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-Trump Chuckie

On March 4th, The Thing in the White House sent out a bunch of angry tweets blasting the previous President for wiretapping Isengard Trump Tower. “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Then 30 mins later: “How long has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” When asked to clarify this insanity, The Thing’s minions really could do nothing but heee and hawww. The Thing read it somewhere, they said. NY Times! Louise Mensch! BBC! Naturally once reporters dug deeper, they found that NO, none of those reports talked Trump Obamaabout wiretapping. Mensch broke the story on her right-wing blog HeatStreet on November 7th about the FISA warrant, but all she said was that a FISC court granted permission to “examine the activities of ‘U.S. persons’ in Donald Trump’s campaign with ties to Russia.” In question was a mysterious communication between two Russian banks and a server in Trump Tower. (David Corn of Mother Jones broke the story of the two banks and Trump Tower, but all media dismissed it as a bizarre conspiracy theory a couple of weeks earlier.) In the follow-up reports to Mensch’s story, BBC and the failing NY Times confirmed a FISA warrant, but nobody mentioned wiretaps… except Breitbart and then The Thing in its Tweets. Ahhhhh, the plot thickens. Where did Breitbart get the information about wiretaps at Trump Tower and did The Thing just leak top secret information in a series of Tweets? Sure seems that way. Will anybody hold him accountable? LOL.

There are fleeing moments when it feels like Lady Lindsey Graham and Hero John McCain might hold The Thing accountable for the numerous impeachable offenses it has committed. Earlier today Graham tweeted: “An attack on one political party should be considered an attack on all. We must push back on Russian election interference at home & abroad.” That sounds great! However it should also be noted that Graham had lunch with The Thing earlier in the day.

“Great lunch meeting with ‪@POTUS today. President Trump is strongly committed to rebuilding our military which is music to my ears. (1/3)

President Trump is in deal-making mode and I hope Congress is like-minded. (2/3)”

“How good was the meeting with ‪@POTUS?

I gave him my NEW cell phone number.”

Somebody responded: “1-800-DOOR-MAT?” And then “You, sir, are a profile in courage.”

And that, folks, is Lindsey Graham summarized in a handful of tweets. We have to get used to the notion that no, Graham and McCain won’t hold The Thing accountable for anything until they’ve gotten what they want from him: tax cuts for the rich, bigger military, gutting ACA, etc. etc. etc. Then maybe, possibly, once that’s all done, they’ll throw The Thing overboard.

Speaking of handing out cell numbers, can anybody afford a new cell phone after Republicans pass Trumpcare? Jason Chaffetz, the man who investigated Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s e-mails to death, and who doesn’t think there is any reason to look into Trump’s connections to Russia, went on CNN to start selling Trumpcare to America.

Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice. And so, maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest it in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions for themselves.

This is, of course, patently absurd. An iPhone unsubsidized by a phone company might cover one month’s premium for a single person. How many iPhones does Chaffetz think people buy? Of course, Chaffetz himself doesn’t have to buy his own phone. He gets one from work. His cell bill gets covered too. “How much does an iPhone cost” is the new “How much is a gallon of milk?” and Chaffetz doesn’t know  the cost of either.

Medicaire

Overall Trumpcare is going to gut poor people into oblivion. It gives tax breaks to the rich, provides insurance companies with tax deductions on CEO salaries, will raise costs of premium, reinstate caps, gut preexisting conditions. Millions of people will lose their insurance. Many of them were Trump voters. Sadly many of them were not. But they will suffer also.

Why do Republicans hate poor people? It’s a question that has been asked often and there are many answers. As it came up again in the current Trumpcare discussion, I was reminded of a scene in E.M. Forster’s great novel “Howards End.” In the 1910 novel ForsterForster explored 3 groups of people from 3 different classes: the extremely wealthy and conservative Wilcoxes, upper middle class but liberal Schlegels, and poor but aspiring for something bigger Basts. The Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, try to help poor Leonard Bast, but their well-meaning interventions in his life, as well as not-well meaning interventions from the Wilcoxes, prove disastrous. He loses his job as a clerk in an insurance company after following bad advice from patriarch Henry Wilcox. When the impetuous Helen (played by Helena Bonham Carter in the magnificent film, with Emma Thompson as Margaret) tries to make her case for helping the poor to the condescending 1%-er Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins in the film), the following exchange takes place. Written in 1910, “Howards End”is still relevant in 2017.

From Chapter 22

He [Henry Wilcox] raised his finger. “Now, a word of advice.”

“I require no more advice.” [said Helen]

“A word of advice. Don’t take up that sentimental attitude over the poor. See that she doesn’t, Margaret. The poor are poor, and one’s sorry for them, but there it is. As civilisation moves forward, the shoe is bound to pinch in places, and it’s absurd to pretend that any one is responsible personally. Neither you, nor I, nor my informant, nor the man who informed him, nor the directors of the Porphyrion, are to blame for this clerk’s loss of salary. It’s just the shoe pinching–no one can help it; and it might easily have been worse.”

Helen quivered with indignation.

“By all means subscribe to charities–subscribe to them largely– but don’t get carried away by absurd schemes of Social Reform. I see a good deal behind the scenes, and you can take it from me that there is no Social Question–except for a few journalists who try to get a living out of the phrase. There are just rich and poor, as there always have been and always will be. Point me out a time when men have been equal–”

“I didn’t say–”

“Point me out a time when desire for equality has made them happier. No, no. You can’t. There always have been rich and poor. I’m no fatalist. Heaven forbid! But our civilisation is moulded by great impersonal forces” (his voice grew complacent; it always did when he eliminated the personal), “and there always will be rich and poor. You can’t deny it” (and now it was a respectful voice)–“and you can’t deny that, in spite of all, the tendency of civilisation has on the whole been upward.”

“Owing to God, I suppose,” flashed Helen.

He stared at her.

“You grab the dollars. God does the rest.”

It was no good instructing the girl if she was going to talk about God in that neurotic modern way. Fraternal to the last, he left her for the quieter company of Mrs. Munt.

[…]

“Don’t ever discuss political economy with Henry,” advised her sister. “It’ll only end in a cry.”

“But he must be one of those men who have reconciled science with religion,” said Helen slowly. “I don’t like those men. They are scientific themselves, and talk of the survival of the fittest, and cut down the salaries of their clerks, and stunt the independence of all who may menace their comfort, but yet they believe that somehow good–it is always that sloppy ‘somehow’ will be the outcome, and that in some mystical way the Mr. Basts of the future will benefit because the Mr. Brits of today are in pain.”

Howards End

Also, in brief: Richard Steele, the British spy who wrote the infamous “pee pee” dossier, has resurfaced. While American Senators want to hear him testify about what he knows.

WikiLeaks is dumping top secret CIA documents.

And contrary to earlier denials that he’s never met the Russian Ambassador (a man nobody has ever met), a newly unearthed article in the Wall Street Journal from last April says that Trump met with the Russian Ambassador and greeted him warmly.

What’s on your mind Widdershins? This is an open thread.

Good morning, all! I hope you enjoyed your weekend. Bernie Sanders, the newest “Democratic” candidate for President, sure did, as he made the case for his candidacy on “Face the Nation.”

During an interview on Face the Nation, CBS host Bob Schieffer asked Sanders if he really thought he could defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

“The answer is yes,” Sanders replied. “Because there is massive dissatisfaction in this country today with corporate establishment and the greed of corporate America, and the incredibly unequal distribution of wealth and income which currently exists.”

“As a result of this disastrous Supreme Court Citizens United decisions, clearly, the billionaires — Koch brothers and others — are owning the political process,” the Vermont senator explained. “They will determine the political process.”

Sanders pointed out that if Americans put him the White House, this could be the last election controlled by the billionaire class.

“If elected president, I will have a litmus test in terms of my nominee to be a Supreme Court justice,” he remarked. “And that nominee will say that we are going to overturn this disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United. Because that decision is undermining American democracy. I do not believe that billionaires should be able to buy politicians.”

I have to say, I could not agree with him more. I am definitely enjoying Bernie’s candidacy so far, although I don’t like the implication that the billionaires are buying Hillary. If they could buy Hillary, they wouldn’t have been attacking her for the past 20 years, trying to keep her from influencing American and world politics. They’d be backing her, the way they backed Obama…and her press would reflect it.

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looking-telescope

So has anyone seen Chip today?  I’m sure you all know Chip.  If you’re like me and you have ever signed an online blog petition of any liberal group, once they’ve got your name and email address they are going to continue to email you and it will go on…and on…and on.  The story line is always the same:  Can you chip in $25 to help out in our fight against:  The Koch Bros, ALEC, the Republicans, every right wing kook out there.

Back during the 2008 primaries, I made a number of contributions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  None were that large and I certainly didn’t go over or even approach the limit of what an individual can give.  Still those actions were enough to get me on “lists”.  Between that and the online petitions I have signed, I sorta feel like the girl in high school who wondered why she got so many calls at home until she found that someone had scrawled on the boys’ bathroom walls:  “For a good time, call Suzy 555-1212”.  At first I was flattered.  Wow, it’s so important that I contribute to this campaign.  Nancy Pelosi is counting on me to help the Dems regain control of the House. Such a heavy lift there, but yeah I can do it (no I can’t – no one can help you get the House back right now). Then they started bargaining with me about how much they wanted.  “Can you just chip in $5.00 to help out?” When what they really wanted to say was “HEY!  It’s 5 measly bucks!  And besides, we know you spend more than that on:  pizza, beer, nachos smokes and the other stuff”

And then the emails got more plaintive:  “Fred I’m begging you…”.  And then the next one would be “Fred don’t make me beg again to throw some dollahs at our effort.”  Finally it was the plaintive “Please don’t delete – this is too important!”.  Yeah, okay. [del]

And then it was Mary Landrieu.  Now I have contributed to Mary several times, but I reached my limit which was self imposed.  My reasons for contributing were varied:  Landrieu is more of a centrist than to the left of the party and when it has been important (like in post-Katrina nola and Louisiana) she’s brought home the bacon and then some.  She has been successful in delivering contracts for ships to be built by Louisiana shipyards and helped secure a portion of the BP oil spill money to go to the state.  In other words, she has served her state well. And the other reason is her opponent Bill Cassidy sucks.  But I’m even getting a little tired of Mary right now.  I have done what I could within my self-imposed spending limits but she can’t take no for answer.

But then, I found out some stuff about Mary.  Mary has been two-timing me and it’s with the “big boys”.  She’s not only sending me nice little emails and letters asking me to help out but she’s courting these other fellas and I’m just not sure what she’ll have to do for them, if you get my drift.  The info below is from a blog Louisiana Voice written by Tom Aswell.

Tom did the research on the major candidates this year to research their contributions, and as he said:

Because we have long been opposed to the dominance of big money in the electoral process, particularly on behalf of the best politicians money can buy, we decided to basically ignore the individual contributions in favor of shining the bright disinfecting light of sunshine on Political Action Committee (PAC) money.

It is, after all, PAC money that reduces the role of the individual voter to that of insignificant pawn even though it is that same individual voter/insignificant pawn who must ultimately go to the polls and pull the lever for these instruments of the special interests. In effect, we vote not for a particular candidate, but for the special interest or lobbyist of our choice when we cast that ballot. And yet, because we must, in the final analysis, be the ones who actually go through the process of voting, we delude ourselves into believing that our form of corrupt democracy actually works.

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PRESCRIPTION-DRUGS

Happy Hump Day Widdershins, we’re halfway through our week!  I thought today I’d discuss something I came across over at John Aravosis’ website and which I’ve had to deal with as well as some other folks here dealing with the issue  and that is the price of prescription medications.

Most of you know that before the ACA went into effect, I had medical coverage from a plan that was an offshoot of the ACA called PCIP which stood for Pre-exisiting Conditions Insurance Plan.  Now it wasn’t a bad plan until they got closer to the end of it and had to start scaling back on coverages.  However, the prescription medication coverage was definitely a keeper.  In the last year the plan did change on prescriptions, with the individual having a $150 deductible before there was any coverage.  Now that really didn’t take me too long to meet since I take generic lipitor and when it first went generic it was still far from cheap.  Plus, the prescription coverage through PCIP and Express Scripts had a deal whereby when you started a new medication, if you got it in generic form, you only had a $10 co-pay for a 90 day supply for the first year.  Now I have a few meds that aren’t even that expensive when I was under PCIP nor are they expensive under my BCBS-AL plan and I am fortunate in that all of my meds are available in generic form.  And that brings me to the main topic here, brand name medications and their costs here in the U.S. as opposed to other countries.

Apparently John has asthma and uses the Adviar diskus.  Checking my insurance site, there are a couple of strengths that it comes in.  John is apparently well-versed in Advair and it’s cousin Symbicort.  Well John is apparently overjoyed with the insurance companies at least in this one situation:

Hallelujah. I never thought I’d see the day that I’d praise an insurance company. But the proverbial Atlas just shrugged.

Insurance company pharmacy benefit managers, who have apparently had it with drug companies charging American consumers ridiculously high, and ever-increasing, prices for prescription drugs, are starting to say “enough.”

At the top of the list is my asthma drug, Advair.

Some big insurance company pharmacy benefits managers are simply no longer permitting their plans to cover Advair. Or at best, they’ve relegated Advair to the lower “third tier,” which means the patient has to pay so much of the price that they simply won’t buy the drug at all.

As a result, Advair sales plummeted 30% this year in the US.

John goes further to explain the costs in Europe, particularly France since he travels there frequently to see one of his bloggers, Chris-in-Paris.

Advair’s parent company, GlaxoSmithKline, charges Americans five times the price it charges many Europeans for the same drug.

Yes, five times.

advairFor example, in France I bought a one month’s supply of Advair 100/50 last summer for around 38 euros, or around $52 dollars.  The same drug in the states will set you back $254, and that’s at Costco. You’ll pay more elsewhere.

Oh, and it gets even better. In the past few years, Advair’s parent company, GlaxoSmithKline, raised the price 30% in the US over the past few years, while they lowered the price 10% in France over the same time period.  So over the past 5 years, Advair went from being 3x as expensive in the US as it is in  Europe, to 5x as expensive.

And before you think that France is somehow subsidizing the purchase, they’re not. France simply negotiated with GlaxoSmithKline, and the company agreed to charge the French FIVE TIMES LESS THAN IT CHARGES AMERICANS.

Think about that for a moment. You’re paying five times the price for an obscenely expensive prescription drug because of your citizenship.

Now I looked up the Advair at MyPrime which handles my  retail scripts and their second site myprimemail which naturally handles the 90 day mail orders.  I put in the dosage that Aravosis said he used, but got confused about whether he used a 12EA disp pack a month or 60, so I used 60.  The cost would be $30/month retail or $75 Prescripton-costsfor a 90 day supply.  I believe Aravosis mentioned he’s under a grandfathered plan prior to the ACA so that’s probably why he pays that much.  And I assure you that with the premiums I’m paying, it’s not like I’m getting a big break on anything.

Bargaining by the PBMs (Pharmacy Benefits Managers) is beginning to pay off, but maybe not directly to the consumer.

If health plans are now winning bigger discounts or rebates, it will not show up in list prices but will help relieve pressure on insurance premiums.

That appears to be happening to some extent. Analysts at Credit Suisse estimate that the collective discounts and rebates for 15 large drug companies amounted to 31.9 percent of gross United States sales in 2013, up from 30.2 percent in 2012 and 19.7 percent in 2007.

 

Still, why is it that Americans have to pay so much more for medications than our European cousins across the pond?

Our entire health care system is a mess. It’s bought by and owned by huge companies, like the drug companies.  And even under Obamacare, Congress refused to lift the laws that help drug companies maintain their obscene prices.  For example, did you know that it’s illegal for the Medicare program to negotiate prescription drug prices with Big Pharma?

Now, as Aravosis points out, it didn’t have to be this way with drug prices when they were debating the ACA.

US Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota offered an amendment that would have permitted “pharmacies and wholesalers to import U.S.-approved medication from Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, where drug costs are far lower because of price controls.” And who led the opposition to that amendment, but the Democratic Senator from Delaware, Thomas Carper, who has the big pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca headquartered in his state.

And further, the FDA is even complicit in helping to keep up prices of medicines here in the U.S. as seen from their own website:

Is it legal for me to personally import drugs?

In most circumstances, it is illegal for individuals to import drugs into the United States for personal use. This is because drugs from other countries that are available for purchase by individuals often have not been approved by FDA for use and sale in the United States. For example, if a drug is approved by Health Canada (FDA’s counterpart in Canada) but has not been approved by FDA, it is an unapproved drug in the United States and, therefore, illegal to import. FDA cannot ensure the safety and effectiveness of drugs that it has not approved. (Me here:  like you can really ensure the safety of drugs here in the U.S.  Right!)

FDA, however, has a policy explaining that it typically does not object to personal imports of drugs that FDA has not approved under certain circumstances, including the following situation:

  • The drug is for use for a serious condition for which effective treatment is not available in the United States;
  • There is no commercialization or promotion of the drug to U.S. residents;
  • The drug is considered not to represent an unreasonable risk;
  • The individual importing the drug verifies in writing that it is for his or her own use, and provides contact information for the doctor providing treatment or shows the product is for the continuation of treatment begun in a foreign country; and
  • Generally, not more than a 3-month supply of the drug is imported.

 

Again as Aravosis wrote:

Excuse me, but I’ve been traveling to France for years and they have THE SAME EXACT DRUGS MADE BY THE SAME EXACT PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES SELLING FOR 1/3 TO 1/5 THE COST THEY CHARGE AMERICANS FOR THE EXACT SAME THING.  Period.  Advair, sold in both countries by same company, is 1/5 the cost in France.  Singulair, 1/4 the price.  Pulmicort, 1/3.

[snip]

They’re drugs made by the same companies, often sold under the same names, and those same companies agree to sell the same drugs for significantly less in Europe because they know they can make up the difference, and then some, by gouging Americans at home (I have been told this by numerous sources on the inside). We are subsidizing low drug prices in Europe in order to pad the profits of American drug companies.  You are paying what amounts to a tax on your prescription drug purchases in order to help Europeans buy cheaper drugs.

Now, as I mentioned with the Advair example, I do get a break on that medication compared to Aravosis.  But that’s also because I signed up for a platinum plan; I’m paying the premiums for that “subsidy”.  And the thing is, the lower you go in the metal levels, the higher your costs rise.  If someone is signed up at the bronze or silver level in a plan, they are paying a goodly amount for drug co-pays (I don’t have those brochures handy anymore).  What it will take is for some of the congress critters to stop accepting the bribes, uh contributions from Big Pharma and do what’s right for the people.  Of course I don’t see that happening anytime soon, and uh, asthmatics: don’t hold your breath.

This is an open thread.


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