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A Gasoline Conspiracy To Set Fire To The Obama Administration?

I’ve never been much of a conspiracy theorist as it is not my inclination to see evil lurking behind every bush (no pun intended.) More times than not, things are—for the most part—pretty much as they appear to be.

However, there is a strange anomaly occurring on the highways of America and in the boardrooms of some of our largest investment institutions that has caused me to consider whether a plan is afoot that, if successful, could represent the best possible strategy for ending the presidency of Barack Obama.

According to the Automobile Club of America, gasoline prices have risen, on average, 13.1 cents in the past month—despite the fact that gas prices traditionally fall in the month of February as people drive fewer miles during the wintery month.

What’s more, virtually every projection out there suggests that gas prices are about to make a dramatic rise to, potentially, record levels with some suggesting that $5.00 a gallon gas or more —double the prices of just a few months ago—could very well be in our future.

This becomes a particularly odd statistic when one considers that Americans are using less gasoline than they have at any time in the last fifteen years. Currently, we burn up 8 percent less gas than we did during the peak year of 2006 while most experts expect the trend to continue to where we will be using 20 percent less gasoline by 2030.

Says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service,

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. People are properly puzzled by the fact that we’re using less gas than we have in years, yet we’re paying more.

How can this be explained?

Certainly, concerns of a potential conflict in Iran, and the impact such an event would have on the world oil market, would drive prices up.  Adding fuel to this gasoline fire are the seeds of uprising that are ripening in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia where most of the nation’s oil reserves are located.

And, to be sure, an improving domestic economy typically results in higher oil prices as demand begins to rise. However, experts seem to agree that even this will not return us to our high’s of 2006.

Experts agree that even when the economy rebounds from the recession, gasoline usage will remain below the 2006 figure, which should remain forever untouched barring any massive economic boom periods or drastic fuel price cuts. That reduction can be attributed to a number of factors such as higher fuel efficiency fleet figures for manufacturers, a higher use of hybrids, an increase in bio-fuels like bio-diesel and ethanol, and continued high gas prices, among other factors.

There has to be something else at work here.

According to Kloza, a healthy percentage of the increase is the result of speculative money flowing into gasoline futures contracts since the beginning of the year, mostly coming from hedge fund and big money mangers. “We’ve seen about $11 billion of speculative money come in on the long side of gas futures,” Kloza says. “Each of the last three weeks we’ve seen a record net long position being taken.”

These record positions that are driving up prices could certainly be the result of speculators’ legitimate belief that Middle Eastern instability and an improving economy at home make higher prices a good bet.

And yet, Middle Eastern instability is nothing particularly new. Even if speculators see an Iranian crisis putting more pressure on the oil markets than in days gone by, it is difficult to rationalize how this would result in a 100 percent increase in prices at the pump, particularly in view of the fact that we use less gasoline today than at other times of crisis.

While Wall Street’s ‘priority one’ is to make money, it is clear that, for this year, priority two is the destruction of Barack Obama’s presidency. Accordingly, from a Wall Street point of view, it certainly is a happy coincidence that that priority one, making big money on oil speculation, could directly lead to accomplishing their second highest mission.

I am left to wonder whether this is a happy Wall Street coincidence or a clever strategy that could pay off big-time come November.

Gasoline prices have a ‘real time’ impact on middle-class voters. Can you imagine a better way to make voters good and angry than to insure that they are paying five bucks a gallon for the gasoline that will be powering them to the voting booth in November? And if you subscribe to the theory that the President’s opponents would like to keep economic growth down until the election is over, what better way to accomplish such a goal than to force a precipitous rise in gas prices?

Maybe what we are seeing is nothing more than the natural and completely explainable reaction to events in oil producing countries and the promise of an improving domestic economy.

However, when you consider that we’ve faced these uncertainties more than once in the past fifteen years, and combine that with the understanding that we are currently consuming less oil products than at any time during that period, it is difficult to come up with a rational explanation as to why gas prices would nearly double in so short a period under these circumstances.

Am I simply getting paranoid as the election season is upon us?

Maybe. But there is no disputing that the higher gasoline prices go, the lower the odds that President Obama will be returned to office for a second term.

So, I’m just saying’…..

As a result of what is coming, it might be a good idea for the Obama Administration to start talking about the reasons for rising gas prices and I’d start talking about it now.  This is one instance where silence is anything but golden and without a plausible explanation as to why the Administration is not responsible for what might be a dramatic rise in gas prices, it may be Pesident Obama who is left holding the pump nozzle come December.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Washington Monthly, February 17, 2012

February 20, 2012 Posted by | Middle East, Oil Industry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Republican “Ideological Hypocrites”: Why Our Political System Is So Broken

When we talk about hypocrisy in politics, we usually highlight personal behavior. The serially-married politician who proclaims “family values” while also having affairs is now a rather dreary stock figure in our campaign narratives.

But the hypocrisy that matters far more is the gap between ideology and practice that has reached a crisis point in American conservatism. This Republican presidential campaign is demonstrating conclusively that there is an unbridgeable divide between the philosophical commitments conservative candidates make before they are elected and what they will have to do when faced with the day-to-day demands of practical governance. Conservatives in power have never been — and can never be — as anti-government as they are in a campaign.

Begin by asking yourself why so many conservative politicians say they’re anti-government but spend long careers in office drawing paychecks from the taxpayers. Also: Why do they bash government largesse while seeking as much of it as they can get for their constituents and friendly interest groups?

Why do they criticize “entitlements” and “big government” while promising today’s senior citizens — an important part of the conservative base — never, ever to cut their Medicare or Social Security? Why do they claim that they want government out of the marketplace while not only rejecting cuts in defense but also lauding large defense contracts that are an enormous intrusion in the operation of the “free market”?

The contest between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum is unearthing all sorts of double standards of this sort, and I salute each of them for drawing attention to the other’s inconstancies.

Santorum scored a direct hit on Romney last Thursday in a speech at the Detroit Economic Club. Both Romney and Santorum opposed President Obama’s rescue of the auto industry, a form of direct government intervention whose success Republicans (though not, it appears, Michigan’s voters) have a hard time acknowledging.

But Santorum raised a good question. “Governor Romney supported the bailout of Wall Street and decided not to support the bailout of Detroit,” Santorum said. “My feeling was that . . . the government should not be involved in bailouts, period. I think that’s a much more consistent position.”

Indeed it is. Romney can offer all sorts of rationales for the difference between the two bailouts, but once he backed the Wall Street rescue, he could no longer claim free market purity. The financial bailout he thought was so vital created the very “dependency” and sense of “entitlement” within our privileged classes that he condemns when it comes to the less well-off.

Many conservatives — including, bravely, George W. Bush — pushed for the bank bailout because the alternative was a catastrophic collapse of the financial system. But having done so, could they please stop claiming they are free market virgins? They gave that up long ago.

Santorum has a long list of ideological heresies of his own to defend. They include his eagerness to win federal earmarks, a habit he shares with Romney, as The Washington Post’s Rosalind Helderman recently reported.

There is also the critique that Romney’s super PAC is making in an ad airing in advance of Michigan’s Feb. 28 primary: It attacks Santorum for regularly voting to increase the debt ceiling when he was a senator from Pennsylvania.

This is the same Santorum who supported congressional conservatives last year when they blocked a debt-ceiling increase in pursuit of more budget cuts. “We cannot continue to write blank checks that our nation cannot cash,” Santorum said — the very blank checks he freely endorsed when he was in the Senate. True, both parties have played games on the debt ceiling, but never to the point of undermining the federal government’s credit standing, as the Republicans did last year.

Of course Santorum was only doing the responsible thing when he was a senator, but he cannot really defend what he did in the past without acknowledging that what he said more recently is flatly contradicted by his own behavior.

Can conservatives finally face the fact that they actually want quite a lot from government, and that they are simply unwilling to raise taxes to pay for it?

This is why our political system is so broken. Conservatives keep pretending that they can keep anti-government promises that they know perfectly well they are destined to break. We won’t have sensible politics again until our friends on the right bring their rhetorical claims into closer alignment with what they do — and what it takes to make government work.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 19, 2012

February 20, 2012 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Ideology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Congressional Residency Requirements: Home Is “Anywhere I Hang My Hat”

Of all the issues you can raise in a political campaign, the dumbest is whether a member of Congress has moved his/her family to Washington.

O.K., possibly not the absolute dumbest. There was that dust-up over whether now-Senator Rand Paul had, as a college student, kidnapped a female friend and forced her to worship “Aqua Buddha.” Although now that I’m thinking about it, I really did enjoy that one.

Right now in Indiana, Senator Richard Lugar is under fire from a Tea Party opponent who claims that Lugar has not actually lived in the state since he first entered the Senate in 1977.

“This scandal is our chance to replace one of the most liberal Republicans in the Senate with a conservative!” said a fund-raising letter for Lugar’s opponent, Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer.

Lugar is actually a pretty conservative guy himself, although he is best known for his work on nuclear disarmament, which does not appear to be a Tea Party priority. The head of the right-wing PAC, Club for Growth, called for Lugar’s defeat the other day in a statement that denounced the senator for, among other things, having supported the bailout of New York City in 1978. I call that nursing a grudge.

Most of the publicity about the race, however, centers on the residency issue. Mourdock recently held a press conference at the house where Lugar has his voting address, and it definitely did seem to be occupied by another family.

“The entire state is his home,” retorted Lugar’s campaign manager. I am taking this to be a version of “So what?”

The senator’s ability to vote from a residence he hasn’t actually lived in for decades was, the campaign said, based on the same principle that allows a member of the military to vote from the last place he or she lived before going off to fight for the country. I’m not sure this is a comparison they’d want to press.

The issue of voting addresses is particularly sensitive in Indiana, where the secretary of state, Charlie White, was recently tossed out of office after being convicted of registering to vote at his former wife’s address while he actually lived with his fiancée. White, who once worked as a family law attorney, said his private life was “complicated,” which I’m sure we’re all prepared to believe.

Indiana is clearly a state with a lot of political excitement. Just recently, its State House voted in favor of drug-testing welfare recipients, which would not be all that remarkable except that the members also voted to drug-test themselves. “We had an amendment I thought was even better requiring drug testing for all corporate welfare recipients,” said Representative Ryan Dvorak, a Democrat from South Bend. That one, unfortunately, failed on a party-line vote.

But about the residency issue. These fights have been going on forever. One of the very first political investigations I ever worked on involved whether or not a veteran congressman maintained a voting address that was actually a Burger King outlet in North Haven, Conn.

Rick Santorum’s political career was built on an upset victory against a Democratic House member who, Santorum claimed, had lost touch with his district and moved his family to the Washington suburbs. When Santorum moved his own family to the Washington suburbs, he claimed that promises he made when he was in the House didn’t count for the Senate.

Then he enrolled the kids, who were being home-schooled, in a cyberschool that billed his old school district in Pennsylvania $38,000 a year.

“My dad’s opponents have criticized him for moving us to Washington so we could be with him more,” complained one of Santorum’s kids in an ad in 2006, shortly before he lost by one of the widest margins in the history of re-election campaigns. This was the same race in which Santorum claimed that his Democratic opponent, Robert Casey, was a “thug” who sent operatives to peep through the windows of the house near Pittsburgh where the senator maintained a voting address.

“Your despicable actions have endangered our children’s safety,” Santorum and his wife wrote to Casey. A Philadelphia Daily News columnist noted that the children in question were probably not in peril since they were, you know, in Virginia the whole time.

While serving in Congress is really, truly, not the same as serving in combat, these residency flaps are generally bogus. If we want a Congress that looks at least minimally like the country at large — including women, men with working wives, and parents of young children — we can’t carp if they want to keep their families within commuting distance.

Unless, of course, you are talking about somebody who got elected in the first place by running on the residency issue. Then carp away. Please.

 

By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 17, 2012

February 20, 2012 Posted by | Congress, Voter Fraud | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The South Lost”: The Historical Misunderstanding At The Root Of Modern Republican Philosophy

There’s a basic, historical misunderstanding at the root of modern Republican philosophy. A little fact that seems to get overlooked. It’s not their insistence that the road to fascism begins with good health care. It’s not even the pretense that President Obama somehow masterminded an economic collapse, bank bailout, and massive deficit weeks, months or years before he came into office. No, the incident that the GOP has let slip is a little more basic.

The South lost.

See, Republicans seem to have mistaken “wage slavery” for … that other kind of slavery. They must have, because anyone who understood that workers are employees, and not property, would recognize that workers have rights.  Not just some rights, not a neatly restricted little subset of rights, but the same rights as the people who employ them. They would recognize that the rights of an employer do not include the ability to abridge the rights of an employee.

Only they don’t. When you see Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum or John Boehner railing against government overstep on religion, conscience, what-have-you, you can be 100 percent certain that their concern is that somewhere, somehow an employer might have to allow his employees to do something that, you know, miffs them. That millions of employees might be forced to do without needed health care … doesn’t enter into the equation.

It’s easy to see how employers might be confused, considering all the love being lavished on them by both parties, and with the paeans being sung to them as magical “job creators.” And hey, we already pretty much handed over that fourth amendment to them, what with peeing in a cup or being able to fire people because of an old photo on Facebook. Republicans have been busy reinforcing that lesson by insisting that anyone who collects so much as an unemployment check should be subject to any rules they want to set. It’s no wonder that the line between handing someone a paycheck, and holding someone’s title, should have gotten blurred.

So consider this a primer to the confused American business owners and executives who might have listened just a little to long to all that sweet praise.

As an employer, you have the absolute right to religious freedom. Attend any church, temple, synagogue or reading room you like. Give as you feel obligated. Worship as you please. Place on yourself any restriction in diet, activity or anything else that you feel is in keeping with your beliefs … but only on yourself. You don’t get to impose these restrictions on your employees.

Your employees are separate from you. Not only that, they are equal to you in rights, no matter how unequal you may be in income. You do not get to tell them who to vote for. You do not get to tell them who they can love. You do not get to use your religious beliefs as an excuse to limit their health care.

No matter how strong your personal faith, your employees are not obligated to live according to those beliefs, expressly because they are personal. You may find it frustrating, but your employees have just as much right to their own beliefs as you do to yours, and whether you pay them pittance on an assembly line or six figures as a manager, you have zero right to carve off a slice of their freedom. The direction of the pay arrow has no effect on who gets to dictate to who.

If the government was telling you, as an individual, that you had to use birth control, that would be a violation of your rights. That’s not happening. They’re just saying that you don’t get to make that decision for the people who work for your company. Because, really, you don’t own them.

If you’re still mad; if you’re upset that healthcare has to be funneled through employers at all … there’s a cure for that. It’s called “single payer.”

 

By: Mark Sumner, Daily Kos, February 19, 2012

February 20, 2012 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mitt Romney Straining to Get to the Right of Genghis Khan

The unpredictable Republican presidential race has taken another surprising turn as recent numbers show Mongol warlord Genghis Khan seizing the lead in national polls of likely GOP primary voters. Benefiting from widespread doubts about Mitt Romney’s authenticity and ideological commitment, Genghis has changed the shape of the race by sounding sharp populist themes that resonate with supporters of the tea party. “Mitt Romney wants to manage Washington, D.C.,” he told an enthusiastic crowd in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I want to burn it to the ground, slay its inhabitants, and stack their skulls in pyramids reaching to the sky.”

Romney’s advisers privately fret that such sharp rhetoric may play badly with upscale suburban swing voters in a general election. Their dilemma is that they cannot attack Genghis’s often harsh positions without reinforcing doubts about Romney’s own right-wing bona fides. Romney has dispatched previous conservative rivals by sowing doubts about their conservatism, assailing Texas Governor Rick Perry as soft on illegal immigration, Newt Gingrich as a Washington insider, and Rick Santorum as a supporter of earmarks and raising the debt ceiling.

Genghis Khan, who boasts of never having previously set foot in Washington or even the entire Western hemisphere, is the most challenging target thus far.

One vulnerability is his colorful personal life, which includes six wives, countless concubines, and habit of eating raw horseflesh. Romney has subtly exploited these weaknesses, recently appearing with his wife, Ann, at a Burger King in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Here I am, accompanied by my one wife, consuming a sandwich consisting of cooked animal meat,” he told campaign reporters. (Romney paid for the meal by handing the cashier a $1000 bill, telling him to keep the change.)

Genghis’s surge to the top of the polls began after a recent debate in Williamsburg, Mississippi. After moderator Brian Williams questioned if his popular campaign promise to not only defeat President Obama but to enslave his family was racially insensitive, Genghis angrily replied that he enslaves the families of all his defeated rivals, regardless of race. Then, in a dramatic touch that reminded many Republicans of Ronald Reagan’s famous I-paid-for-this-microphone moment, he charged down from the stage on horseback, decapitated Williams, and displayed his head before the roaring crowd. At a post-debate focus group led by pollster Frank Luntz, numerous attendees praised Genghis for standing up to, as one attendee put it, “the politically correct media.”

His continued strong showings have the Romney campaign contemplating more forceful tactics. Pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future today released a new ad assailing Genghis for having established a vast mail delivery network based on riding stations, like the post office, and having failed to completely conquer China. The ad includes the tagline, “More government bureaucracy, soft on defense,” while the screen morphs Genghis’s face into that of Jimmy Carter.

The latest ARG poll has Genghis leading Romney by eight points in Ohio.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intel, February 16, 2012

February 20, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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