Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obama to D.C.: Toughen Up

How long until the wingnuts find some reason to be outraged over this clip?

(alt. video link)

I predict at least one will attempt to compare it to Phil Gramm's "mental recession" gaffes.

(Swiped from Oliver Willis.)

[Added] Looks like I was right about the wingnuts. Special Ed:

Spoken like a true Hawaiian.


And this is the man who wants to tell us what the weather means and why we have to completely revamp our energy production because some years are hotter than others?


See what happens when you go to work for Malkin? Everything turns into a source for outrage.


Adam said...

Hey Brendan

As a former Minnesotan and very likely a Minnesotan again in a few months (I got invited out as a "top candidate" to the cancer PhD program I applied to at the U of MN and was informed I was nominated for an honorary--and hopefully monetary-- endowed fellowship as a top candidate amongst the top candidates) Mr. Obama speaks the truth.

However before my family moved to the NYC area when my dad turned from a pencil-pushing government employee at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve to a Wall St capitalist bastard my family lived in Minneapolis. And while I didn't get old enough to be of school age my sister did and my mom obviously did since she grew up there. Anyways, while perhaps they're tougher in Chicago or it simply doesn't get quit as arctic in the winters, they do indeed cancel school maybe once or twice a year in Minneapolis. Not due to snow, mind you; people there are used to getting around in winter weather and snow removal/salting is top notch. But at least in Minneapolis they have occasional "cold days" where air temps of -30 degrees F and wind chills of -60 F make sending children out to wait for school buses a public safety liability.

Anyways I dunno if it's my Eastern European blood or my Minnesotan roots but I can't wait to get out and ice fish and feel the bitter cold when a cup of water thrown in the air freezes before it hits the ground.

I thought you might like to see my most recent attempt to make Wingnuttia similarly becoming enraged at an equally minor statement by the POTUS.

But more interestingly since I know you find the science Saturday diavlogs interesting I thought you might like this epic post I made that talks about my general interpretation of cancer as well as some of my own personal hypotheses about some aspects of cancer and what I would ideally like to study in my future research.

Anyways, I hope the (Chinese) New Year finds you well. Take care,


John Evo said...

Adam -

I can certainly see cancelling school for some of the -50 wind chill days they have up in MN and WI. I'm pretty sure it wasn't close to that in D.C. - just colder than a usual cold winters day. I can't imagine the chaos that would be experienced here in L.A. if we had 25 degrees and a few snow flakes! The city would shut down. Obama is right. Best wishes on your future in studying cancer. Here's MY hypothesis - take some cancer cells from a patient, insert a self-destructive virus in it (one that has no effect on healthy cells), breed it until the cells have the virus in their DNA and then reinsert in the original canncer. Whatiya think?

bjkeefe said...


First off, congratulations on the first step. Best wishes for it developing further.

I did look at both of your posts that you linked to. I've bookmarked the cancer one for closer reading -- my ADD was acting up when it appeared in my feed reader. Great effort from the looks of it. Maybe once you get into grad school and things settle down, you'll pursue this sort of writing. You could start the Cosmic Variance of cancer research.

As to the first, well, yeah -- it does push you closer to being on The List. I am not up to mustering a detailed rebuttal, but I will say that your attempt to draw a parallel between Bush's willful deafness and Obama's taking a stance on his stimulus proposal doesn't fly for me. To the degree that I have followed this story, it appears that the Congressional Republicans aren't debating in good faith. They appear, instead, to be mindlessly opposing the whole idea, cherry-picking items in the bill to whip up their base, and generally acting out of interests of regaining political power rather than doing what's right for the country. Obama has already shown a willingness to listen and flexibility in this debate, much to the dismay of some on the left, I might add, and it seems to me like he's not getting anything in return from the GOP leadership.

There's a difference between being stupidly rigid and completely unwilling to listen to dissent, like Bush, and adopting a negotiating position based on political realities and a mandate from the voters. There is also a difference between running roughshod over Congress, say, to start a war, and showing them a little steel when it comes to getting a bill passed.

Adam said...

John Evo--

Gene therapy through manipulating "harmless" retroviruses to insert genetic material into specific cells has not had a successful track record... in its earliest inclination it ended up killing several children it was tested on.

One of the things I vaguely touch upon in the linked manifesto is cancer mitogens and these mitogens conversely have transmembrane receptors that are expressed differentially in different types of cells. One of the professors I want to interview most (he was at the top of my preferences list for interviewss at UMN was James McCarthy both because he studies melanoma but also because he studies "understanding the importance of changes in the relationships between tumor cells and the surrounding extracellular matrix in tumor progression and metastasis."

So it's a bit more complex than just say, to use an analogy, poisoning one ant who brings the poison back to the ants' nest since the poison won't just be "spread" amongst the cells in thie case in a manner any more specific than other chemotherapeutic toxins. But using the idea of taking a cancer specific cell on the coat of a cell like melanoma chondroiton sulfate proteoglycan (just for instance, I have no idea what that is) you could then try to do things to target those cells by trying things like attaching nasty things to antibodies to those proteins.

Unfortunately so far ideas like attaching toxins to known tumor antibodies, using gene therapy to try to insert destructive DNA into known vectors of transmission (viruses, etc) have all pretty much been thought of and tried to some degree or another. Doesn't mean the ideass, in general, have no merit, but you'd be surprised by how many "new" ideas have already been investigated thoroughly.

The theme at this year's American Society of Clinical Oncologists meeting is the personalization of cancer care. I think the hot new idea is that in the future we'll put a DNA extract from a cancer cell on some computerized gene chip and it'll spit out a list of 10 small-molecule protein inhibitors that might be largely similar between patients but with 3 or 4 medicines that differ between folks. The fact that most of those medicines don't exist yet those medicines don't exist yet and the genetic analysis is not nearly high throughput enough for clinical use.

Adam said...


I admit that my post about Obama was mostly frustrating venting at his glib dismissal of Republican points (some of which are valid) and also at the lack of transparency of this stimulus package.

I'm sure this sounds crass but according to the Congressional Budget Office through about 2007 the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost about $1 trillion; say that overall we're going to spend $1.5 trllion on those wars, the economic stimulus packages have equaled that much excess government spending in the last 5 months of Bush's presidency plus the first few months of Obama's.

The wars had of course both moral and foreign policy implications but from a monetary standpoint it's arguable that the economic crisis has more of an impact than the wars. How it's shaped, how the money is doled out, how transparent the process is, how much the experts are allowed to shape the process (and not the equivalent of neocon "experts" in foreign policy but rather experts in economics), how much of a unitary role Obama's executive branch seeks etc. all give me pause about him acting apparently more like George W. Bush (whose constitutional overstepping of bounds was one of the most valid criticisms of his Presidency) than George H. W. Bush. But maybe I'm just paranoid, but when figures like $900 billion get thrown around in the first few weeks of a new administration I think a little paranoia might be warranted.

bjkeefe said...

I can't speak to the transparency, or lack thereof, in the stimulus package, but I'd be surprised if one couldn't find details on it. "Glib" I suppose is in the eye of the beholder -- you'll be unsurprised to hear that I reject that characterization of Obama's recent interactions.

I'm with you in being worried both about the amounts involved and how they'll be spent, and whether either will get the economy going again. Still, to the extent that I've looked at what the experts say, most of those whose judgment I trust say that if anything, this bill doesn't go far enough. So, I guess my vague attitude is, we have to keep the future in mind, for sure, but we have to get there first. People are hurting badly right now, and we're certainly not going to pay down the national debt if we go into a prolonged depression.

Also, I don't think Obama is being excessively unitary about this. It has long been the way we do things that the executive branch takes a prominent role in putting these things together and pushing them through, and it's not as though Obama is doing anything different from what he campaigned on.

If the Republicans are as against the whole thing as they claim they are, but for reasons other than playing politics, they ought to be able to stop it. In between the filibuster in the Senate and the willingness of Dems to break ranks, they have a better chance as a minority party than the Dems do when the roles are reversed. Their problem is that they aren't showing much in the way of sincerity, willingness to negotiate honestly, or any ideas of their own. It's all about talking points, made-up reports and numbers, and trying to trash the opposition. There doesn't seem to be any real commitment to doing what's right for the country and their cowering before the foghorn of Limbaugh's voice is a disgrace.

Therefore, they're not going to move many Dems over to their side, and worse, they have failed to impress a President who showed every sign of having wanted to get them on board. And therefore, I say, fuck 'em. I never believed the GOP had the slightest interest in real bipartisanship anyway.

John Evo said...

I with you, Brendan. The fact that that voted in lock-step against this after Obama went (in my opinion) way too far in attempting a bi-partisan reach, says all we need to know.

Obama has 2 years to make shit happen that will benefit the people of this country. He better leave "bi-partisanship" off his "to do" list and get busy.

bjkeefe said...

Actually, when our tempers over the GOP stunts during negotiations for this stimulus package have cooled, I wouldn't be dead set against trying to reach out again. Three reasons, in order of increasing cynicism.

1. I really do believe in Obama's Inaugural words, that it is time to put aside childish things. We have too many problems to be dicking around, driven only by the concerns of the next electoral cycle.

2. I would like everybody, from the center to the far left, to continue doing what Obama did during the weeks before the stimulus package came to a vote -- keep providing opportunities for the more moderate Republicans and the more sane conservatives and libertarians to separate themselves from the Palin-Limbaugh-Christianist mindset (the Axis of Feeble).

3. If it looks like (1) and (2) won't work much in the near term, then keep coming up with obvious shiny objects for the wingnuts to wing out about, so as to make ever more clear how out of step they are with the majority of the country. While I don't like to make light of the consequences of Obama agreeing to drop the family planning part of the stimulus package, the more you can get GOP spokespeople on TV sputtering about condoms and things like that, the more ridiculous they look. Plus, you can keep a tally of all the things offered to the GOP, and come the midterms, hammer on how they refused to budge even after obtaining concessions.

Note that some people think that (3) was Obama's strategy from the start. I would like not to think so, since I believe he is sincere in his "no red America, no blue America" philosophy, but if it is true, then I could accept that as the best possible approach given the current apparent rigidity of the Congressional Republicans.

John Evo said...

Here's the problem, as I see it (and afraid the GOP sees it the same) -

If they reach out and meet Obama and he's unsucessful, those who voted with him will lose out to more radical Republicans next time around. If he's successful, they aren't much better off - the "new" will be seen as better and even more GOP will lose seats.

But if they vote against him and he's unsuccessful they can claim their own brilliance for having been in opposition, since the bills are going to pass with or without their help.

bjkeefe said...

I think there's a lot to the way you see things, and I agree that most in the GOP see things that way, too.

What I could say in return, just speculating, is this: Despite appearances to the contrary, one party's members in Congress are not always a monolith. When you get right down to it, individual members are concerned first and foremost with keeping their seats.

This means, first, that some moderate Republicans (or Republicans who got elected because they presented themselves as moderates) may decide that it's better to be seen as working with the president than obstructing him. Remember how a lot of Congressional Democrats went along with Reagan back in the day. This may become especially true if outside groups combine with the DNC, DCCC, and Obama himself to put pressure on them. As an article in today's NYT lays out, it's hard for the GOP to decide whether 2010 will be more like 1994 or 1934. There is a case to be made that if things get better, anyone in a purple district who sided with the President and Dems will be helped, and if things stay bad, anyone who opposed could be portrayed as part of the group that "won't let Obama get things done."

Second, I believe that at least some Republicans are genuinely irritated with how regionalized and demographically marginalized their party is becoming, and truly believe that their party is sliding into a place where it gets ever more ideologically pure and gets an ever smaller number of votes.