The drug industry’s triumph over the DEA – with the help of Congress

❝ In the midst of the worst drug epidemic in American history, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to keep addictive opioids off U.S. streets was derailed — that according to Joe Rannazzisi, one of the most important whistleblowers ever interviewed by 60 Minutes. Rannazzisi ran the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, the division that regulates and investigates the pharmaceutical industry. Now in a joint investigation by 60 Minutes and The Washington Post, Rannazzisi tells the inside story of how, he says, the opioid crisis was allowed to spread — aided by Congress, lobbyists, and a drug distribution industry that shipped, almost unchecked, hundreds of millions of pills to rogue pharmacies and pain clinics providing the rocket fuel for a crisis that, over the last two decades, has claimed 200,000 lives…

❝ JOE RANNAZZISI: This is an industry that allowed millions and millions of drugs to go into bad pharmacies and doctors’ offices, that distributed them out to people who had no legitimate need for those drugs.

BILL WHITAKER: Who are these distributors?

JOE RANNAZZISI: The three largest distributors are Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. They control probably 85 or 90 percent of the drugs going downstream.

RTFA. All of it. If you’re cynical as I am about our Congress-critters and how most of them are bought-and-sold, none of this will be a surprise.

Still, read the article. You will be better equipped to lambaste your friendly neighborhood politicians about their incompetence in the face of this epidemic.

Louisiana’s coastal subsidence already counts as a “worst case scenario”


Click to enlargeKaren Apricot

❝ It’s common knowledge that the coast of Louisiana is quietly sinking into the balmy Gulf waters. But new research suggests we may have been underestimating how quickly it’s happening.

A new paper, published…in the Geological Society of America’s bulletin GSA Today, includes an updated map of the Louisiana coastline and the rate at which it’s sinking into the sea, a process scientists call “subsidence,” which occurs in addition to the climate change-caused process of sea-level rise. The new map suggests that, on average, the Louisiana coast is sinking at a rate of about 9 millimeters, or just over a third of an inch, per year — a faster rate than previous studies have suggested…

❝ Scientists have long known that Louisiana is sinking. Subsidence is believed to be a natural process, which has likely been occurring in the region for thousands of years. But scientists believe the process has been enhanced by a variety of human activities in the Mississippi Delta over the past century, including oil and gas extraction, as well as the building of levees and other actions affecting the flow of the Mississippi River, which carries mud and sediment down toward the Gulf and helped build up the delta in the first place.

The combination of subsidence and sea-level rise along the Gulf shore has made coastal Louisiana increasingly vulnerable to erosion in recent years. Last year, residents of the region’s rapidly sinking Isle de Jean Charles received a $48 million grant from the federal government to be used for relocation, giving them the grim title of the nation’s first “climate refugees.” And in the future, as sea levels continue to rise, the problem is only expected to worsen along the Louisiana shore…

❝ And for now, the big picture suggests that coastal Louisiana is still sinking, and perhaps more quickly than some experts believed. Coupled with the continued invasion of the rising seas, the area remains one of the most vulnerable parts of the country. And while policymakers have already expressed deep concern about the region’s future — the state legislature recently approved a $50 billion plan for the protection and restoration of the coastline — experts note that there’s still need for more research on exactly how quickly the shoreline is slipping away.

Joshua Kent, an expert in geoinformatics at Louisiana State University, told The Washington Post by email that the new paper reiterates the need for increased monitoring along the coast. “Accurate and consistent monitoring will help reduce the uncertainties and improve strategies for sustaining this important landscape,” he said.

Or you could forget about science and technology and work at ripping as much profit as possible in the shortest conceivable time, take the money and run. Think anyone with their hands in the pants of the oil and gas industries will roll over and squeak? Think anyone in Congress funding their campaign on the American Petroleum Institute dole will grow a backbone overnight?

Bigotry is expensive

❝ It seems like every day there’s a new battle being fought over discrimination in the U.S. There was the Ellen Pao trial and its claims of sexual bias at Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firm, the continuing revelations of endemic racial discrimination in Ferguson, Missouri, and the so-called religious freedom law in Indiana that many believe is a thinly veiled cover for anti-gay discrimination.

If racial and gender discrimination were purely matters of fairness, ending them would still be a worthy cause. But there is another reason to combat discrimination — it boosts the economy.

❝ The basic reason is misallocation of resources. In an economy functioning at tip-top efficiency, people do the job that they’re most efficient at doing, relative to other jobs they could be doing, and relative to other people in the economy. That’s called the principle of comparative advantage, and it dates back at least to the famous 19th century economist David Ricardo. Notice that nowhere does the principle of comparative advantage leave room for race or gender. These things, in and of themselves, are simply not important for economic efficiency — the only thing that matters is how well people can perform their jobs.

❝ So if a society bases its decisions of who gets which job on race and gender, it’s going to be sacrificing efficiency. If women aren’t allowed to be doctors, the talent pool for doctors will be diluted, and wages will be pushed up too high, choking off output. This would be true even in a bizarro world where every man was a better doctor than every woman! Of course that’s not even remotely true, but the point is, the theory of comparative advantage doesn’t care about average differences in absolute ability. If you’re making rules about which type of people are allowed to do which type of job, you’re hurting the economy.

❝ Just how big of a difference does this make? A team of top economists has recently studied the question, and their results are pretty startling. In “The Allocation of Talent and Economic Growth,” economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Erik Hurst of the University of Chicago Booth Business School and Charles Jones and Peter Klenow of Stanford estimate that one fifth of total growth in U.S. output per worker between 1960 and 2008 was due to a decline in discrimination…

The authors’ approach is clever. They treat discrimination as a tax. If you think about it, this makes sense — just as taxes discourage business activity, discrimination in employment or education discourages its victims from taking certain jobs or getting training for certain skills. The authors explicitly allow for the possibility that different groups might have different average ability levels with respect to different occupations. They also count home production — child care and housework — as a real contribution to gross domestic product. They put these assumptions into a Roy model, which is a very flexible general equilibrium model that economists typically use when evaluating people’s occupational choices…

❝ Simply reducing individual prejudice would be a wonderful way of attacking discrimination at the source. That’s why the continuing social movements for greater racial and gender equality are valuable — not just for reasons of fairness but for our economic future.

RTFA for more about the study’s methodology. Should be required reading for all the politicians who waste thousands of hours, million of dollar$, defending the indefensible bigotry they install to please their favorite idjit voters.

Central bankers around the world are stuck at zero — plead with politicians to take action


Christopher Sims, Nobel LaureateMercoPress

❝ Central bankers in charge of the vast bulk of the world’s economy delved deep into the weeds of money markets and interest rates over a three-day conference recently, and emerged with a common plea to their colleagues in the rest of government: please help.

❝ Mired in a world of low growth, low inflation and low interest rates, officials from the Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank said their efforts to bolster the economy through monetary policy may falter unless elected leaders stepped forward with bold measures. These would range from immigration reform in Japan to structural changes to boost productivity and growth in the U.S. and Europe.

Without that, they said, it would be hard to convince markets and households that things will get better, and encourage the shift in mood many economists feel are needed to improve economic performance worldwide. During a Saturday session at the symposium, such a slump in expectations about inflation and about other aspects of the economy was cited as a central problem complicating central banks’ efforts to reach inflation targets and dimming prospects in Japan and Europe…

❝ In an…address by Princeton University economist Christopher Sims, policymakers were told that it may take a massive program, large enough even to shock taxpayers into a different, inflationary view of the future.

“Fiscal expansion can replace ineffective monetary policy at the zero lower bound,” Sims said. “It requires deficits aimed at, and conditioned on, generating inflation. The deficits must be seen as financed by future inflation, not future taxes or spending cuts.”

The usual Reagan rationales for doing nothing infect what passes for 21st Century conservatism. Absence of backbone and craptastic excuses characterize liberal political parties outside of the milieu of European labor parties. The time for ennui is over. Bernie Sanders’ campaign in the United States proved that.

Life expectancy vs. health expenditure in the Greatest Land on Earth – or so we are told


Click to enlargeThe visual capitalist

Understand and appreciate one thing: our politicians, liberal, conservative and populist nutball all prate about the wonders of American-style capitalism. When, frankly, there’s a lot going on where we suck. On the largest scale – being the leading economy no matter the decay – means that we can bring down most of the world when we get caught out as in the recent Great Recession. The inanities of reactionary and racist history dear to the hearts of the class warriors running the show distort every aspect of our lives – from the dream of equal opportunity to classifying healthcare as a privilege not a right.

Our healthcare system and crap results are an outlier on the face of global political economy. Someday, somehow, the broad populace of this nation will wake up, stand up and shake off this foolishness and the pimps selling it to us.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Democrat gun control sit-in became a social media sensation – a Republican FAIL

A blackout of television cameras in the U.S. House Representatives during the Democrats’ gun control sit-in may have spurred public interest in the protest as it forced the demonstrators to use social media to broadcast their message.

Democrats leapt on Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope after the cameras, controlled by the House, went dark Wednesday when presiding House officer and Republican Representative Ted Poe declared the chamber not in order during the protest.

As Democrats took to alternative forms of video broadcasting, their message gained tremendous momentum from social media. On Twitter, the hashtags #NoBillNoBreak and #HoldTheFloor have been tweeted at least 1.4 million times.

Of the roughly 20 members of Congress who remained at the sit-in overnight, 19 of them used Facebook Live for a total combined viewership of 3 million.

❝ “It really connected with people out there,” Congressman Scott Peters told Reuters.This whole phenomenon with [live video] struck a nerve.”

Peters used the application Periscope, which is connected to the social media platform Twitter, to send out video.

“Without that, think about it, it would have been a caucus meeting where we talk to ourselves,” he added…

Even C-SPAN, which typically broadcasts footage recorded by the House cameras, picked up live video from four different members of Congress roughly two hours after the House cameras shut down, according to communications director Howard Mortman. It marked the first time the channel broadcast a live social media feed from the House floor.

All this in violation of rules designed by anachronistic fools for stodgy politicians.

What can we look forward to? Sooner or later, something approaching an equivalent of the Arab Spring – without ordinary citizens being shot down in the streets by coppers obeying criminals holding government office.

Oh, BTW – over the timespan of the sit-in, 88 people were shot in the United States.

If politicians had man buns

It all started when @FigDrewton on Twitter uploaded a photo of Donald Trump with a man bun. The Internet applauded and everyone was happy.

That’s when design crowdsourcing website DesignCrowd decided to host a contest, challenging their community to imagine what other politicians and world leaders might look like with a man bun.

101 submissions were received and some of them were pretty hilarious. Click here for some of the Sifter’s personal favourites, but you can see all of the entries on DesignCrowd along with the winners here.


My personal favorite

Thanks, Ursarodinia