Saturday, February 04, 2012

President Obama’s Economy…

…. may not be improving as fast as many of us would it to, but, it is going much better than what the Republican Party would like for you to hear.

50,000 New Manufacturing Jobs, GM is #1, Gas Use @ 2001 Levels, Thank You President Obama

  Original Post  By FISHOUTOFWATER  on Friday, February 3, 2012

The reports of the death of American manufacturing were premature. President Obama stopped the long hard decline in U.S. manufacturing that began under President G.W. Bush. U.S. durable goods manufacturing added 50,000 jobs in January for a total of 418,000 jobs over the past 2 years. Hours worked in manufacturing were up 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, giving a boost to worker pay. President Obama's decision to save GM and Chrysler, which was strongly attacked at the time by Republicans, saved America's manufacturing sector leading to today's good news. If GM had been allowed to shut down the ripple effect through the supply chain would have permanently damaged a large sector of American manufacturing. Today GM is the worlds number 1 producer of automobiles and Chrysler, which Republicans declared dead, is profitable again.

Auto sales were so strong that auto dealers added 7,000 new jobs in January.

In the goods-producing sector, manufacturing added 50,000 jobs. Nearly all of the increase occurred in durable goods manufacturing, with job growth in fabricated metal products (+11,000), machinery (+11,000), and motor vehicles and parts (+8,000). Durable goods manufacturing has added 418,000 jobs over the past 2 years.

The really good news that hasn't been reported with the auto jobs data is the large reduction in U.S. gasoline consumption. In January, gas consumption plummeted to levels not seen since the weeks after September 11, 2001. This is solid evidence that the Obama administration's bold initiative to turn GM into a producer of smaller fuel efficient cars is a resounding success. Clearly, the high price of gas has encouraged use of mass transit, car pools and more efficient trips, but no one can blame cold winter weather for the low gas consumption. Obviously, buyers are replacing old inefficient vehicles with new fuel efficient ones. Because people put off auto buying during the recession, pent up demand will continue this trend of replacing gas guzzlers with gas sippers. This isn't just good news for the environment. It's good for the economy. The U.S. economy will be less prone to go into a recession as oil prices rise because consumers who are using less fuel will be less sensitive to price hikes.

Total U.S. fuel consumption dropped to 1999 levels, putting strong downward pressure on the price of "West Texas" crude sold at Cushing, Oklahoma. The price of Brent crude, which is of similar high quality, was $16.74 higher at close of business today than West Texas Intermediate. President Obama's success in raising vehicle fuel economy standards will help further reduce consumption and will help keep gas prices from rising more.

Rising Cushing inventories also helped widen Brent’s premium over WTI, which has almost doubled this year, said Gene McGillian, an analyst and broker at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. Enterprise Products Partners LP (EPD) plans to start shipping oil from Cushing to the U.S. Gulf Coast June 1 after the Seaway pipeline’s flow is reversed.

“Cushing stocks are increasing and there won’t be new pipelines until later this year,” McGillian said. He added that Asian demand is boosting Brent.

Crude prices may fall next week, a Bloomberg News survey showed. Fourteen of 34 analysts, or 41 percent, forecast oil will drop through Feb. 10. Twelve respondents, or 35 percent, predicted prices will increase and eight estimated there will be little change.

Total petroleum demand in the U.S., the biggest oil consumer, fell to 17.7 million barrels a day last week, the lowest level since May 1999, according to the Energy Department. Gasoline consumption decreased to 7.97 million barrels a day, the lowest level since September 2001.

Strong demand in Asia is driving up the price of Brent crude. Republicans are pressing for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline so that the Koch Brothers can sell fuel they refined in Texas to Asia and world markets. Completion of additional pipeline capacity is not required to meet falling demand in the U.S. If the pipeline is built West Texas prices will rise to Brent levels.

President Obama is helping keep the price of gas down by not approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

Also republished by The Federation and Climate Hawks.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Friday Funnies: The Mittzilla Edition

    So Mitt Romney beat up the Newt in the Florida primary and then showed even more of his true colors by saying that he wasn’t to concerned with poor people because they have a safety net, which every Republican on the planet is trying to do away with.

   Then, on Thursday, the Romney got that most coveted endorsement by Mr. 1% himself, Donald Trump.

Conan O'Brien: "Mitt Romney went to a McDonald's and ordered burgers and fries and apparently everything was going well until Romney asked the cashier if she could break a $1 million bill."

"Studies are showing that Republican candidates are buying a lot of their ad time on the Weather Channel. You can tell because last night, the weatherman blamed the cold front on immigration and gay marriage."

Craig Ferguson: "A lot of people want Gingrich and Romney to continue their attacks on each other all the way to the convention. These people are called Democrats."

Stephen Colbert: "I don't know whether Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich won but we do know one thing for certain: tomorrow both of them can go back to ignoring Latinos."

Jay Leno: “Newt Gingrich has been attacking Mitt Romney for being wealthy and having money in bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. See, that’s when you know you’re part of the top 1 percent, when your bank’s address has the word ‘island’ in it.”
“But, Romney says he is not a creature of Washington. He has lived in the real streets of America. I believe it’s Easy Street, if I’m not mistaken.”
“In fact, when Mitt Romney was young, he and his gang controlled their hood's hedge fund.”

Bill Maher: “Mitt Romney said he loves Florida. All the sunshine and sandy beaches reminds him of the country where he keeps hi money.”

“These debates have jumped the shark because last night the Republican stalked about three things: deporting Mexican grandmothers, building a colony on the moon that could become the 51st state, and how Obama is out of touch.”

Newt Gingrich -- this is guy is clinical. He thinks he’s some sort of intergalactic ruler. He said by the end of my second term as president, we will have a colony on the moon, and if there are enough people there, it can petition to be the 51st state. We’ll call it Lunarchusetts.”



Komen Foundation Is Run By Republican Right Wingers

Wed Feb 01, 2012                Original Post by TOMP

Some folks have commented about this, but I thought it needed to be seen by more folks.  The Komen Race for the Cure is a right wing outfit run by Republicans:

But the truth is that Komen founder Nancy Brinker has strong Republican ties and Cecile Richards, who leads Planned Parenthood, is daughter of late Texas Gov. Ann Richards and has longtime Democratic Party ties. Also worth noting: This is an election year.

Brinker, a longtime GOP donor who was ambassador to Hungary under then-President George W. Bush, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2009. She has cast Komen as above politics, saying its focus is women’s health.

But the decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood comes shortly after Komen unveiled a new partnership that strengthens its ties to the George W. Bush Institute. The institute is the policy-making arm of Bush’s presidential library, which is scheduled to open in Dallas next year.

WaPo, Komen’s Planned Parenthood decision all about politics

And Brinker has salted the organization with anti-choice zealots:

Komen’s new Senior Vice President of Public Policy, Karen Handel, not only has a long anti-choice history, but pledged to eliminate grants for Planned Parenthood to provide breast and cervical cancer screenings when she ran for governor of Georgia in 2010.

Republican anti-choice fanatics are dominating this "charity" to use for political purposes in an anti-woman way.  The irony is amazing.  It's supposedly all about women's health, except Komen is anti-choice and fighting against women's reproductive health. 

People should not run in the "Race for the Cure" or give money.

Komen chose to declare war on women.  Let them reap the consequences of that war.  Women and male allies must fight back. 

Update I: Good news from the comments regarding Planned Parenthood:

Texas oil executive...(7+ / 0-)
Lee Fikes and his wife have just given $250,000 to Planned Parenthood to help make up for some of the loss of funds.

Amy and Lee Fikes Announce $250,000 Gift to Create Planned Parenthood Breast Health Fund:

"Our family is saddened that the far right has relentlessly and successfully pressured the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation to cut funding for breast screening, referral, and education support to low-income women who, until now, have been able to depend on the partnership between Komen and Planned Parenthood for their health.

"Women of all economic levels need breast health screenings, referrals and education, which is what Planned Parenthood provides in communities across the country, especially to low-income women who have no other place to turn. Planned Parenthood's quality, accessibility, and affordability makes it a leader in enabling women to have early screening and support when there is the best chance of successful treatment.

"As a family with a breast cancer survivor, we lament the decision of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation to abandon women who get their health care at Planned Parenthood clinics. In response to this disappointing news, our family foundation has granted $250,000 to establish a Breast Health Fund at Planned Parenthood, so that their health centers across the country can continue to put the real needs of women ahead of right wing ideology. We encourage others to join us in replacing the funds lost, so that no woman’s health is imperiled by Komen’s unfortunate decision."

Balloon Juice also points out the fallout on Capitol Hill, with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) both withdrawing their support of the Komen Foundation.

And this:
Planned Parenthood (1+ / 0-)

Planned Parenthood raises $400,000 in 24 hours

02/01/12 - Supporters of Planned Parenthood have flooded the organization with enough donations to recoup almost all of the money that would have come from the Susan G. Komen foundation.

Planned Parenthood said it has raised $400,000 in online donations in the 24 hours since news broke that Komen would no longer fund cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics. More than 6,000 people have donated, Planned Parenthood said.

The group announced yesterday a $250,000 donation to continue providing cancer screenings to low-income women.

Update II: If you want to donate to Planned Parenthood, go here:Planned Parenthood

There is a donate buton on the right side of the page.  Hit that and it will take you to the donate page. 

Also republished by Kos Georgia.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Aetna Health Insurance Profits Up 73%! Why? Poor Americans Can't Afford To Visit Doctors

    * I happen to fall into this group of Americans who are saddled with mountains of medical debt due to these outrageous co-pays, so I’m posting the following from James321.

Wed Feb 01, 2012

If Eve's heartbreaking diary hasn't gotten you upset enough tonight, this sickening piece of news about the mega-profit Aetna health insurance company may just push you into having a heart attack (which Aetna will promptly deny coverage for):

Health insurer Aetna Inc.’s fourth-quarter net income jumped 73 percent, as it continued to benefit from low use of health care and some key expenses fell.

The Hartford, Conn., insurer’s earnings and revenue topped Wall Street expectations due in part to slower-than-expected growth in health care use, a trend that has helped insurers routinely outperform the past several quarters. Many analysts expect this trend to continue into 2012.

Yes, you read that right, the poor, one of the poor, little bloodsucking insurance companies that is unable to afford printing basic information about what your policy will cover without passing the costs onto customers just had its profits rise by 73-freaking-percent.

This is sickening and I am so ashamed for the United States of America.

What pushes me to tears -- thinking about all the people like the young woman in Eve's diary -- is that this company, and its vulture shareholders, are making all that money because everyday Americans can no longer afford to pay the co-pays and deductibles necessary to visit their doctors.

Yes, in America, "health care" companies do best when they don't have to "do" any health care at all.

That is a sick, twisted and perverse system -- and we should be appalled that we are the only developed country on the face of the Earth that allows bloodsucking, pseudo-bankers (that's what insurers our -- they invest your premium dollars) to make a profit off of the financing of basic health care.

Of course, this 73% is not enough for Aetna, they still want more:

Zubretsky in the interview stressed how much Aetna has grown in the market since the middle of the last decade, plus the opportunity Aetna has to covert its own commercial customers to Medicare Advantage. "We've been focusing on organic opportunities," he said.

Only in America do we deny the right to health care to all our people, but then allow our government to pay immoral, unethical companies like Aetna to provide health care for small segments of our population -- the Medicare Advantage plans.

So, to summarize, the good news?

Aetna's CEO Mark Bertolini will be able to buy some more fine Italian wines for the mountainside hot tub outside his Connecticut mansion (no, I'm not making that up):

Mark Bertolini and his wife, Susan, just back from Italy in 2001, were sipping Vernaccia di San Gimignano wine in the hot tub of their spacious Avon Mountain home and reveling in their good fortune.

And, the bad news?

People will die -- the very policyholders bankrolling that (truly) sick man's lavish 1%-er lifestyle -- because they can't afford to pay their $5,000 deductible. Or they wonder if the chest pain is just from dinner, or if it's a pay-the-$200-Emergency Room-co-pay type of chest pain.

Shame on this country, and shame on Aetna for denying its policyholders health care, and for -- through its incessant lobbying and visits to the White House -- denying Americans the right to Medicare for all.

Let's occupy health care, and demand that Aetna be given its final denial -- removal from America's health care system.

Screw you, Aetna.


Obama Administration: Leaks Are OK When It's Obama Defending Controversial Drone Program

Wed Feb 01, 2012    by Jesselyn Radack     Daily Kos

The Obama administration recently continued its campaign against so-called "leakers," who are more often than not whistleblowers, with the indictment of a record-breaking sixth person under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information.

Obama's abhorrence for "leaks" apparently only applies to disclosures that expose embarrassing or negative aspects of the administration. At an online town hall - sponsored by adjust-your-privacy-expectations-downward Google - Obama defended the CIA's supposedly covert drone program:

“I want to make sure that people understand that drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties,” Obama replied. “For the most part, they have been very precise, precision strikes against al-Qaeda and their affiliates.”

The perception that “we’re just sending in a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly,” Obama said, is incorrect. “This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists, who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases and so on.”

“I think that we have to be judicious in how we use drones,” Obama added.

Obama has no qualms with speaking publicly about the drone program to assure us that not too many innocent people get killed. (I doubt civilians in northern Pakistan would agree nor would the family of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki - an innocent 16-year-old American killed by a drone as collateral damage and son of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, also targeted and killed in a separate drone strike.)

Despite Obama's candid defense of the glories of modern drone warfare, the Obama administration enthusiastically raises the curtain of secrecy whenever the public seeks information that will paint Obama's precious drones in anything but a heroic, American-life-saving light.

The Justice Department repeatedly claims that it can "neither confirm nor deny" the existence of the program in response to the public's requests for information. WaPo reports:

In a lawsuit last year, the American Civil Liberties Union said that the CIA’s refusal to release information about drone killings was illegal. When the CIA argued that even the “fact of the existence or non-existence” of such a program was classified, the ACLU responded that then-CIA Director Leon E. Panetta had spoken openly of U.S. “hits” and “strikes” against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan.

My organization, the Government Accountability Project, got the same response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the secret Justice Department memo rationalizing the assassination of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki with a drone strike, despite the fact that the New York Times described the memo in detail on the front page. 

Dealing with Obama's acknowledgment of a program the Obama administration has tried to avoid "confirming or denying," the Washington Post reports that White House spokesman Jay Carney, 

suggested that nothing Obama had said could be a security violation: “He’s the commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States. He’s the president of the United States.”

In other words, if whistleblowers disclose waste, fraud, abuse, illegality or just plain embarrassing information, they can expect to be labeled an enemy of the state and criminally prosecuted under the Espionage Act, but, if the President does it, it's not illegal.

UPDATE: According to CNN, an anonymous administration official is now backing Carney's statements that Obama did not "make a mistake" when discussing the drone program.

A senior administration official is denying to CNN that President Obama made a mistake in publicly revealing what had been classified information about U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.

The official downplayed the significance of what happened, pointing out that what the president said was widely known. The president, the official said was making the point that the drone missions are “precise” and “targeted to avoid casualties.”

To summarize, we have an anonymous senior administration official reinforcing what a White House Spokesperson said Obama meant when Obama publicly discussed a secret program that the Justice Department "can neither confirm nor deny." Am I the only one confused?

The problem of such absurd secrecy is not lost on anyone writing about the drone program. The New York Times reported:

The secrecy has prevented an open debate on legal and ethical questions surrounding the strikes, since neither intelligence officials nor members of Congress can speak openly about them.

The ACLU had another take on the purpose of the ridiculous secrecy - to avoid Court oversight:

In the wake of Obama’s comments, “it becomes more and more absurd to say that this is a covert program, a secret program,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer. “There is nobody left in the United States or in Pakistan or in Yemen,” where drone strikes have also been conducted, “who doesn’t know about this.”

“At this point,” Jaffer said, “the only consequence of pretending that it’s a secret program is that the courts don’t play a role in overseeing it.”

A functioning democracy requires an informed public, not one that relies on Executive branch talking points, selective authorized leaks from "anonymous administration officials," and the occasional presidential off-the-cuff remark.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Romney Trounces Gingrich In Florida

   Trounced is putting it mildly.

Yahoo News


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Newt Gingrich and Those Tampa Christians

Gingrich, Messiah of the Evangelicals
25 January 2012    Edited by Gillian Palmer

Translated By Micaela Bester

France - Le Monde - Original Article (French)

    Sourced from Watching America

Tampa, Florida. The audience, a mix of all ages, is welcomed in, heads bowed, eyes shut, arms outstretched and palms open. An outdoor mass? No – a meeting of Newt Gingrich’s followers in the immense parking lot of the spiritual center of River Church, a “church of awakening.”
The “awakening of America, land of mission” is exactly what the master of the house, an evangelical preacher, fervently desires. He fires up the audience while they are waiting for the candidate for the Republican nomination. “Only Jesus can heal the wounds of America,” he assures.* The banners fluttering in the wind invoke, instead, the very human “Newt.” The wounds are clearly identified: The murder of “unborn babies,” the “taking over of this country by Islam” and the theft of the “rights and freedoms of America, this land where the name of God is proclaimed.” The "amen"s soon give way to chants of “U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!” until the audience is out of breath, before the prayer to the flag.
But the awakening has begun: “America is coming back with Newt Gingrich,” proclaims a local representative. “Newt is going to take the state of Florida,” prophesies a “non-union” teacher. “We are here to save this great country,” adds a 60-odd-year-old who emigrated from Cuba in 1962. “He is going to take back for us the America that we love.”*
And here he is now, that very savior, taking the stand, in the company of Callista, his very blonde third wife. She nods her head conscientiously to each of his sentences. “Who has the capacity to face Obama?” Gingrich starts, mocking his rival, Mitt Romney. “Campaigning for six years [Romney was also a candidate in 2008], it’s desperate. And desperation can drive one to say anything.”*
He makes them laugh, “the people” to whom he wants to give power at the expense of the candidate of the Republican establishment. He also directs his anger toward the “media of the elite” who, according to him, support Barack Obama.
Banners describe him as “Obama’s worst nightmare for the debates.” Gingrich uses his cheeky humor and his flirtatiousness against the incumbent president, "food stamp president" (in other words, the president of welfare for the idle). In front of me, he scoffs, “He will always be able to use a prompter!" The evangelical faithfuls are overjoyed: “In the campaign, Newt was presumed dead just a few weeks ago. Today, he could win. It’s a resurrection.” Among these fervent evangelicals, everyone seems to have forgotten the candidate’s marital indiscretions.
Holding Callista’s hand, the ex-Speaker of the House is already rolling toward another campaign event in Florida, where the primaries take place Jan. 31, but where voting is already open. He has made no concrete promises, except for “the absolute reestablishment of the borders.”* Newt has just bragged about being “a genuine conservative sprung from the ground.” He knew to speak the words that his fans had come to hear: “real change in Washington” where “everything is broken,” and “reestablishment of American exceptionalism.”*
*Editor’s Note: These quotations, accurately translated, could not be verified.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tech Group: SOPA/PIPA Need To Be Scrapped Entirely

Thu Jan 26, 2012  Originally posted to Joan McCarter

President and CEO of Public Knowledge Gigi Sohn writes at Forbes' CIO Network blog, arguing that there's nothing salvagable in the current SOPA/PIPA anti-internet piracy bills.

Reporters want to know—what if this provision came out? Or what if that was the other language was changed? Would the bill be acceptable to us? Some of the big lobby groups behind the bill suggested a “summit” of tech companies and content companies to hash it all out.

The answer is—none of the above. Trying to “fix” SOPA and PIPA and all of the bad provisions in those bills is the wrong approach. Conceptually, it’s like trying to build a building starting on the second floor. The most logical way to proceed would be to start building a structure from the foundation and working up from there.

She also has a radical idea: "So before we talk solutions, we have to figure out the problem."

This legislation is a perfect example of what happens when you let lobbyists, and in this case the wrong ones, write legislation. The MPAA and RiAA and other content producers called the tune on this one and Congress jumped, even after the Government Accountability Office couldn't validate the dire numbers the content industry put out to show how harmed they are by piracy. Despite the uncertain data, despite the warnings from all of the other communities involved—tech, civil rights, social media—of the dire unintended consequences this legislation would have, Congress was ready to do the content providers bidding.

But the experience of stopping this legislation provides another great example, and perhaps a template to build upon. Sohn:

This was a decentralized effort. No one company or group organized it. No one company or group could have organized it. When someone suggested on Reddit that Web sites go dark, and Reddit agreed, the idea caught on as the site proprietors themselves decided what to do. The combination of expertise in the substance and inside D.C.-based knowledge of the legislative process, combined with outside online activism created a powerful wave that swamped the traditional ways of doing business inside the Capitol.

It set up a great coalition, and a Congress that just might be ready to listen to it, for the next round.