Big Pharma Paid 700 Doctors Over A Million Bucks Each. Tell Us Again How Single-Payer Is Too Pricey?
None dare call it legalized bribery. OK, plenty do.
One of the quiet scandals of US America's for-profit healthcare "system" is the routine bribery of doctors by pharmaceutical companies. We're not talking the free pens and notepads with drug logos, but generous funding for travel, "consulting," and speaking fees to "educate" other doctors at conferences. A new ProPublica report found that the amount of money the industry pays to doctors hasn't changed, despite efforts to call attention to the potential conflicts of interest. And some doctors are really making out like bandits, while prescription drug prices continue to go through the roof.
That's not a mixed metaphor, that's American healthcare today: a bandit house with holes in the roof.
Welcome to the latest bullshit 'controversy' of the 2020 campaign.
Elizabeth Warren is now the frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic primary. You can tell because in last night's debate, other candidates went after her instead of piling on Joe Biden (Tulsi Gabbard was especially clumsy about it). That comes with the frontrunner territory. But wow, the debate moderators, and CNN's panel interview after, sure chose a dumb point to spend 20 minutes on last night, trying to get Warren to say that she would have to "raise taxes on the middle class" to pay for Medicare for All. Warren instead replied that she would absolutely not sign any bill if it "does not lower costs for middle-class families" -- emphasizing the overall costs of M4A compared to America's current patchwork of private insurance, public funding, and, for far too many people, nothing.
Warren's strategy here is to emphasize that the overall costs of healthcare under M4A would be borne by increased taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and that overall, the middle class would pay less than it now pays in insurance premiums. So naturally, that larger argument has to be ignored so Warren can be accused of "dodging" the narrow question of some tax increases. As a Doktor of Rhetoric, we honestly don't know whether we'd advise her to stick to her emphasis on framing the argument around "costs," or to bite the bullet and adopt Bernie Sanders's own strategy of reframing it: Yeah, taxes would go up some, but the overall costs would be reduced, so the middle class would see net savings.
We do know it's really stupid to waste all this time acting as if Warren is hiding anything because she won't accept the narrow, misleading frame "raising taxes on the middle class" -- especially from debate moderators and pundits with six- or seven-figure salaries and the very best health insurance.
Hey What's This 'Urgent' Intel Whistleblower Report For Congress? Congress Ain't Know, Nobody'll Tell Them!
Thanks Acting DNI Joseph Maguire! You're gonna be a STAR!
There's some fuckery afoot in Donald Trump's Intelligence Community. The fact that Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is burying a whistleblower complaint in blatant violation of the plain wording of federal law would be a massive scandal in any other administration. But here in the Firehose Era, it goes rushing by practically unnoticed.
NOT ON YOUR WONKETTE'S WATCH, DAMMIT! House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff just dropped a subpoena on the Acting DNI calling him to testify before the Committee on Thursday, which is a BFD. And let's pay particular attention to the dates here, for reasons we'll come back to in a hot second.
According to Rep. Schiff's September 13 letter to Maguire, on August 12, the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) received a "whistleblower disclosure intended for the congressional intelligence committees from an individual within the intelligence community." As provided under 50 US Code §3033§3033 and the Intelligence Community Whistleblowers Protection Act, the ICIG conducted a 14-day preliminary investigation and found the allegations credible and of "urgent concern" to Congress. On August 26, the ICIG told Maguire of his findings, which started the clock on a deadline for the DNI to disclose the information to HPSCI, as laid out in 50 US Code §30339(k)(5)(G):
Upon receipt of a transmittal from the Inspector General under subparagraph (B), the Director shall, within 7 calendar days of such receipt, forward such transmittal to the congressional intelligence committees, together with any comments the Director considers appropriate.
That would be a non-discretionary statute. Maguire doesn't have any wiggle room here -- it says "shall," and that doesn't mean he gets to go running to Attorney General Bill Barr to ask if he can prettyplease dummy up some bullshit excuse to get out of it. So naturally, that's exactly what he did.
ALL OF THEM, KATIE?
The news sounded ominous: over 100 passengers on a Bahamian ferry bound from Freeport to Ft. Lauderdale Sunday were told they'd have to get off the boat before it left, because they didn't have visas to travel to the United States. Normally, no visa is needed for Bahamians to go to Florida -- they only need their Bahamas passport and a recent copy of a clean criminal record check from police. Video of the passengers reacting to the announcement that they'd "suffer penalties" if they didn't have a visa went all over Twitter, and people wondered what the fuck Stephen Miller was pulling now. Turning away people fleeing a hurricane, are you fucking kidding?
Like everything else in the Trump years, it's not clear whether this is due to deliberate fuckery, bureaucratic incompetence, or some combination of the two. US officials insisted the rules hadn't changed, at all, saying instead the ferry company had screwed up and should have cleared those passengers' information with the US embassy beforehand, which immigration officials said is the usual procedure. The Spanish-owned ferry company, Baleària, says it received contradictory messages from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) about what documents the passengers would need.
At this rate, we won't be the least bit surprised if we learn the ferry was targeted because Donald Trump wanted the passengers to be sent to one of his properties to buy dinner before being allowed to go about their business.
Jobs report tells him to eat it.
Get excited for the Jobs Numbers! President Norms Molester was hyping them up yesterday, in yet another attempt to goose the market to make himself look better.
A regular president doesn't talk about employment data before its release to the public, since his comments can cause market swings. But when you're a washed up reality TV star, they let ya do it!
ARE YOU NOT REASSURED?
The Trump administration unleashed a shitstorm of fear and confusion Wednesday when US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a tweak to how it processes citizenship for some children born overseas to US military personnel and other government workers. The change would end automatic citizenship for children born overseas to two small groups: military parents who are not yet citizens, and to citizens who may have left the USA as kids and then grown up elsewhere. Their kids can still become citizens, but only after a long application process. But because the policy change wasn't framed very clearly, many military folks and those worried about the administration's ongoing war on immigrants thought the policy would apply to all military families who have kids while deployed overseas, and can you blame them? In this essay we shall argue that the whole wretched mess is yet another example of what we've called the Trump administration's weaponized incompetence. Why just do a policy when you can also maximize fear, uncertainty, and doubt among people you want to scare? There's a lot of confusion out there about what exactly this new policy is supposed to do, and we're fairly sure that uncertainty is part of the plan.
Just teasing, lots of good ideas in here!
In the last week, both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren released plans for criminal justice reform, joining a big crowd of Democratic candidates with proposals to fix our dysfunctional justice system. Whoever gets the nomination, there's no shortage of good ideas that deserve action
if WHEN Dems take back the White House and Senate in 2020. The Warren and Sanders plans join similarly ambitious calls for remaking criminal justice from Joe Biden, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar. (it's a priority for Kamala Harris too, but she hasn't yet released a full policy paper.) On the whole, the plans emphasize reducing incarceration for low-level offenses (especially nonviolent drug charges), orienting prisons toward rehabilitation and reducing re-offense rates, and reforming institutional structures to address the worst crimes, as opposed to just routinely locking up the poor, black and brown people, and people with mental illnesses.
We appreciate a good epigraph as much as anyone, and for this topic, it would be hard to top the quote that leads off the Sanders plan. It's from Nelson Mandela, who knew a thing or 27 years about prison: "It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails."
Ricardo Rossello, you are GET THE FUCK OUT!
Puerto Rico. A beautiful island of enchantment. A place filled with amazing people, great culture, delicious food, and beautiful vistas. But the island is in a fucking uproar due to the clusterfuck of mismanagement from federal (Trump) to local (Ricardo Rosselló's Cabinet).
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico with a
final death count of 2,975, which happens to be the exact number of Americans that died during the September 11 attacks. But while America will "Never Forget" 9/11, unless you're Rand Paul, mismanagement at both the federal and local levels caused those AMERICANS to be largely ignored. While most were (rightly) criticizing Trump for his numerous failures in Puerto Rico, seems Governor Rosselló was doing some undercover dirt.
The Post-Hurricane selfie with Trump really should have been a clue.
Alex Acosta's Jeffrey Epstein press conference, for an audience of one.
If Alexander Acosta wanted to pull a Kavanaugh, he should have just shouted incoherently about beer at yesterday's press conference. Instead, the Labor secretary -- who a decade ago was the United States Attorney stroking secretive billionaire Jeffrey Epstein's hair while negotiating his plea for molesting what the FBI alleged were dozens of girls -- told a series of easily disprovable lies and then bizarrely blamed Epstein's victims for their own abuse. Cheers!
"The message is you need to come forward," Acosta burbled from the podium. "And as victims come forward, these cases can be brought and they can be brought by the federal government, they can be brought by state attorneys, and they will be brought."
Pinocchios on fire.
The Washington Post's "Fact Checker" column turned its reptilian eye to statements made during last week's second half of the first Democratic debate, and found some fibs (Joe Biden did oppose busing), some truths (Michael Bennet did introduce a very generous path to citizenship bill), and some judgment calls (was it really the "most progressive" immigration bill ever?). The column also suggested a statement by Bernie Sanders was true, but also somehow false, which is a truly impressive achievement, like Schrodinger's Socialist. Let's wonksplore!
The column takes issue with Bernie Sanders's statement, "Three people in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of America," even after noting that it's true. But you see, it's a misleading kind of true (it's not), per the factchecker:
This snappy talking point is based on numbers that add up, but it's also a question of comparing apples to oranges. Sanders is drawing on a 2017 report from the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies, which said that three billionaires — Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos (who owns The Washington Post) and Warren Buffett — had total wealth of $248.5 billion, compared to $245 billion for the bottom 160 million of the United States. The wealth of the three men has gone up even more since then.
So that's true. The combined wealth of the Three Cool Pluto-Cats was even more a couple years later and they're all richer than the bottom 160 million Americans. So why's that wrong, huh?
But people in the bottom half have essentially no wealth, as debts cancel out whatever assets they might have. So the comparison is not especially meaningful.
We have read that sentence a whole bunch of times, and it is indeed composed of words in an order and ended with a punctuation mark.
Mmmmm, tasty LIE VOMIT.
Yesterday, Fox and Friends started the day whining about coordination between Democrats and "the mainstream media," and ended it by inviting the president's personal lawyer on air to hock rancid globs of phlegm at Sean Hannity and see if any of them would stick. The jury's still out on that one, although Hannity and his audience are well primed to believe just about any crazy shit, so ... odds are good they're going to slurp this right up.
Yeah, that's gross, but get a load of this shit! Here's part of a blogpost Sekulow wrote on his own site which Fox was kind enough to republish before his Hannity appearance! (They were also kind enough to edit out the part about the "Obama FBI using the faulty, unverified Steele Dossier it new [sic] was salacious," so Sekulow would look like less of A IDIOT.)
Stunning new information just released by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) shows that the Obama administration stepped up efforts – just days before President Trump took office – to undermine Trump and his administration.
The ACLJ, where I serve as chief counsel, has obtained records that show the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, under Director James Clapper, eagerly pushed to get new procedures as part of an anti-Trump effort. The procedures increased access to raw signals intelligence before the conclusion of the Obama administration, just days before President Trump was inaugurated.
Sekulow is no stranger to grift, but even by his debased standards, this one's a whopper.
Boy, it's gonna be awkward at the Conway house tonight. Like, even more than usual when one partner makes her living barfing insane nonsense to support the Dear Leader into every available microphone, and the other is a leading light of the Twitter Resisteratti. George Conway has been tweeting up a storm about our lawless president and how he should be impeached, and here's his lovely wife Kellyanne wandering into the frame to violate the Hatch Act six ways from Sunday. Hope they can hold it together for the sake of the corgis!
Today the Office of Special Counsel (not the Special Counsel's Office!) sent a report to the president recommending that Kellyanne Conway be fired from federal service for repeated violations of the Hatch Act. The Act protects federal employees from being conscripted to support a particular political candidate or party and bars high-level employees from publicly supporting a political candidate. The OSC is responsible for enforcing the Act and protecting whistleblowers and, by sheer coincidence, they posted this handy video to their Twitter feed just last week 'splaining the very law in question.
Burnin' out his fuse up here alone.
For all of Donald Trump's repeated insistence that the 2017 Big Fat Tax Cuts For Rich Fuckwads would pay for themselves by supercharging the economy, the evidence keeps piling up that while they were really really good for the rich, and for corporate profits, the cuts didn't have a hell of a lot of impact for either the economy, which was already growing, or for ordinary Americans' wages, which haven't increased anywhere near as much as corporate profits. Those are among the conclusions in a report released yesterday by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which will nonetheless be ignored by Republicans because the CRS is not Of the Body of true believers in voodoo economics.
At the time the cuts passed, Donald Trump insisted they'd boost economic growth into the stratosphere, and even now, he loves saying they're the main reason the economy is continuing to grow. Just last month he took credit for the wonderful outcome of chopping federal revenues by over $1.5 trillion over the next decade.
"At the heart of America's revival are the massive tax cuts that I signed into law a year ago," Trump said at an event for the National Association of Realtors in May. "And they are like rocket fuel for America's economy."
If so, that's some seriously shitty rocket fuel, since there's been a steady decline in the unemployment rate since the Obama administration, and the pace of that decline didn't noticeably change after the cuts went into effect. Here, lookie this chart from Forbes in October 2018:
Let a thousand position papers bloom!
Julián Castro continued the hot trend of 2020 campaigns with Big Ideas, releasing his "People First Education" plan Monday like some kind of common Elizabeth Warren. It has several elements in common with education plans already out there, like calling for universal pre-K, increased funding to fix education infrastructure, and free tuition for public universities, community colleges, and vocational schools. And like Warren, Castro also wants to tackle the student loan debt mess, albeit with a slightly different mechanism. Let's put on our poindexter spectacles and take a look!
Sure, this seems like a good fight to have.
Donald Trump really, really, reaaaallly wants to re-fight healthcare for the 2020 election, because he apparently thinks it was such a winning issue for Republicans in 2018. That's why he's very hot on the idea of having the courts throw out Obamacare altogether, eliminating healthcare for 20 million people, and not incidentally leaving about half of Americans subject to losing their coverage for preexisting conditions. Republicans, Trump announced Wednesday, will now become "the party of healthcare," just as soon as they come up with a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, or maybe just trash it and hope everyone loves them for it. It worked with firing James Comey right? Democrats, on the other hand, are are looking forward both to shoring up Obamacare -- since that did a pretty good job of winning the House in 2018 -- and then working toward some form of actual Medicare for All, because really, it's not a choice between those two, silly.
Oh you dumb idiot bastard.
This morning, after giving Fox News a 12-hour head start with a yet-to-be-filed copy, Devin Nunes and a Virginia lawyer who may not have the best interests of a free press at heart sued some folks. They sued Twitter, and some punk GOP operative woman who probably sucks, and her (they allege) conspirators, Devin Nunes' Mom and Devin Nunes' Cow.
Wonkette would like to take this opportunity to sue Devin Nunes' Cow for stealing our shtick, the one we invented and which is very extraordinarily clever, and I came up with it and then set Evan loose on it one day when I noticed haw haw that Devin Nunes studied animal HUSBANDRY and even though I know that is just fancy for "farming," I said, "HEY, DO YOU THINK DEVIN NUNES IS FUCKING HIS COW?" Sure, it's no Jerry Falwell losing his virginity to his mother in an outhouse -- because it's ONE MILLION TIMES FUNNIER, STUPID DUMB LARRY FLYNT! The Supreme Court -- at least in the old liberal Rehnquist days, lol -- it would doubtless agree!
Oh, wait, we just remembered you can't copyright an idea, which makes us a better lawyer than Devin Nunes's Virginia dude. Allegedly. We opine.
Nunes's grievances are many -- as they should be with a demand that the courts award him $250 million -- and they are dumb.
How Dumb Are They?
Devin Nunes and his Free Speech Hero lawyer, Steven Biss -- who once sued a paper for printing "fake news" about a school board member that was actually very real news -- have several complaints. (After a very long introduction in which it is explained for no reason at all that Devin Nunes once introduced a bill for The Troops.) The first complaint, about which we do not care, is that Nunes claims he is being "shadowbanned" by Twitter. Fox News's Judge Andrew Napolitano made quick work of that one; a private company, despite being the new "town square," does not have to give untrammeled access to its platform, and may in fact, thanks to the Communications Decency Act, censor people. This was to Devin Nunes's benefit yesterday when Twitter suspended user Devin Nunes' Mom for being gross and mean and VERY hilarious and sounding just exactly like a common Wonkette.
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