All posts by Thomas L. Knapp

Words Mean Things, and the “Treason” Talk is Tiresome

What is sabotage^ Sabotage is treason^ - NARA - 535191

Since about the time that Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, the word “treason” has become one of the most over-used — and more importantly MIS-used — words in the English language.

Not just by his opponents, who broke out the t-word every time they tried to blame Hillary Clinton’s loss on alleged collusion with THEM RUSSIANS!, but by Trump himself when, for example, an anonymous op-ed writer asserted that “adults in the room” were working to keep him from looking stupid.

Trump’s leveling his latest (provisional — “if the story … is true”) “treason” accusation against General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

What did Milley do? If the reportage of Bob Woodward and Robert Costa is correct in their new book, Peril, he made two phone calls — one right after the 2020 presidential election, one right after the January 6 Capitol riot — to his Chinese counterpart, General Li Zuocheng, to reassure Li that the US wasn’t about to launch a surprise attack on China.

I like words. Words are useful, because they mean things. When I say I want a banana, I’m asking for a piece of fruit rather than for, say, a Tesla Model 3 or tickets to the Allman Family Revival show in Sarasota. That’s handy. It keeps me from ending up with too many Teslas and concert tickets.

When it comes to the word “treason,” we have a clear and unambiguous definition, right there in  Article III of the US Constitution:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

Article I, Section 8 is also helpful here: It reserves the power to declare war exclusively to Congress. If Congress hasn’t declared war, there’s no “enemy” to give aid or comfort to, and any presidential order for a surprise attack on China would be illegal.

If Woodward and Costa’s account is to be believed, all Milley did was tell a foreign general that the US armed forces could be trusted to follow US law.

That sounds like a good thing, especially when there’s a loose cannon in the White House who isn’t very attentive to laws limiting his authority (which is pretty much all the time).

It certainly doesn’t sound like “treason,” to anyone with a basic grasp of the English language and a commitment to honesty. Unfortunately, that seems to be a shrinking demographic.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Prescription Drug Prices: Politicians Are All Talk, No Action

Photo by Stevepb. Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
Photo by Stevepb. Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

On July 26, 2020, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order under which the US government’s Medicare Part D program would have negotiated lower prescription drug prices based on an “International Price Index.”

Implementation of the order was delayed pending counter-proposals from Big Pharma, but the Democratic response was swift. “Instead of meaningfully lowering drug prices, President Trump’s Executive Orders would hand billions of dollars to Big Pharma,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) complained, without explaining why or how.

On September 9, the US Department of Health and Human Services released the Biden administration’s “Comprehensive Plan for Addressing High Drug Prices.”

Here’s the problem the report identifies: “Patients in other comparable countries regularly pay substantially less for prescription drugs than Americans.”

Here’s the report’s solution: “Allowing the Secretary of HHS to negotiate Medicare prices will achieve fair prices for beneficiaries when markets fail to do so. Allowing commercial payers, including employer and Marketplace plans, to access those prices will extend savings to additional consumers.”

Sound familiar? It should. It’s essentially Trump’s plan.

It’s also Pelosi’s plan, as expressed in the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would allow HHS to negotiate drug prices and limit what it could offer to 120% of the average price paid by other wealthy western countries.

Just to be clear, if the American political establishment was really interested in lowering drug prices, it would eliminate prescription coverage under Medicare (and if it was really interested in lowering healthcare costs in general, it would eliminate Medicare).

Neither of those things being “on the table,” so to speak, having Medicare drive a harder bargain when paying for prescription drugs just makes sense — not because, as the HHS report pretends, Medicare is distinct from “the market,” but because Medicare is a substantial player IN the market.

Medicare Part D isn’t a monopsony (that is, a single buyer, just as a monopoly is a single seller), but it is the biggest single buyer of prescription drugs in the US healthcare market.  It’s well-positioned to demand a quantity discount, or at least a reasonable price. And it should. Overpaying for prescription drugs is healthcare’s version of paying “defense” contractors $800 for toilet seats.

Why do Republicans and Democrats both talk a lot about controlling Medicare spending on drugs, but never actually get the job done?

That’s no mystery: Big Pharma makes bigger campaign donations and hires more lobbyists than you do.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Biden’s Vaccine Mandate Isn’t About COVID-19

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (2020) F

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” US President Joe Biden said on September 9 as he announced his plan to require more than 80 million private sector American workers to consent (sic) to a COVID-19 vaccine, or submit to weekly testing, or be fired by companies with more than 100 employees (those companies will be fined $14,000, by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for each instance of failure to enforce the edict).

The ostensible purpose of the mandate is to combat a raging COVID-19 pandemic, but that supposed purpose doesn’t pass the smell test.

US COVID-19 deaths in August, according to the US Centers for Disease Control, came to less than 1/3 the number for January — and total deaths from all causes in the US in August came to 1% less than the expected number (less than 100% for the first time since January 2020), compared to 138% of the expected number in January.

With the “delta” variant, the virus is taking exactly the path one expects high-R0 respiratory viruses to take: Getting more contagious, but weaker, passing from “pandemic” to “endemic.” Vaccine mandates and media scare campaigns won’t change that trajectory. Vaccines are certainly helping reduce deaths in the meantime, but any supposed emergency is over and has been for some time.

Biden’s vaccine mandate brings to mind another vaccine mandate from last year:

As of May 2020, Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine had established its basic safety according to the US Food and Drug Administration’s criteria, but its efficacy was still being tested.

FDA — which subsequently gave “fast-track” full approval to an Alzheimer’s drug that has likewise proven its safety but not its efficacy — mandated that you couldn’t receive that vaccine.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans died while FDA sat on its hands for six months before issuing its first COVID-19 vaccine “emergency use authorization.”

FDA wouldn’t let you have the vaccine even if you wanted it.

Now Biden’s trying to force you to accept it even if you don’t want it.

These mandates aren’t about vaccines, or about COVID-19.

They’re about letting the serfs know who’s in charge, and maybe scoring a few partisan culture war points.

No number of deaths is too many for FDA where the question of establishing its authority is concerned.

No amount of damage to civil liberties or the economy is too severe if it allays Joe Biden’s impatience with your slowness to bend the knee.

Resist much, obey little.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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