Gary Johnson gets a geography lesson; Gilead makes bank

Good morning. On behalf of The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board, welcome to The Take, your opinion-politics newsletter. Please sign up for it here.

California parents will be getting new report cards for their kids’ schools, Sacramento politicians should be getting more competitive City Council districts, Markos Kounalakis checks in on Iran, and Gary Johnson trips over Middle East geography. Hint: There’s a brutal dictator, a vicious civil war going on, and lots of refugees fleeing.

Retaking geography

Gary Johnson, the 2016 Libertarian Party nominee, has been enjoying significant support from people who aren’t ready for Hillary Clinton or down with Donald Trump. He’s rising in the polls, and is hoping to make the presidential debate stage on Sept. 26.

He didn’t help his cause on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when he had this exchange with columnist Mike Barnicle.

BARNICLE: What would you do if you were elected, about Aleppo?



JOHNSON: And what is Aleppo?

BARNICLE: You’re kidding.


BARNICLE: Aleppo is in Syria. It’s the, it’s the epicenter of the refugee crisis.

JOHNSON: OK, got it. Got it.

The former New Mexico governor swears he is laying off the wacky weed for the duration of the presidential race. – Jack Ohman, @JACKOHMAN

Take a number: $4,087,500

Consultant Garry South came by our editorial board Thursday to explain why we should endorse Michael Weinstein’s Proposition 61, the initiative that would tie the price the state of California pays for drugs to the Department of Veterans Affairs price. Drugmakers hate the idea, which is why they’ve raised $86.6 million so far to defeat it.

South homed in on the $1,000 list price for Gilead’s life-saving hepatitis C drug, Solvadi. Although the price California pays for Solvadi is confidential, the VA pays $593.97 for a dose.

Gilead reports spending $4,087,500 on campaign donations in California this year, $4 million of which has been to oppose Proposition 61. The rest went to legislators and political parties. “These guys need a two-by-four over the head,” South said of the drugmakers, no fewer than three times. We’re sure there’d be a pill to ease the pain, but at a steep markup.

Our take

Editorial: California schools are getting a new report card. It’s a work in progress, but some critics are already complaining it’s too complex. Parents should give it a chance.

Endorsement: The push to make Sacramento city government more accountable has had more than its share of drama. But there’s one proposal with widespread support – taking the drawing of City Council districts away from politicians and giving it to an independent citizens panel. Yes on Measure L.

Doug Elmets: Donald Trump says he wants to be president; don’t believe it.

Ben Boychuk: Donald Trump is right about teaching patriotism.

California Forum preview

Markos Kounalakis: Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri is the latest victim, a conflicted defector to the West who later returned home to his Tehran family. The reunion was short-lived as he recently met an Iranian hangman, convicted of being an American spy.

Michelle Basso Reynolds and Steven Maviglio: Is Sacramento compromising the integrity of its “farm to fork” movement?

Phil Serna: Farmworkers deserve the right to overtime pay like everyone else.

Their take

Mercury News: Proposition 55 is needed to renew tax on richest Californians, and it leaves plenty of incentive for the Legislature to tackle the serious tax reform it’s been putting off for a decade.

L.A. Times: The nation is awash in guns. Congress’ limitations on the ATF collecting gun sale data and compiling it into a usable form are not only wrong-headed, they are yet another area in which the gun lobby has managed to pervert the system to put the interests of zealots ahead of public safety. Lawmakers should fix that.

Lexington Herald Leader: The Senate Finance Committee has agreed to mark up the Miners Protection Act, probably next week. Most observers say its fate rests with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who, unlike Sen. Rand Paul, wields more than his mouth in Congress. McConnell should put some muscle behind all his pro-miner rhetoric.

Seattle Times: Microsoft is right to challenge the government’s secret snooping. Unless policy or rule changes are made soon, one of President Barack Obama’s legacies will be untold search warrants sealed forever, with permanent gag orders preventing citizens and companies from ever knowing whether his administration snooped through their messages, photos and digital files.

Syndicates’ take

Charles Krauthammer: Incident in Hangzhou reflects the world’s view of President Barack Obama.

Andres Oppenheimer: Colombia peace deal won’t solve the country’s key problem – an outdated economy.

Nicholas Kristof: The black eyes in Donald Trump’s life.

Eugene Robinson: Donald Trump is without sense or sensibility.


Americans do not know if (Donald Trump) is a joint investor with unsavory characters (he has been before) or what financial incentives drive him.Susie T. Priest, Elk Grove

Clearly, (Chris Granger) has never visited one of our many parks, farmers markets, restaurants, nightclubs or theaters.Ellen Carlson, Sacramento