President Barack Obama arrived at Dover Air Force Base today for a ceremony honoring the Navy SEAL unit and other special ops troopers shot out of the sky early Saturday morning over Afghanistan.
** QUICK HITS. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told a Turkish envoy during lengthy meetings today that he won’t back down from his crackdown on what he calls “terrorists” and most everyone else calls pro-democracy protesters. … Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced his picks for the Congressional super-committee on fiscal matters. To co-chair the Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the dry Nevadan selects Washington Senator Patty Murray, one of the most liberal senators and head of the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee. His other two picks are Montana Senator Max Baucus, a moderate, and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee. The Murray pick was immediately hit by Republicans as too partisan. Maybe Reid should have waited for their partisan picks. … The US stock market got back most of yesterday’s precipitous decline today after Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke pledged to keep interest rates at record lows for the next two years and signaled unspecified further action. … In California politics, an initiative committee to bar unions from deducting funds from payrolls for political purposes, a hardy perennial venture for Republicans, has raised about $1.5 million. In my experience, this sort of project is a good way to get unions seriously engaged, though it may also be a feint to siphon off funds unions might otherwise use on their own aggressive agenda.
** A CALIFORNIA SHOCKER (NOT): REVENUES COMING UP SHORT. In one of the less shocking developments of our time, California state government revenues for the month of July continued to run below the projections contained in the state budget enacted at the end of June.
If this trend continues, more budget cuts will be triggered by the end of the year, including in K-12 education.
State Controller John Chiang today released his monthly report on California’s finances, and it shows the state running $538.8 million — that’s 10.3% — below projections in the recently enacted state budget.
The shortfall from projected revenue includes more than $100 million for July.
While income taxes were above projections by $89 million (2.9%) in July, sales taxes were down $139.4 million (12.5%), and corporate taxes were also down $69.5 million (19.3%) for the month.
“While July’s revenues performed remarkably similar to last year’s, they still did not meet the budget’s projections,” said Chiang in his statement. “While we hope for better news in the months ahead, every drop in revenues puts us closer to the drastic trigger cuts that could be imposed next year.”
Will things improve markedly before the end of the year to avert the triggering of more big cuts?
Well, the good news in July’s figures is that income tax revenues are up. But the bad news is that the stock market has plummeted — though today made up most of yesterday’s losses — which makes it less likely for that continue.
Governor Jerry Brown and state legislative leaders solved a budget impasse in late June by projecting a continued expansion of state revenues based on a burst of revenue earlier this year, to the tune of $4 billion. If the projection isn’t met, a series of cuts are triggered at various tiers of shortfall.
This burst of revenue had provided yet another excuse for legislative Republicans to refuse tax extensions. And some Democrats had moved to restore funding for programs that Brown had already had cut.
So much for those ideas.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … HARRY POTTER: A CONFESSION.
** NEW POLL: RICK PERRY POISED TO MOVE TO SECOND IN REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL FIELD. The Texas Miracle is largely debunked, his ballyhooed prayer meeting drew scores of turndowns from fellow governors and took place in a Houston stadium less than half full, but Governor Rick Perry is poised to make a very big splash in the Republican presidential race.
A new Gallup Poll for USA Today shows that when he makes his long awaited announcement on Saturday in South Carolina, he will enter the Republican race in a strong second place.
Here are the numbers:
Mitt Romney 24%, Rick Perry 17%, Ron Paul 14%, and Michele Bachmann 13%.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich leads the second tier of candidates with 7%, while Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Santorum trail with 4%, 3%, 2%, and 1%, respectively.
As I’ve discussed previously, Perry is known only by a little more than half the Republican voters. He is a strong Southern candidate starting out, with room to grow elsewhere as he gets better known.
If Romney loses to Bachmann in Iowa, as appears likely at the moment, and loses to Perry in South Carolina, with his win in Nevada already factored in and largely discounted and an expected win in New Hampshire, he would face a long-running dog fight for the GOP nomination.
Of course, that’s only one scenario.
The poll also shows that only 24% say that members of Congress deserve re-election. The new Republican Congress has become wildly unpopular much faster than the Democratic Congress did.
How’s President Obama doing?
He’s looking a lot like George W. Bush, actually.
47% say he deserves re-election, while 51% say he does not. He leads a generic Republican, 49% to 45%.
President Barack Obama’s rather diffident sounding statement yesterday had little effect on panicky markets. But a measure of calm is returning today.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and Delaware.
He has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
He then met with industry officials in the Roosevelt Room to discuss the first of their kind fuel efficiency standards for work trucks, buses, and other heavy duty vehicles.
This was to have been a public tour and event in Virginia.
At 11:50 AM Pacific, Obama meets with Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner in the Oval Office.
It is not on his official schedule, but Obama is expected to lead a delegation of administration and military officials to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware this afternoon.
Their mission? To greet the returning dead from the disastrous Navy SEAL mission in Afghanistan on Saturday which resulted in the largest numbers of American casualties in the Afghan War and the largest loss in a single engagement in SEAL history.
The event is closed to the press, despite Obama Administration policy allowing such events to be opened up upon approval of family members. But family members are not deemed able to give such approval this time, because the remains of the dead are all intermingled as a result of the shoot-down, explosions, and fire, and have not been completely identified. It’s also likely that some of the remains of the Afghan casualties have been brought to the US.
Nevertheless, the dead are in caskets for what people tell me is a moving ceremony.
After huge losses early in Tuesday Asian trading, a measure of calm is returning to global markets. I don’t know that Obama’s statement yesterday, which I found rather diffident and off-point with regard to the extreme conservative hyperpartisanship which drove the unnecessary debt ceiling crisis, had much to do with it.
But presidents and governors not infrequently have nothing to do with the outcome of events, much as we like to imagine otherwise.
Why are markets calming? I’m not sure. The more we get into high finance, the more we get into “I don’t know” from me.
Is Obama out of the woods?
But as always, much as he is hurt by hard core Congressional Republicans, he is helped by the Republican presidential field.
On Saturday, Texas Governor Rick Perry, as long expected here, will enter the fray with an appearance in South Carolina and immediately vault to the top tier of the field.
His announcement on Saturday is intended to blunt that day’s Iowa Straw Poll in Ames, in which he does not appear on the ballot. And to blunt momentum from Michele Bachmann’s likely win there.
Today is a big day for organized labor, which is seeking to recall enough members of the Wisconsin State Senate to tip the balance away from an anti-labor majority in the state where now unpopular Governor Scott Walker has stripped public employees of collective bargaining rights. There are six recall elections tonight, and the outcome is expected to be fairly close.
Democrats need to win three of the six tonight, then defend two of their own senators from recalls next week.
While Obama journeys to Dover Air Force Base to greet the returning special operations personnel killed in Saturday’s failed raid 60 miles outside of the Afghan capital Kabul, he has many geopolitical concerns to consider beyond a foolhardy strategy in Afghanistan.
A third night of rioting in London has seen an expansion to other areas of the UK. The unrest was triggered by a police shooting on Friday. British Prime Minister David Cameron has returned from vacation and recalled the Parliament.
For one, there are the surprisingly persistent and increasingly widespread riots in England. They began Sunday night in London — which in just a year’s time will host the 2012 Olympic Games — and have now spread to several other cities, including as far as Liverpool.
It’s now the worst rioting in the UK in 30 years. A scheduled football match tonight at Wembley Stadium between the English national team and the Netherlands has been cancelled for security reasons, the first time that has ever happened.
In the Libyan War, the rebel national council voted to dissolve its executive bureau in the wake of the mysterious murder of its military chief of staff and have interim prime minister Mahmoud Jibril appoint a new committee.
Rebel forces continue their slow advance toward the Gaddafi regime’s Tripoli stronghold.
Saudi Arabia has been joined by Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar in withdrawing ambassadors to Syria, where the Assad regime continues it bloody crackdown against persistent pro-democracy protesters, and Saudi King Abdullah has delivered a speech denouncing the regime. Will diplomatic pressure make a difference there? It hasn’t proved very effective elsewhere during the Arab awakening, with the early exception of Egypt.
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 is ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
In Part II of his Sunday appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, Governor Jerry Brown discusses the challenges of California and praises his predecessor, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
The state legislature has just under a week left in its summer recess.
Brown is studying the federal budget deal — which will have a very minimal effect in the near term — and going through legislation and appointments.
He had no comment yesterday when asked by reporters about the Obama Administration’s move to block states from leaving the new program requiring that fingerprints of arrestees be passed on to immigration authorities.
Brown himself is a backer of the program and brought California into it in the first place while California attorney general. But ultra-liberal San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has a bill to withdraw the state. Which is entirely moot now.
In the second part of his well-regarded appearance on CNN’s Sunday chat show, Brown, who had some pointed advice for President Obama and observations about the toxic national political scene, discusses California’s crises. Which suddenly don’t look so bad.
He also defended former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from charges that he is a “failed governor,” and in fact praised him for his boldness and leadership in several areas.
I know both Brown and Schwarzenegger quite well, and while they’re certainly not pals, there’s always been a certain regard between them. Which some around Brown have at times attempted to undermine, despite the thinly veiled assistance Schwarzenegger delivered to Brown in his campaign last year.
Brown himself, however, has a broader view, without necessarily endorsing all of Schwarzenegger’s actions.
Schwarzenegger, of course, tried so many different things over the course of his governorship that one can pick and choose which policy course to approve or disapprove.
Why did he try so many tacks? The conventional assessment is that he lacked a firm grounding of his own.
The reality is that California was descending into deep political dysfunction and Schwarzenegger is an experimental sort.
** LESS THAN MEETS THE EYE: THE BIG BUDGET DEAL AND OBAMA’S REAL PROBLEM. As the dust settles and the adrenaline abates from the big budget fight, what really happened? Far less than met the eye.
The result, despite all the sturm und drang, doesn’t amount to much. Certainly markets here and around the world aren’t impressed by the big deficit/debt deal. Nor are they, nor anyone else, impressed by the state of the economy.
Obama is whipsawed between the widespread desire for deficit reduction and the widespread desire for economic stimulus, points of view not infrequently held by the same voters, bless their pointy little heads.
Obama’s fundamental problem was letting austerity replace prosperity as the dominant theme of Washington. Once Republicans took the House, adding to their filibuster power in the Senate, they moved to cut off economic activism. Obama needed to recognize the truism that in politics there is no substitute for repetition, and pound away on the economy, the topic to which he was always about to pivot last year, but never quite did, as I wrote in my 2010 election “pre-mortem” here on the Huffington Post.
The best thing selling the deficit/debt deal as a real deal is the hostile reaction from some of the left. Absent that, it looks as illusory as previous deals, as we’re seeing with the reaction from China, Standard & Poor’s, and others. … From my August 8th essay.
** JERRY BROWN MAKES SOME MOVES. This time around as governor, the irrepressible Jerry Brown has been unusually reticent, spending most of his time behind the scenes working on California’s chronic budget crisis. He didn’t get his dearly hoped for grand compromise of big cuts and new revenues, but most of the problem was solved by the time he signed the budget, following a first-in-history veto, at the end of June.
Since then, following a vacation hiking trip in the mountains, he’s appointed a highly regarded, nationally controversial law professor to the state Supreme Court, given speeches to potentially restive allies in the run-up to next year’s critical elections, hosted a major conference on renewable energy, played a role in brokering the nation’s new fuel economy standards, signed a portion of the “Dream Act” for illegal immigrant students, dashed the hopes of labor allies for control over local government employment, approved Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s clever plan to preserve the state’s cash flow amidst the chaos in Washington, and pondered a favorable new poll. … From my August 1st essay.
** OVER AND OUT, ABOVE AND BEYOND: IS THE SPACE AGE OVER OR JUST BEGINNING? … From my July 28th essay.
** OBAMA KABUKI: THE BUDGET AND THE POLITICS OF POSITIONING. … 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.
** 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.
** 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 $80 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $46 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum. You can send me a private tip by clicking on the “Contact” button in the upper right.