC meeting in May 2008.

That’s what PUMA was all about, Susie. It was the disenfranchised rebelling against the party that ran what turned out to be sham primaries and then selected a nominee behind closed doors. It was about wasting our money and our time on phone banks and canvassing when the result was already decided. It was about screwing with the election process and conveniently eliminating inconvenient votes in Florida and Michigan. It was about the undemocratic caucuses and the theft of delegates from one candidate that were gifted to another who wasn’t even on the Michigan ballot. It was about the apalling spectacle of the ends justifying the means and absolutely no accountability to the voters who had a legitimate claim to be counted. The separation between the candidates in terms of primary delegates was thinner than a gnat’s wing by the time they got to Denver and got even thinner when the Credentials committee restored Florida and Michigan to full voting status. But by then, the damage was done.

I was there in the ballroom when the Kossacks jeered Hillary over her lobbying comment and as a worker in the pharmaceutical industry, I knew exactly what she meant. There was no ambiguity, Matt. The problem was that Edwards had been speaking a few minutes before and had riled the crowd up with his P.T. Barnum routine. There were a lot of suckers in that crowd that afternoon and after Edwards was forced out, they climbed aboard the Obama bandwagon. The funny thing is that industries like Big pharma were never afraid of Obama. They were nervous about Hillary. And if you want to know why you need look no further than the telecomm vote in July 2008. Obama voted for immunity, Hillary didn’t. The Clintonistas were not surprised by this. We understood her.

But what bothers me the most is the persistent and factually incorrect assertion that Hillary ran a poor campaign. I realize that that is the conventional wisdom that the left blogosphere keeps telling itself to justify pushing Obama on the rest of us but it never made any damn sense. In what world does a candidate win NJ, NY, CA, PA, FL, MI, MA, OH, TX, NV, IN, WV, KY, TN, RI, NH and still get accused of running a poor campaign? Wouldn’t it make more sense to say that of Obama because he couldn’t win the big, populated Democratic states? This is a world where the voters don’t really count. it’s a world where caucuses in sparsely populated states count more than voters in a dense state like NJ.

Matt, you are still suffering from an indoctrination hangover. For some reason, young, Ivy League educated males such as yourself were predisposed to like Obama and dislike Hillary. Only you can answer why that is but I think it was Anglachel who correctly identified it as white male graduate student syndrome:

Big Media Matt put up a post the other day before Josh’s wet, steaming pantload was generally noticed that brings up the biggest truth, that the Clever Young Men of the Blogosphere simply can’t see because they are unable (and unwilling) to observe themselves as part of the phenomenon:

“I think Hillary Clinton’s going to win this thing. I think the college educated men who dominate punditland have spent a lot of time missing the fact that there actually are enthusiastic Clinton fans out there — they’re just mostly working class women and thus mostly not in the room when this CW gets hashed out. On the Record
Not in the room.

That really sums up the deep structural problem of the “netroots” as a source of political strength on the left. They have never left the graduate classroom while the rest of us have moved on.

I spent a long time in graduate classrooms before finally deciding that I needed to find a line of work where I could retain my dignity, and I know this type of person very well. He’s white (or codes as “white”), very articulate, often socially awkward, deferential to fawning towards the most senior male in the area, smart-as-a-whip in a bookworm kind of way, can throw together short, abstract, sophisticated arguments about their own esoteric subject at the drop of a hat, and has spent the last 8 to 10 years of his life being praised as the smartest guy in the room. They literally earn an “A” for their thinking and how it is received by the professors. It is a deeply incestuous and self-reinforcing environment.

In short, their entire sense of self-worth is tied up in winning verbal exchanges on subjects they are going to get tested on in the mid-term exams next month. Yak-yak between and amongst themselves (all under the approving eye of the senior male professor who will give them a recommendation on their job application to Podunk U.) is the fabric of their lives. They don’t waste time with anything that doesn’t mark them off as “clever” and “insightful” (as determined by the senior prof), and they get hostile when someone or something enters their carefully constructed cocoon and simply rips the foundations of their arguments out from underneath them.

[…]

To my thinking, this is why the leading lights of the netroots on the left are so dangerously out of step with the Democratic grassroots. They are flocking to candidates and causes without concrete foundations to their positions, and they speak mainly among themselves, which further exacerbates their distance from the run-of-the-mill citizen. They seize on the formal argument and overlook the practical application. Worse, they cling to sophistry and the good-old-white-boys praise and promote systems of academia and journamalism, and insist their justifications are right. If they didn’t, their entire raison d’etre would vanish and they might have to get a real job bagging groceries, fixing electrical lines, tending elders in nursing homes, or collecting garbage. Icky, dirty, hard things that they might not like and wouldn’t be very good at.

This is intellectual elitism, yes, but even more a rather childish and frightening inability to distinguish the worth or weight of an idea in the context of an ordinary life.

There’s more than a touch of sexism in it. I’ve seen it in the research industry. Women managers are always seen as less competent and token females. Am I right, Matt? Aren’t you a bit more likely to find fault with Hillary and make excuses for Obama? We Clintonistas called it the Penis Years phenomenon. She was vastly more experienced and prepared than he was but he had that certain thing that made him more qualified. Don’t think that didn’t come up in the analysis of the lefty blogosphere sites when the campaign operatives started to sift through the data. You were, and continue to be, an easy mark.

But now, you’re *almost* there, Matt. Susie is right. Hillary was a better candidate to address domestic issues. She was the right candidate for the times. But you wanted to hear an apology from her and that, plus her gender (come on, Matt, admit it to yourself at least) kept her out of the White House.

It wasn’t about Hillary. It was about our obligation to elect the person most likely to be a good president whether that person was black or white, male or female. At the very least, she should have gotten a floor fight and a legitimate roll call vote. It would have been the right thing to do for the voters who desperately wanted a Democrat in the White House. In light of everything that has happened since September 2008, we deserved better deliberation and seriousness from the male graduate student contingent.

Sunday: What to do, What to do?

Susie Madrak has her own radio show on BlogTalkRadio.  On January 17, her guests were Eric Boehlert and Nicole Sanders.  They took a call from a woman whose unemployment benefits ran out last March.  MARCH.  Of 2010.  For almost a year, this woman has had zero income.  No unemployment, no little job, nuthin.  She’s spent all of her savings and is now living on a home equity line of credit to pay her bills.  And she called Susie, who’s doing the best she can with what she has too since being out of work for some time now, and asks what she can do to get lawmakers’ attention?

Susie talked about how the Communist party started organizing back in the Great Depression, preventing people from getting evicted and feeding the poor.  And back then, it got a lot of attention.  There were tent cities and Hoovervilles in Washington.  Evidence of poverty was everywhere.  It was the threat of a public uprising the finally got things moving.

Susie gave the standard answers about what can be done.  Show up at a congressman’s office en masse, hang out in front of the restaurant where he/she and friends have lunch, throw a tent city or two and call the local paper or TV station about it.  Butcha know, I don’t think that’s going to work anymore and as one of them said: the right has the biggest megaphones and they simply won’t report it.

The right knows their voters.  They motivate their voters to vote by romanticizing the fetus, by appealing to their religiosity.  If bad things happen to other people, it’s because they weren’t as pious and good as the typical Fox News viewer.  That same religiosity prevents the religious conservative from doing too much to help the poor by contacting their representatives and demanding action.  It’s because there is so much evil and bad and pain in the world that mankind does not have the capacity to clean it up.  Only god does.  So, we need to just wait for Jesus to come back, which should be any day now.  If you’ve ever wondered what the apocalyptic messaging in right wing propaganda has to do with anything, there’s the reason.  It’s to keep the older conservative voter who sees disturbing things from taking any action.

If Susie wants to know what to do, she is going to have to target these viewers to get involved.  One thing that temporarily woke people up was the sight of so many people suffering in the wake of Katrina in New Orleans.  Which means that the news machine will be very careful to never do that again.  So, if you can’t bring the news to the people, maybe you have to bring the people to the news.

Don’t isolate your older, more conservative relatives.  Tell them what’s going on because you’ve seen it personally.  Tell them what is happening to your unemployed friends.  If they ask why they’re not willing to relocate, tell them the truth.  There are no jobs.  Anywhere.  Be harsh with them.  They won’t want to see you.  But they’ll call and ask why you haven’t come to visit.  Tell them you’re trying to help your friends- who are unemployed and that they just don’t get it.  They’ll go on about how God is the only one who can clean this mess up.  Tell them that’s bullshit and Jesus wouldn’t want them to ignore the poor.  If they tell you that you’re friends did something wrong, tell them the only thing they did wrong was being born in the wrong part of the 20th century.  If they say, yes, it’s true, the older generation has it good in comparison, tell them, great!  We’re moving in with you.  With the bird.  And the kid who likes to play Edith Piaf songs all. the. time. and refuses to speak to you in anything but French and eats like there’s no tomorrow.  When they express some hesitation about that, tell them to turn off the fricking TV news.

As for Susie, I think she has a future in broadcasting but she really has to ditch her propensity to glom onto left wing memes.  I’m not saying stop being liberal.  I’m saying stop letting the left do your thinking.  On one broadcast a couple of months ago, I think Athenae was on, they got so frustrated with it all that they want to just ditch everything and go rustic, which is great if you have no dependents.  But in some respects, it reminds me of the older religious person’s decision to just stay in the house away from the evil men and sexual predators until Jesus comes back.  You can’t run away from the world’s problems when they seem insurmountable.  If you do that, the bad guys win.  They want people to feel helpless.  Learned helplessness is their goal.

The only way to win is to get together and fight back.  And if Susie hasn’t figured this out yet, the left’s support of Obama in 2008 has resulted in thousands of sparkling shards of leftiness with the incapacity to reform itself.  I keep appealing to people like Susie to stop blowing us off and join with us and let’s do something together.  But the left hasn’t given up on the stuff that doesn’t resonate with their potential allies who work for the big corporations the left condemns.  It’s incomprehensible to me that for all the intelligence the left claims it has that it hasn’t figured out yet that the corporations are not the ogres here.  It’s the rulemakers they help elect.  If the rules weren’t bent or destroyed, the corporations would go back to playing by the rules and merely scheming like grinches instead of running around causing havoc like Thing 1 and Thing 2.   Then there are people like us who voted for Hillary and are still personas non grata.  We’re always going to think Obama was the wrong guy for the moment.  But why would the left cut off half of its strength if it really want to make a change?  Let me ask you this, Susie, why haven’t you asked any of US on your show yet?   Not that we can’t host our own shows but that’s hardly togetherness, is it?

The left’s obsession with perfection mirrors the right’s eschatological fervor.  Neither one addresses the causes and concerns of people in the middle who still bitterly cling to their FDR era programs with track records of success for those who participate.  Both sides insist that if they can’t have everything their way, no one will get anything at all.  In this respect, the left does as much damage to its cause as the right does with its huge megaphones.

If you want to know why no one hears your cries, it’s because you haven’t joined with other voices.  And the men in charge, and it’s ALWAYS men, like it that way.  Power is the ultimate drug and no one is going to wrest it from them without a fight.  As long as the left remains broken, Susie and her tent cities are no threat to the power brokers.

In other news:

So, about that FICA 2% tax break.  I was just talking to my colleague about this the other day.  She was planning to roll that money into her 401K.  Hold off on that, I said, you never know how they’re going to take it out of your hide.  After all, you’re income tax may go up instead.  Sure enough, Carissa at Corrente discovered what the catch is in Making Work Pay Clawback.  You’re not going to like it.  I probably won’t like it a whole bunch more.  As a single person who only gets to claim Head of Household every other year, while still retaining the blessings of parenthood and a healthcare policy that requires that I am the major source of support for the kid, I pay an outrageous amount in taxes already but I’m well below the top tax bracket that actually gets…

wait for it

a break! Yep, if you’re in the 35% tax bracket, the amount of money you can make before you are taxed has risen.  For everyone else, the amount you have to make before the taxes kick in has dropped. Isn’t that special?  So, hold off on adding to your 401Ks, which only people who have paid off their mortgages can afford to fund adequately.  Not only has Obama managed to not soak the rich, he has given them additional breaks, acquiesced to a plan that underfunds social security, transferring that money to the general fund where it will be spent in Iraq, and raised taxes on our income.  In summary, the 2% FICA tax break does absolutely NOTHING to stimulate the economy. Well done!  Is this really the one we were waiting for?

Les Leopold at AlterNet attempts to answer the perennial question, “Why Do People Who Work in Finance Earn So Much More Than the Rest of Us?” Yes, I would like to know the answer to that question, as well as why it is that people who work in the corporate offices make so much more than the people who do the innovation and the hands on work to produce the products that make all the money?  And why is their gym nicer and their cafeteria food better?  Why is it they can use the mail service to ship personal items to international destinations while the people in the facility down the road can’t?  Shit, did I say that out loud?  Well, why???  What is it about dressing up and sitting behind a desk makes the people who make sometimes incredibly bad decisions so much wealthier than the rest of us?  The answer, as far as I can tell is that if you delegate your authority to other people to keep track of the money so that you can get actual work done, you run the risk that those delegates will reward themselves handsomely at your expense, and at a certain level of wealth, you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them.  It’s extortion.  That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.

Leopold does some calculations:

Let’s try a back-of-the envelope calculation of Wall Street’s net social value. Compare their bonuses and profits for roughly the last five years (about $500 billion) with the economic losses produced in the financial crisis the bankers caused (about $4 trillion in value destroyed, not counting the ongoing travails of the 22 million people who haven’t yet been able to find a full-time job). For every dollar “earned” on Wall Street, about 8 dollars were destroyed. (In case you’re suffering from financial amnesia and forgot how the financial sector single-handedly caused the economic crisis, please see The Looting of America. Chapter One can be found gratis on AlterNet.

I hate to break this to the educators but, it turns out if you really want your students to learn something, testing is one of the best ways to do it.  You know those endless stupid projects you have our kids doing where they have to map everything out on big pieces of expensive poster board with connections to all of the other concepts in the unit?  Turns out that might be a waste of parents time.  What researchers have discovered is that those projects impose an artificial organization and categorization system on students that is more easily and naturally achieved by simply testing them on the material as soon as possible after they learn it.  Go back to the pop quizzes, teachers.  Save yourself and your kids and their families a nights of exhaustion and despair.  From the NYTimes article:

Why retrieval testing helps is still unknown. Perhaps it is because by remembering information we are organizing it and creating cues and connections that our brains later recognize.

“When you’re retrieving something out of a computer’s memory, you don’t change anything — it’s simple playback,” said Robert Bjork, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved with the study.

But “when we use our memories by retrieving things, we change our access” to that information, Dr. Bjork said. “What we recall becomes more recallable in the future. In a sense you are practicing what you are going to need to do later.”

It may also be that the struggle involved in recalling something helps reinforce it in our brains.

It makes sense.  If you impose a little bit of stress on the student in the form of a quiz or test, they are forced to rapidly organize the information and discover where they are deficient so they can revisit the information later.  If you impose too much stress on them by forcing them to adopt another organization method, you not only screw up their intrinsic method but you create a life long hatred of projects.  JMHO.

Anyway, it’s in the journal Science, which is a stickler for peer review and details and stuff like that so as much as you may dislike the concept of testing for retention, you can’t completely dismiss this paper.  Well, you *could*, but it would be pointless.

Another article from the NYTimes proclaims that Obama is to press a centrist agenda in his SOTU address.  So, it looks like after three years of playing the political philosophical mystery man, Obama has finally found a place to dig in his heels and plant his flag — right down the middle.  Which has moved significantly rightwards since he became president.  Uh-huh.  I see this as a way to head off Bloomberg and his silly No Limits soiree.  Which means, the vast majority of people who are not making $200K a year and have to work for a living without a safety net are still screwed and unrepresented by this President.  Obama has finally found his constituents:

Mr. Obama previewed the themes in a video e-mailed Saturday evening to supporters who had helped in his election campaign. But the video made plain that his speech would be geared more broadly toward the political center, to independent voters and business owners and executives alienated by the expansion of government and the partisan legislative fights of the past two years.

The rest of you scientists and airline pilots and mathematicians turned uber programmers and burger flippers and unemployed journalists and part time morticians can go take a hike.

Lovely.  By the way, NYTimes reporters, the economy is *not* “picking up steam”.  My friends are just as unemployed as ever and the rest of us are in danger of joining them.

I’m so glad that I can say with pride that “I didn’t vote for him”.

About that abortion clinic from hell, Alternet has a followup.  Well, there are a lot of articles on this subject.  The story is very gruesome but just goes to show you that desperate women will overlook unsanitary conditions, illegality and their own health to get abortions when they decide they need them.  There is nothing that a senior citizen mainlining Fox News can do about it.  These women are never going to bond with or have any warm and fuzzy maternal instincts for the fetuses they carry.  There’s no amount of shame or inconvenience you can foist on them that will deter them.  The only thing you accomplish by stigmatizing abortion and forcing poor women to “Chase the Fee” is that you end up risking two deaths instead of one.

This is the first but certainly not the last legal clinic that resembles a back alley abortion mill.  There will have to be a lot more of them before the anti-choice contingent starts feeling the weight of all of the deaths and destruction and infertility it has visited on women.  They will have to feel it and be made to take the blame for it.