Amazon gazillionaire Jeff Bezos is having his company give ONE MILLION DOLLARS to help fight the bushfires in Australia, but is he getting the love and gratitude he so clearly deserves? Heck nah! For one thing, it's a million Australian dollars, which comes to far less in money money, about $690,00 US. And then there's the amount of the donation compared to where it's coming from, as Vice explains:
To put this number in perspective, Bezos is worth $116,000,000,000; the figure is equal to .00059 percent of his net worth. It is the equivalent of someone worth $50,000 donating 29 cents. Of course, it's not even Bezos's money. It's Amazon's money. Amazon's current market cap is $933,670,000,000. $690,000 is .000073 percent of $933.67 billion, which means that the donation hurts Amazon's bottom line as much as it would hurt a person worth $50,000 to donate three cents.
So yes, it's a big donation that dwarfs the annual income of most people But for Bezos and Amazon, it's the change that fell down behind the couch cushions while they were looking for the bigger change that had already fallen there. Also too, Amazon's webpage about the donation notes that the donation is only partly in cash; some of it comes from Bezos's biggest profit source, "in-kind technical support for many of the government agencies dealing with the response and recovery efforts." [Editrix: This is sort of like the local grocery store owner -- and state politician -- who gives the food bank Shy volunteers at a store credit every year as his donation, while all his employees are food bank clients. JUST SAYING.]
Reactions have been mixed. Many people are pointing out that Bezos is giving away roughly three to five minutes' worth of the money he makes daily. Others point out that merely very rich celebrities have actually given more money -- including an Instagram lady who, like Jeff Bezos, has nekkid pictures. But there are also some billionaire-lovers (who are certain they're just a few tax cuts away from vast riches themselves) who can't believe you socialists would criticize Bezos.
It's getting to where the richest guy in the world can't do a nice thing that hardly costs him anything at all without people pointing out he's the richest guy in the world and it's costing him hardly anything at all.
Donald Trump announced yesterday his administration plans to scrap one of the country's most basic environmental laws, making it easier for major infrastructure and energy projects to be built with minimal review of how they'd affect the environment. Through new rules set to be published today, Trump would bypass the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to analyze the long-term environmental implications of major construction projects before approving them.
The new rules would allow more projects to avoid review altogether, and would shorten the time allowed for review. Worse, agencies would no longer have to consider environmental effects of a project beyond the immediate scope of its being built, so highways could be built with no thought as to how they'd pollute a neighborhood over time or how increased traffic would contribute to global warming.
The rules are a great big gift to Trump's pals in the real estate and fossil fuel industries, in the name of removing the "burdens" of regulation. If these rules survive court challenges, a pipeline company could decide to drain an actual swamp -- without filing an environmental impact statement.
Healthcare: no longer the matter with Kansas.
In Kansas, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and the Republican leaders of the state legislature announced today they've reached an agreement to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. It's not only honest-to-God bipartisanship, but in a genuine surprise, the more than 100,000 Kansans who'll get Medicaid coverage won't even be subjected to poor-people punishing work requirements that are all the rage in red states these days. It's a heck of a nice development, considering that expansion had been blocked by Republicans in the legislature last fall. Kelly ran on it, so of course they couldn't let it pass. Kelly's predecessor, Sam Brownback, repeatedly blocked Medicaid expansion and crashed the state's revenues through deep tax cuts that somehow never resulted in prosperity.
Now, of course, the Kansas Lege still has to actually pass the legislation, so Kansans making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level may not want to go scheduling any "I got live-saving surgery without going bankrupt" parties yet. Still, with Republican leaders on board, it looks hopeful.
Newsom wants a $1.4 billion down payment on getting people out from the underpasses.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a suite of proposals aimed at helping homeless people get housing, health care, and access to services, making homelessness a top priority for the state's budget in 2020. Newsom released the plan in a memo yesterday, ahead of his formal annual budget proposal which is expected by Friday. The two biggest parts of the proposal are a new $750 million fund that would provide county and municipal governments with funding to get people into housing (and to help keep them from losing their homes in the first place), and another $700 million aimed at addressing health needs by expanding the state's Medicaid alternative, Medi-Cal, to better assist people with mental health services and integrate Medi-Cal with other social services that will help people get into stable housing.
In addition, Newsom signed an executive order directing state agencies to identify vacant state-owned land and buildings that can be used for emergency shelters and for longer-term housing needs. The order will release 100 trailer homes to cities and counties to house people temporarily, as well as instituting a study of root causes of homelessness in the state, and creating a "strike team" to reshape California's mental health services for the homeless.
You know, that seems like a symptom of some kind.
Utah came up with a great idea to save big money on prescription drugs: Fly public employees who need the most expensive meds to Mexico, where they can purchase the same drugs they'd get in US America for about half what they cost here. And as an incentive, the program, called "RX Tourism," pays airfare for the employee and one family member, plus $500 per trip to get a 90-day supply of meds. The savings in costs to the state insurance plan more than cover the cost of the travel and the $500 cash payouts. It's such a big savings for some employers that there's an entire niche industry built around arranging trips for Americans to purchase drugs at Mexican hospitals. The Salt Lake Tribune ran a jaw-dropping story on the arrangement Sunday.
You know, maybe what we laughingly call our healthcare "system" is completely fucked up if those are the lengths employers and states are going to so they can cover pricey prescription drugs. But at least it's not socialism!
And we thought Hillary Clinton had a bodycount.
Crusading anti-corruption crusader and California congressional candidate Cenk Uygur offered his two cents on the scandal involving former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who pardoned a bunch of really awful people on his way out the door, including a convicted murderer whose family threw a fundraiser for Bevin. Cenk wants us to consider the Big Picture, which is that while Bevin appears to have corruptly pardoned a killer and some guys convicted of raping children, that's nothing compared to the corruption that led Nancy Pelosi to personally murder tens of thousands of Americans. Here are his Galaxy Brain tweetdroppings:
That's pretty awful of Nancy Pelosi to be so very corrupt! However, we're not sure we agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Cenk.
Sick of winning!
The Washington Post reported yesterday on the travails faced by one farm family that's going through some very hard times. Andy and Anne Lee are dairy farmers in Berkshire, New York -- the Real America, upstate part of the state -- and they've seen their income decline significantly in recent years, mostly due to a steep drop in milk prices but it's been made a lot worse by Donald Trump's trade wars.
The story is a sympathetic slice-of-life portrait of a family struggling to get by, focusing mostly on Anne's attempts to keep her family fed on a very tight budget. She reluctantly makes a first-ever trip to a food pantry -- in another town, hoping she won't be recognized -- and even applies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aka food stamps, though she's so worried about the shame of it, and doesn't want to tell Andy about either. She's struck by the irony of it all, telling reporter Annie Gowen, "We're supposed to be feeding the world, and we can't even put food on our own table," and saying she'd told Andy, "This is what need feels like."
And yes, of course they both voted for Trump, and still support him. He's doing the best he can to fix things. Like cutting SNAP benefits by 14 percent, eliminating benefits for three million people (a third of them children), and for good measure taking away free school lunches for half a million kids.
Gosh who could have seen that coming how very surprising we are astonished.
Last week, Donald Trump unleashed yet another unhinged lie-filled rant claiming wind turbines cause American Bird Carnage. As Wonkette's Liz Dye pointed out, nah, many times more birds are killed by buildings and domestic cats, though generally not at the same time. Then, on Christmas Eve, the New York Times ran a major story on a very real threat to far larger numbers of birds: the Trump administration's decision to gut the Migratory Bird Act in 2017, by changing how the law is enforced.
The report is based on a trove of government documents and emails about the new enforcement priority -- really a policy of nearly complete non-enforcement. The administration has effectively eliminated any penalties for companies that kill birds or destroy their habitats, and is now actively discouraging industry as well as state and local governments from taking actions to protect wild birds.
Wouldn't you know it, Trump's bitter tears about all the poor birds being murdered by wind energy aren't just fake; his own policies pose a far greater environmental risk. Isn't that a surprise.
I'm out of network? You're out of network! THIS WHOLE COURT IS OUT OF NETWORK!
National Public Radio brings us one hell of a fine story today about a ridiculous medical bill for a routine doctor's visit. In October, a nice lady in Brooklyn, Alexa Kasdan, was getting ready for a trip, but she had a cold that had lingered for over a week. She didn't want to go ahead with the vacation if she had strep throat or something awful, so she went to see her doctor, just in case. Her primary care doc, Roya Fathollahi, gave her a throat swab and took some blood, and sent her home with a prescription, and all was well. Kasdan felt better, went on her trip, and that's the end of our story because we figured you could use some nice news for a change where everything worked out fine, the end.
What, you're still reading? Oh, yeah, you probably read the headline. Although sometimes we wonder about some of you and you know who you are.
I love you Jane, let's chat!
Dear Jane Lynch:
I am a huge fan! I have watched and rewatched all of Glee a number of times that would likely embarrass anyone who had any semblance of shame. I have loved you in practically everything you have ever been in, from Christopher Guest movies, to Party Down, to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, to your many guest appearances on Criminal Minds, which I think really showed your range as a dramatic actor. You are one of the few actors where, if you are in a thing, I will absolutely watch that thing. And I haven't been let down yet!
Jane, Ms. Lynch, whatever I can call you here, I used to be a diner waitress.
Her Green New Deal plan could create over 10 million jobs.
Hey! You know what's great for our economy? Jobs! More specifically, jobs that allow people to earn a living wage! And you know what is great for everyone? Doing what we can to not murder the planet so we don't all drown or die in fires! Because that would be unpleasant.
On Friday morning, the lefty think tank Data for Progress released a study showing that Elizabeth Warren's plan for a Green New Deal would create a whole shitload of jobs while saving the environment, because multitasking is awesome.
- 5,400,000 jobs over a ten year mobilization as a result of direct federal investment in new and existing clean industries and implementation of green technologies.
-10,600,000 likely new jobs over a ten year mobilization due to strategic support for U.S. renewable manufacturing and export-oriented economic policy, assuming each federal dollar invested yields an additional 1.5 in exports and induced private-sector activity.
Check it out!
It's a Jungle out there.
New meat inspection rules being rolled out by the Trump administration will get Big Government out of your food, leaving safety inspections in the maybe-washed hands of line employees at giant pork producers instead of US Department of Agriculture inspectors, according to a vegetarianism-inducing report by NBC News. The new rules will apply to factories producing roughly 90 percent of the pork consumed in America, and then later will be applied to beef plants, too. Your meals won't be any cheaper, probably, but the producers can goose their profits, possibly by adding actual geese while nobody's looking.
"The consumer's being duped," Food Safety and Inspection Service inspector Jill Mauer told NBC News. "They believe that it actually is getting federally inspected when there's no one there to even watch or do anything about anything."
"It's so hard to go to work without feeling physically sick watching this just happen, unfolding in front of you," inspector Anthony Vallone said. "Especially since you took the oath to protect the American people."
The two rogue meat heads have filed official whistleblower complaints with the Office of Special Counsel, and decided to go public through NBC News. Probably because they're just lazy government employees who hate private enterprise! NBC also spoke to several other inspectors for information on the pilot program that's about to be taken national. In case anyone needs to name their punk band, the new rules are called the "New Swine Inspection System."
And yes, it appears Nancy Pelosi let him.
One of the more awful current problems with US America's fucked up mishmash of healthcare systems -- beyond the fact that it leaves nearly 28 million Americans without any health coverage at all -- is the phenomenon of "surprise medical billing," which can occur when someone with insurance uses services they think would be covered, but then later gets a big whopping bill for a doctor or lab that assisted -- and was out of network for their insurance. It's an especially serious problem when people go to the emergency room, but it can also happen when someone has surgery: They might make sure the hospital and surgeon are in-network, but then they get a huge bill because the anesthesiologist or some other staff is out of network, and there's nothing they can do to ensure an in-network anesthesiologist in the first place.
The House and Senate, in one of those rare moments where members work together to address a serious issue, managed to actually come up with a bipartisan bill to end surprise billing. The compromise was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Health Committee, and it looked likely to be included in the big must-pass spending package needed to keep the government running. It left both hospitals and insurers grumpy, which is what compromises do. Even the White House had endorsed the proposal.
But then House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, a Democrat of Massachusetts, threw everything into confusion by putting forward an alternate bill that would preserve doctors' ability to soak patients for those unexpected out-of network services. And wouldn't you know it, Neal has received hefty campaign donations from a private equity group that would prefer not to see hospitals make smaller profits.
God damn it, Richie. This is what the angry kids are talking about when they call Democrats "corporatists" or worse. In this case, they couldn't be more right.
Oh he DIDN'T say we could eat healthcare cake? Guess we shouldn't believe everything we read on Twitter.
So here's a weird trendlet. The bullshit debate talking points about how much Americans supposedly loooove their private health insurance (and would be very very sad if Medicare for All replaced it) is getting enough traction that it's infecting the way some Democratic candidates frame their healthcare proposals. Elizabeth Warren has lately been playing up her plan to transition to Medicare for All as offering the "choice" to buy in to M4A before full single-payer is rolled out. And in an interview Friday with the Washington Post's Robert Costa, Pete Buttigieg rather awkwardly invoked free-market rhetoric, sounding like a regular Ronnie Reagan, albeit also in the context of a transition to M4A via the option to buy in to Medicare.
Instead of just assuming that sitting here in Washington we're going to know what the right plan is for everybody or even what the right timeline is for everybody to come over, we're going to let people figure it out for themselves. I trust you to figure out your own health care, especially when we create these options.
It didn't help that, on Twitter at least, Buttigieg's remarks got condensed to the snippet "I trust you to figure out your own health care," which launched any number of threads from people pointing out that America's clusterfuck of healthcare "systems" is difficult even for physicians to figure out, let alone the average person. Again, Buttigieg wasn't advocating throwing people to the tender mercies of the free market (his public option would automatically enroll those who are uninsured, with an opt-out). That out of context quote may haunt him forever, like the time Nancy Pelosi never said we'd have to pass Obamacare to find out what's in it.
My point here is that all this talk of "choice" actually buys into a talking point that comes straight from the health insurance industry, and for fucks sake could Democrats please be smarter than to let those vultures frame the debate, please?
And there's some good damn programs gonna get funded too!
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that he's taking action to release half a billion dollars in funding to address homelessness. The money is part of a $650 million package of emergency funding already approved by state legislators, but held up because the Trump administration has dragged its feet on releasing data that would allow the money to be spent. Cities and counties can begin applying for funding immediately.
While more federal money to help with California's homelessness crisis would help, this delay has nothing to do with Trump demanding Newsom investigate Joe Biden. The San Jose Mercury News explains how the federal government managed to prevent California from spending its own damn money:
The governor accused the Trump administration of trying to politicize the issue and preventing the funding from getting to local officials who can put it to use. State law says that funding allocations ultimately must be based off homeless counts approved by the federal government. But Newsom's office says Trump's team has been sitting on the data for months.
So instead, California will use preliminary homeless estimates to distribute $500 million and wait for the final numbers to allocate the remainder of the funds.
What? The feds are holding up routine government data at a time when Donald Trump is routinely attacking California for supposedly not doing enough about homelessness? Pardon us while we locate our shocked faces. Also not surprising: The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is responsible for the data on homelessness, didn't return the Mercury News's request for comment. Ben Carson was probably shopping for furniture.
Are there no workhouses?
This week, the Trump administration announced that, come April, it will be implementing new work requirements for people receiving SNAP benefits, which will result in over 700,000 Americans losing said benefits and perhaps starving to death. What a lovely way to celebrate the holiday season!
Under the current rules, SNAP recipients who are not disabled and who do not have children are required to work for 20 hours a week for at least three months over 36 months in order to qualify. However, states are allowed to grant areas with high unemployment a waiver. These new rules would eliminate that ability, limiting the waivers to areas with unemployment rates of 6 percent or higher.
Such a rule is an especially big problem given that the gig economy tends to artificially inflate employment rates — there are a lot of people out there taking gig jobs like ride sharing or food delivery that allow them to be technically "employed" (whether they are working or not) while not actually being on a payroll. If you don't have a car, as is the case with many poor people, you can't even get one of those "gigs," anyway.
Naturally, it's being presented as the Trump administration actually doing all these poor people a big favor.
©2018 by Commie Girl Industries, Inc