Raw milk drinkers are outraged that Wisconsin DATCP is bringing criminal charges against a farmer who serves a private buying club. Do citizens have a right to contract with a producer and grow food to their own standards? That is what is at stake in this case. – Kimberly Hartke, Publicist Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund …
A genetic analysis of the avian flu virus responsible for at least nine human deaths in China portrays a virus evolving to adapt to human cells, raising concern about its potential to spark a new global flu pandemic. …
Since Medicare is prohibited from purchasing drugs based on their cost, its prescription drug program has been making large payouts to drug companies that have overcharged the program for years, according to an analysis by Health Care for America Now (HCAN).“There is nothing wrong with a company making profits – that’s what their supposed to do. But the drug industry’s profits are excessive as a result of overcharging American consumers and taxpayers,” writes Ethan Rome, executive director of HCAN, for the Huffington Post. “We pay significantly more than any other country for the exact same drugs.”Rome notes that per capita drug spending in the US is 40 percent higher than in Canada, 75 percent greater than in Japan, and nearly 300 percent greater than Denmark. The 11 largest global prescription drug companies have skyrocketed since the Medicare Part D prescription drug program was launched in 2006. The government health program enables seniors and the disabled to buy taxpayer-subsidized coverage for many of the most widely disseminated medicines. But Medicare is prohibited from negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies or seeking out more cost-effective drugs, thereby costing seniors, the disabled and American taxpayers billions of dollars more than some argue the drugs are worth.Some lawmakers have recently urged Congress to consider changing the law, for the sake of cutting unnecessarily high costs. Wisconsin Democratic State Senator Jon Erpenbach told Wisconsin Public Radio that his state could save $1.2 billion over ten years if Congress were to allow Medicare to partake in prescription drug negotiations.“I understand that pharmaceutical companies are for-profit companies,” he told the station last week. “I understand there’s a lot of research and development that goes into the products that they produce. All of that being said, it shouldn’t cost us more to get that kind of pharmaceuticals we need to have.”But according to the HCAN analysis, Big Pharma spends very little on research and development. Even though pharmaceuticals cite research as a costly part of its operations, the money spent on this is exaggerated, Rome claims. Drug companies spend 19 times more on marketing than on research and development – another reason why the industry reaps so much in profits each year, he adds.US President Barack Obama has long promised to repeal the prohibition on Medicare negotiations with drug companies, but has so far failed to do so. The Veterans Administration currently negotiates drug prices, and manufacturers argue that letting Medicare take over the negotiations would make no difference to the industry. Supporters of drug manufacturers also continue to emphasize the high costs of research and development.But the Congressional Budget Office found that if Medicare were to receive the same bulk-purchasing discounts on prescription drugs that state Medicaid programs receive, the federal government would cut its spending by $137 billion over 10 years.“Our politicians give all kinds of tax breaks and subsidies to big corporations that don’t need them: Big Oil. Wall Street. Companies that ship our jobs overseas,” Rome writes. “Every gift to a special interest, including allowing Big Pharma to overcharge Medicare, is an expenditure of scarce tax dollars. That’s called wasteful spending.” …
The coalition of environmental groups expressed deep concern over the damage that could be inflicted upon the environment if unidentified chemicals are used underground. In order to more properly assess the risks of hydraulic fracturing fluids used by the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, these groups argued that the public has the right to know what is going on in their backyards.Fracking procedures use specially formulated chemicals that act as lubricants to keep the machinery running. Fracking involves pumping water, sand and underground fluids to split open rocks that contain oil and gas. The chemical lubricants maintain the orderly flow of sand. Environmentalists are concerned that these chemicals could pollute the land and water, which would be especially detrimental to landowners located near fracking sites.After four environmental groups jointly filed a lawsuit demanding to know the ingredients used at these sites, Natrona County District Judge Catherine Wilking ruled that withholding the information is a ‘reasonable’ thing to do. She said the ingredients are ‘trade secrets’ that Wyoming’s open records law does not apply to.”This decision recognizes the importance of a state-based approach to regulating hydraulic fracturing — one that balances this important method for producing energy with environmental protection,” said Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission spokesman Renny MacKay in a statement published by the Associated Press.MacKay spoke on behalf of Wisconsin Gov. Matt Mead, who chairs the commission while also governing the state – putting him in a controversial position when the people he represents oppose the actions of the business he is involved with.The governor praised the judge for ruling against the environmentalists, who sued the commission that he heads. Now, the groups, including the Powder River Basin Resource Council, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Earthworks and OMB Watch, are contemplating filing an appeal to the decision.”We continue to believe we have strong claims, and we’re still concerned the Wyoming oil and gas commission is withholding this information from the public,” Shannon Anderson, an attorney for the resource council, told AP.”However the court feels these competing concerns are best addressed through legislative action, or further rule promulgation and are not properly within the court’s purview,” Wilking wrote.Attorneys representing the oilfield services company claim that public disclosure would also allow compositing companies to reverse-engineer fracking fluids. But legal documents from a similar case that took place in Arkansas in 2011 describe the difficulty in doing so, claiming that “those who might use reverse-engineering would not be able to re-create and ascertain the exact composition and ratio of all compounds in this complex polymer structure without significant assistance and disclosure from the [commission].”Judge Wilking wrote in court documents that she understands the concerns from both sides, but that the environmentalists were unable to prove that the commission violated state law, which allows for trade secrets to be kept private.The dilemma is one that has been going on for years as oil and gas conservation commissions throughout the US continue to argue that their ingredients are considered ‘trade secrets.’“It’s a major loophole,” Mike Freeman, attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice, told the Denver Post after the state of Colorado was debating whether or not to require full disclosure of fracking fluids in 2011.“You’d want to know if they’re putting an herb or a poison down an oil well near your house,” he said. But because of state laws that allow commissions to declare the fluids a ‘trade secret’, they can too often evade telling environmentalists anything about what they do. …
A Wisconsin man has been arrested in relation to a cyberattack claimed by Anonymous against the Koch Industries website during protests over labor rights in the state’s capital in 2011. As Matt Pearce reported for the Los Angeles Times, “Officials said Eric J. Rosol, 37, of Black Creek, Wis., participated in an Anonymous-organized shutdown of Koch websites www.kochind.com and www.quiltednorthern.com on Feb. 27 and 28 in 2011.”The Anonymous action, carried out in support of public sector unions fighting to save collective bargaining rights against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting efforts, was not a hack. Rather, the hacker collective orchestrated a denial-of-service attack, or a DDOS, encouraging users to repeatedly access the website until it’s too overwhelmed to function. The Koch sites were successfully but only temporarily brought down. Rosol is the first and only defendant charged in the attack. Via Pearce:Continue Reading… …
Columnist Ron Hart
asks a question that’s answered by the cover story of the current
issue of Reason (and perfectly summarized by the cover image of
same): ;Where did all that sweet stimulus money
Of the money spent in swing state Wisconsin, 80 percent
went to public sector unions – those with already locked-in jobs.
In fact, right-to-work states got $266 less per person in stimulus
money than heavily unionized states. Where Democrats had a vast
majority of representatives, their states got $460 per person
More pointedly, Hart writes,
Remember when Obama got his trillion-odd dollars of “stimulus
money” which he and the Democrats breathlessly said we needed for
“shovel ready” jobs to re-build roads and infrastructure? Please
e-mail me if anything of the sort got built in your town. Nothing
got built in the cities where I spend time….
Read the whole thing.
Peter Suderman’s article in the May issue – which you’d be
reading right now if you subscribed for just $14.63 under our
Sequestration Offer – lays out exactly where stimulus spending
went and why it didn’t work as advertised.
Yes, tens of millions of dollars literally went to install new
toilets in parks Alaska, New Mexico, Washington state, and
elsewhere. If only we could have flushed our way to recovery.
More important, Suderman writes (and this can’t be underscored
enough), “The economy’s performance continues to be far worse than
the White House’s worst-case projections for what might happen if
there had been no stimulus at all.”
Stimulus defenders will claim that the only thing
that stood between us and a second Great Depression was the the
$787 billion stimulus (a figure later upgraded to $833 billion).
Suderman patiently and exhaustively catalogs why any such claims
not only fly in the face of observable economic reality but also
rest upon weak theoretical assumptions about the size of the
government’s multiplier and the effect of policy changes on
There’s probably no changing some people’s minds, but for those
of you who may yet be convinced that stimulus spending isn’t all
what it’s cracked up to be, ponder the latest Bloomberg View column
by Peter Orzag, who served as Barack Obama’s first budget director
and helped created the 2009 stimulus package. You know, the one
that was supposed to be filled to the busting-point with
“shovel-ready jobs” that were heavy on road and bridge repairs.
“It’s the perfect time to fix our roads and bridges,” reads the
to Orzag’s March 26 piece. He writes that while “the 2009
stimulus bill helped a bit,” we only spent $100 billion on
we need to couple immediate federal spending on public assets
with substantial, credible deficit-reduction measures that are
scheduled to take effect later on. Such a “barbell” ;approach ;to fiscal
policy would require that Republicans acknowledge the value of
additional stimulus while the unemployment rate is high, and that
Democrats see how Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security could be
preserved and strengthened through certain cost-saving measures
over time. The upfront piece should include an ambitious $250
billion infrastructure program (including federal, state and local
spending) over the next two years.
Of course, such spending isn’t nearly enough, so Orzag further
suggests that we bring back the “Build America Bonds” that have
helped create record levels of
municipal borrowing and then start adding user fees on top of
it all, because “a road-pricing system could raise as much as $55
billion a year to finance new investments or deficit
congressional Democrats are calling for somewhere between
$100 billion (Senate members) and $200 billion (House members).
Because invoking “substantial, credible deficit-reduction measures”
means never having to reduce spending.
The pattern here isn’t hard to detect: We need to keep bleeding
the patient until he recovers enough so we can stop bleeding him.
If he’s not up and walking around in a little bit, that’s only
proof that we haven’t bled him enough. But don’t worry, because
we’ll enact substantial, credible blood-recovery measures down the
For more on why the stimulus failed, watch this Reason TV case
study of spending in Silver Spring, Maryland: