• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    William on Pornhub Category: White H…
    William on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Niles on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Niles on Pornhub Category: White H…
    jmac on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Catscatscats on Pornhub Category: White H…
    William on Pornhub Category: White H…
    William on Pornhub Category: White H…
    William on Pornhub Category: White H…
    HerstoryRepeating on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Catscatscats on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Pornhub Category: White H…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Pornhub Category: White H…
    HerStoryRepeating on Pornhub Category: White H…
  • 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

    • Khameini’s Three Directives for Iran
      From the useful Elija Mangnier, 1 – Adherence to Iran’s right to nuclear enrichment and everything related to this science at all costs. Nuclear enrichment is a sword Iran can hold in the face of the West, which wants to take it from Tehran. It is Iran’s card to obstruct any US intention of “obliterating” […]
  • Top Posts

  • Advertisements

Proudly Defying Consensus Reality Since 2008

cjsnmttLong time readers know that I started this blog in response to the ridiculous, over-the-top, pre-accomplishments hagiography of Barack Obama during the primaries in 2008. The man could do no wrong. Don’t even get me started, I’ve written War and Peace over that primary season. And what did we learn from his eight years in the White House? We learned that the media and Obama’s fan base will do almost anything to obscure his flaws. That was fatal for us because if we weren’t allowed to be critical, we couldn’t correct when he was on the wrong track or hold him accountable for poor policy making.

For that early assessment of the media and his mysterious well-heeled fanbase propping him up in 2008, many of us were labeled “racists”. I hope that the left has learned a painful lesson from the last election about throwing that word around. Yes, there are racists. Real racism exists but it isn’t all about Barack Obama, who is a class based aspirational president and not John Lewis. But there many voters who were sick to death of having their perceptions invalidated by that cynical accusation. Unfortunately, some of them did not know when they were being played. We’re still trying to figure out what separated the casual Trump supporter from the lefty voter who simply didn’t like Obama but had no problem voting for Hillary. The Nate Silvers of the world who crunch their models can point to surface causes but I think the answer is buried in how labile we are to pressures to conform and adapt to consensus reality. We may need to find new descriptors for that model.

The purpose of this blog is to defy consensus reality. Commenters here feel safe to say what they think is really going on. The way we do this is by avoiding mental short cuts and slogans and buzz words. If you have a problem with out of control capitalism, calling a politician a “corporatist” is not going to cut it here. You need to say exactly what you mean, think it through, choose your words to convey their intent clearly.

Choosing carefully where we get our news and touchpoint with actual reality will also make a difference. Here are my tips for finding reality based news. Do with them what you will:

1.) Avoid any news source that provokes an immediate emotional response, especially if that response is fear or anger. People who are provoked to anger or fear do not make good decisions. It is difficult to reason with someone who is enraged. Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you tried to have a reasonable conversation with someone in a rage state.

2.) Avoid television news. This means ALL television and cable news programs. The combination of audio with visual cues is very powerful. It doesn’t matter which network you choose. Some are worse than others but they all do it. Just don’t watch it. Give it a week and you won’t miss it. Get to know your family again, take up the guitar, go for a walk. Make the TV a special thing where you binge watch Outlander and oogle Jamie Fraser in a kilt.

3.) If you need to get a quick news fix, try radio. Again, some radio is better than others. NPR used to be my go to. Now, I can hear the narratives built into the scripts. So, be careful with this. Again, if you find yourself becoming fearful or angry, stop listening.

4.) Find reliable sources in print journalism. Even this is getting increasingly difficult to do. There are some sources that are more reliable than others. I read a wide variety of sources like the NYTimes, Washington Post, ProPublica, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Conversation, The Guardian. If it seems like my choices are left leaning, that’s because truth does seem to have a strong liberal bias. That being said, the NYTimes and Washington Post have been lax with their standards in the last decade or so. I wouldn’t necessarily call either paper “left”. But occasionally, you can find articles that are less biased and better investigated. Also, read foreign news sources, like Der Spiegel for an outsider’s perspective. Google translate is amazing.

5.) Try alternate sources for news. I like podcasts. In 2016, we saw a bumper crop of good podcasts, some more analytical than others. Among my favorites, The Weeds from Vox, Five Thirty Eight from Nate Silver and his data modelers, and my current favorite, TrumpCast with Jacob Weisberg from Slate.

6.) Apply the Cindy Lu Who test. If you see a green imp in a Santa suit stealing your Christmas Tree and he tells you a story about taking it back to his workshop to fix a broken light, ask yourself why he couldn’t have come by during the day when your parents were awake. In general, the simplest explanation is the most likely. Conspiracies are rare. Most people are motivated by simple things like greed, revenge, arrogance. (I’m looking at you Rudy Giuliani) Those deadly sins can lead them to do a number of unethical things. But if your favorite news reader starts spewing an improbable scenario, and if that scenario makes you mad before you can figure out if it’s true or not, apply the Cindy Lu Who test and start asking questions.

7.) Read non-fiction. Read history, science, paleobotany, it doesn’t much matter. Find a well reviewed non-fiction book and learn from it. It’s especially good for learning to analyze and that can be applied to the here and now. Some of my favorite non-fiction include, A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman, Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, anything by Michael Lewis, In the Garden of Beasts by Eric Larsen, SPQR- A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard.

Lastly, check out this diagram of where news sources fall on the left-right, reliable-unreliable spectrum. If you are confused and distrustful about what and who to believe, stick to the top layer in the middle. Even the Wall Street Journal, as crazy as its opinion pages are, has a very good news bureau and high quality reporting.

7xhauxf

We’re about to be bombarded by a high volume of issues and controversies all at once. We will be disoriented. We may have a hard time keeping track of what is going on. Many people who have studied authoritarian regimes say that citizens quickly learn to accept the unacceptable so you are encouraged to write down what your beliefs and principles are right now and check them periodically to see if you are slipping.

Hold hands, stick together, look out for one another.

SWAK!

Advertisements

Morning Music 

It’s beautiful today in Pittsburgh. Going for a hike in the cold air. Will have a post up later about news sources. In the meantime, welcome new readers. We don’t care how you voted. We have to get over that. We need each other now. Our motto here is hold hands, stick together, watch out for one another.

Be back later…


More…

Michael Cohen at the Boston Globe writes that the calm before the storm is already disorienting in America Is Off The Tracks. 

Adam Gopnik writes in The New Yorker that it is essential that we find allies in the conservative side who see beyond party and are determined to protect the Constitution in The Music Donald Trump Cannot Hear. Adam gives us some direction: 

There’s no point in studying history if we do not take some lesson from it. The best way to be sure that 2017 is not 1934 is to act as though it were. We must learn and relearn that age’s necessary lessons: that meek submission is the most short-sighted of policies; that waiting for the other, more vulnerable group to protest first will only increase the isolation of us all. We must refuse to think that if we play nice and don’t make trouble, our group won’t be harmed. Calm but consistent opposition shared by a broad front of committed and constitutionally-minded protesters—it’s easy to say, fiendishly hard to do, and necessary to accomplish if we are to save the beautiful music of American democracy.

I’m not going to lie and say there is nothing to fear. Our fear is very rational. But we can’t let it overwhelm us. 

The Guardian writes about Trump’s attacks on John Lewis, a genuine hero of the civil rights movement, on Martin Luther King Weekend. It’s a well known political ploy to attack your opponent’s strength. Our nation’s strength for several decades has been its determination to overcome racism. This is not the time to be conciliatory towards the man who would be president. We shouldn’t yield a millimeter on civil rights. 

Esquire writes The Trump Administration May Remove the Press from the White House. I have to bite my tongue here because I can’t think of an entity that deserves punishment more than our “extremely careless” media. But this seems like an effective way to begin to undermine the First Amendment. So as much as I blame it for giving us Trump in the first place, this is where I have to take a stand and demand constitutional protection of the press. 

Serial: Both Sides Now

Serial fans are now the topic of New Yorker cartoons.

Yep, I do this.

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

Episode 10 of Serial dropped on Thursday. This episode, titled The Best Defense Is A Good Defense, was about Adnan’s trial and the performance of his lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez. Sarah Koenig reviewed the tapes of the trial, transcripts and motions, and came to some rather surprising conclusions.

Koenig says that while there was some pretrial misinformation that was prejudicial to Adnan, especially with respect to anti-Muslim sentiment, she doesn’t feel that he lost his trial specifically because of it. Some of the excerpts of this section were painful to listen to. Adnan is an American but he was portrayed as a flight risk fleeing an honor killing. In actuality, Adnan’s upbringing was similar to my own, which just goes to show that a smart kid in a house with two extremely strict and religious parents will find a way to be a normal teenager no matter what the religious affiliation. And when I say “normal” I don’t mean “bad”. Adnan did some things I didn’t do in high school but I don’t consider any of it outside the norms. In short, Adnan had fully adapted to western culture in a way his parents probably had not.  In the end, that’s primarily the way the jury saw it too even though there was some residual cultural biases. So, no, the jury didn’t convict Adnan simply because he was a Muslim from Pakistan but we can’t rule out the notion that there was some association that affected the way they perceived the motive the prosecution presented.

Then there is Cristina Gutierrez, Adnan’s lawyer. Koenig’s take on her varies quite a bit from Rabia Chaudry’s memory to the extent that Rabia wrote a more extensive rebuttal on her blog Splitthemoon. Rabia and Koenig are on the same side but I expect that Koenig knew she would be ruffling some feathers. In the end, I think they roughly reach the same conclusion but Koenig’s is more objective because she wasn’t in the courtroom at the time and didn’t get the feedback that Adnan’s community provided, nor was Koenig able to gauge the juror’s reactions at the time of the trial.

As to whether Gutierrez deliberately threw the trial as Rabia asserts, Koenig says she doesn’t think so. But both Koenig and Rabia conclude that Gutierrez was not in peak form, and her illness and distraction probably lead to a less effective presentation for the jury. One frustrating finding was that the first trial ended in a mistrial when an alternate juror overheard the judge calling Gutierrez a liar. At that point, the jury had heard Jay’s testimony and when polled afterwards, would have acquitted Adnan at the time the trial abruptly ended. During the second trial, the prosecution cleaned Jay up and coached him better and Cristina seemed to have lost her edge.

But the segment of this podcast that affected katiebird and myself most was when Adnan tells us that he advises new inmates to “take the deal”. He tells them that even if they are innocent, they are better off pleading guilty to something for a reduced sentence. Maintaining your innocence and not showing remorse (for something you haven’t done) is a sure fire way to remain in prison for the rest of your life. The takeaway message that we both got was that the system is stacked against the innocent because if you were totally innocent, you wouldn’t have gotten into trouble in the first place. You wouldn’t be sitting in a courtroom. No one gets accused of murder if they are completely innocent. Therefore, your best bet of living a life outside of prison someday is to give the justice system what it wants: closure and repentance. Then you can serve out your 20 years and be out just in time for the rest of your middle age.

This is scary for Americans who were brought up thinking that you are innocent until proven guilty. The system definitely doesn’t work that way, especially for those who are not wealthy. But even for Adnan, whose community was able to help him pay for an attorney with a stellar reputation, getting convicted of first degree murder based almost exclusively on the wildly inconsistent testimony of a prosecution witness with a sweet deal and no physical evidence, was incredibly easy. And it shouldn’t have been.

In the end, I think this is what Serial is about. It’s not about the nature of truth, although that is important. It’s not about culture, ethnicity or race, though I don’t think we’ve heard the end of that portion of the case. I do think race might have been a factor as far as how Jay was perceived by the jury. It’s about the borglike authority of the investigation, prosecution and penal system. The unidirectional nature of a system with plea deal check valves is very frightening. You enter it presumed guilty and never truly exit from it. The system is allowed to buy witnesses and fabricate a narrative without physical evidence in order to reach a predetermined outcome. Your whole life may hinge on whether your lawyer is feeling well enough to put on a good defense. Every American should pay attention to how a life can be completely unravelled when getting to the truth is less important than getting a conviction at any cost. If it could happen to Adnan, if could happen to anyone.

Koenig says that Adnan’s future freedom hangs by a thread at this point. There is one appeal motion pending in January to address some final issues about whether Gutierrez did all she could to reduce Adnan’s sentence. After that? Who knows. It could be back to prison for the rest of his life with no possibility of parole.

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

As you may have guessed by now, I am firmly team Adnan. I’ve been pretty convinced that he was not guilty since about episode 4 on Inconsistencies of Jay’s testimony. More and more, I am leaning towards the idea that Jay might not have been involved in the crime at all. Susan Simpson, the lawyer blogging at TheViewFromLL2, is also leaning towards a not guilty conclusion for Adnan based on Jay’s testimony as well but she does feel that Jay was involved because Jay was spinning tall tales all over Baltimore before the body was found that Adnan killed Hae. Yeah, imagine that. You are hanging out with this guy, blithely unaware that behind your back he is telling his friends that you killed your ex-girlfriend.

But I remember a couple of episodes ago that Jay’s friends said that he was a habitual liar. Oh sure, he would never lie about something big but he did have a habit of telling lies just for fun. Some of these lies later turned out to be partially true. But I’m beginning to think that Jay has an overactive imagination. Maybe he should be writing crime fiction. Or maybe he really did have something to do with it. With an almost complete absence of physical evidence tying either Jay or Adnan to the crime, it’s difficult to say but I’m throwing Adnan’s involvement out. I don’t think he had any clue what happened to Hae. More and more, it looks like he was condemned by bad luck, loose lips and a corrupt judicial system.

The problems with mergers

No nuts for you.

Tim Wu at the New Yorker wrote a piece about the all too predictable outcomes when United merged with Continental back in 2010.  There were sharp increases in fares in newly uncompetitive markets and a gradual decline in overall service.  I think the decline goes back even farther than that when United eliminated or sharply reduced pensions for flight crews and pilots back in the early naughties.  I remember distinctly the beaten down and depressed looks of the flight attendants on one of the flights I took from Philadelphia to Denver when I was on my way to a conference. When asked, the flight attendant made some remark to the effect that she had lost a lot in retirement benefits. It felt like we were hurtling towards Soviet era customer satisfaction with poorly compensated and indifferent flight attendants. Was this really what United wanted its customers to experience: a demoralized employee workforce, fewer services and a plethora of new fees, the profits from which were not going to the employee pension fund?

By the way, Tim, that ritualized abuse that you feel Americans are experiencing after the approved mergers of airlines and cable companies, for example?  I call it “exploitative profit mining”.

Then I saw that the New York Times Magazine was doing a big story on the lack of productivity in drug discovery (which I have been predicting for years now) and maybe it was time to go back to “trial and error”.  Now, I’m not going to say they’re wrong because we have tried proteomics, genomics, combinatorials, target based drug design, RNA interference and a whole lotta other “omics” type technologies and none of them have pulled off the “immaculate reception” to save the game that they promised to deliver.

But the thing that really made me laugh was the idea that any bean counter is going to let the R&D division go back to “trial and error”. My last impressions of the industry just before Pharmageddon was that “trials and errors” were distinctly money wasting activities. First, there was no metric that could be applied that could accurately determine exactly how many trials would be necessary to achieve the desired outcome. Secondly, there was the negative word “error”. Error implies failure, not a measurable objective, like a lead in the pipeline. To MBAs and the finance industry that now direct drug discovery research, it is important to minimize negative outcomes like errors, nevermind that it is the way the scientific method works and that we learn as much from error as success. Errors are the way we eliminate dead ends and turn our attention to more promising avenues. It’s how we work the kinks out of all those “-omics” technologies. Whatever. Executives would much prefer “predict and succeed”, which is theoretically a better use of time and money but rather less like science.

We might also try to eliminate the mergers and acquisitions of the drug companies by bigger drug companies, a trend that has interrupted project after project in the last two decades and caused the elimination of entire therapeutic areas. The increase in mergers occurred at the same time that biology is undergoing a 21st century scientific revolution. The finance industry’s unchecked enthusiasm for trading drug companies like baseball cards has blighted many promising new technologies and the careers of thousands of highly trained scientists, hence, no new blockbuster drugs. We probably do not need to conduct any additional trials and errors in merger experiments before we kill off the field entirely.

Just my non-MBA opinion but the lack of blockbuster drugs in the pipeline was entirely predictable fifteen years ago by those of us who experienced the joys of constant M&As. Maybe the bigger problem is that the MBAs never asked those of us in the trenches about the effect of mergers on productivity. Hmmm, one can only imagine why…

Derek Lowe and his insider commenters weigh in on the New York Times Magazine as well.

When Rich People Whine

Chrystia Freeland writes about the bellyaching of the SuperRich in the latest edition of the New Yorker.  In it, some rich people think they can’t get no respect and Al Gore gives some really, REALLY bad advice:

In the letter, Cooperman argued that Obama has needlessly antagonized the rich by making comments that are hostile to economic success. The prose, rife with compound metaphors and righteous indignation, is a good reflection of Cooperman’s table talk. “The divisive, polarizing tone of your rhetoric is cleaving a widening gulf, at this point as much visceral as philosophical, between the downtrodden and those best positioned to help them,” Cooperman wrote. “It is a gulf that is at once counterproductive and freighted with dangerous historical precedents.”

At the dinner, Al Gore was diplomatic when presented with the letter, and asked Cooperman if he would accept higher taxes. Cooperman said that he would—if he was treated with respect, and the government didn’t squander his money. Cooperman asked Gore what he thought the top marginal tax rate should be. Gore’s reply was noncommittal, but he pleased the group by suggesting that no matter who wins in November the victor should surround himself with advisers with experience in the private sector.

No, no more private sector advisors from the MBA management class.  They’re absolutely the last people who need to give more input.  Instead, the winner should solicit advice from people whose careers and industries have been wrecked by those private sector parasites.  At least get both sides of the story.

But it’s this bit that’s bound to get the most attention in the blogosphere:

During another conversation, Cooperman mentioned that over the weekend an acquaintance had come by to get some friendly advice on managing his personal finances. He was a seventy-two-year-old world-renowned cardiologist; his wife was one of the country’s experts in women’s medicine. Together, they had a net worth of around ten million dollars. “It was shocking how tight he was going to be in retirement,” Cooperman said. “He needed four hundred thousand dollars a year to live on. He had a home in Florida, a home in New Jersey. He had certain habits he wanted to continue to pursue.

“I’m just saying that it’s not an impressive amount of capital for two people that were leading physicians for their entire work life,” Cooperman went on. “You know, I lost more today than they spent a lifetime accumulating.”

Most of the people I worked with had more education under their belts than physicians, worked just as hard to make life saving discoveries and never dreamed of being able to sock away $10 million bucks.  The didn’t go into it to get rich but they still have to live in their retirement after working a lifetime in America where their vacation and leisure time is minute compared to the rest of the developed world.  I swear, these people won’t be satisfied until we agree to work for nothing and are grateful for it.

And what’s with this crap about how we need to treat Mr. Cooperman and his buddies with more respect?  WE’RE the ones who deserve more respect. Paying your taxes is not a favor.  It’s a responsibility. And if Cooperman gets to call the shots to make sure his money isn’t squandered, we should all have that same right.  No more expensive wars, no more faith based initiatives, no more oil subsidies and no more bank bailouts. Has Mr. Cooperman seen how the French show respect to selfish piggy rich people who sit on piles of cash?

That last gesture simulated a knife cutting open the throat.  The French have a history, you know.  They don’t fuck around.  We could learn a lot from the disrespectful French.