• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on “Pet Peeves”
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Upon a painted ocean
    Propertius on A Very Good Day
    Propertius on “Pet Peeves”
    alibe50 on Upon a painted ocean
    alibe50 on And we’re off
    riverdaughter on Upon a painted ocean
    William on A Very Good Day
    William on A Very Good Day
    Beata on A Very Good Day
    Beata on A Very Good Day
    Beata on A Very Good Day
    MsMass on Upon a painted ocean
    William on Once More Into the Breach
    William on Upon a painted ocean
  • 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

    September 2022
    S M T W T F S
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 25, 2022
      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 25, 2022 by Tony Wikrent The Making Of “LINCOLN” Behind The Scenes [TW: A enthralling discussion of how they strove to make the film as authentic as possible. The clock ticking heard in the background of some scenes, for example, was a recording made of a watch Lincoln had actually owned. And Daniel Day Lewis des […]
  • Top Posts

Gallows humor about Pharmageddon

Merck recently announced a shakeup- again.  Yeah, yeah, but this time they really mean it.  In response, a commenter at In the Pipeline wrote this Onionesque report:

Subject: FW: Merck in the News

NEW YORK, N.Y. (AP.com) – Merck will reduce its workforce by an
unprecedented 120 percent by the end of 2013, believed to be the first
time a major corporation has laid off more employees than it actually
Merck stock soared more than 12 points on the news.

The reduction decision, announced Wednesday, came after a year-long
internal review of cost-cutting procedures. The initial report concluded
the company would save $1.2 billion by eliminating 20 percent of its
85,000 employees.

From there, said a spokesperson, “it didn’t take a genius to figure out
that if we cut 40 percent of our workforce, we’d save $2.4 billion, and
if we cut 100 percent of our workforce, we’d save $6 billion. But then
we thought, why stop there? Let’s cut another 20 percent and save $7

“We believe in increasing shareholder value, and we believe that by
decreasing expenditures, we enhance our competitive cost position and
our bottom line,” he added.

Merck plans to achieve the 100 percent internal reduction through
layoffs, attrition and early retirement packages. To achieve the 20
percent in external reductions, the company plans to involuntarily
downsize 17,000 non-Merck employees who presently work for other

“We pretty much picked them out of a hat,”.

Among firms Merck has picked as “External Reduction Targets,” or ERTs,
are Quaker Oats, AMR Corporation, parent of American Airlines, Lockheed,
Boeing, and Charles Schwab & Co. Merck’s plan presents a “win-win” for
the company and ERTs, said the Merck spokesperson, as any savings by

ERTs would be passed on to Merck, while the ERTs themselves would benefit by the increase in
stock price that usually accompanies personnel cutback announcements.

“We’re also hoping that since, over the years, we’ve been really helpful
to a lot of companies, they’ll do this for us kind of as a favor,”.

Legally, pink slips sent out by Merck would have no standing at ERTs
unless those companies agreed. While executives at ERTs declined to
comment, employees at those companies said they were not inclined to

“This is ridiculous. I don’t work for Merck. They can’t fire me,” said
Kaili Blackburn, a flight attendant with American Airlines.

Reactions like that, replied the Merck spokesperson “are not very

Inspiration for Merck’s plan came from previous cutback initiatives,
said company officials. In January of 2005, for instance, the company
announced it would trim 15,000 jobs over two years. However, just a year
later, Merck said it had already reached its quota. “We were quite
surprised at the number of employees willing to leave Merck in such a
hurry, and we decided to build on that,”.

Analysts credited the short-term vision, noting that the announcement
had the desired effect of immediately increasing Merck’s share value.
However, the long-term ramifications could be detrimental, said Morgan Stanley analyst Beldon McInty.

“It’s a little early to tell, but by eliminating all its employees,
Merck may jeopardize its market position and could, at least
theoretically, cease to exist,” said McInty.

The spokesperson, however, urged patience: “To my knowledge, this hasn’t
been done before, so let’s just wait and see what happens.”

I laughed at first and then thought, that’s pretty much how they do it.

Well, at least the guy who wrote that has a future at some satirical online newspaper.

Clearing the Instapaper Queue

Not my garage, but it could be.

The Instapaper queue is getting full, sort of like my garage.  Time to clean it out.

By the way, is it only here in New Jersey where it’s almost impossible to throw things away?  We have to get a permit from the township to get rid of things, they’re very limited in number and the number of dump days is also very limited.  So, even if you manage to snag a permit, you may have to wait months to use it. Since I’m not a senior citizen and live in a townhouse development, I can’t put old stuff on the curb for the trash guys to pick up.  I can put stuff out there for a Craigslist curb alert but if it’s not gone by sundown, I have to schlepp it back into my garage or pay a fine.  I just noticed the other weekend that all of my neighbors have garages piled high with stuff that they can’t take to the dumpster, can’t take to the town dump and have to pay the mafia a fortune to take away.  Ahhh, privatization.  These are not your typical garbage men, noooo.  These garbage people want the garbage to be prepackaged for them.  The cardboard must be broken down into regulation size pieces, no piece longer than 2 feet.  These are classy garbage men.  they have standards.

Anyway, enough of that.  Here’s what’s in the queue:

You’re probably already aware of the tragic and senseless murder of Autumn Pasquale in Clayton, NJ.  That town is nowhere near here and my township is pretty safe (although there was an armed robbery in Princeton the other day.  Well, some would say that just living in Princeton is armed robbery, but I digress.)

Autumn was strangled by a couple of boys who were a few years older than her.  They lured her into their house with promises of bike parts and then killed her, presumably because she wouldn’t give up her own bike.  Predictably, the whole state is in a panic, locking up their children.  That reminded me that Lenore Skenazy of FreeRangeKids has a page on crime statistics for every person who’s ever said, “Times are different now.  It’s more dangerous.”  Well, the data says otherwise and Lenore has consulted FBI records and other crimes statistics to prove it.

So, to all you nervous nellies out there, chill a little.  You might to a lot of harm by locking your daughter up in a tower when she could be out playing games and riding her bike.  No matter how fearful the local news programs make you feel, your kid is probably not in any danger.  And that brings me to the second article from the Instapaper queue…

Several years ago, there was a study about what factors make a population turn to conservative politicians.  (I think it might have been this one:Pyszczynski, T., Solomon, S., & Greenberg, J. (2003). In the wake of 9/11: The psychology of terror. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association but I can’t find the copy of the paper I printed) One of the biggest factors that makes people choose the hardass conservative over the peace loving liberal is the fear of one’s imminent death.  The more afraid people are of dying from attacks on them or their children from, oh, say, child predators or Muslims, for example, the more likely they are to vote for a warmongering idiot like George W. Bush.  It’s the whole reason Fox News exists.  Don’t believe me?  Go ahead and watch an hour of Fox News, I’ll wait.  Come back and tell me what the body count is.  Fox pushes fear like nobody’s business.  If you watch nothing but Fox all day (and I know people who do), you’d get the impression that the world was a Clockwork Orange ultraviolent horrorshow, chaotic and insanely dangerous.   There’s a whole field of study on the politics of mortality.  I feel for the researchers who have to watch a lot of Fox news but hey, it’s all for the benefit of science, right?  Someone’s gotta do it.

Well, it turns out that there may be a biological component to whether we will be more or less vulnerable to conservative fearmongering and disgust induction.  Here’s a blurb from a new Nature article, Biology and Ideology: The anatomy of politics:

An increasing number of studies suggest that biology can exert a significant influence on political beliefs and behaviours. Biological factors including genes, hormone levels and neurotransmitter systems may partly shape people’s attitudes on political issues such as welfare, immigration, same-sex marriage and war. And shrewd politicians might be able to take advantage of those biological levers through clever advertisements aimed at voters’ primal emotions.

Many of the studies linking biology to politics remain controversial and unreplicated. But the overall body of evidence is growing and might alter how people think about their own and others’ political attitudes.

“People are proud of their political beliefs,” says John Hibbing, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “We tend to think they’re the result of some rational responses to the world around us.” But in fact, a combination of genes and early experiences may predispose people to perceive and respond to political issues in certain ways. Recognizing that could help the public and politicians to develop more respect for those with opposing viewpoints.

“I’d like to see people have a little less chutzpah about their political beliefs, and understand that some people experience the world differently,” says Hibbing.

Yes, indeed, it would be nice if other people understood that some people experience the world differently and *don’t* get freaked out by the child predators and bloodthirsty Muslims that are supposedly lurking behind every door.  It would be nice but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Speaking of biology, I saw this article at The Onion (H/T Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline) about incorrigible cancer cells titled, “Latest Study Finds Cancer Cells Now Cruelly Mocking Researchers“.  Only The Onion could make cancer funny but what’s really funny is that the piece has more than a ring of truth to it.  If you’ve ever worked on a oncology project, this looks way too familiar:

The findings—published this week in a rambling, expletive-laden 8,000-word article in The Journal Of The American Medical Association—provides the strongest evidence yet that abnormal cells targeted with cutting-edge cancer treatments are basically flipping off scientists left and right, and get a huge kick out of making oncologists feel like a bunch of bumbling dipshit chumps.

“By mounting comprehensive and systematic attacks on malignancies with emerging technologies such as low-cost genetic sequencing, artificial intelligence, and monoclonal antibody treatments, what we’ve discovered is that cancer cells are little pricks that think they’re the king of the fucking world,” lead author Dr. Charles Sepkowitz said of the study, which found that most leading cancers are pretty goddamn proud of themselves, especially when exasperated oncologists feel like their research is going nowhere. “Our data indicate that while it’s frustrating that cancer cells metastasize so fast, they don’t have to be such huge assholes about it.”

“You can almost hear them cackling at us while they spread to the lymph nodes,” he added.

According to the study, researchers now have a much better sense of the molecular and cellular basis of tumor growth, including the ingrained sense of entitlement that reportedly drives cancer cells to grow irregularly until they become one big fuck-you to scientists.

The report confirmed that while all types of carcinomas are beginning to make researchers feel like garbage, myeloma cancer cells in particular think they’re God’s gift just because they’re resistant to the frontline drug Velcade.

Researchers found that in addition to those toxic cells, basal cell carcinomas also get a “certain sick joy out of smacking researchers around like a bunch of little bitches.”

Go read the whole thing.  It’s hilarious in a “just shoot me” kind of way.  The minute you think you’ve inhibited one kinase, the one immediately upstream decides to up regulate itself without even a by-your-leave.  They really are little pricks.

In the meantime, there are more shortages of drugs and more manufacturing problems with the ones we have.  Says the New York Times piece, Lapses at Big Drug Factories Add to Shortages and Danger:

In the last three years, six of the major manufacturers of sterile injectable drugs — which are subject to rigorous inspections by the federal government, as opposed to compounding pharmacies, which are generally overseen by the states — have been warned by the Food and Drug Administration about serious violations of manufacturing rules. Four of them have closed factories or significantly slowed production to fix the problems. Nearly a third of the industry’s manufacturing capacity is off line because of quality issues, according to a Congressional report.

The shutdowns have contributed to a shortage of critical drugs, and compounding pharmacies have stepped into the gap as medical professionals scramble for alternative sources. But several serious health scares have been traced to compounding pharmacies in recent years. Authorities said 19 people had died from meningitis in an outbreak traced to a contaminated steroid made by the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts. Supplies of the steroid, methylprednisolone acetate, became short earlier this year after two generic manufacturers, Teva and Sandoz, stopped making it.

“In the industry, everyone knows that all of the factories are in terrible shape,” said Erin Fox, manager of the Drug Information Service at the University of Utah, which tracks drug shortages. But the public, she said, is still in the dark. “I think people think this is a foreign outsourcing problem, but these factories are in our own country.”

Ok, let me take a stab at what might be happening here.  The “geniuses” on Wall Street and like-minded corporate CEOs, (you know, the ones that have merging our companies like there’s no tomorrow, restructuring constantly and laying off all the researchers in New Jersey?), have done a cost benefit analysis on the aging production facilities.  They know that the facilities have problems but to fix those problems would cost in the tens of millions of dollars.  That’s tens of millions of dollars in shareholder value.  Do the shareholders really want to spend all that money on some stupid little generic that they can’t make a shitload of money on or a drug that’s about to go off patent?  Fuck no.  It’s much better to just shut the sucker down.  End of problem.  Unless, of course, you’re a patient or the entire United States of America who relies on a functioning research and production infrastructure.

It will be all fun and games until some rich banker dies of a superbug staph infection. That’s the point at which even the Libertarians will want government intervention and you know what?  It won’t be possible.  You can’t crank up research and production facilities like you can rejigger the bezel of a new iPad mini on-the-fly at Foxcomm.

Speaking of iPad minis, I really need one.  Ok, I don’t really need an iPad mini.  I can wait until I have more money in the bank.  But what I do need is a bigger display monitor and a couple terabytes of disk space.  {{sob}}  Looking at proteins on a small laptop screen is a suboptimal, eye tiring experience, especially when it doesn’t have retina display.  Damn, I just need new hardware.

Poverty sucks.

An apple 27″ Thunderbolt display monitor. Sigh. A girl can dream

Wednesday: We didn’t just fall off the turnip truck

Yesterday, The Onion put out another one of those “soon-to-be-classic” headlines: Nation Ready to be Lied to About Economy Again.  I find myself identifying with this guy who was quoted in the article:

“I don’t need to be constantly reminded that the lack of regulations on Wall Street compounded with failing institutions like AIG basically plunged the world economy into a global recession,” said 32-year-old office manager Alexis Harrington. “What I want is for someone to tell me with a straight face that the GDP is through the roof so that I can feel better and instantly forget what all these terms even mean.”

“For the first time in my life I know who the secretary of the treasury is,” Harrington continued. “And I don’t like it.”

Yes, indeedy, I know more about money than I ever wanted to and if I had any inkling that I would have to wade through this muck in my hipwaders I would have been swilling grain spiked beer every night with the rest of the business majors back in my college days.

Never fear!  According to Dana Milbank, our PBO is on the case.  Everything is all cool and groovy.  We don’t need to worry:

Yesterday’s news was good — almost supernaturally so.

The economy? Recovering.

The markets? Rallying.

Swine flu? Abating.

Drought? Ending.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared his confidence that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are well secured. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee declared his confidence that a massive health-care overhaul will be accomplished this year. Warren Buffett declared his confidence that the economy is “out of the quicksand.” And the Supreme Court was confident enough about the state of the nation to turn its attention to Janet Jackson’s breasts.

Call it good policy, as Democrats do, or beginner’s luck, as the last remaining Republicans do, but you can practically hear the nation collectively exhaling.

Well, I know I feel better except for:

  • The ex has been laid off making me the only working parent
  • The BFF and I are waiting to see if the research industry still has any interest in employing American scientists.  His company is merging and plans to lay off thousands; mine has a new CEO who has decided to slash research by 50%.  We should know this summer whether we still have jobs.
  • My brother was so afraid of being laid off he joined the army full time and moved 1500 miles away.
  • Another relative has been told by the major health insurer that she works for that it is dropping spouses from their own health insurance policies.  It will now cost an extra $500/month to cover him.  No, she isn’t getting a raise to cover it.
  • My favorite aunt, whose deceased husband used to work for a GM subsidiary, is waiting to see if her retirement benefits are going to be slashed.  She’s not exactly wealthy in the first place and this could really do her in.
  • Another aunt’s family furniture business has had to layoff long time, loyal employees because no one is buying sofas.  The business is really hurting.

So far, the only person *not* suffering is my mom, the Armageddon specialist, who is sitting on a big-old wad of cash and two pensions my dad left her. We are all planning to move in with her.

What does the Obama administration take us for?  Are we supposed to look around at all this misery and lowered standard of living and blame ourselves for what is happening?  All these people brought this on themselves?  They are responsible for losing jobs and insurance and pensions?  These are just the people *I* know personally in my own family.  Multiply this over and over again.  Believing in sweet little lies is not an option anymore.

There is one bright spot in this scenario, however.  It is a cautionary tale involving Jon Corzine.  Let’s put aside the fact that he sold us out at the convention, for which we have video evidence that I will happily play over and over again for any Hillary primary voter in NJ.  No, there are other reasons to fry Corzine’s ass.  He is the Obama prototype.  He vowed to do something about our insane and regressive property tax system when he took office.  And it’s not like there weren’t plenty of options.  Pennsylvania, which is right next door, isn’t forcing seniors out of their homes by yearly tax increases.  They have a combination of taxes that pay for stuff.  But no, Corzine didn’t want to hike income taxes on big business or on the uber wealthy in Bergen county.  He didn’t have the courage to impose an occupation tax.  And the only sales tax he implemented was one on iTunes purchases.  Theoretically, my taxes decreased by something like 20% since he took office.  But my property taxes, the only ones that count, go up anyway.  I am back to the same mortgage payments I had before I refinanced several years ago.  Go figure.

And all of this happened while he had a Democratic majority in the statehouse.  What was stopping all of them from getting together and making some tough decisions that rebalanced the tax burden from the poor to the rich?  Meanwhile, the economy is falling apart and there are a ton of finance people employed on Wall Street who commute to work from their homes in NJ.  They are losing their jobs.  Then there are the multitude of research people who for some reason the former CEO of Goldman Sachs governor continues to overlook.  NJ is home to major pharmaceutical and biotech research and Corzine has the gall to send out a campaign fundraising appeal letter to us happily announcing that Jack Welch has praised him for a job well done in NJ.  Our schools are underfunded, the pension system is a mess, our taxes too high and we’re supposed to feel good that cut-throat, uber salesman, social darwinist extraordinaire Jack Welch is high-fiving the governor.

Well, it’s all coming back to bite Corzine in the ass.  The NYTimes reports today that he is trailing one of his Republican challengers, former US Attorney Chris Christie.  In a latest Quinnipiac poll, Corzine is polling even with the *other* Republican in the race who is a typical GOP nutcase.  Think about that for a sec: New Jerseyans would *almost* prefer a flat taxing, pro-lifer to Corzine right now.  Never fear, Corzine’s team is planning to mess around with the Republican primary so the weakest primary candidate gets nominated.  Well, it’s not like his team has no experience with manipulating primary results.  Have you seen this video?  It’s our governor giving a big middle finger to every Hillary primary voter in NJ last year.  I mean, she only won this state by 10 points and didn’t manage to get even one single delegate.  Yes, I intend to keep bringing it up until everyone gets it.  No, I won’t get over it. I am mad as Hell that Corzine cavalierly disenfranchised me and millions of other New Jersey voters.  We didn’t give him permission to do that.

So, let this be a lesson to sunny, optimistic Barack Obama.  He has every opportunity in the world now to fix the economy for the working class, which would include all of us who do NOT work on Wall Street.  He’s got solid majorities in the House and Senate.  If he chooses to take a hands off approach on bills that would lower the principle on primary mortgages for example, or protect pensions or help Americans afford healthcare, he’s in for a rude awakening in 4 years when the rest of the country, like NJ, decides they’re sick of the happy talk from politicians with connections to the banking industry.

We might be slow but we’re not stupid.

Please DIGG & Share!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Franz Kafka International Named Most Alienating Airport

Break out of ennui and use this an an open thread. Feel free to post Kafkaesqe, terrifying, alienating links or otherwise comment on the meaningless nightmarish quality of human existence.

Laid Back Thursday

I’m taking the evening off to watch some TV and just veg a bit.  But I found this hillarious video over at Cannonfire that I couldn’t pass up:

Yes, Obamaphiles, this is really the way the world sees you.  It was that bad.  Time for rehab.

This is an open thread.  What’s on your mind?