Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor, today announced a new program to fight powerful Mexican drug cartels along the border.
** NEW COLUMN COMING … PRIME TIME O: HOW THE OMNIPRESENT PRESIDENT IS DOING.
** QUICK HITS. Excerpts from President Barack Obama’s opening remarks at tonight’s prime time news conference from the White House reveal, not surprisingly, that he is promoting his economic recovery program and his budget proposal as not only key to revival of the economy but also key to it needed transformation. … The government of the Czech Republic, unpopular for the economic crisis and for agreeing to host part of the proposed US anti-missile shield disliked by Moscow, fell today in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. … Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, noting that California is getting $85 billion from the Obama economic recovery program ($50 billion in stimulus spending and $35 billion in tax cuts), today launched a web site for Californians to track the spending at recovery.ca.gov. Schwarzenegger will name the state officials overseeing the economic recovery spending later this week. … The memorial service for the four Oakland police officers murdered over the weekend by a parolee with a pistol and an assault rifle will be held sometime Friday morning.
** CALIFORNIA 2010. With major labor unions mostly positive or neutral on the six state budget compromise-related initiatives on the May 19th special election ballot, attention turns to the right-wing. In particular, to GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner.
After trying unsuccessfully last week to engage Democratic frontrunner Jerry Brown, super-rich state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner this week reiterated his opposition to the main initiatives and began a set of appearances criticizing them with a talk to a Republican group in Orange County.
Whitman, the former eBay CEO who was a top official in John McCain’s and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns, wrote last week in a Sacramento Bee op-ed of her opposition to all the initiatives. Hardly a surprise, since she, like Poizner, denounced the state budget compromise at last month’s state Republican convention, as I discussed at length in a column.
The question is, what will Whitman do about it?
I doubt she will attempt to intervene in the special election with major spending against the initiatives. To do so would bring her views front and center. And Whitman persists in presenting the illusion that she can balance the budget by cuts alone.
Of course, not intervening makes her stance look simply rhetorical. Which it is, given the lack of substance to her position.
As for Poizner, he might intervene with some spending against the initiatives. But he has the same problem Whitman has. He has offered no realistic plan to actually balance the budget, in his case only repeatedly noting that he’s cut his office’s spending by 10%.
Back to the Democrats tomorrow.
Incidentally, Schwarzenegger suffered a setback this morning on a separate but related front when a federal judge turned down his legal move to end California’s prison receivership. The receiver has ordered $8 billion in new spending to upgrade health care in the prison system. Which the state clearly does not have. Schwarzeneger, joined by Attorney General Jerry Brown, the former governor and current Democratic frontrunner should he run, went to court to end the receivership.
Brown says he will appeal this morning’s ruling. The receiver, perhaps mindful of how unrealistic his demands look, has already seemingly scaled back his proposal, suggesting that $8 billion was the high end as one of three scenarios, the low end of which is $2 billion.
President Barack Obama, meeting this morning in the Oval Office with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (who unseated President Bush’s closest ally, John Howard) said the US will remain on the offensive against Islamic jihadists in Afghanistan. Rudd withdrew Australian troops from Iraq, but is an American partner in Afghanistan.
** GALLUP POLL: ONLY OBAMA LOOKS OKAY IN THE A.I.G. EXECUTIVE BONUS SCANDAL. Those widely condemned big bonuses for executives of the publicly bailed out insurance giant American International Group leave virtually all players with egg on their faces. Except for President Barack Obama.
According to the new Gallup Poll, 54% rate Obama positively in the affair, with only 29% looking at him negatively. AIG management comes out 80% negative and only 12% positive. Congress does better, but not much, with 65% negative and 26% positive, while Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is 54% negative and 28% positive.
Unsurprisingly, a whopping 69% believe that all the bonus money should be returned, with 13% saying half of it should be and only 12% (and this is the Rush Limbaugh position) saying that none of it should be.
There’s no consensus on how to get the money back. Only 25% back what House Democrats passed last week, a 90% tax on the bonuses. (Notably, only 29% of Democrats back this.) 27% want the money returned voluntarily, while 26% want the funds recovered via legal action or as a precondition for future government bailout support.
** DID UNION CARD CHECK JUST END? Organized labor’s campaign to make union organizing easier may have just hit a fatal hurdle for this session. Republican Senator Arlen Specter, who has voted in the past to shut down potential filibuster against card check, announced today that he will not do so this year. Specter provided one of the needed Republican votes to shut off a potential filibuster against President Barack Obama’s economic recovery program, and voted for the massive program on final passage. He faces a likely challenge from the right in a Republican primary if he runs for re-election next year.
Even with the likely seating of comedian Al Franken at the end of the disputed recount fight in Minnesota, Democrats would still be one vote shy of the 60 needed to stop a filibuster. And that’s if all Democrats held, which I rather doubt.
** GORE PLANS FOLLOW-UP TO AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. Former Vice President Al Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change, just announced a follow-up to his book, An Inconvenient Truth, which was made into an Academy Award-winning documentary film.
Our Choice will be published by Rodale in the US and other publishers around the world on November 3, 2009. Gore sees the opportunity to push forward on curbing greenhouse gases.
Said Gore in a statement: “An Inconvenient Truth reached millions of people with the message that the climate crisis is threatening the future of human civilization and that it must and can be solved. Now that the need for urgent action is even clearer with the alarming new findings of the last three years, it is time for a comprehensive global plan that actually solves the climate crisis. Our Choice will answer that call.”
Skepticism about climate change has actually increased, even as most scientists around the world – including in California – insist that the greenhouse effect will be greater than had been anticipated.
** A GLOBAL PUBLISHING COUP BY AN OLD COLLEAGUE. President Barack Obama has published the first global op-ed piece by a US president simultaneously in major newspapers in nations around the world.
It’s the NPQ Global Viewpoint service, run by my old colleague Nathan Gardels, distributed by Tribune Media. The service has evolved from the original NPQ, New Perspectives Quarterly, founded by former Governor Jerry Brown. It’s based in Los Angeles.
President Barack Obama made it clear yesterday that new investments in clean energy and green tech constitute a cornerstone of his budget.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama has a very high profile day today.
After his daily intelligence and economic briefings, Obama phoned the astronauts on the International Space Station and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office. He then meets with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Obama will ask Rudd for more Australian troops to serve in Afghanistan.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitan announced this morning that the US will work closely with the Mexican government to secure the border against the powerful drug cartels which threaten to destabilize Mexico’s government. The cartels are obtaining major armaments inside the US.
At 5 PM Pacific, Obama holds the second prime time news conference of his young presidency. He is expected to focus principally on the economy, dealing again with the AIG executive bonus scandal, and with the just announced plan to handle banks’ toxic assets. Despite criticism from right and left, that plan has met with approval from markets around the world. The Obama Administration will now seek authority to seize control of non-banking financial firms such as AIG which have blurred the old lines between banks, insurance companies, stock traders, investors, and so on.
He will also discuss his first trip as president to Europe next week for the G-20 (group of 20 advanced economies) summit in London. Obama is seeking to enlist nations around the world in a joint stimulus program to revive the global economy and to further regulate financial institutions. His op-ed to that effect appeared today in major newspapers in more than 30 countries, utilizing a syndicate run by an old colleague of mine. (See the item above.)
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.
The new Afghanistan strategy seems now set to be released at the end of this week. That will be only a few days in advance of the international conference on Afghanistan and Pakistan set for next week in the Netherlands, and just as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference on Afghanistan begins in Moscow.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds private meetings in and around the Capitol today. He has no scheduled public events.
Schwarzenegger is having significant success both in building the coalition to back the six state budget compromise-related initiatives on California’s May 19th special election ballot, and in blocking opposition. As you see from past items, he has developed major labor support for the package, despite its state spending limits.
In a California 2010 feature later, I’ll discuss the state of conservative opposition to the measures, in particular the roles of GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner.
The International Space Station had to make a change in its orbit to evade debris from a 10-year old Chinese rocket, an increasing problem for the station and for satellites.
** 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. …
** 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.
As important as Obama is for California, so, too, is California for Obama. …
** 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.
Publicly, Karzai supports Obama. But some of his top officials this week undermined likely key elements in the new strategy. …
** 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.
If the economic crisis were not so grave and the conventional media so insular, any one of these moves would be big news. …
** 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 $53 per barrel.
This is up about $19 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.