Pill Pushers

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The pharmaceutical industry has to be the most screwed up corporate oligarchy in the world.  It makes, finance, politics, used car sales, medicine, law, weapons manufacturing, and pimping look like honored professions.  When I get finished with this expose you will want to wash your hands and down a litre of Robitussin every time you pass a Walgreens.  So what’s wrong with the drug industry?  A better question might be:  is there anything right with it?

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Let’s get one thing straight from the start, the pharmaceutical industry has nothing to do with making the world a better place.  I’ll prove this.  I’m givin’ ya the straight dope here.  Sure people will tell you they want to go to pharmacology school because they want to rid the world of disease, or at least make a difference.  Right, and my grandma is gonna win American Idol.  Don’t believe it.  99% of the people that go into pharma do it for the money and the so-called “side benefits.”  That’s it.  Get rich, get high.  Who can blame ’em?  Given the opportunity all of us just want some bling and buzz.  If you’re intelligent and rich you go to pharmacy college, if you’re poor or simple, you become a gang bangin’ drug dealer, and I’ll show you how there is about maybe, just maybe, only one degree of separation between the two.

Lobby Dollars 98-2012_0The base reason that the pharmaceutical industry is out to screw you is the US does not, despite your friendly Tea Party candidate, have a socialized healthcare system and the government by law (I wonder how that came about?) cannot negotiate the price of prescription drugs on your behalf.  Only insurers can and we know how much they care about you.  In addition the FDA, by law again, does not allow the importation of prescription drugs from other countries where these governments do negotiate the price of drugs.  These laws are all ostensibly to “protect you” but when was the last time a Washington pill pusher lobbyist had your best interest in mind?

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Now that we have that out of the way, what sort of economic skewing does this cause?  Well here is where I give you the inside story:  the pill pushers are not out to get you well, they are out to make you a junkie.  Here’s the deal, say I spend a lot of money to come up with a vaccine for cancer.  Every pharmaceutical company wants to invent that, right?  Wrong, my simple one.  If I come up with a vaccine I give you one maybe two shots and it’s bye, bye.  But if I can come up with a less effective long term chemotherapy for the same cancer, guess what, you’re a chemo junkie now.  I have you on the hook for months or years.  You’re “takin’ this junk against your will” as Bo Diddley said.

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Hence, all the adverts for long term, continuous therapies and drugs on the television.  Nobody in the pharma industry wants “one and  done,” so nobody researches “one and done.”  In addition now they are allowed, by law, to jack you like the meth dealer on the corner.  Over and over again.  Nobody wants a single pill to cure rheumatoid arthritis, that’s just crazy thinkin’.  If the government could take the usurious profit motive out of these schemes, well people just might research something more effective and useful.  I’m not saying pharmaceutical companies shouldn’t make money, I’m saying right now they are making too much money.  And the insurers too.

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Surely all these scientists aren’t out for just the mercenary aspects of these things.  First, they are.  Nobody gets rich on single dose cures, period.  You might get famous, but not rich, so forget that.  Things that address Third World health issues are out too since those folks don’t have any money.  Forget that.  Lastly, shareholders and hedge fund managers don’t care whether you live or die except if you muddle on somehow you keep paying (or your insurer who is gouging you with premiums) for the junk.

Is everyone feeling a little better now?

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Next time you are at the doctor’s office and you see one of those nicely dressed types pull up in a Lexus and walk straight into the back room, remember they are just the same as the dealer selling rock down on the corner.  There’s your degree of separation.

Shoot it up

Siamo Innocenti

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Okay, here we go.  My subtext today is pissing off European Italians, so if you think this might offend you, go away now!

Once again the Italian justice system has shown how screwed up it is by convicting Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito of the murder of Meredith Kercher for a second time, after being found innocent in-between!  I’m not sure what political agenda is involved in this other than Europeans, specifically Italian Europeans, who see this as a way to once again bash Americans.  What sort of pastafazoole is it that keeps retrying a person already found innocent?  Is the Italian criminal justice system as faulty as their government?

Anyone who has followed this nightmare knows that the Italians already have the murderer in jail.  There are so many detailed descriptions of how the murder actually went down and how non-existent the evidence against Knox and her then boyfriend is (plus the lack of any motive).  The Italian justice system tried to portray Knox and her boyfriend as some sort of drug crazed maniacs.  Look at the videos from the crime scene, do those look like hung-over drug crazed maniacs?

Now the Italians are trying to extradite Amanda from the US.  If the United States buys into this spaghetti farce it will simply go to show once again that the US justice system is just as messed up as the Italian justice system is.  Besides, when have we ever listened to foreigners, especially ones that don’t live here, much less let them tell us what to do.

I’m sure that most Italians also think this whole thing is a load of ravioli stuffing but the lawyers, judges, and politicians involved with this thing, plus anyone who is just in this as an American hater, isn’t fit to even be a spaghetti bender.

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How the NSA Steals Your Liberty

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National Security Agency Complex in San Antonio, Texas

Der Spiegel called it again and I’d never thought I’d thank the Germans for anything but the German press has done a better job of protecting the US citizens’ liberty and privacy than anyone in our own sorry press or government.  Anyway, here are two links, the first to the Der Spiegel article on how the NSA both steals your privacy and builds inherent flaws into your digital security so they can exploit your resources for whatever they want and also leave you vulnerable to attack.  The second link is to a talk by Jacob Appelbaum about why you should be very scared by this.

Der Spiegel Article

Jacob Appelbaum Presentation

Oh and you suckers that still use Yahoo, you deserve everything you get.

NSA

badreads

GoodReads

Bad Reads

Well Amazon finally screwed the pooch with GoodReads.  I said this would happen as soon as Amazon acquired GR.  Blow hards like David Gaughran who were probably already getting kickbacks from Amazon provided Amazon apologetics but I could see through the hypocrisy.

What happened?  Well last Friday, as most of the GR staff were probably hitting the freeway, GR announced a new censorship policy.  They would now delete reviews completely, without warning or notice, that were prejudicial towards authors when they felt the author comments from the reviewer were not relevant to the book review at hand or just plain hostile to the author.  At the same time they said they would start deleting user book shelves where they deemed the shelf title or shelf contents also violated this policy, say if I had a shelf which was called “worthless authors who’s books I will never buy or read.”  They will delete these completely without notice.  Oh, and if you admit you couldn’t finish the book because it was so bad, they’ll delete that review too.  You have to finish the book now to post a review that won’t get “removed.”

They provided all this information strictly through a group thread, no real announcement to anyone and had already started deleting content without warning.  The Friday “bad news” drop is a typical ploy used by government and corporations so nobody has to deal with it, it in theory has no effect or a dampened effect by Monday.  Amazon, er, I mean GoodReads employed the same sleazy tactic.

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When Evil Corporations Take Over

This entire fiasco comes out of the fact that instead of being an independent entity like GR used to be it is now essentially a division of Amazon a bookseller.  Smell something fishy in Denmark?  Do I see a conflict of interest?

Another factor was the whiny GR authors, many of whom never published anything worthwhile (GR is flooded with mainly worthless self-published authors as well as a few good ones).  These authors whined about being attacked and unfairly treated.  The fact that GR is now a division of a bookseller leads them to try to protect authors, delete negative reviews, negative book shelves, etc.  I assume the next shoe will be deleting one-star reviews from the ratings.  Who is unfairly treated now?

What can you do?  Well there are already fledgling sites like BookLikes that offer a level of competition.  In addition there is still LibraryThing.   You can export all your GR content (including all the reviews) to a .csv file that can be read into MS-Excel and usually transferred to the alternate biblio-social networks like BL and LT.

No AmazonBoycott GoodReads and Amazon.  There are alternatives to buy books from, even a lot of Kindle content can be purchased directly from publishers.  Go to an independent bookseller.  Barnes and Noble needs the money anyway if you want to see a viable alternative to Amazon in the future.

BandN

Charity

bike injuryOne of my pet peeves is people who engage in their beloved hobby “for charity” and take credit for somehow being a better person than the rest of us. The worst offenders are runners, bicyclists, bowlers, motorcyclists, and especially golfers. They line up donations for how many miles they go or just finishing the event. Of course nobody ever checks to see that the person actually finished the race or didn’t pocket the donations. However I do believe most of these people are on the up and up so outright embezzlement of the funds or cheating is probably low.

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Musicians “Giving Back”

I liken this somewhat to rock stars and their ilk who give concerts where the proceeds go to some supposedly worthy organization and get accolades for “giving back.” Most of these leeches and debaucher’s are multi-millionaires who if they really wanted to give back would carve a million or so of their filthy lucre off for the charity. The concept that playing a guitar for 90 minutes without getting paid is giving back somehow is ludicrous. Most of these guys and gals who couldn’t hold down a real job if their lives depended on it don’t deserve to be paid anyway.

Home Team Charity Run logoAnyway back to the main subject. These so-called charity hobbyists have to presumably present some entrance fee. Corporations tend to jump on the bandwagon and sponsor these deals with everything from the charity itself to all the setup and production and things like bottled water, etc. Now when you get to the end of the line here just how much of all this money that is spent is actually getting to the charity? Wouldn’t it be better to have no event at all and have all the expense and corporate “support” dollars go directly to the charity and have the cyclists go off to the park to indulge in their hobby by themselves or with their buddies? Let’s face it these people are “giving” nothing. They are getting paid and donating the proceeds to their favorite charity for indulging in their fitness hobby, something they would have done anyway. If these folks were truly giving up their time they would be down at the soup kitchen slingin’ soup instead of wasting time riding around on their bikes or running in a 10K. In fact they might just work for a day at their job and donate that day’s pay to charity. Then they can just go jogging like usual or run in a regular marathon race.

Now why can’t I get the same deal, say for reading a certain number of books or winning a beer drinking contest?

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Ping-Pong Charity Pool Party

So I don’t sponsor any of these yokels. I give plenty of dough out to charity but I’m not going to do it for you to go out and play ping-pong or poker so I sure won’t do it for anyone else’s hobby. Let’s just pony up for breast cancer or whatever and feel better about that and get on with our lives without pretending we’re giving any of our time to anyone in the process. Oh, and see if you can wheedle the same amount out of the corporate sponsors that they would have spent in event expenses. Bet you can’t because how are they going to get their logo on your t-shirt or some banners along the race course? They’re just buying advertising and not “giving” anything either.

Ethics

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Robert Dunbar is a really good writer.  Most people would categorize his writing as horror but he would chafe a bit at that.  He is a genre bender and his prose is on the literary side along a sort of Hemingway path.  Good Stuff.  I think his novel Willy is brilliant.  I liken it to A Catcher in the Rye. His short story collection Martyrs and Monsters is excellent. Buy it. Buy both of them right now, you won’t regret it. I own all of his books.

Now I come to the theme of my present post. Mr. Dunbar and I have had a little disagreement, let’s call it a matter of ethics. Nothing illegal going on here, let’s get that straight also. Mr. Dunbar is a moderator for a little group called Literary Darkness on the ego-driven biblio-social network GoodReads, which is now owned by Amazon I might add. Now this group has a monthly book reading. The group sort of nominates a book and we sort of vote on it and read it and discuss it that month. Kinda cool for a swell-head like me. Some time ago the group read Dunbar’s story collection Martyrs and Monsters. Well and fine. This month the chattering in the monthly reading thread was trending towards picking another of Dunbar’s books, a brilliant novel entitled Willy.

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There is a little “cult of personality” going on in this group as well. Robert doesn’t encourage it but he doesn’t discourage it either. He’s a big time, okay not Stephen King big, but bigger than all of us are, writer and pretty good. It’s not his fault that the masses don’t go for class. But on the other side intelligent members of this group do fawn just a bit at Mr. Dunbar’s feet. He’s polite, responsive, a good moderator, and answers all queries which is a big deal to fans of a real talented writer.

Well your’s truly starts to smell something fishy in Denmark. I jump into the thread and say Robert’s a good guy and his books are good and all, but doesn’t it seem a little funny that another of Dunbar’s books (he only has 7) is coming up in this group as a monthly read. Now I don’t accuse Robert of priming this at all. He’s not pumping it. But he also is not politely bowing out. See where I’m going?

There are well over a thousand people in this reading group. It is not called Robert Dunbar’s Reading Group, it is called Literary Darkness. A group called Robert Dunbar’s Reading Group should read Mr. Dunbar’s books just like the Robert McCammon group reads all of Robert McCammon’s books. See I’m from Chicago and a big fan of calling a spade a spade and not messing around. No hidden agendas here.

Well, Dunbar deletes my post. It’s gone. Pfffft. He doesn’t tell me in the group or privately that he has done this evil thing. I notice it when I go back to the thread to see the new posts. It’s just gone. Now you know me, I never get excited. Mr. Dunbar and I have a terse private exchange of messages when I call him out, also in private. I ask what’s the deal? He basically says that the group has been clamoring for this for two years. So what, that is not the point. Taking the high road when both the high and low are offered is the point. Are we getting anywhere? There is also an intimation, no, more than an intimation, that yours truly is a little too negative. Hmmm. So the world of literary criticism and discussion is supposed to be fairies and rainbows (see below) especially when it comes to Mr. Dunbar’s creations?

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If this goes down, as I think it will, and it will, it will (how much wood woulda woodchuck chuck..?) just be too bad. I don’t have any heroes anymore but I would expect an intelligent and talented person who certainly appears to not be a hypocrite to take the high road when it is offered. Start a separate group to discuss Dunbar’s books. Start a “Buddy Read” with the author as moderator on the side, but don’t intentionally or unintentionally hijack the whole Literary Darkness group monthly read when it smells of merchandising and not literary criticism.