On the sixth day of the battle for the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in southern Afghanistan, U.S. Marines came under heavy fire.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … CALIFORNIA STORY: THE BIGGEST SPENDING RACE IN AMERICA IS UNDERWAY! (WELL, SORT OF.)
** QUICK HITS. The annual Conservative Political Action Conference got underway today in Washington, with Mitt Romney joking that Barack Obama wins the gold for downhill racing and Dick Cheney saying flatly that he is a one-term president. Obama’s job approval rating in the Gallup daily tracking poll is 52%, with 40% disapproving. … Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger got some good news from the Obama Administration today with word that California will get about $700 million more to cover Medicaid payments. … But a poll by Democratic pollster Ben Tulchin has the big state water bond currently set for the November California ballot trailing badly.
** CALIFORNIA 2010: BOXER IS IN, ABOUT RASMUSSEN POLLS, AND THE DISAPPEARING REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL DEBATE. To no one’s surprise, Senator Barbara Boxer today formally filed for re-election. The feisty 69-year old chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee filed her papers in Riverside County, where she and her husband now live (in Rancho Mirage), and had a get-together after at a Mexican restaurant.
Also to no one’s surprise — well, except those state reporters and bloggers who kept on writing that she really might run — Senator Dianne Feinstein told a small fundraising gathering in Orange County on Tuesday that she won’t run for governor.
I wrote that Feinstein wouldn’t run for governor in 2007, 2008, and 2009. I told Arnold Schwarzenegger the day before he announced his candidacy on The Tonight Show that she had decided not to run for governor in the 2003 recall election, and that she would never run for governor. It’s been obvious for approximately ever that Feinstein was comfortably ensconced in Washington, building toward hers chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she at last achieved last year.
Anyhow, no surprise, Boxer is officially running for re-election. She has more money in the bank than any of her prospective Republican challengers. And in my view continues to be a clear favorite to win re-election. None of the Republicans make a credible Scott Brown-type figure, and Boxer is no one’s idea of a disengaged figure.
There is a Rasmussen poll that appears to show Boxer in a close race with either ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina or ex-Congressman Tom Campbell. But I don’t buy Rasmussen polls.
They are robopolls conducted by an outfit owned by a right-wing fundamentalist. I haven’t reported Rasmussen polls since 2008, when they were the only daily tracking poll available in the presidential race. Once that status ended, my interest in Rasmussen ended. His polls under-sampled Democrats. He always had Barack Obama’s unfavorable rating much higher than any other credible poll. Once Obama became president, Rasmussen was the consistent outlier on Obama’s job approval rating, having him much lower than any other poll.
Rasmussen polls are used in the conservative echo chamber and are conducted so frequently that they are then employed by Republican operatives to set campaign narratives.
Not that Boxer is going to win in a landslide, even against a flawed Republican nominee. She’s one of the most liberal members of the Senate. And California, while mostly Democratic, is not a left-wing state.
Now about that gubernatorial debate at next month’s state party convention that so many delegates wanted … The California Republican Party put out an intriguing statement last night, hours after the close of business, saying that it had been decided after discussion at the staff level that there would be no official invitations to debate. Which was a way for billionaire Meg Whitman to avoid turning down a high-profile debate she did not want to have with her trailing challenger, super-rich state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Whitman’s camp lobbied heavily against the issuance of state party debate invitations.
Whitman, who ducked every debate last fall after she said she would debate last fall, prefers instead to debate a few days later before the members of a big-money Orange County fundraising group. Clearly a much lower profile venue, and one that many cash-strapped media outlets that will cover the state party convention may not be able to make.
Today the party issued a statement clarifying last night’s statement, saying that party leaders had decided not to invite anyone to debate who did not want to be invited.
That’s very kind.
If Whitman makes it to the general election, she should not expect the same kid gloves treatment.
** NEW SURVEY: CONSUMER SPENDING AT “NEW NORMAL.” A new Gallup survey indicates that consumers are still wary about spending in a slowly improving economy. And that a relatively depressed level of spending is becoming the “New Normal.”
Contrary to the impression given by some recent government reports, Americans’ self-reported spending declined in January 2010 compared with December, returning to the seeming “new normal” levels of 2009. Americans in upper-income households (those making $90,000 or more a year) reported spending an average of $113 per day in stores, restaurants, gas stations, and online in January — down 14% from December’s $132, and essentially matching their $110 average of a year ago.
Middle- and lower-income Americans (those making less than $90,000 a year) likewise reported 13% less spending in January ($54 per day) than in December ($62), and slightly less than in January 2009 ($58). …
To put it in blunt terms, Great Depression II has been averted, but happy days are not yet here again.
Upper-income Americans’ spending in January returned to the relatively tight range ($107-$121) that, with the exceptions of October and December, characterized this group in 2009. Since upper-income households by definition have more disposable income and, thus, tend to do more discretionary spending than other Americans, this return to the 2009 range likely represents a resumption of the “new normal” spending patterns. The slight decline in middle- and lower-income spending confirms this. …
Women are driving this possible New Normal.
Average self-reported spending among women was $49 per day in January 2010 — down 25% from December and 14% from January 2009. In sharp contrast, men spent an average of $75 per day in January — $4 less than in December and $3 more than a year ago.
Spending is down least among the young, most among older Americans.
Spending is especially down in the West.
Year-over-year spending declined in all regions except the South, where it increased by 8%. The greatest decline was in the West (-13%), followed by the Midwest (-7%) and the East (-6%). The South’s improvement and the West’s deterioration are consistent with the relative strength of the two job markets.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington, Colorado, and Nevada today.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.
They then met with the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson in the Oval Office.
After which Obama delivered remarks on fiscal matters and established a national deficit reduction commission headed by former Clinton White House chief of staff Bowles and former Senator Simpson, a colorful Wyoming Republican.
At 8:15 AM Pacific, Obama meets with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the Oval Office.
China has protested this, as usual, but not all that vociferiously.
At 10 AM Pacific, Obama flies on Marine One to Andrews Air Force Base, where he boards Air Force One.
At 10:15 AM Pacific, Obama departs Andrews Air Force on Air Force One en route to Aurora, Colorado.
At 1:50 PM Pacific, Obama arrives in Aurora, Colorado.
At 2:30 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a fundraiser for Senator Michael Bennet at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver.
Bennet, who was appointed to the Senate when Obama made Ken Salazar the secretary of the interior, has a competitive race in November.
At 3:40 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a fundraising reception for Senator Michael Bennet at the Sheraton Hotel in Denver.
At 4:35 PM Pacific, Obama departs Aurora, Colorado on Air Force One en route to Las Vegas, Nevada.
At 6:15 PM Pacific, Obama arrives in Las Vegas.
Back in Washington, Biden delivers a speech on nonproliferation and nuclear security at the National Defense University.
After yesterday’s AfPak war council in the White House Situation Room, he and Obama are monitoring several AfPak matters, including the U.S.-led offensive against the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in southern Afghanistan. Most of the city has been taken but there are major pockets of resistance. The city is also filled with mines and IEDs.
The Marines and other British, Canadian, and Afghan forces are proceeding cautiously to avoid civilian casualties. The idea of course is not simply to dislodge the Taliban for a time but to win popular support for an Afghan civilian government whose technocrats are ready to be imported once the city is secured.
In the wake of the joint U.S./Pakistani capture in Karachi of the Afghan Taliban’s military commander, several other Taliban leaders and Al Qaeda figures have also been taken, indicating that Mullah Baradar is providing accurate information to his Pakistani interrogators.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles, Oregon, and Sacramento today.
At 10 AM, Schwarzenegger appears in the Rotunda of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Oregon.
There he joins U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, PacifiCorp CEO Greg Abel, and the heads of the Klamath, Yurok, and Karuk Tribes in signing final agreements resolving the status of Klamath River water.
On January 6th, Schwarzenegger declared a special legislative session on the state’s chronic budget crisis. Under state law he had enacted early in his governorship, if the budget is not resolved in 45 days all other legislative activity goes by the boards.
As a result, the Legislature, which has done little on the budget this year, is rushing to move other legislation forward this week.
The state Senate will also reportedly act on a portion of the shortfall today.
Meanwhile, in another sign of Meg Whitman’s machinations in Republican politics, the California Republican Party announced last night that it will not issue invitations to debate at next month’s state party convention. So party delegates from around the state will see no debate between the two candidates who seek to succeed Schwarzenegger as governor.
This despite an online poll at the conservative Flash Report showing overwhelming support among party delegates for a debate between Whitman and super-rich state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.
Poizner wanted to debate. Whitman, who has skipped all debates to date, did not want to debate in such a high profile setting.
I’ll have more on this.
** TONY BLAIR’S GHOST (WRITER). Roman Polanski’s new film, The Ghost Writer, had its world premiere on Friday at the Berlin Film Festival and is getting good early reviews. Count it as more bad news for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Blair complained last week on Fox News — a few days before the film premiered, in fact — that his widely panned January appearance in London before the Chilcot Inquiry into the origins of the Iraq War stirred up so much negativity because people are hungry for conspiracy involving him.
If that is so, this is the movie. …
** THE MACHINATIONS OF MEG WHITMAN: BEHIND HER ATTEMPTS TO ELIMINATE COMPETITION AND HER WHOPPER ABOUT HOW LONG SHE’S LIVED IN CALIFORNIA. In her spend-whatever-it-takes bid to jump from being a billionaire ex-CEO to the governorship of California, Republican Meg Whitman presents herself and her ideas in very simple, straightforward terms. The reality behind the facade, as we see from her attempts to avoid a primary contest and duck debates and the press, as well as her false claim about herself in her introductory TV ad, is different. … From my February 10th column.
** LOST IN LOST. … From my February 4th essay.
** SELLING MEG WHITMAN: GLITCHES EMERGE IN THE BILLIONAIRE’S PLAN TO ACQUIRE THE CALIFORNIA GOVERNORSHIP. What would Don Draper do? … From my February 2nd column.
** WHAT A DIFFERENCE TWO MONTHS MAKES AS THE FATE OF OBAMA’S PRESIDENCY PLAYS OUT FAR FROM WASHINGTON. … From my January 29th column.
** MAD MEN SWEEPS THE LATEST AWARDS AND LOSES A KEY CHARACTER. … From my January 27th column.
** SCOTT BROWN NEED NOT APPLY: CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS IN THE POST-ARNOLD ERA. … From my January 26th column.
** WHAT SCOTT BROWN KNEW IN 2010 AND BARACK OBAMA KNEW IN 2008. … From my January 22nd column.
** 24 NATION.… From my January 19th column.
** HOW JERRY BROWN CLEARED THE DEMOCRATIC FIELD FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA. … From my December 9th 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, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** HELP FOR HAITI.
A big day for American athletes in yesterday’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
** 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 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, 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.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $78 per barrel.
This is up about $44 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
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