Saturday, September 26, 2015


The New York Times issued this correction yesterday:

A television review on Tuesday about "The Muppets" on ABC misidentified a material used to make Kermit. It is fleece, not felt.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Of unnamed heroes in the ships."

There is a new "Adventure Squad" story up for you, plus some "Adventure Squad Singles," including one that vaguely references Egyptian Death Cults. Check them out!

"Of Ships Sailing The Seas: Kayaking On Lake Mendota": 

Then we were off.
It's always something of a shock to just be allowed to do something dangerous these days, isn't it? These people had me sign a sheet and then set me loose on a lake where people are operating motor boats and sailboats and where there are fish like this... read more

What Would Bernie Do: Foreign Policy.

I signed up this morning to volunteer for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, because tweeting things and blogging and putting a bumper sticker on your car isn't doing something, it's just telling others to do something.

Every Wednesday, for as long as Bernie's running, I'm going to post the Picture of the Week along with one of Bernie's actual positions or policies, in hopes of persuading people to actually make a change in politics.  Having had Obama for 8 years and Bush for 8 before that and Clinton for 8 before that shows it doesn't really matter if we keep electing "mainstream" politicians.  There needs to be a revolution in this country, but one accomplished at the polls.

Bernie would:

Support the Iran nuclear deal.  I trust Bernie on foreign policy issues, where I am admittedly not as informed as I should be.  Bernie voted for the war against the Taliban but against the war in Iraq. Bernie also voted against the Authorization For Use Of Military Force; this is the vaguely-worded document that has been interepreted to authorize Afghanistan, Iraq, drone strikes on civilians, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, and Guantanamo Bay prisons which cause men to go crazy from the isolation imposed on them... among other strikes against civil liberties.

I agree with Bernie's stance on those things; he strikes me as a man who would use diplomacy first; his statements about not being the world's policeman are ones I echo.

Read more about the Iran Nuclear Deal

Read more about the Authorization For Use Of Military Force.

Bernie Sanders' campaign site.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Albert Burneko is probably the best political writer around right now.

He writes for Deadspin, a strange place to get political commentary until you realize that sports sites talk about everything, these days.

Here is the beginning of Albert Burneko's "Walk Into Lake Michigan Forever, Scott Walker," and you can almost imagine he lives in Wisconsin as he says:

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has abandoned his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He says he has been “called to lead by helping to clear the field,” but he was polling at around half a percent, which is to say that nobody is calling him to lead a goddamn thing. In a just world he would be the world leader in getting hit by trains; in a just world we wouldn’t know his name at all.
The New York Times says Walker once was “seen as all but politically invincible,” which seems maybe a tad overstated in reference to a shrimpy, pallid, balding twerp with a face like mashed potatoes and the oratorical skills and personal charisma of a jellyfish. It’s true that he was regarded as something of a rising star of the right not so long ago, thanks to his proud and endless cruelty to and contempt for workers and vulnerable people. He all butkilled Wisconsin’s public-sector unions with his “budget repair bill,” then pulled a hit on private-sector unions by signing a right-to-work law he’d denounced while campaigning; he needlessly turned away millions of dollars in federal food aid to his state’s poorest residents; he rammed through a (not-even-all-that-) crypto-racist voter ID law; he diverted state school fundingfrom public schools that educate the poor to private ones that educate the wealthy; he tried to eliminate the weekend! This is how one becomes a darling of the right in the United States. Unfortunately for him, though, an elected official will never be as good an avatar for America’s hatred of the poor as a pure capitalist—if nothing else, settling for a governor’s salary implies less than total commitment to the cause—and so he found himself outflanked by both Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina (failed capitalists both!) on the only front he had.

15 Things You Should Care (And You Should Know) About Daraprim's 5,000% increase in price. (Tuesday's Newsday).

This is an actual picture of one of the highest-profile
pharmaceutical CEOs in America today.
About 8x a day I get really worked up about some news story I read, and go on a Twitter rant about it. In hopes of being EVERY BIT AS EFFECTIVE as tweeting to a nominal number of people, I'll try to feature a (relatively?)(brief?) post about one of those every Tuesday.

1. Daraprim is the trade name for pyrimethamine, a 'generic drug' used to treat infections.  It's been determined to be one of the most important medicines in a basic health care system.  It was invented in 1953.

2. Aside from the basic uses of Daraprim, it is being investigated to help delay or cure Tay-Sachs Diseased as well as ALS -- Lou Gehrig's disease which, ice-buckets notwithstanding, still exists.

3. In India, you can buy a tablet of Daraprim for about 5 to 10 cents. The price per dose in America is $833 per tablet. That price was raised from $13 per tablet by cartoon version of a hedge fund manager "Martin Shkreli,"  who is under investigation by two federal agencies as well as the subject of a $65,000,000 lawsuit by the company he founded; the latter alleges that Shkreli misused company funds to benefit himself personally. Shrkeli has also been accused of manipulating regulatory processes and may have engaged in a weird form of racist Twitter insider trading/trolling.

4. Shrkeli also once tried to buy his way into a championship of an "e-sports team" and failed miserably.  Unlike  many people, I do not turn away from my glee when bad things happen to bad people.  I want more bad things to befall Martin Shrkeli; minor embarrassment over being so terrible at videogames that he cannot buy a victory in one is not enough justice.

5. The rights to manufacture Daraprim were previously held by a company known as "Impax," which got the rights to Daraprim in March 2015.  Impax then sold those rights to Turing Pharmaceuticals for $55,000,000.

These are the protozoa that cause toxoplasmosis,
which Daraprim can treat, for $650,000 a year.
As many as 1/2 of all the people in the world may have the
disease, which causes symptoms ranging from flu-like conditions
to seizures.
6. Impax's purchase of the companies that allowed it to own Daraprim cost $700,000,000, so the sale of rights to one drug netted back 8% of Impax's outlay.

7. In 2011, Impax was warned by the FDA about "significant" violations of federal law including adulterated drug products. The letter notes "This is a repeat observation from the April 2010 inspection." That April 2010 inspection required changes to avoid metal contamination. Additional concerns over the companies practices continued into at least 2013.

8. While everyone is up in arms over Daraprim, right now, for now, it seems important to also note that two members of the House Oversight Committee wrote the president of Valeant Pharmaceutical International, Inc., around the same time, about Valeant's decision to increase the costs of 'staple heart drugs' they had just bought by 300-600%.

9. Another company, Gilead Sciences, increased the price of a hepatitis-C drug, Solvadi, from $500 per pill to $1,000 per pill. Gilead made $10,300,000,000 off that pill in one year. 

10. That is $326 dollars every second of every day.

11. While companies frequently cite the costs of development as a reason drug prices are so high, the facts are not always in line with that.  The company that developed Solvadi occasionally got government grants, but was losing money until it developed Solvadi.  From 2003 to 2011, that company lost $314,000,000.  But when it came up with Solvadi, the company was purchased for $11,000,000,000.  The founder, who hadn't worked for the company since 2006, received $400,000,000 from that sale.

12. Gilead, therefore, made back nearly 100% of its purchase price in the first year of its right to sell the drugs.  Estimates are that 2,000,000 patients still are awaiting treatment for Hepatitis C.  Medicare-based agencies are already saying they cannot afford the cost of those drugs.

13. Like college tuitions, medical spending is heavily subsidized by the federal government.  As a country, we spent a total of $2,900,000,000,000 on health care in 2013.  33% of that was paid by private health insurers.  35% of that was paid through Medicaid and Medicare.

14. Many drug companies, once the patent runs out on a drug, enter into a situation they call "pay for delay," where they pay potential competitors not to produce a cheaper, generic form of the drug.  The FTC used to deter use of these through enforcement. An appellate court ruled them per se illegal.  They have made a return though, following 'novel' interpretations of anti-trust law.  The FTC asked the government to take action after finding that the delays cost Americans billions of dollars. That was in 2010. Guess what hasn't happened yet? GOOD THING WE FIXED HEALTH CARE.

14. Every time  you pay a premium to your health insurance company, or taxes to state and federal governments, you are helping Martin Shkreli buy his way into an 'e-sports league,' or otherwise subsidizing a billionaires' private pursuits.  This is what the 'free market' has amounted to in this area.

15. One in five Americans routinely skips a prescription because they cannot afford to pay for it.

That is all very depressing. Here is a kitten:

Maybe a world with kittens in it isn't ALL bad?