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“You’re just not willing to accept the truth!” shouted the rightie.

So we were talking about solutions to the housing crisis that afflicts many big cities, and the possibility of the government itself stepping in to build the affordable housing that the private market apparently is unwilling to build. And he whipped out this gem:

“The more the state “plans” the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.” – F.A. Hayek

Nice quote, dude. Doesn’t deal with the reality that is the free-market utopia of Singapore, though. Over 80% of the population of Singapore lives in government-built housing. And Singapore is hardly a place where it’s difficult for the individual to plan, or difficult to live at all. It’s a very livable city-state given the density imposed by its geography (it only has a certain number of square miles and a lot of people to put onto them).

What this brings to mind is the fundamental difference between those of us in the reality-based community and those who are not: Our differing attitudes towards truth. For me, truth is something that is approached by careful examination of reality, making sure that my observations can be replicated by others and that there are no contrary examples to the hypothesis I arrive at about what is true. And even there, I am quite willing to rearrange what I think is true if new information comes in. For example, I once thought that lawsuit costs accounted for much of the high cost of medicine in the United States. Then multiple pieces of data came to my attention: 1) States with strict tort limits that make it very difficult to sue don’t overall have cheaper health care costs than states without those tort limits (for example, California’s tort limits are so strict that finding a lawyer willing to sue on contingency is basically impossible, making healthcare lawsuits basically impossible for anybody who isn’t rich here in California, yet California’s healthcare costs are amongst the highest in the nation), and 2) overall medical malpractice insurance premium costs account for 0.2% of healthcare costs nationwide. I.e., we spend more on tongue depressors than on medical lawsuits. So, given those facts, I changed my view of what was true and decided medical malpractice lawsuits were *not* a major cause of higher health care costs. Because careful observation of reality led me to understand that the truth was not what I thought it was.

Now back to the dude spouting Hayek: You’ll see a lot of that from the un-reality based community. Because they have a completely different conception of the word “truth”. For them, truth is something handed down from authority figures like Hayek. Or by a pastor. Or by God. Or by Ronald Reagan. Whatever. They’re always spouting quotes from those people as if it means something. The thing is, it doesn’t, not really. Ideological hacks have said things for centuries that weren’t actually true when you carefully examined reality to ascertain whether a statement agreed with reality or not. Things aren’t true because someone says they’re true. They’re true because when you make actual observations of reality, your observations agree with the statement, and your observations can be replicated by other people.

But that sort of truth — a truth that is conditional, that depends on the best available observations of reality — seems wishy-washy and somehow “wrong” to these believers in truths handed down by authority figures. So they quote Hayek instead, and shout “you’re just not willing to accept the truth!” if you reject their Argument By Authority Figure argument.

Which is why we have an epistemological problem here in the United States, where a significant portion of the population believes things as “truth” that, if you make systematic observations of reality, just aren’t true. Which is no way to run a country. Just ask the Soviet Union, where the Communist Party to its dying days defended Communism as “truth” even when it was clear to everybody observing the facts of the Soviet economy and Soviet society that Communism just wasn’t working.

As the Soviet Union went, so goes the United States.

– Badtux the Epistemology Penguin

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As some of you know, my cat has been diagnosed as diabetic and requires insulin injection. He was prescribed Lantus, which is a long-acting insulin called “glargine insulin” that slowly infiltrates the body from the injection site during the course of the day rather than hitting in one big insulin hit. This is sort of the Gold Standard of insulin, controlling blood sugar far better than anything other than an insulin pump. Sometimes you can bring a cat with Type 2 diabetes back to non-insulin-dependent status by using this stuff to regulate his blood sugar until his body readjusts to operating with normal level blood sugar. Tapering off then lets his pancreas take over insulin production again and you have your cat back, albeit with severe dietary restrictions to keep his weight and blood sugar down. Yeah, that doesn’t really happen with people, but cats are weird.

TMF probably isn’t going to be in that cat-egory because his blood sugar was so high, but my vet said it was worth trying. my vet said “Okay, it’s expensive, but this is the gold standard and a $180 vial will last you several months.”

Well, it was a $180 vial in 2014, the year before its patent expired. Today it’s a $290 vial.

What happened? Competition happened. Two competitors entered the market, releasing two competing products, Basaglar and Toujeo. So, what happened? Why did prices go up rather than down the way the free market maniacs are always claiming competition will do in healthcare?!

Well: The maker of Lantus has a fixed amount of profit they want to make from Lantus. If volume goes down — which happened with competition — then they raise the price to make that amount of profit. And the competitors have similar price desires, so try to compete based on something other than price –Toujeo is more concentrated than Lantus (more doses per milliliter). Or if they’re wanting to compete on price, they price 10% below the market leader, because that’s what maximizes their profit (see: Basaglar). Every time Lantus raises their price to meet their profit goals, the other two raise their prices in lockstep to maximize their *own* profits.

So competition nearly doubled the price of my cat’s insulin within three years.

So much for that healthcare “reform” nonsense about “competition reduces prices!”. It just doesn’t seem to work that way in the real world, at least not for healthcare.

– Badtux the “Free Market Orthodoxy is religion, not fact” Penguin

The good news is that I’m not diabetic. The bad news is that my cat is.

Poor patchy kitty

The Mighty Fang has been poked, prodded, and otherwise miserated for the past three days to determine why he was drinking and urinating by a ridiculous amount. The final verdict: His blood sugar was way high in the blood test, at a point where a human would have already ended up in the hospital. He was also spilling a lot of sugar into his urine, indicating that it wasn’t just a momentary stress high, though the blood test was so high that was pretty much out of the question anyhow. The good news is that we caught it early, before there was damage to his retinas or kidneys or liver, and before he crashed.

So besides changing his diet to a low-carb diet (accomplished by changing his cat food to canned Nutro Natural Choice, which he loves) we’re starting out with a small dose of insulin twice a day. The photo above is his breakfast after this morning’s shot, which I gave under the vet’s direction. Yeah, the vet shaved a couple of patches of his fur off to give me easier targets to shoot at. Poor baby, he’s looking so patchy! Talking about insulin, that brings us to Big Pharma conspiring to hike the price of insulin. Three drug companies control 100% of the market for insulin, and conspire with each other to hike prices in lockstep. The best insulin on the market right now is one called Lantus. It’s a long-acting insulin that is much smoother than the older insulins, your blood sugar (or your cat’s, in my case) stays steady for far longer, requiring less monitoring and fewer injections to get a stable blood sugar level. My vet warned me that it was expensive. “You’re going to pay $180, $185 a vial. The good news is that he’s a cat, so a vial will last a couple of months.”

So here is what I paid for one vial of insulin: $293.99. When I showed him that bill, my vet was like, “What? That’s insane!”

“But we don’t charge full price!” said the drug companies above. Bull fucking shit. “But we offer discounts!” Not to cat owners, they don’t. There was one $20 discount coupon I could have taken if I’d know about it. That’s *it*.

So why don’t I get a vial of that old school insulin that costs $5/vial? Well, Big Pharma isn’t charging $5/vial for it. They’re charging $80/vial for it now. And it sucks, it’s really hard to get good control with it. And the better insulin, Humulin, that was introduced in the early 80’s for $10/vial? They’re charging $237 for it now. And it’s not as good as Lantus. It’s barely better than the older pork insulin (“Vetsulin”) that is available for $80/vial. And they’re charging $237/vial for it.

How fucked up is our healthcare system that I’m seriously looking at Canadian pharmacy sites… for my CAT?!

Oh, my good news? Well, glucose levels in cats need monitoring just like in humans. It turns out you use exactly the same supplies to do it. It turned out that Walmart sells their own branded version of one of the most highly rated blood sugar testing devices on the market, it requires a tiny blood sample and is as accurate as anything else (i.e., not particularly, but good enough for cats). This evening I got back from Walmart with a boatload of diabetic measuring supplies — lancets, lancet devices, and of course the test meter and the metering sticks, which have an enzyme in them that then reacts with the glucose in blood to set up an electrolytic reaction whose resistance is measured by the device to come up with the final result. The next task was to figure out how to use them. To do that, I wasn’t going to torment my poor cat and his ears — I volunteered myself as the guinea pig instead.

It took me several attempts to figure out how to use the lancet device to prick my fingertip. Then the next attempt didn’t result in a big enough blood droplet to test. Then I realized I needed to press harder on the lancet device before hitting the button, and did so, and blood didn’t really come out well but with some stroking of blood towards the hole a nice bead happened and I touched the tip of the meter strip to it, it sucked it in, and the meter gave me a value that was totally normal. Yay, I’m not diabetic! At least not yet! Stick gauze over the hole, wait a while, done.

Okay, but how the heck do I do this with the ear of a cat?! I need to watch those videos again, grr. Because I can’t see how I can manage to prick TMF’s ear using this device, because his ears are really thin and sort of floppy. The meter works well, doesn’t require much blood at all (turned out the bead I made was way more blood than the meter needed), but the pricking looks like a real prick of a problem. It looks like I’m going to have to watch more videos, ask people on the diabetic cat forum what setting they use on the pricker for their cat’s ears, and otherwise do more research before subjecting The Mighty Fang to my unkind ministrations. Because somehow I suspect The Mighty Fang will be less tolerant of fumbling than I was myself :(.

– Badtux the Diabetic-cat-owned Penguin
Oh yeah, obligatory slam against His Fraudulency Donald the Trump — he said he’d let people import drugs from outside the country and would let Medicare negotiate drug prices. Well, it turns out that campaign promise was as fraudulent as everything else about Deadbeat Donnie. SIGH.

Turns out every Russian athelete was juiced to the gills. Go figure.

In other news, Vladimir Putin has announced that he is running for President. Wait, I thought he’d just finished running for President, and won back in November 2016?

Oh wait, that was when he won the Presidency of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. No, his current announcement is that he’s also going to run for the office of President of the Russian Federation too.

In charge of two nations at once? Cool beans, if you’re a vicious tyrant like Vladimir Putin. Not so cool for anybody who opposes his rule.

Best comment: “I am sure the voting boxes are already full and the votes ready to be counted.”

Heh. Yeah, that’s how Russian elections work, alright :). And, increasingly, American elections too. SIGH.

– Badtux the Not-Russian Penguin

It never turns out well. Just ask George W. Bush. Or Ronald Reagan’s ghost, for that matter — he fucked around in Lebanon, it got a couple hundred Marines killed, he said “fuck this shit” and declared victory and went home (after blowing up a buncha innocent people with shells from a battleship).

Yeah, you sure paid attention, didn’t you, Donald? Doing exactly what everybody warned you not to do — declared that you’re going to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. A move for which there is literally NO gain for the United States — and you’re supposed to be President of the United States, dude, not President of Israil.

SIGH.

— Badtux the “Don’t these people ever learn?” Penguin

Those things have to arise elsewhere, because they are not natural attributes of capitalism or markets. As the following example makes clear.

So, you’re a retailer. A hurricane has hit your city and the city water plant was wiped out. The water won’t be back on for weeks at the earliest.

You have four cases of water in your store. Four people come into your store:

Person A: A wealthy banker with $250,000 in the bank and $500 cash in hand who wants to buy all four cases of water at $80 apiece.
Persons B,C,D: Three single mothers with two kids making $400/month at a minimum wage job while living in subsidized housing. Most of her money goes to food, utilities, or the car that is all that allows her to get to her job, and she has a total of $20 cash left over from paying that month’s bills. She wants to buy a case of water at the normal $4.95 price in order to keep her family alive until FEMA water deliveries start.

What do you do?

If you’re a follower of Ayn Rand, a worshipper of capitalism, you say “Sell the water to the wealthy banker.” It’s what gets you the most money. Which is the whole point of capitalism, right?

If you’re a worshipper of the Free Market Fairy, you’ll say “well, I’m sure those mothers will find some resources *somewhere* to buy water if they really need it,” and shrug your shoulders. If they don’t find water elsewhere, or can’t raise the money in any way, well, they must not have tried hard enough, right?

If you’re a typical economist, you say “well, there’s not enough water to fulfill demand, so high prices ration it amongst the multiple parties.” Ignoring the fact that the rich person can buy more water than he needs because he has money coming out of his ears, while the single mothers even combining all their resources can’t even afford $80 for the single case of water that one of their families needs to stay alive. But dead single mothers aren’t a concern of economists, they’re all about abstractions. Ignoring the fact that their rationing abstraction ends up with 75% more people dead than if the rationing was done according to need rather than according to wealth.

If you’re a Republican sociopathic lizard person (but I repeat myself), you say “those poor people don’t contribute anything to the economy, while the rich man does, so I’ll sell it to the rich man because he’s the only one who deserves to live.” Ignoring the fact that the average rich person would starve to death if it wasn’t for all those poors stocking shelves and cashing out people at supermarkets, and waiting tables and cooking the food at restaurants.

If you’re a moral person, you ration the water — you give each person who comes through a fixed amount that they need to get through the next couple of days, and that’s that. So you sell one case of water to each single mother at the regular price, and one case of water to the rich banker at the regular price, and four people survive to live to see FEMA come in, rather just one. Four people surviving is more moral than only one person surviving, right?

But there seems to be fewer and fewer moral people each year. Perhaps what we need to be selling are moral compasses. Sadly, the vast majority of them seem to be defective right out of the box. Maybe because we outsourced production to China. In the absence of a moral compass, we rely on government to impose morality on the market via, e.g., anti-profiteering laws. When government doesn’t do that… we get dead bodies.

And nobody seems to care.

– Badtux the Morality Penguin

This one just completely bumfuddles me:

Many girls were not molested by Roy Moore, so that makes Roy Moore innocent.

That is… wow.

Many people were not murdered by Charles Manson, so we shouldn’t have put Charles Manson in prison.

Many people were not eaten by Jeffery Dahmer, so we shouldn’t have put him in prison for life.

Many girls were not raped by the Swimmer Who Rapes, so we shouldn’t have put him in jail for three months and forced him to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life.

Many people were not blown to smithereens by Timothy McVeigh, so we shouldn’t have sent him to the execution chamber.

Many people were not killed by the collapse of the WTC, so we shouldn’t have capped Osama bin Laden’s ass and dropped it out of an airplane in mid-ocean with weights on it.

And many underage girls were not sexually molested by Roy Moore, so we should elect his pedophile ass.

What the serious fuck is wrong with these people? Really?!

– Badtux the Head-shaking Penguin