Monday, February 25, 2019

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Exactly How Stupid Is Donald Trump? 42 Billion!

Donald Trump is, to put it mildly, stupid. But have you ever wondered exactly how stupid he is? What if there was a way to put an actual number to his level of stupidity?

Well, there is a way. And since money is the only thing that matters to Donald Trump and Republicans, that number should be a dollar figure. We will roughly calculate this based on Trump's proposal for controlling forest fires.

One of the major causes of forest fires in recent years is climate change. Donald Trump is relentless in denying this basic fact. He thinks that we can stop forest fires by raking, which he said the president of Finland told him was how they prevented fires (note: Finland is near the Arctic Circle and has 187,000 lakes). The Finnish president denied ever saying this.

Trump doubled down on stupidity in an interview on Fox News last November, this time claiming that a governor of "a certain state, I won't say which," told Trump they tested raking forests and that it stops forest fires. The reason Trump won't say which states is because he's lying and doesn't want to be embarrassed, as he was when the Finnish president called him on his lie.

So, down to brass tacks.

According to a 2014 USDA report, there were 819 million acres of forest and woodlands in the United States in 2012. California alone has 33 million acres of forest.

So, how long does it it take you to rake your yard? A couple of hours? We'll just say two hours. The average American yard is 0.22 acres. That means it takes 4.5 hours to rake an acre. The average lawn maintenance worker made $11.53 an hour in 2012, and that price has only gone up since then. But we'll low-ball it and use that number.

It would take 148,500,000 hours to rake all 33 million acres of California's forests, at a cost of $1.7 billion. That's 74,250 man years.

If we apply the Trump forest fire solution to the entire country, it would  take 3.7 billion hours (1.8 million man years) and cost $42 billion. Every year. Forever.

So, where do we put all those leaves and pine needles that those workers rake up? And how do we get those leaves and needles out of those forests, many of which have no roads? And what happens to the animals and insects that live in those forests when all these guys with leaf blowers and rakes come tearing though? And what happens to the trees when they no longer have the nutrients that decaying dead leaves put back in the soil?

So that's how stupid Donald Trump is: 42 billion.

Given the dire straits a lot of employers are in these days trying to find people who will do menial jobs like lawn maintenance, where are we going to find 1.8 million people working full time raking forests?

For a start, I hear that 10 immigrant groundskeepers who worked illegally at Trump's Westchester golf club are newly available.

How can anyone take this clown seriously? He's a stupid, senile old man who thinks you can solve forest fires by raking. Now, I doubt he really believes this is an actual solution to forest fires. What he's doing is insulting the intelligence of everyone who's listening, in particular his supporters.

He has been feeding his voters a completely stupid and unrealistic line of bullshit on everything from forest fires to immigration, while at the same hiring hundreds of foreigners -- many illegally -- to work at his golf courses, hotels and clubs to do jobs that he categorically refuses to give to Americans.

Trump voters get really mad at liberals who think they're stupid. But Trump constantly treats them like morons, feeding them an idiotic diet of total bullshit of every day, while taking their support for granted.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Too Many People Running For President

Now that Bernie Sanders has thrown his hat into the ring along with the 89 other people running for the Democratic nomination, I must say something. There are too many people running for president. Again. The GOP got stuck with Trump because so many people ran in 2016. Who are the Democrats going to get stuck with?

I've also got an issue with so many Senators running for president. We need them in the Senate, not the executive branch. I don't see any of that magic, populist fairy dust with any of the Senators who are running. Many Americans are going to see them as establishment and not as outsiders which is what wins elections.

Perhaps the biggest mistake that all of them are making is assuming they are going to be running against Trump. He will not even be in office by the time of the 2020 election.The Mueller investigation is going to put us into a place where he have never been in this country-prosecuting a foreign asset that colluded with the Russian government to win an election. They should be thinking about who is going to fill that void and start planning on running against them. It's not going to be Mike Pence or William Weld.

I want to see a populist nominee run for president who has previously won elections, isn't a long time senator, and understands that she or he will not be running against Trump.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

O, Lord, Save Us from Geezers

Predictably, Bernie Sanders has announced that he will be running for president in 2020.

Sanders will be 79 years old on election day. That's too damn old to be president. There's a 10% chance Sanders will be dead by election day 2020.

The same is true for Joe Biden, who will be 79 on inauguration day in 2021. Elizabeth Warren will be 71 in 2020, which is also too old to be president: she would be almost as old Trump when he assumed office.

If the election of Donald Trump has taught us anything, it is that people his age should not be president. If you listen to Trump 20 years ago, you will notice a huge difference in the level of coherence in his speech. He was always a dick, but he has not aged well. He is frequently confused when he speaks, often contradicting what he just said in the previous sentence, darting off on pointless tangents and constantly making asides that undermine the very message he is trying to deliver. He spends more than half his day in "executive time," watching TV and napping. In short, he is a foolish, fat and weak old man who is not competent to be president.

We do not need a repeat of Trump's senility in the Oval Office.

Lest you think that I too am going senile by repeating myself on this issue, I am fully aware that this is the second time I've ranted about this recently. But this election is too important to cede to geezers who are highly likely to be dead before their term is up.

I am 61 years old, and it has become abundantly clear that people my age and older have lost more than a few steps, both physically and mentally.

After age 65 or 70 people who are still actively pursuing a goal are simply running out of time, whether they can admit it to themselves or not. They get hung up on winning and proving that they were right before they die, and not concentrating on what's best for the country.

Sanders and Warren are right where they belong, in the Senate. There are a hundred senators working in a deliberative body, there's no single point of failure and they're relatively easy to replace when they die. They don't have to make snap decisions the way a president does. It's a much less stressful and demanding job.

Yes, experience is important. But after a certain age, people just don't learn any more. They simply become more hardened in their attitudes, more certain that they're always right, and less flexible and agile mentally and physically. That's just how old people are.

Sanders is exactly the same guy he was 20 or 30 years ago, only older and slower. So are Biden and Warren. If they didn't have what it takes to be president at age 50, they certainly don't have it at age 79.

The last thing we need is for Sanders to win the election in Nov. 2020, and then die of a stroke a week later.

The Democrats are supposed to be the party of youth and new ideas. Why are so many of them rushing to nominate great-grandpas?

Coulter Finally Calling It Like It Is

Usually it's liberals who call Trump voters stupid. But Ann Coulter, formerly one of Trump's most steadfast supporters (she wrote a book called In Trump We Trust) is finally calling it like it is:
"No, the goal of a national emergency is for Trump to scam the stupidest people in his base for 2 more years," she tweeted early Friday morning. "The goal is to get Trump's stupidest voters to say "HE'S FIGHTING!" No he's not. If he signs this bill, it's over."
In his incoherent, rambling speech announcing the emergency declaration Trump admitted that he didn't need to do it, and that it would be litigated all the way to the Supreme Court, which will take months or years. So much for the "emergency."

Trump and the Republicans controlled every part of the federal government from 2017 to 2018 -- the
presidency, the Senate, the House and even the Supreme Court -- and he did diddly-squat on building the wall. Then, suddenly, right before the election he says we're being invaded. And then after the election he lost for the Republicans, he shuts down the government for month, costing taxpayers literally billions of dollars, all just to sign a bill that gave him less for the wall than the Democrats and Republicans offered before the shutdown!

Like everything Trump does, this is just one big con. He doesn't care about the wall. He knows the wall is useless. He never liked the wall. But his stupid racist supporters liked to chant "Build the wall!" at his rallies, so he went with it.

The whole point of the emergency declaration is not to actually build a wall. It's just a stupid political stunt to generate division in this country, to sow chaos, and to get ratings, as if this were a reality TV show. Trump is pretending to fight for the wall, knowing full well that it will cost the government hundreds of millions in legal fees, and will likely fail in the end.

Building the wall will require confiscation of thousands of acres of private land through eminent domain, something that conservatives usually call government overreach. And it is this question of eminent domain that will likely cause the Supreme Court to rule against Trump (Clarence Thomas really hates eminent domain).

Worse, this stupid political stunt will also cost the citizens along the border millions of dollars in legal fees to fight this stupid political stunt, which is really outrageous. Conservatives carped when the federal government tried to charge Cliven Bundy fees for grazing his cattle on government land. Now Trump wants to take private land to build a monument to racism. Come on!

Trump's press conference was nothing but lies. Drugs don't come through unwalled border areas: they come in hidden compartments of semitrailers hauling lettuce and machine parts (a la Breaking Bad), or regular cars going through border check points, or in tunnels built under the existing walls (as we learned from El Chapo's trial), or in boats, or in private airplanes, or in drug mules flying on commercial airliners.

Check out this bundle of incoherent nonsense spewed out of Trump's cake hole:
Asked Friday whether conservative media personalities influenced his policy on building a border wall, the president denied commentators like Coulter and Fox News' Sean Hannity pushed him to declare a national emergency to get a physical barrier on the southern border.  
"They don't decide policy. In fact, if I went opposite — they have somebody, Ann Coulter, I don't know her. I hardly know her. I haven't spoken to her in way over a year. The press loved saying 'Ann Coulter.' Probably if I did speak to her, she'd be really nice. I just don't have the time to speak to her," Trump said.
But he does have plenty of "executive time" to watch Hannity and Coulter on Fox News constantly whining about the border wall.

Just listen to him: "I don't know her. I hardly know her. I haven't spoken to her in way over a year." Hey, Donald: you knew her well enough to invite her to the Oval Office, where you had an obscenity-laced screaming match about the border, NAFTA, etc. So, by any reasonable definition, you know her.

This is how he talks all the time: he makes one statement, contradicts himself, then contradicts himself again. Why does anyone trust this guy at all? He's clearly lying or he's so confused he doesn't know what he knows. He has no brain, it's all just Swiss cheese and air. Nobody's home.

Yet his supporters like him? I am completely baffled. They can't like this guy. The only thing there is to like is the hatred and bile that he spews.

Even more baffling: how was Ann Coulter fooled by Trump? She's wrong about most everything, but she's not an idiot. Trump has always been a stupid, lying scumbag. Always.

People like Coulter let their racism and hatred cloud their judgment, and the country is paying the price.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Sunday, February 17, 2019

For Those Of You Who Don't Understand Socialism...

White Men: Stop "whitesplaining" the definition of racism

From a recent article by John Blake.

There are different strains of whitesplaining, but what unites them all is the belief that white people are more qualified to decide what's racist and what's not, says Jonathan Walton, author of "Twelve Lies That Hold America Captive." 

White men in particular have felt free to define standards of beauty, goodness and even freedom for all people, Walton says, "so why not define racism as well." 

"The power to define is reserved for white people, which is the crux of whitesplaining," he says.


Sorry, white people, in particular, white men. You don't get to define what racism is.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Marked Safe!

Saturday, February 09, 2019

The First Step Act and Blackface

In Trump's state of the union address he cited The First Step Act as one of his administration's accomplishments (one of the very few actual accomplishments). This law is the first substantive criminal justice reform in many years, after decades of politicians running on a "lock them up and throw away the key" platform.

I say "his administration" instead of "his" because Trump was not the impetus for his administration's support of this bill.

It was Jared. Jared Kushner. The guy who does what Trump constantly fantasizes about (banging Trump's daughter, Ivanka). He's the one Trump assigned to do everything in his administration, from fixing all the computers in the White House to bringing peace to the Middle East.

Jared accomplished none of his other assignments, but he got this done, because it was personal. Jared's dad was thrown in jail for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering. He was put there by Chris Christie, who was tossed off the Trump transition team by Jared's relentless character assassinations.

There have been similar laws passed around the country recently. Florida is going to allow former felons to regain their voting rights. This is especially important for African Americans who are often the victims of selective prosecution with the express intent of disenfranchising them.

So, there's a clear trend across the country to forgive people who have done wrong in the past, but have served their time, repented and made things right.

Which brings us to the white guys in Virginia who wore blackface. The governor, the attorney general and Republican majority leader in the state senate all confess to wearing blackface decades ago. It was extremely common, and many whites didn't think of it as racist: for them it was just another aspect of a costume, like wearing green makeup when dressing up as the Hulk or the Wicked Witch of the West.

These men are not accused of committing any crimes, only of doing something that really makes African Americans mad.

Wearing blackface was never a thing in Minnesota, where I live. No one ever did it. My only knowledge of the practice was in connection with Al Jolson singing in blackface in The Jazz Singer.  I always thought blackface was stupid, and that movie was looked down upon, but was unaware of the visceral reaction it produced in African Americans. (The Klan costume in Gov. Northam's yearbook photo is a separate issue. If it turns out that Northam was a closet Klansman, that's potentially disqualifying.)

But the question is, how long should someone be punished for having worn blackface?

If former felons are getting the right to vote after having served their sentences, shouldn't former blackface wearers have the right to serve in public office decades after doing something stupid in their youth?

Especially if they have spent the last 20 years showing no racist tendencies and advancing the cause of African Americans? These men may have been casual racists, but to be honest, we are all of us -- white, black, and everyone else -- casual racists: it's the human condition to categorize and stereotype the unfamiliar. But if they have repented of that casual racism decades ago, shouldn't they be forgiven their sins? Just as we're forgiving the sins of felons by returning their right to vote?

This situation is further complicated by the accusations made against the lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, a black man whom two women have accused of sexual assault. Many Democrats have called on Fairfax to resign, but these accusations also seem politically motivated to me.

This whole business seems to be orchestrated by a right-wing website intent on decapitating the Democratic leadership of Virginia to allow Republicans to steal the governorship.

If Democrats fall for this, every Southern white Democrat over the age of 30 will be automatically disqualified from serving in public office. Every male black Democrat will be automatically disqualified because there'll always be some woman out there who thought he was too forward or handsy. And every black female Democrat -- the only kind left after all the others have been eliminated -- will be depicted as a bossy, ball-busting feminist by their Republican opponents.

Meanwhile, Republican office holders who are explicitly racist to blacks and Latinos to this day will get a free pass, and Republican office holders who harass and assault women will continue to do so with impunity. And get reelected. Because Republicans don't even pretend to care about minorities and women.

So that's the choice: if Democrats reject every white politician for wearing blackface at some point in the distant past, and every black male for womanizing, they will automatically cede every election to racist, sexist Republicans who will do everything in their power to pass laws limiting the rights of blacks and Latinos to vote and women to get reproductive services and equal-paying jobs.

Friday, February 08, 2019


What the fuck did you expect, asshole? We told you and we told you but you stomped your feet, made up a bunch of nonsense about Hillary, and shouted about immigrants. Don't worry, though, we will take of we always do...

Color and Diversity

This week I have learned that non woke white men (especially the older ones) are very sensitive about the issue of race. They fly into hysterical rages not unlike Joan Collins on the 80's show, Dynasty when confronted with the current reality of racism.

 As John Pavlovitz recently noted in his marvelous essay, The Extinction of the White American Dinosaur,

"These Jurassic, soon-to-be-amber-trapped relics, will act as if the very sky above them is falling, because in very real ways, it is. They will thrash and spit and bellow, in an effort to buy themselves a few more days and a bit more power...

The misogynistic, supremacist nostalgia of their dying glory days is dissolving, in the glorious refining fire of what is coming on the horizon: color and diversity and new and young and wide open."

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Straight Outta Bugs Bunny

The exploding cigar is a tired old joke from Bugs Bunny era of cartoons. But the advent of vaping has sadly made it a not-so-uncommon occurrence:
William Brown had errands to run on a chilly Texas evening, and his grandmother was happy to lend him her light-blue Lincoln Town Car.

Brown stopped at a store selling vaporizer smoking pens outside Fort Worth on Jan. 27. He sat alone in the parked car, put his lips to a pen, and soon after, an explosion sent shards of metal into his face and neck, said Alice Brown, his grandmother.

He thrashed and fell out of the car, trying to regain his balance on the hood and trunk before collapsing, she said, according to evidence from the scene conveyed to her by authorities.

Brown, 24, held on for two days before he died at a hospital. The cause of death was listed as stroke after the carotid artery in his neck was severed by “penetrating trauma from exploding vaporizer pen,” the Tarrant County medical examiner found.
There were more than 2000 vape pen explosions between 2015 and 2017. A Florida man died last May. That should put to rest the idea that vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes. To be fair, exploding cell phone batteries also kill people. But cell phones don't have heating elements...

Companies like Juul are trying to sell kids on the idea that vaping is cool and is safer than smoking cigarettes. But it ain't so: nicotine itself is highly toxic. Under normal circumstances average vapers are unlikely to OD on nicotine; they're more likely to make themselves sick rather than killing themselves. However, it is possible: Russian composer Igor Stravinsky nearly died from nicotine poisoning from smoking cigarettes.

 A number of of people have died from drinking vaping liquid, including children. The sweet-smelling and colorful vaping liquid often reminds children of juice or candy. Juul makes mint, mango, cream and fruit flavored JUULpods, each of which contains an an entire cigarette pack's worth of nicotine.

Nicotine is still highly addictive, making vaping the "gateway drug" for cigarettes. 

And, even though vaping doesn't pollute your lungs with carbon monoxide and all those other nasty carcinogens omnipresent in tobacco, don't forget that nicotine is carcinogenic: nicotine metabolites are known carcinogens, and nicotine itself causes DNA damage and mutations, which are precursors to cancer.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Conservatives Are Trying to Make Democrats Commit Political Suicide

Pretty much every Democrat is demanding Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia to resign because of a picture that appeared in his medical school yearbook. It shows a man in blackface standing next to a someone in a Ku Klux Klan costume.

First off, this is out there because a white nationalist website is trying to nail him. The motive is clearly to turn other Democrats against him.

Northam hasn't helped himself by giving an inconsistent narrative. But it's quite possible that neither person in that photo is Northam. The yearbook was probably the very last thing on Northam's mind when he graduated from medical school. I never had anything to do with my high school yearbook. I never had my photo taken for it, or bought a copy, or ever saw one. So there might be a nasty surprise waiting for me there.

One of Northam's "friends" could have put that page together -- perhaps the same one who give Northam the nickname "Coonman." Speaking of that, why was Northam given that nickname? Was it because his white friends thought he was too friendly with African-Americans, and he didn't act racist enough for them?

The only thing we know for sure about this yearbook debacle is that we don't really know anything. People should investigate. Reporters should talk to the editor of the yearbook, and the person who laid out Northam's page. Their names should be in the front of the yearbook.

They should find the photographer, and the other person or persons in the photo. Because at least one of them is not Northam, and they could confirm or deny Northam's story.

It also seems that the yearbook staff at Eastern Virginia Medical School had a long history of racist claptrap, all on its own. It was still publishing photos of students in Confederate uniforms up until 2013, when the school dropped the yearbook over similar offensive photos. Obviously the yearbook staff was packed with racist losers, so it's quite possible Northam had nothing at all to do with his page 30 years earlier.

I also don't think white people, especially young white people, understand how offensive African Americans find blackface to be. The Klan costume everybody gets. But until recently, unless you had black friends that you were with when someone appeared in blackface, you'd never know how bad it makes them feel, because most white folks don't know the history.

But the larger issue is that no one is pure. Every one of us has some stupid or embarrassing thing that we did when we were in high school or college. Pretty much everyone said or did something racist, or called a white dude a cracker, or joined the wrong club, or misinterpreted a girl's friendliness and drunkenly groped her, or shoplifted cosmetics, or smoked too much weed, or "borrowed" a car, or got in a nasty fight and hurt someone seriously.

We all have done something completely out of character, and a mistake or two should not define or condemn us for the rest of our lives. To demand absolute and total purity from every person in politics is not only foolish, it is suicidal for a political party.

To wit, the man who would replace Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, has just been accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2004. The source? The same white nationalist website that "outed" Northam. It's clearly a setup. They're poking the Democrats in the eye, showing how ridiculous their knee-jerk demands for purity in all things is.

Because if Democrats insist every person accused of racism or sexual misconduct or shoplifting resign immediately, there won't be anyone left in the party.

The Republican Party, the Russians and Howard Schulz are doing everything they can to get the Democratic Party to tear itself apart. Democrats shouldn't fall for it.

Al Franken was hounded out of the Senate this way. In retrospect, it was clearly a hit job by a bunch of conservatives who wanted to use women's anger in the #MeToo era to destroy an effective voice in the Senate. But because Al Franken was a good guy with a conscience and a sense of shame, he did what he thought was the right thing and resigned.

I don't know whether Northam should resign. We don't know enough to say yet. Did he go to school in a state with a racist past? Yep. Was he even in that photo, or have anything to do with that page? There's not enough evidence to say yet.

But we do know that if Democrats demand everyone with the slightest whiff of scandal resign in knee-jerk fashion, the party will cease to exist.

I'm not suggesting that they follow the Republicans' lead and give a pass to every pussy-grabbing, race-baiting scumbag. But you've got to give these things the time to let the truth shake out.

Democrats should investigate, and if Northam was complicit with race-baiting crap, they can demand his resignation.

But Democrats shouldn't let conservatives scumbags bait them into destroying each other. They should be taking out their anger on the white nationalists trying to torpedo Notham. These Breitbart-clone clowns are actively trying to harm African Americans, unlike this well-meaning Democratic governor who happened to go to a college with a centuries-long history of institutional racism.

What's the Rationale for Raising Taxes on Billionaires?

There's a lot of talk about raising taxes on the rich, with Elizabeth Warren announcing her candidacy, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez engorging conservatives' ... ire, the peripatetic Bernie Sanders, and the backlash Howard Schulz has gotten for demanding Democrats genuflect before him and his billions.

The question, though, is why should we raise taxes on the rich. We don't want to punish people for simply being successful -- it's the American dream. Is there some underlying logic that would justify taxing billionaires at 70% or higher, as we did during the 1950s (which conservatives always look back at nostalgically as the pinnacle of American greatness)?

There is a long-standing tradition of taxing things that cause problems in society. For example, alcohol and tobacco. It's a way of punishing sins that we have found impossible to make illegal, but wish to discourage or minimize.

The case for taxing alcohol and tobacco is clear: alcohol is a dangerous drug, costing the country hundreds of billions of dollars in increased crime (40% of violent crimes are committed under the influence), automobile crashes, lost productivity and medical costs due to accidents and alcoholism. Tobacco costs billions of dollars in lost productivity (smokers are always on break), medical costs and causes millions of deaths due to cancer and emphysema. And it's the leading cause of home fires, costing hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Gambling costs billions in lost productivity and embezzlement by gambling addicts. So we tax gambling heavily, or give government a monopoly on it, as with lotteries.

So one argument for taxing billionaires is that their lust for wealth causes problems, just like alcohol, tobacco and gambling. And sure enough, billionaires do cause many serious social problems.

Look at the Sackler family, the people behind Purdue Pharma, who were responsible for pushing prescription opioids and addicting millions of Americans, killing hundreds of thousands in the last decade.

Other pharmacy billionaires (like Martin Shkreli) have been jacking up the price of prescription drugs 10-, 20- and 100-fold, solely to increase profits. This forces millions of Americans into medical bankruptcies. Millions of patients are rationing their insulin and hypertension medications, and some have stopped taking them altogether, causing numerous complications and death in many cases. These guys are committing blackmail: your money or your life.

Oil, coal and pipeline billionaires keep denying that burning fossil fuels causes climate change. But we're already seeing the effects right now, today, with the drastically increased destructive power of extreme weather and the massive flooding that accompanies it.

Industrial agriculture billionaires have made farmers dependent on genetically engineered corn and soybeans, forcing them to spend themselves into the poorhouse buying seed and the chemicals required to poison weeds. These companies then sue farmers who try to plant seed from the grain they grow, the way farmers have for thousands of years. And now Donald Trump's tariffs have yanked the market out from under them.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter's Jack Dorsey have set Americans at each other's throats, severely damaged the free press and helped put a narcissistic man-child in the Oval Office.

Uber's Travis Kalanick has turned thousands of Americans into struggling "ride share" drivers, and made the lives of struggling old-school cab drivers a living hell, causing many to commit suicide.

Hedge fund billionaires buy companies in hostile takeovers, take out big loans against those companies, pay themselves big returns, run the business into the ground, declare bankruptcy, then bust the company up and sell the pieces, screwing all the employees and the people they borrowed money from.

Walmart and the entire fast-food industry pay workers peanuts and force them to work part-time, so they can avoid paying full-time benefits such as health care. Millions of Americans are working 60 to 80 hours a week, taking two or three different part-time jobs, and they still don't have enough money to live on.

Even relatively benign billionaires, like automobile execs, create social costs by increasing the demand for more and more freeways, and reducing the demand for much more efficient modes of transportation like mass transit. And large businesses in general increase government expenditures by requiring government spending on infrastructure like roads and ports, as well as schools for educating their future employees.

Pretty much every person or company who makes billions of dollars is incurring some kind of social cost that they're not paying for. So society should recoup that cost by taxing them at a compensatory rate.

In their lust for the almighty buck many billionaires ignore the problems their businesses cause. The things they do may not be explicit crimes, but their greed causes more social harm than all the two-bit crooks put together.

Greed is a sin. One of the seven deadly ones. And we should tax it.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

The Billionaire Drug Pushers

There are several lawsuits against drug kingpins in the news of late. One is against "El Chapo" Joaquín Guzmán Loera, and is filled with stories of prison escapes, border tunnels, IT guys turning states evidence and raping 13-year-old girls.

The others are far more insidious. Legal action is being taken against giant drug companies, like Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin. This company is squarely behind the opioid epidemic. In 2007 Purdue and three executives pleaded guilty to a host of crimes that led directly to the addiction and deaths of thousands of Americans every year.

Recently more details have come out about why Purdue started the drug epidemic: it turns out the real villains in this story are the wealthy, self-entitled family of billionaires, the Sacklers, who serve on the board. They pushed the CEO and faceless corporate bean counters to push drugs to more and more victims.

The Sackler family, ever more greedy, demanded more aggressive sales tactics to hook more patients on OxyContin, while at the same time referring to their customers as "reckless criminals." Their other activities included:
  • The spoils of OxyContin allowed the Sacklers, as board members, to vote to pay themselves more than $4 billion between 2007 and 2018. Figures for individual payments during those years are sprinkled throughout the lawsuit.
  • Members of the family personally ordered Purdue to increase the sales force on a number of occasions.
  • The family was directly involved in pushing for higher—and more dangerous—doses of OxyContin.
  • For years, the McKinsey & Company consulting firm had worked with Purdue to come up with sales tactics. According to a redacted section, the consultants "had reported to Purdue on opportunities to increase prescriptions by convincing doctors that opioids provide 'freedom' and 'peace of mind' and give patients 'the best possible chance to live a full and active life.'"
  • Board meetings for the US-based company were held in exotic and luxurious places, such as Bermuda and a castle in Ireland.
  • Members of the Sackler family worked on a secret plan codenamed "Tango," which would have expanded Purdue's business into addiction-treatment drugs. [They wanted hook addicts coming and going.]
  • Purdue employees actively tried to avoid the Sacklers because of their relentless and aggressive demands
  • Richard Sackler allegedly sought revenge on an insurance company for dropping coverage of OxyContin amid the epidemic of abuse.
  • The Sacklers allegedly knew about but did not report suspected cases of diversion and abuse by doctors.
A trial against another drug company, Insys, is in progress now. Insys resorted to more traditional drug pushing tactics: they hired a former stripper named Sunshine Lee to be the sales director. In addition to the old standard of bribing doctors to prescribe more opioids, they used more conventional drug pushing tactics. Sex:
In testimony Tuesday against the rest, former sales representative Holly Brown made the lap-dancing allegation against her former boss, Lee. Brown testified that in mid-2012 she, Lee, and other sale representatives took one Dr. Paul Madison to a club after a dinner event sponsored by Insys. Brown said that her superiors had told her to focus on Dr. Madison, who was known for prescribing a lot of opioids. She described his office as a “shady pill mill” in a “dingy strip mall in a not-so-nice area of town,” according to reports.

Brown recalled an encounter she witnessed that night between Lee and Madison, saying, “She was sitting on his lap, kind of bouncing around, and he had his hands all over her chest.’’

Lee, a former stripper, had no experience in the pharmaceutical industry before working at Insys, prosecutors noted. According to Bloomberg, court documents reveal that Insys whistle-blowers quoted Burlakoff as saying that “doctors really enjoyed spending time with [Lee]” and that she was “more of a closer.”

Brown echoed the idea, saying in her testimony that Lee played up her sexuality during sales pitches. She dressed in a “sexually suggestive manner’’ and “showed more cleavage than the average sales rep,’’ Brown said.

Prosecutors reported that Insys paid Madison at least $70,800 in “speaker fees.”
A border wall will do nothing to stop the biggest drug epidemic facing this nation: prescription drugs pushed by giant pharmaceutical companies and the rich fat cats behind them.

The Sacklers and Insys make the best argument yet for a 70% tax on billionaires. The country needs to be reimbursed for the death and destruction their unbridled greed wreaks upon the American people.