President Barack Obama appeared last night on the CBS News program, 60 Minutes.
** CUOMO SAYS MOST OF THE BIGGEST A.I.G. EXECUTIVE BONUSES HAVE BEEN RETURNED. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced this afternoon that nine of the 10 biggest bonus payments to American International Group executives – and 15 of the top 20 — have already been returned to the federally bailed-out insurance giant, now 80% owned by the US government.
** E.P.A. DECLARES GREENHOUSE GASES A PUBLIC DANGER. The US Environmental Protection Agency has found greenhouse gases to be a public hazard. The declaration has been sent in the bureaucratic chain to the Office of Management and Budget. When returned to the EPA, which should take little more than a week, the formal declaration will be made and many things, including approval of California’s climate change program, will flow from that.
** CALIFORNIA TEACHERS ASSOCIATION JOINS WITH SCHWARZENEGGER ON SPECIAL ELECTION. The California Teachers Association (CTA), the state’s most powerful public employee union, decided over the weekend to back all six of the state budget compromise-related initiatives on the May 19th special election ballot.
CTA played the leading role in wrecking Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s special election initiative agenda in 2005. But this time around, with the state’s economic and fiscal situation in significantly different straits, CTA is allied with Schwarzenegger, despite a state spending limit that passed the Legislature.
This move comes on the heels of last week’s decision by the state’s building and construction trades unions to back all six initiatives, as well, which I suspected would make it less likely for other major unions to campaign against the initiatives.
Two smaller unions came out today against the initiatives, the California Federation of Teachers and the California Nurses Association.
CTA had previously endorsed Prop 1B, which has some protections for education spending, but held off for weeks on the rest of the initiatives.
** OBAMA’S RUGGED WEEK. President Barack Obama faces a rugged week with multiple challenges on the economy and in geopolitics. … Is this another bailout to Wall Street? Or is it needed pragmatism to work with a deeply troubled, farcically entitled though still necessary private financial sector? … Obama’s new Afghanistan strategy review, expected to be completed last week, now apparently won’t be released until next week, when an international conference on the troubled nation convenes in the Netherlands at The Hague. …
** GALLUP POLL: OBAMA NUMBERS HEADING UP. In another sign that it’s good for President Barack Obama to get outside Washington on a regular basis, the new Gallup Poll shows his job approval moving up again.
65% approve of Obama’s job as president, while 26% disapprove.
Obama made a high profile trip to California last week, where he did town halls in Orange County and Los Angeles and appeared on The Tonight Show. The latter appearance was criticized by some for being an inappropriately casual venue, and Obama caught some flak after joking that his bowling abilities were Special Olympics in quality.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … OBAMA’S RUGGED WEEK.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
Another big week in presidential politics, though not so big in California politics.
President Barack Obama faces multiple challenges this week.
His embattled treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, under fire for helping enable massive bonuses to executives of the bailed-out insurance giant American International Group, is rolling out his plan to deal with the banks’ toxic assets. The credit gears are still largely stuck, along with the economy.
Obama’s budget proposal is running into fierce resistance from Republicans, who insist that the budget will be busted in the wake of a Congressional Budget Office estimate that deficits would be higher than the White House thinks, and some Democrats who are antsy about the scale of new spending Obama proposes to jump-start and transform the US economy.
- New CIA Director Leon Panetta visited Islamabad, Pakistan over the weekend to discuss the deteriorating situation there and the US fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban cadre making the troubled nation their safe haven.
Obama’s new Afghanistan strategy review, expected to be completed last week, now apparently wont be released until the end of the month, when an international conference on the troubled nation convenes at The Hague.
Obama has big decisions to make about Afghanistan’s current government, which most regard as corrupt and dysfunctional, as well as the best military and civil strategies to achieve what appear to be America’s more limited goals there. While desiring to stabilize the country, the administration appears to be reverting to the original US goal in Afghanistan: Denying it as a base of operations for transnational Islamic jihadist terrorist organizations.
Iran will participate at the Hague conference next week. Obama’s video message to Iranians at the end of last week appeared to be rebuffed, though not extravagantly. How to play Iran is a part of the Afghan surge and Iraq endgame.
As he completes the Afghanistan review, Obama is grappling with the situation in neighboring Pakistan, which is quite unstable. A major front burner issue? Increase aerial drone attacks on Al Qaeda and Taliban cadre using the country as a safe haven. They appear to be increasingly successful militarily, but are highly controversial inside Pakistan, in part because of civilian “collateral” casualties.
- Former Secretary of State and Reagan White House chief of staff James Baker is the latest unofficial emissary of the Obama Administration to visit Moscow. He tells Russia Today that both countries were responsible for the downturn in US/Russia relations.
America’s relations with a resurgent Russia also require some decisions. Obama has had several unofficial high-level emissaries visit Moscow in recent weeks, including former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and James Baker and former and presidential candidate Senator Gary Hart. Russia is already being helpful to the US by providing new supply lines to Afghanistan, and can do more. But will Obama pay the cost?
In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, after a high-profile few days around Obama in LA and Washington as his “surprise” ally (surprising to those not paying attention here), will be mostly out of the public spotlight this week.
He’s working behind the scenes on the campaign to pass six state budget compromise-related initiatives on the May 19th special election ballot. That includes fundraising, continuing to build the coalition backing the initiatives, and blocking a potent opposition from forming.
Schwarzenegger received a big boost late last week when the California building trades and construction unions came out for all six initiatives. These unions are a big part of the state’s labor federation, having co-sponsored the annual labor state legislative conference at the beginning of last week with the California Labor Federation.
Their presence in the coalition behind the initiatives makes it less likely that a public employee union will campaign heavily against the initiatives, which both raise taxes and provide spending limits.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama and his family return from the the presidential retreat of Camp David this morning, where they spent his daughters’ spring break. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden receive the daily intelligence and economic briefings.
At noontime, which is 9:30 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks about investments in clean energy and new technology in his proposed budget at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Obama then meets with senior advisors. Later in the afternoon, Biden meets with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.
Early this morning, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner gave a briefing to journalists on the administration’s plan to deal with the banks’ so-called “toxic assets” problem.
Geithner’s plan is to combine $75 billion to $100 billion in public bailout money, leveraged with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Federal Reserve, with private funds to buy $500 billion in toxic assets. The plan is controversial, as you’ve not doubt heard, and I’ll have more on that later.
Obama has his hands full with his administration’s new plan to deal with the banks’ toxic assets problem, developing new regulations on the behavior of financial institutions, including executive compensation, and US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Back from his very high-profile trip to Washington (see earlier reports), Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has private meetings and discussions today in Los Angeles.
** OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA: THE ARNOLD ALLIANCE AND MORE. President Barack Obama is back in the East after a whirlwind visit to California which pointed up his strengths and suggested some things he can do differently.
Polling shows that Obama, who crushed John McCain here last November, 61% to 37%, is the only really popular politician in California now. The state is wracked by the recession, which took hold here earlier than most other places, and hampered by a largely dysfunctional state Capitol.
** CNBC CAN SEE RUSSIA FROM ITS HOUSE, AND OTHER FIN DE SIECLE FOLLIES. CNBC can see Russia from its house. It’s just one example of a fin de siecle folly, albeit one of the the most recent and dramatic.This is clearly end-of-an-era time, but some of the old era standbys haven’t gotten the memo. Or been able to read it. …From my March 16th column.
** OUR MAN IN KABUL: BACKBITING ON THE EVE OF THE NEW OBAMA STRATEGY FOR AFGHANISTAN. With the Obama Administration’s strategic review of the Afghanistan crisis nearly complete — the report should be out sometime next week — the Afghan government seems pretty unhappy.
And not just about the situation in the country, which is not good, with successful Taliban attacks taking place even in the capital city of Kabul.
The current government, under the Bush/Cheney Administration’s choice for president, Hamid Karzai, seems disgruntled about a likely change in direction under President Barack Obama.
** OBAMA’S DARING TOUR D’HORIZON: THE NEW PRESIDENT ENGAGES MULTIPLE CRISES AND PROBES FOR OPPORTUNITY. In the midst of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, President Barack Obama is making major moves elsewhere. That doesn’t mean he’s not focused on the domestic economy; quite the contrary. To follow the conventional media, he’s doing little else. What it does mean is he pursuing a big agenda in geopolitics.
** WHITHER WATCHMEN? IS THIS BIG, DARK, GEEKY, LEFTY MOVIE THE NEXT COMIC BOOK BLOCKBUSTER? … From my March 9th column.
** THE TROUBLE WITH TWITTER: WHY “TWEETS” ARE LIKE “BLIPVERTS.” … From my March 5th 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.
** 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 around $52 per barrel.
This is up about $18 a barrel, since enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, on anticipation of increased economic activity down the line, and on increased implementation of already agreed upon OPEC production cutbacks to support the price.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.