The protests that brought down Tunisia’s government and are now boiling across Egypt have also hit impoverished Yemen, a key flashpoint in the jihadist war.
** QUICK HITS. Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was restored to the Chicago mayoral ballot today by the Illinois Supreme Court. A state appellate court had ruled that he was ineligible on residency grounds. Emanuel, who voted absentee in Chicago but rented out his home, has a big lead in next month’s race. … The new White House press secretary, replacing soon-to-be Obama political advisor Robert Gibbs, is Jay Carney, the former Time magazine correspondent who has been Vice President Joe Biden’s communications director. … California’s Republican legislators say they want no taxes in any new budget solution, advocating cuts only. Which they won’t spell out. Today several joined labor and Democrats rallying against proposed cuts to in-home health services. Where exactly are all your cuts coming from, Republican folks?!
** NEW POLL HAS GOOD NEWS, FAIR NEWS FOR THE NEW/RENEWED GOVERNOR. The latest Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll came off embargo at 9 PM last night. It has some quite good news for Governor Jerry Brown, and some not so good news.
Amidst the not so good news, as I alluded yesterday in discussing the Gallup Poll on public attitudes toward budget cuts at the national level, Californians remain very ignorant about where the money goes in state government, and where it comes from. Less than 10% of likely voters know that K-12 education, which most don’t want to cut at all, is the greatest part of spending (merely roughly half), and the income tax is the top source of revenue.
But let’s go back to the good news for Jerry Brown.
A big majority favors his plan for a special election to deal with the chronic state budget crisis, some 66% of likely voters, 16 points higher than the figure for the 2009 special election on the budget. Most like his budget proposal, though they see the pain in it, and most are in favor of his budget election package, which includes continuing expiring tax hikes on sales, income, and car registration. Many more, though still a minority, think the state is heading in the right direction again. And Brown’s own job approval rating is decidedly positive, though his job approval is under 50%.
Brown’s predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, finished with a 32% job approval rating in the last PPIC poll, conducted in December among those who voted in the November election. That was up by a third from where it was in July.
Brown’s job approval among likely voters is 15 points higher than Schwarzenegger’s, at 47%. It’s 41% among all Californians. His disapproval rating is only 20% among likely voters, and 19% among all Californians.
Brown’s job approval under-performs his election landslide. He crushed billionaire Meg Whitman in November 54% to 41%, winning more votes than any other gubernatorial candidate in American history.
Why is his job approval lower than his election performance? Well, it’s a skeptical era, and he has only just been inaugurated little more than three weeks ago.
Another reason is that he’s been barely seen in public since his election.
In fact, he has only made one public appearance outside the two cities in which he lives — Oakland and Sacramento — since he won his historic third term as governor of California. That was his budget crisis forum on education at UCLA in December. And he has made only a few public appearances in the Capitol, including his own inauguration on January 3rd.
Brown has spent most of his time behind the scenes, pulling together his program. And it is a program that is finding a lot of favor with the public. Which is not surprising, since it’s designed to do so.
Some 54% of likely voters favor Brown’s cuts and revenues budget plan, including the continuation of temporary tax hikes for another five years.
73% favor his “realignment” of services from the state to the local level, a shift of revenue and responsibility.
63% back his phase out of redevelopment agencies and enterprise zones in favor of redirecting revenues to core services, which has to come as a blow to the mayors and other city officials who’ve met recently with Brown to protest his plans.
And a big majority favors raising corporate taxes to help balance the budget and preserve core services, a whopping 55% of likely voters, up sharply from just a few months ago.
But that’s not in Brown’s plan.
So we get to the not so good news for the renewed governor. The taxes that are in his plan — sales, income, and vehicle registration — are each supported by little more than a third of likely voters.
To the extent that voters focus on the specific taxes in the plan — or see them as tax increases rather than tax extensions — the plan is in trouble, even though it starts out, in general terms, in fairly good shape.
And big majorities are opposed to the specific areas cut by Brown’s budget proposal. Of course, this gets into the ignorance, willed or otherwise, of the body politic.
Because the only budget area that most voters want to cut is corrections. A plurality of voters, some 41%, believe that prisons and associated spending accounts for the biggest chunk of state spending. But actually it’s the smallest of the major areas, at around 10%. And increased spending in recent years has been forced by federal judges, with the overall shape of the system largely determined by, yes, public votes to crack down on crime.
Upwards of two-thirds of California votes also favor a state spending limit and a rainy day fund. The former was proposed a few times by Schwarzenegger; the latter is a Schwarzenegger proposal that passed the Legislature and is on the 2012 ballot.
President Barack Obama discussed how innovation and investment in renewable energy technology can help rebuild the economy yesterday at Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Obama and Biden then met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.
They almost certainly discussed the wave of Tunisia-inspired protest which is now sweeping Egypt and Yemen.
At 8 AM Pacific, Obama met with his national security team for the monthly meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Situation Room.
At 9:45 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet for lunch in the Private Dining Room.
At 11:30 AM Pacific, Obama participates in a YouTube interview with Steve Grove in the Diplomatic Room.
Citizen questions were submitted to Obama via YouTube, and you can watch them and his answers on whitehouse.gov/live.
In the wake of the Tunisian uprising, waves of protest, fed by social media, spread through Egypt, a key US ally, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and today. Security forces are cracking down.
The unrest in Tunisia has spread to Egypt, where dissatisfaction with autocratic rule is growing with help from social networks. But mobile phone service, Facebook, and Twitter are running afoul of the authorities.
Massive protests are planned for Friday, when masses of people will already be in the streets following Friday prayers.
The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which helped give rise to Al Qaeda, is lending its support to the protests.
And Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has returned to the country and plans to help lead protests on Friday.
Egypt is America’s biggest ally in the Arab world. But longtime leader Hosni Mubarak is 82 and ill, and has been attempting to foist his son off as his successor, to the notable disapproval of the country’s military.
As is the case in much of the Arab world, the leadership is autocratic and unresponsive, most of the populace under-privileged and reeling from economic dislocations.
Tunisia-inspired protests are also widespread in Yemen, a much poorer nation where US forces find themselves engaged, barely behind the scenes, against Al Qaeda.
Egypt remains in turmoil. After a third day of protests today, massive demonstrations are planned on Friday’s prayer day.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Tunisia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and the Korean peninsula, as well as the Wikileaks crisis.
A terrorist bombing killed 48 in a gathering of Shiites today in Baghdad. This brings the death toll from terrorist bombings, carried out against security force and Shiite targets, to more than 200 in little more than a week.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento today.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown is working on California’s chronic budget crisis and on developing his nascent administration.
He is also working on his State of the State address, now set for 5 PM next Monday.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Canada today.
He is wrapping up a three-day speaking tour of Canada.
Today he is in Montreal for a noontime address at Le Centre Sheraton for the Montreal Board of Trade.
Then he goes to upstate New York for an evening speech in the University of Buffalo’s Alumni Arena as the Undergraduate Student Choice Speaker.
** OBAMA AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE JFK INAUGURAL 50 YEARS ON. Why, 50 years after the fact, did official Washington celebrate the inauguration of a most imperfect man who served less than one term as president, and had far fewer accomplishments than many other presidents?
The answer undoubtedly lies in why John F. Kennedy continues to be rated higher in polling than all other modern presidents, and why Barack Obama became a major political figure in the first place and is resurgent today. Ideology, policy, even accomplishment has remarkably little to do with it. …
From my January 22nd essay.
** THE JERRY BROWN ERA UNFOLDS (AGAIN). And he is off and running as governor of California. Again. The first week of Jerry Brown’s governorship told us a lot, and set the stage for the second week, in which a hellacious state budget proposal is dominating.
First, let’s look at that, and then at the first week of the Brown governorship as he took over from Arnold Schwarzenegger. A week that was telling and even, in its way, festive. At least at first. … From my January 11th feature.
** 2010: A JERRY BROWN ODYSSEY. … From my December 20th feature.
** 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.
Russia is holding a day of mourning today in the wake of Monday’s devastating terrorist bombing at Moscow’s busiest airport.
** 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 $86 per barrel.
This is up about $52 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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