Fiddling While Rome Burns

From the New York Times…

Mr. Silver, the powerful and cagey Assembly speaker, achieved what he wanted in the budget that emerged from the shadows of the statehouse this weekend, cementing his newfound role as the capital’s center of gravity.

He won the policy fight, forcing Gov. David A. Paterson to raise taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers, an idea that the governor decried as potentially disastrous three weeks ago. The $131.8 billion budget, which could hardly be called austere, is largely a reflection of the liberal tilt of Mr. Silver, and the Assembly’s predilection for big spending on social programs, no matter the economic climate.

Mr. Silver also dictated the process, turning back the clock to the most secretive budget negotiations the capital has seen in years, casting aside the open government that Mr. Paterson and other Democrats once said would follow the party’s sweeping victories in recent state elections. He argued that technicalities in recently passed budget reform legislation allowed the Legislature to circumvent requirements for open meetings among those negotiating the spending plan.

And the speaker preserved the Legislature’s cherished spending on pet projects, pushing successfully for $170 million for members to dole out in district spending, leaving that pool of money essentially untouched, despite the fiscal crisis.

When the New York Times says that your budget could hardly be called austere, it means you are spending like a drunken sailor. This budget is criminal.

On which we know nothing

From a fascinating post on the latest attempts to make a drug to treat schizophrenia…..

Now, there’s been a lot of argument about whether the current generation of antipsychotic drugs is really better than the older ones. But I believe that they’re all supposed to come in better than a placebo. As Lilly points out, though, “inconclusive trials are common in neuroscience”, and they’re going to run another one and hope that the patients don’t all start improving again on powdered sucrose or whatever the placebo was. But this is especially surprising (and disappointing) because an earlier Phase II trial, run in a very similar design to the latest one, showed the compound working very well indeed. How do you go from such impressive results to no better than placebo in the same sort of trial design? Easy – just make sure that you’re developing a drug for schizophrenia. Or depression. Or chronic pain, or Alzheimer’s. Stick with the central nervous system, and your drug discovery career will never be boring.