President Barack Obama signed equal pay for equal work legislation this morning in the White House.
** OBAMA IN THE TANK. President Barack Obama went in the tank yesterday. For about two hours.
While most eyes were on the then impending vote in the House on Obama’s economic revival program, the new president ventured out to the Pentagon for his first meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the commanders of each of America’s armed services. Vice President Joe Biden and National Security Advisor Jim Jones came along.
They met in “the Tank,” a fabled secret meeting place better than any treehouse, for it’s supposedly impervious to all manner of surveillance. Jones had been there before, of course, as a former member of the Joint Chiefs when he was commandant of the Marine Corps.
But it was the first time for Obama. Let’s pause for a moment of silence for all those mad hatter “Manchurian Candidate” conspiracy theory promoters from the campaign as we think of Barack Hussein Obama in this holy of holies inner sanctum of America’s military establishment. Conducting the meeting at the pinnacle of the pyramid of US military command.
While more than a few gaskets may have popped out there in the far right precincts of the blogosphere and talk radio at the very thought, there might be a few on the left popping as well. … From my new column.
** OBAMA RIPS WALL STREET PROFLIGACY. Emerging from a meeting this afternoon with his economic team, President Barack Obama had some choice remarks for Wall Street: All of us are going to have responsibilities to get this economy moving again. And when I saw an article today indicating that Wall Street bankers had given themselves $20 billion worth of bonuses — the same amount of bonuses as they gave themselves in 2004 — at a time when most of these institutions were teetering on collapse and they are asking for taxpayers to help sustain them, and when taxpayers find themselves in the difficult position that if they don’t provide help that the entire system could come down on top of our heads — that is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful.
And part of what we’re going to need is for folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility. The American people understand that we’ve got a big hole that we’ve got to dig ourselves out of — but they don’t like the idea that people are digging a bigger hole even as they’re being asked to fill it up.
And so we’re going to be having conversations as this process moves forward directly with these folks on Wall Street to underscore that they have to start acting in a more responsible fashion if we are to together get this economy rolling again. There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses — now is not that time. And that’s a message that I intend to send directly to them, I expect Secretary Geithner to send to them — and Secretary Geithner already had to pull back one institution that had gone forward with a multimillion dollar jet plane purchase at the same time as they’re receiving TARP money. We shouldn’t have to do that because they should know better. And we will continue to send that message loud and clear.
** FOX NEWS POLL: OBAMA NATIONAL JOB APPROVAL RATING 65%. The new poll from Fox News, bastion of the right, frequent bete noire of Candidate Barack Obama, has President Barack Obama with a 65% job approval rating from US voters. Only 16% disapprove. Notice the question about the Secret Service and the safety of the first African American president.
More than a quarter of Americans say they were moved to tears during Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony. And after his first week in office, there is widespread approval for the job Obama is doing as president. The latest FOX News poll finds 65 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing, 16 percent disapprove and for 19 percent it is too soon to say.
Nearly all Democrats (85 percent) approve of Obama’s job performance. In addition, a 64 percent majority of independents approve, and about just as many Republicans approve (37 percent) as disapprove (36 percent) of the new president’s job performance.
And most Americans are pleased with the pace the new administration has set. Two-thirds (66 percent) say Obama is making policy changes at the right speed. For 5 percent Obama is not moving quickly enough and 24 percent think he is making changes too quickly.
Approval of Congress increased significantly in the last two weeks. Some 40 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, up from 23 percent (January 13-14, 2009).
The poll also shows the public is confident in the Secret Service doing their job. A sizable 66 percent majority is “extremely” (28 percent) or “very” (38 percent) confident the Secret Service can protect President Obama from harm.
Former President Bill Clinton, speaking earlier today at Davos, site of the annual World Economic Forum, talked of a reformed capitalism coming out of the current economic crisis.
** SCHWARZENEGGER WINS ON STATE WORKER FURLOUGHS. As anticipated, a Sacramento Superior Court judge this morning handed Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger a victory in a court case brought by California public employee unions seeking to block his move to order two furlough days per month for state workers. The move, occasioned by the deepening state of California’s chronic budget crisis, saves the state $1.4 billion per year and cuts state employee pay by about 10%.
Judge Patrick Marlette ruled that Schwarzenegger’s order is “reasonable and necessary under the circumstances.”
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … OBAMA IN THE TANK.
** GALLUP POLL ON PARTISAN I.D. BY STATE – REPUBLICAN EDGE IN ONLY SEVEN STATES. A very interesting new Gallup Poll on the states and the political parties. One big takeaway: The Republicans have the edge today in only seven states. Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska, Nebraska, Kansas, and Alabama.
** NEW POLL: CALIFORNIANS’ OUTLOOK DOUR, BUT WIDESPREAD FAITH IN OBAMA. The new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll contains predictably dour views on the state’s direction, the economy, the state budget, and most state leaders. But it shows a stunning level of support for new President Barack Obama, who carried California over Republican John McCain, 61% to 37%.
The number of Californians viewing the state as heading in the wrong direction, 75%, is double what it was in January 2007 following Schwarzenegger’s second landslide election as California’s governor. Why the change? Well, the economic crisis, obviously, and frustration with the gridlock in California’s Capitol.
Here are the numbers on some specific proposals to solve California’s chronic budget crisis.
Alcohol excise tax: Overwhelming support for raising it by 5 cents per drink (85% favor, 13% oppose).
Vehicle license fee: A majority favor raising it by $12 (58% favor, 41% oppose).
Sales tax: A slim majority favor temporarily increasing the state sales tax by 1.5 cents (52% favor, 46% oppose); 47 percent favor and 50 percent oppose extending the state sales tax to include services such as vehicle repair, veterinary services, and tickets to sporting events.
Cutting state employee compensation: Residents are divided (49% oppose, 45% favor). The governor has proposed requiring employees to take two unpaid days off a month, eliminating two holidays, and changing overtime rules.
Shortening school year: A majority oppose it (63% oppose, 35% favor).
Majorities also favor raising the state income tax rate paid by the wealthiest residents (72%) and raising the state taxes paid by corporations (60%). But they remain opposed (55%) to borrowing money from future state lottery income to fill the budget gap.
A protracted impasse over the state budget appears to have made Californians more supportive of reforms in the budget process, as evidenced by their increased support for changing the two-thirds threshold for budget passage to 55 percent (54% in favor today, 46% in June 2003).
And a strong majority (70%) support a strict limit on annual state spending increases. Support for a spending cap has not been this high since June 2003 (70%) when the PPIC survey first asked the question.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose job approval rating had gone back up in the high 40s late last year, dropped back to 40% in this poll. He is, however, viewed much more favorably than the Legislature.
While Schwarzenegger was the commanding figure in California after his smashing 2006 re-election, today it is President Obama. 79% say he will be “a strong and commanding president.” In contrast, George W. Bush managed 54% in 2001 and 51% in 2005 following his elections to the presidency. Bush lost California both times.
** OBAMA AND THE CALIFORNIA WAY ON CLIMATE. President Barack Obama is choosing the California way of dealing with climate change. What this means is that major action to curtail greenhouse gases can happen faster, and without dealing with a traditional lobby-dominated Congress, with California and other states leading the way and doing the work.
Here’s how. … From my Tuesday column.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin delivered a keyenote address at Davos yesterday opening the annual World Economic Forum. More directly than Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who spoke later, he criticized the US for starting the global economic crisis and scoffed at Wall Street.
** OBAMA TODAY. Fresh off the big win for his economic revival program late yesterday in the House of Representatives, President Barack Obama meets with his senior staff and advisors this morning in the White House. In the afternoon, he and Vice President Joe Biden confer separately with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Obama is getting reports from his new Mideast envoy, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who is on a tour of the region. Mitchell is meeting today with Palestinian leaders, but not with Hamas.
This morning, Obama signed a new equal pay for equal work bill.
The Obama team is happy that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has accepted an invitation to appear on the same platform with him Saturday night at the so-called Alfalfa Club annual dinner in Washington. The club is a group of mostly older rich white guys who put on a private dinner every year for top politicians. It’s not open to the press, but is much leaked.
I believe it’s part of the Obama strategy to encourage the continued prominence of Palin, and to goad Rush Limbaugh from time to time, thus elevating his stature, in order to define the Republican Party on terms Obama is very comfortable with.
Meanwhile, US-style hyper-capitalism is taking a pasting in Switzerland at the annual Davos conference of global movers and shakers. Wall Street folks were all the rage a year ago. Not so this year, with the leaders of Russia (Vladimir Putin in a keynote address) and China blaming Wall Street for starting the global economic crisis.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds private talks in and around the Capitol, mostly focused on California’s chronic budget crisis.
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.
Schwarzenegger said yesterday he expects a budget deal in the next 10 days.
Meanwhile, a judge conducts a hearing today on a lawsuit by public employee unions trying to block Schwarzenegger’s plan to furlough state workers. If he is blocked from this move, which would save $1.4 billion, Schwarzenegger says he’ll have to lay-off some workers.
** “MAC IS BACK?” HEY, IT NEVER LEFT. MACINTOSH TURNS 25. … From my Saturday column.
** 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 January 19th Huffington Post column.
** ANOTHER DAY: 24 AND THE AGE OF OBAMA. … From my January 13th column.
** CIA: THE PANETTA PICK AND THE FEINSTEIN FACTOR. … 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 $41 to $42 per barrel.
The drop of $106 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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