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The Morning Grumpy – 7/31/12

31 Jul

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

1. How this isn’t the top story on the nightly news every night and grounds for the formation of a massive populist movement is absolutely beyond my comprehension.

At least 5 million voters, predominantly young and from minority groups sympathetic to President Barack Obama, could be affected by an unprecedented flurry of new legislation by Republican governors and GOP-led legislatures to change or restrict voting rights by Election Day 2012.

The Republican Party is actively engaged in a massive swing state campaign to limit access to the ballot box. It is an affront to democracy and undercuts the legitimacy of the national vote.

2. If you’ve been following Buck Quigley’s great work on the fracking beat here at Artvoice, you already know this to be true.

Last week the University of Texas provost announced he would re-examine a report by a UT professor that said fracking was safe for groundwater after the revelation that the professor pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Texas natural gas developer. It’s the latest fusillade in the ongoing battleover the basic facts of fracking in America.

“They’re trying to buy the prestige of the university,” he said. “And the universities are happy to sell their prestige, I suppose.”

Timothy Considine, another Penn State grad who’s now a geologist at the University of Wyoming, was the lead author on a SUNY-Buffalo report in May that claimed state regulation had made fracking safe in Pennsylvania. Within days, a top Pennsylvania environmental official quoted the Buffalo study in testimony to Congress about the effectiveness of fracking regulations. But both the official and the study itself declined to mention that Considine’s close ties to the industry—and that his department had received nearly $6 million in donations from the oil and gas industry last year. Considine—whom one Pennsylvania newspaper called “the shale gas industry’s go-to professor”—also helped write the controversial 2009 Penn State study and a 2010 expansion of itthat was funded by the American Petroleum Institute.

The University at Buffalo, now a cautionary tale.

3. So, this exists. What to do during an “active shooter” event? Let the Houston Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security give you the lowdown.

I’ve heard that Mayor Brown is working on a similar video, the goal is to protect the Mayoral podium and the big goofy scissors used for ceremonial ribbon-cuttings from active shooters and/or bears. I digress. My primary takeaway from this video? Don’t get caught in an “active shooter event” with a redheaded woman who can’t shut the hell up and properly hide. Notice any other subtleties or interesting facts in the video?

4. Corporate America 101: When making record profits, fuck over the employees who make it possible. Well, at least that’s what Caterpillar is doing.

Despite earning a record $4.9 billion profit last year and projecting even better results for 2012, the company is insisting on a six-year wage freeze and a pension freeze for most of the 780 production workers at its factory here. Caterpillar says it needs to keep its labor costs down to ensure its future competitiveness.

I’ve written about this labor standoff three times now and each time the facts grow more and more absurd. Earlier this year, the CEO was given a 60% pay increase after the company posted $4.9 billion in profit on revenue of $60.1 billion in FY2011 after a healthy 2010 which brought $2.7 billion in profit on revenue of $42.6 billion. Sounds like a growing company with a healthy sales pipeline and a robust reach into foreign markets. Which is exactly why their last contract offer to their workers made so little sense.

Provided no raises, eliminated the defined benefits pension program, weakened seniority rights and required machinists to pay higher contributions for health care.  All of this, at a time when the company is making record profits. In fact, Fortune Magazine recently said the company is “crushing it” when it comes to profitability.

As a reminder, it would take the average worker nearly 244 years to earn the salary that the average CEO makes in one year.

5. Andrew Sullivan makes the conservative case for President Obama’s re-election.

The economy has been shell-shocked by the aftermath of a giant debt bubble and reckless financial gambling, all occurring a couple of decades after a bipartisan decision to take off the protections imposed on Wall Street in 1933. America is simultaneously experiencing a dramatic and widening economic inequality and declining social mobility. Its private healthcare system is by far the least efficient in the world, adding a massive burden to businesses and government with spiraling costs. We are clearly facing a climate crisis in which the very goods of industrialization are undermining the earth’s own equilibrium.

At the same time, the economic elites, empowered by radical new moves by the Supreme Court, appear to have rigged the Congressional game through an insanely complex tax code, which both cripples the free market and keeps us insolvent. Above all, the debt is a huge threat to future prosperity, just as premature austerity is a huge threat to the recovery. All of these are combining not just to lower American growth and vitality but also to threaten the very legitimacy of the system which, to increasing numbers of middle class Americans, looks like a game stacked against them. On almost every front, on almost every issue, in this crisis, Obama is more conservative than Romney.

As a liberal, I know the last sentence above to be sadly true.

Fact Of The Day:  The average pencil holds enough graphite to draw a line about 35 miles long or to write roughly 45,000 words

Quote Of The Day: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley

Video Of The Day: Brevity.

Song Of The Day: (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman” – The Kinks

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