Competition Is The Solution To Expensive Medication

Government regulation of the medical industry, particularly making buying health insurance mandatory and granting monopolies on ideas, have made medication unaffordable. People in need of medication are justifiably pissed about this, especially since many pharmaceutical companies feel the market is regulated enough to make it safe for them to continuously jack prices up. Unfortunately their anger is only resulting in more price increases because they believe more government regulatory power is the solution.

But more government regulatory power only exacerbates the problem because it further pushes competition out of the market and competition is the solution to high medication prices:

Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company that last month raised the price of the decades-old drug Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750, now has a competitor.

Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company based in San Diego, announced today that it has made an alternative to Daraprim that costs about a buck a pill—or $99 for a 100-pill supply.

“While we respect Turing’s right to charge patients and insurance companies whatever it believes is appropriate, there may be more cost-effective compounded options for medications, such as Daraprim,” Mark L. Baum, CEO of Imprimis, said in a news release.

What government enabled to run up to $750 per pill a single competitor brought down to $1.00 per pill. In a free market this is the norm. Absent of monopolies on ideas, mandatory purchasing of services, absurdly high testing costs designed to favor politically connected established manufacturers, and other forms of regulation on medical products there is actually a very large pie. And if anything can be said about markets if there is pie everybody wants a piece. Different providers attempt to grab a piece in different ways.

Some sell a premium good or service, some will provide the most inexpensive option possible, and many others will fall somewhere in between. Rolex continues to thrive by providing a premium wristwatch to its target market just as Timex continues to thrive providing very affordable wristwatches.

The medical market is no different. Some medication providers will charge a premium while others will provide an inexpensive option because the two portions of the market ensure enough pie is available for both and enough pie being available for both ensures both portions of the market are served.

If you become outraged when medical companies jack their prices up don’t beg the government to do more of the same. Instead do whatever you can to help expand a free market.

Apple Doing More For China’s Environment Than China’s Government

I continue to be amazed by people who believe governments are an effective way to protect the environment. It’s such a stupid belief because governments are the biggest polluters whose only interest in regulating pollution is getting a piece of the action through permit issuances. The only way to reduce pollution, which is the only way to change anything, is direct action. Oftentimes direct action to reduce pollution involves individuals whose property has been damaged by a polluter filing a lawsuit (of course such action has been illegal in the United States ever since the federal government started involving itself in pollution licensing). But that’s not the only way.

Apple has announced a plan to build solar power plans in China:

Six months after Apple said it wanted to stop climate change, rather than debate the issue, the company has announced two new programs that it says will reduce the carbon footprint of its manufacturing partners in China. The two schemes aim to avoid the production of more than 20 million metric tons of pollution between now and 2020 by building solar energy sources in the country’s northern, eastern, and southern grid regions, and by partnering with suppliers to install clean energy projects over the coming years.

At the same time, Apple also announced that it has completed 40 megawatts of solar projects in China’s Sichuan province, capable of producing the same amount of energy used by Apple’s retail stores and operations offices in the country. Apple says the completion of the projects makes the company carbon neutral in China, but that doesn’t factor in the energy used by its manufacturers and suppliers. The two new schemes are intended to offset that energy usage, producing more than 200 megawatts of electricity through the new solar sources — enough to power 265,000 homes in China for a year — and by helping suppliers build projects that will offer more than 2 gigawatts of clean energy.

This move by Apple will do more good than any amount of petitioning the Chinese government. In fact if companies did similar things in the United States it would do more good than any amount of Environment Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

When You Want To Be A Ninja But Live In California

Some people become cops because they want to beat people without suffering consequences. Other people become cops because they believe the uniform and authority will help them pick up chicks. And there are those who become cops because they want to become ninjas but live in California:

ANDERSON, Calif. – The Anderson Police Department will start using nunchucks as a way to forcibly restrain suspects.

Though nunchucks are not new to law enforcement, they are making a come back in Shasta County.

They originated in Japan and have been used in martial arts for years. APD said they want to start using them because they are a multipurpose weapon.

Nunchucks are illegal for citizens to own in California; however, police can be certified to use them within the state.

Emphasis mine. Also, as an aside, nunchucks originated in Okinawa. Anyways, in the no-fun zone of California the only way one can become a true ninja warrior is to become a cop. And wanting to become ninjas is the only reason the Anderson Police Department could justify learning to use nunchucks because they serve no practical purpose. Nunchucks are basically batons combined with an almost infinite chance of failure if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing (and knowing exactly what you’re doing take more than some idiotic police certification program). Like a baton, nunchucks are striking weapons. Unlike batons, nunchucks work on the same principle as flails and therefore the end you’re striking somebody with is moving really fucking fast.

If the Anderson Police Department actually wanted to improve the ability of its officers to forcibly restrain suspects it would teach them something practical like judo, aikido, or Brazilian jujitsu. But empty hand martial arts are as sexy and don’t stroke the ego of attention whores the same way two sticks tied together with rope do.

Halloween Fear Mongering

Every year around this time the police try to scare parents about trick or treating. I’m pretty sure it’s either a ploy by law enforcers to reduce their work load by getting kids off of the street or make themselves look important to the safety of the community. This year police are again claiming that drug dealers are going to be handing out drugs to trick or treaters:

The Jackson, Miss. Police Department issued a warning for pressed Ecstasy pills that could be mistaken for Halloween candy if they ended up in children’s hands.

While stories of kids being given poisoned or tainted Halloween treats are mostly the stuff of urban legend, it’s always a good idea to check your child’s candy before letting them eat it.

Stuff of urban legend is right. Drug dealers aren’t fucking idiots. They’re in a business to make a profit. Ecstasy is a popular illicit drug, which means it commands a pretty penny. What drug dealer is going to hand out thousands of dollars in profit to a bunch of brats in costumes? If your neighborhood drug dealer is handing out anything to trick or treaters it’s going to be the same candy as everybody else.

Whenever the police try to drug up fear by insinuating somebody is going to do bad things to children ask yourself if the claim even makes sense. A drug dealer handing out ecstasy doesn’t make any goddamn sense so any warnings about it happen should be discarded.

Overcoming Advertisement Reliance

As more consumers tire of footing the bill for advertisers content producers are being forced to look into other revenue generation models. Yesterday Google joined the legion of content producers experimenting with directly charging for content by announcing a YouTube subscription service:

At a press event this morning in San Francisco, livestreamed in from the YouTube Space in Los Angeles, the video-sharing company announced YouTube Red, a subscription service for the site’s most dedicated viewers. For $9.99 a month (or $12.99 if you order through iTunes; iOS users can pay the normal price if they sign up through the web), the YouTube Red membership gives users ad-free videos, and original shows and movies from YouTube creators (including PewDiePie, Joey Graceffa, Fine Brothers Entertainment, and more). It also opens up access to the recently launched Gaming app, and YouTube Music, a new app that will be available soon. Crucially, a YouTube Red subscription will be interchangeable with a Google Play Music subscription, making this as much a streaming music investment as anything.

I think this is a sensible approach. Google will still maintain the ad supported service but is now adding a subscription service that removes ads and gives subscribers access to premium content. Sweetening the deal is the fact that a YouTube Red subscription also gains you access to Google Play Music, so subscribers are really getting some Nextflix and some Spotify for the price of one of those services individually.

In addition to premium content subscribers to YouTube Red will enjoy a more secure experience since ad networks are a common vector for malware, better battery life since ads consume a notable amount of power, and lower bandwidth bills since ads eat up a lot of bandwidth. For heavy YouTube users $9.99 per year might prove to be a savings compared to the cost of buying additional data for ad usages.

Although most media outlets are focusing on Google offering premium content for subscribers the big news, in my opinion, is the fact Google is offering a subscription service at all. For the longest time Google was the name in Internet advertising. In fact it still is. But even it’s seeing the writing on the wall. Through the pervasive use of ad blockers consumers are signaling the market that they’re no longer satisfied with being the product. Unlike many businesses, which stick their head in the sand when their business model starts dying, Google is at least experimenting with alternative revenue sources. I hope it proves successful because I want to see the advertising model die in a fire.

It’s Called A Legacy Of Ashes For A Reason

John Brennan, the director of the ironically named Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), had his personal e-mail account breached, supposedly by a 13 year-old. You might not think the personal e-mail account of a government stooge would contain much interesting information but the dummy forwarded a lot of e-mail from his CIA e-mail account! Wikileaks was good enough to post his e-mails for our amusement.

Some may find it odd that a 13 year-old could social engineer the director of the CIA. But anybody who has read Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA knows that it’s titled Legacy of Ashes for a reason. The history of the CIA is the history of failure. Brennan’s failure to keep his work and personal e-mail separate and no be outwitted by a 13 year-old are just another chapter in the agency’s long, proud history of failing. In fact this failure isn’t even a blip on the radar, which includes such gems as the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

I look forward to the dirty secrets that are gleamed from this leak and the butthurt that will inevitably emanate from neocons who will cry about this leak being damaging to national security or some other such nonsense.

The Privacy Arms Race

The National Security Agency (NSA) is listening in to every phone call. Closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras are seemingly in every businesses and on every street corner. Police cars have cameras that automatically scan the license plates of other vehicles they drive by. Surveillance is so pervasive that we must accept the fact that privacy is dead.

Or not. Doomsayers will declare the death of privacy but the truth is privacy is an arms race. This has always been the case. When aerial surveillance came into its own so did camouflage canopies and hidden shipyards. Criminals kept tabs on the movement of beat cops so their activities wouldn’t be spotted and now surveil the location of CCTV cameras for the same reason. Electronic forms of communication lead to the development of taps, which lead to the development of encrypted electronic communications.

The privacy arms race is alive and well today. As the State and corporations utilize more surveillance technologies markets are springing up to offer countermeasures. One market that is starting to dip its toes into modern counter-surveillance is the fashion industry:

Last spring, designer Adam Harvey hosted a session on hair and makeup techniques for attendees of the 2015 FutureEverything Festival in Manchester, England. Rather than sharing innovative ways to bring out the audience’s eyes, Harvey’s CV Dazzle Anon introduced a series of styling methods designed with almost the exact opposite aim of traditional beauty tricks: to turn your face into an anti-face—one that cameras, particularly those of the surveillance variety, will not only fail to love, but fail to recognize.

Harvey is one of a growing number of privacy-focused designers and developers “exploring new opportunities that are the result of [heightened] surveillance,” and working to establish lines of defense against it. He’s spent the past several years experimenting with strategies for putting control over people’s privacy back in their own hands, in their pockets and on their faces.

Admittedly many of the fashion trends and clothing shown in the article look silly by the average standard. In time counter-surveillance fashion will either begin to take on an appearance to appeals to our sensibilities or our sensibilities will change to view this counter-surveillance fashion as fashionable.

Using fashion as counter-surveillance is as old as surveillance itself. Spies always try to dress to blend into their surroundings. Street criminals often choose a manner of dress that is unlikely to catch the attention of police. Undercover police select clothing that doesn’t scream “I’m a cop!”

Privacy isn’t dead. Far from it. It’s true that surveillance technology appears to have the upper hand for the time being but counter-surveillance technology will overcome it and then the cycle will repeat itself.

Need Your Friend’s Wi-Fi Password? Ask Their Kettle!

A lot of companies are making a big deal out of the Internet of things. The Internet of things is just a fancy phrase for adding Internet connectivity to everything from lightbulbs to tea kettles. Theoretically this could enable some pretty neat functionality but it also means every device in your home could become an attack vector for malicious hackers. Not surprisingly the security record of current Internet of things manufacturers leaves a lot to be desired:

Following our recent demonstration at the Infosecurity Show and with Rory Cellan-Jones on the BBC here’s a write up and more technical detail on the Smarter iKettle hack.


For those of you who haven’t seen the demo in person, here’s how it works.

The brief version:

De-auth kettle from its usual access point. Use aireplay-ng
Create fake AP with same SSID
Kettle joins
Connect to telnet service, authenticate using default PIN of ‘000000’
Enter ‘AT-KEY’
Plaintext WPA PSK is then disclosed
Yes, it’s that easy

Oy vey! For some reasons each market appears dead set on learning the hard lessons the hard way. Software developers learned the mistakes of not taking security seriously. Automobile manufacturers are now learning that lesson. Manufacturers that produce Internet enabled devices will probably be the next in line to learn this lesson.

My advice for everybody is to wait a bit before diving too far into this Internet of things. Let the early adopters suffer the pain and misery of immature products. Then, when the time is right, move in and thank all those poor souls for their sacrifice.

Somebody Didn’t Get Invited To The Hookers And Blow Party

The best part about working for the State is the privileges. You get liability shields that let you kidnap and assault people with impunity. When you do fuck up royally and there’s a lawsuit it’s the tax victims the foot the bill. And, of course, what other employer is going to throw hookers and blow parties for employees?

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said Tuesday that it is investigating reports that a supervisor used government time to recruit workers for private sex swinger parties at his home.

An internal misconduct investigation is looking into the claims centered on workers in San Diego, ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack told NBC News in a statement.

It follows a report by the San Diego Union Tribune that an accusation of gross sexual misconduct was made in a complaint submitted to the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year.

The newspaper said employees at the ICE Enforcement Removal Operations office in the city complained that they had been approached during work hours to participate in the parties held at the home of a supervisor in the office along with his wife, who is also an agent.

Sex scandals are par for the course when you work for a federal agency. But when somebody doesn’t get invited to the party the inevitably snitch and ruin the fun for a while. I’m sure the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security will perform a thorough investigation that will show nobody in the department did anything wrong. Investigating and clearing yourself is yet another perk of work for the State after all!