Slog AM: Pfizer Makes Bank While the World Dies, King County Cops Join Call for Sheriff's Resignation, and May the 4th Be With You

Comments

1

re 'republicans' strip-mining the (Planet's) Citizenry for fun and Profiteering -- if they weren't Experts at gerrymandering, voter suppression and FOX etc Propaganda then

We the People just
might Have nice things.

2

In this one case (Covid Vaccines) I may take a pass on feeling indignation at a pharmaceutical company making loads of money off of a miracle drug. Big pharma did a great job developing the vaccines. It's up to us, collectively, to make sure vaccines get to less affluent parts of the world. We need to pressure our representatives to make sure this happens.

3

«The latest group calling for Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht to resign?»
Mitzi is the type that will hang on until she has milked whatever cash she can out of her gig before she declares victory and retreats.

5

I'm not sure what Rich is insinuating with Pfizer? Did they refuse to sell to poorer countries to enrich their profits? I haven't read that anywhere. Everything I've read says they've been busting their asses to produce as much vaccine as possible and selling everything they make to countries who have ordered it. If there is some charge of price gouging or withholding supply from poor countries I'd like to see it.

7

"Earlier this year, Amazon stopped selling the 2018 book “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment,” announcing that it would no longer allow books framing transgender and other sexual identities as mental illnesses on its platform."

Guess we have to toss the DSM out of the window.

8

Rich, why does Biden need to do something about your student loans? We’re you coerced into signing those loan papers? Did you not know how much money you were being loaned, the interest rates and what the payback obligations were going to be?

Seems like you shoulda done some math before signing for your loans.

9

Here's some money, go see a Star War.

10

6 Not "incredibly" if you actually read the article. Neither did anyone "lie" like you would have them.

11

@9. Movies are expensive. Good thing theres always money in the banana stand!

12

@2 @4 -- It is common for drug companies to spend more money on promoting a drug than actually developing it. They have outstanding marketing departments, and are quite capable of misleading the public. Mission accomplished, as they say.

Implicit in your lauding of these companies is that they took a financial risk, as they would in the development of any drug. They had to pay for R & D, so of course, they should be rewarded in the unlikely event that they were successful. That is a reasonable argument, in most cases. Just not this one.

It is disappointing that Rich Smith happened to mention Star Trek and the vaccines, without mentioning "Operation Warp Speed". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Warp_Speed. This is how we -- yes we, American citizens -- helped develop the vaccine. Never mind the unprecedented contribution from public universities and the public health sector. We funded the R & D effort, so that there was no risk. The companies that failed to get a successful company paid no price. The companies that were successful deserve to be paid for their efforts -- in the same way that 3M is paid for their N95 masks. But they shouldn't be paid this much.

At this point, the formula for the drug should be in the public domain, so that countries like India can produce their own vaccine. That really should be the way all drugs are produced. Develop a drug, the government pays you for it, and then anyone can make it. Better yet, cooperate with public agencies and universities in the development of the drugs, so as to be less proprietary, and more open-source. Operation Warp Speed was the closest we ever came to that sort of development process, and not only was it wildly successful, but it should be a model for the future. But it shouldn't include companies like Pfizer making this kind of money and retaining the rights to the drug.

13

I could not agree more @8.

Come on, man. I'm not trying to scam anybody here. You know, I'm just...
You're just looking for a handout like every other...
Are you employed, Mr. Lebowski?
Wait. Let me explain something to you.
I am not Mr. Lebowski. You're Mr. Lebowski.

14

You'd have to be incredibly delusional or entitled to not see the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as a spectacular success for the profit motive.

But here's the irony... And not to get all meta on y'all... But when Mr. Smith here tries to express outrage at Pfizer making a buck by doing good, he's really just trying to drive clicks to his story. And so, this exercise in questioning the profit motive is itself an example of the profit motive at work. Thankfully, creating clickbait for advertising is not nearly as lucrative as saving millions of lives, avoiding unimaginable human suffering, and restoring the global economy.

(In further irony, here I am taking the bait by commenting on this story....)

15

@8,

The loan officers could do a far better job explaining the impact of the loan(s). Keep in mind, these are loans in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and very likely the very first loans these kids have ever had. Their first exposure to their own personal finances they've ever had. It's numbers way beyond what they're used to. Most of the students really have no idea how much their monthly payments will be, nor how much they'll likely be making out of college either. And the loan officers really don't say much of anything other than "here's some money, you have to pay it back with interest, but you have a long time to do so, we cool then? Ok sign here."

It's an unnatural situation for those kids to be in, which is precisely why there's so much student loan debt today.

The insanely high levels of student loan debt are going to continue to hamstring the economy, and will only get worse as time goes on, if nothing is done about it.

16

Ross @12, the Times story notes that Pfizer did not accept Operation Warp Speed funds, even if the overall story is a bit more complicated:

"But BioNTech received substantial support from the German government in developing their joint vaccine. And taxpayer-funded research aided both companies: The National Institutes of Health patented technology that helped make so-called messenger RNA vaccines possible. BioNTech has a licensing agreement with the N.I.H., and Pfizer is piggybacking on that license."

Not to be pushing back against your specific points, but just to make a general point. Public-private partnerships are a good thing, but you can't have the private component of that without the profit motive. Now, as to whether Pfizer should be retaining the rights to the vaccine--that's a separate discussion.

17

Whoa...I have $320 in unclaimed property with the Washington state DOR. Thanks for the tip!

18

@17 -- will WADOR
Guarantee your info
stays Safe?* Gov't
seeks to leak like
a sieve.

*or are we Beyond all that

19

not seeks
but seems

20

Democrats voting against freeing up the patents is seriously pissing me off. This fucking country. Profit above all else. Every.fucking.body.is.corrupt.as.fuck.

21

Pharma-Backed Democrats Decline To Support COVID-19 Vaccine Patent Waiver

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/pharma-democrats-covid-19-vaccine-waiver-schakowsky-letter_n_60909efbe4b02e74d22aba89

22

nyt: Global Vaccine Crisis Sends
Ominous Signal for Fighting
Climate Change

The gap between rich and poor countries on vaccinations highlights the failure of richer nations to see it in their self-interest to urgently help poorer ones fight a shared crisis.

The stark gap in vaccination rates between the world’s rich and poor countries is emerging as a test for how the world responds to that other global challenge: averting the worst effects of climate change.

Of the more than 1.1 billion vaccinations administered globally, the vast majority have gone into the arms of people who live in the wealthiest countries.

The United States, where nearly half the population has received at least one dose, sits on millions of surplus doses, while India, with a 9 percent vaccination rate, shatters records in new daily infections.

In New York City, you hear cries of relief at the chance to breathe free and unmasked; in New Delhi, cries for oxygen.

The vaccine gap presents an object lesson for climate action because it signals the failure of richer nations to see it in their self-interest to urgently help poorer ones fight a global crisis. That has direct parallels to global warming.

By Somini Sengupta; May 4, 2021

lots more at
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/04/climate/vaccine-shortage-india-climate-change.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage

PROFITEERING
should Not
exist.

23

Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter appear to be in desperate need for an interior decorator.

24

and when they Flee?
WHERE shall they GO?

we're gonna need more Walls

or pitch the Fuck IN
starting with Patents
NATIONALIZE those
Motherfuckers Mr President

or

B
u
s
t
.
.
.

25

Public money was used to make the vaccines. The profit will be private. Fuck how many people die. Profit is the only thing that matters. Profit above all else. Who cares if tens of millions or hundreds of millions die!

26

"Water and sewage bills will likely be going up by 20% over the next five years" - We already have the highest water and sewage rates in the country (look it up, water is more expensive here than the deserts of the Southwest). And it is certainly not because we do a better job, we regularly dump raw sewage into the Puget Sound. Something is rotten here, and not a single politician seems interested in investigating and fixing it.

27

when Earth melts down
we're gonna have some
Filthy-Rich people! wohoo

28

BIG phucking Pharma:
either License the Vax
GLOBALLY*
or Give it
the fuck
Up.

*free the Vaxxes!

29

When one gets a mortgage, the loan officer is supposed to not loan you more money than you can afford to pay back. They do it anyway. Children getting student loans have zero concept of what it means to owe $100,000 PLUS INTEREST. It is a loan that will never be paid back in their entire life, unless they end up making millions of dollars in their lifetime and oh guess what most people in this country, especially those who need to take out loans to go to college, don't end up making that kind of money.

But hey, just like the mortgage crisis and the near collapse of the economy caused by the banks (who were bailed out with taxpayer dollars), this country expects idiot children who took out hundreds of dollars of loans so they could get overpriced degrees that will only get them minimum wage jobs when they get out of college to pay them back plus interest until the day they die (or are unable to work anymore). It is absolute fucking insanity. The BANKS loaning children these outrageous amounts of money are the problem.

FFS I graduated with $15K in student loan debt in 1994. I worked and made student loan payments until October 2007 when I became totally and permanently disabled and unable to work. It took me 3 years, but I was able to get my loans discharged due to total and permanent disability and never being able to work again and when they were discharged the amount was over $12K. 13 years of payments and I owed nearly as much as I started with - so please tell me how anyone who owes close to $100K or $100K or over $100K is going to pay back their student loans in their lifetime.

Meanwhile billionaires pay as little in taxes as they can get away with and corporations have zero or negative federal tax bills.

Why does this country demand a 4 year college degree for every job out there? There was a time when people who worked certain jobs only needed a HS degree. It sure isn't because the quality of education (HS or college) has increased in this country over the last 50 years.

The banks are destroying entire generations for profit. But hey, the planet will probably be destroyed before the end of their children's lifetimes, so I guess that's why everyone is just fine with it? Right? I mean why else would ANYONE believe what is happening in this country with the cost of education and the lending of hundreds of thousands of dollars to children (who can't even fucking rent a car until they are 25 years old) be REASONABLE?!?!

30

I'll say it again for those in the back, if a person cannot rent a car until they are 25 years old, why the fuck does anyone think it is reasonable to loan them tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to college? And why the fuck does anyone think this problem is not on the BANKS?

31

ronny raygun as CA's Gov saw Protesters on 'his' campuses and decided then and there to Make Education Unaffordable to Most. & voilà! NO More Protesters!

and Education as
we Knew it was
Over for the
Masses.

and Smokin' Joe's
tryin' to Resurrect it.

student debt is Stupid
wake Up America
& Move on.

32

Student loan forgiveness is oriented more towards the great multitude of people who owe like five figures for some useless certificate from a fly-by-night technical school. There was an explosion of these fleabag schools created to grab cash in the wake of that loan policy - Trump University among them. These people, still underemployed, have no hope of ever paying off that debt, but they'll have the vultures from the bank seizing any savings they manage to accumulate for the rest of their lives.

34

Bill gates could vaccinate the entire planet and still have more money left over than he could spend in 1000 lifetimes. This would allow the companies to preserve their profits — which they deserve — and get us out of this nightmare much faster. He has done great work with his foundation but he could do so, so much more without cramping his lifestyle in the least.

35

Don't just single Bill out, there's Jeff, Elton, and Mark.

36

Nobody held a gun to your head to take out a student loan. Pay up.

37

not to mention all the Pro Bono work
you do here for them too dewdrop

38

@37 -- Fuck that

FREE Education*
and AFFORDABLE Childcare
not to mention Medicare for ALL.

time for USOFA to join
the fucking Civilized World.

*& ALL student debt
Forgiven. Move. On.

39

no not 37
thirty fucking 6

40

35 absolutely all of them! But I singled out bill specifically because global vaccination is his foundation's mission, and he has commented about the patents. This is a rare opportunity to completely reshape human history and I don't understand why he doesn't grab it.

41

@40 are you proposing the Gate foundation buy all the available vaccine and distribute it themselves? They aren't producing anything so I'm not sure what role you see them playing since gov's are the front line of the supply chain.

42

I'm saying bill gates could literally pay for this out of his pocket and still be a billionaire a hundred times over. His foundation probably could too, but I don't know what they're holding or what other mandates they have. But his money is just sitting there and it's his to do whatever he wants with it.

Cost to vaccinate the entire planet: $25 billion (https://www.citizen.org/article/25-billion-to-vaccinate-the-world/)

Bill Gates current net worth: $130 billion

Of course there are probably a ton of logistical hurdles in there but if he wanted to do this he could absolutely make it happen, though I say this as an ordinary person who is content with what I have and grimace at the thought of hoarding sums of wealth that could solve numerous world problems several times over. I don't understand what makes billionaires tick.

43

Actually i guess some of his money is going to melinda given yesterday's news so maybe he only has half that amount, but still. I'm sure they could make it work. Just putting it out there!

44

@39 Taxpayers who didn't take out student loans say, no way.

45

@44 Is that how it works? Then I say no to the Airforce.

46

Irreversible Damage is not a trans-phobic book. I imagine you haven't actually read it. You should do some research on the subject! The author's interview on Joe Rogan was very informative.

48

@45 If you borrowed money from the Air Force, you gotta pay it back.

49

The highest student loan debt I ever acquired was $13,420.00 in 1995. I admittedly was fanancially stupid, and had no idea way back when what I was agreeing to sign into. Luckily my parents, still alive, well, and kicking, took me to my bank and paid it off. To this day, I can still hear my late father on the phone to the customer service rep regarding the balance of my Stafford loan:
"What is the balance of my daughter's student loan?"
"Oh, well, she doesn't have to pay it off..."
"What is the balance of my daughter's student loan, as of Monday, fully paid off?"
"Oh, well, sir...the full balance is deferred until---"
"WHAT. IS. THE BALANCE. OF. MY. DAUGHTER'S STUDENT LOAN AS OF MONDAY, PAID IN FULL?"
"Oh, uhhh....ummmm....please hold, sir......"
She was back on the phone in less than one minute with the full
balance due: $13,420.00.
Said my father abruptly to the customer service rep"THANK YOU." while hanging up the phone.
With that, my parents practically marched me to my local bank branch to have a cashier's check for the total amount of the student loan made out and sent ASAP via U.S. Registered Mail and proof of receipt.

I learned a sharp and humbling financial lesson that day. When I earned my BA of Music at Western Washington University, I paid everything off with scholarships, grants (especially the Pell and SEOG), work-study jobs, and cashing in double EE series Government savings bonds, without taking out a single student loan. At this point in my life I have no outstanding debts.
I can't imagine being in tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt now.

50

the argument that taxpayers don't want to pay for a student loan bailout is absurd.

taxpayers have literally no say in how the government spends their money. even congress gets to vote for their own pay raises (while refusing to raise the minimum wage).

taxpayers eat the cost of corporate loss and malfeasance every day.

the government profits on student loans: a recent cbo (congressional budget office) analysis showed that the federal government may have profited to the order of $135 billion over the prior ten years from student loan repayment.

taxpayers paid a trillion dollars to bail out the banks in 2008.

the pentagon spends two billion dollars A DAY. that's more than one million PER MINUTE.

working people in this country, including illegal immigrants, pay billions in taxes ($12 billion by illegal immigrants alone, who work here, for employers who know full well they are employing illegal immigrants who pay taxes and who, due to them not being here legally, will never, ever be able to collect social security or in any other way benefit personally from those taxes paid) while corporations have zero or negative federal tax bills.

the federal government loses out on billions of dollars in revenue annually (latest estimate is 400 billion dollars)

the list goes on and on and on...

51

@36 & @48: You might want to ease up your fixation on guns, Swift-boots, whether you served in the U.S. Air Force or not.
And before you give me any "What-about" shit, I served my time, too, as a Gulf War veteran in the U.S. Navy. My series of accumulated Series Double EE U.S. Government bonds were what I invested each month through my Leave and Earnings Statements. Luckily for me, Series Double EE savings bonds were actually worth something then, and doubled in value at their maturity dates. When my Montgomery G.I. Bill Chapter 30 educational benefits were used up, the savings bonds paid the balance.

52

@50 The Congress would appropriate any money to retire student loans. Such a bill would not survive in today's Senate, and there is a better than even chance that Republicans will completely control one or both houses of Congress in 2022. So, good luck with your student loan crusade, but it's not going to happen anytime soon.

@51 Who cares what you did or when? I don't recall saying anything about firearms in this thread. What's your point?

53

@30 xina, and @42 & @43 blip: BINGO!!!

@50: You have made strongly valid points, here, xina. Kudos. I agree; such outrageous outstanding student loan debts really should be forgiven, and the profit-lusting financial institutions guilty of offering anyone without the means to pay off such loans accountable. That's as hideous as the bank or mortgage company that will happily finance a 30,000 square foot Mega-Mansion, priced at $125 million, plus interest (where these greedy fucks make their money!) to an eighteen year old fry cook at McDonald's.
Once again, you and blip (re @42 & @43) nailed it. Tax the rich their fair share, already----billionaires could wipe out student loan debt without a single debt to their amassed fortunes.
My point in @49 was merely citing my own personal experience regarding student loans. I had financial help in 1995 from my parents, though. Many other people were and still are not so lucky.

54

@36,

They ARE paying their student loans, most of them anyway. I pay mine as well. That's not the problem.

The problem is the student debt load is so overwhelming that it's having visible negative effects on the economy. They aren't buying homes, aren't taking vacations, aren't starting families. Small, local businesses would love to get their money but instead it disappears into the pockets of big multinational bankers. And it's only going to get worse.

We can have a strong economy or we can have kids pay off mountains of debt, but we can't have both.

If you don't mind if China and the rest of the world surpasses the US in power and strength of the dollar then no big deal, yeah, make em pay. Because make no mistake, that is exactly what will happen if we do nothing about the student loan problem.

You may want to start learning to speak Chinese if you don't know it already.

55

@52: Here's my point, Swift-boots: @36:"Nobody held a gun to your head to take out a student loan. Pay up". A-hem. A gun is a firearm, is it not? You might want to check to make sure your safety's on before going off half-cocked.

56

@55 Oh, sure, a very common colloquial English expression. Fine. You got me. Calgon, take me away.

@54 "We can have a strong economy or we can have kids pay off mountains of debt, but we can't have both."

Says you. Most others do not agree. 你好!

57

@54 Urgutha Forka: Thank you. Well said and summarized. Very humbling.
You, blip and xina nailed it again.

Again, with heartfelt feeling--I cannot imagine what it would be like to be insurmountably in debt right now. I hope the financial blunders I made long ago never happen to me again in my life. I would like to think I have learned substantially from my mistakes. Both my parents have been gone for over the last decade. It is not like I can just move in with someone.

58

As a person who generally flops to the side of personal responsibility, I'm firmly on the side of forgiving student loans.

Student loans are a boondoggle. The companies that issue them were privatized and then the feds guaranteed that they'd be made whole if students default. Then they made student loans the most restrictive type of debt that exists - Xina (who for the record publishes several cogent, well-researched arguments every day, and so certainly could work if she deigned it acceptable practice) is literally one in 1000. Out of 1000 people who bother to try to have loans forgiven for any reason, one makes it. And being that one is a crazed battle of epic proportions.

So, lender can't lose, borrowers can't go bankrupt. Perfect setup for spiralling social forces to push things out of control.

Next step squeeze funding for higher education. Tuitions rise sharply. Schools need to compete for loan eligible students to stay afloat. So admins bloat lifestyle and social programs to compete for more students. And then the next college has to do the same and more. Country club college space race ensues. Cost go through the roof. Colleges become a social-media dream fulfillment competition, market themselves as such to drum up dollars.

High school guidance counselors then prove their success and effectiveness based on how many students they get into "good" schools. Getting students into schools that fit will no longer cut it at the high school level. High school's crow about every student that gets into Stanford or Walla Walla, almost hang their heads at students who stay at home and go to cheaper schools.

Kids are crazed by all of this. It's a deep psychology. In the same way you can't yell at an anorexic to eat something, is nearly impossible to reason 17 year old into spending a couple years of community college when their entire peer group is shrieking dream college dream college dream college, college experience college experience college experience in their faces 24 hours a day.

Lenders, who can't lose, will give a 19 year old as much money as they'll sign for. College campus financial aid office personnel, whose job it is to retain paying students, make borrowing enormous amounts of money seem perfectly reasonable and totally normal. Anyone who's ever uttered the phrase "good debt" is buying into this hype.

And then the entire part of the institution that tends not to produce lucrative degrees works as a unit to convince students that no matter how much they're borrowing less practical majors are a good choice. At the core of this are many hands on the arts side of the College of Arts and Sciences administration wringing at dropping enrollment - fewer students equals less money equals more likelihood that elite faculty will have to teach boring basic classes, and less likelihood that administrators will earn higher salaries in advance up the career ladder.

All of these powerful social forces conspire against 17 18 and 19 year olds who are still 10 years away from having fully myelinated frontal cortices. I generally don't have a lot of sympathy for people who make bad decisions, but taking student loans is a decision that comes hidden jet stream social force winds. The powerful profiteering system that foists them on young people could not be more effective if it was hanging them out a highrise window and having them sign a contract upside down like Suge Knight did to Vanilla Ice.

I paid off a pretty healthy stack of student loans, and I also lived in my car for a full year in graduate school in an attempt to keep that stack from getting out of control. I get that people need to work hard and be accountable, but the entirety of the student loan system is a filthy institutional screwjob. We have a generation and a half of our workforce who are far less able to generate wealth and to make choices that are going to advance the collective national financial well-being because they're f** saddled with intractable debt in the service of bloated, ineffective educational institutions and houses in the Hamptons for financial services CEOs.

It's just wrong. If we were able to forgive student loans, and at the same time reform the student loan system, I'd wager that that would be good for the economy within 10 years.

Yeah, so forgive at least $50,000 of student loans for anyone who holds them.

59

@56: Good idea, Swift-boots. Maybe you really should go take a good hot soak before your tighty whities really get in a wad. :)

60

Why is the cost of college so high anymore?

"In 1978, Congress passed a bill known as the Middle Income Student Assistance Act. This made all undergraduates regardless of income class eligible for subsidized loans and middle-income students eligible for Pell Grants, according to NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. More and more students started applying for financial aid, Vedder said.

"Knowing that students will get this financial-aid money, the university raises fees and takes advantage to capture that themselves," Vedder explained, referring to an idea known as the Bennett hypothesis.

Named for a former education secretary who believed that more government aid for students led directly to college cost increases, the hypothesis is an ongoing topic of political debate. But it has some vertical support in Vedder's eyes. Citing a statistic from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Vedder said that for every new dollar of federal student aid, tuition is raised by 65 cents.

Though tuition rose in 1978, so did people's incomes, making the burden of college less than it was in the 1940s, Vedder explained. But between 1978 and 2015, the burden of college began to rise again as tuition fees doubled and economic growth slowed."

So government is partially to blame for the problem along with the schools themselves who had no problems sucking up all that cash. I guess its only right that gov now has to be part of the solution but its hard to feel sorry for someone who blew six figures and obtained a degree that would never allow them to earn enough to repay those loans.

61

@6 - Incredibly, almost no one convicted of multiple felony crimes against persons get to remain free on bail pending the results of their appeals. Prisons are chock full of people in some stage of appeals or another.

62

Bitch all you want about student loan debt but any relief bill won't get through this Congress and Biden has bigger fish to fry. So keep dreaming.

63

@56,
""We can have a strong economy or we can have kids pay off mountains of debt, but we can't have both."

Says you. Most others do not agree."

Those who are educated on the issue and have seen the predictive models agree.

But whatever, you don't think it's a big deal and I'm not going to bother trying to convince you otherwise anymore.

I doubt anything will happen anyway. The United States is a country that would rather pay a pound of cure than an ounce of prevention. Every time. The country could do something pretty hefty now, and solve the problem, or it could wait until it's unfathomable and the price to solve it is 100x what it would have been earlier. I would bet you everything I own that if you gave that exact choice to people, they'd choose the latter every time.

Americans are some of the most short-sighted fools I've ever encountered. The Chinese economy is going to overtake the US economy in my lifetime, or very soon after. They will become the new global leader. It's already started, actually, just look at the tech industry. They've already started to pander to China's interests even if it conflicts with America's interests and Americans are crying, "Who moved my cheese?!?" Completely oblivious.

64

@58 It never ceases to amaze me what people believe when they literally know nothing about the person. And able bodied people love to tell disabled people they could work if they wanted to - when the reality is that disabled people who can't work would love to be able to work. And of those that have a disability and could work? 80% of them are unemployed because employers discriminate against disabled people (especially if the disability requires any kind of accommodation or is a disability involving a mental illness).

I would LOVE to work. I went to college, I left the east coast where I grew up after living and working in NYC and made a life in Seattle. I am reasonably intelligent and able to use the internet and type. I have critical thinking skills and can write reasonably well (when I am feeling my best). I was a project manager (pretty vague, all encompassing job title) in the music and other industries for nearly 2 decades before I got sick.

I literally still dream about working all of the time (while sleeping - always starting a new job, trying to learn a new computer system or skill, meeting new co-workers, etc.). I would LOVE to work and live where I want to live (I thought I would live in Seattle forever) and still be able to drive and all of things healthy, able bodied people can do. I miss my life, I mourn the life I had. I miss my independence, going to work, having my own apartment, having sex, getting in a car and driving wherever I wanted to go (I did not own a car, but I did have a license to drive), hanging out with my friends, going to happy hours at bars, spending most of my disposable income on going to concerts and eating out at restaurants, traveling back and forth to NYC (where I lived before I lived in Seattle) and having the option of traveling internationally - I was planning my very first trip, to Thailand, before my neurological symptoms presented and Amazon fired me for getting sick.

My reality is that I am living with a progressive, degenerative neuromuscular disease referred to as benign aka non-fatal ALS, called Primary Lateral Sclerosis.

The first 8 years of my illness I could be alone (which was good because my mom was working those 8 years, to take care of us and her mom, who died the same year I came home) and even travel (paratransit bus and even train or plane), but now I can't be left alone for any significant amount of time. It is too dangerous. If I have a bad fall or something else happens while I am alone, I would likely end up hospitalized if it did not outright kill me. I cannot cook meals. I cannot clean. I can just barely take care of myself (I don't yet need a caregiver to help me go to the bathroom, bathe me, or dress me). Every time my illness progresses I mourn again. The progression and the mourning never end. They are relentless.

Oh and like I said before, it took me 3 years to get my loans discharged. The Department of Education makes it literally as hard as possible. I was home, newly disabled, depressed and mad as hell, and I made it my life's mission to get those loans discharged. During that time I also had to fight my insurance company, who refused to pay for testing they told my neurologist they would pay for otherwise I wouldn't have had it done. That took a year. An entire year to get the insurance company to pay for testing they told my doctor they would pay for before it was done. That neurologist (my 3rd as the 2 in Seattle misdiagnosed me with MS) thought I had ALS and would be dead in 2 years. I am on my 9th neurologist right now. The neurologist I had before this one is dead. She died and OHSU couldn't even be bothered to tell her patients that she died.

I sleep. I take medications every 6 hours. I have to sleep after I take my medications, because they make you tired (so I sleep about 2 hours after dose). I sit in a recliner/lift chair and use my computer. I watch a lot of "TV" (streaming services) and have watched more in the last 14 years than I watched in the first 35 years of my life. I go to the bathroom all day long (and that's a good day - a day without accidents). I can't read a book anymore to save my life (well, I can, it just takes nearly a year to do so, when in my prior life I read books like I drank water - especially when I lived in NYC and commuted via subway). I have to write a note to myself about everything, literally every thing, or I forget. I spend all of the time I am not sleeping or going to the bathroom managing my health care - dealing with insurance companies, doctors offices, and the federal government. That's my "job" and I don't get paid for it.

I have gone from being able to walk, to needing two canes to walk, to needing one leg brace and a walker for outdoor walking (walk walked indoors), to needing two leg braces and a walker inside and outside the home, to needing a wheelchair outside the home, and am on the brink of needing to use a wheelchair inside the home, too. If I fall down (which I do), I am no longer able to get up. What does that mean? If I fall down, 911 has to be called. If I fall down and break a bone? I will never recover. It won't heal properly and it would further disable me (if not cause other health problems that would simply kill me).

I have seen over 100 doctors in the last 14 years. I have had every medical test known to man done to me. I have to use a CPAP to be able to breathe while I sleep (because my brain turns itself off and stops my breathing - not because of any physical structural problem with my body). I have to see doctors every 3-6 months to manage my illness and by manage I mean get seen by a doctor (literally them seeing me, with their eyes, and talking to me, that's it) and getting prescriptions, because there is no treatment and there is no cure for motor neuron disease. (But if you don't see doctors the government says you are cured and able to work and takes away your Medicare and SSDI).

To date my illness has not progressed to affect my arms, ability to swallow, ability to speak, or ability to breathe. That doesn't mean that it won't (it is expected to, it's just a matter of time). I am 14 years into an illness that has a typical span of 20 years (meaning most people diagnosed with PLS die within 20 years of diagnosis). I have no desire to be trached or forced to live on a ventilator (at the cost of $100K or more annually, an obscenity in and of itself). I live in a Death with Dignity state for a reason.

And lucky me I've just spent 14 months in isolation in my home (with my mother, who is in her 70s and is my primary caregiver) because if I get COVID-19, it will kill me. I am fully vaccinated now, but most people in my state are not and most of those who are not refuse to get vaccinated ever. America will never reach herd immunity. I can either live the entire rest of my life indoors or I can go outside and interact with other people knowing I will always have a chance of getting COVID and dying (despite being vaccinated). I lived 98% of my life inside before the pandemic. That 2% that I am able to spend outside now comes with more risk than before.

And when my mother dies? Well that will introduce a whole fresh level of hell.
Unless I die before she does.

But hey, sure, I suppose because you say so, I could totally work.

65

'So keep dreaming.'

well that's
where it starts.

also: brilliant synopsis spasey!

66

@64
wow.

67

@66 I'm in a bad mood.

68

@64: Wow xina, that was eye opening and quite moving. Thank you.

69

@49 -- auntie Gee

wow, too.

[& @65 was for @62]

70

@67 -- I feel you.

71

@57,
Thanks!

It's not that I've got completely insurmountable debt. I mean, I pay it when it comes due each month (though federal student loan debt has been in deferment since COVID started and I haven't made any payments since March 2020... in fact, imagine that... no federal student loans have been collected for over a year and the country hasn't collapsed! Go figure, maybe those financial institutions don't actually NEED that money after all? But I digress...).

The issue is that I essentially have a second mortgage but nothing to show for it.

I'm on income based repayment, so the more I make, the more I pay. I think it's 15% of gross salary? Since I make a pretty decent salary, that comes to about $1,200 per month. And I dutifully pay that every month. And since that hardly cracks the interest, I will never pay that student loan debt off. Never. I'll die before it's repaid. So $1,200 a month forever, flushed down the shitter. Not helping local businesses (of which there are a lot struggling in my city), not buying a new car, not buying new furniture, not taking a vacation or visiting relatives... not helping the economy. I can't, I have to pay my student loans. Forever.

If I were to lose my job and not have any income, I can defer my loans or put them in forbearance, so, I don't have to pay them if I'm unemployed, but they're still there. And in forbearance, they still accumulate interest.

If I were the only person in the country who this was affecting? Oh well, sad me. But it's millions. Millions of productive, taxpaying, money-making citizens who do NOT contribute to the economy and do NOT contribute to the growth of society, ENTIRELY because of student loans. It's a big fucking problem. We're not deadbeats. We're not asking for handouts. We ARE making money. Money we'd LOVE to spend in support of small businesses. We're just silently NOT helping the country. That's bad. The cream of your crop is unable to support you because they have to support someone else instead. The most productive members of your society can't help you. That's very bad.

You don't want to forgive student loans and overhaul the system? Fine. I'll just keep paying my student loans. And I, and all others like me (and we are legion), will let small, local businesses die, because if you want my money, you'll need to speak to the multinational corporate interest instead, because they're the ones who get my student loan money, and they don't give a shit about America anymore, America is yesterday's news, they've got their eyes on all those Chinese Yuan instead. Good luck competing with that!

/That's not all aimed at you Auntie! That's just my soapbox rant :)

72

@64,

Thank you for sharing. I can't even imagine what you have to endure but the patience you describe enduring it is inspirational.

Much love

73

@71 -- damn.

all that Profiteering
just pilfering America
strip-mining the Citizenry
where does it finally Stop?

'student' Debt is
so. fucking. Stupid.

and we can either Grow America
or we can let Billionaires Harvest us.

74

@73,

"where does it finally Stop?"

If history is to be trusted? It finally stops with guillotines.

But that's probably still a long ways off.

Probably.

75

Xina I'm sorry that you are really sick, wouldn't wish it on you. I apologize for giving you a hard time for not working. I'm sure if you could you'd be a force at whatever you did - you've obviously a crisp mind and strong language skills.

76

@64 & @67: Oh, xina! I feel your pain and fully empathize with your ongoing frustration. Sending sincerely heartfelt big cyber hugs, positrons, and VW beeps to you and your mother.
Service-connected PTSD and anxiety disorder prevent me from working full time. If it were not for my full VA disability I would be broke and homeless.
Your comment about being a project manager in music caught my attention. I am a musician and composer. Music continues to be therapeutic for me, along with cats, the loving, supportive people in my life, and my classic VW Beetle during the spring and summer months (I keep my car in fall and winter storage. It is a convertible, and used to be my mother's car, brand-new).
Would you be interested in listening and offering feedback if I emailed you mp3 sound recordings of my composed orchestrated music? I can be reached at my website wendy.workx.com

My father was diagnosed with Parkinson's the last 17 years of his life. He had a wish to move to Oregon for Death With Dignity, but died at home at age 79, two years, two months, and two weeks after my mother passed away in her sleep at age 72. My surviving siblings and I have reason to believe that our father's battle with Parkinson's was largely from exposure from toxic chemicals in the Pacific Ocean on his ship when he served 4 years in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. Our mother, an avid gardener until Arthritis prevented her from doing the activities she loved, is believed to have also been exposed over many years from toxic pesticides.

Xina, I am so sorry to learn about the severity of your illness! Your comments are well written, articulately researched, beautifully summarized, and never cease to amaze me.
Please keep in touch.

77

@71 Urgutha Forka: I feel you in dealing with student loan debts. I know you're not dumping on me, just sharing your experiences. Agreed and seconded; again kudos on another well said summarization of what is wrong with our economy and why so many of us cannot support small businesses and spend like we would like to.
As a musician and composer, I am just beginning to hear back from my flute choir director and fellow members about possible future rehearsals and concerts. I used to perform in the pit orchestra (piccolo and C flute) for local community theatre. Shortly after the premiere of my second composed symphony in loving memory of my parents, I have since become unemployed because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. This has since brought my live performances to a screeching halt for the sake of public health.
Due to my VA disability, I cannot work full time. Finding sustainable employment in a college town for me, even with a four-year university degree has been difficult to impossible. The only abundance of open positions are service connected, pay next to nothing, are high stress, offer no benefits, and are at entry level.
Eight years ago, with some seed money my parents left me a musician friend and I developed my website, offering my life's work of musical compositions, ranging form solo instrumental works to ensemble pieces to most recently, full orchestrations. I have been working on being self-employed. What is affording my costs of living are entirely through my benefits from the VA.
Music, my beloved emotional support vehicle, a classic VW, cats, and the wonderful people in my life keep me going. I would be hopelessly lost otherwise.

78

@69 kristofarian: Many thanks, too, kris! Big hugs, positrons, and VW beeps to you, Urgutha Forka, and xina.

79

Everyone - thank you for the responses. I appreciate every one, sincerely.

I wrote what I wrote so that people could understand (as best anyone can on a comment forum) of what my existence is really like living with the illness I have, because make no mistake there are so many people living with such illnesses (and far worse ones, such as ALS which kills you in 2-5 years and cancers that take your life silently and swiftly) and most people truly have no concept of what it is like.

So many assumptions are made and honestly unless you're living with it or have lived with a loved one who has it is nearly impossible to comprehend the horror show it can be.

When I first got sick I went to an MS support group (as I was misdiagnosed). Everyone in the group was severely disabled and suffering greatly. I was terrified and did not stay in the group. I went to a doctor's office and saw a man in a wheelchair whose body violently jerked constantly - all of his limbs and head - and I wanted to scream. Again, I was terrified. I have seen so many disabled people with so many different disabilities treated so many different ways. I am fortunate that I can advocate for myself and I am not afraid to speak my mind, stand up to doctors who bully (not an unusual experience, especially with a patient they can't treat), and to refuse to allow myself to be mistreated by the very people whose job it is to care for me. So many can't. And this so-called health care system we have in this country is a joke and not a funny one.

I have been told so many stupid things, asked so many stupid questions, and SO MANY people have tried to save my soul since I became disabled (funny no one tried when I was healthy and able bodied - but apparently being disabled puts me in grave danger of going to hell)!

You have no idea how frustrating it is to exist in a body that does not work and how when things are bad how badly you can lash out at the world (especially your caregiver, the sole witness to your humiliation). You have no idea how guilty I feel - about my mother having to care for me (and yet I am so, so, so grateful for the 14 years we have had together and whatever remaining years we have), about needing her to do so much for me (imagine having an adult size toddler), about how much money has been spent on my care in the last 14 years and how much money will be spent on my care between now and the day I die.

Anyway, so I vented and was surprised by the nature of the responses and appreciate being heard. I am going to put this day to bed, so to speak...

PS to Auntie Grizelda, I experienced physical trauma (severely broken wrist from a fall from high up) and was exposed to pesticides monthly sprayed in my apartment when I lived in Brooklyn, NY. I used to joke that the pesticide were probably killing me and my cat faster than the pests (roaches) it was meant to keep away. Well my cat came with me to Seattle and died in 2004 and well, you know my story now.

They don't know what causes motor neuron disease but military personnel and professional athletes make up a large number of the population who get motor neuron disease.

There is one bright spot of news on the science front (not even remotely near human trials yet - but a HUGE scientific breakthrough when nothing has happened in the last 100 years)

My neurologist had to rein in my hope/enthusiasm (not to be cruel, but to be real) and of course I'm not a fool, I know there is much to be done before this becomes anything available to patients. It may not happen for me, but if it does happen, it could literally prevent people from developing and dying from ALS and so many other neuromuscular diseases. And with someone like me, someone with PLS? It could reverse or stop progression of the illness. It would truly be a scientific breakthrough like no other.

https://www.drugtargetreview.com/news/84269/neuron-damage-from-als-reversed-with-new-compound/

80

@xina, can you still have a cat - or is that problematic?

81

@80 no pets, not because they are problematic, but because my mother would have to take care of the pet and she does not want to (and that is totally fair). when i was in HS we had a cat. my sister and i left the house (i went to college, my sister just went) and my mom took care of that cat until 2002. when kitty died she said she never wanted another pet (and actually having a pet is problematic to her - not just because she would have to do everything to care for it but because she lived on allergy medication for 22 years living with kitty).

we live in an apartment right on the river. we have a wildlife show 24/7 (mostly birds, but occasionally otters and once we even had a visit form a sea lion). until last year we had a heron that lived in the tree right in front of our living room window. there is enough wildlife here (bufflheads, seagulls, geese, ducks, herons, egrets, hummingbirds, stellar jays etc.) to keep us entertained. sitting on the balcony, watching the river and the birds while drinking coffee is my favorite thing to do.

82

NU-9
so fine
so Hope
you can get it in Time
xina! so Glad you'e HERE.

83

r