Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich had posts up Monday and Tuesday that I found not just interesting but very related as well. But Reich did explicitly connect them. Monday was, at least in part, a post about all the multimillionaire and billionaire hedge fund managers who are financing Willard's run for the Republican nomination. "Mitt Romney?s super PAC raised $6.6 million last month-- almost all from just forty donors. Bruce Kovner, co-founder of the New York-based hedge fund Caxton Associates, gave $500,000, as did two others. David Tepper of Appaloosa Management gave $375,000... Julian Robertson, co-founder of hedge fund Tiger Management, gave $250,0000." And that doesn't even go into notorious hedge fund criminals like John Paulson, Paul Singer, Jim Simons, Edward Conard, Robert Mercer and Julian Robertson (a cool million each to Willard's PAC) who gave in previous months. Other shady hedge fund crooks pouring massive cash into Romney's bid to take over the White House include Chris Shumway ($750,000), Miguel Fernandez ($500,000), Steven Webster ($500,000)... the list stretches endlessly from Boston to Wall Street to Salt Lake City and beyond.
OK, we all know... the one percent's class war against the rest of us has turned into a freak-fest of unregulated financial sector cash flowing into Romney's campaign war chest. The long dreamed of Mormon quest to seize the White House is being financed by people who aren't even aware of what a Mormon is. But it was Reich's Tuesday column,
The Gas Wars that alarmed me most. It's the very same hedge fund managers who are writing checks from millions and millions of dollars to bankroll Romney's campaign who are driving up the price of gasoline at the pump, thereby threatening the economic recovery, something they expect will help Romney even more than their checks-- while helping them recoup the money they're giving the campaign!
Nothing drives voter sentiment like the price of gas-- now averaging $3.56 a gallon, up 30 cents from the start of the year. It?s already hit $4 in some places. The last time gas topped $4 was 2008.
And nothing energizes Republicans like rising energy prices. Last week House Speaker John Boehner told Republicans to take advantage of voters? looming anger over prices at the pump. On Thursday House Republicans passed a bill to expand offshore drilling and force the White House to issue a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. The tumult prompted the Interior Department to announce on Friday expanded oil exploration in the Arctic.
If prices at the pump continue to rise,† expect more gas wars.
In fact, oil prices are rising for three reasons-- none of which has to do with offshore drilling or the XL pipeline.
The first, on the supply side, is Iran?s decision to cut in oil exports to Britain and France in retaliation for sanctions put in place by the EU and United States. Iran?s threat to do this has been pushing up crude oil prices for weeks.
The second, on the demand side, is rising hopes for a global economic recovery-- which would mean increased oil consumption. The American economy is showing faint signs of a recovery. Europe?s debt crisis appears to be easing. Greece?s pending bailout deal is calming financial nerves on both sides of the Atlantic, and the Bank of England and European Central Bank are keeping rates low. At the same time, China has decided to boost its money supply to spur growth there.
Neither of these would have much effect were it not for the third reason-- overwhelming bets of hedge funds and other money managers that oil prices will rise on the basis of the first two reasons.
Speculators have pushed crude oil to $105.28 per barrel, up 35 percent since September. Brent crude, Europe?s benchmark, is now $120.37 a barrel-- also worrisome because many East Coast refineries use imported oil.
Funny, I don?t hear Republicans rail against speculators. Could that have anything to do with the fact that hedge funds and money managers are bankrolling the GOP as never before?
The Republicans on the Hill just held on hearing on birth control (all male, of course) and I believe I read they're planning a second. And the GOP presidential candidates had a field day going after President Obama for doing what Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts, requiring employer health insurance plans to cover birth control. So clearly the Republicans have made a huge issue out of birth control this
So then why did the GOP debate audience last night boo CNN for asking a question about birth control? The reaction suggested the crowd felt it was a "gotcha" topic. But how could it be? It's the GOP that made this a huge topic of debate the past few weeks. Or is the audience embarrassed by the issue, because they're losing badly on it in recent polls (even Catholics agree with President Obama over their own bishops)?
Well, if you're too embarrassed to be asked about social issues, then don't put them at the top of your agenda. I'd have liked to have seen John King fight back a little on that one. He should have asked the candidates if they think it's fair to ask about birth control, then tripped them up with their own statements over the past two weeks about President Obama's contraceptive insurance plan.
More from the Daily Beast:
Earlier, moderator John King raised the question of birth control?eliciting boos from the audience. Meanwhile, the candidates were frothing at the mouth. Newt Gingrich immediately lashed out at King, demanding why moderators never asked President Obama about his vote as an Illinois senator for ?infanticide.? He then called Obama a baby killer and said he was more of an extremist than any of the GOP candidates. Romney chimed in to say there?s never been an administration in America more opposed to religious freedom. Santorum argued that teen sexuality should be a reason why contraception shouldn?t be free, and then shifted his focus to defunding Planned Parenthood and fractured families.What a surprise, Newt Gingrich angrily lashes out at the moderator. Can you imagine what it must be like to be married to this guy?
Mos Def, performing under his Yasiin Bey stage name, took a shot at turning “Ni**as in Paris,” the most recent single off Kanye West and Jay-Z’s joint album Watch the Throne, into a piece of biting social commentary:
I don’t necessarily think that “Ni**as in Paris,” which is pretty obviously about the distorting influence of wealth, needed a socially conscious-remix as an antidote. That said, the riffs on the original are pretty funny, turning a bathroom hook up into a parody of Cosby-like concern with how young black men present themselves; a joke about lesbians into a commentary on fast food and diabetes; and I pretty much lost it at “Prince Williams ain’t do it right if you ask me / If I was him I’d put some black up in my family.” I’m less compelled by the slightly apocalyptic stuff towards the end, but it’s a pretty comprehensive and clever inversion of the song.
And it’s also part of a noble semi-tradition of other rappers poking Kanye and Jay-Z about their politics. Kanye may have gone socially-conscious on his remix of his own song, “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” but the line that everyone remembers from that song is Jay-Z declaring that “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.” It took Lupe Fiasco to drop actual knowledge about the history of the contemporary diamond trade and talk jewelry depreciation:
Welcome to The Morning Pride, ThinkProgress LGBT?s 8:45 AM round-up of the latest in LGBT policy, politics, and some culture too! Here?s what we?re reading this morning, but let us know what you?re checking out as well. Follow us all day on Twitter at @TPEquality.
- Rick Santorum reiterated yesterday he opposes civil unions too.
- Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY)†called Santorum “homophobic,” chastising him for wanting to nullify the marriages of all same-sex couples.
- After six months with civil unions in Rhode Island, only 46 couples have obtained them.
- Common Cause has filed two complaints alleging that Minnesota for Marriage has failed to comply with the state’s campaign finance laws.
- Dallas County Judge Tonya Parker, an out lesbian, refuses to perform marriage ceremonies in her courtroom until she herself is allowed to marry.
- The Key West City Commission voted unanimously last night on an Equal Benefits Ordinance, which will require the city’s vendors to offer domestic partnership benefits to employees.
- Ten members of Congress have posed for the NOH8 campaign.
- Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said she will not sign a proposed anti-gay bill.
- Conan O’Brien reveals some of the Girl Scouts’ scandalous new cookies:
Mitt Romney defended a rule requiring insurers and employers to provide contraception coverage as part of their health insurance plans at Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate in Arizona, so long as “people don’t have to have coverage for contraceptives or other type of medical devices which are contrary to their religious teachings.” The former Massachusetts governor was describing his own 2006 health care reform law, which greatly expanded access to contraception — but his characterization could also apply to President Obama’s contraception regulation. Watch the exchange:
“[T]here’s a provision in Massachusetts general laws that says people don’t have to have coverage for contraceptives or other type of medical devices which are contrary to their religious teachings,” Romney said. “Churches also don’t have to provide that to entities which are either the church themselves or entities they control.”
Under Romneycare, the state?s Commonwealth Care — which offers subsidized, low or no-cost insurance program for low-income residents without access to employer-sponsored health insurance — provides primary and preventive care that includes ?family planning services? and prescription contraceptives. Massachusetts employers that are not “a church or qualified church-controlled organization” must also cover hormone replacement therapy and all FDA-approved contraceptive methods.
Romney argued that a similar regulation included in the Affordable Care Act would force “the Catholic Church to provide for its employees and its various enterprises health care insurance that would include birth control, sterilization and the morning-after pill.” The provision seeks to guarantee all women access to contraception without additional cost sharing, but actually exempts churches and nonprofits primarily serving people of the same faith from that mandate and, under a recent modification, would also allow religiously affiliated colleges, universities, and hospitals that raise religious objections to stop providing birth control coverage.
“We have to have individuals that will stand up for religious conscience, and I did and I will again as president,” Romney pledged at the debate. However, since Obama?s new federal standard would expand conscience protections beyond the “church or qualified church-controlled organization[s]” to include religiously affiliated nonprofits, his regulation would likely go further in meeting that goal than existing Massachusetts law. For instance, if Boston College is required to provide birth control under the law’s overseen by Romney in Massachusetts, it could drop the coverage ? and leave the matter to its insurer ? under Obama?s new requirement.
In 2005, Romney also ?signed a bill that could expand the number of people who get family-planning services, including the morning-after pill.? Romney even pressured the state Department of Health and Human Services to issue regulations that required Catholic hospitals to issue the morning after pill to rape victims, despite initially vetoing the bill and claiming that the pill constituted an ?abortifacient.? “My personal view in my heart of hearts is that people who are subject to rape should have the option of having emergency contraceptives or emergency contraceptive information,? he told the Boston Herald at the time.
Other stories below: Global warming means tough choices for West Virginia; Judge?s Ruling Complicates Hydrofracking Issue in New York
Prices for crystalline-silicon (c-Si) solar photovoltaic (PV) modules fell below the $1/W mark in January 2012, and in some cases well below even that, marking the first time that global average prices have fallen below this milestone, according to IMS Research.
With the market now stuck in overcapacity and oversaturation with solar PV modules — so much so (some say tens of gigawatts) that Tier-1 producers and overstocks can fill demand all by themselves — Chinese Tier-2 suppliers have desperately kept up their pricing one-upsmanship to simply keep themselves in the game at the expense of rivals.
A hotter planet, an economist visiting West Virginia said, is just something that will be a part of the lives of young people today.
“The reality is, especially for young people in their 20s or 30s, a hotter planet is just going to be a defining feature of their world,” said Eban Goodstein, director of the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, who spoke Feb. 22 as part of the ongoing “Energy: Who’s Got the Power” speaker series at the University of Charleston. “That means more floods, more droughts and there is going to be a lot of pressure on the coal industry as a consequence.”
That could be bad news for a state accustomed to raking in profits from the very resource ? coal ? that is catching a lot of the blame for global warming.
“Despite the politics of the moment the science is clear ? that’s what’s causing the problem. That and gasoline,” Goodstein said just before speaking at the University of Charleston event. “So, I think folks in West Virginia have just got to sort of accept those facts. You can obviously fight them for a while, but they’re going to catch up with you, and find a new way forward.”
A U.S. attorney charged a former Massey Energy Co. mine superintendent Wednesday with conspiring to obstruct federal regulators before a 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners, in a move that signaled a widening criminal investigation.
Booth Goodwin, the U.S. attorney in Charleston, W.Va., charged Gary May, 43 years old, a former superintendent at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va., with violating federal mine laws to conceal safety hazards and prevent inspectors from slowing coal production.
A state judge?s decision this week supporting the rights of individual towns to determine whether to allow hydraulic fracturing has added a new wrinkle to the fight over the natural gas drilling process in New York.
Parties on all sides are trying to figure out what the ruling will mean, but a consensus emerged on Wednesday that there will be further court challenges and delays over when, how and where the process, known as hydrofracking, will be allowed in the state, and by whom.
Officials of natural gas companies voiced concern that such local restrictions could render more areas of the Marcellus Shale off-limits to drillers in a state that is already proposing strict regulation of where the industry will be allowed to operate.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has put Chicago’s two coal power plants on warning: Either present a plan to clean up their pollution or risk being shut down by the city within the next two years.
Various politicians, community groups and others have been pushing for more than a year to shut down the Crawford and Fisk plants — owned and operated by Midwest Generation — because they say the plants come with serious health consequences for the Little Village and Pilsen communities located nearby them.
As the Associated Press reports, Alderman Danny Solis (25th) and Dr. Ravi Shah of the Doctor’s Council of the Service Employees International Union of Illinois on Wednesday are among those who have spoken out against the plants. According to Shah, the coal-fired power plants such as theirs are the largest generators of the greenhouse gases associated with respiratory problems.
During the past decade, the European Union blazed a green trail with a series of laws mandating a low-carbon economy and promises to set an example for other parts of the world.
That now seems like another era.
A succession of economic crises has pushed European governments to pare subsidies to clean-energy sectors like solar power and has undermined initiatives in other areas like energy efficiency, where member states balked at binding targets.
The E.U. Emissions Trading System ? the Union?s flagship climate policy, which requires industries to acquire emissions permits ? has been battered by extreme volatility, tax fraud, recycling of used credits, suspicions of profiteering and online attacks.
The Year of the Dragon has gotten off to an inauspicious start for the Chinese wind industry and in particular, Sinovel Wind Group Co. (Sinovel), China’s leading wind turbine manufacturer.
In early February, with the official end to the ?Spring Festival? only days away, Sinovel reported decidedly chilly preliminary estimates of its FY2011 performance, confirming that Sinovel and indeed the whole Chinese wind industry had, in the words of one Chinese wind industry insider ?entered a winter that would be hard to endure?.
Sinovel estimated that its net income for FY2011 declined by more than 50% compared with 2010 profits of 2.856 billion Yuan (~$450 million USD). The decline in profitability of Sinovel in 2011 was attributed to several factors: intense competition in the Chinese wind turbine market, delays in the development of certain wind farm projects and a series of mishaps that adversely affected the grid, which were caused by turbine defects evident during low voltage ride through (LVRT) events.
Welcome to ThinkProgress Economy?s morning link roundup. This is what we?re reading. Have you seen any interesting news? Let us know in the comments section. You can also follow ThinkProgress Economy on Twitter.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) accused President Obama of “cowardice” and trying to have it “both ways” on marriage equality during a contentious appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday. Christie defended his recent veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry and reiterated his call to put the question to a popular referendum, arguing, “the Democrats in my state are criticizing me saying my feet are firmly planted on the wrong side of justice. I said yesterday, yeah, my feet are firmly planted right next to President Obama.” “He could have gotten more votes in New Jersey out of Democrats in the legislature — not all of them voted for it –if the President would have taken a stand,” Christie added.
But the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart challenged Christie’s comparison, pointing out that Obama opposes state efforts to deny rights to gay and lesbian Americans and has ordered his Justice Department to stop defending the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act:
CAPEHART: Governor Christie, I heard you say that you have your feet firmly planted next to President Obama on this issue, but the key difference between you and the President is while you support putting the civil rights of a minority up for a public referendum, the President is certainly not in favor of that.
CHRISTIE: Has he said that, Jonathan? Jonathan, has he said that? I haven’t heard him say that…The President is silent on this like he’s silent on every issue that’s difficult for him. [...] Let’s have the President of the United States show some courage, come on this program, look into the camera like I’m looking into the camera, and state his position. He won’t because he wants to have it both ways. I’m not looking to have it both ways, I vetoed the bill. That’s my position. What I’ve offered to the supporters of same-sex marriage is if one of your reasons for why I should have voted signed it was because you’re telling me the majority of the people of New Jersey want it, then prove it. Put it on the ballot and prove it. At least I’m standing up for what I believe in. The President has hidden on this issue, Jonathan, he’s hidden on it….This is the type of cowardice that we don’t want.
Watch the entire exchange:
Capehart went on to defend the notion that marriage equality is a civil rights issue that should not be left to the whims of voters. Civil marriage is “an issue of equality, of equal treatment under the law,” he explained. “It’s an issue of whether — if I were to get married to my partner and we were to have children, that my children would have the same protections that your children have because you’re able to legally marry.” “In that regard, we’re talking overall a civil rights issue and what African Americans continue to struggle with is exactly what lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are struggling with today.”
More Foreclosure Mischief: Bankruptcy HijackingsYves Smith, Naked CapitalismTuesday, February 21, 2012One of the common complaints from banks that the concerns raised by borrowers over robosigning are mere "paperwork" problems, that everyone who is[...]
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From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE?
16 15 14 Weeks 'til Netroots Nation!
Some quick updates and suchlike related to this year's big event in Providence June 7-10:
With more than 2,000 people attending Netroots Nation every year as well as the growing popularity of our Community and Exhibit Hall, this is a great chance for your group or company to get in front of engaged progressives from throughout the country.Deadline for entries is next Tuesday, February 28th. Online voting takes place between Feb. 29th and March 14. Winners will be announced next month. Click here for the official contest rules and other info. If you have questions, email Karen Kolber at: karen [at] netrootsnation.org.
The top three vote-getters in our online contest will automatically get a booth in the Hall. The rest of the entrants will go through a second round where a panel of judges will decide, based on merit, which three entrants will receive the last three spots.
Meanwhile, as we drum our fingers waiting for June to get here, Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]