Finance chiefs at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland have been pushing on the Eurozone crisis. There are signs of a breakthrough on Greece. Supported by the US, the IMF is putting more pressure on Europe to add to its rescue fund. The US will not put more money into the IMF until EU leaders ante up some more.
** JERRY-RIGGING: HUGE LOSS FOR CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS AS BROWN MOVES FORWARD ON HIS PLANS. the California Republican Party put most of its remaining marbles on a long-shot bid to derail the Citizens Redistricting Commission. The effort went on for more than a year, first to undermine and try to delegitimize the work of the commission set up by an Arnold Schwarzenegger-backed initiative to take legislative and congressional redistricting out of the hands of the legislators — a commission which, mind you, had an over-representation of Republicans on it — and then to block the state Senate districts by a referendum.
That effort ended in abject failure today, with a 7-0 vote of the Republican majority California Supreme Court upholding the commission’s lines even if a referendum to overturn them does qualify for the November ballot. Here’s the ruling.
It was not much of a surprise, in that the Court had previously turned down the Republican Party’s call to have it appoint “special masters” to draw new district lines and had affirmed that the commission’s lines meet constitutional requirements.
So now the elections move forward in districts which top Republicans fear will yield a two-thirds Democratic majority.
The only reason this is even an issue is that the last redistricting a decade ago was essentially an incumbent protection act, which locked in greater Republican representation than was warranted eve as the state was turning away from the increasingly right-wing party.
Republicans spent millions they don’t really have on various court challenges of the commission’s work, not just on the state Senate lines but on congressional lines as well, and on efforts for qualifying a referendum.
If it does qualify, then they have to spend millions more to try to win it, in the face of widespread condemnation of their sour grapes politics. Or they can let the referendum die an ignominious death on the ballot.
Why are the Republicans acting this way? Because anti-tax/anti-government Talibanism is the ultimate dogma of the party. It’s evidently their true bottom line issue. Which is a bit odd. As we saw with Schwarzenegger’s own experiences getting temporary tax hikes adopted in 2009, and Brown’s painstaking and unsuccessful effort to gain a few legislative votes to merely place a tax extensions on the ballot last year.
Meanwhile, Brown keeps moving ahead with his revenue initiative for the fall. With the Think Long Committee having given up on its clearly foolhardy plan to cut taxes for the rich and corporations while extending the sales tax to all manner of services, I’m hearing that proponents of at least one of two other competing initiatives are beginning to grasp the futility of their efforts. But we shall see.
Brown has been meeting with business executives, publicly and privately, this week as he’s again traveled up and down the state. And he’s raising money for his initiative, with over $2 million taken in.
The latest Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll this week is promising, showing what the PPIC calls “a strong majority” in favor of the initiative. If Brown can win over additional business support, while neutralizing major business opposition, he should be in good position for the fall.
But more needs to be done to demonstrate improved governmental efficiency. No one likes to think money is wasted.
** NEW POLL: MOST WANT GOVERNMENT TO AID CONSUMERS ON FORECLOSURES. In direct contradiction of putative on-and-off Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney’s views, most voters want the government to try to help homeowners caught in the foreclosure crisis.
Late last year in Las Vegas, a key epicenter of the housing crisis, Romney said that underwater homeowners should be left to drown.
This attitude doesn’t fly with the public.
According to a new Gallup Poll, 58% want to the federal government to help stop the wave of foreclosures. Only 34% agree with Romney’s position.
But most Republicans agree with Romney. (Most independents do not, by a wide margin.)
I’d like to see those numbers in Nevada and other states hit hard by the crisis.
In any event, if Romney does go on to win the Republican nomination, he is badly positioned on this key issue for the general election.
The majority of Americans, 58%, prefer that the government act to prevent foreclosures, whereas 34% prefer the housing market resolve its problems on its own. A sharp partisan divide exists, with 76% of Democrats and 61% of independents favoring government action and 64% of Republicans opposing it. …
Americans who make $90,000 or more per year and those who have graduated from college are less likely to want the government to take steps to prevent foreclosures. Still, half or more of both groups are in favor of government intervention. …
One reason so many Americans may favor the government’s taking further steps to moderate the foreclosure situation may have to do with their concerns about declining home values. The presence of a large number of foreclosed properties in the market tends to drive down prices and home values. One in five homes purchased during the third quarter of 2011 was a foreclosure. It is no wonder that half of all Americans and 57% of homeowners say they are worried their home values will not increase this year.
Speaking early this morning at the University of Michigan, President Barack Obama called for an overhaul of the higher education financial aid system, warning that colleges and universities that fail to control spiraling tuition costs could lose federal funds.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Michigan, Maryland, and Washington.
Obama delivered remarks early this morning at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor expanding on his State of the Union proposals to keep college affordable.
He then flew out of Detroit on Air Force One to Joint Base Andrews.
At 9:25 AM Pacific, Obama arrives Joint Base Andrews, where he boards Marine One and flies to Cambridge, Maryland.
At 10:20 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at the Democratic Issues Conference in Cambridge, Maryland. He then flies back to the White House on Marine One.
At 12 noon Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
At 12:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.
At 1:30 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a fundraiser at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington.
Obama is on Day 3 of his post-State of the Union “An America That’s Built To Last Tour.”
Polls show that his address was very well-received by most voters. And, as you can see in yesterday’s edition of NWN, there is a very good reason for that.
Obama’s speech and message mirror what most Americans think on most issues of concern.
Meanwhile, the Republicans are raging.
Yesterday was not a good day for Newt Gingrich, who has been on the receiving end of an organized establishment conservative political and media gang-up.
He gave a too hot speech, then followed that up with a somewhat subdued debate performance.
Mitt Romney, who has regained a lead in Florida, was very aggressive in last night’s debate, but he was caught in several lies along the way.
He claimed that he didn’t have an ad attacking Gingrich falsely claiming the ex-speaker had called Spanish a “ghetto language.” Not only does he have such an ad, he appears at the end of it saying he authorized the thing.
He claimed that his investments in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are in a blind trust. Which would not be a very good excuse anyway, since his Swiss bank account, also supposedly in a blind trust, was closed at his behest. In any event, the investments are not in a blind trust.
And he attempted to blur his Democratic presidential primary vote for Paul Tsongas in 1992 by saying he’s never voted for a Democrat when a Republican was running. It was a presidential election; obviously a Republican was running.
Prior to the debate, Romney was forced to acknowledge that he has several offshore investment accounts that are not on his financial disclosure forms, including one in an outfit called “Barracuda Investments.”
But Gingrich didn’t make a lot of hay on these points. He did better than much of the media, which hates to be shown up — as it has been both in the take-down of CNN host John King last week and in the supposedly dead Gingrich’s “surprise” win in South Carolina — but had only a slight edge over Romney in my view.
Romney and his forces have accelerated their spending in Florida, with more than $15 million accounted for, just a few days after the total looked like $13 million.
Gingrich and his backers are spending far less than half that.
Unless Gingrich makes some adjustments, as I discussed in the essay linked below, he will lose Florida. Not that he has to win it, but it’s certainly advisable.
As the UN Security Council considers today what to do about the deteriorating situation in Syria, rebels have seized a suburb just outside the center of Damascus, Syria’s capital city.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta outlined a plan yesterday for absorbing $487 billion in defense cuts over the coming decade. It can be done, said the veteran California political figure, by shrinking U.S. ground forces (principally the Army and less so, the Marines), slowing the purchase of a next generation stealth fighter, and retiring older planes and ships.
While US politics play out, the situation in Syria is rapidly deteriorating.
The UN Security Council is discussing moves now in New York, with Russia still standing by its longtime ally in the Assad regime.
But it’s not clear how much control Assad has left. After repeatedly dunking agreements with the Arab League, and then railing against increased sanctions, Assad is faced with a country that is near civil war.
In fact, a key city just outside the capital has apparently fallen to the so-called Free Syrian Army, about which remarkably little is known.
Given Syria’s longstanding position at the center of gravity in the Arab world, and its alliance with Iran, this is a combustible situation.
Obama is monitoring a variety of geopolitical crises, mostly related to the Arab awakening, AfPak, Iraq, Iran and Israel.
Military Crisis Zone Times: The Arabian Gulf is eleven hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is twelve and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** 10:15 AM PACIFIC UPDATE: The California Supreme Court ruled this morning that the Citizens Redistricting Commission’s districts for the state Senate will be used in the 2012 elections. This is a big and not unexpected defeat for conservative Republicans.
The vote on the Republican majority court was 7-0. Here is the ruling.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Southern California and Northern California today.
The California Supreme Court is expected to rule this morning on whether or not to deny the Citizens Redistricting Commission’s state Senate maps as counting of signatures for a referendum on the matter continues.
Last night at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce dinner, Brown laid out what he’s dubbed a “Call To Action” to LA business leaders to stand with him on his public pension reform plan and his balanced budget plan, which includes his temporary tax hike initiative.
Alarmed by Brown’s work with the business community, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association joined forces with the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a fixture in far right circles, to urge business leaders not to succumb to Brown’s blandishments.
Brown appeared last night on the NBC Nightly News in an exclusive interview with former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw on his new/renewed governorship and national political dynamics.
Early this morning, he appeared on KGO and KCBS radio in the San Francisco Bay Area to discuss his budget and public pension reform plans.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: WILL GINGRICH BLOW IT (AGAIN)? Most in the media and political worlds are now adjusting to the reality that Mitt Romney is not “inevitable.” But that doesn’t mean that Newt Gingrich can’t blow it. Again.
After all, as I pointed out last week here on the Huffington Post, before Gingrich’s landslide win in South Carolina, the supposedly politically dead ex-House speaker has blown golden opportunities to put Romney away before.
Romney is a hollow man, whose only consistent ideology is radical capitalism, as he showed when he denounced any criticism of his financialized capitalism as tantamount to socialism, and notions of his own success. He’s been an accident waiting to happen for a long time, notwithstanding endless hype to the contrary.
But Gingrich is a political Bibendum, a Michelin Man, someone who, too frequently, becomes puffed up like an alarmingly over-inflated tire at high speeds.
Now he’s racing with Romney in Florida, having suddenly overcome the ex-leveraged buyout artist’s huge lead there despite weeks of massive advertising on Romney’s behalf.
Gingrich doesn’t have to win Florida, since this contest comes with an asterisk. There’s been a lot of early voting there by people who were hearing only the Romney message. And there is the massive spending for Romney, some $15.4 million, to $6 million or so on Gingrich’s behalf. …
What should he do? … From my January 26th essay.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: UNDERLYING THE DECIDEDLY UNDEAD. Back from the dead. Again. Newt Gingrich. Amazing, isn’t it?
What’s actually amazing is that Gingrich was “dead” in the first place.
The fact is that the ex-House speaker had the Republican race in his hands last month and then proceeded to blow it.
And Mitt Romney is one of the most hollow, and hyped, political figures to come down the track in some time. He’s a consultant culture dream candidate: Big money and heavily into “messaging.” However, messaging, i.e., constantly repeating crafted talking points, is often not the same as having a message, which is why what he says is so malleable and chameleon-like. It’s obvious that there is very little that interests Romney besides success.
It’s a combination of unforced Gingrich errors, erroneous media coverage, and Romney’s nature peeking out all too often from behind the slick facade that has led to these seemingly shocking twists and turns. … From my January 20th column.
** STATING THE STATE: JERRY BROWN GETS DISCIPLINED AND LAYS IT OUT. … From my January 19th feature.
** EXTREMISM IN DEFENSE OF IRONY: BY ROMNEY’S RADICAL DEFINITION HIS OWN CHIEF STRATEGIST IS “ANTI-FREE ENTERPRISE.” … From my January 15th essay.
** BOMBING BAIN: HOW DOES THE POLITICS OF WALL STREET GREED PLAY IN THE G.O.P.? … From my January 10th column.
** JERRY BROWN 2.0 AT 1. … From my January 7th essay.
** IOWA THEN AND NOW. … From my December 30th 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 $100 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $66 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 $14 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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