John Semmens

SEMI-NEWS: A Satire of Recent News

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SEMI-NEWS: A Satire of Recent News, April 6, 2014 Edition

EPA Justifies Experiments

Revelations that the US Environmental Protection Agency has been conducting deadly experiments on unwitting volunteers have surfaced. According to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the EPA’s experiments exposed individuals to pollutants in quantities up to 50 times greater than the levels the agency deems safe.

The OIG findings were dismissed as “exaggerated scaremongering” by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The number of individuals exposed to these toxins are but a tiny fraction of the population. Those criticizing the Agency are overlooking the potentially larger gains to the vast majority of the country that may be achieved by the sacrifice of the few.”

Solicitations for experimental subjects invited individuals suffering from shortness of breath or asthma to earn $12 an hour by participating in a study aimed at improving air quality. None were told they would be exposed to pollutants in quantities far in excess of safe levels.

McCarthy defended misleading the volunteers as “a necessary ploy. If we had been forced to clearly inform the study participants of the dangers we wouldn't have been able to conduct the experiments. No one would've volunteered..” McCarthy asserted that “these methods are no worse than previous experiments carried out using prison inmates as the guinea pigs for testing exposure to harmful substances. Anyone willing to accept $12 an hour to let us use them in an experiment can't have much value to society. So, prisoners or volunteers, either way, persons of low social value have an opportunity to make a useful contribution to the larger community.”

Pay Boost for Congress Given High Priority

Calling the current $174,000 annual salary (not counting perks) an “injustice,” Representative James Moran (D-Virginia) vowed to “right this wrong.”

Congress is like the board of directors of the largest economic entity in the world,” Moran contended. “With a GDP of over $16 trillion we preside over the distribution of more wealth than any other board of directors. We deserve a bigger piece of this pie.”

The Congressman suggested that “a salary of $2 million per year might be a good starting point. In total, that would only amount to around a billion per year share of our $16 trillion economy. That's only a miniscule fraction of the whole.”

Moran also argued that “a fringe benefit of my proposed pay hike is that the pressure for us to sell our votes to lobbyists would be greatly reduced. We would finally be able to afford to pay for our own lunches, dinners, and vacations. Many would be able to self-finance their reelection campaigns. It's a win-win for both us and the American people.”

Schumer Denounces Supreme Court Election Spending Ruling

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) denounced this week's Supreme Court ruling allowing individuals to donate to as many political causes and candidates as they please.

The worst thing about this decision is that it will hamper the Government's ability to regulate speech,” Schumer complained. “Critics may end up almost as well financed as spokespersons for the Government. That is a formula for dissent and disunity.”

The limits struck down by the Court cut the legal ground out from the Administration's program of using the IRS to scrutinize and restrain groups that contribute to dissension and disunity,” the Senator added. “Fortunately, the folks at the IRS answer to the President and not the Court or the law, per se. If he instructs the IRS to ignore this ruling there's nothing his right-wing critics can do about it. Sure, they could file more lawsuits against this alleged suppression of their rights to free speech, but these cases would take years to resolve. Even then, President Hillary Clinton would be in a position to order her IRS to ignore those later court decisions.”

Audit Suggests Voter Fraud Widespread

An audit of voter registration rolls in North Carolina uncovered tens of thousands of duplicate voter registrations in which the first and last names as well as last four digits of Social Security numbers matched for voters registered in both North Carolina and elsewhere. The odds of randomly producing a single match using these three variables is infinitesimal. Nevertheless, the audit found more than 150,000 matches. In 35,000 cases, votes were cast both in North Carolina and in other states for the November 2012 election.

US Attorney General Eric Holder rejected calls for a more comprehensive investigation, calling the findings “interesting, but clearly a matter for state rather than federal authorities. The Constitution gives states the responsibility for policing their own elections.”

Whether states ought to follow up was dubbed “probably unnecessary,” by Holder. “As I understand the statistics, out of the 150,000 duplicate registrations only 35,000 resulted in duplicate votes. That's less than 25%. Based on this data, 75% of those with duplicate registrations could not be shown to have cast more than one ballot. The overwhelming majority are obeying the law. I can't see getting worked up over the minority that might not be.”

Of course, North Carolina is only one state. If its findings are representative the number of duplicate registrations could be over 4.5 million and the number of duplicate votes cast could be more than a million. “Nothing to worry about,” says Holder. “As I recall, President Obama won by a lot more than a million votes.”

In Response to Ft. Hood Massacre, DOD May Ban Smoking

This past week's second mass shooting at the Ft. Hood Army base may finally stir the Department of Defense into action. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is reportedly ready to ban smoking by military personnel.

While some are using this tragedy to urge that military personnel be allowed to carry weapons for self defense, I am not going to be stampeded into a move that runs counter to the President's philosophy on guns,” Hagel declared. “These shootings are tragic, but the toll from smoking is far larger.”

Even if we were to come up with a successful counter to these mass murders we are talking of saving only a handful of lives,” Hagel pointed out. “In contrast, thousands of those who serve in the military will die prematurely from smoking. Reducing this source of casualties seems to me to be a much more rewarding course of action.”

In a jointly issued letter, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), Dick Durbin (D-Ill), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) praised Hagel's “outside the box thinking. For too long we have allowed US military personnel to degrade their health by indulging in unsavory habits. This negatively impacts their fitness to serve. It is tantamount to destroying government property and threatens the security of this nation. By nipping this veritable treason in the bud, Secretary Hagel has demonstrated true courage.”

President Orders End to Health Care Debate

In a press conference heralding the attainment of 7 million enrollments in his signature Affordable Care Act insurance plan this past Monday, President Obama declared “the debate over the merits of this law has been settled. The success of the program has been conclusively proven by the events of this past week. There is no longer any need for further discussion. I am instructing the FCC to monitor all media outlets that are licensed through this agency for compliance with my directive. Any unwarranted excursions into disputation or reporting that is intended to reflect negatively on the program or to undermine its acceptance among the population will be dealt with expeditiously and penalized if necessary.”

A report from the RAND Corporation cast doubt on the magnitude of Obamacare's triumph. By RAND's estimate, fewer than a million of the President's touted 7 million newly insured came from the ranks of the previously uninsured. With an estimated total pool of uninsured of around 45 million less than 3% are now enrolled under the Administration's program.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius challenged the RAND report, saying that “essentially all of the 7 million cited by the President came from the ranks of the uninsured. RAND is only looking at the long term uninsured. They have completely overlooked the 6 million newly uninsured that were obliged to sign up because their previous insurance was canceled for noncompliance with the ACA's requirements.”

Sdebelius granted that “7 million may be a small portion of the number who will eventually enroll, but let's not forget that this target was met with only the 'carrot' of persuasion. The 'stick' of penalties has yet to be deployed. Now that the President has put further debate out-of-bounds we will be able to focus on using this enforcement tool to coral the laggards without having to fear public criticism.”

Ryan Budget Gets Mixed Reviews

This week Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisc) presented a 10-year federal budget that would slowly reduce the rate of growth in government spending. His proposal was blasted from both sides of the political spectrum.

Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin lambasted its timidity, arguing that “adding more spending now and postponing any slow down in the spending rate to the future ensures a continued accumulation of debt. The hope that some future Congress will have the courage to rein-in runaway spending is not a satisfactory trade-off for refusing to tackle the current spending binge.”

President Obama called the Ryan budget “a stinkburger prepared by a poopyhead.”

MSNBC's Chris Matthews, self-proclaimed arbiter of political etiquette, characterized these contrasting views as “a measure of the deplorable state into which our public discourse has fallen. That a disgraced former vice-presidential candidate is even allowed to comment is an affront to the nation's dignity. It is an intolerable distraction from the brevity and eloquence of the President's more subtly nuanced views. Views, I might add, that merit a deeper form of respect than they are currently receiving from my peers.”


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