Saturday Links 20-Jan-2018: Spotted Toad on Opiods, Amazon HQ2 as tech monopoly marketing, Blue Planet II

1. More people should read and follow Spotted Toad to learn about the Opioid Crisis. Yes it’s true. Someone is writing about the Opioid Crisis under the pseudonymous handle Spotted Toad. As he(?) noted on twitter this week: Lol, US Senators are holding public hearings based on blog posts they read from “Spotted Toad”. AndIf this had happened under my own name it would be the Most Important Thing That Ever Happened To Me but fortunately it’s all under a ridiculous pseudonym.

Mr Toad (if you will) has written extensively about the correlation between the rising intensity of the Opioid crisis and the rollout of expanded Medicaid, part of Obamacare and the ACA. Wait! I know this kind of thing can be easily mishandled, making people angry. That’s not my goal. We all know Obamacare/ACA can be a tribal political indicator. Some on the right believe you can say no good about it. And some on the left believe you can say no bad about it. Lest you help your enemy. Sigh. Which is precisely why I think Spotted Toad should be given his due, especially if you support the ACA. He’s saying supporting the ACA is fine! (Nuance warning). But there can be unintended downsides to even a good thing. Here’s the chart, a version of which Republicans showed in congress:

From Mr Toad’s post:

Senator Ron Johnson held a public hearing  and issued an accompanying report yesterday on unintended consequences of Medicaid expansion on the opioid crisis. You can read discussions of the event ranging from Vox’s condescending dismissal, to ThinkProgress’s righteous indignation, to Newsweek and the LA Times‘s tendentious rebuttals, to a fairly sympathetic writeup from USA Today, and a standard he-said she-said from the Washington Post.

Since I believe, I think without much delusion, that I started this ball rolling last March and have kept it rolling pretty well since then, I obviously don’t have a totally dispassionate view. Even so, I recognize there are multiplefairly  strong lines of argument against Medicaid playing a significant causal role in the divergence between expansion and non-expansion states. However, the basic fact is that there is a very large divergence to explain.


Look, I’m just a pseudonymous coward, and as I’ve said before, I’m not a public health expert or an expert in addiction and recovery or pharmaceuticals. I very well may be wrong in arguing that the Medicaid expansion had a large, causal effect on overdoses. However, the failure of a single academic public health expert to make a good faith effort to grapple with the existence of a very large divergence as a plausible effect of the ACA expansion and recognize it as an important empirical puzzle rather than an easily dismissed partisan claim is deeply disturbing to me. The ability of almost every single high-status news organization similarly to treat this as just “another case of those wacky Republicans grasping at straws” rather than a serious hypothesis with multiple competing explanations is equally depressing. The anti-empirical turn in America is real.

Prince and (revealed this week) Tom Petty both died of opioids. It’s devastating. So anyone who helps shed light on what’s going on is doing good work. And for that, I’d recommend following Spotted Toad on twitter, or reading his blog.

2. Amazon creating a second headquarters sure seems like a very successful ploy to lobby for less tech monopoly regulation. As I mentioned on twitter last year:

We saw another flurry of news stories this week on which cities made the top 20 Amazon HQ2 shortlist. Who’s in. Who’s out. It’s American Idol for pundits, with Amazon as the idol. Betting markets say Boston is the favored choice. In my view the Amazon HQ2 show was and has always been a long game to grow Amazon’s soft power over federal tech regulators. An investment that will pay off handsomely as tech monopoly concerns continue to grow over the next decade. Tyler Cowen has a piece comparing the three D.C candidate locations. He notes if they chose a location straddling Maryland and Virgina, when “combined with Washington state, that would give the company six U.S. senators fighting for its interests, at a time when tech companies are coming under increasing fire.” That said, I’ll claim victory for my cynicism on the HQ2 contest if any D.C. area location is chosen. And really. You have to hand it to Jeff Bezos regardless of where HQ2 is finally winds up. It’s been an absolutely brilliant and successful marketing campaign already. Genius.


3. The craft beer revival is the strangest, happiest economic story in America. Really enjoyed this piece by Derek Thompson. He argues the craft beer revival is a showcase for how small companies focused on providing artisanal products make for an excellent economic growth model. Plus craft beer is quite tasty, if I do say so.

4. Reaction to Trump adultery is a sign of the political parties swapping roles on being prudish. Michelle Goldberg’s piece was the most interesting one I read on the Donald Trump/Stormy Daniels 130k payout.  In particular this point:

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the right’s tacit embrace of a laissez faire approach to sexuality — at least male, heterosexual sexuality — coincides with attempts on the left to erect new ethical guardrails around sex.

In the 1990s, many feminists defended untrammeled eros because they feared a conservative sexual inquisition. Elements of that inquisition remain; attacks on reproductive rights have grown only more intense. Still, Trump has reconciled reactionary politics with male sexual license. In doing so, he’s made such license easier for feminists to criticize.

5. Moses Farrow on Woody Allen allegations. Previously I’d leaned toward believing Woody Allen had molested Dylan Farrow, based on Dylan’s testimony. But this book excerpt changed my mind. Now I’m unsure, or perhaps lean a bit towards believing Woody Allen may be innocent. Moses Farrow claims Mia Farrow was an extremely manipulative parent, and it’s utterly convincing.

6. 2018 will be a good year for twitter. So argues M.G. Siegler: “I think Twitter is going to have a good year in 2018, while Facebook has a bad one.” FWIW, agree. Also, don’t miss this wonderfully spot on parody (note the March 2018 tweet dates) of The 29 Stages Of A Twitterstorm In 2018.

7. Blue Planet II Is the Greatest Nature Series Of All Time. So claims Ed Yong, who has watched and ranked all 79 episodes of Attenborough’s documentaries. So I’m good. Blue Planet II was released last year in the UK. But starts in the US today (Saturday, Jan 20). I’ve set my DVR. Should be awesome to watch with the family. Looking forward to it.

Categorized as Link post

By Nathan Taylor

I blog at on tech trends and the near future. I'm on twitter as @ntaylor963.


  1. The erected guardrails on sex are just statements of consent, no? All the rest is fear of repercussions at the polls.

    What’s your take on Jeff Bezos’s supposed desire to take over the world?

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