Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo: Fracking-Free for You and Me

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.

The Lamb Lies Down on Wall Street: Selling America by the Pound

Kelly and Gil Bates, good friends of the Duggars and similarly creepy quiverfull evangelical Christians, are expecting their 19th child. The Quiverfull movement believes that husbands and wives should have as many children as God wants them to, and as such, do not use birth control and have over a dozen kids. Apparently miscarriages aren't God's way of saying "no more," as Kelly Bates is undergoing hormonal therapy to repair her uterine wall. This is something that doesn't seem appropriate to joke about, even with the inconsistency in ideology and the idea of reducing the purpose of children to arrows made for casting in theological warfare, until you consider that the quiverfull movement is inherently misogynist and has liberal sprinklings of white supremacy.

Republicans in Virginia are one State Senate seat away from having total control of the State's legislative process. They have twice as much cash on hand as Democrats, and Democrats need that money more: 12/16 Republican Senators face no opposition, while 16/20 Democratic Senators have a Republican opponent in the fall's elections. Their sales pitch is completely intangible and non-specific:
"The focus of our race is on jobs and the economy,” Mr. Black said. "The Democrats under the Obama administration have drawn us to where our economy is near collapse, and Republicans are going to have to bring it back."
It's also the exact same strategy which gave the party a stunning victory in the 2010 Congressional elections, so hopefully Virginians are ready for more of the same great pro-citizen victories passed since the beginning of the year, only on a state level.

It's an especially exciting time for Virginia's elections with not only the upcoming complete Republican takeover of the State Senate, but famed Republican George Allen running for the Senate on the bigger level, after a humiliating defeat in 2006. While some attribute Allen's 2006 loss to his use of a racial slur when calling on a reporter (one he would later claim to be a "made-up word" that just happened to correspond with the poor guy's race), it's highly doubtful that, as the Washington Post bizarrely claims, his baggage this time around will be his intensely close ties to the coal industry.

A white guy in Oregon was arrested after he set fire to a mosque. He claims innocence, but a mere month after the fire was set, he was detained by police officers and brought in for psychiatric evaluation because of violent, threatening gestures with a knife while rambling about Muslims, making this story a twofer: highlighting the mental health coverage gap in the United States and its consequences for people of color, and anti-Muslim violence. On second examination, that's actually redundant.

A study finds that many CEOs earned more last year than their entire company paid in taxes, and many more companies paid more to lobbyists than they did in taxes. You can file this under "yeah, no shit?" but if ever you need a solid reference for some reason, here you go. Elijah Cummings is mega-pissed at the result of this study, and wrote an angry letter to Darrell Issa, the head of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, demanding a hearing on executive pay. This is the same Darrell Issa who, upon gaining such a position, proceeded to open up dozens of costly and frivolous investigations into the Obama administration and various government agencies for the sole purpose of making them all look bad for even daring to say anything slightly demeaning about corporations — a tactic reminiscent of the Clinton years. This is also the same Darrell Issa who, upon being profiled in the New York Times as having an extraordinarily cushy relationship between various private companies directly impacted by Congressional and Committee decisions, demanded a few corrections be appended — one of them being the article's assertion that his office overlooks a golf course. It does not. Cummings knows Issa will do nothing, yet asks for a hearing with what appears to be strong conviction. If Cummings has any conviction, it's absurdly weak if it took the release of this study to call for these hearings from a person with no interest in conducting them.

Speaking of Congressional Democrats issuing powerful statements to make it seem like they're going to offer anything but words to an actual, real-world problem: Congresswoman Marcia Fudge is really upset that The Cleveland Clinic's nonprofit charity division of its services in East Cleveland will be closing, shifting all of its patients to local community healthcare centers. She's so mad that she demanded to meet with Clinic officials within 60 days. The clinic is closing its doors in 90.

Considering all the austerity measures promoted and passed by President Obama, America is starting to look a lot like Greece, minus the open revolts in the streets. Another way that America can be likened to Greece is in unconditional support for Israel. However, in Greece's case, it means "actively working to physically halt boats carrying humanitarian aid for the people of Palestine," whereas in the United States it means, "Give Israel $3 billion in foreign aid per year to continue to ensure the people of the West Bank are unable to live, breathe, eat or drink clean water in peace." Greece is doing this after Israel bribed it with money to stop the ships carrying humanitarian aid, money that very likely came from from some foreign country.

Although there's a lot of well-justified grumbling among leftists about the health insurance reform bill, one of (if not the only) aspect universally liked is its expansion of Medicaid. Medicaid is like Medicare for the poor, and by "like Medicare" what's being implied is "resembling a humane health care program." Private health insurance is so prohibitively expensive that opening up Medicaid to more citizens seemed a no-brainer, not to mention a tremendous and unexpected victory. But it is not to be, as this part of the bill is now being referred to as a "glitch," which has left analysts baffled as to how it might have been made policy. Once a feature, now a glitch, the provision isn't likely to survive further examination.

In what should be a case study for the nation, the New York Times examines the well-being of the citizens of Indiana. Under the governorship of former Republican Presidential contender Mitch Daniels, social programs have been cut back severely, and unions have been all but eradicated, resulting in the few remaining jobs offering poor wages and benefits. Indiana's unemployment rate isn't comparatively high at 8.3%, but that's because so many people in the state have left the labor force entirely and are thus not considered unemployed. With Daniels implementing a property tax cap, it's not much of a surprise that there is so little money left for social services. Perhaps the simplest way to illustrate just how fucking bad things are as a result of austerity without a local or strong federal safety net is this quote:
One in three Hoosiers qualifies as low-income now, compared with one in four a decade earlier. And 58 percent of unemployed Indianans have burned through their benefits.

Boeing utterly ripped off the Department of Defense to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. This is far from being facetious. Boeing charged the DoD $1,679 each for a very critical part involved in the building of airplanes: a rubber wheel that the DoD's in-house supplier, the Defense Logistics Agency, had on-hand for $10 a pop. Does anyone else remember the go-go 1980s, when great stories of thousand-dollar wrenches proved the inefficiency of government and why Democrats should not be allowed to handle it? Thank God the GOP had 20 years of executive governance to put a stop to this spendthrift lunatic coddling of powerful arms manufacturers and bring down skyrocketing government-agency costs.

Since Democrats have recently started to call for cuts in wasteful defense spending such as premium rubber wheels, they struck a deal with Republicans on how to cut this fraud perpetrated by predatory corporations in the giant debt-ceiling deficit-reduction bill: reclassify defense spending as "homeland security, veterans affairs and foreign aid."

The "cut the DoD" rallying call of the left was supposed to be a complete gimme for Democrats. Now, not only can "foreign aid" now be classified as defense — something amusing and horrifying on several levels — the amount of cuts that it faces is comparatively tiny. Originally, $400 billion was to be cut from defense spending, but now it's $350 billion, a nice 10% reduction in cuts, a number that things like education or social service programs could only dream of while crying themselves to sleep.

Keebler elf/Treasurer Timothy Geithner is considering retiring from his extremely difficult job of being a mouthpiece for Wall Street. President Obama already has his eye set on a replacement: Erskine Bowles. You may recognize this name from the Bowles-Simpson debt commission, affectionately dubbed the Catfood Commission (as in, "Guess what's the only meat you'll soon be able to afford!") by people who recognized that it was stacked with people who explicitly stated that they would gut social programs to deal with the deficit. It's difficult to know which would be worse: somebody in the position who is hyperfocused on transferring wealth to bankers, or somebody who is hyperfocused on gutting social programs, since both will inevitably have the same end result.

Here's a quote from the source article too good to not note:
When he interviewed with Obama to be treasury secretary, Geithner made the case against joining the administration, saying he would be at odds with Obama's "change" message. But Obama selected him anyway, the Post said.
It's hard to figure out what the funniest part of this is. Is it that Geithner's last honest statement was uttered before he was handed a public trust? Is it that Obama acted like Wile E. Coyote, put the nation's economy on his back, and just ran off a cliff and supposed that — via some force of stubborn, stupid, heedless will — he could keep running across empty space without the terrible force of gravity pulling everything to the ground and shattering it? Or is it that two assholes had an asshole conversation and said, "Well, it sounds like we're feeding each other asshole. Let's shove it onto the plates of 300 million people and go get a steak"? Then I guess Obama pointed out that Geithner looked like the main character of Eraserhead replaced by a shit-scared rat, and they both laughed, because when two rich people laugh at suffering, it explodes into a million pieces, and that's how economic fairies are made.

A great instance of headline tells the story: Top GOP fundraiser: 'There's not too much money in politics'.

Here's another headline that could tell the story, but the actuality is horrifying enough to warrant further detail: Consumers slam new HHS rules on appeals. Before the Affordable Care Act, if a health insurer rejected your claim and made you shoulder the entire bill for something, trying to contest the denial would result in the representative laughing at you until they couldn't breathe. If you persisted, they'd let your claim fall into limbo, or continually send requests for paperwork you'd already submitted a dozen times in an effort to make you stop trying.

Under the initial ACA proposal rules, HHS suggested giving consumers up to 120 days after the denial to make an appeal against a denial. They've thoughtfully halved that window to 60 days, giving consumers two fewer months to file that grievance. But the most stunning change pertains to urgent care. The initial proposal gave health insurance companies 24 hours to make a decision about whether to deny claims for care that needed immediate attention. The new rules allow 72 hours. "Urgent" care does not mean "can be done within 72 hours" or even necessarily 24 hours: the care should be granted immediately, and it should be up to health insurance companies to contest that claim within a few months, giving the person needing medical attention time to not worry about a bill, let alone how much it would cost. One may suppose that this timespan has been tripled because it's not like insurance companies have a history of denying urgent care requests, only reconsidering when they realize the terrible PR it'd give them, even if it's too late and the patient winds up dying.

Q: For most middle-class families, what two electronic devices are using up the most power in their homes?
A: Probably their refrigerator and television set-top box.

In a comical form, manufacturers demonstrate why regulation is explicitly needed for energy efficiency followed up with a jab at how impatient Americans are (emphases mine):
The boxes eat up so much power because they typically run almost around the clock; as much as two-thirds of their consumption comes during times when they are idle. When asked why, one manufacturing company said nobody ever asked them to use less power.

In Europe, where power costs more, manufacturers include a deep-sleep function that allows the box to save power when idle. American companies are hesitant to embrace the sleep-function technology because these machines could take several minutes to reboot.

One of the last remaining moderate Republican figures in America, David Brooks, wrote a column about how Republicans were stupid extremists to not take one of the early debt ceiling deals and how taxes should probably be raised. Sycophantic liberals slobbered all over it because he didn't toe the Republican party line of "fuck you and starve to death immediately." Unfortunately, it shows just how desperate Democrats are for a conservative to espouse a position that's not immediately visibly morally reprehensible that they'll say something positive about David Brooks, the MRSA germinating across the floor and into the breathing tubes of the intensive-care unit of American public-policy letters. The entirety of the article's discussion is focused on how he's "breaking with the Republicans" rather than anything else he said, which is kind of pretty important.

There were mumblings during the summer of offering corporations a tax holiday, which had Paul Krugman rightfully horrified, and Matt Taibbi infuriated.

As a humble reminder of what "budget cuts" actually mean, Florida Business Man and Jobs Expert Governor Rick Scott's new budget signed into law on May 26th resulted in the loss of 1,300 state jobs. The article is mostly quote after quote from impacted workers. (Reminder that Florida's "Jobs Governor" has now terminated thousands of positions, eliminated child-protection agencies whose "costly" regulation provided hundreds of jobs, vetoed paid-for bipartisan-supported public works projects that would have provided tens of thousands of jobs and wants to farm out state prisons — one of the state's largest employers — to private-sector companies that would eliminate thousands more jobs, according to math that isn't even real. Reminder, too, that Rick Scott's most successful business was basically a giant "welfare queen" that defrauded the government so much that Rick got to retire with hundreds of millions in a golden parachute just as his company was fined and sued for a record over $2 billion in Medicare fraud.) For instance:
"I was proud to wear the uniform," Gugliotta said.

"I did not walk out of my house with a stain or a crease."

For the first time in 15 years, she’ll be without a paycheck this week. She's single and has no other income and plans to file for unemployment benefits, but worries knowing the $275 a week won’t cover her $560 monthly health insurance premiums and other bills.

"I have a mortgage. I have bills. I have to pay for my knee surgery," Gugliotta said....

As she watched other laid off workers cry at their desks, Shuler realized she's better off than some of them.

"Some have families they are taking care of off what we were making," she said. "This is their life."

When Rick Scott attempted to do some PR by working in a doughnut shop like he had a regular job for a day — itself a shameless, callow and empty ripoff of Democrat Bob Graham's campaign decades ago — it contained all the regular staples of a normal person's shift. Fake smiles, cameras everywhere, and laid-off state workers presenting pink slips issued by him. For the most part, the media ignored the stupid poors and gushed about the governor's decision, taking lots of unusually flattering pictures of Voldemort without discomfiting his message by anchoring it in any reality.

Liberal journalist Frank Rich has left the Obamarama train. The article is a long but shocking read, not because any of the information is new, but mostly for its bluntness and that a mainstream figure is saying what dejected leftists have been bemoaning for years: Obama has completely failed to hold Wall Street and its individuals responsible for a global economic crisis, and his hands-off policy on bankers will not only discourage voters and hamstring a second term but also set a precedent that will be tough to break, making bankers permanently immune from accountability. Taibbi gives the piece a thumbs-up for its brutal and savage honesty and notes that this probably isn't putting the White House in that good of a mood. This isn't to suggest that every column critical of Obama sends his cabinet into a panic, but Rich was a public figure who was one of Obama's earliest and strongest supporters. Losing him is a pretty big deal.

Last but not least, there's Business Insider. I didn't notice the headline, because my eyes were drawn straight to the picture. I just assume that it reads, "Eric Holder and His People Niggers: Makin' It Rain."