Month: August 2016

How Wisconsin GOP state legislators encouraged Mylan to increase EpiPen prices for the entire country

Thanks to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC), a group that maintains a database of political contributions to state candidates in Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin progressive group Citizen Action of Wisconsin, we now know that a political action committee (PAC) for Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that, among other things, makes the EpiPen that is used to treat severe allergic reactions, has publicly lobbied Republican members of the Wisconsin State Legislature to pass legislation designed to financially benefit the company. According to records from WDC, a total of ten members of the Wisconsin Legislature received campaign contributions from Mypac WI, the Wisconsin state-level PAC for Mylan’s political operations, seven of whom are still in the Legislature, and one of whom is now a member of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission:

Legislator Name Date Contribution Received House of Legis. At Time of Donation Amount
Last First Year Month Day
Edming James 2016 July 1 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
Craig David 2016 June 27 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
LeMahieu Devin 2015 November 17 Wisconsin State Senate $500
Vukmir Leah 2015 August 22 Wisconsin State Senate $500
Nygren John 2014 February 10 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
August Tyler 2014 January 18 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
Kramer Bill 2014 January 13 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Severson Erik 2014 January 7 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Steineke Jim 2014 January 7 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Strachota Pat 2014 January 2 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Name in italics indicates that individual is no longer a state legislator as of the writing of this blog post, but was a state legislator at the time donation was received; of the three who are no longer state legislators, Pat Strachota is now a member of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Table was created using the HTML table generator available here.

Mylan has also spent a total of $66,500 since 2013 lobbying Wisconsin legislators on issues “…affecting the manufacture, distribution, or sale of prescription drugs and medical devices”, as well as on issues “relating to generic pharmaceuticals”. According to Wisconsin lobbying records, Mylan spent $42,000 and a total of 151 hours on lobbying efforts in Wisconsin during the 2013-2014 state legislative session, and Mylan spent $24,500 and a total of 103 hours on lobbying efforts in Wisconsin during the 2015-2016 state legislative session. In both legislative sessions, Mylan’s sole authorized lobbyist was listed as Robert Welch.

Two pieces of legislation, both of which are now Wisconsin state law, were heavily supported by, and were designed to financially benefit, Mylan: 2013 Wisconsin Act 239, and 2015 Wisconsin Act 35. 2013 Wisconsin Act 239 allows for the availability of, and, in appropriate emergency situations, the use of “epinephrine auto-injectors” in Wisconsin public, private, and tribal schools. 2015 Wisconsin Act 35 allows for the availability of, and, in appropriate emergency situations, the use of “epinephrine auto-injectors” “by certain authorized entities”, which include recreational camps, educational camps, colleges, universities, day care facilities, youth sports leagues, amusement parks, restaurants, businesses, and sports arenas. Neither of the two laws require Mylan to justify price increases to government officials in Wisconsin, even though the laws authorize state and local government entities in Wisconsin to purchase and maintain EpiPens at the expense of Wisconsin taxpayers. While the two pieces of legislation serve a public purpose, given that timely dispensation of epinephrine can save the life of a person having a severe allergic reaction, given that Mylan’s EpiPen dominates the marketplace for epinephrine auto-injectors, and that EpiPen prices have risen dramatically as recently as earlier this month, it’s clear to me that Mylan’s political lobbying efforts in Wisconsin are designed to financially benefit the company, as well as financially benefit the political campaigns of Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin.

I do not have any food allergies that require the use of epinephrine, but many Americans in all 50 states do. I find it disgusting that A) Mylan is drastically raising the price of a very important drug/device without any real justification and B) that, because of Mylan’s actions, taxpayers are being forced to spend more money than necessary on their medicine, which many people need. Furthermore, by not including any kind of accountability measure on Mylan that would have required Mylan to legally justify any kind of price increase to Wisconsin officials, Wisconsin Republicans have effectively encouraged Mylan to raise the price of EpiPens for the entire country.

WI Assembly candidate Mandy Wright running very transparent fundraising operation

In one of the more unorthodoxly transparent political fundraising strategies I’ve seen, former high school football player, educator, and one-term former Wisconsin State Representative Mandy Wright, who is running for a second non-consecutive term in the Wisconsin Assembly, is making at least some of her fundraising emails available to anyone who can access her campaign’s Twitter page. Normally, candidates only make fundraising emails accessible to those who are on their list of people who have registered to receive campaign emails, however, Wright has posted links to several of her fundraising emails on her Twitter page.

Wright’s most recent, publicly-available fundraising email sharply criticizes the conservative-controlled Marathon County (WI) Board for promoting “intolerance and rash, harmful decisions for our most vulnerable neighbors” and calls for rebuilding Marathon County “with a coalition of progressive champions…young voters, minority voters and our neighborhoods who have been disenfranchised by the political process”. In another recent, publicly-available fundraising email, Wright vowed not to “let this district be bought by a lobbyist again”, referring to a right-wing, anti-public education group spending a boatload of money late in the 85th Assembly District of Wisconsin race last year, in which Wright narrowly lost re-election to far-right Republican Dave Heaton. Heaton is not seeking a second term in office.

Mandy is not hiding anything in her fundraising efforts, and that’s a good thing.

It’s a national tragedy that many of America’s college students are homeless

Earlier this month, Glamour magazine posted an article to their website about a subject that, while most people wouldn’t find to be exactly glamorous, is a very serious issue facing our country: homelessness in higher education. You’d have to read the entire article, which you can view here, to truly understand how serious of an issue homelessness in higher education is.

The article is about Brooke Evans, a formerly homeless student at University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) who helped start a food pantry for students at UW-Madison. In addition to her efforts to start a food pantry for her fellow students, Evans has advocated for, among other things, requiring college and university cafeterias to accept food stamps and offering free mailboxes to students at her university who don’t have a postal address. Evans has gone above and beyond in her efforts to advocate for improving the lives of college and university students in America.

Evans isn’t the only college student in this country who has been homeless while in college. In fact, federal statistics has shown that over 59,000 applicants for federal student aid last year reported being homeless, and homelessness among college students in America is on the rise. There are a perfect storm of circumstances contributing to an increase in college homelessness, most notably that an increasing number of students from low-income households are attending college, that a college or university education of some kind is needed for virtually every good-paying job in the United States nowadays, and, most importantly, that tuition and other college-related expenses have risen dramatically in recent decades.

I admire Brooke Evans’s advocacy for homeless and poor college students. We really need a lot more people like her to stand up for our country’s most vulnerable and forgotten-about people.

San Jose Mercury News can’t say the name Simone Manuel

Make no mistake about it, Simone Manuel became the first black American woman to win an individual gold medal in the sport of swimming when she won the women’s 100 meter (109.3613 yard) freestyle swimming event at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There were actually two gold medalists in the event, as Manuel tied Canadian Penny Oleksiak for the gold medal position. In Olympic swimming, a tie occurs when two or more swimmers post the same time, measured to hundredths of a second. When a tie occurs in Olympic swimming for a medal position, all tied competitors receive a medal of the same color (gold for a tie for first, silver for a tie for second, and bronze for a tie for third).

However, The Mercury News, a newspaper covering the San Jose, California area, used this headline to document Manuel’s historic victory:

Not only is that headline factually incorrect, it’s racist and sexist. First off, Manuel and Michael Phelps never shared an Olympic podium, as men and women compete in swimming events. In fact, the only Olympic sport (summer or winter) in which there are not separate competitions for men and women is equestrian (although a few Olympic sports, such as tennis (summer) and curling (winter, starting in 2018) have events featuring mixed-gender teams competing against each other, and modern pentathlon, of which equestrian is one of the five component sports, has separate men’s and women’s competitions). Secondly, The Mercury News was unwilling to use the name of a black woman who won the event in its headline, but had no problem using the name of a white man who wasn’t eligible to compete in the event in its headline.

The corporate media isn’t willing to say any part of her name, but I am more than willing to say the full name of my favorite Olympic champion of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad so far: Simone Ashley Manuel.

Hillary goes for campaign ad gold during the Olympics

While the Olympics are supposed to be an apolitical sporting event, the truth of the matter is that politics has often been at the forefront of the Olympics. While political campaigning isn’t an Olympic sport (and, in my opinion, shouldn’t be, since politics is not an athletic competition), Hillary Clinton is running a lot of television ads during American television coverage of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Most of the Hillary ads that I’ve seen during Olympic coverage have been on either NBC or NBCSN (although I’ve seen Hillary ads on CNBC as well during the Olympics), and Hillary’s ads have aired during commercial breaks of Olympic programming blocks without any real regard to what sports are being aired during the programming blocks in question. I’ve seen Hillary ads during Olympic programming blocks at many different times of day and have included swimming, gymnastics, rugby, fencing, cycling, water polo, diving, table tennis, golf, and beach volleyball, just to name a few sports. Some sports, such as track & field and golf, are scheduled for later in the Games. All of the national political ad buys have been from the official Hillary campaign committee; I have yet to see an ad from a pro-Hillary/anti-Trump political action committee (PAC), the Donald Trump presidential campaign, or a pro-Trump/anti-Hillary political action committee.

Most of the ads that Hillary is running during the Olympics are aimed at blue-collar progressives. The positive ad that Hillary most frequently uses is an ad detailing her plan to reign in greed on Wall Street. The negative ad that Hillary most frequently uses is an ad featuring a clip from the David Letterman-era CBS Late Show attacking Trump over the Trump line of clothing being manufactured in foreign countries where workers earn, on average, much lower wages than workers in the United States.

In addition to the national Hillary ad buys, my local NBC affiliate (WAND-TV) has aired pro-Tammy Duckworth (from Duckworth’s official campaign committee) and anti-Tammy Duckworth (from a Republican political action committee of some kind) ads, but those ad buys were sold by the local affiliate because Duckworth is running for U.S. Senate here in Illinois. Duckworth’s ads air mainly, but not exclusively, in the NBC primetime Olympic programming block on my local NBC affiliate.

The first Olympic broadcast on U.S. television lasted only 28 minutes

AUTHOR’S NOTE #1: This blog post contains a video that is in the public domain due to said video being an official work of the United States federal government.

AUTHOR’S NOTE #2: For the purposes of this blog post, “Games of the Olympiad” refer to the Summer Olympics.


Starting Wednesday, August 3 at 9:30 A.M. CDT (10:30 A.M. EDT), NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will air a round-robin stage women’s soccer match between Sweden and South Africa in the women’s soccer tournament at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. NBCSN’s broadcast of the first event of this year’s Olympics kicks off a whopping 6,755 hours of combined television and internet livestream coverage (schedule here) across several broadcast and cable/satellite networks that are part of the Comcast-owned NBCUniversal media conglomerate and the NBC Olympics website. Since Rio is only two hours ahead of U.S. Central Daylight Time during the month of August (due to Rio being south of the equator, Rio observes daylight savings time from mid-October to mid-February, not in August), much, but not all, of NBC’s Olympic coverage in 2016 will air live. NBC Olympic television coverage will air in English on NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, MSNBC, USA, Bravo, Golf Channel, NBC Olympic 4K, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel, and NBC Olympic Basketball Channel, and in Spanish on Univision and NBC Universo.

However, NBCUniversal’s extensive coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics pales in comparison to the minimal U.S. television coverage that the 1952 Summer Olympics received. However, what little television coverage that American viewers saw of the Helsinki Olympics of 1952 was, to my knowledge, the very first time the Olympics was broadcast on American television in any form.

The first time the Olympic Games were broadcast on American television was a 28 minute broadcast (not counting any commercials that may have aired on the television broadcast) of a documentary about the Games of the XV Olympiad in Helsinki, Finland in 1952, which officially opened on July 19, 1952 and officially closed on August 3 of the same year. Back then, there was no high-definition coverage, there was no digital television coverage, there was no color television coverage, there was no live coverage of the Games, there was no Spanish-language coverage, there was no coverage of Olympic events during the Games, and there wasn’t even television coverage of the Games during the year in which they were held! Instead, American television viewers saw a documentary, produced by the U.S. Army as part of the television documentary series The Big Picture, circa early 1954 (exact air date is lost to time, although the episode in question was the fifth episode following a Christmas-themed episode dated 1953), approximately one and a half years after the closing ceremony of the Helsinki Olympics! The production was a black-and-white documentary, with English-language narration provided by members of the U.S. Army Signal Corps (USASC), of highlights of the Helsinki Olympics. The highlights focused mainly on members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were competing for Team USA in the Helsinki Olympics.

According to Central Illinois television historian and WCCU-TV weather anchor Doug Quick, The Big Picture was aired across the ABC network, although some broadcast stations that either were affiliated with other networks or were independent broadcast stations aired the program as a syndicated program as well. It’s not clear which stations, or even how many stations, aired episode TV-250 of The Big Picture, which is the episode containing the documentary about the Helsinki Olympics.

You can watch the full documentary of the Games of the XV Olympiad here: