Saturday, May 14, 2011

Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo: Floridapocalypse

Note: every week, news aggregators address hundreds of worthwhile stories or opinions that never catch on, either because they lack an obvious follow-up or because sites that live off ad revenue would rather bang high-traffic drums over and over. Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo provides a summary of good stuff you might have missed. He has a Bachelor's degree in political science, the rank of Field Marshal and was the last ruler of a free Uganda. He has not eaten anyone since 1980.

Starve a Disabled and Illiterate Child for Just Pennies on the Dollar

Drug testing welfare recipients: coming soon to Florida! You've got to love public policy drafted to punish hoary dog-whistle campaign scare tactics. We need to drug test welfare recipients, because you wouldn't be on welfare if you weren't also on drugs. Good people don't go on welfare. Good people live in gated communities and buy a new Honda Odyssey every five years, because they practice the rhythm method and love Jesus Christ.

Here's one of the many problems with this: to administer the drug tests to everyone would cost more money than it could potentially save. Naturally it will come as no surprise if Florida Governor and Buffy the Vampire Slayer villain Rick Scott's wife's trust in er his former? company Solantic Urgent Care wins a lucrative contract to administer these tests, much like the one it will probably get for testing state employees and managing the privatization of state Medicaid. You don't have to be crazy to think this makes sense — in part because being crazy in Florida is incredibly hazardous to your health.

What if you're not already ill, aching or injured in Florida? Here's a measure that can help make that happen. If you're a Floridian service industry employee, or in any other position where you spend most of your day on your feet, great news! Your employer is no longer obligated to provide you with a place to sit and rest during your breaks. Be sure to ask your boss about what benefits you'll see in your paycheck once this cumbersome burden has been vanquished from your workplace's operating expenses. I mean, assuming your employer doesn't already deliberately keep your weekly hours just under the threshold at which he'd be obliged to pay you benefits as a full-time worker.

Further cheapening human life: North Carolinian children aren't worth a penny. Not one cent. Republicans there vow to repeal a one-cent sales tax which goes toward the state's education fund. They also want to cut 20,000 teaching positions, but that probably isn't news to anyone. What's interesting is that GOP thought has for years dismissed the bottom-line value of throwing money at education, instead deciding that using more rigorous hiring and employee standards as well as competitive teacher searches can improve educational quality without budget increases. This bold proposal attempts to increase or at least maintain educational quality without teachers or money. Now if we could just get rid of the students. We're only enslaving them in a socialist boondoggle, after all.

Wall Street regulators show up late to important events because so much funding has been cut from their agency, they're commuting via Mega Bus to the trading floors to save cash. As Matt Taibbi has said, at length, again and again: you have a broken system when the regulators invariably get promoted out of their jobs to work at the agencies they regulate and when the heads of the agencies then take "time off" to become Secretaries of the Treasury. Regulatory capture is just sad, but add to that the mean spectacle of these poor people beggared by their own government even as they carry out their appointed rounds, and you have a perfect picture of the GOP validating their own axiom of "government isn't the solution—it's the problem" by intervening to make it a problem.

A Texas lawmaker still questions Obama's birth certificate, making this Reason #4,792 why we need to reanimate Santa Anna and allow his impervious corpse to roll across that land in a reign of blood. This link won't take you to The Onion, believe it or not (you probably do), but the representative in question isn't doubting the birth certificate or anything. He just has questions about it. You know, doubts. It's 100% fine, but he's still skeptical that it is, in a way that makes the veracity of the thing seem suspect. Duh. Remember that this man writes laws and gets to vote on them. He uses words to do that. The term "Texas lawmaker" is as reassuring on points of public policy as "pathologically hungry abortionist" is on reproductive medicine.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has requested "more Medicaid flexibility" from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which means that he wants to cut the Medicaid rolls. Kansas already has such stringent requirements to be eligible for Medicaid, that this quote from HHS head (and former Kansas Governor) Kathleen Sebelius explains better than anything else how brutally cold-hearted Brownback's proposal is, in human terms (emphasis mine):
You asked for my commitment to work with Kansas on your development of a "global waiver" and a waiver of the "maintenance of effort" (MOE) provisions of the Affordable Care Act. I look forward to leaming more details about your proposals. Optional Medicaid coverage in Kansas is quite limited, and it is provided mostly to very frail and disabled children and adults, so it would help HHS to know which groups of Kansans you seek to drop from coverage under an MOE waiver.

Texas conservatives are so steamed that Planned Parenthood might receive a dime in funding from taxpayers (even though any such dime cannot, by law, be used to pay for abortion services) that they've decided if Planned Parenthood somehow gets money to help women receive contraceptive care, that they'll completely ditch the Women's Medicaid Health Program. This program serves over 120,000 women a month. Ordinarily you might suppose that they'd prefer to reduce costs by encouraging men and women to turn to sodomy, but these are the same people who wanted to keep that outlawed too. Hey, you know what else was really cool about Santa Anna? Basically brought chewing gum to the United States. No idea why I thought of that guy again.

A one-two punch of Fuck You: Freshman Congressional Representative Bob Gibbs (R-OH) is winning hearts and minds by asking, "Sure, we should take a look at the Clean Water Act, but how are businesses supposed to profit if they have to properly dispose of their toxic chemicals?" while natural gas drilling company Range Resources scoffs at the "threadbare-thin" reasoning of the EPA for daring to suggest that they had any part in polluting water supplies contaminated with methane. Methane is the chief component of natural gas.

Florida lawmakers severely limit the amount of compensation victims of medical malpractice can receive in a significant tort reform bill. The bill's supporters argue that "malpractice worry" is why there's a doctor shortage and why existing doctors aren't accepting new patients. Meanwhile, actual doctors are concerned about "low pay" or whatever.
But the same studies that identify the doctor shortages list the state’s large uninsured population and lack of residency-training programs as primary reasons for the lack of doctors. And a DOH survey of 23,297 active physicians last year found “low compensation” — not lawsuits — as the main reason doctors weren’t accepting new Medicaid patients. Of the 8,529 doctors not accepting new patients, 42 percent said low pay was the reason.

Because Florida Republicans haven't completely eviscerated the health care system for the poor yet, they're also mucking about with worker's compensation recipients and their ability to get health care by fighting for who should profit the most off of their illness: doctors, pharmaceutical companies or hospitals. Messing with the doctor-patient relationship and putting a bureaucrat in-between them is partially why they opposed any national healthcare reform and have supported former Attorney General Bill McCollum's suit against the HCR legislation. Here, one Florida legislator candidly admits he doesn't know what the fuck he's doing; he's just carrying out the wishes of whoever gave him cash:
This year, the legislation cropped up in a tough-to-amend budget bill pushed by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla. He also had a standalone bill on the issue, but he said Haridopolos' office asked that he not bring it up for a vote. "I don’t remember who told me," Hays said. "I’m just doing what I was told."

Fresh out-of-the-box Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker proudly touts how his pro-business policies have resulted in a 25% uptick of new business filings in the state for the first quarter of 2011. Let's pull a Kai Ryssdal and do the numbers:
First quarter 2010: 8,763
First quarter 2011: 8,756
Seven fewer new filings. Yep, 25%. You can rest easy knowing that pro-Walker, pro-Koch and pro-GOP bloggers rushed to print retractions of Walker's claims after his office sent out a fanfare-free memo stating that their original figures were a typo. To do any less would taint the discourse with assertions advantageous to your policy while burying contradictory evidence in a later news cycle.

Pennsylvania held a public forum about whether they should pursue fracking, a natural gas drilling method that totally does not use chemicals like rocket fuel that can be subsequently introduced into your waterways. In order to decide who should speak at this public forum, they had two sign-in sheets: one for industry lobbyists, which they used, and the other for citizens who wanted to actually give their opinion, which they didn't. The guy in charge of communications for the event was caught lying about this and dismissed people stating what happened as kooky conspiracy nuts. He was called out on camera by the first person to sign the bogus sheet.

But public-forum mendacity and chicanery about the fossil fuel industry is fairly predictable stuff. What's important about this is that use of the term fracking puts "safe natural gas" on the same footing as "clean coal" and a famous denouement in a TV series about people who read mystical bullshit and fucked robots across the galaxy in order to find Jesus on a devastated planet. If you believe in a fantasy hard enough, you can truly find the strength to destroy a world.