Jeet Heer writes a remembrance/obituary for blogging. Particularly the sort of first-generation blogging that emerged in 2002-03 or so, largely in the wake of 9/11 and the runup to the Iraq War, largely written by folks who, like him, worked at the New Republic and places like that in the 1990s.
It’s a fine enough piece that makes a lot of good observations about that world. A world of which I am, without question, a product and to which I owe my career. The degree, however, to which old school bloggers romanticize blogging is comical.
Yes, that generation of bloggers was on the scene as media rules were rewritten, but something else would’ve come along to rewrite them if it wasn’t the particular form of blogging that came along at that time. The voices would’ve been there in other forms and may very well have come from different people. The voices are still there in new forms. They’re just not the voices of a bunch of dudes who worked together at the New Republic in the 1990s. We place too much emphasis and importance on the medium as opposed to the message. We place too much emphasis on *specific* voices from members of our own cliques or tribes as opposed to new voices in general.
I have much love for all of those writers. And it’s impossible to deny that my tenure in this business and my demographic profile make me a lot more like them than it makes me like the emerging social media and YouTube superstars of today. But old school bloggers sound increasingly like old rock and rollers lamenting that the new stuff isn’t as good as it was in the 1960s. Like old ballplayers lamenting that young players aren’t as firey as they were in the 1980s. Like old newspaper reporters saying, in 2003, that bloggers don’t serve as noble and vital a role that reporters did in 1973.
Bloggers in 2003 would’ve torn such misty-eyed nostalgia to shreds.
The current controversy over the price of the EpiPen, manufactured by Mylan, Inc. is quite instructive with respect to the nature of capitalism.
Mylan’s CEO, Heather Bresch, is the daughter of United States Senator Joe Manchin, himself a scion of a notable political family in my home state of West Virginia. Bresch was given her entry-level job at Mylan on the recommendation of her father, who was then West Virginia’s Secretary of State. I’m sure he was just listed on the bottom of the resume and Mylan called him and that he in no way reached out to a company that had operations regulated by the State of West Virginia in order to put a word in for his daughter.
Bresch rose through Mylan’s ranks astonishingly quickly. Perhaps due to her MBA degree from West Virginia University. A degree, it should be noted, which she did not earn. Indeed, it was bogusly awarded and then rescinded because it was revealed that then-president of WVU, Michael Garrison, gave it to her despite the fact that she had completed less than half of the coursework required for the degree. Garrison, it should be noted, is a family friend of the Manchins and business associate of Bresch’s.
Don’t you think for a moment that justice wasn’t done in that case, however. Garrison was forced out of office due to the Bresch degree scandal and is now forced to practice law. He recently represented a company which sued to get a municipal law rescinded which prevented it from operating a horizontal hydraulic fracking drill adjacent to the city’s water supply.
All of that aside, Bresch has long led Mylan to great profits and a soaring stock price which, to be clear, is the job of a CEO. Those profits and that stock price, however, are due mostly to the combination of the monopoly Mylan has on the EpiPen and Bresch’s total lack of compunction about using that monopoly to jack up the price of the pen, which is a literal life-saving device. Hey, even bogus MBA holders can grok the concept of inelastic demand. If you can’t understand that, go read a book, dudes.
Unfortunately, bogus and real MBA holders alike, while masters of certain economic concepts, have a hard time grasping other economic concepts. Such as the one that holds that “there is no such thing as a free lunch:”
“Mylan noted in an email to Business Insider that about 80% of people with commercial insurance who also used a “My EpiPen Savings Card” received the device for $0.”
See? They’re not gouging all of their patients. Just the ones without insurance, which our capitalist society has decided is a privilege, not a right. If you HAVE insurance it’s free! Unless of course you count how much your premiums are jacked up due to insurers passing along the costs they are being charged by Mylan and their counterparts for this kind of gouging.
Now that all of this is emerging into a national controversy, Bresch is being attacked for the price of the EpiPen and because of the 600%+ raise she gave herself after raising the price. She is being defended by her peers, however, as someone who is merely following the accepted norms of capitalism:
That’s quite an endorsement coming from Mr. Shkreli. Not that he’s at all wrong about the values and nature of capitalism. Indeed, he knows them quite well.
Oh well. I suspect all of this will blow over soon. In some cases this kind of controversy would turn into a show-hearing before Congress, but given that that Bresch is a Senator’s daughter I doubt that will happen. And even if it does, I suspect nothing further will happen because Mylan and Bresch are doing everything by the capitalist book.
Even if most people don’t always realize or acknowledge that, in a capitalist society, favoritism, privilege, fraud, greed and the shielding from, as opposed to the engaging in, competition is the book.
At the prompting of a couple of friends, I recently read J.D. Vance’s memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy.”
It was a major mistake. Don't believe Vance's hype and don't believe for a second that you need to read this book to gain some deeper understanding of "real Americans." It's a simultaneous exercise in (a) shaming the working class as shiftless and lazy; (b) ignoring why their plight today is what it is; while (c) ignoring why, exactly, they resent so-called "cultural elites."
The U.S. birth rate is at historic lows. This worries a lot of people. The same people who have made it their life's work to make bringing babies into this world a challenging and even frightening prospect. Too bad they can't see the connection.
There’s a hashtag thing going around Twitter now – #fav7films – via which people list their favorite seven movies. Here’s my brief list. I’d say three of the slots are subject to change at given time, but this is the list now:
1. The Conversation: It’s held at number one for a long time now. It’s a nearly perfect slow burn/psychological thriller on its merits, but as someone who often catches himself observing the world more than actually living in it, it resonates with me a bit more than most movies do.
2. Zero Effect: I like it for some of the same reasons I like “The Conversation,” though it’s obviously goofier. But it’s nowhere near as goofy as it seems on first look. There are some deceptively deep psychological waters being explored here and Bill Pullman, Kim Dickens and Ben Stiller all hit the perfect notes as they explore theirs.
3. Casablanca: It’s not all psychological crap for me. Sometimes you just gotta be entertained by some perfect old Hollywood romance, drama and humor. This may be the most perfect blending of all three in cinematic history.
4. Miller’s Crossing: It may not be the “best” Coen Brothers movie – “Fargo” is probably a better movie all things considered – but I’m a sucker for their more affected works for some reason and this one, while crazily affected, is just a joy to watch and quote over and over again. I like to think of Tom Regan as The Big Lebowski’s grandfather.
5. Chinatown: As a general rule, I like my heroes to only have half a handle of what’s going on until the very end, even while fighting like crazy to come out on top. And even once they get a handle on it and the plot resolves itself, I like them to still be perplexed by everything that happened and unsure what will happen next. Life is sort of like that. Forget the less-than-memorable sequel. I prefer to think that Jake Gittes was a profoundly changed man after what went down in this movie. It’s one of the rare pieces of hard boiled detective fiction where the detective takes the journey and doesn’t keep his cool detachment, even if it’s subtle here.
6. Dark City: I could make separate top-7 lists for detective movies, psychological thrillers and sci-fi. But all three of them landing in one movie like this makes this a great proxy for it.
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: This is an odd one, I realize, and on purely cinematic terms it’s no masterpiece. It’s a very personal choice for me, however, and I have it here out of respect for what it means for me more than for what it is. I’ve written about it before, but this movie hit me at a perfectly imperfect time in my life when the decision between trying to deal with bad experiences vs. trying to utterly deny and obliterate them from one’s memory was more than just a theoretical one for me. It’s still something I struggle with.
Anyway, sorry to anyone who was expecting to see “The Godfather,” “Citizen Kane” and “Goodfellas.” They’re all good too, though.
Alex Rodriguez played his final game last night.
I’ve always been drawn to the controversial and unpopular players. I’ve written about A-Rod and Bonds and Clemens and all of those guys a lot and I defend them more than almost anyone in my line of work does. It’s not about really liking them. I love watching them play, but I don’t really think much about them personally. When I do I often don’t think too terribly much of them. Some of them did some pretty bad things off the field separate and apart from baseball and that all counts too. Believing that great athletes are great people will steer you wrong more often than it will steer you right.
I think I write about them a lot out of a desire to defend and advocate that never really left me even after I left the law. It’s not reflexive or contrarian — I believe what I say when I defend them and their records — it’s more about overreach. It’s not enough for an athlete’s critics to say he cheated or was a dubious character. They have to paint him as truly evil. Same goes for someone they like. If what a player does on the field is good there is a tendency to say, implicitly or explicitly, that he’s a good and admirable person.
That’s ridiculous. I don’t believe that baseball accomplishments or baseball transgressions make a person good or evil. Good and evil is for real life. Sports are just a small part of it.
I avoided “Batman vs. Superman” at the theater because it seemed dreary and was reviewed poorly and I had other stuff going on when it was out. But it’s streaming on Amazon now for $5 and that’s worth it, I suppose. What can I say? I’m a fanboy and even if I have to hate-watch a superhero movie, I’m gonna watch it. So I did tonight.