Late today, the House of Representatives narrowly passed Speaker John Boehner’s latest version of his DOA federal budget plan.
** QUICK HITS. House Speaker John Boehner finally got the latest version of his federal budget bill (described below) through his caucus and the House late today, 218-210, with no Democratic votes. It goes to its doom in the Senate. … The Libyan rebels’ military chief of staff, ex-Libyan Interior Minister Abdel Fatah Younes, contrary to claims yesterday by their national council, was murdered by a rival rebel faction which perhaps held a grudge for actions he took while in the Gaddafi regime. Needless to say, this is very serious. … Virtually all of Turkey’s military high command resigned today in an ongoing power struggle with the relatively moderate Islamist civilian government of the country. It’s not clear that this will have any major impact on relations with the US, as the Obama Administration has formed good ties with the government. … Governor Jerry Brown today signed legislation moving California’s presidential primary next year from March to June, in a cost-saving move. The state had moved its presidential primary near the front of the pack, but others kept horning in by moving even earlier. The 2008 California presidential primary was very key in the Republican contest, but not so much in the Democratic contest.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … JERRY BROWN MAKES SOME MOVES.
While efforts to raise the federal debt ceiling continued to falter, President Barack Obama, who can’t single-task, announced a major new advance in fuel economy standards.
** JERRY-RIGGING: BROWN HAILS NEW FEDERAL VEHICLE STANDARDS. Governor Jerry Brown, in a media conference call this morning, reacted with pleasure to President Barack Obama’s announcement of big increases in federal fuel efficiency standards for vehicles.
“This is a banner day,” Brown declared, as First Dog Sutter barked occasionally in the background. (Get that mutt a bone!)
“It’s an amazing agreement,” he said of the accord which will raise national fuel efficiency standards by more than 50% by 2025 from what they are for 2016. “This is the brightest light I’ve seen shining in Washington in many years.”
Brown noted that, in his long experience with such issues, there has usually been a prevalent feeling that California was going off in the wrong direction, even as the country was forced to move at least somewhat in the state’s direction on the environment and energy.
In the end, he noted, intelligent regulation always resulted in a forcing function for technological innovation, giving rise to new industries and efficiencies.
As governor the first time around, Brown pursued many such policies. As attorney general, he sued the Bush/Cheney Administration and the auto industry to protect California’s more stringent regulations; namely the greenhouse gas reduction program championed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Now, he said, the rest of the country is following in California’s direction.
California Air Resources Board chief Mary Nichols joined in the call from Washington, where she had been negotiating with Obama Administration and auto industry officials late into last night.
“We think this is a very good deal,” she said.
As a result, automakers now have a fuel economy target for their combined fleets of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
Obama, in his talk this morning, called the accord “the single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” translating to nearly $2 trillion in combined fuel savings for the country.
But automakers had concerns that California would scuttle the accord midway if it decided to pursue even more stringent measures to meet its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction standards.
Thursday almost resulted in an impasse that threatened the deal. A last-minute snag over California’s role kept automakers and officials from the White House and California up into the early morning hours trying to iron out a solution before the ceremony.
Automakers balked at signing on without more assurances from the Obama administration that California would not attempt to set its own standards for fuel economy if it did not like the results of the midterm review.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Strickland said in an interview that he himself was getting e-mails until at least 11:30 p.m. Thursday as all sides worked feverishly to reach a solution.
Automakers’ conversations with the White House dragged on even later, until nearly 2 a.m.
In the end, a compromise was finally reached.
Nichols of the California Air Resources Board said today while California did not give up its ability to fight for tougher standards in the future, it had agreed to what amounted to a policy of mutual disarmament with automakers: The companies wouldn’t sue challenging the state’s authority, and the state wouldn’t try to assert its own standards through 2025.
“We will agree to accept those federal standards as being in compliance with California’s regulations when it comes to greenhouse gases,” Nichols said. She added that the state would continue to regulate other emissions not related to fuel economy.
** CALIFORNIA CITIZENS REDISTRICTING COMMISSION GIVES NOD TO NEW MAPS. Not surprisingly, the state’s new redistricting panel, created by an Arnold Schwarzenegger initiative in 2008 to take redistricting power out of the politicians’ hands, today gave tentative approval to new districts they’ve just unveiled. After two weeks of public input, they’ll take a final vote on the plan.
Despite much caterwauling from the California Republican Party and the far right, Republican members of the commission mostly voted for the new districts. What’s the party problem? Well, they’ve rapidly lost altitude in the state, especially so as the party core moves far right.
I may have mentioned this a time or two over the years.
The last redistricting was an incumbents protection act that locked in more Republican seats, and more conservative seats, than otherwise would have existed.
Now quite a few pols have to scramble, and Republicans will likely lose seats in Congress and the Legislature.
Will Democrats be able to win two-thirds majorities in both houses of the Leg? Possibly, though I have not studied the districts yet.
With Republican efforts failing again in the House, President Barack Obama said this morning that there are multiple paths forward, but all require bipartisanship and cooperation.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefing in the Oval Office.
Obama then delivered a statement on the status of debt ceiling negotiations in the Diplomatic Reception Room.
Following that, he delivered remarks on new Fuel Efficiency Standards at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
At 12:10 PM Pacific, Obama meets with President Boni Yayi of Benin, President Alpha Condé of Guinea, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, and President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire in the Cabinet Room.
As I expected, House Speaker John Boehner failed once again to pass his federal budget bill in his own House.
Boehner and his lieutenants were unable to get enough votes in their own caucus to pass the bill. Far right members proved too recalcitrant, once again.
This is why I was confident weeks ago that the so-called “Grand Bargain” would never go anywhere.
Well, Boehner is trying to retool, i.e., make smaller, his bill once again. It would still come in two stages of raising the debt ceiling, this time perhaps tying it to passage of a balanced budget amendment which, even if passed in the Senate, would never take effect until two-thirds of the states ratified it.
Which is another way of saying it would never take effect.
In any event, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vows to defeat anything Boehner manages to cobble together and send over.
His bill would achieve much more in the way of deficit reduction, with half of that coming from the ending of the Afghanistan and Iraq missions.
The situation is, not to put too fine a part on it, in a state of not quite hysterical chaos.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s murder of the controversial commander of the Libyan rebel forces, former Gaddafi regime Libyan Interior Minister Abdel Fatah Younes, grows curiouser and curiouser.
Younes, a longtime friend of Moammar Gaddafi who served as interior minister and as head of the Libyan special forces before joining the rebels early this year after Gaddafi brutally suppressed demonstrators joining the Arab awakening, was a controversial figure among the rebels. He vied with at least one other for the rebel military leadership.
The story as told so far doesn’t really add up. Younes, who has a heavy security detachment, was supposedly attacked and killed along with two of his colonels by Gaddafi agents.
But he had been recalled to Benghazi to meet with other rebel leaders on allegations that his family still had ties to Gaddafi. And his body has not been produced for examination to see if it accords with a rather shifting story of events.
Now one of his associates says that Younes was actually killed by a rival rebel faction.
The military chief of staff for the Libyan rebels, Abdel Fatah Younes, was killed yesterday under mysterious circumstances.
Obama also must contend with another apparent instance of homegrown jihadism in the military, this time an AWOL private first class from the 101st Airborne Division who allegedly sought to pull off another terrorist attack at Fort Hood, Texas.
Obama is also monitoring a variety of other geopolitical crises, mostly related to the Arab awakening, AfPak, and Iraq.
War Zone Times: Libya is nine hours ahead of Pacific time, Iraq and Yemen are ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
At 10 AM, Brown holds a media conference call with California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols and CARB Chief Deputy Executive Officer Tom Cackette to discuss Obama’s new greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards for 2017 to 2025 model-year passenger vehicles.
In other action, Linda Ronstadt announced yesterday that she will publish her autobiography in 2013.
She, of course, was Brown’s girlfriend the first time he was governor of California. I encountered her in that capacity and she was quite charming.
Not to mention the absolute queen of rock music.
I suspect Brown will come off well in her book.
** OVER AND OUT, ABOVE AND BEYOND: IS THE SPACE AGE OVER OR JUST BEGINNING? Last week’s end of the space shuttle era came with neither a bang nor a whimper, and no little sense of anti-climax. Did it mark the end of the Space Age? Or a new beginning?
I loved the space program. I grew up with it, thrilled to the early Mercury and Gemini missions of the ’60s as a little boy, was transfixed by Apollo and the first landing on the Moon, made all the more memorable by viewing it from the rather unearthly confines of Crater Lake in Oregon. The promise of the future never seemed brighter, or more filled with mystery. The Space Age seemed the exemplar of humanity’s ability to reach for knowledge, to explore, to excel.
In time, of course, it had all become a matter of some routine. With the Cold War imperative of besting the Soviets to the Moon achieved, with serious problems here at home, it faded. Landing on the Moon was a great achievement, but the distance to the Moon, after all, is only ten times one round-trip of the Earth. The planets are much further away, the distance to the stars vaster still. The allure of outer space was replaced by the draw of cyberspace. …
But it seemed, with due respect, rather generic, with a cloudy future overhanging it all. For the first time in 50 years, there is no upcoming mission for Americans going into space. Hastily jump-starting the planned Mercury program in 1961 to follow the Soviets into space, the first rudimentary capsules were followed by the Gemini missions, then the Apollo missions to the Moon into the 1970s, followed by the damaged and short-lived Skylab space station, and finally the 30-year space shuttle program.
What’s the next big mission involving Americans in space who aren’t doing the latest stint on the International Space Station, courtesy of a ride on a Russian Soyuz craft or perhaps a private space company later in the decade? Well, it’s a long ways off, sometime in the next decade. … From my July 28th essay.
** OBAMA KABUKI: THE BUDGET AND THE POLITICS OF POSITIONING. What’s President Barack Obama up to in the big federal budget deficit/debt ceiling debate? After months of letting Vice President Joe Biden carry the ball, Obama has placed himself center stage in the midst of controversy, even as agreement seems to get farther away.
What is he really after? To solve the multi-faceted problem? Well, sure, that would be nice. But what he is really after is what all first-term presidents are after. A second term.
Obama, in my opinion, is engaged in what former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called political “kabuki.” A stylized dramatic dance that draws attention while obscuring true purpose.
And what is his true purpose? To appeal to moderates by occupying the center and pushing the Republicans to the starboard side fringe. … From my July 13th column.
** WHY DID JERRY BROWN VETO THE FARM WORKER BILL? … From my July 8th feature.
** A SHIFTING REPUBLICAN PARTY MAKES MISCHIEF FOR OBAMA ON LIBYA. … From my July 2nd essay.
** JERRY BROWN FINDS A CALIFORNIA BUDGET THAT FLIES, FOR NOW. … From my June 29th feature.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 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.
Cowboys & Aliens, a genre mash-up starring James Bond and Indiana Jones, er, Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, opens today across North America.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in three wars in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, 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.
** 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.
** 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 $96 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $62 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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