No, Don’t Ask Your Doctor About Abflubimadab

You’ve Seen the Drug Ads … Everywhere

Do you know why prescription drugs cost so much? No, forget about development costs. Just turn on your television and look at all the glossy commercials requesting that you ask your doctor about their pricey pharmaceuticals. You’ll see a whole lot of healthy looking older couples doing fun things together while a voice in the background warns that if you take Abflubimabad (I invented this drug name, so don’t try to buy it or even ask your doctor about it), you may suffer from St. Vitus Dance, rickets, premature ejaculation, memory loss, Ebola, a moist handshake, heart failure, or death. But you’re not listening to this voice droning on, and those old couples look so happy.

Wait until you find out how much Abflubimabad costs: Just finding out may cause St. Vitus Dance, rickets, premature ejaculation, memory loss, Ebola, a moist handshake, heart failure, or death. It costs a whole lot of cash to place ads on prime time TV, especially the cable channels that old people like to watch for their retro programming.

For one thing, the U.S. is only one of two countries that allow this type of advertising. (The other is New Zealand.) Could this be why American drugs are so much more expensive than Canadian or Mexican equivalents?

Whereas the market for TV advertising in general has been flat for the last few years, the direct-to-consumer drug ads have grown 62% since 2012. The pharmaceutical industry is one of those industries where marketers could call a meeting at the beginning of year and pretty much decide what their profit is going to be. (The insurance industry is in the same category.) So it doesn’t matter what these drugs cost. They want to create a buzz, so that viewers will directly participate in their doctors’ decisions, which, of course, they are clearly not qualified to do. Then Big Pharma just raises the prices by astronomical amounts.

Guess who pays for it in the end.

 

Talking About the Homeless

Homeless Encampment in Los Angeles

There are several ways of talking about the homeless. For one thing, I do not think they can be all lumped into one category. Therefore, I rarely speak about “the homeless” as a whole. Some are temporarily without an address and have some reasonable hope of finding one, especially if they are a family. One does not usually encounter these transient homeless on the streets. More likely, one runs into a mostly male population of homeless that fit into one or more of the following categories:

  • The mentally ill, estimated by the City of Los Angeles to comprise some 40% of the total.
  • Veterans of the armed forces who were unable to make the transition to civilian life. As I live within a couple miles of a large Veterans Administration hospital, I see quite a few of these.
  • Hardcore bums who like living on the street and are unwilling to have any of their perceived rights and privileges abridged. Some of these are involved in drug dealing and theft.

There is a tent encampment right across the street from my apartment consisting of some ten hardcore bums. They usually do not bother the street residents unless to steal a bicycle or small grill, or to beg for cash. Since there are a number of charities that provide meals, I almost never give cash to a street person. Cash received by the hardcore homeless usually falls in the category of CBD money: in other words, for cigarettes, booze, and drugs.

I have seen a few hardcore female bums, mostly on the bus, and usually find them to be sad cases, frequently mentally ill and fiercely unapproachable. Martine saw one of them defecate on the sidewalk of our street in the open. Seeing Martine’s facial reaction, she called her a racist.

Given the variety of motives that moves this population, I shake my head in despair when journalists persist in talking about “the homeless” as if there were a single solution for all. There just isn’t.

 

LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ

We’ll Have To See About Adding More Colored Stripes

What do minority groups (of any stripe) do to get back at people who give them a hard time? Very simple. They keep changing the officially approved name by which they are to be referred. Needless to say, that doesn’t make for open communication—especially as one is always uncertain if one is using the right term of address. For instance: Negro, Black, African-American. Or: Indian, Amerind, Native American.

For sexual preference, there are any number of mostly pejorative terms. What is Fred Astaire’s The Gay Divorcee really about? Can an American teenager see that film without wincing at its title?

That wince is now a feature of American life. It even extends to Latin America. I once wrote a blog mentioning Peruvian Indians. The next morning, I noticed a comment that the moniker I used is now considered racist and I should call them campesinos. What? Does that mean that all Peruvian farmers are descended from native peoples? That can’t be true, as I know there are Peruvians of Japanese extraction, many of whom are profitably engaged in agriculture. And where do all the Chinese vegetables at Peruvian chifas (Chinese restaurants) come from if not from Chinese farmers living in Peru?

The most ridiculous politically correct minority name by far is LGBTQ. The Q (for Queer) was added later. Why? Who likes the idea of being referred to as a Queer? That’s a term from the bad old days, no?

I predict that sexual minorities will not be successfully integrated into our culture until all these politically correct terms are trashed. Whatever dignity is gained from the term is lost by the unwillingness of the majority culture to engage on that level. And what about that flag with all the colors? It’s like the American flag in the old days when they added not only a new star but a new stripe every time a state joined the union. And besides, how many other colors can we add?

 

 

 

It’s Gone Way Beyond Taco Bowls

Sculpted Mariachi Band in Albuquerque’s Old Town

Whose America is it? Does it belong to those Scots-Irish who have lived in these United States for generations, or does it belong to the people who meet a different profile? There is no disputing the fact that our demographics are changing. And that seems to be causing a lot of pain among those who appear to be “left behind.”

Here’s a little summary from National Public Radio of what is happening to the racial composition of the U.S. as of 2017:

  • The Asian population grew by 3.0 percent to 21.4 million.
  • People who identified as being of two or more races grew by 3.0 percent to 8.5 million.
  • The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population grew by 2.1 percent to 1.5 million.
  • The Hispanic population (including all races) grew by 2.0 percent to 57.5 million.
  • The American Indian and Alaska Native population grew by 1.4 percent to 6.7 million.
  • The black or African-American population grew by 1.2 percent to 46.8 million.
  • The white population grew by 0.5 percent to 256.0 million.
  • The non-Hispanic white alone population grew by 5,000 people, remaining at 198.0 million.

Just take a quick look at that last item again. The non-Hispanic white population has grown by only 5,000 to 198,000,000. That represents a 0.25% growth rate. We casually tend to treat Hispanics as a separate race. According to the Bureau of the Census, Hispanics can classify themselves as White, Black (Cubans for example), Asian (some Filipinos for example), and American Indian (some Navajo for example). Now compare that measly 0.25% growth rate to all the other growth rates in the above table.

“I Love Hispanics” Says the President-Elect While Praising His Taco Bowl (?!) from the Trump Tower Grill

While our Presidente claims to love Hispanics, he probably only loves Devin Nunes and a handful of other of his supporters who happen to be Hispanic. All the rest of them are rapists or worse. Doesn’t he know that he represents what once was a strapping majority and is on its way to becoming a minority? That’s already happened to Los Angeles. What is Herr Trumpf going to do? Deport Asians, Blacks, and—Heaven forfend!—American Indians?

My guess is that there is going to be a reckoning at some point. What is happening to the United States is a throwback to the Know-Nothings of the 1840s who were so violently opposed to Irish immigration. Eventually, the Irish won; and even Trumpf accepts them as sort of, kind of white. The Republicans are holding on to power by the skin of their teeth, and due largely to outrageous gerrymandering.

Does racism have a future in America? I don’t think so. We all have a part to play in carrying on the American Dream.

By the way, what in blue blazes is a taco bowl?

Why I’m Stuck on the Maya

Maya Girls

My first real trip outside the borders of the United States was to Yucatán in November 1975. I was so entranced with what I saw that I kept coming back to Maya Mexico for years, until 1992. During that time, I also wanted to go to Guatemala, but a civil war between the Maya and the Ladinos (Mestizos) was raging until 1996; and Guatemala was on the State Department’s “Level 4: Do Not Travel” list until just recently. Even now, the State Department as the whole country classified under a blanket “Level 3: Reconsider travel to Guatemala due to crime” warning.

Why is it that I am so fascinated by the Maya that I would risk flouting President Trumpf’s State Department?

For one thing, the Maya are incredible survivors. The Aztecs were ground down by Cortez within two years. In Peru, it took forty years before resistance was smashed by Pizarro and his successors. And the Maya? That took a full 180 years before the last Maya kingdom (at Tayasal in Guatemala) was leveled.

Today, there are 1.5 million speakers of Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. There are some 6 million speakers of the 26-odd Mayan languages and dialects. Of course, the Incan Quechua language has even more speakers: some 8.5 to 11 million speakers in several South American countries.

In recent years, there have been several disturbances in the Maya area:

  • In Mexico, there was a Maya war against the Ladinos in Yucatán that lasted from 1847 to 1901 and a Zapatista revolt in Chiapas that flared briefly in 1994.
  • In Guatemala, there was a violent civil war against the Ladinos from 1960 to 1996. It is estimated that tens of thousands of Maya were massacred by the army.
  • In El Salvador, there was a civil war from 1979 to 1981. (Only some of the indigenous peoples involved in that one were Maya.)

The Maya are still there, occupying large parts of Mexico (Yucatán, Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, and Quintana Roo); Belize; Guatemala; and parts of Honduras and El Salvador. It is no small achievement for them to have survived so much persecution for upwards of 500 years.

That is what interests me.

 

 

City on a Hill? Hah!

Their Equivalent of Greyhound: Better Than Us—By Far!

We like to talk big about the United States, but we are fifty years too late, or more! The one time we were reckoned to be the A-Number-One Country in the World, the rest of the world lay in ruins. Now instead of being the City on a Hill, we are more like the lopsided shitshack being dragged downriver by a flooded, polluted stream.

What brought this to mind was Martine’s story of her travels to Portland, Oregon, then Sacramento, then back to Los Angeles. Unless you are flying—and even then, sometimes—you are treated like scabby vermin. Both Amtrak and Greyhound will dig into your back with horribly designed seating. On the Amtrak dining car, you get a microwaved hamburger with pretensions to fanciness. In fact, everything on the menu has pretensions to fanciness. And it all tastes like nuked camel dung.

I remember the buses I took in South America. There was one fifteen-hour ride from Buenos Aires to Bariloche aboard a Via Bariloche tutto letto bus with seats that reclined a full 180º, with blanket and pillow.  In addition, there was a steward who served us three meals, whose price was included in the cheap ticket price. (Okay, the food was not perfect, but was adequate.) And there was a clean restroom on board. Try getting that on Greyhound!

Rio Uruguay Ticket Office in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina

BTW, the customer service is better, too—even if you have trouble speaking the language.

We tend to run down Latin Americans as being somehow backwards. We gringos are actually the backward ones—primarily because of our greed. When I went to pick up Martine at the Greyhound station in Los Angeles (located in Skid Row), no one knew when buses arrived. I was told to wait in the ticket line, which had something like seventy-five people plus their bags and children. I wasn’t about to spend an hour asking when the bus from Sacramento was to arrive. More greed!

It makes me want to spend more time in Latin America, even if they are rapists. At least they’re not so greedy with their people.

 

Thoughts + Prayers = 0

Crosses Memorializing Victims of Vegas Shooting

Here we are with yet another mass shooting, and more thoughts and prayers—especially from people who do not intend to do anything about it. Sure, set down those Teddy Bears and lit candles and be photographed hugging other people. Let’s take a look at ourselves in the mirror. We are seen as being barbarous because of the things we allow to go on in our country. Selling automatic weapons to lunatics and children! And merely shaking our heads when those weapons are put to deadly use.

Sometimes, I think the thoughts and prayers of the families of shooting victims are not as strong as the thoughts and prayers of people who are members and fellow travelers of the NRA.