President Barack Obama’s pick for CIA director, John Brennan, said today that he does not regret advising against a 1998 strike targeting Osama bin Laden a few months before the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
** QUICK HITS. President Barack Obama’s pick for CIA director, John Brennan, testified today at his Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing that he doesn’t know “what the truth is” about the effectiveness of torture in gaining useful intel. He also wouldn’t say if water-boarding is torture, preferring the term “EIT” for enhanced interrogation techniques.” … Brennan rejected a suggestion from new Maine independent Senator Angus King, who caucuses with the Dems, that drone killings be approved by a sort of FISA court. Brennan reasoned that courts judge past actions while drone strikes are about preventing future action. … Why does Brennan sound like he’s using dialogue from the BBC series Spooks? (Known as MI-5 in these PC United States.) Americans generally came off like double-talkers in that show. … Under a lot of fire, Brennan defended the Obama Administration policy of escalating the killing of suspected jihadists while minimizing the capture of such folks to gain potential intelligence. … For her part, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee chair, while appearing mostly friendly toward Brennan, said she wants to look into setting up a special court, as used in FISA cases regarding surveillance, to evaluate the evidence against American citizens presently targeted for extra-judicial killing by an anonymous committee.
** JERRY BROWN FINDS FUN (IN NEW FOIL RICK PERRY) AND MORE THAN A BIT OF ILLUMINATION. Governor Jerry Brown has had some fun this week, and more than a bit of illumination.
The fun comes with Texas Governor Rick Perry — who went from Republican presidential frontrunner to disastrous also-ran as fast as you can say “I don’t know what I’m talking about but I sure want to be president” — trying to poach California jobs and companies for his state. And with Brown’s own talk of building a house on a family ranch. The illumination comes with a big peek behind the curtain of the biggest anonymous political contribution in California’s history.
Appearing at the roll-out of the big UPS electric vehicle fleet on Tuesday, Brown, in answer to a press question, described Perry’s paltry little radio ad — a $24,000 statewide buy — soliciting California businesses to move to Texas as “not a burp. It’s barely a fart.”
Perry, who is in big political trouble in Texas, makes a very good foil for Brown, who is riding high with the end of California’s chronic budget crisis. Texas trails the rest of the nation in high school graduates and health care, and Perry is, let’s say, not an adept debater.
In fact, Perry thoroughly embarrassed Texans with his inept presidential campaign.
Only 14 percent of Texans think Perry should run again for president, while 79 percent are opposed. Even among his fellow Republicans only 22 percent think Perry should run for President again with 66 percent against.
Just 31 percent of voters think Perry should seek reelection next year, while 62 percent think it’s time for him to step aside. Probably in favor of the state attorney general, who is a Republican, and not the Tea Party sort prone to losing a general election. The AG easily holds the seat in trial match-ups with top Texas Democrats. Perry has a real fight if he manages to win re-nomination.
So does Brown want to fence with Perry in such a way as to help him with his right-wing Republican base and hurt him with moderate voters? Is he just messing about? Does he want to have some fun at the expense of a relatively unarmed man?
Or all of the above?
And what of the issue at hand?
In reality, the number of Californians moving to Texas has dropped.
And, despite ballyhooed and expensive efforts, Texas efforts to lure California jobs haven’t borne much fruit. California actually paced the nation for most of the past year in job creation.
Meanwhile, Perry elevated the fun level by announcing that he will visit San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and Orange County next Sunday till Wednesday.
Perry’s presidential candidacy turned out badly, despite having a party that was ready to nominate someone like him, but he neatly demonstrated the ascendance of the far right in the California Republican Party nearly five-and-a-half years ago.
That’s when Arnold Schwarzenegger, having won reelection by a 17-point landslide margin 10 months earlier, decided to level with his fellow Republicans at their state party convention outside Palm Springs.
I previewed the speech on my New West Notes blog after reading it the day before.
Schwarzenegger, alarmed by the ever rightward slide of his party despite his two landslide elections while running to the center in 2003 and 2006, went to the California Republican Party convention on a Friday night at a luxury resort hotel in Indian Wells. There, he challenged the growing far right orthodoxy and warned Republican activists that they risked making the party irrelevant in California statewide elections unless they recognized that the center of political gravity in the state was much closer to the center than to the far right.
“Our party has lost the middle,” Schwarzenegger warned, “and we will not regain true political power in California until we get it back. I am of the Reagan view that we should not go off the cliff with flags flying. I did that in 2005.”
I was there for Schwarzenegger’s speech. The reaction of most delegates can best be described as tepid at best. Schwarzenegger’s speech was followed immediately by Rick Perry, who not long after Barack Obama’s election became notorious for urging that Texas secede from the Union. I stuck around for Perry’s talk, curious to compare the response he received to that accorded to Schwarzenegger.
The difference was striking. Perry gleefully countered everything Schwarzenegger had to say, insisting on a hard hyper-partisan course, denying the human role in climate change, decrying more spending on infrastructure and education as big government run amok, insisting that tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks were the way to go. The Republican delegates loved Perry’s far right red meat.
I talked with some of the delegates about the practical implications of embracing right-wing dogmatism. Might their next candidate for governor, for example, get blown out in 2010? Most simply didn’t care. Perry was telling them what they wanted to hear, echoing the rhetoric emanating from right-wing radio shows, blogs, and Fox News.
So what if Texas is first among all the states in greenhouse gas emissions and toxic chemicals released into water, as well as last in high school graduates, mental health care, and workers compensation coverage? That’s all lefty stuff.
And more fun, I expect, for Jerry Brown in the week ahead. …
From my new essay.
** NEW SURVEY: OPTIMISM ABOUT STANDARD-OF-LIVING HITS FIVE-YEAR HIGH. A new Gallup Poll survey indicates a significant degree of optimism, with more than two to one expressing the belief that things are getting better for them.
That’s especially true among Democrats, young people, and people of color.
Or, put another way, the Obama coalition.
Fifty-seven percent of Americans say their standard of living is getting better, according to Gallup Daily tracking for the three-day period ending Feb. 4 — tying the highest three-day reading since Gallup began tracking the question in January 2008. Twenty-seven percent say their standard of living is getting worse and 15% say it is staying the same. …
Americans’ optimism about their standard of living has been generally improving since the beginning of the new year. The trend also mirrors Americans’ increasing economic confidence.
Separately, 75% of Americans say they are satisfied with their standard of living. This percentage has been highly stable over time, but the current reading is on the high end of what Gallup has measured over the last five years. …
Thus far in 2013, 61% of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic say their standard of living is improving. This compares with 39% of Republicans and Republican leaners. In fact, more Republicans and GOP leaners say their standard of living is getting worse (41%) than say it is getting better. Twenty-two percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners say their standard of living is getting worse. These differences are similar to what Gallup finds in terms of partisan views of the U.S. economy and satisfaction with the way things are going in the country. …
Appearing this morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Barack Obama called for some more of that post-partisan/bipartisan spirit. He also said he prays for humility.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … JERRY AND PERRY (AND OTHER AMUSEMENTS).
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and Virginia.
Obama received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He then attended the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton.
Following that, he left for Leesburg, Virginia on Marine One.
At 9:30 AM Pacific, Obama arrives in Leesburg, Virginia.
He will take part in the House Democratic policy conference there at the Lansdowne Resort.
At 10:55 AM Pacific, Obama departs Leesburg, Virginia on Marine One en route the White House.
At 11:20 AM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
Obama got some bad news today when Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected the direct talks proposed over the weekend in Munich by Vice President Joe Biden.
Khamenei says Iran won’t discuss its nuclear program while America “holds a gun to its head.”
Look for fireworks today when Senator Dianne Feinstein convenes the Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing on CIA Director-designate John Brennan at 11:30 AM Pacific. The Obama Administration, following the leak of a legal memo seeming to outline a very loose definition as to how a US citizen can end up on a drone kill list, has agreed to provide classified legal documents on the process, which has been masterminded by Brennan in his role as White House counter-terrorism advisor.
Also in contention is the expansive drone strike program itself, which some increasingly believe is creating more jihadists than it is eradicating.
You can watch the hearing live via this link. Don’t rely on American cable news.
The Senate Armed Services Committee considers the Benghazi disaster today with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. It had appeared ready to then vote on former Senator Chuck Hagel.
The controversial appointee appears to have enough Republican votes for his confirmation/against a filibuster to carry him aloft into the big chair in the Pentagon. But Senate Armed Services chairman Carl Levin said yesterday afternoon that the vote won’t take place this week.
Hagel’s Republican opponents want him to go beyond what is legally required in disclosing his income. They seem to think there is a foreign source that might prove to be embarrassing.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving Mali and Algeria, the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Syria, Iraq, AfPak, and the South China Sea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: Mali is eight hours ahead of Pacific time, the Persian/Arabian Gulf is ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time. The time in Manila, on the South China Sea, is fifteen hours ahead of Pacific time.
During the Republican presidential debates, Texas Governor Rick Perry was unable to remember the three federal agencies he had pledged to eliminate. Perry began as the frontrunner, but swiftly plummeted.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events.
Texas Governor Rick Perry will appear in the state next week on a bid to recruit California companies to move to Texas.
This should be fun.
Nevertheless, he’s been here before, and you haven’t noticed the rush to Texas.
Meanwhile, a coalition of environmental groups and some unions is forming to oppose wholesale changes to the state’s environmental regulatory foundation, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
** COME HAGEL OR HIGH WATER: IN THE SHADE OF IRAQ. … From my February 1st essay.
** THE STATE OF JERRY BROWN’S STATUS: AFTER THE STATE OF THE STATE. … From my January 30th essay.
** OBAMA’S CLEAR YET MUTED TRUMPET: HOPE’S AUDACITY MEETS LOWERED EXPECTATIONS. … From my January 23rd essay.
** HOW NOT TO STAGE MANAGE THE WORLD. … From my January 18th column.
** POWELL POSITIONS THE DEBATE OVER CHUCK HAGEL. … From my January 14th essay.
** JERRY BROWN’S NEW BUDGET FOR POST-CRISIS CALIFORNIA: DISCIPLINE BEGETS OPPORTUNITY. … From my January 11th essay.
** WHY THE HAGEL BATTLE MADE MORE SENSE FOR OBAMA THAN THE RICE BATTLE. … From my January 9th essay.
** CALIFORNIA’S FUTURIST AGENDA: A TALE OF THREE GOVERNORS. … From my January 4th 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 major military operations 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. 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 from the Russia Today channel. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the state-run 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, and down about $18 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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