Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Last Call

Good ol' West Texas Intermediate has been hanging around the $100 a barrel mark for quite some time now, but the real issue is gasoline prices have hit the $3.50 average well before the summer driving season.  What's driving the price up?  It sure as hell isn't demand.

Strangely, the current run-up in prices comes despite sinking demand in the U.S. “Petrol demand is as low as it’s been since April 1997,” says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service. “People are properly puzzled by the fact that we’re using less gas than we have in years, yet we’re paying more.”
Kloza believes much of the increase is due to speculative money that’s flowed into gasoline futures contracts since the beginning of the year, mostly from hedge funds and large money managers. “We’ve seen about $11 billion of speculative money come in on the long side of gas futures,” he says. “Each of the last three weeks we’ve seen a record net long position being taken.”

Somebody's making huge bets that gas prices are going to be through the roof, so much so that hey, gas prices are going through the roof.  Record  long futures this early in the year when demand is at a 15-year low seems like a lousy bet on paper, but a lot of people are betting a lot of money that the country will have to deal with $4.50 a gallon soon.  And lo and behold, up goes both crude and gas as the long money becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  All canoodling aside in the Straits of Hormuz, this is very much looking like what happened in 2008.

Funny how that works.

Rick Rolling The Country, Part 4

Steve M. warns that underestimating Rick Santorum as a threat to President Obama's re-election is a grave mistake as Santorum is beginning to attract the same "moderates and independents" that Romney was counting on in his argument that only he could attract a wide-enough coalition to win in November.

Now, I think plenty of swing voters and heartlanders will stand with us on some or all of these things when push comes to shove; even at the Applebee's salad bar they hated Dan Quayle's attempt to slut-shame single mothers a generation ago, and more and more heartlanders are cool with the fact that Ellen DeGeneres is gay. But if these aren't make-or-break issues for moderate Middle Americans, which I think is the case, then they're unlikely to have paid as much attention to Santorum over the years as we have, so right now he doesn't look so bad to them. I don't know if that will continue to be true if he's the nominee and they learn more about him, but for now we shouldn't assume that our view of him is shared by everyone who's not a rightist.

Polling numbers over at PPP back up Steve's argument:  for the first time somebody other than Mitt Romney is doing better against the President. 

One thing that has remained constant in the ever changing GOP Presidential race is that Mitt Romney is the strongest candidate against Barack least until now.  PPP's newest national poll finds Romney trailing Obama by 7 points at 49-42, while Santorum trails by only 5 points at 49-44.

This is the first time one of the "non-Romneys" has edged out Mittens in a national head-to-head against President Obama, and that makes me believe that Santorum may have the mileage to keep going for a while.

Now granted, the more scrutiny on Santorum, the worse he's going to start doing, but it's worth taking the notion of a defense against a Santorum candidacy seriously for the Team Obama folks.  Having said that, I think Santorum's rise is much more of a function of Romney's collapse.

We'll see.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

As Charles Pierce points out, the raft of idiotic GOP laws at the state level this year are just a warmup for rolling back the last 150 years or so of progress at the federal level.

I hate to keep harping on this, but what you're seeing in the state legislatures is the activity of the Republican farm team. The people voting for laws springing from the mushy brains of people like Bob Marshall and Lori Klein are the young Republicans who, a few cycles from now, will be running for Congress, probably from safe Republican districts that they've helped draw up, and aided immeasurably by voter-suppression laws that they've helped pass. Most of them will be the products of the vast conservative candidate manufacturing base — the kids at CPAC, the College Republicans, the various Christianist organization. They will not equivocate. They will not moderate. And they are the future of the party. Anyone who thinks the Republican party eventually again will have to "move to the middle" (this translates from the Punditese to "regain its sanity") isn't paying attention. In 2006, the Republicans were handed a defeat every bit as epic as any one ever handed to the Democrats. They did not pause to give it a second thought. Their resolve hardened. They ran what few "moderates" were left right out of the party. And, in 2010, they got a wave election that not only gained them the House of Representativse, but also the legislative majorities in the states that are now producing these goofy-ass laws, and a lot more seriously dangerous ones as well. And, even then, they blew a chance to retake the Senate by running sideshow freaks like Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell. They didn't care.

They do not stop, even when they're losing. The country told them, through the 1998 midterms, that it didn't want Bill Clinton impeached. Bill Clinton got impeached. In 2005, everybody including their Democratic colleagues told them that they were going off the cliff in their meddling in the life and death of Terri Schiavo. There were gobs of polling data to back them up. The Republicans kept meddling even after Ms. Schiavo passed. Is there any evidence that the Republicans are moving "toward the middle" in their presidential contest? Ask poor Willard Romney if that's the case. The current frontrunner is a nutball ultramontane Catholic who lost his last race by 18 points, at least in part because he was one of the more noxious of the Schiavo meddlers.

There's nothing left but the event horizon, pulling all the stupid in to form a super-dense core of Future Republican All-Stars.  As the percentage of white Christians in the voting population decreases, the crazier the group becomes as a whole. We're going to get the point where people are going to start running on bringing back "separate but equal" and maybe that whole union thing of ours needs to be reconsidered.   If they can't have their America, then there won't be a recognizable America to be had when the sheer forces of inevitable demographics exact their toll.
Burn it all down to the ground, salt the earth beneath the ashes, reap the whirlwind, cheer the thunder, and ride the lightning flashes.

Let's Talk About Medical Rights

Sarah O'Leary had a brilliant column run today.  Please click here to read the entire thing, but I want to quote the part that made most sense to me, and echoes what I was trying so hard to find the words to say:

Much like the Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle, the move from U.S. Bishops to protest including contraception coverage for employees reeks more of politics and power than it does of God's calling. The bishops claim government interference when, honestly, it is the Church attempting to limit female employee's access to affordable contraception. The compromise, having the health insurance companies pay for the contraceptives instead of the Catholic groups, is laughable. In several states, Catholic institutions have been mandated by states to provide the access to contraception for years, without any backlash. So why are things different now?

Religious institutions such as churches where most employees share the same faith, according to the ruling by the Department of Health and Human Services, are exempt from providing contraception options as part of health coverage. But if you're a Muslim or a Hindu, atheist or a Catholic (practicing or lapsed) who doesn't feel like getting pregnant while you're working at St. Francis hospital, the government believes you have the right to receive a health plan that includes contraceptives.

Like many of my pew pals, I learned a few lessons as an every Sunday practicing Catholic. In this circumstance, maybe it's best to put the argument in a way that the Bishops might understand. Free will. In the Catholic faith, we're taught that humans are given free will on purpose by God. What we do with that choice is up to us. God didn't send a Catholic bishop into the Garden of Eden to pull the plug on the Adam apple incident. Instead, He let the world's first unmarried couple figure it out themselves. There is nowhere in the Bible I've read more than a few times that says the Church or anyone else is called by God to control the lives of others. In fact, Jesus warns against trying to solve the sins we judge to exist in others instead of solving our own. Oh, and He has that whole thing about judgment in general too, but I digress.

It is disgusting when a church tries to say they are being bullied in their attempts to shove their beliefs down an entire nation's throat.  Catholics absolutely have the right to believe what they want.  Their right stops when it comes up against a citizen's rights to make choices for themselves.

They don't belong in an argument about medicine because it's none of their damned business, plain and simple.  If you work in an industry that goes against your moral grain, do what the rest of us have to and work in a different industry.  Medical rights and religious beliefs are two separate things, and should remain so.  The next logical step would be take every masturbating male and put him in prison for murdering hundreds of millions of unborn babies.

There is separation of church and state for a reason.  It's a double-sided benefit.  It keeps government from telling churches how they must operate, and keeps religion out of laws intended to serve everyone regardless of their beliefs.  Our right to medical choice should never be subject to religious or government interference.  Employers should not get to pick and choose what type of medical benefits their employees are able to use.  Employers should not even be able to inquire or in any way participate in their employee's private affairs.

How is it that the "land of the free" has become the land of intolerance and lies?  The Jesus that they claim to worship tells us to mind our own business and clean up our sins before we concern ourselves with what others are doing.  And, as O'Leary points out, God let the Tree of Knowledge stand.  He didn't command bishops to forbid Adam and Eve, nor did He stop them from making their choices.  What we do is between us and God, and we owe nothing else to anyone.  The bishops can boss around those who choose to follow them, but the rest of the world has a choice.  I hope this is political suicide for those who try to take away a woman's right to her body.

Celebrity Roundup

Billy Bob Thornton is co-writing and directing a movie based loosely on his life experiences, including his marriage to Angelina Jolie.  In this article, he says they are still friends and that he and Brad are friends as well.  Still, if it's even remotely close to the craziness those two endured, one has to wonder what secrets might come out, and if we even want to know.

Hugh Hefner is either delusional or just an asshole.  When making a statement about his son supposedly beating the hell out of a Playmate of the Year, we get this: "If they care about each other, they'll patch it up," the Playboy founder tells PEOPLE.  That would be appropriate if it was a normal breakup, but one with alleged stomach kicks, visible injuries and an emergency restraining order?  What a dick.  Those "crazy kids" didn't just get into an argument, you giant moron.  Your son is facing accusations of beating a woman and refusing to allow her to leave the property.  In the real world that's a crime, you insensitive douche.

Last but not least, Herman Cain said "no thank you" to Dancing With The Stars.  My guess is, he lost interest when they said he only got one partner, as that doesn't seem to be his thing.

Mitt Wrong-Way

TPM's average of Mitt Romney's favorability ratings tells the tale of the last month:  Romney's gone from a 40-40% split on January 11 to a now brutal 32% approval and 56% against just 5 weeks later.  Now granted, 9 months is an eternity in this race, but Mitt is in serious danger here of Santorum reaching some sort of tipping point where a brokered convention is forced.

But even the August GOP Tampa convention is some five months away.  There's just so much insanity that can happen between now and then.  Granted, Mitt is certainly going in the wrong direction right now, and the polls show him down in his quasi-home state of Michigan to Santorum in the primary at the end of the month and to President Obama in the general.

And just a week after that is Super Tuesday, with the big prize, Ohio.  A lot could be decided by this time next month.

Most likely, nothing will be decided at all.

Emergency Inflatable Scandal, Coming Right Up!

Republicans are getting their asses kicked this week and they know it.  They're losing on birth control, the economy, the payroll tax cut, and their "frontrunner" is now a reactionary meathead destined to Goldwater the party into oblivion.

Time to change the subject, fast...

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa signaled Tuesday that his committee will "move forward with the contempt process against Attorney General Eric Holder unless the Justice Department commits to "providing, at a minimum, a detailed description of documents it is withholding" from his committee in the course of their investigation into ATF's Operation Fast and Furious.

“The Justice Department’s request for additional time has, unfortunately, not been followed by efforts to bridge the significant differences between its legal obligation to Congress and the reality of its stonewalling,” Issa said in a statement. “The committee is determined to know what happened in Operation Fast and Furious and how the Justice Department responded when it was publicly confronted with evidence of reckless conduct after Agent Terry’s death."

Oh look at them.  It's precious that they are trying to make a Bush-era program into Eric Holder's personal fault.  They really are terrified at this point, so very desperate the get the news cycle off their losing.  It'll last right up until the Michigan primary, at best.


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