Warning that American companies are the target of an intensive cyber-espionage campaign, some of President Barack Obama’s top national security officials on Wednesday said they are struggling to defend the nation from attacks on its private computer networks.
** QUICK HITS. Senator John McCain is backtracking on his opposition to a filibuster against former Senator Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as secretary of defense. He said today he’s not sure he’ll vote for cloture, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked to cut off the holds that a couple of senators tried to place on the nomination. That will require opponents to invoke filibuster. … In this, McCain is suddenly echoing his friend Senator Lindsey Graham’s linkage of Hagel’s up-or-down confirmation vote to more information about the Benghazi disaster, which Hagel has nothing to do with and which was not a subject at his confirmation hearing. (Along with discussion of most of the actual issues before the Pentagon in the future.) But even with a suddenly waffling McCain, there are enough declared votes to invoke cloture. … President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address had sharply lower numbers last night than he enjoyed last year. Obama’s numbers last night were 33 million-plus, down more than 11% from last year. It’s a new viewership low for an Obama State of the Union, which has seen declining numbers ever since his first one. Obama’s high water mark then was a whopping 48 million, just three years ago. Of course, people just watched his 2nd Inaugural Address 23 days ago. … The State of California launched its CoveredCalifornia web site today as part of the health exchange program under the new national health care law. It lays out the options for new coverage in the program which goes into effect at the beginning of 2014.
** NEW SURVEY: THE RELIGIOUS AND THE NON-RELIGIOUS. A new Gallup Poll survey has some intriguing data on the regions and states of America and their orientation with regard to religion.
Mississippi turns out to be the most religious state in the Union. (Having once seceded from the Union.) Vermont turns out to be the least religious.
Fully 58% of Missisippians call themselves “very religious,” while only 11% are “non-religious.” In contrast, only 19% of Vermonters are very religious, with 57% non-religious. Most of the rest are counted in the “moderately religious” category.
From a regional standpoint, the Deep South is by far the most religious region of the country, with New England its doppelganger on the non-religious end of things.
With a couple of exceptions from the West, that is. Utah nearly catches Mississippi for the crown of having the highest proportion of very religious residents. (But it has over twice as many non-religious residents, showing there is a reaction against the dominant Mormonism of the state.)
On the other end of the spectrum, Oregon and Washington are just out of the top four non-religious states from New England.
Where is California?
The Golden State ranks 33rd in religiosity, with nearly 35% in the very religious category, which is below the national average. But that in itself comes with a big caveat, because of California’s huge Latino population, almost entirely Catholic.
They’re certainly not voting for the same folks that the Deep South religionists are.
Actually, if you put Northern California together with Oregon and Washington, you get something not at all dissimilar to New England. Well, except for having much higher mountains and a few other differences.
After all, when Sir Francis Drake claimed California for England all those centuries ago, he declared it New Albion (Albion, “the white,” being the archaic term for the island of Great Britain, for the white cliffs of Dover.) But I digress.
Overall, 40% of Americans nationwide were classified as very religious in 2012 — based on saying religion is an important part of their daily life and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week. Thirty-one percent of Americans were nonreligious, saying religion is not an important part of their daily life and that they seldom or never attend religious services. The remaining 29% of Americans were moderately religious, saying religion is important in their lives but that they do not attend services regularly, or that religion is not important but that they still attend services.
The 2012 nationwide proportions of very religious, moderately religious, and nonreligious Americans are all within one percentage point of where they were in 2011. Underscoring this stability, a comparison of the top 10 religious states in 2012 with those in 2011 shows no change — either in the states that constitute the top 10 or in their rank order. The group of states categorized as least religious was almost as constant between 2011 and 2012. The only change other than minor rank-order differences is the inclusion of Hawaii in the least religious list this year in place of New York.
Eight of the top 10 religious states are in the South — basically comprising the entire Southern belt from Georgia and the two Carolinas on the Atlantic coast through Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, to Louisiana and Arkansas in the west. The states outside the Southern belt are Utah — with its strongly religious majority Mormon population — and Oklahoma, which straddles the border between the South and the Midwest. …
President Barack Obama delivered the 2013 State of the Union address Tuesday night before a joint session of Congress in the U.S. Capitol.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … THE ALLURE OF ARABIA.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and North Carolina.
Obama received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He then departed for Joint Base Andrews, where he boarded Air Force One en route Asheville, North Carolina.
Upon arrival, he toured Linamar North Carolina Factory in Asheville.
At 9 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at the Linamar factory in Asheville.
At 10:25 AM Pacific, Obama departs Asheville, North Carolina on Air Force One en route Joint Base Andrews.
At 11:40 AM Pacific, Obama arrives Joint Base Andrews, where he boards Marine One.
At 11:55 AM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
Obama is getting good reviews from liberals and much, though hardly all, of the media for his hour-plus State of the Union address.
It was a laundry list approach in which he offered a sort of New Deal Lite, promising that his new programs won’t cost much if anything while offering few specifics.
Obama focused on economic revitalization, with climate change and renewable energy/energy efficiency, immigration reform, and an accelerated withdrawal of half the remaining troops in Afghanistan this year in there as well.
He did say he would move to raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour. That’s good news for California, which has one of the highest state minimum wages in the country, at $8 per hour.
Of course, Obama has to find a way to get these things done. As I discuss in the piece below, most of his State of the Union proposals of the past have resulted in little if anything once the rhetoric died down.
The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday approved former Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of defense on a 14 to 11 vote.
The full Senate will take up the confirmation later this week, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid flatly refusing to honor any “holds” by senators on the nomination. That will force, if they persist, them to attempt to filibuster.
Between the senators who have committed to vote for Hagel, and the additional senators who have not but have come out against a filibuster, Hagel will be fine.
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.
** WITH LITTLE POLITICAL OR POLICY IMPACT AND DUMBED DOWN LANGUAGE, DOES THE STATE OF THE UNION EVEN MATTER? Not to spoil the party or anything, but does the State of the Union address even matter?
Let’s look at the facts. The venerable SOTU has little if any effect on presidential popularity. Few of President Barack Obama’s major proposals, presented with such fanfare in previous addresses, have gone anywhere. And the speeches themselves, as a new survey published in the Guardian demonstrates, are clearly dumbed down from addresses by his predecessors.
So they don’t mean much in terms of political impact, they don’t mean much in terms of policy impact, but they do stand as major artifacts of the devolution of our intellectual discourse.
Aside from that, they’re fabulous.
Fortunately, Obama has other ways to express himself.
Gallup Poll surveys indicate that the State of the Union address has had little if any effect on Obama’s political standing and personal popularity.
The reality is that his job approval rating changed little after each of his first three State of the Union addresses. The popular reaction to the first two was flat; the third speech resulted in a 2-point increase. Which is within the margin of error of the poll, meaning there may have been no increase at all.
But this phenomenon of little to no political impact is not just a problem for Obama. It’s been the case for his three most recent predecessors — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush — as well. This, despite the massive media coverage and breathless commentary that surrounds the institution of the State of the Union.
So much for political import. What about policy import?
The reality is that much if not most of what Obama proposed in past State of the Union addresses went nowhere.
The Buffett Rule, for those making a million or more a year to pay at least 30% in taxes? Never introduced.
A climate change program? Mostly a non-starter, dropped in favor of the complex and controversial national health care bill. And greenhouse gas emissions have gone up.
Investigate the mortgage crisis that helped give rise to the financial meltdown? Far short of expectations.
Reduce the federal budget deficit by half? Uhh …
Re-inflate deflated credit markets by using $30 billion repaid from the Wall Street bailout for community banks to lend to local businesses? Only a small fraction of that has happened, with capital remaining largely on the sidelines in this anemic recovery.
Reform corporate taxes? That’s gone nowhere.
Reorganize the federal government? Hasn’t happened.
Big new infrastructure programs at home funded by savings from the Iraq and Afghan Wars? Hasn’t happened.
Increase the number of college graduates to a world-leading 60% by 2020? Our trajectory is nowhere near that.
If you think that the quality of public discourse has declined, beyond the problem of nasty hyper-partisanship, you’re right.
The Guardian has a very revealing feature on presidential State of the Union addresses. It indicates that the language employed in these flagship addresses is of a markedly lower level of sophistication now than it was in the past. …
The ex-Los Angeles police officer and US Navy lieutenant who launched a Southern California killing spree last week wound up yesterday in a gunfight with police in the mountains near Big Bear.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Southern California and Northern California
Brown will attend Wednesday morning’s funeral service for Riverside Police Officer Michael Crain. He and his partner, who survived the encounter, were reportedly shot by ex-Los Angeles Police Officer and U.S. Navy Reserve Lieutenant Christopher Dorner, who was cornered late yesterday in a cabin up in Big Bear, which, last I saw, was engulfed in flames. Apparently the result of tear gas causing a fire, somehow. Dorner reportedly, and unsurprisingly, did not survive the fiery aftermath of his fateful encounter.
Dorner’s the one who’s the center of the latest media sensation, accused of killing others as well, with an apparent manifesto about massive malfeasance in Los Angeles involving the police apparatus. I know that’s vague. I confess I know very little about this — I even mistakenly referred to him yesterday as “Jeffrey” Dorner (my mind unconsciously associated him with with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer) — ever since the O.J. Simpson spectacular I’ve avoided getting caught up in these things.
** JERRY BROWN FINDS FUN (IN NEW FOIL RICK PERRY) AND MORE THAN A BIT OF ILLUMINATION. … From my February 7th column.
** 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.
** 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 $97 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $63 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 $17 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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