Space Shuttle Discovery launched this afternoon on its final mission.
** QUICK HITS. Governor Jerry Brown made a bravura appearance today on California’s chronic budget crisis, spending an hour testifying in unprecedented fashion before the legislative budget conference committee in the Capitol. Showing his trademark sense of humor and supple grasp of the facts, Brown pushed hard for his plan of big budget cuts and tax extensions, saying that the “moment of reckoning has come” and that if he doesn’t get the combination approach he will have to go for an all-cuts budget, of $25 billion or more in cuts. Pressed by a far right legislator saying she wanted pension and regulatory reforms before going for his approach, Brown offered to negotiate just that, prompting her to skitter away from what she’d just said. I’ll have more on all this. … In the latest twist on jihadism, Saudi chemistry student Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari was arrested today in Texas for planning to blow up facilities in Colorado and California. His plan reportedly was to assemble explosive devices and use them against reservoirs, power plants, and the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush. The 20-year old Aldawsari is here on a student visa after winning scholarships from Saudi authorities. … Speaking of which, Saudi Arabia helped calm oil markets today with promises to fill the gap should it occur from Libya or other suppliers. … Saudi King Abdullah is pumping $37 billion from the kingdom’s petrodollar reserves into trying to calm the waters of dissent at home in advance of planned demonstrations next month.
** NEW POLL: THREE-WAY TIE FOR THE LEAD IN THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL RACE. A new Gallup Poll shows a three-way tie at the top between former governors — Arkansan Mike Huckabee, Alaskan Sarah Palin, and Massachusettsan Mitt Romney.
But they’re all pretty far down in the polls, with Huckabee at 18& and Palin and Romney at 16%.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is fourth, at 9%.
Of course, Huckabee and Palin may not run, instead opting for lucrative media commentator careers.
So Gingrich, who engineered the last GOP-led federal shutdown in 1995, may be running second in the race.
This is the first time in decades that Republicans have no clear front-runner or pair of front-runners at this stage of the race.
Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have no clear favorite for the party’s 2012 presidential nominee at this point, with Mike Huckabee (18%), Mitt Romney (16%), and Sarah Palin (16%) in a statistical tie for the lead. They are the only candidates in the crowded field of potential candidates who register double-digit support. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and former Utah Gov. and current Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman were included for the first time and received 4% and 1%, respectively. …
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who maintains he does not plan to run for president, is still volunteered by 1% of respondents, as is Indiana Congressman Mike Pence. Pence’s name was included as an explicit option in previous Gallup surveys but he recently announced he would not be a candidate for president in 2012. South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who announced on Tuesday he would not enter the race, also gets 1% of the vote. …
As is usually the case in early nomination polls, the top candidates tend to be the best known. Huckabee, Romney, and Ron Paul all sought the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, Palin was the party’s vice presidential nominee that year, and Gingrich was the speaker of the House from 1995-1999. So far, none of the lesser-known candidates, including some current and former state governors, has broken out of the low single digits.
There aren’t wide differences among the top competitors among different subgroups of Republicans, though Huckabee fares slightly better among core Republican identifiers than among Republican-leaning independents, among conservatives than among liberals or moderates, and among frequent than among less frequent churchgoers, and among Southerners.
Palin has greater appeal to college nongraduates than college graduates and to lower- and middle-income Republicans than upper-income Republicans. To date, there is not a pronounced gender gap in Palin’s support.
Older Republicans are significantly more likely than younger Republicans to support Romney. …
Gallup’s polling on Republicans’ preferences for their party’s 2012 presidential nominee clearly underscores that there is no early front-runner. This is a departure from what Gallup has found for the GOP nomination since 1972, when state primaries became the main way of selecting the nominee. Previously, a particular candidate held a strong lead at the outset of the Gallup’s Republican nomination polling, and that candidate usually led for most of the nominating campaign and eventually won the nomination. The only exception to that general pattern was in 2008. Rudy Giuliani led in early preference polls that year, but his lead began to dwindle in late 2007 and he performed poorly in the initial primaries and caucuses. The current wide-open nature of the 2012 GOP race to date suggests a competitive and perhaps dynamic race ahead.
>>>>>>LIVE VIDEO FEED
At 10 AM Pacific, White House press secretary Jay Carney delivers a media briefing, which can be viewed live here on New West Notes. If you want to mute the sound, click on the pause button.
** LIVE FROM THE WHITE HOUSE.
With massive geopolitical events swirling and the 2012 presidential race unfolding, the White House is increasingly a pivot point for the day’s events.
Live streaming of key presidential events is now available as a matter of course here on New West Notes.
You can mute the audio by clicking on the pause button.
NWN will continue to present other live webcasts in full streaming mode, as it did with the Ronald Reagan Centennial events from the Reagan Library, as they emerge and are technically available and as significance dictates.
Americans and other foreign nationals are having trouble getting out of Libya, with a major bottleneck being the international airport in Tripoli. This is blocking concerted action to solve the Libyan crisis, which has seen oil prices shoot up by 17% in the past week.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama has received his daily intelligence and economic briefing in the Oval Office.
He then met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 10 AM Pacific, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney delivers a media briefing in the James S. Brady Briefing Room.
The event will be streamed live here on New West Notes.
You can mute the audio by clicking on the pause button.
At 10:45 AM Pacific, Obama holds a meeting with the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
At 12 noon Pacific, Obama meets with Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner in the Oval Office.
At 4:15 PM Pacific, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host music legends and contemporary major artists for “The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House” in the East Room.
For his part, Vice President Joe Biden, with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, met this morning with President of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka and presidents of AFL-CIO labor organizations.
At 1 PM Pacific, Biden delivers remarks at an event honoring the life and legacy of the late California Congressman Tom Lantos at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Biden and Dr. Jill Biden also attend the Motown Tribute event tonight at the White House.
The Space Shuttle Discovery, which first flew in 1984 and is human history’s most traveled manned spacecraft, is set to take its final flight today, lifting off from Kennedy Space Center at 1:50 PM Pacific.
Discovery is taking six astronauts and the first humanoid robot in space — no, it’s not former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger — to the International Space Station.
There’s only one more shuttle flight scheduled after this, then the U.S. manned space program is dependent on Russia for trips to the ISS.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange got bad news this morning in a London court. He is to be extradited to Sweden to face sex charges which emerged after he dumped many thousands of classified documents onto the Internet.
Assange’s supporters believe that he is more likely to be extradited to the U.S., where the Justice Dept. has been laboring on espionage charges for months, from Sweden.
The crisis in Libya, first major oil producing nation hit by the Arab revolt, continues with longtime dictator Col. Gaddafi holding on to power in the capital Tripoli and other parts of the country while much of it has apparently fallen to protesters and defecting government forces.
The response by the Obama Administration and European leaders, while somewhat harsh rhetorically — US officials still haven’t condemned Gaddafi by name — has been muted. Probably for two reasons.
First, it’s proving hard to get people out of Libya. For example, US charter flights have been barred by Libyan authorities, and a ferry chartered to evacuate US citizens has been held up by high seas.
Second, a major source of oil is under threat. While Libya accounts for less than 1% of US oil consumption, it’s a big supplier to Europe. And oil prices are global, not regional, in nature.
Oil has shot up by one-sixth in the past week with the emergence of the Libyan crisis.
One or two more such upsets and the global economic recovery is under real threat.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will join other foreign ministers next Monday in Geneva to discuss options on the Libyan crisis. By then, of course, they hope they’ve got their citizens out. And perhaps Gaddafi will be gone, or on his last legs and amenable to a retirement package.
Crises continue elsewhere, of course.
Egypt, which just allowed Iranian warships through the Suez Canal for the first time since Islamic fundamentalists took power in the Iranian Revolution, hasn’t moved much closer to democracy. But it is providing scapegoats to give the public the illusion of more reform.
A dozen ranking Mubarak regime figures, including a former Egyptian prime minister, have been charged with corruption. But, conveniently, none of the major recent major power figures.
With protests continuing in Bahrain, King Hamad released not two dozen political prisoners, as yesterday morning’s report had it, but 300 prisoners.
Early this morning in London, a British judge ruled that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden for sex crimes charges.
This is one area where Obama has been able to cool things out. At least for now.
Meanwhile, the Bahraini monarch confers in Riyadh with Saudi King Abdullah, recently returned from a 3-month sojourn for his health to New York and Morocco. The Sunni Saudi regime, whose eastern oil region, dominated by Shiites, lies across the 15-mile King Fahd Causeway from Bahrain, is deeply concerned about containing the Arab revolt. That’s why it’s granting more payments to students and the unemployed.
In addition, Obama is monitoring geopolitical crises in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq, as well as the still unfolding Wikileaks crisis.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento today.
He’s working on California’s chronic budget crisis and his nascent administration.
At 11 AM, Brown addresses the Legislature’s budget conference committee, now working on his crash program to produce a state budget proposal by March 10th in order to place tax extensions on a June special election ballot.
This is the soonest by far that this committee has ever functioned.
He’ll probably have something to say about the silly caucus formed yesterday by most Republican legislators vowing opposition to tax extensions being placed on the ballot unless they are accompanied by tax cuts, which of course would make the budget crisis far worse.
** IS THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION STILL WAY BEHIND THE CURVE ON EGYPT? President Barack Obama’s comeback since the November elections has been very impressive professionally, if not always politically. What has not been at all impressive is how far behind the curve his administration has been on Egypt, a distressing development over the past few weeks that reached a nadir of sorts on Thursday with an epic level of confusion.
There are clear limits to American power. The failure of neoconservative adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan make that obvious. But there should not be many limits to American knowledge. Especially given the limits to American power. …
The real power games have only just begun. And, this administration — stunningly, given Obama’s choice of Cairo for his great address to the Muslim world in 2009 — has been behind the curve repeatedly throughout the crisis thus far. … From my February 11th essay.
** JERRY BROWN 2.0: HOW’S IT GOING? So how’s Jerry Brown 2.0 going? The new/renewed governor of California won a landslide victory over billionaire Meg Whitman 90 days ago, took over from Arnold Schwarzenegger four weeks ago, and has worked on laying out an austerity-with-revenues budget plan and slowly building his administration ever since.
It’s going, well, well enough. Well enough to begin to straighten out the state’s chronic budget crisis in the first half of this year? We’ll see. … From my January 31st feature.
** OBAMA AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE JFK INAUGURAL 50 YEARS ON. … From my January 22nd essay.
** THE JERRY BROWN ERA UNFOLDS (AGAIN). … From my January 11th feature.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd 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.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned yesterday that “the Middle East may shatter into pieces” with terrorist groups grabbing the reins of power.
The final launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery is set for 1:50 PM Pacific at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
** 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 $99 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $65 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
It’s also up one-sixth in a week as a result of the chaos in Libya.
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