President-elect Barack Obama named top financial regulatory appointees yesterday at a press conference in Chicago.
** SWIFT HITS. Blago speaks! Blago ain’t resigning. Not a shock. Is he innocent as charged? … Deep Throat dies. The FBI honcho who spoon-fed Bob Woodward his career died last night in Northern California’s Santa Rosa. Mark Felt was 85. His portrayal in All The President’s Men by Hal Holbrook was a big fave here, especially his take on newspapers. … Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered yet another special legislative session to deal with the state’s deepening, chronic fiscal crisis. And said he will order work furloughs. The Leg is gone for the holidays, natch, after the great innovation of calling a tax a fee failed to break the gridlock. I never thought of that one before … Prop 8 proponents are trying to invalidate 18,000 same-sex marriages. Attorney General Brown will defend the marriages in court. Brown wants the state Supreme Court — which first declared same-sex marriage constitutional — to toss Prop 8.
** FRANKEN TAKES THE LEAD. Al Franken has taken the lead for what looks like an eighth new Senate seat for the Democrats. The intense scrutiny of “voter intent” resumed this morning by the five-member board charged with directing Minnesota’s recount in the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democratic rival Al Franken, and the first 90 minutes of ballot rulings turned the challenger’s slight deficit into a growing triple-digit lead.
This would bring the Dems to 59 seats in the Senate. One short of that needed to block all GOP stalling tactics. Now recall why Obama insisted that apostate Senator Lieberman not be tossed out of the caucus.
** OBAMA’S REMARKS ON THE ECONOMIC CRISIS AS HE COMPLETES HIS CABINET. Before we begin, I’d like to say a few words about the necessary step taken today to help avoid a collapse in our auto industry that would have devastating consequences for our economy and our workers. With the short-term assistance provided by this package, the auto companies must bring all their stakeholders together – including labor, dealers, creditors and suppliers – to make the hard choices necessary to achieve long-term viability. The auto companies must not squander this chance to reform bad management practices and begin the long-term restructuring that is absolutely necessary to save this critical industry and the millions of American jobs that depend on it, while also creating the fuel-efficient cars of the future.
Whenever I have been asked how I measure the strength of the American economy, my answer is simple: jobs and wages. I know we will be headed in the right direction again when we are creating jobs, instead of losing them, and when Americans are gaining ground in terms of their incomes, instead of treading water or falling behind. In recent weeks, I’ve announced members of my economic team who will help us make progress in these areas.
Today, I’m announcing several other appointees who will play an integral role in our efforts to turn our economy around: Congresswoman Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor; former Congressman Ray LaHood as Secretary of Transportation; Karen Mills as Administrator of the Small Business Administration; and Mayor Ron Kirk as United States Trade Representative. Together with the appointees I’ve already announced, these leaders will help craft a 21st Century Economic Recovery Plan, with the goal of creating two and a half million new jobs and strengthening our economy for the future.
If jobs and incomes are our yardsticks, then the success of the American worker is key to the success of the American economy. For the past eight years, the Department of Labor has not lived up to its role either as an advocate for hardworking families or as an arbiter of fairness in relations between labor and management. That will change when Hilda Solis is Secretary of Labor. Under her leadership, I am confident that the Department of Labor will once again stand up for working families.
Hilda has always been an advocate for everyday people. When she received an award several years ago, she said, “Fighting for what is just is not always popular, but it is necessary.” And that is exactly what she has done throughout her career, blazing new trails every step of the way. Whether it’s creating green jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced or expanding access to affordable health care or raising the minimum wage in California, Hilda has been a champion of our middle class. And I know that Hilda will show the same kind of leadership as Secretary of Labor that she showed in California and on the Education and Labor Committee by protecting workers’ rights – from organizing to collective bargaining, from keeping our workplaces safe to making our unions strong.
Standing up for our workers means putting them back to work and fueling economic growth. Our economy boomed in the 20th Century when President Eisenhower remade the American landscape by building the interstate highway system. Now we need to remake our transportation system for the 21st Century. Doing so will not only help us meet our energy challenge by building more efficient cars, buses, and subways or make Americans safer by rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges – it will create millions of new jobs in the process.
Few understand our infrastructure challenge better than the outstanding public servant I am asking to lead the Department of Transportation – Ray LaHood. As a Congressman from Illinois, Ray served six years on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, leading efforts to modernize our aviation system by renewing our aging airports and ensuring that air traffic controllers were using cutting edge technology. Throughout his career, Ray has fought to improve mass transit and invest in our highways. But he has not only helped rebuild our landscape, he has helped beautify it by creating opportunities for bikers and runners to enjoy our great outdoors. When I began this appointment process, I said I was committed to finding the best person for the job, regardless of party. Ray’s appointment reflects that bipartisan spirit – a spirit we need to reclaim in this country to make progress for the American people.
To strengthen our economy, we must also strengthen the small businesses that are its backbone. I can think of no one better to lead this effort as Administrator of the Small Business Administration than Karen Mills. With Karen at the helm, America’s small businesses will have a partner in Washington, helping them create jobs and spur growth in communities across this country. A venture capitalist who invests in small businesses, Karen understands the challenges faced by both small business owners and the workers they employ. With a background in the private sector and experience helping Maine’s governor promote growth across the state, I am confident that Karen will lead an SBA that will not only help small business owners realize their dreams, but help our nation rebuild our economy.
We also know that the success of American businesses, small and large, depends on their ability to sell their products across the globe. That is why we must engage in strong, robust trade and open doors for American products. In our global economy, we must compete and win if we are going to strengthen our middle class and forge bonds with other nations that can contribute to peace and stability around the world. But I also believe that any trade agreement we sign must be written not just with the interests of big corporations in mind, but with the interests of our whole nation and our workers at heart.
Ron Kirk understands this better than just about anyone. As Mayor of Dallas, Ron Kirk helped steer one of the world’s largest economies. He has seen the promise of trade, but also its pitfalls. And he knows there is nothing inconsistent about standing up for free trade and standing up for American workers. During his tenure as Mayor, Ron brought different groups together to create jobs, invest in the community, and spur economic growth. As a leader, negotiator, and principled proponent of trade, Ron will help make sure that any agreements I sign as President protect the rights of all workers, promote the interests of all Americans, and preserve the planet we all share.
With these outstanding appointees, I have filled out our economic team, and done so at an earlier point than any President in history, because we face challenges unlike any we have faced in generations. Daunting as the challenges we are inheriting may be, I’m convinced that our team and the American people are prepared to meet them. It will take longer than any of us would like – years, and not months. It will get worse before it gets better. But it will get better – if we’re willing to act boldly and swiftly. And that is what we will do when I am President of the United States.
** BLAGO SPEAKS! At noon Pacific.
Meanwhile, New York financial icon Bernie Madoff, who is merely accused of bilking investors of $50 billion in a Ponzi scheme ignored by the feds for years, is mostly ignored by the media.
Perhaps the ex-NASDAQ head’s being in New York makes him seem too inaccessible … A little humor.
** SCHWARZENEGGER LIVE WEBCAST THIS MORNING. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds a 10:15 press conference at a high school in Fresno to talk about California’s chronic and deepening fiscal crisis.
This is in the backyard of the state’s two balky GOP legislative leaders, who apparently believe that Dr. No is not only a Bond title.
** OBAMA TODAY. President-elect Barack Obama has private meetings in Chicago before additional appointments.
The Blago scandal had kept going and going. It had been an advantage to be in Chicago, but not with this circus. However, yesterday, Blago stopped talking after his lawyer said he won’t be appointing to the Senate. And the teapot tempest started to settle down.
Obama has an 11:15 AM Pacific press conference today, at which he is set to name Peoria Rep. Ray LaHood as transportation secretary, LA Rep. Hilda Solis as labor secretary, and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk as US trade representative.
LaHood, an Obama friend, will be only the second GOP pick for the Cabinet. Solis is a favorite of the Latino left, an ex-California state senator. Kirk, a ranking black politician, is a “free trader,” where Solis is a “fair trader.”
The daughter of naturalized citizens, Solis’s father organized immigrants at a battery recycling plant in the San Gabriel Valley for the Teamsters Union. In the California Legislature, where she represented East LA, she championed “environmental justice” to stop the dumping of toxic waste in poor neighborhoods.
Now regarding the Detroit crisis … President Bush has finally arrived at a plan to save Detroit. For a while. The soon-to-be-ex-president says it’s not realistic to let the car companies go into bankruptcy. So he’s giving $17.4 billion in loans to keep them going.
However, the new president will have to solve the car crisis. Shocking …
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has private talks today.
Not surprisingly, the latest try to solve the budget crisis failed yesterday.
Schwarzenegger’s big infrastructure plan ground to a halt Wednesday as a top state board decided the state no longer has the cash to proceed. And with the state’s chronic fiscal crisis going ever onward — thanks largely to GOP intransigence on any taxes at all — California’s Democratic legislative leaders tried yesterday to enact a partial budget solution that essentially flips existing gas taxes for other new taxes, in a play to make it revenue neutral, thereby side-stepping the two-thirds vote. How so? The gas taxes have to go to transportation programs. The dollars from other sources — an increased sales tax, and a new oil severance tax and income tax surcharge — can go to the general fund. However, there’s a trick. The slashing of the gas tax would be more than made up by a new 39 cent a gallon “fee.” Is it all legal? Who knows? Schwarzenegger balked.
What’s missing? Legal certainty that the gas tax/fee flip, which amounts to an increase for voters, works. And what Schwarzenegger wants for economic stimulus.
** CALIFORNIA CRACKING. From my latest column.
** 12 KEY THINGS ABOUT THE MUMBAI CRISIS. From my December 5th column.
** OBAMA’S NEW POWER TROIKA FACES CRISES OLD AND NEW. From my December 3rd column.
** HAPPY THANKSGIVING, MR. PRESIDENT-ELECT! While Barack Obama promised “a new and brighter day yet to come” in his Thanksgiving address, an old and darker day yet to leave reminds that events — and perhaps political fate itself — can turn on a dime in presidential politics. …
For a political operation that prefers to focus on its preferences, it’s a sharp reminder to Team Obama that the presidency can be every bit as reactive as it is proactive. … From my November 28th Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the new Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti.
While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, which I know as a former DemRussia advisor, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** SCHWARZENEGGER’S CALIFORNIA. Here is my series of five columns on the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Los Angeles Times in debate with Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times reporter/editor Bill Boyarsky, whose columns are also included.
Among them is what I’m sure is the first piece examining Schwarzenegger’s legacy as governor of California. Since he will actually be governor of California until 2011. No technology known to be disruptive to the space/time continuum was used in its preparation.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says oil producers must continue to invest in capacity, despite a global move towards lower carbon economies.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. After crashing over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, crude oil is trading at $35 to $36 per barrel. This is far below the four-and-a-half-year low. OPEC’s try to bolster the price with a big production cut isn’t working so far.
The drop of over $112 per barrel since the record high over the summer comes on acknowledgment that the weak US economy will cut future demand and on the easing of geopolitical tensions in the Middle East. It is clear that that, contrary to much chatter, neither the US nor Israel is about to launch a strike against Iran. And the Russian war with Georgia, confounding much speculation and reporting to the contrary, actually decreased the geopolitical risk premium in the oil market.
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