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Picture of the Day


These two almond trees are about half a mile from my house; I visit them every day on my morning walk.

Drug Shortages are Due to Inadequate Regulation of Pharmaceutical Companies


There’s an article in yesterday’s New York Times about a new drug shortage: intravenous sodium bicarbonate.  What is really ridiculous about this shortage is that most home kitchens have a supply of this most basic of drugs.  Bicarbonate is used to relieve excessive acid levels in the blood; as such, it is particularly needed in hospitals and emergency rooms to treat seriously ill patients and for open-heart surgery.

What is even more absurd is that the Food and Drug Administration has no power to alleviate or prevent this situation.  From the article:

Andrea Fischer, a spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration, said companies were asked to notify the agency of problems, but “there are no requirements that firms keep emergency supplies or that they stock up prior to any changes they make.”

She said the agency was in close contact with the companies and “exploring all possible solutions to this critical shortage, including temporary importation, to help with this shortage until it’s resolved.”

Ms. Fischer said the agency had recently made progress in preventing supply problems. In 2011, it tracked 251 new shortages, an all-time high. But by 2016, she said, there were only 23 new shortages. Currently, more than 50 drugs are classified as being in shortage on the F.D.A. website.

“Unfortunately,” she said, “not all shortages can be prevented.”

The bicarbonate is supplied by two major companies, Pfizer and Amphastar.  The shortage began several months ago when Pfizer acquired Hospira and changed its distribution plan from five regional centers to just one national warehouse as part of a “reorganization” (read: extraction of profits from the company that was bought out.)  When Pfizer ran low, demand increased and Amphastar was quickly overwhelmed.  Now, only large hospitals with compounding pharmacies that can produce the drug from scratch ingredients are receiving sufficient supplies.

Finally, this shortage is just one of many; currently, fifty drugs are in critically short supply, all of them cheap and readily available generic drugs.  It appears that, in the absence of adequate regulation, drug companies are skimping on quality control and maintenance at plants that produce cheap generics in order to improve profit margins and possibly create shortages that allow them to increase prices.  This problem has been nationally recognized for years: reports on shortages go back at least five years, and at one time, over two hundred such drugs were in short supply.  The FDA is using its persuasive powers with drug companies, but in the absence of competent regulation, they have no legal power to force companies to plan ahead or even notify pharmacies early.

It seems that drug companies are gung ho to produce expensive new “wonder drugs” (not necessarily better, but under patent) and not so keen to produce staple drugs that don’t allow for high profit margins or benefit from advertising to push consumers to demand brand names.  This is just one more example of why health care does not go well with unregulated capitalism.  Capitalism works well in selling breakfast cereal but not so well when supplying materials and services that everyone needs, can’t live without, and can’t always afford to pay a premium for.


The Trouble With Don the Con’s Embrace of Saudi Arabia


Don the Con has a few weak points, among them an understanding of global politics.  Thus it is not surprising that he would try to get closer to Sunni Arab countries and give Iran the cold shoulder– while at the same time claiming to want to have better relations with Russia, which heavily supports Iran and the current government of Syria:

Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former State Department official who worked on the Middle East under Mr. Obama, said Mr. Trump’s goal of aligning with the Sunni states fundamentally conflicted with his desire for closer relations with Russia, which has sided with Iran in bolstering the government in Syria’s civil war. Allowing President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power in Syria under Iran’s thumb is precisely the outcome the Sunni states and Israel oppose, noted Ms. Wittes, who is now at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

But no matter: our collaboration with Saudi Arabia will produce “jobs, jobs, jobs” for the defense industry.  First on the list is a $110 billion package of weapons for the Saudis, including advanced weapons the Obama administration with-held because they could be used to target civilians in Yemen.  Nor does it matter to Don that Saudi Arabia is a highly repressive monarchy, while Iran is a slightly less repressive democratic republic.  These fine points of global governance are beyond Don the Con, who favors autocrats like Vladimir Putin (who has hollowed out his country’s putative democracy and kills his opponents with impunity) and Rodrigo Duterte (who has made his country a killing field for anyone suspected of involvement in “drugs” and who has recently banned public cigarette smoking.)

In fact, Don seems to have trouble with basic consistency (he’s a hypocrite, along with everything else):

Mrs. Trump stood near her husband with her hair uncovered, as is common for visiting American first ladies. The country’s tradition is for Saudi women to cover their heads in public. (In 2015, Mr. Trump criticized Michelle Obama on Twitter for not wearing a head scarf during an official visit here. Hillary Clinton and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany also did not cover their hair during trips to the country.)

Comment of the Day: What’s Wrong With Republicans and Democrats


This comment is in response to a Paul Krugman opinion piece called, “What’s wrong with Republicans?”:



Historically, Mr. Krugman is correct. The Democratic party was founded as a platform to hash out varying ideas. The Republican Party was founded on the principle of pushing one main idea.

So the Republicans have always seen the Dems as unprincipled because they did stand for one binding “good”. But since Reagan, this has morphed into a place where Republicans see themselves as the only true patriots and protectors of America. Democrats are considered disloyal, untrustworthy socialists out to destroy the US.

Ryan, McConnell, and their ilk don’t really see any need to research issues, prepare and publish detailed policy, negotiate in good faith, all the essential steps in good governance, for the simple reason that they (in their own minds) are always right and the Dems are always wrong.

Too many Americans have a very poor grasp of history, current events, how science and journalism are supposed to work, and basic civics. Uniformed and scared, they will always cling to the simple feelgood slogans of the Republicans. Trump was the ultimate expression of this boastful head-in-the-sand approach.This does not bode well for the future of your country.



I would point out that the problem is at the very base of the GOP philosophy, that there are no successful industrialized countries that govern by a small government, low tax, low regulation philosophy. It does not work for people. It never has. Not in any country, not in any state. Look at Kansas.
With government gone, corporations have a clear field to do what they want, and we have seen what that means. The financial crisis, United Airlines, Wells Fargo, removing environmental protections, and lots more.
Beats me why the Dems do not point this out.

Comment of the Day




As a Scandinavian and European, I can not understand the sadomasochism of the American people. A sizable number of voters, and indeed congress delegates, admire the person who keeps penalizing them. For me this resembles the love-hate relation between the abuser and abusee. Normally, this kind of behaviour should be harboured in its infancy, instead we have a full-grown bull at the highest office in the free world, who keeps hurting most people around him. At the same time the co-abusers (read congress) applaud this behaviour. Why is pain excused so broadly in the American society? I can not get my head around this. Maybe the old proverb “No pain no gain” rings in everybody’s head, instilling them with the thought that pain is a precursor of success. Life is not beyond an insurmountable hurdle, but here and now!

Really Odd Things: Disappearing Wikipedia Text on Steve Pieczenik


Last fall, I wrote a blog note about this Pieczenik person that related an odd piece of text that I found at the end of the Wikipedia article about him.  The text was as follows:

On November 1, 2016, Pieczenik announced on his youtube channel that Hillary and Bill Clinton “effected a silent civilian coup through corruption and coaptation. However, people in the intelligence community formally initiated a countercoup through supplying information to Julian Assange and Wikileaks in order to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming the next president of the United States, while also convicting and indicting President Obama, Loretta Lynch, and all others who were implicit in the cover-up of the massive corruption that occurred under the Clinton Foundation.” [34]

Well, I coincidentally and randomly checked Wikipedia today and found that text is gone.  So, I guess this person is really a writer of fiction and probably is an evil behind-the-scenes conspiracy nut.  I guess.  I can’t figure it out.  Maybe the text really refers to the Wikileaks stuff from the Russians that sank Hillary along with the voter suppression, propaganda, Don’s study of Hitler’s speeches, and all the rest.  At least Obama and his crew aren’t in jail– maybe because Don thinks Barack is a “really great guy” for not criticizing him.

At any rate, I don’t think “people in the intelligence community” initiated a counter-coup; the information supplied to Wikileaks came from the Russians.  That “silent civilian coup” by Clinton stuff is pure alt-right alternate facts.  Writing fiction is good training for making up stuff to confuse the ignorant Trump voters.

Comment of the Day: Another Reminder that Don the Con is a Narcissistic Sociopath



Here’s a comment (from an opinion piece in the New York Times that complains that Don the Con is a child in a man’s body):


Maplewood, NJ

Tony Schwartz, Donald Trump’s co-author of Art of the Deal, who had deep remorse regarding creating the myth of Donald Trump the deal maker. He is the man who said, in a New Yorker article that “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.” And while you think he is a child, Roberts, who spent many months with him, considers him a sociopath.

He had to deal with his short attention span that left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance” and an inability to concentrate or focus. He could not imagine him absorbing information in the Situation Room. And clearly he can’t or can’t focus and understand on what he should do or say as President.

All very accurately and sadly predicted.

[slightly edited to remove a redundant phrase]

Just a reminder, in case you forgot, that we have elected a very sick man to the presidency.