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Moving backward vs. Big Pharma

by Dan Burns on December 7, 2016 · 0 comments

pharmaSince library books have due dates and my issues of Scientific American do not, I’m generally months behind on the latter. The article I’m quoting here is from last May. The specific example being referenced is of course those ridiculous boner pill ads, especially ubiquitous during football season.
 

Yet every developed country except the U.S. and New Zealand prohibits such direct-to-consumer prescription drug ads. It is hard to see educational value in commercials on American TV that show radiant models relaxing before a tryst, accompanied by voice-overs that warn of possible side effects, including difficulty breathing and an unsafe drop in blood pressure.
 
An ad that conflates an aura of glowing health and the prospect of an amorous liaison with a list of dire cardiovascular symptoms is a paradigm of confused messaging because it does not provide the viewer with a clear guide to weighing both benefits and costs entailed in using a prescription medicine. Absent further interpretation, the underlying message reduces to: Sex or death—which will it be? Of course, the ads always end with an admonition to “ask your doctor….”
 
Now, finally, the doctors are giving an answer. In November 2015 the American Medical Association asked for a ban on these ads, saying that they are partially responsible for the skyrocketing costs of drugs. The World Health Organization and other groups have previously endorsed such restrictions.
(Scientific American)

Instead, this is what we’re almost certainly going to get.
 

If universal praise for a measure makes your B.S. detectors twitch, you’re on the right track. The 21st Century Cures Act is a huge deregulatory giveaway to the pharmaceutical and medical device industry, papered over by new funding for those research initiatives. The punchline is that the regulatory rollback is real, but the funding may not be — it’s subject over the next decade to annual appropriations by Congress that might never come…
 
One would expect Congress to ask the drug industry for something in return for regulatory rollbacks of this magnitude. Remarkably, nothing in the measure would address the main problem the public sees with the drug industry — inordinately high prices.
(Los Angeles Times)

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kline2This is from an email I got from the Pension Rights Center.
 

We’ve heard from reliable sources that high-paid lobbyists, working in concert with retiring Representative John Kline, are redoubling their efforts to get the “composite bill” inserted into the end-year Appropriations bill – just as they did with the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act at the end of the 2014 congressional session. In fact, we’ve heard that this bill could pass as early as Wednesday, December 7th…
 
Like MPRA, this draft composite legislation was developed by Representative John Kline (R-MN), the retiring chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Where MPRA gave license to trustees to slash the benefits of retirees, this ill-conceived proposal would allow the trustees of healthy multiemployer pension plans to switch to new inferior plans that don’t provide guaranteed benefits to workers or retirees. Even worse, the bill would allow plan trustees to divert money from the old plans to the new plans – increasing the chances that well-funded plans could fall into underfunded status, threatening the promised benefits of both workers and retirees.

Comment below fold.
 
…READ MORE

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Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 3

by Dan Burns on December 2, 2016 · 0 comments

trumpAs you may recall, the President-“elect” claimed that he would crack down on U.S. companies that relocated jobs elsewhere.
 

On Wednesday, Donald Trump — taking a break from fabricating lies about illegal voting, whining about Broadway plays, and rare media truth-telling — boasted he had saved 1,000 jobs at air-conditioning company Carrier from being outsourced to Mexico.
 
Unlike earlier this month, when Trump outright lied about having a part in Ford’s decision not to move a plant from Kentucky to Mexico, the Carrier deal seems to actually be connected to moves made by Trump and his Vice President-elect Mike Pence, but they are not at all what Trump would have you believe about them. Those moves were classic examples of corporate wheeling and dealing that slide huge tax cuts and other bonuses to big business in exchange for small favors…
 
Essentially, the deal Trump made amounts to corporate welfare, (Sen. Bernie) Sanders says, and will make inequality immeasurably worse. Sanders goes on to lament that “after running a campaign pledging to be tough on corporate America, Trump has hypocritically decided to do the exact opposite. He wants to treat corporate irresponsibility with kid gloves. The problem with our rigged economy is not that our policies have been too tough on corporations; it’s that we haven’t been tough enough.”
(AlterNet)

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Group seeks to righteously crush Twin Metals

by Dan Burns on November 30, 2016 · 0 comments

sulfideGov. Mark Dayton opposes the Twin Metals proposal, and because of that and other factors it is essentially on life support. We hope.
 

The environmental group Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness has asked a federal judge to let them intervene in a lawsuit that could decide mineral leases under the proposed Twin Metals copper mine near Ely.
 
The group filed paperwork Tuesday, Nov. 22, in federal district court in St. Paul in hopes it can intervene in the suit filed by Twin Metals against the U.S. Department of the Interior.
 
Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness also filed notice that it plans to ask that the case be dismissed, although that can’t happen until the first hearing scheduled in the suit on April 28.
(InForum)

If you’re not familiar with the issue, here is a quick primer from Save the Boundary Waters.
 

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Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 2

by Dan Burns on November 29, 2016 · 0 comments

trump4The idea behind this series, incidentally, has to do with the fact that people hate realizing they’ve been suckered. So maybe – maybe – there’s a way, here, to reach some Trump voters, when things start to really go sour.
 

President-elect Donald “I’m supported by fear and hatred and ignorance” Trump has a fantastic new tax plan. Well, it’s not “new.” It’s basically the same sh*tty Republican tax plan that destroys the poor and working classes every time it gets enacted. Trump says the largest tax reductions are for the middle class. He also has a bridge in New York to sell you if you believe that. If you are wealthy, guess what? You will get to pretend that you are going to “create jobs” with your new found wealth — on top of the wealth you already have. If you are in the middle class? Sorry, Charlie!
(Daily Kos)

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Atrocious ruling blocks new overtime rule

by Dan Burns on November 28, 2016 · 1 comment

greedThis is beyond despicable.
 

To be clear, nationwide injunctions from federal judges are rather extraordinary measures but they have recently become commonplace in the 5th Circuit, where conservative federal judges have routinely used them to block Obama’s policies on issues ranging from immigration to transgender bathroom access to federal contracting rules and now overtime pay.
(Daily Kos)

Over 4 million workers nationally will lose out if this ruling stands. I was unable to find an estimate for how many of those are in Minnesota.
 
For some time now, viciously fanatical right-wingers have had success using conservative judges to keep good things from happening. There are currently over 90 openings in the federal judiciary that the Trump administration will now be able to fill, and undoubtedly will fill with right-wingnuts, who will do their utmost to block any progressive legislation or executive action on sight, for decades to come.
 

I don’t mean by any of this to suggest that progressives should just give up. But we need to be reality-based and aware of what we’re really up against.
 
Comment below fold.
 
…READ MORE

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prairieThis article may seem a little bizarre if you’re progressive and you remember David Strom‘s “legacy“ in Minnesota politics, but nonetheless it is worthwhile and I’m passing it along on that basis.
 

A new report says proposed renewable energy investments in Minnesota could create more than 5,000 construction jobs and $7 billion in economic activity, largely in conservative, rural parts of the state.
 
“We are clearly seeing a bigger (political) divide in Minnesota and clean energy is a way to bridge that divide,” said Chris Kunkle, Wind on the Wires regional policy manager for Minnesota. “You’re talking about advancing policies and investments from the Twin Cities that benefit rural Minnesota and create new jobs and tax revenue.”
 
And Minnesota is not the only place where wind development is happening in Republican districts.
(Midwest Energy News)

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Happy Thanksgiving from MNPP

by Dog Gone on November 24, 2016 · 0 comments

Wishing all of our readers the happiest of Holidays.

 

It is never more important than now, post-election, to assess the many things for which we can and should be grateful, both for a sense of context and perspective, and for their own intrinsic value.

 

Hoping that each of our readers can find an abundance of those things, and people, for which to be both glad and thankful.

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The TPP looks dead, anyway

by Dan Burns on November 22, 2016 · 0 comments

ellisontpp(Update: Also note that Trump & Co. could come up with trade policies that are even more exploitative and destructive than the TPP would have been.)
 
The way things have been going, I’m not taking anything for granted.
 

If you read the headlines, Donald Trump’s election has killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The headlines have it wrong.
 
Donald Trump didn’t kill the TPP. Assuming we see the fight through to the bitter end, it’s the cross-border, cross-sector, progressive “movement of movements” that will have defeated the TPP.
 
While overshadowed by the horror of Trump’s election, this victory will be one of the biggest wins against concentrated corporate power in our lifetimes, and it holds lessons we should internalize as we steel ourselves for the many challenges we face heading into the Trump years.
(Medium)

Is this really the end? Who knows? The President-”elect” is not a man of his word, to say the very least, and corporations will undoubtedly keep the pressure on. But for now, it looks good.
 

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I will not Kumbaya with Trump

by Dog Gone on November 21, 2016 · 0 comments

Kumbaya from the Urban Dictionary:

blandly pious and naively optimistic

The Kumbaya Law: In any conversation where some of the participants hold an opinion to the left of other participants, someone with the more conservative position will compare said person’s opinion to the naivete of “singing around a campfire singing Kumbaya”

Our government, as of January 20th 2017, will be run by a man who appears to have collaborated with a foreign government to alter our elections. This was a crime of espionage against Trump’s political opponent.

 

It is not important that the crimes were against an opponent; that detail is merely a distraction from the real issues. In attempting to alter the results of an election this way with the collaboration of a foreign government, Trump welcomed and apparently participated in crimes against Americans. It doesn’t matter a damn if the Americans were allies or opponents.

 

As Lincoln, who must be rolling in his grave so brilliantly said about representative government in the Gettysburg Address, our Constitution, the very premise of our nation, is to provide government of the people, by the people, and for the people. To act against that by espionage to alter that election in cooperation with a foreign power is the opposite, the antithesis of government by OUR people.

 

From Vox:

Fisher points to a 2013 article, by Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, as key evidence of this new Russian thinking. Gerasimov argued that “non-military means” had eclipsed weapons in their strategic importance. Controlling the information and propaganda environment can inflict serious blows on one’s enemies.
“The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness,” Gerasimov writes. He advocates using “military means of a concealed character,” including “actions of informational conflict” in order to accomplish Russian strategic objectives.
Gerasimov’s article uses the Arab Spring as a key example, which is telling. The Arab Spring wasn’t about wars between countries but rather upheaval inside countries. Gerasimov’s ideas, then, are explicitly designed to be used in attempts to influence other countries’ internal politics and conflicts.
That’s exactly what Russia is doing when it hands over the information to WikiLeaks.

And from a different piece over at Vox, we see that interference in elections and other domestic politics by the Russians against the autonomy and interests of countries is not unique to the USA:

“That Russia is pulling for Trump is at this point beyond any dispute,” New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait writes. “Putin’s Russia has been proven or credibly alleged to have boosted friendly candidates in France, Germany, Austria, and, most successfully, in the election of a pro-Russian government in Ukraine. Something like this seems to be happening in the American presidential election now.”

The U.S. intelligence services clearly identified that Russia provided emails to wikileaks after committing a cyber attack against the Americans campaigning for Hillary Clinton. Russia acknowledges that people from the Russian embassy were meeting with the Trump campaign prior to the election. Equally important, Trump denied involvement with the Russians during the campaign which now appears to be false.

 

From the NY Times:

MOSCOW — The Russian government maintained contacts with members of Donald J. Trump’s “immediate entourage” during the American presidential campaign, one of Russia’s top diplomats said Thursday.
“There were contacts,” Sergei A. Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “We continue to do this and have been doing this work during the election campaign,” he said.
Mr. Ryabkov said officials in the Russian Foreign Ministry were familiar with many of the people he described as Mr. Trump’s entourage. “I cannot say that all, but a number of them maintained contacts with Russian representatives,” Mr. Ryabkov said.

We cannot currently accuse Trump of committing treason; we limit that term to acts of war. I would argue that we should change that definition to include acts that attack, interfere with or undermine our national autonomy. We are not formally at war with Russia, and cyber attacks are not currently included in our definition of attacks. I would argue we have to change our definition of attack now to include cyber attacks as an act of aggression. Clearly this is how the Russians view their own actions.  As we know from the much quoted Maya Angelou, when someone shows you who they are, believe them. …READ MORE

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