Health Industry – Especially Pharmaceuticals

Why do Humans Organize? Because, as a species, they are too intelligent. Because, as a species, they are territorial. Because, as a species, they are assaultive. Because, as a species, they are an apex predator. Because, as a species, they are economic cannibals.

Pit bulls are more civil than human beings. Elk in rutting season are more civil than human beings. Bonobos, silverbacks and orangutans are more civil than human beings. Name any other mammal; they are more civil than human beings. Humans, because they are too intelligent, are capable of deliberate, unprovoked evil against their own kind.

Mariner speaks specifically of the health industry.

Among health services, the most cannibalistic are the pharmaceutical corporations. Some facts:

  • Xarelto, also known as Rivaroxaban, is manufactured by Bayer and a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
  • In US Xarelto without insurance, cash only, costs $16 for one pill. In India one pill costs $4. In Canada one pill costs $2.61.
  • Werner Baumann is the CEO of Bayer. His salary last year was $6.6 million.
  • Alex Gorsky is the CEO of Johnson & Johnson. His salary last year was $21.2 million.
  • Mariner’s prescription insurance pays for generic prescriptions; oddly, his deductible is the cost of one month of Xarelto, not a generic drug. An effort was made to explain donut holes but mariner couldn’t understand the irrationality of the phenomenon other than they are expensive.
  • Confronted by the embedded profit in Xarelto, mariner said never mind.

There are more tales to tell that may explain why mariner is sensitive about the cost of pharmaceuticals. Three years ago mariner was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disorder that leads to death in a number of years (Don’t worry, he was misdiagnosed but that’s another tale). His pulmonologist, without advising mariner of the details, issued a prescription to mariner’s pharmacy. On his way home, mariner stopped by the pharmacy to validate the call. His pharmacist advised that it would cost $10,000 each month. Mariner said at once that he would die first rather than pay that money to a CEO that makes more in six months than mariner has made in a lifetime.

Despite his rejection, he received his first month’s dosage and immediately tried to return it but the company said they could not accept return drugs. That box sits in his closet to this very day. Mariner cancelled the prescription a second time and hasn’t paid a penny.

Among the theories of economics, capitalism is the most efficient at cannibalistic behavior. Imagine the reader owns a very powerful vacuum cleaner. It does a fantastic job of sucking in dirt and debris from floors, carpets, curtains and furniture. This vacuum is just like the modern ones: it steers itself and covers the entire floor.

One day the reader turns it on and leaves to go shopping. What the reader didn’t know was that the vacuum is voracious. If there’s no dirt or debris, the vacuum must continue sucking; it must continue to collect stuff. When the reader returns home, there are no curtains, no carpets, even the kitchen garbage can is empty. The reader didn’t know the vacuum was a capitalist vacuum.

The state of economics around the world is like that vacuum. Once targeted natural resources are consumed, capitalism can’t stop consuming. It becomes cannibalistic just like a tadpole turns to eating other tadpoles when normal food is scarce. This characteristic is found worldwide. The street phrase is “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” Today, in by far the wealthiest nation in history, the life of poor people has been sucked dry as if eaten by leeches. The poor die sooner, they can’t afford housing, they can’t eat well, they can’t afford children, they can’t afford spouses. They live the life of a dog on a short chain and die after an empty life.

But the oligarchs and wealthy still consume, eating the life out of everyone they can.

The US is the most capitalistic nation in the world but it isn’t alone. Virtually every nation around the world is turning cannibalistic. The resources of new continents, new frontiers, new space – all are gone. Mariner isn’t a trained economist but he knows something is broken and must be replaced.

One last fact: Hourly wages have remained flat for forty years adjusted for inflation; over the same forty years, the stock market has increased at a rate six and a half times inflation. Most of that increase came from denying workers a share to live on.

Ancient Mariner

 

Where Forth Labor Unions?

Nevada is one state where unions still play a significant role in political negotiations. A number of news outlets have published articles in lieu of the Nevada primary. The point was made that Mike Bloomberg has never publicly backed unions. It is true that as corporations gained political power during the end of the twentieth century, state governments in particular pushed hard to defund union membership, impose right-to-work legislation and otherwise paint bad images of unions.

Unions are no less saintly than politicians and corporate conservatives. All of them are aggressive in defending their perceptions of economic purpose. However, in this age where citizens no longer participate in the profits of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), where salaries linger at a small fraction of what they should be, where corporations are trying to drop benefits of any kind, having a union fight for a fair share for the workers may not be a bad idea. But unions represent only 1 in 10 hourly workers – down from 1 in 3 in 1955. State legislation in most states would have to go through a philosophical, highly opinionated and greatly resisted battle to reverse the disadvantages imposed over four decades.

Mariner wrote a post “About Labor Unions” (August 28 2019) that suggested the familiar union organization that has prevailed since the 1930s may not work in this new age of automation, rapid data learning and the ability for corporations to move operations anywhere in the world.

As corporations have become an economic force across governmental boundaries, it is difficult for unions to sustain equally flexible membership given location and nationality. Even more problematic, governments have difficulty managing corporations. In this campaign season where ‘socialistic’ ideas are being touted, union leaders may consider joining the national noise of the campaign to back a new national strategy for unionism.

Trying to maintain the traditional ‘local’ organization will not be influential enough to tackle market issues that cross national boundaries. In the recent post mariner suggested the ACLU organizational model. Further, mariner feels that a governmental agency (a new version of the Labor Department) could set regulatory policy similar to the Environmental Protection Agency today – Donald’s interference notwithstanding. The new labor department could negotiate treaties similar to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) except with a fair set of rules for workers.

In any case, righting the economic ship is more than just fixing taxes. It is setting new protective rules for workers in an age where moving from job to job may be the new norm and sustaining economic viability in unemployed neighborhoods may have to be part of the agreement language.

Ancient Mariner

 

The Bible (Christian)

The great dilemma for all religions since World War II days is that local society over much of the world became aware of the international world. Adding to the dilemma was the broadening awareness through television in the 1950s. Worldwide communication became available inside the home when the Internet grew in the 1980s and broadband came along in 2000. Today, 5G technology in an instant will provide all the information of the entire age of humankind in one’s handheld device.

Since the first recorded goddess Cybele six thousand years before Jesus, religion has been the link between the suprahuman forces that shape reality and the personal worth of humans within that reality. In the earliest years, lack of correct understanding required that worth be linked through myth – stories that were based on personal experience, empirical reality and a functional relationship with the suprahuman forces.

Being anthropomorphic creatures, humans have been required to translate the forces of reality into anthropomorphic value systems. Simply stated, rules of godly behavior had to be defined in human terms requiring personality, motive and human-centric cause and effect. Reza Aslan, a well-known contemporary theologian, suggests that in order to be meaningful, one’s god must be very much like one’s self.

The most important role of religion is to establish human scruples and morality in a way that is compliant with the rule of God. This is where the Torah (Judaism), Bible (Christianity), Qur’an (Islam), Puranas (Hinduism) and Tripitaka (Buddhism) become important. These holy works articulate the rules that bind self, society and God into a way to understand the relationship between universal reality and human reality. These works integrate myth, existentialism and personal feelings into a working structure that defines theology, doctrine and ritual (who is God, what are the rules, how do I comply).

It is rare, indeed very rare, that studying the Bible to understand Christianity one begins by breaking the content into commentary about theology, doctrine and ritual. Most frequently, individuals start by reading the Torah (Jewish holy works). The myths of Genesis are learned without consideration of modern knowledge. One is exposed to continuous allegorical descriptions of faith easily misconceived as historical.

As the new student moves through the Old Testament, they learn that God is a personal creature who has human prejudices and acts accordingly directly with human history. Hence the common belief that it is God that bequeaths touchdowns, wealth, and behavioral worthiness. The New Testament part of the Bible (Christian) suggests that God is not so personal but rather is a creative force called love – universal, all-encompassing love. One does not need to part the Red Sea to demonstrate God’s acceptance; one does not suffer the variabilities of God as Job did. One needs, not so simply, to create love in God’s manner and if one fails, God’s love, ever present, forgives transgressions.

The major issue about the Bible is that today virtually no one reads it or has read it. Having no knowledge of religious content – in any holy work – leaves an individual on their own to fathom virtue in today’s hodgepodge world. Speaking simplistically, just as Cybele gave way to Roman mythology and Roman mythology gave way to Christian mythology, what will replace Christian mythology?

In mariner’s post “The Age We Live In” (February 9), mariner quoted Mike Allen saying, “we are aging, comfortable and stuck, cut off from the past and no longer optimistic about the future, spurning both memory and ambition while we await some saving innovation or revelation, growing old unhappily together in the light of tiny screens.” Is this a symptom of lack of myth, a loss of guidance in today’s version of suprahuman forces? Is there something to which humans can tie their worth in the universe?

God knows.

Ancient Mariner

On the Tech Front

֎ It was China who hacked into Equifax’s credit history data recently. China now has the credit history of most Americans. May as well ask China for one’s latest credit score.

֎ The first ‘no-cash’ all electronic bank was approved by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The bank’s name is Varo. No tellers required. It isn’t exactly the Kenya model but it’s an app on the smartphone. The ‘buyer beware’ element is that a person never holds income in their own hands; the asset value of income is disappearing. Oh well, most people can’t afford to buy houses, build savings or pay for health and retirement anyway.

֎ Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo) said:    “Google and Facebook have acquired hundreds of companies in the last two decades, yet the FTC never once intervened to try to block any of these acquisitions.”

֎ Amazon Prime Day has become a top-notch shopping holiday, up there with Black Friday.

It occurs to mariner that the world is fragmenting. On the one hand, wealth is accumulating at increasing speed to those of the oligarchical class; on the other hand, lower and middle class people are having a bankruptcy experience; on the other hand, artificial intelligence is taking over the role of shaping society; on the other hand, corporate influence is replacing government influence as the source of economic oversight; on the other hand, dozens of nations will cease to exist as global warming takes its toll on land, water and economy.

Okay, millennials and Zs, it’s your turn.

Ancient Mariner

How to manage wampum

A few North American Indian tribes invented a jewelry that could double as money. It was called wampum and was made from small, polished pieces of seashells. It was managed in several ways. It was jewelry as the picture shows; often it was kept in long belts and was used in the way rosary beads are used today although the wampum belt was more a family history than a religious tool. Also kept in belt form, individual wampum could be slipped off as a form of cash; the intrinsic value came from its attractiveness as jewelry and the time and labor it took to convert clam shells to wampum. These belts were the first wallets in North America.

Wampum was traded or given between individuals directly. There were no banks. Interestingly, the citizens of Kenya in 2007 became the first country to launch ‘mobile money’ transfer service through a cell phone provider that plays the role of a money exchange. Swapped phone to phone, no bank is necessary.

The banking industry is very concerned that smartphones could perform a similar exchange and would not need banking services. The current market is encouraged by banks to use the ubiquitous credit card which places the bank in the middle of every transaction. Banks also handle credit not just for retail but for massive loans to corporations. Naturally, banks, like any broker, sit between two parties and have ingenious ways of culling a ‘few’ dollars from both parties. Don’t get Elizabeth Warren started!

In 1933 banks, investment banks and insurance companies were broken apart[1]. One corporation could not operate more than one function. This was done by the government to control manipulation between functions to make banks seem like they had more assets than they really had. In 1999, the banks, long complaining about the breakup, finally had that legislation overturned. By 2008, nine short years, the bank industry collapsed, causing a lot of people to lose a lot of money especially in real estate. The US had to restart the banking industry by giving banks 700 billion dollars. Don’t get Elizabeth Warren and lots of every day Americans started!

Many readers will remember the Savings and Loan collapse in 1989. Recovery cost the nation 160 billion dollars. The cause was a combination of constraints in the amount of interest banks could charge on mortgages while inflation rose to 18 percent by 1980.

The banks have been meddling with another economic function in recent years: they are sharing financial information with big data. So banks have the new ability to know what a person spends money on, what their financial habits are and whether a person is susceptible to a marketing scheme or conversely not a good risk because they ate bacon for breakfast. Don’t get Elizabeth Warren and a lot of privacy advocates started.

As a comparison to another industry, Donald is championing the fossil fuel industry to overturn every kind of regulation that interferes with oil profit. Should the fossil fuel industry advise the public on the ramifications of global warming? No more than banks should control the nation’s economy.

Break ‘em up! As to retail transactions, why are they called ‘smart’ phones? The Kenyans know.

Ancient Mariner

[1] Glass Steagall Act

The Age We Live In

“The truth of the first decades of the 21st century, a truth that helped give us the Trump presidency but will still be an important truth when he is gone, is that we probably aren’t entering a 1930-style crisis for Western liberalism or hurtling forward toward transhumanism or extinction.

Instead, we are aging, comfortable and stuck, cut off from the past and no longer optimistic about the future, spurning both memory and ambition while we await some saving innovation or revelation, growing old unhappily together in the light of tiny screens.” [By Mike Allen ·Feb 09, 2020]

One doesn’t come across good philosophical writing every day. Mike Allen is a staff writer for Axios.com, a general news outlet. Those two paragraphs catch the mind in a way where there is no room to argue, no room to deny, no room to interpret. It strikes directly into our psyche. His perspective requires no props, no direct evidence but readers know it is true.

And it is depressing. There seems no way out; there is no remedy. Is time the only cure? Is time even a cure? We can only wait and see . . .

Surely, though, the cantankerousness and excessive intelligence of humans will not let this state lie. There is money to be made; power to grab; inquisitiveness to be sated; children to be born who will start a new era. These activities can be believed and even acted upon – if one is under fifty years of age.

Over fifty Mike’s comments strike home too accurately. Baby Boomers and Gen Xs are stuck with a world they did not create, a world they never owned and a world that ended twenty years ago. The GI generation (born 1900 – 1924) matured in a time when the world had begun to change rapidly but they remember when society began at home, before rapid travel, communication and corporate dominance. In those early days, the citizens were their town, were its economy and were the source of its culture. At least today GIs can remember when.

What do the youngsters feel – the millennials and Gen Z (Mariner speculates because he is no Gen z)? Mariner has two married children who are millennials. They live in a world they themselves are creating; that must be a good experience. However, their generation is between what the older generations left unfinished and what the world holds in store for the future. They have a lot on their hands as technology sprints faster into the future, leaving untested cultural mores scattered about. Social change is no longer measured in generations; it is measured in decades. The burden of escaping Mike’s pessimistic view lies with them.

The unfinished business the youngsters inherit is a lack of usable scruples for a new world of instant communication, instant information and old, worn out economies around the world. Political cultures are held back by older generations who are unaware their world no longer exists.

Brand new environments not experienced in living history will be a different challenge for the youngsters. Society certainly will be different by the time they retire. Mariner prays they will leave Mike’s malaise behind.

Ancient Mariner

Changing Times

Mariner made the mistake of watching Empire Games on Netflix. It is an excellent documentary series about how power abused the citizenry and how power exchanged hands from one king to another (assassination).

It was a mistake because mariner also is investigating the current transition from the industrial age to the computer age (Reagan Administration in 1981 to a time toward the end of the twenty-first century. The elimination of labor jobs in the United States caused by the NAFTA agreement in 1993 is comparable to the introduction of textile machinery that caused the Luddite revolt in 1811, considered the beginning of the industrial age).

Disturbingly, there are similarities between power transitions in the age of empires and power transitions today. Don’t rule out assassination:

Anybody here seen my old friend Abraham . . .

Anybody here seen my old friend John . . .

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin . . .

Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby . . .[1]

Anybody here seen my old friend John Lennon . . .

And almost, anybody here seen my old friend Ronald.

Every one of these assassinations is related directly to shifts in political power or shifts in economic direction. It turns out there is a pattern common between emperors and today’s leaders: accumulate political power – force change to culture – accumulate wealth – citizen rebellion – accumulate political power, etc. For emperors, accumulate wealth meant waging war to increase territory and economy. Today war has many manifestations.

Improved weaponry, communications and transportation in the twentieth century have allowed ‘accumulate wealth’ to be a global event. Wars in the computer age have newer methods; everybody wants to join in – even if, in the last decade, old-time explosives aren’t as important.

For example, in the old days of emperors, wealth was acquired through military action. Today, wealth is acquired through corporations. Even so, the procession to rebellion is similar. The proletariat is abused (just two examples: disappearance of steel manufacturing and Google); in a corporate sense, nations are colonized in pursuit of wealth; eventually the disadvantaged people revolt (note Brexit, Donald’s base, and Venezuela). As far as battle between ideologies and cultures, the computer and Internet are the weapons of choice. During WWII, planes dropped leaflets or nations broadcast radio programs. Today, advocates insert propaganda into social media. Today, in the computer age, the procession to rebellion can be provoked by inciting rebellion without firing a bullet or even having to travel to the target nation.

While the procession to rebellion has not changed for the moment, three significant events have curtailed military violence: the invention of nuclear weapons, acquiring wealth through corporations and the ease of invasion using just a smartphone. In effect, militaristic war is being pushed back to the days of parochial conflict.

– – – –

The other significant similarity between the age of emperors and the age of computers is economics. Setting aside for the moment the egomaniacal dictators and those who dream of being king, quality of life is a major provocation for rebellion.

The relationship between accumulating wealth and general quality of life is not absolute. For example, global weather cycles, plagues, and significant planet activity have nothing to do with the procession to rebellion but greatly affect quality of life. Still, lack of citizen quality can be interpreted as economic dissatisfaction.

The computer age brought with it a new economic engine: computers allowed corporations to become international. Manufacturing no longer was constrained by slow information or relatively high labor costs. Corporations found it more profitable to loosen the fiduciary laws of investment and become less accountable in their role as supporters of society. The transition to investment and away from manufacturing began in the Reagan administration during the 1980s. Since then labor has suffered as better paying jobs moved to more lucrative foreign labor markets; ignoring the role of supporting society has led to wage suppression in order to improve corporate profits; corporations aren’t sharing their profits. So much for trickle-down.

It is now forty years later. The proletariat suffers on every economic front from sustainable income to job security to housing to less than adequate health care. As the stock market rises to new heights, the economic challenge to the man on the street grows more intense. The time is ripe for the procession to rebellion to rise. Indeed it has started in the name of Donald’s base.

Just as in every stressed rebellion, those who can manipulate political advantage rise to power. Too often, these economic saviors have little empathy; they are eager to move to changing the culture and accumulating wealth for the powerful rather than the citizens.

There is a happy ending, sort of. The United States has been a democracy from its inception. That democracy, especially now, is far from perfect but it has allowed the nation – so far – to avoid the ravages of nations like Greece, Turkey, Brazil, Poland, Columbia, Venezuela and the entire Middle East to succumb to collapse and allow despotic leaders to shut down free society. Mind you, with the likes of Donald, these are scary times. Another term and the nation will join Turkey and the others.

As to how the procession to rebellion will occur in the future –

Ancient Mariner

[1] Dion DiMucci album released 2001

Whoever wins Wisconsin wins the Presidency

Well, so much for a racing start out of Iowa. Democratic candidates look more like campers looking for blueberries than running robust campaigns.

In previous posts, mariner proposed Biden based on his popularity in polls in the key swing states, one of which is Wisconsin. The whole presidential campaign boils down to four or five states and which democratic candidate can have the most influence in those states for the general election.

The next two paragraphs are from the Madison Magazine:

“If you line up the states where Trump is more popular than he is in Wisconsin, it does not add up to an Electoral College majority. And if you line up all the states where he’s less popular than he is in Wisconsin, it’s also not an Electoral College majority,” says Ben Wikler, chair of the state Democratic Party. “Wisconsin is the tipping-point state in the Electoral College.”

Mark Graul, a GOP strategist who was George Bush’s state director in Wisconsin for the 2004 campaign, sums it up: “If Trump can’t win Wisconsin, he can’t be president. That’s what’s different this time.”

So keep an eye on polls in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida – especially Wisconsin. An excellent website for anything poll is Nate Silvers’ website at fivethirtyeight.com.

As to Donald’s popular vote, virtually all pundits believe he again will lose the popular vote. This assumption is based on polls indicating that Donald hasn’t expanded his base, remaining close to 42 percent his entire presidency. Nevertheless, Donald is an aggressive snake oil salesman; polls in the last two weeks show him creeping close to 50 percent. Iowa didn’t help and the Senate vote frees Donald like a dog without a leash.

The big TV news outlets will milk viewer’s anxiety for all its worth. On the following chart are the viewer comparisons in millions of readers for 2019. To track Donald’s success, an indirect statistic will be Fox’s popularity in 2020.

Mariner does not view political news on TV except for a morning briefing from NEWSY, available on cable, ROKU, etc. Mariner explores more civil and accurate websites for the ‘real’ news without suffering angst. He recommends the same for the reader. Track the four swing states including Wisconsin. Track Donald’s popularity at fivethirtyeight.com. This approach should keep the reader sane as well as knowledgeable.

Ancient Mariner

 

Iowa Caucus

Mariner attended his democrat caucus tonight. After each voter selected their favorite candidate, the votes were counted for each candidate. Of 76 voters in attendance, 29 voters had their choice rejected. Either switch their vote to a ‘viable’ candidate or go home. (Viability meant a candidate had at least 12 votes) Votes for Klobuchar, Steyer, Warren, and Sanders were disallowed. Only Buttigieg and Biden had enough votes to be considered viable. If a voter were disallowed of their first vote, they could switch, if they chose, to another candidate’s group. Given this chance, Steyer voters chose to change their votes to Klobuchar – which made Klobuchar’s group a third viable candidate.
Mariner is reminded of voter suppression in Dixie. The only difference is there are not many blacks in Iowa; however, the suppression is the same.
Mariner watched MSNBC to learn the outcome of the Iowa Caucus. At ten past midnight, results still were not available. Interestingly, the pundits had two opinions about the caucus procedures: Coverage had shown caucus voters being friendly and collegial in renegotiating their preferred candidates. Some pundits warmed to the collegiality saying the examples are how democracy should work; two other pundits called for one person, one private vote – a typical primary.
Lawrence O’Donnell described the caucus correctly. “It isn’t democracy,” he said. “It’s politics; it’s how the Senate works to negotiate legislation. Swap and trade ideas and language until you have enough votes.” He further clarified that the Iowa caucus was designed for rural Iowa elections and was never intended as a platform for national politics.
Mariner accepts Lawrence’s wise interpretation but still does not understand how one person, one vote – the bedrock act of democracy – is served by disallowing that very act.
Ancient Mariner

Cash not Accepted

This is an issue that seems troublesome. Frequently, using cash to pay for material goods and services is not allowed in deference to the ease of credit card payment, smartphone gimmickry and more generally by the desire of the banking industry to ‘manage your income’ for you. Further, the increasing percentage of online purchases makes cash less necessary for daily living.

Regular readers know that mariner is an advocate of personal privacy – not only because he wants privacy but more importantly, that without control of his personal information he will cease to be the decision maker in his daily life. Data tech corporations receive billions of dollars by selling personal information to entities who want to manipulate individuals in a manner that increases profits rather than taking a genuine interest in the wellbeing, independence and prerogatives of an individual. Even the political conflicts that produce destructive false information and fake news and unmanaged data will bring down a civilization. Mariner agrees with George Soros and many others that Mark Zuckerberg should be removed as CEO of Facebook.

Not being allowed to pay by cash, however, has larger social ramifications. Axios.com posted an item that exposed the difficulty of small rural towns where small banks are closing, leaving citizens without a way to manage their finances but also limiting the borrowing of funds to manage agricultural cycles. In principle, there is no cash to be had. The result is that big bank corporations now have a say in whether a local farmer can obtain an operating loan. Indirectly, this means a big bank can manage agricultural practices.

The largest social ramification is the economic abandonment of the poor and low labor classes of US society. Credit is not only a matter of opportunity, where one lives can shut off any form of cash equity. One’s credit is based on neighborhood as much as personal responsibility. Donald is pursuing changes to the Community Reinvestment Act that will modify the reasons why banks are required to invest in poor environments.

A poor person, with just a few dollars in their pocket, will have no way to purchase goods because they will not have a credit card.

Typically, capitalism works fine when there are resources to leverage. Alas, the US is running out of resources which has led to the oligarchic scavenging of 90 percent of its population. Switching to cashless economics will hurt a large percentage of citizens who have no choice but to deal in cash.

There was an example on TV that showed a father wanting to buy his children ice cream but the establishment would only accept credit cards.

Ancient Mariner