Scott Walker faces the Blue Wall

In the prevailing campaign narrative, we are supposed to believe that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is uniquely electable because of his success in a solidly blue state. Instead of demonstrating a Republican path to the White House, the Walker campaign demonstrates why the GOP’s current posture has eliminated it from national relevance. Walker probably is the most electable potential Republican nominee and he would lose his home state – and the election, to almost any Democratic candidate.

The Blue Wall gets its power from a single political phenomenon – the conversion of the former slave and Jim Crow states from single-party Democratic rule to single party Republican rule. A new generation of Neo-Confederates has found vast new room to operate inside a far weaker political organization. Freed from the shackles of a more powerful national party, Neo-Confederates inside the GOP are now dictating terms instead of accommodating.

This has given Republicans in the old Jim Crow belt tremendous new local power, but it has converted the Republican Party into a regional force with little or no appeal beyond aging whites. Success for northern Republicans in state and local races depends on two factors. First, the template of relevant issues is much narrower than in national races, meaning voters are sometimes willing to tolerate or ignore otherwise unpopular positions. Second, candidates in state and local races can often establish a safe distance from the positions of the national party. Those two criteria are impossible to meet in a campaign for the White House.

In Wisconsin, for example, Walker built his appeal on his willingness to break the smothering stranglehold of public employee unions on state and local politics. For all the noise on the issue nationally, that position has always been a winner there for very good reasons and it remains a winner today. That is a purely regional concern that voters in Missouri or Nevada or Texas likely do not even comprehend.

Walker’s first campaign tried to conceal his social conservatism, downplaying abortion and other issues. Voters were keen enough to see reforms in state government to roll the dice on social issues, betting that there was little harm he could do. Despite taking some extreme Tea Party positions, voters have stuck with him by a narrow margin out of fear that a loss by Walker would undo the valuable work he has done. Polls are making clear that those voters are not willing to tolerate his far-right positions in a role as powerful as the White House. Truth be told, after what he has tried to do to the state’s flagship university, they probably wouldn’t return him to another term in the Governor’s office. He’s finished.

Walker trails Clinton in Wisconsin in a hypothetical matchup by double-digits. Yes, the election is a long way off, but it is difficult to imagine what might change. Wisconsin voters experienced three low-turnout elections with Walker and their buyer’s remorse is rising. Hillary Clinton is probably the most thoroughly-vetted public figure in modern history. There is nothing left to learn about her. Wisconsin voters have made up their minds and are unlikely to shift much on this issue in a year, or a decade.

Walker has never won more than 1.2m votes in Wisconsin. Obama won 1.6m in both 2008 and 2012. In a high-turnout election he has absolutely zero possibility of taking the state. And by the way, the state’s Tea Party Senator, Ron Johnson, who won election in an off-year, already trails his most likely rival by a huge margin. It is virtually inconceivable that he can hold his seat in Wisconsin in a Presidential election year.

Republicans are not going to reverse our decline in national relevance without addressing the forces behind the problem. The party has fallen captive to a Neo-Confederate agenda driven by the counter-civil rights movement. Talk all day about taxes or war or trade or any other issue, as long the party is chained to a core of bigotry, whatever else we build around that core will be tainted.

Want to build a more powerful, more vibrant, more optimistic Republican Party that can dominate our politics for a generation? Start with a good hard look at what happened in Indiana with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. If you need evidence to demonstrate the scope of the problem, take a good hard look at the career arc of Governor Scott Walker. Ronald Reagan was the last Republican nominee to carry Wisconsin. Walker will not be the next one.

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Posted in Civil Rights, Election 2016, Neo-Confederate, Tea Party

Here’s a chance to do something

A post on this blog back in January described the troubling history of Confederate Heroes Day in Texas. Now, you have a chance to do something about it.

One of the commenters to that post proposed the most obvious and reasonable solution – change Confederate Heroes Day to Civil War Remembrance Day. Texas Representative Donna Howard has introduced a bill that would do just that.

Needless to say, Howard’s bill has brought out the kooks. This is a chance for Texas Republicans to put their votes where their mouth is. If it’s true, as so many claim, that Texas has gotten over its civil rights era attachment to white supremacist causes, this is an opportunity to prove it.

Your legislator needs to hear from you. You can be certain that they are getting letters, cards and calls from every racist in the state. If you don’t know who your legislator is or have their contact information, you can run a search at this link. Contact your legislature and express your support Donna Howard’s bill.

Here’s a chance to move from talk to action. Share this with your friends in Texas. Let’s see what happens.

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Posted in Neo-Confederate, Texas

How to destroy religious freedom

Originally, ‘States Rights’ was a dry Constitutional premise explaining the shape of our federal system. After long misuse as a political subterfuge it has been redefined as a byword for racial discrimination.

‘Patriot’ was once among the highest complements we might pay to a distinguished citizen who had sacrificed deeply for our nation. Like ‘hero,’ it was a term one would seldom dare apply to oneself. Increasingly, in common usage, a ‘patriot’ is a paranoid gun fetishist with a stockpile of preserved food in his trailer who probably won’t blow up a federal building, but you can’t be too sure.

‘States’ rights’ is an arcane legal principle whose importance is largely technical. Patriot was a great word, but perhaps we can coin new terms to take its place. Religious freedom is a concept so central to the meaning of the Republic that it was enshrined in the first sentence of the first amendment to our Constitution. Some of us, particularly in the Republican Party, are determined to make religious freedom an excuse for imposing miserable oppression and harassment on a group of people they choose not to understand. Perhaps the only way to destroy religious freedom in America is to convert the term into a dog-whistle used to rally bigots. Please, please do not do this.

Our country is slowly emerging from a bitter, 60-year fight to grant equal treatment under the law to all Americans regardless of the conditions of their birth. Christians played a critical role in that movement for freedom. Unfortunately, other Christians played an equally critical and passionate role in opposing that movement at every stage. They haven’t quit.

Today’s Christian fundamentalists have inherited a political infrastructure that was originally constructed to protect white supremacy. In the 1950’s, as a Christian minister named Martin Luther King, Jr was organizing a movement for civil rights, other Christian ministers mobilized to stop him.

Jerry Falwell expressed the sentiment of religious conservatives with a bitter sermon in 1958. Regarding the Supreme Court’s decision striking down school segregation, Falwell explained: “If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made…The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line…The true Negro does not want integration…. He realizes his potential is far better among his own race.”

The same institutions that found themselves on the wrong side of Jim Crow, women’s rights, school desegregation, and just about every major liberty interest of the last century are trying to redefine religious liberty for our time. We cannot let them do this.

Religious fundamentalists fail to recognize that the same underlying attitudes that put them on the wrong side of the civil rights debate continue to skew their positions on everything else. At the heart of religious fundamentalism, whether the believer is Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist or Jedi, are these two ideas:

1) The culture I have inherited comes from sacred, revealed truth and is the only way to live righteously.

2) Nothing I discover, learn or observe about the world must be allowed to modify the assumptions of that culture in any manner.

Those are the beliefs that leave fundamentalists in constant tension with scientists and in persistence denial of the natural world. Those are the two beliefs that put Southern Baptists, for example, so consistently on the wrong side of the movement to free African Americans first from slavery and then from Jim Crow.

Long after those battles were decisively lost, the denomination apologized for their positions, but they refuse to re-examine the assumptions that gave rise to those positions. Today’s policy positions are tomorrow’s embarrassing public relations challenges. An ounce of humility might avoid this cycle.

You won’t find Jerry Falwell’s 1958 sermon on white supremacy in the extensive archives at Liberty University. Almost all of his materials from earlier than the mid-60’s were recalled from the collection. Falwell’s statements on white supremacy were so glaringly wrong that merely acknowledging them today would be ruinous to the school’s already tenuous brand.

Why don’t we just decide to stop embarrassing ourselves?

To my readers who insist that their ability to humiliate homosexuals is an irreplaceable tenet of faithful Christian observance I make this appeal. Sit down this weekend and read the words of Jesus. Take time to read all four Gospels. Pay special attention to the “red-lettered’ texts. Please right down every word the Gospel writers claim Jesus spoke regarding homosexuality.

At the end of the exercise, let that empty page remind you that you are hauntingly alone in your pursuit of this phony issue. That’s how much divine backing you bring to an effort to smear Christianity with your cultural baggage.

We often remark that the separation of church and state is as much a protection of religion as a protection from religion. Damage inflicted on Christianity by fundamentalists’ long, losing battle for political control is further evidence for this conviction.

Now, in the late stages of the fight for basic civil rights in America, we have a waning opportunity to define for history what Christianity meant to the movement. Religious fundamentalists are determined to define Christian faith and practice in a manner that sets it irrevocably at odds with basic human liberty. They are campaigning to define “religious freedom” as “state-enforced Christian cultural supremacy.”

Republicans should not help fundamentalists strip the gravity from the term “religious freedom.” We need not become the subject of our grand-children’s’ apologies.

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Posted in Civil Rights, Religion, Religious Right

When ISIS came to Texas

Starting in August of last year, Texas Governor Rick Perry began to hone a new message. In an effort to manufacture foreign policy credibility, Perry tried to repackage the policy challenges of a border state governor into a poor-man’s version of national security expertise. In a speech at the Heritage Institute he tied concerns (hysteria) over unaccompanied minors detained at the border into a terrorist threat. The cherry on that sundae was Perry’s vague claim that ISIS was trying to cross the Rio Grande.

In politics a claim can be patently stupid and ingenious at the same time. After all, can YOU prove that no terrorists have crossed the border into Laredo? By wrapping up phony concerns over immigration, terrorism, and Ebola into a fat little packet of white worry, Perry and other Republicans managed to overcome a mounting pile of good news. In 2014, an increasingly peaceful, prosperous and healthy country went to the polls in a frothing panic.

Perry’s idea picked up steam, fueled by categorical denials from every credible source. By October, Republican candidates were repeating the claim. Republican Senate candidate Tom Cotton improved on the story by inventing the idea that ISIS was working with Mexican drug cartels. Congressman Duncan Hunter decided to take the courageous step of making up evidence to back the claims. On October 8, just a few weeks before early voting began in several states, Rep. Hunter announced on Fox News that ten ISIS fighters had been captured trying to cross the southern border.

Sometimes a claim is just too truthy not to be true. Right wing group Judicial Watch repeated the claim with slightly different details. The claim went viral, fueled by negligent journalism. Look at how this Southern California TV station covered Hunter’s claims and handled his utter lack of evidence:

“But have any been caught at all? According to a Department of Homeland Security representative, any suggestion of ISIS crossing our borders is “categorically false and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground.”

Bee says it is possible the Feds may want to keep the details – who was arrested, how they got in – quiet so ISIS will not gain an advantage.

A representative for Hunter’s office told 10News they are standing by their assertion.”

Priceless. Politician makes bullshit claim. Journalist establishes that there is no evidence for said bullshit claim. Lack of evidence is mentioned in the 12th sentence of a 14-sentence story, right next to comments from a random local “expert” dismissing the government’s denial. And the story ends with Hunter’s insistence that he stands by his lie. All the public hears is PANIC NOW.

On the other side of the election, Ebola is gone. The pace of unaccompanied minors appearing at the border has dropped by about half. The terrorists who haunted your local Dairy Queen in 2014 remain elusive. Somehow, with the election behind us, all of these terrifying, existential threats to the Republic have mysteriously resolved themselves. None of the people who invented or spread the lies about the ISIS threat have suffered any consequences.

What happened to the ten ISIS fighters that were apprehended on our southern border? They never existed, of course. A few days later, Hunter quietly “clarified” his lie, a move that gathered far less attention than the lie itself. He never apologized. Meanwhile Rick Perry is still trying to build a Presidential campaign on ISIS fears. ISIS is Rick Perry’s biggest ally in the 2016 Election.

Lying to manufacture fear worked in 2014. As long as it works, we can expect to see it again and again and again…

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Posted in Texas

Republicans inch toward a basic income

You really have to wonder what Marco Rubio could accomplish if his political party allowed him to publicly acknowledge reality. Once again, as he did in the immigration debate, Rubio is nudging the party toward an obvious solution on poverty relief that it is not yet ready to accept.

In a tax plan assembled with the help of Sen. Lee from Utah, Rubio is proposing the beginnings of a basic income. His proposal would expand the earned income tax credit to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families. The plan would retain a very minimal work requirement and the amount obviously isn’t enough to stave off poverty, but in other respects it is similar to Milton Friedman’s plan that Nixon tried to introduce 50 years ago.

The rest of Rubio’s tax plan retains the entire panoply of far right fiscal delusions, from ending capital gains and dividend taxes to upper income tax cuts. It retains America’s most popular welfare program for the affluent, the mortgage interest deduction. And of course, like virtually every Republican budget proposal ever drafted, it dramatically increases our annual deficits.

Still, even one nugget of partial sanity is worthy of some celebration in this climate.

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Posted in Economics

Rand Paul shows why Cruz is winning

Remember when Rand Paul was a “libertarian?” Sure, it was always a stretch, but he tried to carry that banner for a while. Paul’s great mission was to somehow meld traditional libertarianism with religious fundamentalism, building a new Neo-Confederate appeal. The problem with that strategy was always the libertarian part. Now Paul is dropping the pretense and kneeling at the cross of Republican Jesus.

At a prayer breakfast this week in Washington Paul abandoned his relatively friendly stance on gay marriage, calling it a “moral crisis,” but he didn’t stop there. After explaining that “religion is part of our government,” he went on to deliver this whopper:

“We need a revival in the country. We need another Great Awakening with tent revivals of thousands of people saying reform or see what’s going to happen if we don’t reform.”

For anyone who used to like Rand Paul, this must be a stomach-churning moment. As a former McCain volunteer, I can relate to your pain.

In fairness, these were not prepared remarks and they were delivered in a relatively private meeting. No one seriously thinks this represents Paul’s personal views, not even the people he was pandering to. This does not represent an official, deliberate policy flip for Paul, at least not yet. However, the fact that he could deliver that speech without vomiting in his mouth a little says a lot about him and about the emerging shape of this nominating campaign.

What you are seeing in that video snippet is the long shadow of Ted Cruz. Candidates are no longer calculating how to position themselves to beat Jeb Bush.

For the next eight months every minimally credible Republican candidate will be racing to carve out real estate in a territory Ted Cruz already owns and militantly defends. Already, this is shaping up as a contest in which Cruz faces off against umpteen other people, each of whom insist that they are just like Ted Cruz on all of the issues Republican primary voters care about. They will be forced to distinguish themselves from Cruz on matters that Republican voters do not care about, like electability, willingness to compromise, likeability, experience, and basic sanity. Every other candidate will be pretending to be what Ted Cruz has proven his is.

Get ready to hear Jeb Bush’s awkward and unconvincing conversion experience. Get ready to hear Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson explain that they are even more like Ted Cruz than Cruz himself. There isn’t a single issue on which Cruz will have to dodge and weave the way Paul just did on gay marriage and theocracy. Being Ted Cruz means never having to apologize.

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Posted in Election 2016

Salesforce.com cancels Indiana

In response to Indiana’s new law protecting religious bigotry, Salesforce.com has been the first company to announce that it will be curtailing its Indiana operations. More are coming.

Here’s what their CEO stated: “Today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination. We are forced to dramatically reduce our investment in IN based on our employee’s & customer’s outrage over the Religious Freedom Bill.”

Salesforce is only a $4bn company, but it is an up-and-coming heavyweight in the tech industry. Having such a high-profile announcement from such a powerful player so quickly was a big surprise. Even if no one else openly joins them, their absence from trade shows, user groups and other activities is going to reverberate, creating pressure on other companies and hurting Indiana businesses.

Flanked by powerhouse Chicago on one side and the booming tech center of Columbus on the other, Indiana is a state that already struggles to compete in this lucrative, well-paid field. It is difficult to develop and retain technical talent and well-paid jobs there in the wake of a collapsed manufacturing base. Becoming a pioneer in discrimination is unlikely to help.

There seems to be a fundamental disconnect in Republican circles over the political value of gay-baiting. The environment changed very fast, and Republicans are not known for their speed of adaptation. Picking on gay people is no longer a winning political tactic. Even Jan Brewer recognizes this. Can we just accept this and move on?

As for the “religious exemptions,” you can’t possibly be serious. We’ve been here before. If the ability to persecute gay people is a central tenet of your religious faith, then your religious faith sucks. We all bear a Constitutional duty to preserve the basic rights of religions that suck, but only up to the point that your religion starts ruining other people’s lives. If you want to hold a job that serves the general public you will be expected not to act like an asshole, even if you think your religion commands it. Be an asshole in private where your right to be an asshole remains sacred.

How bold is Salesforce’s decision? Not nearly as bold as you might think. That’s the other piece of this scenario that GOP figures seem unable to grasp. The supposedly “business-friendly” states like Indiana and Kansas and Alabama and so on are economic pygmies. Skipping out on direct business in Indiana would have less impact on Salesforce.com than if they lost the ability to sell to Malaysia or South Africa. It doesn’t matter. They can skip and Indiana and the only impact will be some savings on travel.

A comparison might be helpful here. Hyper-regulated California, where Salesforce.com and nearly every other major tech player is based has a GDP approximately seven times the size of Indiana while maintaining exactly the same economic growth rate. California’s economic output is almost a third higher than the second ranked state, Texas. Yes, Texas has been growing a lot lately, thanks to the energy business. We’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile, California and New York together account for more of the country’s economic production than the bottom 28 states combined. The San Francisco metro area generates more than one and a half times the output of the whole state of Indiana. Salesforce is not likely to lose any money on this move. In fact, it will probably swell the company’s bottom line and especially aid in recruiting.

Those who want to enshrine a right to discriminate into public policy are overplaying a very weak hand. It is getting weaker by the day. Fortunately for those who cannot reconcile their religious convictions with the rights of my gay friends to live their lives in peace, there is an option. There’s lots of cheap land in Amish Country, where you won’t be bothered. Bring solar panels, unless the mysterious witchcraft that makes them work violates your religion.

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Posted in Civil Rights

When whacko birds come home to roost

People have learned to assume that a Republican candidate is winking when he speaks on certain subjects. No, Jeb Bush is not actually going to repeal the minimum wage. He is not going to roll back equal rights for gay and lesbian couples. Enough voters understand a Republican candidate’s need to appease religious radicals that the candidates can remain credible despite some very dubious public positions.

For twenty years Republican candidates for Federal offices have survived on a kind of built-in duplicity. Victory depends on pandering to people who believe all those bullshit forwarded emails and Facebook posts. Electability in this context has a very special meaning. A Republican candidate becomes “electable” by appeasing base voters while convincing general election voters that he didn’t mean what he said. Needless to say, this institutionalized liar’s game has created tensions in the Republican Party. Ted Cruz is threatening to break the game.

The Tea Party was the first successful attempt by religious extremists and Neo-Confederates to start electing Republicans who share their wildest delusions. Mitt Romney was pandering. Characters like Joni Ernst, Rand Paul and Mike Lee actually believe what they are spouting. With the Presidential campaign of Ted Cruz, the whacko birds are coming home to roost.

Cruz has the potential to destroy the Republican Liar’s Game. If he does, the party alignments we have lived under since the Reagan Era will become unsustainable. No one but Ted Cruz is going to win the Republican nomination in 2016 by claiming to be the most conservative candidate. There is nothing to the right of Ted Cruz other than armed sedition. His campaign represents the end of the road in our race toward extremes. The party will have to either embrace its looniest ideas publicly, from top bottom, or explore a different approach to politics for the first time in a generation.

Political experts have largely dismissed the Cruz campaign as a stunt, placing him in a category with other Republican performance artists like Mike Huckabee, Herman Cain, and Pat Robertson. You can be certain that the Bush campaign isn’t making this mistake.

Cruz is a deadly serious candidate for two reasons. First, he is far more intelligent and capable than any of the party’s previous extremist candidates. Second, and more importantly, for the first time in more than fifty years we’re in a campaign cycle that favors grassroots appeal over insider organization.

His ideas may be crazy, but his previous opponents can tell you that he is sober, disciplined, and savvy. Whoever thinks they are going to beat Ted Cruz by watching him self-destruct needs to have a long conversation with Texas’ not-Senator David Dewhurst. This is the first time in the party’s modern history that a candidate from the extreme fringes of the far right possesses the personal and political capacity to run a fully credible national campaign.

Planning to wait for him to run out of money? Cruz isn’t going to need the usual collection of big GOP donors. He’s the Barack Obama of the right and not just because of the controversy over his birth certificate.

There isn’t a Republican alive with a more rabid, committed base of support. He probably won’t rake in the massive donations from the usual suspects, but he will dry up the well of small-scale support for everyone else, including support in the precincts. And this year, unlike in the past, that pool of grassroots support is likely to decide the nomination.

For the first time since 1964, the party is entering the primaries without a presumed nominee. The most precious resource in Republican Presidential politics is organization. Unlike the Democrats who possess a massive patronage machine that places boots on the street in any campaign, Republicans always struggle to man the precincts. That struggle is particularly difficult for a new candidate seeking the nomination for the first time.

That’s why the party almost always nominates the guy who finished second last time. The presence of a standing organization, thousands of electors, county party chairs, volunteers and other critical elements of support spread across fifty states is crucial to success but takes time to build. That’s why McCain outlasted everyone else in 2008 even though much of the party base despised him. That’s why Romney won in 2012.

No one has this advantage going into the 2016 campaign. In 1968 and 2000, party leaders plugged that gap by uniting around a candidate early. Bush and Nixon started their nominating campaigns with an almost insurmountable lead. That hasn’t happened this year. No candidate has broad enough appeal to dominate the race and no organization inside the party is strong enough to press their will.

This race is open. The base will pick the nominee.

If the base will pick the nominee then it’s hard to imagine how anyone has better odds than Ted Cruz. He is lined up with the base on every single issue to the farthest possible extent. He doesn’t have to apologize, explain or dodge on any issue that matters to them. Never once has Cruz compromised his “principles” to make anything function properly. Here is a man who has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will do what the base wants no matter how stupid or catastrophic it may be.

A Cruz candidacy does open up new possibilities for a more rational Republican future. McCain’s 2000 playbook would work like a dream in this scenario. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single Republican candidate who is positioned to run that kind of campaign. They have all set themselves up for a run to the far right. It’s too late for any of them to pull back.

Other candidates will be forced to claim that they agree with him on almost every issue, but that they are more “reasonable” than Cruz. They will have to convince primary voters that they are more “electable” than Ted Cruz. They will have to convince a frothing grassroots base that their methods of achieving those policies will be more “effective.” They will have to play the Republican Liar’s Game.

Maybe it will work, but the Cruz campaign probably breaks the game.

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Posted in Election 2016

Oil pressure is building

Oil prices began their collapse almost a year ago, yet the impact to the industry and speculators has been light. There have been no major hedge fund failures. Large energy companies have taken advantage of the opportunity to conduct some layoffs, but there have been no high-profile business bankruptcies. Most important of all, the price decline has not yet triggered cascading CDO/CDS calls of the type that brought down the mortgage industry in the ‘aughts.

There is a chance that the industry may avoid a reckoning, but only if producers and traders can navigate an ugly challenge over the next few months. It appears that the US is running out of cheap oil storage. At the current production pace we will run out of capacity at the main “contango” facility at Cushing, Oklahoma in June. Avoiding a price crash will depend on finding new places to store the stuff until production finally declines and demand recovers – whenever that might be.

Energy traders have benefited so far from one of the unique characteristics of oil – it is relatively easy to store. For more than a decade as production has consistently outpaced demand, steadily expanding capacity at the main storage facility in Cushing has allowed traders to cheaply store unsold oil contracts, waiting for better conditions. A lot of people made serious money from this “contango” strategy in the last crash, storing cheap oil until prices recovered.

Get caught in a long position on oil? Monthly storage might cost as little as 33 cents a barrel. At those prices there is no reason to dump oil on the market. Until you run out of places to put the stuff.

Storage at the cheapest location, the Cushing facility, is running out. Having surpassed its previous all-time high last year, Cushing is expected to reach 80% of its overall capacity in April. Unless production slows it could fill by June, trigging much higher storage prices. There is capacity available in Midland, Houston, and Nederland at modestly higher prices, but it is unclear how much storage they have available. New capacity is being added, but owners are waffling, unsure how long this party might continue.

The next cheapest option for oil storage is on tankers at sea, but that capacity is being rented out quickly as well. Prices for seaborne storage have doubled on some providers since last fall.

With the Saudis continuing to pump oil at a fantastic rate while drilling new wells, there is no supply relief in sight. US production is unlikely to drop much until some companies go out of business. Once a well goes online, it costs money to shut it down. Better to bring in some money than no money.

Ultimately it seems that we are in an oil storage race. As long as new storage capacity can be brought online at a somewhat reasonable price, traders will continue to hedge their losses in the hope that demand and prices will recover. This is a game that traders and producers have been playing and winning for well over a decade as the financialization of commodities markets have pushed prices out ahead of market forces. The music hasn’t stopped yet. If storage can be built or found in time, the band might keep playing a bit longer.

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Posted in Economics, Technology

The Mark Kirk Dilemma

Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk is a sound, rational, all-around decent guy who represents the best that the GOP has to offer. In 2010 I made phone calls, walked the precincts, and generally laid out to get him elected. It isn’t clear yet who will challenge him in 2016, but it doesn’t matter. I won’t support him.

Sending Mark Kirk to the Senate has accomplished absolutely nothing other than to empower Ted Cruz and Jim Inhofe. Remember when Kirk stood up to Cruz over his ridiculous filibuster of a budget deal? No, I don’t either. He did it as quietly as possible, with a vote for cloture but no attempt to organize any opposition that might have rallied sane Republicans into a relevant power bloc.

Remember the time Kirk called out Rand Paul over his conspiracy-driven filibuster of a nominee to head the CIA? Nope. That’s because Kirk supported him, even making a show of bringing Paul a thermos and an apple, in reference to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Cute.

Contrary to popular belief, the Republican Party has a rich base of solid citizens with the country’s best interests at heart. Many of those Republicans occupy some of the country’s highest positions of authority. Senators like Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman and Lamar Alexander are just a few examples.

The problem with these folks is that they are spineless in the face of opposition from the “whacko bird” caucus. Sensible Republicans have been trying for years to get a voice in national politics, but the people we elect have fled from every fight. That’s the Mark Kirk Dilemma and that’s why I won’t support him or any other Republican for a Federal office anytime soon.

Back here in Illinois, Kirk has been proud to support immigration reform. In Washington, silence. In Illinois Kirk has claimed to embrace scientists’ positions on climate change. In Washington when he could have taken a stand that mattered, he has hedged.

Kirk will claim that he’s been “courageous” in taking a stand with Democratic Senator Menendez to impose sanctions on Iran. What courage does that take exactly? Show me the powerful, well-funded pro-Iran lobby in Washington. In Washington, “taking on Iran” is just as courageous as taunting an asthmatic fat kid on the playground.

Kirk has reserved all his “courage” for political targets that can’t fight back.

Sane, sensible Republicans who occupy influential positions in Washington will tell you they are doing all they can. They will claim that they are carefully picking their battles. Climate change, immigration reform, and restructuring the tax code are issues they would like to push forward, but the party at the national level isn’t ready for sound solutions. I’m beginning to think they are right.

In that case, those folks shouldn’t be in Washington. They should be back here in the precincts with us fighting to change the party on the ground. They may claim that they can accomplish more from a position in the House or Senate, but so far there is no evidence to support that position. If Mark Kirk can’t use his platform in the Senate to fight climate change, push back against racist immigration rhetoric, promote sensible fiscal policy, or in any other way counter the power of Neo-Confederates inside the Republican Party, then he needs to come home.

Until someone in the Republican Party is willing to take a visible, courageous stand for sanity in the style of John McCain circa 2000, there is no reason to keep voting for them. I helped send Mark Kirk to the Senate in the hope that he might counter the influence of some very frightening people inside the Republican Party. That was a mistake I am not going to repeat.

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Posted in Climate Change, Election 2016, Environment, Illinois, Immigration, Neo-Confederate
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