Iowa Straw Poll winner Michele Bachmann insists that her campaign is in fine shape after her Iowa campaign chairman, a first-term far right state legislator, quit her campaign and endorsed Ron Paul. She claims that Paul — who she says is an Iranian apologist — paid for his endorsement, which the Paul crew denies. These are very colorful characters, folks.
** QUICK HITS. Three polls of the Iowa Republican caucuses in the last few days have three different results. The latest, from Insider Advantage, which was pretty on the money last time, has a three-way tie between Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul, all at 17%. In contrast, a poll by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic outfit, has Paul ahead of Romney, with Gingrich third, while a Time/CNN poll has Romney ahead of Paul. … Because of the timing, and how difficult it is to poll Iowa, not to mention the race’s unusual twists, I’m leary of all polls till the end of the week. … Ron Paul, speaking today in Iowa, called economic sanctions against Iran for its nuclear weapons program “horrendous.” … Iranian saber rattling about closing the Strait of Hormuz continued throughout the day on state television, and Iranian air and naval forces continue their exercises in and around the vital choke point for the world’s oil supply. … The California Supreme Court, which gave Governor Jerry Brown a big win on repurposing redevelopment agency funds this morning, will hear oral arguments on the right-wing challenge to the state’s Citizens Redistricting Commission maps for the state Senate on January 10th. … That’s the same day that Brown unveils his new state budget proposal.
** JERRY-RIGGING: BROWN GETS A BIG WIN AT THE SUPREME COURT ON REDEVELOPMENT. As expected, the California Supreme Court this morning sided with Governor Jerry Brown in his determination to redirect tax revenues from local redevelopment agencies to basic services. Local governments have grown accustomed to having big pots of money for favored developers and developments derived from property tax revenues. And among the biggest defenders of this big government/big money stew are Republican politicians, who choose to favor pork they help control.
Brown, looking at the daunting budget picture, and knowing how the system worked from his own time as mayor of Oakland, said it was a luxury that could no longer be afforded. A program intended to help fix urban blight had turned into a big pot of money for gold-plated projects, one fiercely defended by local pols of both parties.
This was a big fight for much of the year, which Brown won in the state legislature, then had to defend in court.
But as readers know, his success there was expected. Now the expectation has become reality.
Ironically, in choosing to sue, redevelopment agencies may have sealed their own doom. The legislation allowed for the agencies to continue to exist if they turned over much of their funds in this emergency situation. The high court said that is illegal. And what is legal is simply shutting down the agencies. Oops.
Local agencies charged with renewing blighted neighborhoods in California soon could be abolished after the state’s highest court ruled Thursday that lawmakers acted legally when they voted earlier this year to eliminate them to close a budget gap.
The decision by the California Supreme Court could provide a financial boost to the state, which has grappled over the past several years with persistent deficits. It also would appear to be a fatal blow to the redevelopment agencies, long seen as a crucial tool for cities seeking to improve run-down areas.
The ruling comes after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a pair of bills passed by state legislators over the summer. The first called for the elimination of redevelopment agencies, while the second allowed individual agencies to stay open if they made payments to the state.
A redevelopment association and others quickly sued the state, arguing that both laws violated a voter-approved ballot measure from 2010 that bars the state from taking funds such as redevelopment money.
With respect to the first bill, the court found Thursday that the state legislature has “the authority to create entities, such as redevelopment agencies, to carry out the state’s ends and the corollary power to dissolve those same entities when the Legislature deems it necessary and proper.”
However, the court also ruled that the second bill is illegal because last year’s ballot measure, Prop. 22, “expressly forbids” the legislature from requiring such payments.
The court’s ruling “validates a key component of the state budget and guarantees more than a billion dollars of ongoing funding for schools and public safety,” said Gov. Brown in a statement.
** NEW POLL: ODD RESULTS ON CANDIDATES SUPPOSEDLY CLOSEST TO AMERICANS’ OWN VIEWS. There are polls, and there are polls, and not infrequently a good poll comes up with perplexing, if not bizarre, results.
A sort of new survey from the Gallup Poll indicates that Mitt Romney, Ron Paul (!), and Jon Huntsman (!) are the closest of all candidates, including President Barack Obama, to voters’ own conceptions of their ideologies.
The exclamation mark on the libertarian isolationist oddball Paul comes for obvious reasons. As for Huntsman, he’s simply not well enough known for voters to have that sort of judgment.
The Paul result may be partially explained by the timing of the poll, which was taken about two weeks ago, before Paul received widespread coverage for his views.
Obama is seen in this sounding as the furthest away from mainstream views.
Which flies in the face of all sorts of other polling by reputable outfits, including Gallup.
This is explained by the fiercely anti-Obama views of Republicans, who quite evidently view him, or at least say they view him, as a major radical. Simply put, they hate Obama. Which skews the result substantially, as Democrats are not as reflexively dismissive in their evaluations of the Republicans.
Americans perceive Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul as closest to themselves ideologically, and Michele Bachmann and Barack Obama as furthest away.
A USA Today/Gallup poll asked Americans to rate their own ideology — and the ideology of the eight major presidential candidates — on a 5-point scale with 1 being very liberal and 5 being very conservative. Americans’ mean score on this scale is 3.3, meaning the average American is slightly to the right of center ideologically. Huntsman’s score matches that at 3.3, but that mean rating excludes the 45% of Americans who did not have an opinion of Huntsman. Of the better known candidates, Romney’s and Paul’s 3.5 scores are closest to the average American’s ideology. …
Iranian forces buzzed the US aircraft carrier John Stennis yesterday in the Arabian Gulf. Iran has threatened to cut off oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if the West follows through with a plan to sanction Iran’s vital oil exports.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Hawaii.
He has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in Kailua, where he is staying with his family.
Obama has no scheduled public events.
Obama is vacationing in his home state with First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha through January 1st.
After a spate of promising economic news, Obama is getting some more sobering news today, with jobless claims up for the first time in many weeks.
Meanwhile, the Republicans who would take him on scurry about Iowa attacking one another and pretending not to, and tout polling which I find very suspect given that it’s taken in a holiday period and largely based on robo-calls.
I think it’s clear, as I wrote last week, that Newt Gingrich has slid in the Hawkeye State afte many millions in attack ads and his own tardy responses. Ron Paul has his core following, expanded some by anti-war folks flirting with someone whose actual politics are very archaic. And Mitt Romney has his consistent quarter of the vote.
Iowa is a difficult contest to poll properly, and it’s usually badly done by out of state outfits. The gold standard is the Des Moines Register poll, and we won’t have that until Saturday evening.
Ignoring Christmas-based polling of Iowa, a notoriously difficult contest to poll correctly even when it’s not a holiday, as he knows very well, the vacationing Obama, now riding (relatively) high slides perilously toward a potentially huge geopolitical crisis.
The head of Iran’s navy yesterday made this remarkable statement in a live international broadcast: “Closing the Strait of Hormuz for Iran’s armed forces is really easy. Or, as Iranians say, it will be easier than drinking a glass of water.”
The Obama Administration is going ahead with a $30 billion sale of 84 F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, further strengthening ties with the Gulf Arab states of which the Saudis are the leading power.
That provides further counterweight to Iran down the line. But those planes are not there yet. And the Strait of Hormuz could be affected by swarm tactics involving small boats, mines, aircraft, and anti-ship missiles.
The Saudis are showing their gratitude for the increased US military aid by vowing to make up the difference for any oil that might be taken off the market by Iranian moves. But they would have to get that oil to market themselves, and it’s not clear that they can.
However, oil markets seem to believe they can. After a brief upward move, the price appears to be stabilizing under $100 per barrel.
But that can change in an instant, with market types easily led both by conventional wisdom and by rapid military action.
Turkish jets attacked a Kurdish village inside the Iraqi border, killing dozens of civilians. Turkish forces have lately made a practice of attacking Kurdish guerrillas using Iraq as a safe haven, which shows again the tenuous nature of Iraqi sovereignty.
Obama is monitoring a variety of other geopolitical crises, mostly related to the Arab awakening, AfPak, and Iraq.
War Zone Times: Iraq is eleven hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is twelve and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
The state Supreme Court is prepping a ruling for today on Brown’s plan to redirect most of the tax revenue from redevelopment agencies to basic services.
I think the local governments that sued to protect this golden goose will come up empty.
For his part, Brown is working on his 2012 fiscal, political, and rhetorical plans.
** IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD CAST IN THE GOP’S RACE TO CASA BLANCA. The Republican presidential race was a reality TV show. But now that the primaries and caucuses are coming right up, it’s a road picture. Here’s how each candidate, a distinct type, is doing right now.
The Legend in His Own Mind
There aren’t many historical figures that the ostentatiously intellectual Dr. Newton Leroy Gingrich hasn’t compared himself with lately, and always quite favorably. He even declared himself the nominee.
But he should have paid a little more attention to sports than that National Merit Scholarship, especially in a process that doesn’t value intellectual capability all that highly. Because there really aren’t many games that are over before half-time. … From my December 24th essay.
** KEYSTONE PIPELINE: SMALL PART OF A VERY BIG PICTURE. In the chaos that passes for governance in Washington, the Keystone XL pipeline project looms as a seemingly supreme issue. But it is not. To view it as such is to miss the overall, something our media excels at. … From my December 21st essay.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: THE BIG TALK CAMPAIGN. … From my December 17th column.
** JERRY BROWN PULLS A TRIGGER, INVOKES ROME, AND FOCUSES ON CLIMATE AND INITIATIVES. … From my December 14th feature.
** TOP DOG IN THE BIG DES MOINES DOGPILE? IT’S NEWT! … From my December 11th column.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: ACTION BEGETS FLAWED REACTION. … From my December 10th column.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: IN IOWA, A LOT CAN HAPPEN IN FOUR WEEKS. … From my December 6th column.
** JERRY BROWN AND THE 2012 INITIATIVE WARS. … From my December 3rd feature.
** ALTERNEWT: GINGRICH “ALTERNATE HISTORY” NOVELS REVEAL MUCH ON PRESENT POLITICS. … From my December 1st essay.
** A SUBLIME AND RIDICULOUS DAY: MARS MISSION AND AFPAK DEBACLE. … From my November 28th 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 $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, and down about $15 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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