Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States and delivers his inaugural address.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … MACINTOSH LAUNCH: 25TH ANNIVERSARY.
** OBAMA REVERSES ABORTION BAN. President Barack Obama late this afternoon signed an executive order reversing the longtime Republican-enforced ban on public funds to international organizations that provide planned parenthood services.
The Bush policy had banned U.S. taxpayer money, usually in the form of Agency for International Development funds, from going to international family planning groups that either offer abortions or provide information, counseling or referrals about abortion. The rule also had prohibited federal funding for groups that lobby to legalize abortion or promote it as a family planning method.
** OBAMA AND HIS COMMANDERS. Now we’re into one of the most fascinating parts of the new Obama Administration, President Barack Obama’s relationship with America’s military commanders. How successful will he be in working with these people, and in carrying out the shift away from the old Bush/Cheney priorities?
Next week, Obama goes to the Pentagon, for a meeting in the highly secure “Tank” with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While he’s keeping Defense Secretary Bob Gates on, we don’t yet know how many of the individual service chiefs — Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force — Obama intends to retain after their terms end. Nor do we know what his plans are for the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen. Nor do we yet know what he wants to do with the current chiefs of the US Armed Forces’ international commands.
We do know that Obama already met, on Wednesday, with one general whose job looks secure for now, Central Command chief David Petraeus, as well as JCS chief Admiral Mullen, Defense Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Obama’s national security advisor, former Marine Corps commandant and NATO commander Jim Jones. …
Petraeus, subject of a memorable MoveOn.org ad as “General Betray-us” (done by a one-time colleague of mine), appears key to all of this. …
A top Republican operator, a John McCain man who admires Petraeus, told me this the week before Obama’s inauguration: “Now America’s smartest general and America’s smartest politician get to work together.”
For all the blood-and-guts hero worship of Petraeus on the far right, he’s actually a very political general. At the dawn of his career, upon his graduation from West Point, he married the daughter of the Military Academy’s commanding general. His approach around the Iraq surge was at least as political as it was military, playing the various Iraqi factions against one another and for the US and even engaging with Iran on its interests in quelling the violence.
Petraeus arrived in Washington on the night of Obama’s inauguration, having just concluded a lengthy tour of the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia, during which he consulted with the leaders of the various former Soviet republics and with top Russian figures. …
The declines, once centered in housing-related industry when, in retrospect, the recession began a year ago, are now across the board.
Needless to say, the first $350 billion of the Wall Street bailout – in which spending went on with virtually no accountability – has done very little for California.
** SENATOR WHO? I took the day off for some personal time yesterday, leaving the house at 9 AM after putting the site up, so don’t really know all the ins and outs on the withdrawal of evident frontrunner Caroline Kennedy for the appointment to Hillary Clinton’s former seat in the U.S. Senate from New York. Rumors fly, with very conflicting stories apparently coming from various associates of New York Governor David Paterson, who conducted an extremely awkward two-month selection process in sharp contrast to the processes followed by several other states.
In any event, with Kennedy out, Paterson has just appointed a member of Congress from upstate New York, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand. Something of a protege of Hillary’s, Gillibrand was backed by the National Rifle Association and voted against the Wall Street bailout.
Gillibrand was first elected to the Congress in 2006, defeating an incumbent Republican by six points in the big Democratic surge that year a week after his wife phoned police complaining of domestic violence. Gillibrand’s father is a major Republican lobbyist who was close to former Governor George Pataki.
** POIZNER GETS ANOTHER BIG ENDORSEMENT. California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, the apparent frontrunner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010, picked up another endorsement this week when state Senate Minority Leader Dave Cogdill gave him the nod. Poizner, a super-rich former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, is also backed by Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines and the great majority of the elected Republicans in the state.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … OBAMA AND HIS COMMANDERS.
** STEM CELL RESEARCH MOVES FORWARD WITH HUMAN TRIALS. The US Food and Drug Administration will today announce that embryonic stem cell research trials are about to begin. The Bush/Cheney Administration, under pressure from the fundamentalist right, blocked these moves for eight years, although California, under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the interim created the largest stem cell research program in the world.
In a watershed moment for one of the most contentious areas of science and American politics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for the first-ever human trial of a medical treatment derived from embryonic stem cells.
Geron Corp., a Menlo Park, Calif., biotechnology company, is expected to announce Friday that it received a green light from the agency to mount a study of its stem-cell treatment for spinal cord injuries in up to 10 patients. The announcement caps more than a decade of advances in the company’s labs and comes on the cusp of a widely expected shift in U.S. policy toward support of embryonic stem-cell research after years of official opposition.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama has a rather busy day. He and Vice President Joe Biden dropped by the presidential daily briefing at the White House early this morning. Now they are meeting with the Congressional leaders of both parties.
Late this morning, Obama and Biden meet with the National Security Council. The two then receive a daily briefing on the economic crisis, then have lunch together. After lunch, they hold a budget meeting in the White House, after which Obama meets with Treasury Secretary-designate Tim Geithner. Geithner was approved yesterday on an 18-5 vote of the Senate Finance Committee, and should be confirmed by the full Senate next week.
Obama yesterday signed executive orders to shut down the prison camp at Guantanamo and other “black site” prisons in foreign countries, notably Eastern Europe, and to end torture in interrogations. The closure will take a year, as the prisoners have been messily sorted and handled throughout.
President Barack Obama yesterday issued executive orders to end torture and close down Guantanamo and “black site” prisons.
Meanwhile, Obama is catching a break on some geopolitical crises. Not that they are necessarily “breaks,” as Obama and his emissaries have been in touch with global players for months, and at least one of the developments is directly tied to his inauguration as president.
Israel has all its troops out of the Gaza Strip. And Russia is restarting natural gas flows to Europe through Ukraine. At a cost down the line to the notion of Ukraine joining NATO. The US has an emerging set of deals to supply the troubled war in Afghanistan outside the usual supply lines through increasingly unstable Pakistan. But more work remains with Moscow to lock all that down further, especially with regard to the transit of weapons.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has private talks in and around the Capitol today. His focus is on the chronic California budget crisis. Schwarzenegger has no scheduled public events today.
Republican legislators, who have essentially blockaded the budget for months by publicly refusing to consider any tax hikes, seem to be getting closer to going for a budget that includes tax hikes as well as program cuts and a spending cap.
Naturally, much of California’s far right – which is doing a remarkable job of driving the state’s Republican Party deeper into permanent minority status – is going bonkers over this.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.)
As the hours count down to his inauguration, Barack Obama must be hearing the hoofbeats of history. He certainly invokes it. Indeed, he seeks to be one of its great riders.
For all the president-elect’s evocation of Abraham Lincoln — and his own description of Lincoln in “The Audacity of Hope” as both deep-seated idealist and ultra-pragmatist was more revealing of Obama’s political character than anything produced by any media outlet — fate and his own design cast what Obama says as our brand-new president alongside somewhat more contemporary figures.
Obama takes office as the 44th president of the United States at a moment of multi-faceted crisis. But it is not a moment like that of Lincoln’s inauguration. President Bush and his essentially feckless administration leave behind the worst economy since the Great Depression, an environment increasingly out of whack, two troubled, troubling, and mismanaged wars, a black eye around the globe, and a sense of fatigue from years of overwrought hysteria. Lincoln’s challenge was of a very different nature.
So the figures of comparison for Obama, his fellow riders of history if you will, are, notwithstanding his hero Lincoln, different. … From my Monday Huffington Post column.
** ANOTHER DAY: 24 AND THE AGE OF OBAMA. One of the signature TV series of the Bush/Cheney years is back. What relevance, if any, does it have in the new age of Obama? … From my January 13th column.
** CIA: THE PANETTA PICK AND THE FEINSTEIN FACTOR. President-elect Barack Obama named his top intelligence leadership team on Friday. And, as I expected, new Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein rather quickly backed down from her opposition to Leon Panetta and championing of a CIA insider for the post, of only a few days ago. The whole exercise was very instructive in old and new political dynamics. … From my January 12th column.
** CIA: PARSING THE PANETTA PICK. … From my January 6th column.
** OBAMA: VACATION’S END. … From my January 2nd Huffington Post column.
A famed English newspaper, the London Evening Standard, was purchased yesterday by Russian oligarch and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev for the munificent sum of one pound.
** 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.
** 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 in the $42 to $43 per barrel range. This is a significant advance since the inauguration of President Barack Obama, relecting the oil market’s view that the US economy will experience a recovery under the new American administration
The drop of $105 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 previous 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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