In the first days after the 9/11 attacks I promised to use every element of national power to fight the terrorists, wherever we find them. One of the strongest weapons in our arsenal is the power of freedom. The terrorists fear freedom as much as they do our firepower. They are thrown into panic at the sight of an old man pulling the election lever, girls enrolling in schools, or families worshiping God in their own traditions.
Sounds like a weird phobia to me, but if there are people who are terrified of going outside, we'll accept for the moment that Osama Bin Laden gets night sweats thinking about old guys voting under his bed.
If elderly voters are one of the strongest weapons in our arsenal of freedom, why are we treating them like terrorists? Dave Zweifel, editor of Madison, WI's The Capital Times had this to say yesterday:
A story in this month's edition of the AARP Bulletin provides yet another example of how the current administration in Washington does the bidding of special interests at the expense of the American citizen.
For more than a year now, the article points out, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been confiscating packages of prescription drugs ordered by American citizens most of them elderly from drugstores in Canada.
It uses the example of Nancy Popkin of Salem, Mass., who was one of an estimated 39,000 American citizens to have their drug orders seized under the pretense that they represent a security threat.
Popkin had been buying the drug Fosamax, an osteoporosis medication, by mail from a source in Canada for the past couple of years. The cost for a three-month supply via Canada was $110, compared to a $76 charge for one month of the drug here at home.
She was waiting for her latest package this spring when instead came a notice from Homeland Security that she was violating federal law. The warning letter said she had the option of "voluntarily abandoning" the drugs or asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine if they "should be refused admission into the United States."
See, Homeland Security's got nothing else to do but confiscate old ladies' Fosomax. According to the AARP Bulletin Zweifel refers to, "Last fall Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection quietly stepped up its confiscation of prescription drugs bought from Canada. In recent years, Americans—many of them older—have spent between $500 million and $1 billion annually on medicines in Canada, where brand-name drugs, including those made by U.S. companies, are often significantly cheaper. Although the cross-border shipments are illegal, authorities did little to stop the practice—until Nov. 17."
A spokesperson for DHS, Lynn Hollinger, told AARP, "Some people weren't aware that [importing drugs] is illegal and that it's not safe."
Despite what DHS says, canadian drugs are safe as milk. In 2004, Bloomberg News reported, "Inspections and anti-counterfeiting measures in Canada and other industrialized countries are just as effective as U.S. systems, said Jerry Avorn, a Harvard Medical School drug safety specialist. Carmen Catizone, president of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, a state regulators' group, rates U.S. and Canadian drugs as equally safe."
So what's the real problem? Going back to the Bloomberg article, "Americans bought more than $1 billion in medicines last year from Canada, where government regulations hold prices as much as 70 percent lower than in the U.S. Drugs sold in Canada come from many of the same factories that supply the U.S."
You do the math.
According to OpenSecrets.org, the pharmaceutical industry has given $12,745,051 to candidates and parties in 2006 so far -- $8,800,654 or 69% of it going to republicans. If all the Nancy Popkins spend their $76 in the US, rather than $36 in Canada, that $1 billion americans spend on canadian drugs becomes nearly $2 billion spent on exactly the same thing in America.
Keep that in mind next time some rightwing robot starts gushing about the global economy, healthy competition, and free markets. The right is for things until they're against them. Hypocrisy's a GOP plank.
Last year, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported:
Two federal programs designed to identify and inspect potentially dangerous cargo before it arrives in Seattle and other U.S. ports are riddled with so many flaws they are unlikely to pose a serious challenge to terrorists intent on shipping people or weapons to this country, congressional investigators conclude.
Those will be among the findings presented today to a Senate committee that has spent more than 20 months examining the two programs -- the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, or C-TPAT, and the Container Security Initiative, or CSI.
The security of shipping containers is no small issue. About 90 percent of the world's cargo moves by container, yet only about 3 percent of those containers are inspected. In 2004, nearly 9 million ocean cargo containers came to ports in the United States, with the Port of Seattle receiving 1.5 million international containers.
So DHS can't inspect cargo containers, but it can go through grandpa and grandma's mail looking for canadian Fosomax, Lipitor, and Viagra. How many people have died using drugs from canadian pharmacies? None.
Can we please get our priorities in order here?
Technorati tags: politics; Canada; seniors; health; medicine; Homeland Security can't be bothered with port security, they've got to go through your mail looking for Viagra, Lipitor, and Fosomax