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JHan's Journal
JHan's Journal
January 18, 2017

Cory Booker Made the Right Call

From Rationak , DailyKos:

Cory Booker Made the Right Call

From the diary:

"His (Booker's) response was panned and often based on information from a widely shared article from New Republic newrepublic.com/...that portrays the “safety argument” as a disingenuous industry lie. But did Alex Shephard in his article really examine the basic facts, or give Booker the benefit of the doubt he deserves? Not only did he not do that, but he also did not provide any evidence to back up his audacious claims that connect Booker’s vote to him being under the sway of the pharmaceutical industry, and many of Booker’s other votes, including the SA 188, the vote immediately after SA 178 contradict that claim.

Let’s begin by gaining a larger understanding of the safety claim. Mike Enzi (R -WY) responded to the introduction of the amendment by giving some history:

Mr. President, this discussion will be a little different than any we have had because in a bipartisan way we have been defeating this for at least 14 years. Byron Dorgan used to head it up on that side, and I used to oppose it from thisside, but it has always been bipartisan, and that is because we are not sure about the safety of the prescription drugs that come in online.People who drive over the border and go to a pharmacist are probably getting good drugs there, but we are told that for up to 85 percent of what comes in online, we can't tell what country it came from. So we can specify Canada, but it may be from another country altogether, particularly the Middle East. If we want to assure we have the safety of our drugs, being able to get it online from even Canada doesn't have the kind of assurance we need. We have always asked that the Secretary of Health and Human Services specify that the safety is in place. No one has been willing to do that. I ask that we vote against this amendment.

"They actually have a very strong point. This is a budget appropriations bill and thus would not be able to give power for the FDA to regulate these imports. We are asked to believe that there is no concern, because coming from Canada these drugs would allegedly be subjected to the same safety standards as the U.S. and often be coming from the same factories, but this is largely untrue due to some of the regulatory peculiarities concerning how Canada exports drugs. Most importantly, drugs that are marked for export are not actually subject to ANY regulation by the Canadian government. That means any startup company could bring in drugs manufactured in countries with zero regulations, and then directly sell them without oversight from the Canadian government, to pharmacies and hospitals in the U.S. without any regulatory power from the FDA. http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/F-27/section-37-20161212.html#wb-cont

This reveals the real and potential danger of this amendment, and also why someone like Senator Ted Cruz would be in favor of it. It undermines the FDA, which like any regulatory agency is not without it’s flaws, but which also undeniably plays an important role in maintaining a standard of safety in our prescription drugs. In the so-called “free market” frontier of a post-ACA world people who rely upon complex life saving medicines, hospitals would have an unmitigated ability to distribute medications without any oversight or obligation to disclose where they came from.

This is about so much more than just ordering online prescriptions. When the article in The New Republic uses that comparison, it misses the mark completely. It also ignores the fact that there HAVE been problems with online prescriptions : https://news.vice.com/article/a-canadian-pharmacy-is-accused-of-selling-counterfeit-cancer-drugs-to-us-doctors or http://edition.cnn.com/2015/08/31/health/counterfeit-medications/

Regardless of some of the dangers, Americans are able to currently order supplies of less than three months from online pharmacies, and the current policy of the FDA is to “look the other way”.


"The truth, is that it is nothing more than an optical band-aid for a problem that cannot be addressed under our current health care system. The reason why drugs are cheaper in Canada is because they have a single payer health system that negotiates the prices. In the U.S. we have a differential market system that provides ample opportunity for price gouging. When the “same companies” are manufacturing the drugs that go to both the U.S. and Canada, if large amounts of drugs start being re-imported, then the companies will just limit their exports to Canada. They already have done so in fact. https://hbr.org/2016/02/why-importing-cheap-pharmaceuticals-from-canada-wont-work

Canada has not always in unison welcomed the idea of being America’s pharmacy. They already took steps on their own in 2005 to restrict the flow, properly pointing out that the solution to America’s health care is not to expect a country of 36 million to suddenly provide prescription medications for all of America. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/29/AR2005062901632.html

At the heart of this, is the accusation that senators voting against this amendment are “afraid to stand up to big pharm” as Bernie Sanders stormed, or as the Shephard article in The New Republic attempts to prove, that financial incentives from “big pharm” are behind the nay votes. There are some huge errors in this logic, and in the very selected information (or lack thereof) we are presented. Much attention was drawn to pharm donations to Booker, but a lot of other convenient information was left out, but we can fill in the gaps."

And the article goes on.

Also worth reading: https://cenlamar.com/2017/01/14/if-bernie-sanders-cares-about-cheaper-drugs-he-should-stop-smearing-his-colleagues-for-rejecting-his-flawed-amendment/


I know some love to pick on Cory for any number of reasons, but the outrage over his vote is ridiculous.
January 16, 2017

It's real precious to watch all the criticism of John Lewis' drop mic moment.

I hope more democrats do the same - If Trump can insult whoever he wants for no reason, Lewis can damn well criticize PEEOTUS for TOTALLY LEGITIMATE REASONS.

And the GOPee can stuff it, they stole a SCOTUS seat and have fueled partisanship and obstructionism for 8 years.

January 15, 2017

Since folks want to throw Cory under the bus...

This blog goes into detail about the amendment:


"The left-wing media reflexively ran with Sanders’s explanation as gospel truth, slamming Sen. Cory Booker, in particular, for his perceived betrayal. “Progressives Outraged Over Booker, Democrats’ Vote On Prescription Drugs From Canada,” Roll Call reported. “Cory Booker’s Bogus Excuse Betrays Progressives,” claimed Michael Sainato of The Observer. Similarly, on social media, Booker was slammed as a “traitor,” a “sell-out,” and “a corporate shill.”"

One day, he is hailed for his tenacity and integrity in opposing a nominee for Attorney General who had already been rejected once for a seat on the federal bench because of his racist statements. The next day, he is blasted as a tool of Big Pharma because he, along with 12 of his other Democratic colleagues, voted against a non-binding budget amendment authored by Bernie Sanders. Before he even had an opportunity to explain his vote, Sanders was on the attack.

And corporate shill?

"It is true that in 2014, when he first ran for Senate, Cory Booker received $329,000 from the pharmaceutical industry. It placed him near the top of the list that year in industry donations. It’s also not too surprising: New Jersey is home to 46 different pharmaceutical companies, including the headquarters of Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Wyeth. $329,000 is a lot of money, and it’s also the same amount of money the industry has donated to first-term Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, home to exactly zero pharmaceutical company headquarters. That money goes much further in Louisiana than it does in New Jersey.

It’s also significantly less than the $4.5 million that then-Sen. Barack Obama raised from the pharmaceutical industry when he ran for President in 2008.

Last year, during his campaign for President, Bernie Sanders received $309,575 from the pharmaceutical industry. Of the 100 members of the Senate, he ranked third in donations from the industry.

For what it’s worth, the 30 Democratic members who voted in favor of Sanders’s amendment received a combined total of $1,038,971 from the pharmaceutical industry last year alone; if you include the donations Sanders, an Independent, received, the grand total is $1,348,546. "

On the other hand, the 13 Democratic members who voted against his amendment raised a total of $1,039,339 from the industry.

But these aggregate totals are somewhat deceptive, because they belie the fact that nearly half of the amendment’s Democratic supporters received either no donations or less than $10,000 from the industry, while over a dozen of them received anywhere between $40,000 to $240,000.

In other words, there isn’t a direct correlation between a member’s individual vote and the size of the donations they received from the industry. The largest beneficiary of campaign donations from the industry voted against it, and the second and third largest beneficiaries voted for it.

So, why did it fail?

Well, for starters, Sanders couldn’t figure out if he wanted to create a fund to import drugs from Canada or the entire world. In its initial iteration, his amendment sought to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to allow for the importation of drugs from “Canada and other countries.” Amy Klobuchar subsequently cleaned up the language and eliminated “other countries” from its title.

But, aside from the confusion about the scope of this proposed reserve fund, the primary reason it failed is that Sanders misapprehended the mechanisms necessary to establish an importation process that conforms with FDA guidelines. It’s not enough to say “these drugs must be safe;” there needs to be funding for quality control and compliance, which was never addressed.

Sure, this was a non-binding budget amendment, and some will argue that things could have simply been cleaned up later on. But it was ostensibly designed to be a funding mechanism, and instead, it read like a milquetoast resolution. There were a number of other amendments introduced that very day that included provisions for the Food and Drug Administration; Sanders’s didn’t, and it needed to.

In making the case for this legislation, Sanders spoke almost exclusively about the re-importation of patented American pharmaceuticals, and to be fair, that is an enormous part of the equation; it’s also what most American consumers demand. However, it doesn’t capture the entirety of the market. In some cases, American consumers may turn to Canadian compounding pharmacies for cheaper specialized medications; in others, Americans may want to purchase generic medications that are no longer patented and can be manufactured independently at a lower cost. And that’s why we need FDA oversight and compliance.

It’s easy to say, “Well, if Canada already approved these drugs, then why do we need the FDA to get involved?” Simple answer: Because the Canadian regulatory agency is responsible for protecting Canadian citizens, and the FDA is responsible for protecting American citizens.

Right now, we basically take foreign drug importers at their word. We require that they register, that they fill out some paperwork, that they label their products, and that they adhere to international best practice standards in manufacturing. But there’s no way we can really guarantee any of that.

The demand for cheaper drugs from Canada has already created a boutique industry of online pharmacies that market almost exclusively to Americans, and most of these pharmacies are fraudulent. The drugs they sell may be deadly. Recently, a Canadian drug manufacturer was caught selling fake cancer drugs to American doctors.

And that is precisely why it’s so important to get this legislation right, from the beginning.

If Bernie Sanders is serious about reducing drug prices, he should stop smearing his colleagues for rejecting his flawed amendment and instead start listening to them.

And a reserve fund? Reserve Funds would not have made a difference, as Dylan Matthews point out at WaPo in 2013:

Tbh, I never saw the Canada option as viable. Canada's Pharmaceutical Industry is not as robust as ours. They account for only 2 percent of worldwide pharmaceutical sales, and we are their main market for sales: "Cross-border internet pharmacy sales between Canada and the U.S. grew rapidly from 2000 to 2003, but had, until 2014, steadily declined. However, they grew by 7% from 2014 to 2015, reaching $112 million or 1.5% of total pharmaceutical products exports to the United States (IMS Pharmafocus 2020)." https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/lsg-pdsv.nsf/eng/h_hn01703.html

The approval process for drugs in Canada takes longer than our approval process. Heavy price controls have created a demand for cheap generics which in some instances risk lives: Worth the price? Push for cheaper generic drugs has Canadians buying questionable medicines from India

Health Canada needs better oversight of generic drug quality. Not promoting woo wouldn’t hurt either.

Canada has a sluggish approval process, (because of the formulary approval process). Because of price controls, demand for generics are high, meaning quality drugs are rare to come by. The situation is far from perfect. Rather than adopt a tunnel vision about importing drugs from Canada, I'd rather representatives examine the flaws in Canada's set up and what lessons we can learn from them.

Maybe that's what the conversation should be about?

Instead a line has been drawn in the sand , a strong democratic senator and an ally reviled over a symbolic amendment with no teeth.

This thread is also worth following: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10028477228
January 9, 2017

Meryl Streep offered a master class on how to use influence and privilege for good.

She didn't excuse the bad, or justify it, or make excuses.

She called out Trump's bombast and repulsiveness with grace, risking offense to those who "showed their teeth" while cheering on his ugliness.

She was an inspiration and a reminder that we cannot excuse away the ugly Trump lifted up.

January 7, 2017

Keith Ellison on *AM Joy right now.....

"We're all gonna have to work together" - (clinton and sanders supporters)

On Donald Trump - We have to "Fight Trump at every turn" Trump cannot be trusted. His cabinet picks are terrible. We have no common ground with Trump. "We must fight Trumpism"

"We have to go to the neighborhoods, grocery stalls, Kentucky,everywhere ....explain to the people the damage he's (Trump) doing to them, his refusal to address the water crisis. We have to show how government can work for them"

He also said that even though the DNC chair is focused on electoral outcomes, voter suppression will be on the agenda.

Long Term challenge: Recapturing State seats with a 50 state strategy.

Tune in if you can. He's still on.

January 3, 2017

How Julian Assange Turned WikiLeaks Into Trumps Best Friend:

This is from October 11 last year :

"Assange proceeded unhurriedly, quoting Voltaire and referencing postmodernism as he sketched out a "romantic ideal" of history "that perhaps doesn't belong to this time, but belongs to an older time, or perhaps a future time.” He declared that WikiLeaks was entering a new operational phase in which it would recruit volunteers via Twitter to do battle against the site’s many enemies. (Assange’s enemies list is long and varied, beginning with many of WikiLeaks' old collaborators, such as the New York Times and the Guardian, and also includes American tech companies, establishment liberals, and pretty much every sort of institution imaginable.) "We're going to need an army to defend us," he offered. "We will give an effective call to arms if the pressure increases." He spent some time promoting WikiLeaks books—on sale, at 40 percent off—and promised to publish new leaks in the near future.

Throughout the meandering presentation, the audience—including the hundreds of thousands watching Alex Jones and readers of the Drudge Report, which had promoted the event at the top of its homepage—impatiently waited for the promised blow to Clinton. “I understand there’s enormous expectation in the United States,” Assange said with a chuckle. He promised that WikiLeaks would indeed release information about the election, just not yet. "If we’re going to make a major publication in relation to the United States, we don’t do it at 3 a.m,” he said. By this point, it was around 4 a.m. in New York.

The drawn-out nonrevelation instantaneously reverberated across the Atlantic, where Jones interrupted his livestream and broke into verse, quoting the rapper Ludacris as he urged Assange to, “Move, bitch, get out the way / get out the way, bitch / get out the way.” Later, when a Bloomberg Businessweek reporter asked about Assange’s apparent affinity for Trump, he smirked.

“It’s an interesting question,” he said. “I feel a personal affinity for all human beings.”

Four years after his indoor life in the embassy began, Assange suffers from toothaches, chronic shoulder pain, poor posture, and depression. In September, Assange leaked his own medical report, in which he is quoted responding to a doctor’s question about his cluttered workspace by saying that he has stopped seeing physical things as distinct from one another, or experiencing the concept of time. “Nothing is before or after,” he tells the doctor in existential dismay. The report’s takeaway from this seemingly desperate statement: “Individuals whose movement is restricted can experience a slow unravelling of their cognitive faculties.”

Assange released these records in September, at least in part as a sort of troll aimed at Clinton amid her struggles to rebut Republican criticisms that she was too ill for the presidency. The stunt delighted a growing cohort of hard-core Trump supporters and surprised many of Assange’s old allies on the activist left. After all, Trump’s vision of returning America to an old-timey muscular greatness represents, in many ways, the antithesis of Assange’s world view.

WikiLeaks has long sought expanded privacy rights and a diminished role for the U.S. abroad—strongly opposing secret wiretaps, drone strikes, and the Guantánamo Bay prison facility. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has suggested “closing up the internet,” expanding extrajudicial killings, and making Gitmo—a longtime WikiLeaks bête noir—a permanent and expanded institution. Assange started his hacktivism career in the late 1980s and has expressed admiration for the antinuclear activists of that era; Trump has often wondered, out loud, if we shouldn’t consider using nuclear weapons more often.

None of this has seemed particularly to trouble Assange, who has mined the leaked Democratic National Committee e-mails, as well as publicly available e-mails from Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, for any meme-worthy tidbit to reinforce the case against her candidacy. He has used these finding to give cover to thinly sourced theories about Clinton’s health—in late August, he dug up an e-mail that showed that Clinton once received information about a Parkinson’s disease drug—and inventing new anti-Clinton theories out of whole cloth.

"After Clinton claimed that Russian hackers had been the source of the leak, Assange deflected the allegation in part by pointing out that a low-level Democratic Party staffer, Seth Rich, had been murdered weeks earlier while walking home from a bar in Washington. Although police believe Rich was the victim of a botched robbery attempt, Assange hinted at a darker possibility: that Rich was murdered for sharing documents with WikiLeaks. “Our sources take risks,” Assange said ominously. (The Rich family criticized Assange for “pushing unproven and harmful theories about Seth's murder.”)

"Even so, Assange and the Trump campaign have lately seemed to be very much in sync, with WikiLeaks operating at times as a sort of extension of the alt-right press. After a televised forum in early September, when the Drudge Report speculated that Hillary Clinton had worn an earpiece, WikiLeaks posted an earpiece-related e-mail from Clinton aide Huma Abedin. There was no mention that on the same day, Clinton had visited the United Nations, where translation earpieces are the norm, nor that the Clinton campaign denied the allegation. When Clinton collapsed after a Sept. 11th memorial service, WikiLeaks tweeted a poll, which it later deleted, asking readers to vote on the most plausible theory for what had happened. The choices did not include the campaign’s explanation—dehydration and pneumonia—but did include three made-up ones: Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and, somewhat cryptically, “Allergies and personality.”

Then, on Oct. 7, WikiLeaks released about 2,000 private e-mails from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, just minutes after the leak of Trump’s vulgar remarks caught on video in 2005. Was this an effort to blunt the damage to the Republican candidate while arming him ahead of the second debate? Podesta thought so. “Mr. Assange wanted to change the subject,” he told reporters. “He didn’t succeed in doing it.” The next week, with Trump still reeling, Assange released several additional batches of Podesta’s e-mails, promising more.

Longtime allies have generally been horrified by these developments, with friends and supporters suggesting that Assange has been so intent on playing the media that he may be in danger of losing control. “I’m not sure what to make of this turn to the alt-right,” says John Kiriakou, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was imprisoned for telling ABC News that the government had tortured suspected terrorists. Among fellow whistleblowers and their friends, Kiriakou says, “There’s no consensus other than maybe Julian is just going nuts.” (Harrison disputes this, but not entirely. “There are big psychological pressures,” she says. “It’s difficult for him.”)

On the other hand, Assange is devilishly smart, a point that even his fiercest critics are quick to concede, and is operating with limited options. And the 2016 election has been crazy enough that a tacit alliance with Trump might not just be nuts—it might be rational."

How Julian Assange Turned Wikileaks into Trump's Best Friend

So let's not be naive. This is not the work of an individual who prioritizes transparency above all things but someone who is now prepared to boldly target his "enemies", principles be damned.

December 31, 2016

Ted Koppel on America's Vulnerable Power Grid in 'Lights Out':

Months or years of uninterrupted blackouts. A rising death toll from disease and societal chaos. And all because of a preventable vulnerability.

The new book "Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath" looks at the risk of cyberattack facing the power grid in the United States and the inadequate measures being taken to protect it, despite clear warnings from an array of experts.

"Lights Out" is the new book from veteran journalist Ted Koppel, most widely known as the anchor and managing editor of "Nightline" on ABC from 1980 until 2005.

"It's not me giving this as a figment of my imagination," Koppel said on "Chicago Tonight." "Back in 2010, 10 former senior top officials–two former directors of the CIA, two former secretaries of defense, two former national security advisers–wrote a letter to a congressional committee. It was a secret letter, which spelled out their findings after dealing with the best experts they could find within the government. They came to the conclusion that tens of millions of people, in the wake of a cyberattack on one of the grids, could be without power for a period up to two years."

"The likelihood is great," Koppel added. "The current director of the NSA, Admiral Mike Rogers, said only a couple of weeks ago it is inevitable that one of our enemies will launch an attack like this, a cyberattack, on our infrastructure. The current commander of CENTCOM, General Lloyd Austin, told me it's not a question of if, it's only a question of when."

December 31, 2016

Since the Iraq war is being used as a reason to doubt our security agencies:

Other posters have pointed this out, like KittyWampus, and I'll do the same:

The CIA and the Bush Administration were in conflict over the danger of WMD's in Iraq.

The Bush Administration ignored the input of the CIA's top Iraq experts who had good reason to doubt claims that the U.S was in danger based on intelligence from two reliable CIA sources in the Iraqi Government. There was always push back against the Bush Administration by our intelligence community regarding the threat of Iraqi WMDs and it was left to Cheney & Co to make the case- and they did by deceiving the country.

There were chemical munitions found around 2004 as I recall, I could be wrong, but no sufficient intelligence ever pointed to intent by Iraq to threaten the U.S. using those munitions.

In this case of Russian hacking, it is extremely rare for all our security agencies to speak with one voice about threats to national security - on top of the work done by independent cyber-security firms like CrowdStrike.

It's one thing to be a skeptic , another to be in denial.

Russian cyber warfare is part of a long tradition of Russia expanding their espionage capabilities.

They have interfered in Europe, it shouldn't be shocking they'd interfere in the U.S. elections.

December 30, 2016

A rationalisation of Trump's corruption we're gonna hear more of:

courtesy Larry Kudlow, from Jonathan Chait's ‘The Wealthy Would Never Steal’ — A Credo for Trump’s Party

"Kudlow makes the case not only that Trump and his administration are not corrupt, but also that they cannot be corrupt, by virtue of their wealth. “Why shouldn’t the president surround himself with successful people?” reasons Kudlow, “Wealthy folks have no need to steal or engage in corruption.”"

And on conservative hypocrisy:

"What has been exposed is not only the lie at the heart of Trump’s campaign, but a delusion embedded in conservatism itself. Conservatives like to imagine that their policy represents a challenge to the power structure, which they see as “crony capitalism,” a form of corruption threatened by their free-market ideas. The failures of the Bush administration (which, in fact, followed the tax-cutting, deregulatory agenda that conservatives had promised would usher in prosperity) were dismissed as the byproduct of the administration’s departures from market purism. Bush and the Washington Republicans allowed power and wealth to corrupt them, the argument went. As Bush’s popularity plunged, conservatives lacerated their party with polemics like Matthew Continetti’s “The K Street Gang,” which depicted the GOP as a self-enriching elite.

The conceptual distinction between the good kind of wealth, earned through the free market, and the bad kind, earned through political favoritism, is an absolutely vital one for right-wing intellectuals. And yet Trump is showing how easily it collapses in practice. Conservatives have treated a first family using the powers of office to enrich itself — not theoretically or in the future but right now, on an ongoing basis — as, at worst, a distraction or a problem of optics. In practice, conservatives share Kudlow’s belief that a government of and by the rich is necessarily virtuous.

Kudlow touts another pro-Trump column, this one written by Wall Street titan Ray Dalio. In the course of touting Trump’s agenda, Dalio makes the key point that Trump is driven by veneration of the rich and contempt for the poor:

If you haven’t read Ayn Rand lately, I suggest that you do as her books pretty well capture the mindset. This new administration hates weak, unproductive, socialist people and policies, and it admires strong, can-do, profit makers. It wants to, and probably will, shift the environment from one that makes profit makers villains with limited power to one that makes them heroes with significant power.

Again, a strict Randian would draw a distinction between rich people who succeeded through pure capitalism and those who succeeded through political favoritism. But Dalio glides over the distinction, as one must when venerating a government led by the ultimate crony capitalist. Likewise, Continetti has a new column reframing Trump’s differences with (or ignorance of) conservative doctrine as a virtue. “Trump’s relation to the intellectual community of both parties is fraught because his visceral, dispositional conservatism leads him to judgments based on specific details, depending on changing circumstances, relative to who is gaining and who is losing in a given moment,” he writes.

We can be pretty sure that Trump, his family, and his friends will be among the people who gain from his policies. Conservatives appear distinctly unalarmed by the prospect."

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About JHan

Be true, be brave, stand. All the rest is darkness.
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