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Sunday, March 23, 2014

zzzquil ripoff scam -- it's just benadryl

I was curious as to what zzzquil was.  Now I know, it's benadryl, only a lot more expensive.

Here's an Amazon review that makes the point:

317 of 356 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars SAVE YOUR MONEY; THIS IS ALL HYPEJune 23, 2012
This review is from: ZzzQuil Nighttime Sleep-Aid Liquicaps 48 Count (Health and Beauty)
The only active ingredient in this "new" product is 25mg of Diphenhydramine hcl which Nyquil ZZZ labels a "Nighttime sleep-aid." This is the EXACT ingredient in benadryl and store brand equivalents, that cost much less, which those manufacturers label as an antihistamine. All Nyquil did was rename it and give it a hyped up name of ZzzQuil and repurpose it as a sleep aid. Antihistamines can make you drowsy but that's not why people take them. This one has been around since the 1940's. What a bunch of BS.

So what are we supposed to think?  Vick's is leveraging its good name (from Nyquil and Dayquil) to repackage benadryl and sell it for several times what it's worth.  It's not immediately apparent on the label, but Vicks is owned by Procter & Gamble.  Do whatever you want with that information.

I haven't taken zzzquil, but I have taken benadryl.  Yes, it puts me to sleep, but I still feel like I'm underwater for much of the next day.  I do not feel rested after a benadryl-induced sleep, so you wouldn't see me taking zzzquil even if it were priced rationally.  Of course, your results may vary -- I heard somewhere recently (I think it was in a Ben Goldacre Book -- either Bad Pharma or Bad Science) that the more we pay for medicine, the more likely it will work for us.  

Baucus Nomination Part III

I'm still working a month or two behind.  But I now see that Baucus -- nominee for Ambassadorship to China -- is, along with IP-industry-tool Orrin Hatch, a promoter of fast track approval for trade agreements.  I can't compete with all the bloggers and journalists talking about the problems with the TPP.  But I will say that one of the most insidious aspects of these "Trade Agreements" is that they are reached (usually after having been drafted by industry) without much public or Congressional input, and only after that is Congress asked to enact legislation to implement them.  Legislation by trade agreement.

Luckily, the rest of Congress seems to (finally) understand the problem.

Here's a link:

And here's a quick quote:

"On Jan. 9, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), joined by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), introduced controversial fast-track legislation, entitled the “Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014.” Contrary to the bill’s title, the Camp-Baucus proposal is not widely supported by Republicans or Democrats in the House or Senate. The bill was introduced last week without a House Democratic co-sponsor, and Baucus – the president’s nominee for the ambassador to China – is the only Senate Democrat sponsoring the bill." 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

LSD and Molly

I was just now trying to figure out the relationship between LSD and Molly, so I thought I'd do a google search on them.  Here's what comes up:

That's kind of sad.  Rather than warnings about the dangers of doing either of these drugs -- much less both in combination -- we get a bunch of unabashed posts from users who appear to want to suck others into the experience, and possibly into the inevitable vortex of addiction and death.  I'm not going to write an anti-drug screed here.  I don't have time, and my views are too complex.  I'll just say that I'm probably in favor of legalization of ALL drugs.  That would wipe out a lot of the crime in this country, not to mention the social burdens caused by criminalizing this activity.  And judging by the way kids will do drugs anyway, it seems to me that it would be a lot better if the source of the drugs were regulated.  True, I can't predict whether drug use will go up if it's legal.  And if one puts an age limit on the age of use, then one encounters a lot of the same problems -- there would be plenty of illegal distribution in the high schools, even though perhaps the drugs were legally obtained.

My goal with this post is, if nothing else, to make the first page of a search for "LSD and Molly".  You can help by linking to this post.

One of the problems with keeping these drugs illegal is that the result is that you never know what you are getting.  As evidenced by the Wikipedia entries below, some people don't think that LSD and MDMA are all that bad.  But that doesn't mean that the substance you buy from a drug dealer is really the pure drug, and it doesn't mean that it won't kill you.  Several young people -- including one academic superstar -- were killed last summer by something purporting to be Molly.

Here's one write-up from a Boston perspective:

And from Chicago:


"Molly is dangerous because of the toxic mix of unknown chemicals; users have no idea what they're taking or at what dose. Unlike MDMA and other illegal drugs that have known effects on the body, the formulas for these synthetic drugs keep changing, and they're manufactured with no regard to how they affect the user."

And now, for the record, here is some background info about LSD and Molly.

From Wikipedia -- which appears to have been written by an LSD dealer:

"Lysergic acid diethylamide, abbreviated LSD or LSD-25, also known as lysergide (INN) and colloquially as acid, is a semisynthetic psychedelic drug of the ergoline family, well known for its psychological effects which can include altered thinking processes, closed- and open-eye visuals, synesthesia, an altered sense of time and spiritual experiences, as well as for its key role in 1960s counterculture. It is used mainly as an entheogen, recreational drug, and as an agent in psychedelic therapy. LSD is non-addictive, is not known to cause brain damage, and has extremely low toxicity relative to dose.[3] However, adverse psychiatric reactions such as anxiety, paranoia, and delusions are possible.[4]"

So kids, the LSD itself might not kill you, but you don't want to drive while doing LSD, and if you do it, you should make sure you are in an ultra-safe environment -- not around people who are likely to take advantage of you, or to take pictures of you. 

Here's another take on the dangers:

"Not only do they disassociate from their usual activities in life, but they also feel the urge to keep taking more of the drug in order to re-experience the same sensation. Others experience severe, terrifying thoughts and feelings, fear of losing control, fear of insanity and death, and despair while using LSD. Once it starts, there is often no stopping a 'bad trip,' which can go on for up to twelve hours. In fact, some people never recover from an acid-induced psychosis."


Reading the two pieces in combination tends to underscore how misleading the Wikipedia entry is.  By "addictive," Wikipedia presumably means it's not chemically addictive, in that if you quit, you don't go through physical symptoms of withdrawal.  But that doesn't mean it's not "addictive" in the realistic sense of always wanting more (think chocolate).  And when you take more and more LSD, you end up building up a tolerance, with the result that you have to continue to increase the dose, with the result that you never know what kind of "trip" you are going to have -- a joyous one or a terror-filled one.

You're much better off spending your time and money trying to develop a happy mental state on your own.  That's a lot more permanent.

And here's the beginning of the Wikipedia entry on Molly (MDMA), which also looks like it was written by a drug dealer:

"MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine) is an empathogenic drug of the phenethylamine and amphetamine classes of drugs. MDMA has become widely known as "ecstasy" (shortened to "E", "X", or "XTC"), usually referring to its street form, although this term may also include the presence of possible adulterants. The UK term "Mandy" and the US term "Molly" colloquially refer to MDMA that is relatively free of adulterants.[3]

MDMA can induce euphoria, a sense of intimacy with others, diminished anxiety, and mild psychedelia. Many studies, particularly in the fields of psychology and cognitive therapy, have suggested MDMA has therapeutic benefits and facilitates therapy sessions in certain individuals, a practice for which it had been formally used in the past. Clinical trials are now testing the therapeutic potential of MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety associated with terminal cancer[4][5] and addiction.[6]"

Here's some info from the NIH's National Institute on Drug Abuse:

"People who use MDMA can become dehydrated through vigorous activity in a hot environment. It may not seem like a big deal, but when MDMA interferes with the body's ability to regulate its temperature, it can cause dangerous overheating, called hyperthermia. This, in turn, can lead to serious heart and kidney problems—or, rarely, death. MDMA can be extremely dangerous in high doses or when multiple small doses are taken within a short time period to maintain the high. High levels of the drug in the blood stream can increase the risk of seizures and affect the heart's ability to maintain its normal rhythms."

"MDMA and MDA cause neurons to release a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which can overactivate serotonin receptors. Serotonin is important to many types of nerve cells, including cells that receive sensory information and cells that control mood, sleep, and memory. Animal studies have taught us that MDMA and MDA can damage fibers from these nerve cells. And even though some of these fibers grow back, they don’t grow back normally. They can wind up in places where they don’t belong."


There's no question that these drug are fun, and they can often help people compensate for their inadequacies in other areas of their lives.  But it is a temporary fix for those inadequacies, and, as the addiction sets in, the inadequacies become more and more pronounced, and the drug becomes ever more of a crutch.  People need to do the hard work of attacking their inadequacies head-on -- there's nothing that can't be conquered with a bit of PMA (positive mental attitude) and sustained and focused effort.  And the results of those changes are permanent.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Minimum Wage -- Jeffrey Dorfman in Forbes

Anyone reading this blog knows I'm not a Republican by any stretch of the imagination.  I suppose it's pretty clear that I'm not a Democrat either.  Maybe I'm a Daily-Show Independent.  But one place I have to break from the Daily Show is on the minimum wage.  Jon Stewart et al. have run a number of pieces on recent pushes to increase the minimum wage, and they make it seem like a complete no-brainer.  And they make good fun of the idiots that the Republicans trot out to oppose the increase.  But in this case, I think the idiots are right.  The main reason goes back to what I learned in Economics 101 -- that labor should be governed by supply and demand, just like nearly everything else.  The more one increases something like the minimum wage (i.e. the price of labor), the more distortions get introduced.  E.g. if the cost to serve burgers increases, then demand for burgers decreases, with the result that fewer burgers are needed, and fewer people are needed to serve them.  Maybe good if you're a vegetarian (which I sort of am), but not so good if you're one of the burger-servers who got laid off because of the decreased demand.  And of course, if the wage goes up, it makes it harder for entrepreneurs to start businesses that rely on unskilled labor.  And then we have all the unemployed people who would be perfectly willing to work at the current minimum wage, but can't even find a job.  The higher we raise the minimum wage, the harder it will be for those people to find jobs.

All of those points might be swept aside with the argument that "look, the evidence is right before our very eyes -- nobody can feed a family of 4 on a minimum wage income."  That seems to be the argument for increasing the minimum wage.  But really, it's an argument for guaranteeing everyone a minimum income (which I believe is what socialist countries try to do). 

A recent Forbes article by Jeffrey Dorfman provides additional reasons why the case for raising the minimum wage is less than compelling.  Minimum wage workers are a very small percentage of workers over all, and very few minimum wage workers are actually the primary earners in their households -- many are teenagers from middle-class families, and most are under 25.  Few of them look at minimum wage as a permanent job.  And as for the argument that minimum wage should keep pace with worker productivity such that the minimum wage would be $22/hour, that's a complete fabrication.  It turns out there are no statistics kept for productivity of minimum wage workers generally, so that productivity gain is based on the work of more skilled workers.  For food service workers, it turns out that increases in the minimum wage have actually outpaced increases in worker productivity.  Here's the current link to Dorfman's article:


Saturday, January 11, 2014

I-495 administrative (administration) fee scam Part 4

It looks like this is the blog that people go to to complain about Transurban's predatory "administration fee" for wrong-turn drivers on the I-495 express lanes.  There are a number of stories here:

For what it's worth, a good number of people are already mad about sending toll money to Australia (TransUrban is an Australian Company), and are avoiding using the express lanes for that reason.  Here's a relatively recent story; see the comments for the people's views:

The story indicates that Transurban is not making as much money as expected from tolls -- usage is low.  The assumption is that there is a slow "ramp up" for people to get accustomed to the idea of using this kind of lane.  That's certainly possible, but I can name a few people now who would probably rather just sit in traffic than pay even a dollar or two to a company that charges a $12.50 "administration fee" for first-time "offenders."

Perhaps their real money comes from the repeat offenders (e.g., people who have moved and are not receiving their mail) -- for every offense after the first offense, the fee is $25.00, and before too long they take you to court, with you paying court costs.

It really brings us back to the whole question about phony capitalism.  Yes, I'm sure that Transurban got this concession based on some kind of a "competition" with other private companies.  But the "competition" was for the ability to have a monopoly, and now we the people -- for the next eternity -- have a privately owned, relatively unregulated monopolist on our hands.

I assume that the Virginia Legislature has retained some ability to control Transurban and prevent it from acting in a predatory manner.  Hopefully, the Legislature will do something like that.  Maybe we need to be writing to them.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Lobbyists -- the Ultimate Skimmers

It's probably been more than a year since I blogged about "skimmers" -- people who get rich in ways that typically benefit only themselves.  This was mainly in response to the Republican line that people who make a lot of money shouldn't be taxed because they are out there creating new products and jobs, etc.  My point was simply that that's a very small minority of rich people, and I did some work to show that with a few entrepreneurial exceptions, most high income people are simply skimmers -- people who are in the vicinity of large cash flows, and are able to grab a bit of it for themselves.  These people aren't typically making the world a better place; indeed, they are usually making it worse -- often they are rewarded for anti-social innovations like how to get consumers to pay more for less, how to help rich people reduce their taxes, etc., etc.

 I don't remember if I singled out lobbyists specifically -- as you'll see if you google for those posts (pricefixer skimmer) -- I feel that a lot high-income people meet this description.  But sure, lobbyists are one of the prime examples of people who get rich by doing things that the rest of us have every right to resent -- selling their government connections (gained while in so-called "public service) to the highest bidder.  Charles Lane in today's post has a good piece on this obvious problem:

He ends the piece like this, which pretty much sums up what I've been trying to say about skimmers:  "Instead of worrying about how much money rich people make, we should focus more on how they make it."

While on this topic, I should mention Peter Schweitzer's book "Extortion."  The basic theme is that really, it's not just lobbyists using their connections to politicians to get the politicians to vote the way they want.  In fact, more often it's the other way around -- the politicians calling and threatening the lobbyists that they will only vote the "right" way if the campaign cash comes through.  Sickening.

And my final thought for today:  Really, politicians benefited greatly from the Red Menace in that they could always say you don't want the country to fall into the wrong hands.  At that time, the obvious example of why communism didn't work -- and why we didn't want something like that here -- was the USSR.  But as we move further and further away in time from that worry, perhaps people -- a new generation that has not experienced the alternatives -- will start wondering, again, if our form of government really is the best.  We know it's the best money can buy, but does that really mean it's the one we the people want and deserve?

If there is a communist takeover, at least it won't have been sponsored by a corrupt totalitarian state like the former Soviet Union, but will instead (perhaps) be fomented and brought about by people who truly want what's best for the United States.  I'm not advocating that -- and I'm certainly not advocating communism as a model for economic success -- I'm just saying that at a certain point, our politicians might well receive a signal that it's time for them to clean up their act.  And maybe when that happens, we'll start getting truly civic-minded people to become politicians.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Baucus Nomination Part II

Juliet Eilperin and Sean Sullivan in today's Washington Post explains all the political reasons that Baucus got that job -- 1) to help out  Democratic politicians in Montana, 2) because he has experience on China trade issues, and 3) because it "remov[es] a credible critic of the Affordable Care Act from the scene."

I guess he's "credible" because he drafted it, although the writers seem to be unaware of that fact.  Of course, he's not actually criticizing the Act itself, just the implementation.  From the article:

"Baucus had expressed frustration with how the Administration was implementing its landmark health care law for months, suggesting in February it could be “a huge train wreck” if the government did not have enough money to spend on outreach to consumers. A month after the launch of the senator compared the federal health care marketplace to Humpty Dumpty, questioning whether the White House could repair the complicated online enrollment system."