President Barack Obama is readying tomorrow’s announcement of the new US strategy for Afghanistan.
** NEW U.S. STRATEGY FOR AFGHANISTAN COMING TOMORROW. President Barack Obama will announce on Friday morning the long-awaited Afghanistan strategy review. He briefed members of Congress at the White House this afternoon, but Senate Republican leaders skipped the meeting. The plan nonetheless is winning initial favor from Obama’s defeated Republican rival, Senator John McCain. The new plan includes 4,200 more US troops to serve as trainers to the Afghan Army. This is in addition to the 13,000 additional troops already announced by Obama. Also in the mix are several hundred civilian advisors to help establish greater civil society infrastructure in the countryside, and a tripling of foreign aid to Pakistan, where Al Qaeda and Taliban cadre currently have safe havens. The additional aid to Pakistan will be tied to the Pakistani government’s performance in aiding against Islamic jihadists.
I will have a column on this on Monday. That will be after the Moscow meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Russia, China, and the former Central Asian Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) this weekend on Afghanistan and before the Netherlands meeting next week of many nations on Afghanistan. Both meetings include the US and Iran, neither of which is a member of the SCO.
** NATIONAL REPUBLICAN DISARRAY ON OBAMA’S BUDGET. House Republicans promised an alternative US budget as part of their opposition to President Barack Obama’s plans. They didn’t produce one.
What they did produce was a 19-page document containing various attacks on Obama’s plans and statements of conservative principle. The document contained no actual budget numbers.
The only specific proposal was a tax cut for high-income Americans. Which does not reduce current sky-high budget deficits from the Bush/Cheney years. Republican leaders now say they’ll have some more specifics besides more tax cuts next week.
** GEITHNER LAYS OUT NEW FINANCIAL REGULATORY REGIME. In Capitol Hill testimony today, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner laid out plans for new regulation of America’s faltering financial system.
The plans engendered opposition from Republicans and from many who would be freshly regulated.
The administration’s proposals, which require congressional approval, include:
* Imposing tougher standards on financial institutions that are judged to be so big that their failure would threaten the entire system.
* Extending federal regulation for the first time to all trading in financial derivatives – exotic instruments such as credit default swaps that are blamed for much of the economic carnage.
* Requiring larger hedge funds and other private pools of capital, including private equity and venture capital funds, to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
* Creating a regulator to monitor the biggest institutions. Geithner did not say which agency should wield such authority, but the administration is expected to favor the Federal Reserve.
* Empowering the government to take over major non-bank financial firms such as insurers and hedge funds if deemed necessary.
President Barack Obama kicked off the first ever online presidential town hall meeting this morning from the White House.
** GALLUP POLL: AMERICANS MORE CONFIDENT ABOUT MILITARY READINESS. The new Gallup Poll shows that most Americans are more confident about US military readiness now than they were a year ago. More confounding data for Rush Limbaugh, I’m afraid.
The shift upward is due to a big increase in Democratic satisfaction, from 37% to 64%, and a smaller but large 10-point increase amongst independents, up to 50%.
Tellingly, there has been no change in the assessment of Republicans, despite the change from the Bush/Cheney Administration to the Obama Administration..
After four years of declining public confidence in the nation’s military preparedness, Gallup’s annual World Affairs survey documents a sharp reversal. Currently, 54% of Americans say the country’s national defense is about right, up from 41% a year ago.
As a corollary to the recent increase in public contentment with the nation’s defense, the percentage of Americans saying national defense is not strong enough has dropped from 47% to 37%.
An additional 6% of Americans now say the nation’s defense is stronger than it needs to be. Thus, combined with the 54% saying national defense is about right, 6 in 10 Americans believe the nation’s defense is at least adequate, if not too great.
** SCHWARZENEGGER NAMES STATE STIMULUS CHIEFS. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has named California’s Federal Economic Stimulus Task Force. The two officials who represented the state at the White House Economic Recovery Act Implementation Conference earlier this month will serve as coordinator and deputy coordinator.
Cynthia Bryant, director of the Office of Planning & Research and deputy chief of staff to the governor, is the coordinator and will liaise directly with the Obama Administration on the economic recovery program. Ana Matosantos, chief deputy director of the state Department of Finance, is deputy coordinator. The task force itself includes a host of officials from many parts of the state government. Schwarzenegger chief deputy communications director Jeff Barker is the task force’s communications director.
California is receiving some $85 billion from the Obama economic recovery program, $50 billion in direct stimulus spending and $35 billion in tax breaks. Schwarzenegger has set up a web site to monitor the progress of the program within California at recovery.ca.gov.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Mexico City yesterday for a two-day visit in support of efforts to contain the growing power of Mexico’s drug cartels, which threaten to destabilize the country.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama has another lower profile day in the wake of his six-day all-media offensive.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden receive the daily intelligence and economic briefings and meet with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Obama holds a first ever online presidential town hall meeting from the East Room of the White House, focused on the economy. The questions were submitted in advance via online means and selected by vote at whitehouse.gov. Obama also delivers a taped video message tonight during the very popular Premio Lo Nuestro music awards show on Univision, airing live from Miami.
This afternoon, Biden leaves for a visit to Latin America.
Obama is working on putting the finishing touches on his new Afghanistan strategy, which is now expected to be unveiled on Friday.
He will preside over a private briefing for a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the plan this afternoon in the White House.
The big international conference on Afghanistan is next week at the Hague in the Netherlands. Another conference, that of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is about to convene in Moscow. The US and Iran are participating in each conference.
Obama is also prepping for his big European trip next week. The president will be at the G-20 (group of 20 advanced economies) summit in London, the European Union leaders meeting in Prague, and the 60th anniversary summit of NATO in Strasbourg.
The White House has just announced that Obama will be in Normandy, France to commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day on June 6th.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Mexico for a second day of talks on the increasingly destabilizing power of Mexico’s big drug cartels. After meeting yesterday with Mexican President Felipe Calderon – who will summit with Obama next month in Mexico City – Clinton is in Monterrey with Mexican police officials.
The US is going to provide Mexican security forces more advanced surveillance technology, weaponry and transport in the form of Blackhawk helicopters. The drug cartel forces generally out-gun the regular Mexican police and increasingly are a a challenge to the army.
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is on Capitol Hill today pushing the Obama Administration’s plan for greatly expanded powers to regulate the non-bank financial sector. The repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act at the end of the Clinton Administration – pushed by former Texas Senator-turned Swiss banker Phil Gramm, a financial deregulationist who served as a national co-chairman of the John McCain for President campaign – removed old boundaries between banks, insurance companies, brokerages, and various investment funds. But new regulation to reflect the new realities did not follow.
Geithner is advocating broad new regulatory power over non-bank financial institutions such as insurance companies, hedge funds, and the purveyors of derivatives. The administration plan would also enable the government to seize these firms, just as it can now seize banks during emergencies. As it is, the government is left having to wait to intervene with expensive bailouts, or to let the firm fail and suffer the consequences.
** PPIC POLL: TOUGH ROW TO HOE FOR SPECIAL ELECTION INITIATIVES. A new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shows that all but one of the six state budget compromise-related initiatives on the May 19th special election ballot have support levels below 50%. The one that has a majority, a big majority, would penalize legislators financially in budget deficit years.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger matches his end of 2005 low job approval rating, at 33%. The Legislature has a record low approval rating of 18%.
Intriguingly, the results in the recent Field Poll, taken a couple of weeks before the PPIC poll, were markedly more favorable to all the initiatives, though not to Schwarzenegger or other politicians. Unless you count some blog postings, newspaper articles, and radio rants, there has been no campaign against the initiatives.
As is the practice with the remaining public polls in California, it was taken earlier this month over a lengthy period of time, March 10-17, which was prior to the Obama trip to the Golden State.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the former NBA All-Star, announced yesterday that they will move homeless inhabitants of a tent city that has drawn international media attention to new facilities at the California state fairgrounds.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds a number of private discussions, primarily around the state budget compromise-related initiatives on the May 19th California special election ballot.
He and the four legislative leaders who negotiated the compromise budget – state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines, and former Senate Minority Leader Dave Cogdill – are meeting with editorial boards this week urging the passage of the special election initiatives.
Schwarzenegger also appears this morning with Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block and other local officials to promote the Sheriff’s Department’s “Gifts for Guns” program which provides Californians with a financial incentive to surrender firearms that could potentially be stolen and used in a crime or to injure someone.
In 2007, Schwarzenegger began the California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention (CalGRIP) initiative to deal with the dramatic increase in gangs across the state.
He will use the event this morning to announce this year’s grants to local governments and community organizations for anti-gang violence work.
** PRIME TIME O: HOW THE OMNIPRESENT PRESIDENT IS DOING. We can’t afford to go back, and things are on course. That’s the meta-message from six days of very high-profile appearances by President Barack Obama, culminating with Tuesday night’s prime time news conference.
“We can’t afford to go back,” as in, “We can’t afford not to transform this economy as we revive it.”
Stanch the hemorrhaging of our personal and governmental financial base on health care by reforming it. Transform our resource base by shifting from non-renewable energy sources dominated by countries we can’t count on to new, greener technologies that curtail the greenhouse effect, create jobs, and position America for leadership in new industries. Recreate our knowledge base by improving a slumping education system. Revive our physical base by investing in infrastructure.
As for the “things being on course” part of the message, what struck me most about Obama’s prime time news conference, the second of his young presidency — George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did only four apiece during the 16 years they served — was how routine it felt.
While the nation’s media culture seems only slightly less hysterical, Tuesday night’s White House event had little of the crisis-ridden atmospherics of Obama’s first prime time presser. …
** 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.