President Barack Obama met with the nation’s governors this morning at the White House, discussing how the federal government can work better together with hard-hit state governments. Later Obama met privately in the Oval Office with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
** QUICK HITS. Following his private meeting today with President Barack Obama, Governor Arnold Schwarzengger dismissed demands from other Republicans that the national health care bill start from scratch as “bogus talk.” He said that Obama is committed to job creation and that the economic stimulus program is a success. … Defense Secretary Bob Gates said today that only a serious deterioration in the security situation could slow the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, now slated to go from the nearly 100,000 now in-country to 50,000 non-combat troops by the end of August. … Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said today that military strikes alone would not be enough to halt Iran’s nuclear program, which is why he favors additional sanctions. … In his first major vote as a U.S. senator following his shock win in last month’s Massachusetts special election, Scott Brown today joined three other Republicans in breaking ranks with the party to support a Democratic jobs bill.
** CALIFORNIA 2010: THE PLOT THICKENS FOR THE REPUBLICANS. The two super-rich Republicans running for governor, billionaire Meg Whitman and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, both tried to relate to the working class in the Inland Empire at Nascar races over the weekend. Whitman tweeted a picture of herself wearing what looks very much like a Burberry coat. Very nice. … After pushing for months to clear the Republican primary field — with Poizner sticking around and Tom Campbell taking the hint that the grass is greener in the Senate race — Whitman must be resigned to the fact that she has a primary race with the mobile phone tracking magnate. She won’t debate him at the California Republican Party convention next month, though the pressure is still on, but she will debate a few days later before a private fundraising group in Orange County. And on some sort of Comcast TV debate in May. … The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association endorsed Whitman today, touting her as the only true conservative in the race. The Poizner camp calls that nonsense, saying that he’s the only one for across-the-board tax cuts, and that Whitman backed Barbara Boxer for the Senate and has a budget plan that doesn’t begin to add up. … The Level The Playing Field Democratic committee is pushing Whitman to release her tax returns. Which she evidently will not do, as her campaign says only that it will release a much more vague statement of financial interests. So the group is calling on Whitman’s campaign chairman, ex-Governor Pete Wilson to push the billionaire to do so or resign his post with her campaign. Why call on Wilson? Because demanding that his opponents release their tax returns was a staple of his own campaigns for governor and U.S. senator.
** MAD MEN: THE STREAK CONTINUES. …
** NEW SURVEY: HEALTH COVERAGE VARIES WIDELY BY AGE AND INCOME. Not surprisingly, a new Gallup survey shows that the penetration of health coverage in America varies widely by age and income. Younger people, and less affluent people, are far less likely to have health insurance.
Perhaps this will help inform the Obama health care summit on Thursday with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders.
I suspect it will just tell them what they already know.
Health insurance coverage is generally lowest in Americans’ mid-twenties and strongly related to income, ranging from a low of 44% among 35-year-olds making less than $24,000 a year to 100% among seniors in their 70s making more than $24,000 a year. …
Nationally, an average of 16.2% of all Americans did not have health insurance when Gallup interviewed them in 2009. This marks a slight uptick from 2008, the first year Gallup collected comprehensive data on health insurance coverage.
As is true with many aspects of American life today, the lack of health insurance is not distributed equally or randomly. There is a distinct age and income pattern when it comes to those who have health insurance. The data also show the role that the government’s national Medicaid, Medicare, and military health insurance programs play in patterns of healthcare coverage, germane to the current debate over healthcare reform.
Among 18-year-olds, the youngest Americans Gallup surveys, 84% have health insurance. This relatively high rate of coverage presumably reflects the fact that these young Americans are still covered under their parents’ insurance policies, something that apparently changes abruptly as they grow into their early 20s. Health insurance coverage reaches the lowest point of the entire age spectrum (66%) at age 22. From age 22 on, the percentage of Americans with health insurance begins to climb, albeit slowly, reaching the 95% level at age 65 when Medicare coverage is officially available. …
President Barack Obama welcomed the governors of America’s 50 states to the White House last night for the 2010 Governors Ball.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
A very big week in presidential politics is on tap, along with an interesting week in California politics. President Barack Obama, dealing with several geopolitical crises, makes a last stab at moving a big national health care reform bill through, releasing his version of the plan today and holding a summit with Democrats and Republicans on Thursday. And in California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders will see how much can be accomplished in the ending special session on the budget crisis, while billionaire Meg Whitman continues her hide-and-seek campaign for the GOP gubernatorial nod, a game which works especially well in the absence of seeking.
In advance of Thursday’s high-stakes health care summit with congressional leaders, Obama this morning released his proposed plan. It melds elements of the already passed House and Senate national health care reform bills, with a greater emphasis on the Senate version.
In this version, there is no public option, state health insurance exchanges are created, there are more safeguards against big rate increases, the excise tax is cut back, and the Nebraska Medicaid deal is eliminated. The House can pass the bill and the Senate can concur through use of the fiscal reconciliation measure, which requires only 51 votes rather than the 60 needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.
As you’ll recall, Senate and House negotiators were close to agreement on how best to proceed with one final bill when Scott Brown pulled off his surprise that should not have been in the Massachusetts special election to fill the seat of the late Senator Ted Kennedy. That deprived Democrats of the 60th vote needed to avert a Republican filibuster.
Obama is monitoring the U.S.-led offensive against the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in southern Afghanistan and the percolating crisis around Iran’s nuclear program. The Obama Administration is working on international support for a new round of sanctions against the Iranian regime unless it relents.
In a positive sign in the Marjah offensive, some 200 Afghan police were helicoptered into the city over the weekend to help keep order in its secured portions.
The offensive has been underway for a little over a week, and has many days to go. The U.S., British, Canadian, and Afghan forces involved are taking care to avoid civilian casualties, as an Afghan civilian infrastructure management team is waiting to be airlifted in and it will need popular support for the operation to be successful.
But the overall Afghanistan operation suffered a severe setback today when a U.S. fighter jet attacked a convoy in another part of the country that turned out to be civilian, killing some 33 Afghans in the process.
In Iraq, a leading Sunni party is boycotting next month’s national parliamentary elections in the wake of the banning of hundreds of Sunni candidates for supposed past ties to Saddam Hussein. The American commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, said last week that the Iraqi politicians driving the bannings are closely tied to Iran.
In Pakistan, where civilian authority is threatened by a conflict between the executive and judicial branches, government officials say they will build their own generation of drone aircraft and missiles to take on jihadist elements.
In Iran, government officlals are coming up with yet another version of having uranium enriched abroad, without shipping out the uranium already in place. Obama is building an international coalition to impose new sanctions on the Tehran regime.
Obama is also confronted with a problem in his appointee as the new special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a 57-nation group of Islamic nations. Rashad Hussain, the 31-year old deputy associate White House counsel Obama named as special envoy, has had to walk back some intemperate statements he made as a law student in 2004 about Bush/Cheney Administration prosecutions of domestic terror suspects.
Back in California, today is the last day of the emergency legislative session on the budget ordered by Schwarzenegger in early January. Both houses of the Legislature will deal with bills today that will not, however, deal with most of the problem.
For his part, Schwarzenegger meets with Obama today at the White House to discuss a variety of matters. One will be his request for more federal funding.
So far, Schwarzenegger has secured nearly half of the $7 billion in additional federal aid he requested from Obama in his State of the State address last month.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Obama and Biden then delivered remarks to the members of the National Governors Association in the East Room.
At 9:40 AM Pacific, Obama meets with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Oval Office.
At 10:15 AM Pacific, Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 12 noon Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in the Oval Office.
At 12:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in the Oval Office.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, appearing Sunday on ABC’s This Week, praised the Obama economic stimulus program and slammed Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, for their criticism.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Washington today.
He is in Washington for the National Governors Association meeting.
Schwarzenegger participated in the National Governors Association meeting at the White House with President Obama early this morning.
He then did a press availability at the White House Press Stakeout.
At 9:40 AM Pacific, Schwarzenegger meets with Obama in the Oval Office.
** THE BIGGEST SPENDING RACE IN AMERICA IS UNDERWAY! (WELL, SORT OF.) The biggest spending race in America is fully underway! Or not.
That would be the California governor’s race. With billionaire Meg Whitman, the ex-eBay CEO and national co-chair of the McCain/Palin campaign, spending like a Russian oligarch, it’s inevitable that this will be the most expensive race in the country. But aside from Whitman blanketing the state for months with her robotic ads, it’s not there yet.
Her trailing Republican primary rival, super-rich state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, figuring that the primary election is in June, is sitting on a near $20 million campaign warchest. He hasn’t come close to running an ad. State Attorney General Jerry Brown, the storied maverick Democrat who won his party’s nomination by quietly clearing the field last year, is sitting on the $13 million he’s raised. And Democratic independent expenditure committees, launched with a flourish last week — complete with press reports of $40 million in advertising about to be unleashed against Whitman — are, in reality, still getting organized.
Which hasn’t stopped the Whitman campaign — trailing Brown, used to trying to control everything and, faced with a much diminished state press corps, used to getting away with it — from looking rather rattled. For one thing, the aloof former Goldman Sachs board member, no doubt painfully aware that super-rich business people are not exactly wildly popular and that she in no way fits the Scott Brown profile for success in a largely Democratic state, is going to a Nascar race to show her common touch. For another, her operatives reacted to the ballyhooed emergence of what are actually nascent Democratic committees as though they’d been jabbed by a hot poker. … From my February 19th column.
** 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. … From my February 16th column.
** 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.
Space shuttle Endeavour made a rare nighttime landing last night at Kennedy Space Center. It also took off at night on this mission, a two-week foray for critical construction on the International Space Station. Endeavour will fly into space one more time before retirement.
** 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 $79 per barrel.
This is up about $45 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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