President Barack Obama this morning ordered the EPA to swiftly review California’s climate change legislation, previously blocked by the Bush/Cheney Administration, and accelerated implementation of new fuel efficiency standards.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … OBAMA AND THE CALIFORNIA WAY ON CLIMATE.
** GEITHNER CONFIRMED AS TREASURY SECRETARY ON MOSTLY PARTY-LINE VOTE, AS GOVERNANCE SWINGS TO THE WHITE HOUSE. Former New York Federal Reserve Bank president Timothy Geithner, who ran afoul of a past tax mishap and is blamed by some for not recognizing the Wall Street meltdown, was confirmed this afternoon by the US Senate on a 60 to 34 vote. Geithner will place his hand on the economic advisory and management tiller alongside that of Obama’s chief economic advisor in the White House, former Treasury Secretary and Harvard University president Larry Summers.
Obama is creating a system of czars and special envoys within the White House, which in some respects simply go around the traditional Cabinet posts.
Thus former Clinton Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner, head of a new White House council on energy and the environment, is more powerful than new EPA chief LInda Jackson and Energy Secretary Steve Chu. (It’s noteworthy that Schwarzenegger spoke before his appearance today on Obama’s move clearing the way for California’s climate program to go into effect with Browner, not a Cabinet member.) Summers is more powerful than Cabinet members on economic policy. And while it might be unwise to say that Obama’s national security advisor, retired Marine General Jim Jones – former commander of NATO and commandant of the Marine Corps – is more powerful than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it might not be inaccurate.
** SCHWARZENEGGER AND ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERS LAUD OBAMA MOVE, PROMISE ACTION. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, joined by L.A. state Senator Fran Pavley, the bill’s author back in 2002, and other environment leaders this afternoon praised President Barack Obama for paving the way for federal approval of the state’s landmark law cutting tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases.
In a Capitol press conference in which most of the questions came from a few Sacramento reporters talking about the state’s budget impasse – getting the predictable very limited responses from Schwarzenegger, as negotiations are at a critical point – the former action superstar praised Obama for his prompt action on climate change policy. At last, says Schwarzenegger, California has a real ally in the White House.
Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency, which under President Bush dragged its heels for years before finally disallowing California’s climate law, to promptly re-evaluate the legislation.
Scwharzenegger also greatly praised Pavley, a Democrat who very much returned the favor, for her role. As a state assemblywoman, she authored the tailpipe emissions law in 2002 and co-authored the omnibus climate legislation of 2006.
Schwarzenegger, also praised former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown, who has been fighting the federal government and automakers in court on this issue since taking office two years ago.
I’ll have a full report on all this, and the background behind it, in a column tomorrow morning.
** OBAMA ADMINISTRATION CALLS FOR DIRECT DIPLOMACY WITH IRAN. In another break with the Bush/Cheney Administration that should surprise no one, UN Ambassador Susan Rice today said that the Obama Administration will engage in direct diplomacy with Iran. Now, the truth is, as NWN readers, that the Bush crew engaged Iran. But they did it in a much more indirect, rather skittish, way.
President Barack Obama’s administration will engage in “direct diplomacy” with Iran, the newly installed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Monday. Not since before the 1979 Iranian revolution are U.S. officials believed to have conducted wide-ranging direct diplomacy with Iranian officials. But U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice warned that Iran must meet U.N. Security Council demands to suspend uranium enrichment before any talks on its nuclear program.
Iran is hurting with the crash in global oil prices, which creates opportunities. The Islamic republic has little refining capability and oil that is more expensive to produce. There has been tremendous discord in Iran for over a year about the country’s economic performance.
** MINNESOTA SENATE RECOUNT TRIAL BEGINS. With Republican incumbent Norm Coleman losing by 225 votes to comedian Al Franken in the race that is poised to give Democrats their 59th seat in the US Senate, the lawyers and judges are taking over. Coleman is suing to overturn the verdict of the state’s canvassing board. Today the trial begins that should give a definitive nod to one or the other candidate, probably Franken, the former Saturday Night Live star.
** SCHWARZENEGGER APPLAUDS OBAMA CLIMATE DECISION, HOLDS AFTERNOON PRESS CONFERENCE IN LIVE WEBCAST. “With this announcement from President Obama less than a week into his administration, it is clear that California and the environment now have a strong ally in the White House. Allowing California and other states to aggressively reduce their own harmful vehicle tailpipe emissions would be a historic win for clean air and for millions of Americans who want more fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly cars. My administration has been fighting for this waiver since 2005 and we will not give up until it is granted because we owe it to our children and to our grandchildren to do more than just protect our natural resources, we must also work to improve them so that we leave behind an environment for future generations that is better than it is today.”
Schwarzenegger joins California environmental officials in a 1:15 PM Capitol press conference to discuss Obama’s directive to the EPA. The event will be webcast live at www.gov.ca.gov.
President Barack Obama is running into some Republican resistance to his economic revival program. But how much does it matter?
The Morning Column: MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK
An eventful week ahead in presidential politics and geopolitics.
Eventful for California politics? Maybe, maybe not.
President Barack Obama continues working on his economic revival program in a week in which corporate reports are expected to reach very dismal levels. He also sets the stage for a huge shift in environmental and energy policy in the US, and goes out to the Pentagon for his first meeting in the highly secure “Tank” with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on accelerating the US drawdown in Iraq and how best to surge forces and pursue politics in Afghanistan.
There’s emerging Republican opposition to Obama’s big economic program, but it’s unclear how much it matters. Perhaps it matters most for relations on other issues down the line, as the truth is that the Democrats have simply roll over the Republicans, especially in this time of deep economic crisis and discrediting of laissez-faire philosophy.
In geopolitics, many moves ahead on the various crises in the Middle East and South Asia, but the focal point of the week lies in Switzerland, where the annual Davos conference takes place.
In California politics, a boost from the Obama Administration for the state’s climate policy. President Obama pledged last year to support California’s climate change legislation, blocked for years by the foot-dragging and greenhouse denial of the Bush/Cheney Administration.
But the overhanging question remains: Will there be a resolution of the state’s chronic budget crisis? The state stops paying some people starting next week.
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment trial starts today. But he’s in New York on a whirlwind media tour.
The sideshow that transfixed much of the media after the election, the purported effort by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to sell Obama’s vacated US Senate seat, takes a fresh turn this week. The Illinois Legislature will almost certainly impeach the embattled governor sometime in the next few days.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama makes a major environmental announcement this morning, essentially backing California’s climate change policy and accelerating federal fuel efficiency standards. I wrote about that yesterday and will be writing a lot more about it. He also meets with his economic team in the White House.
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.
Meanwhile, Iraq is beginning to look to a swifter US withdrawal of combat troops. And Afghanistan is looking to a surge of US combat troops.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds private talks in and around the Capitol, mostly focused on California’s chronic budget crisis. Schwarzenegger has no scheduled public events today.
Some 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.
** “MAC IS BACK?” HEY, IT NEVER LEFT. MACINTOSH TURNS 25. Whenever John McCain and his backers would start up one of their chants in the campaign that “Mac is back,” I’d say, what the heck are they talking about? It’s never left.
So here we are, 25 years to the day since Apple launched the Macintosh computer. And the Mac, unlike my old friend John McCain, is going as strong as ever, maybe even stronger. It hasn’t taken over the world, as Steve Jobs hoped. But it’s changed the face of computing in many ways, and is doing a lot better than any other computer in this global recession.
I’m a Mac guy since the ’80s. I run what we laughingly call my operation, a one-person operation, that is, as a Mac shop. Two Apple laptops on a wireless network, with a six-year old iBook as an emergency back-up.
But it’s deeper than that. I was there in Silicon Valley 25 years ago when the Macintosh was launched by Steve Jobs.
I was working with Senator Gary Hart then, and had gotten to know his backer, Apple’s marketing and PR guru Regis McKenna (I later worked with him as assistant to the chairman at his firm). Regis, who came up with the Apple logo, told me that I really didn’t want to miss the 1984 Apple shareholders’ meeting. As usual, he was right. …
** OBAMA AND HIS COMMANDERS. … From my Friday column.
** 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.) … 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.
** 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.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial.
Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ 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 range of $46 to $47 per barrel.
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 $101 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.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.