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Martin Shkreli

Martin Shkreli is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, and he’s become somewhat of a punching bag ever since he bought the rights to a drug called Daraprim (pyrimethamine) in August of this year from drug company Impax. If you’re unfamiliar with the man or the controversy surrounding this drug, he made waves by raising the price of this drug, which is commonly used to treat AIDS and cancer patients, from $13.50 to $750 per pill, overnight. That represents a 5,500% increase. When the news broke, Americans did what they do so well; they bitched and moaned on social media and over cocktails or wine with friends instead of insisting on change. #Murica

He brought some of this upon himself, reportedly paying $2 million for a rare Wu-Tang Clan album, as well as calling himself the world’s most eligible bachelor and livestreaming himself going after his critics, enduring him to absolutely nobody except Gordon Gecko. He’s a pompous douchebag for sure, but that just made him a dick, not a criminal.

Yesterday he was arrested for securities fraud, and many people shouted in delight and jumped for joy. Claims of karma catching up to him and other such sentiments popped up on Twitter, and everyone thought he got exactly what he deserved for taking advantage of dying old ladies with cancer and people with AIDS.

I’m not going to get into the main purposes of those pills, but don’t think for one second that what he did was illegal with regard to Daraprim’s price hike. Yes, he’s getting what he deserves for security fraud, but those charges come from one of his earlier business ventures as the co-founder of the hedge fund MSMB Capital Management.

In fact, what he did in raising the price of Daraprim is as close to 100% ethical as you can get. We live in a (mostly) capitalist society in the United States, which means that his ethical responsibility as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals is to his company’s shareholders. He has no responsibility to the medical patients being prescribed the drug. None. Is he morally repulsive? That’s for you to answer yourself, but we’re leaning towards “yes” on that.

And this is where the American public comes in because as they’re tweeting about how happy his arrest made them from their iPhone 6Ss while sipping their peppermint mocha latte from Starbucks, they’re just feeding the machine that made this type of behavior possible. Some jackass with a shit-eating grin isn’t at fault, people. It’s us. We embrace capitalism and then get mad when capitalism makes something we don’t like possible.

Don’t take this as an attack on capitalism. I love capitalism. It’s been great to me, and it’s been pretty great to most Americans as well. Martin Shkreli’s actions should make us think about our relationship with capitalism, however, specifically in the healthcare sector.

The only other topic in recent memory that has people talking so much about our health care system is the Affordable Care Act, more lovingly referred to as Obamacare. Something of a dirty word, President Obama’s signature healthcare law has had a lot of ups and downs in its brief three year history, and the majority of American still don’t approve of law, according to the latest credible survey on the subject from the Kaiser Family Foundation, mostly because they view the ACA as being too socialist and not free market enough.

An important note from that same study is that the overwhelming majority of Americans, 76 percent to be exact, believe that there should be regulation supporting the lowering of costs for expensive drug to treat diseases like HIV, cancer, hepatitis and others, and 60 percent say this should be the government’s top priority with regard to healthcare regulation.

Those last statistics highlight the very reason why people hate Shkreli so much. We genuinely want sick people to get healthy and get the treatment they need. So why do we fight legislation that could make that possible? Further, why do we still accept the idea that people’s health should be a matter of profitability and return of capital to shareholders? And why do you still vote for people who want to further solidify the view that everything, including healthcare, should be open to the free market? We should be demanding a single-payer health care system. Yes, we should socialize medicine.

I’m sorry, America, but you don’t get to villainize Martin Shkreli for his move with Daraprim until you’ve reconciled your loyalty to a capitalist health care system and your genuine desire for humane approaches to treating the ill. Is he a dick? Absolutely, he’s a giant dick. Is he morally repulsive? Probably. Is he ethically wrong? Nope. The only way this amoral behavior won’t happen again, however, is if the United States goes ahead and gets rid of free market policies in the health sector.

Just to reiterate, this isn’t an attack against capitalism. In fact, it’s possible to be just as economically free market as we currently are while also moving to a single-payer health care system.

According to the Heritage Foundation, a very conservative American think tank, which has ranked every country’s economy in the world based on its economic freedom (i.e. how free-market-friendly it is), every country ranked ahead of the United States has a single-payer healthcare system, or socialized medicine. We’re not talking “most” or “many” here; every country ranked as more economically free than the United States provides its citizens free health care—including expensive medications used to treat diseases like HIV and cancer. Yes, even Daraprim is free in those countries.

So, America, don’t blame Martin Shkreli. Blame yourselves. If you don’t want some pharmaceutical CEO jacking up the prices on lifesaving medicine, you should start to vote for people who will demand a socialized health care system. You know, like the citizens of the most economically free countries on earth. You don’t have anyone to blame but yourselves.

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Movies & Television

Should fans care that Deadpool was nominated for a Golden Globe?

Deadpool is the first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture, and that a superhero movie has been nominated for anything other than its effects.

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deadpool-gallery-03-gallery-image

Image: 20th Century Fox

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) announced Monday night its nominations for the Golden Globes, and amidst the usual gossip of snubs and surprises, the biggest shocker came in the form of nominee for Best Picture – Comedy/Musical, Deadpool. This marks the first time that a superhero movie has been up for Best Picture at the Golden Globes, and honestly one of the few times ever that a superhero movie has been nominated for a major award for anything other than its effects. The question is, should we, as fans, care?

Now first off let’s just say that Deadpool was a hell of a movie. It zipped back and forth between crass and witty in a wonderful comedic ride that stayed true to the heart of the titular character that even the best of superhero films struggle to accomplish. The story of how the film came to be made probably deserves a documentary all it’s own, with the climax, of course, being the moment the test footage was leaked to an adoring public. No one is trying to say that Deadpool didn’t deserve to be nominated as one of the best comedies of the year.

However.

The Golden Globes have been notorious for years as the ultimate “Who Gives a Shit” awards. The Oscars have a voting pool of over 6,000 members, the Emmy’s have more than 18,000 members, and the Screen Actors Guild gives a vote to each of its 165,000 members. And how many people vote on the Golden Globes? 88.

And these are 88 people with some of the most tenuous of credentials possible. To become part of the voting bloc, an applicant must first be sponsored by two people who are already a part of the HFPA, but after that, all they must do is produce four published articles a year. This combination of nepotism-based admission and one of the lowest bars imaginable to maintain membership has always marred the Golden Globes and kept them from being truly respected as an award. Thus, them nominating anything for anything has very little meaning to it.

However.

As we said earlier, Deadpool‘s nomination marks the first time a superhero film has been up for Best Picture. In a way, it is a huge accomplishment for a genre that has always been viewed as merely action spectacles with little substance. Every year superhero films have managed to take a few steps closer towards wide-spread critical legitimacy with recent films beginning to take on serious topics and truly explore the emotional complexities of its characters.

When viewed from that light, Deadpool‘s nomination for Best Picture, even if only for a Golden Globe, could, in an incredibly optimistic, best-case scenario, serve as a precedent for future superhero films to earn awards beyond Best Visual Effects.

Which brings us back to the original question, should fans of superhero films care that Deadpool was nominated for a Golden Globe?

Sadly, no. While Deadpool is no doubt deserving of the honor, even should it win the award – it won’t, it’s going to go to La La Land, we’re calling it now – the Golden Globes simply aren’t respected enough for their opinions to sway any of the other award communities.

If you are one day hoping to see all of the Avengers (or the Justice League . . . I guess) on stage accepting the Academy Award for Best Picture, then please, don’t hold your breath.

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News

Reasons to take a news break over the holidays

I am determined to have a Trump-free holiday. I wanna focus on the warmth and fuzziness of family and friend togetherness instead. It will be a total and complete news break.

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donald trump doesn't like this picture

Image: Twitter

Donald Trump has taken up residence in my brain and is making himself at home. And he’s invited Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, and all his other white nationalist friends over too. They’re even tickling my brain and invading my dreams. Well, as the holidays approach, I say “NO MORE!”

That’s right. I am determined to take a “Trumpcation” (A portmanteau of “Trump” and “vacation”) during the forthcoming holidays. Chanukah and Christmas overlap and, as a Jew who celebrates both, that means that my Trumpcation will last for a full eight days. That means no reading about him, no talking about him, no going out of my way to check his Twitter to see the latest gaseous explosion that spurted up out of his mind. Now the man is so ubiquitous right now that it’s impossible to completely avoid him, so if he comes up in a conversation or happens to be on TV, that’s fine. But other than that, I am determined to have a Trump-free holiday. I wanna focus on the warmth and fuzziness of family and friend togetherness instead. It will be a total and complete news break.

Of course, that is what I said two days before Thanksgiving. I planned to spend the entire weekend in a Trump-free bubble. I thought I had prepared by blocking his Twitter feed and yet the Twitter feed did not block me. Facebook friends posted screen caps of his latest bilious Tweets. Relatives and friends brought him up in nearly every conversation. His orange visage glowed forth from every TV I passed. And, of course, once somebody brings him up, I’ll be knee-deep in an endless conversation about our rage, our sadness, and our fear. Because I am a hopeless news junkie and I maybe have a masochistic streak where I fill my head up with the scariest news stories I can.

Intellectually, I know that it is high time for a Trump break. Writer Martijn Schrip, of the site High Existence, makes the argument that taking a news break is good for the brain.  He states that too much Facebook checking for the latest horrible newsworthy event makes us neglect the issues in our own lives in favor of the bigger problems facing the world. In addition, too much reliance on news makes us “junkies” looking for our next fix of information. People go to the restroom solely to check Facebook and whip out their phones whenever they see someone else on their phone, as if it’s a Pavlovian response. For me, it gets rough because one of my first acts when I wake up is to check Facebook. Since I have so many friends ( ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)) and am following so many pages, my brain gets inundated with a typhoon of information, think pieces, rants, and listicles. And since Trump is everywhere, he is usually the first thing I see every morning. Talk about a great start to my day….

It’s rough, guys. My way of coping with my intense fear of what’s coming is to constantly see what Trump is up to. His Twitter feed gives me a weird feeling of control. I know I don’t actually know what he’s doing but, since he Tweets so often, I trick my brain into feeling like I’m keeping tabs on him. I’m obsessed with seeing what new policies he is adopting or which old ones he’s backing away from. That’s how I cope. I enmesh myself deeply in Trumpism so I don’t forget that he’s out there.

But this may have the complete opposite effect, unfortunately. For all of my posting the hashtag #ThisIsNotNormal, I feel as if my constant obsession with the latest outrage is normalizing him in my mind. And that is not okay because this may lead to me passively accepting whatever horrible thing ends up happening.

I wish it were possible to be on Facebook for even a day and not run across his scowling face. Before Thanksgiving, my thinking was that I can avoid him for a few days and know that he would unfortunately be there when I got back. But, alas, this was not to be. But I am determined to actually do it for the eight days of Christmakkah (A portmanteau of “Christmas” and…oh you get it). If I run across his name or face on social media, I will quickly scroll past. I’ll change the channel if he’s on TV. It’s going to be tough but I think it’s important to try. I need to keep my brain sharp and ready to fight.

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Opinion

Real talk about identity politics

This piece is a quick and dirty run down of what identity politics is and what it’s about.

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Image: oneinchpunch / Shutterstock

The term identity politics inhabits a similar space that political correctness did in the 90s when some people were like, “Oh shit! Words matter!” and other people were like, “I am confused and resistant to change.” This piece is a quick and dirty run down of what identity politics is and what it’s about.

First of all, while the rise of the term “Identity Politics” in popular discourse is relatively recent, the idea that groups of people will have shared perspectives and experiences based on aspects of their identity, which will then affect their political goals and positions, is pretty old. The Civil Rights Movement, suffragettes, even the Huguenots incorporated aspects of identity politics. Of course, this is also true of the Nazis, the Cultural Revolution in China, and the KKK. However, most of the time you will see the term used is in regards to those who are marginalized in some way: minorities, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, women, and more.

To understand how identity politics function, you need to understand what I mean by marginalization. Marginalization doesn’t mean that the people in these groups are never wildly successful, never assholes, or don’t contribute to oppressing others. Indeed, many suffragettes were racist AF and the Civil Rights Movement had issues with sexism. What marginalization means is that it is culturally acceptable in large and small ways, consciously and unconsciously, to limit how certain people interact with the world. This can mean fewer opportunities, curtailing of civil rights, the threat of violence, or discounting and/or appropriating their contributions.

Another factor of marginalization and how identity politics function is that individual achievement alone does not erase problems with marginalization. Female Olympic athletes are still picked apart for not being properly made-up or skinny enough, despite exemplifying physical prowess. President Obama still faces racism as one of the most powerful men on earth. Yes, gaining power, wealth, PhDs, sponsorships, etc. may lessen the ways an individual is affected, but they do not make a systematic problem go away.

So if you are a marginalized person who is ignored, not taken seriously, or threatened, you can find people with similar backgrounds and views to organize and create coalitions. You figure out how to best get your interests taken care of, whether it’s through piecemeal legislation, all out protests, lawsuits, awareness campaigns, etc. Several people whose individual concerns were deemed unimportant become a larger political entity that demands attention and creates change.

Sometimes people take action organically without a ton of planning, and sometimes they are highly organized. That doesn’t mean everything always goes smoothly, of course, because shared perspectives do not translate into everyone in a group having the same beliefs. People will have different ideas about how to get things done; the classic example in the U.S. is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. vs. Malcolm X. People within a group will also have their own prejudices, which can limit their effectiveness and cause further conflict.

If it sounds like identity politics is flawed, messy, and uncomfortable that’s because it is. There are also people who consider it the purview of the frivolous, overly sensitive, and divisive. So why bother with identity politics? Especially when they apparently need a whole article to explain the basics without a single gif or picture?

via GIPHY

For one, people engage in identity politics all the time; it’s just usually considered less controversial if they say, “as a parent,” or “as a small business owner” when explaining their perspectives, indeed if they note their identity at all. We may as well talk about our politics accurately instead of pretending some people are objective and neutral while others who have different views are advocates of special interests or worse, maliciously divisive.

This brings me to my second point. Those who believe that talking about marginalization causes societal fractures are usually those who haven’t had to deal with it. The fractures were already there; it’s just that these people weren’t aware of them. No amount of playing nice, conforming, or achievement protects you. Think of the sexual harassment of female Fox News anchors, or the treatment of Tim Scott, the only black GOP senator. Having an education, good job, and loving family did not save Sandra Bland.

To assume that party politics and platform building is neutral or more serious when they do not include different perspectives is disingenuous at best and bigoted at its worst. (Think of Gov. Mike Pence’s policies targeting the LGBTQ community and punishing women who have abortions.)

Identity politics isn’t some kind of silver bullet against every ism or injustice. Like I said in the beginning, identity politics are also at play in hate groups and dangerous nationalism. Who you are and what’s important to you shouldn’t overtake the rights and liberties of others. But identity politics can help us recognize and address problems even when they don’t directly affect us, and help us make an impact in our own society.

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