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Dan Burns

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)


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.

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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.”


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.

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


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)


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.

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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)


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.

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.


Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 1

by Dan Burns on November 17, 2016 · 1 comment

trump3I anticipate many parts to this series.

Trump promised his base, those nasty old white Christian racists, that he wouldn’t even think or entertain any proposals to touch their Medicare. But Trump is a liar and after he won the election by beating the candidate with considerably more popular votes than him, or any other white man in American history, he put up a new and Koch-Republican approved health care agenda on his transition website dealing with healthcare reform. Remember, in GOP parlance “reform” always means deep cuts, and where healthcare care is concerned, both Trump and the Koch brothers, and Republicans want deep cuts to healthcare programs indeed.

In Trump-speak, those deep cuts are not “reforms,” they were re-translated as “modernizing Medicare” and allowing much greater “flexibility” for Republicans to withhold Medicaid coverage from millions of poor and elderly Americans; and that is over and above millions losing out when “Obamacare” Medicaid expansion is abolished. Those are not just proposals or suggestions up for debate about the adverse impact on Americans’ health; they were solemn “vows” from the Trump transition team as a critical aspect of their plan to “make America great.” With an agreeable rubber stamp in the White House, Republicans are ready to help the happy fascist do what is worst for Americans and eliminate healthcare.

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MN lege: GOP makes a hater Senate Majority Leader

by Dan Burns on November 16, 2016 · 0 comments

gazelkaErstwhile Minnesota Senate Republican leader David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) lost his reelection effort, and Sen. Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) is the new guy. (The GOP has a 34-33 majority, pending a couple of recounts that are unlikely to change anything.) Gazelka is a head case.

Take his appearance nearly a year ago at the Now is the Time! Now is the Season! Jubilee! Chuck Pierce and Dutch Sheets, Duluth MN in Duluth, at which the state senator joined other Christian dominionists to pray for the Zenith City. (For a quick look into the mind of Dutch Sheets, check out his Baal Teachings, which equate LGBTQ people with demons; someone should find out in Gazelka–who in 2010 grabbed the endorsement from the MNGOP’s only openly gay legislator–if he agrees).
(Bluestem Prairie)

I don’t know that there was a lot of thought put into this. Mostly I figure that Gazelka wanted the job when it unexpectedly opened up, and he gets along with most everyone in the caucus, so they gave it to him.
It’s not like most people even know, much less care, who the state Senate Majority Leader is. But I will note that not long ago I would have mocked the MNGOP for putting an openly bigoted extremist into a position like this, given the longer-term political winds. Right now, I’m not so sure.