Kanye West never ceases to surprise his fans with his very unpredictable move as this time he was spotted getting coffee with Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen in New York City. The two were seen sharing a table at Sant Ambroeus on the Upper East Side. Page Six's informer filmed a video of the unlikely duo's gathering on Thursday. It is still unclear what the rapper and disbarred lawyer were discussing. What's even more confusing is Cohen is supposedly under house arrest after he was found guilty of financial fraud, tax evasion, and lying to Congress. The possible connection that Ka...
On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) hid in a closet with roughly a dozen other Republican senators while the Capitol attack took place on January 6.
According to the report, during that time many of the lawmakers huddled there questioned whether they would still go through with a plan to object to the counting of electors in closely divided states won by President Joe Biden — which the rioters were attempting to influence. Some did change their minds, but Tuberville, a former college football coach newly elected to the Senate, did not.
"He does remember a few details," reported Ben Terris. "'One thing that was brought up was that people were hurt,' he recalled in one of several interviews with The Washington Post. Plus, Biden was going to end up president, whether they objected or not. 'Do we want to continue this,' Tuberville remembered his colleagues mulling, 'if there's not going to be a result we are looking for anyway?' Some Republican senators changed their minds after the closet huddle, but Tuberville's vote was not in question. Coach stuck with the play and formally objected to certifying the electoral college votes in Arizona and Pennsylvania."
For his part, Tuberville insists he only cast these votes because it was what the voters of Alabama wanted him to do.
Tuberville went on to oppose establishing a bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol attack, which ultimately died in the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) later set up a select committee to conduct the investigation instead.
Excuse me but I have to vent.
Three House Democrats and one Democratic senator are now blocking a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Medicare is such a big purchaser of drugs that it has the bargaining leverage to cut drug prices for everyone — if allowed to do so. This would save at least $450 billion over the next 10 years and significantly lower prescription drug prices.
But four Democrats are standing in the way.
Before I get to why they're doing this, let me identify them. In the House: Scott Peters (whose district includes San Diego), Kurt Schrader (Oregon's central coast), and Kathleen Rice (central and southern Nassau County on Long Island).
And in the Senate: Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona).
Okay, so why are these four Democrats blocking this measure?
Not because this policy is unpopular with the public. To the contrary, 88 percent of voters favor allowing the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices, including 77 percent of Republicans.
In fact, at least 90 percent of these four lawmakers' own constituents support allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Get this: The idea is so popular that both Kathleen Rice and Kyrsten Sinema actively campaigned on it.
And not because the pharmaceutical industry needs extra money in order to continue to generate new drugs. Taxpayers already fund much of its basic research through the National Institutes of Health. Also bear in mind that a big portion of the costs of bringing a drug to market goes into advertising and marketing — which shouldn't even be allowed for prescription drugs (and isn't in most other rich countries, and wasn't in the US until Big Pharma lobbied for the law to change).
Oh, and pharmaceutical firms have been overflowing with so much cash they've been buying back their own shares of stock.
In other words, allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices should be a no-brainer.
So what gives? The question should be who gives. Follow the money.
From 2019 to 2020, Kyrsten Sinema received over $120,000 in Big Pharma contributions, even though she's not up for re-election until 2024. Throughout her political career, she's taken over half a million dollars from Pharma PACs and executives. Just before Sinema officially came out publicly against allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, a group bankrolled by Big Pharma began running TV and digital ads and sending mailers praising her for "fighting as an independent voice."
If you think this was a coincidence, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.
Scott Peters, meanwhile, happens to be the House's single biggest recipient of Big Pharma campaign cash in the 2022 election cycle so far. Since being elected in 2012, Peters has socked away over $860,000 from Big Pharma. The day after his letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposing using Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices was published in May 2021, Peters began receiving thousands of donations from executives at pharmaceutical companies and the industry's powerful lobbying group.
Another coincidence? P-l-e-a-s-e.
Kurt Schrader has raked in nearly $615,000 from Big Pharma since taking office in 2008. This election cycle he's already got $24,500 from Pharma PACS, the second most of any industry donating to him. One of former his top aides left his office earlier this year and is now lobbying for Big Pharma. According to ethics disclosures, the former aide's lobbying efforts focus on … guess what? Drug pricing.
The third House Democrat, Kathleen Rice, has received over $84,000 from Big Pharma.
The grand total of Big Pharma cash going to these four lawmakers: over $2 million. When you consider the billions that Big Pharma will rake in for keeping drug prices high, this is a small potatoes for them. You might even call it a great investment.
But it's a huge cost for the rest of us.
The measure isn't being blocked solely because these four Democrats oppose it. No Republican members of Congress are in support.
But it does seem odd that Democrats would stand in the way of this sort of reform, rebuffing their own president and party — and rejecting the overwhelming preference of voters, including their own constituents — to tank a policy that they themselves campaigned on. I mean, what's the Democratic Party for if it won't reduce drug prices for average people? Why were these four Democrats elected in the first place?
Sometimes I worry that pointing out this sort of corruption (and it is a form of corruption) will make people even more cynical than they already are about American politics, resulting in a kind of fatalism or resignation that causes many to give up — and thereby cede the entirety of our democracy to the moneyed interests. My hope is just the opposite: that when people hear about this sort of thing, they're outraged enough to become even more politically active.
In my experience spanning fifty years of American politics — from interning for Senator Bobby Kennedy in 1967 to serving as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration to advising President Obama — most of the elected lawmakers I've dealt with sincerely want to do the right thing. Some don't feel they can do the right thing if they want to be reelected, and confuse means and ends. A very few are on the take.
By which I mean to say that the situation is hardly hopeless. I refuse to give up on democracy. And I won't give up on the Democratic Party. But I'm only going to fight for candidates from the Democratic side of the Democratic Party.
What can you do? For one thing, contact your members of Congress and tell them that the first step in getting big money out of politics is to support the Freedom to Vote Act. (You might put in an extra call to Joe Manchin's office and say you expect him to deliver 10 Republican senators' votes for this bill — which he helped author — or else agree to reform the filibuster to let voting rights bills be enacted with a bare majority.)
Here's something else you can do: If you happen to be a constituent of one of these four Democrats, don't vote for them when they're up for reelection. Make sure they're primaried, and then vote in the Democratic primaries for true public servants — who care more about advancing the public good than protecting private profits.
Second Amendment ‘sanctuaries’ pop up across the country as Republicans rebel against federal gun laws
Republicans funded by the National Rifle Association have borrowed from the ideology of the slave-holding South to try to nullify federal laws about guns.
The most extreme proponents of Second Amendment "sanctuaries," claim, like slaveholders more than 150 years ago, that the federal laws are invalid and can be nullified by states. Abolitionists also did this. Northern states passed "personal liberty laws" to try to nullify the federal Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850.
"The still more interesting question is, whether the institutions of our forefathers … are to be preserved … free from the rude hands of innovators and enthusiasts," wrote South Carolina slaveholder Robert Turnbull in 1827.
Missouri state Sen. Eric Burlison (R-Battlefield), who pushed for a law that led to Kansas City police restricting federal access to their records, put it more succinctly: "We are telling President Biden to go pound sand."
More than 1,200 local governments have passed Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions in at least 43 states, including Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas and New Mexico. At least 17 states also have these laws.
The gun rights movement borrowed the term "sanctuary" from supporters of immigrants who opposed helping the federal government enforce immigration laws. Thousands of immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala facing deportation sought shelter in churches like the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago where Mexican native Francisca Lino lived in an apartment above the church for more than three years.
"I said, well, they're creating sanctuary counties for illegals up in Chicago," said Bryan Kibler, the top prosecutor for Effingham County in Illinois. "Why don't we just steal their word and make Effingham County a sanctuary county for firearms?"
Perhaps our nation's worst sanctuary law is that one that Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a former sheriff, signed in June at the Frontier Justice gun shop in Lee's Summit. Under this law, Missouri citizens can sue police departments for $50,000 in damages for violations. Even the National Rifle Association didn't support the bill.
In Columbia, Mo., the police department shut down an imaging machine used to share information about guns used in murders and other crimes after Parson signed the law. Kansas City police won't release investigative records to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) or let ATF agents inspect guns and ammunition.
St. Louis and Jackson and St. Louis counties sued Missouri over the law. Brian Boynton, an acting assistant attorney general, said the law is invalid. He argued that under the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, Missouri can't nullify federal laws.
The laws that gun rights advocates try to nullify include background checks, assault weapons bans and laws that let judges order that guns temporarily be taken from people who are dangerous to themselves or others. These "red flag laws" let relatives or others, including police, petition a judge to remove the guns.
Connecticut was the first state in 1999 to pass a red flag law. President Joe Biden's Justice Department wrote model legislation to help states pass laws about extreme risk protection orders. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia now have these laws.
A study about Indiana's law published by the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law estimates that for every 10 red flag orders one life is saved. Similar results were found in a previous study in Connecticut.
But gun rights activists are seeing red over red flag laws.
More than half of Colorado's 64 counties declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries, some even before Gov. Jared Polis signed a red flag law. The law is known as the Deputy Zackari Parrish III Violence Prevention Act after a Douglas County deputy who was killed in an ambush on New Year's Eve 2017 that also injured six other people.
Douglas County commissioners voted unanimously for a Second Amendment sanctuary law to preempt the state red flag law named after their murdered deputy.
"Does that mean everybody gets to carry a gun?" asked Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock. "Those who already have restraining orders? The sex offender that's registered down the street here from my office?"
Although gun lovers have wrapped themselves in the language of the sanctuary movement to protect their guns, they spurn it for using it to protect immigrants.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4 which bans sanctuary cities in the state. Local officials can be criminally charged if they refuse to help the federal government enforce immigration laws.
"Elected officials and law enforcement agencies they don't get to pick and choose which laws they will obey," Abbot said in 2017.
Four years later, Abbot signed seven laws pushed by gun lovers, including one that makes Texas a Second Amendment sanctuary state.
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