Taking a few press questions after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Barack Obama said today he does not believe it is inevitable that the $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts will take effect. This despite little sign of a deal with Congressional Republicans. Could it be, perhaps, another last minute deal to avert disaster? Have we seen this movie before, say two months ago? In any event, this deal can go into extra innings before anything much happens.
** QUICK HITS. Another Republican is edging close to running against Governor Jerry Brown. That’s Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, a Dutch-born former Orange County treasurer who is termed out of his seat on the county board of supervisors. He seems realistic about his chances. He would join far right state Assemblyman Tom Donnelly and a very rich guy whose name escapes me at the moment. … Brown may have gotten a much more significant jolt when state Senator Michael Rubio, a moderate Democrat from the Central Valley, suddenly resigned his seat to become a top lobbyist for Chevron, the big oil company. Brown had been working with Rubio on legislation to streamline environmental regulation. The fact that Rubio, who cites family obligations, especially to a very young daughter with physical challenges, is going to work for an oil company casts his environmental reform efforts in a certain light. … More to follow.
** JERRY-RIGGING: NO “RED ALERT” ON CALIFORNIA. University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, one of the best of the East Coast-based national pundits, has put out the latest “Crystal Ball: Red Alert” assessments of upcoming races from UVA’s Center for Politics.
Here’s the view on California:
“California: Democrats should waltz to another victory here, even if Gov. Jerry Brown (D) retires (he looks like he’s running for another term). Republicans fret that a too-conservative, no-name challenger — such as Assemblyman Tim Donnelly — would not only lose big to Brown, but also would decimate their down-ballot prospects. That doomsday scenario could have implications for the state’s U.S. House delegation, where Democrats made big advances last cycle and continue to have a handful of ripe targets. Democrats already have a super-majority in both houses of the state legislature. The decline-into-irrelevance of the once-dominant California GOP is a modern parable for Republicans. The party’s hard-right positions on social issues and its lack of backing from minorities have condemned it to Whig-like status in the Golden State. SAFE DEMOCRATIC”
** NEW SURVEY: NO MO ON QUALITY JOBS. A new Gallup Poll survey points up the continuing anemic nature of the economic recovery. While there is some job growth, few think it is amongst quality jobs.
But the rating is the highest it’s been in five years. Which tells you a lot about the last five years in America.
Of course, the numbers are skewed by liberals and Democrats having the most sanguine with conservatives and Republicans saying they think things are the most downbeat.
Americans continue to think it is hard to find a quality job in February, with 23% saying now is a good time to find one. But this is on par with the 25% who said the same in January, which was the highest Gallup has measured since March 2008. …
At the same time, 73% say now is a bad time to find a quality job, up from 70% in January, but among its lowest — or in other words, best — levels since 2008. Eight in 10 Americans believed it was a bad time to get a quality job throughout 2009 to 2011 and during many months in 2012. …
At 30%, Democrats are the most optimistic that now is a good time to find a quality job, more than twice the 13% of Republicans saying the same. Independents’ views are closest to Democrats, with 24% saying now is a good time to find a quality job.
Similarly, liberals, at 32%, are more than twice as likely as conservatives, at 15%, to say this is a good time to find a quality job. Moderates, at 27%, are closer to liberals than they are to conservatives. …
Anti-government protests are spreading in Iraq against the increasingly pro-Iranian government.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He and Biden then attend the Democratic Governors Association Meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
At 9:15 AM Pacific, he holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan in the Oval Office, with Biden also attending.
At 10:15 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden have lunch with Prime Minister Abe in the Cabinet Room.
The big geopolitical pivot to the Asia Pacific. And problems with China, which is engaged in high-stakes showdowns with Japan in the East China Sea, and with others among its neighbors in the South China Sea.
And of course, the cyber issue.
Former Republican presidential nominee and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole yesterday endorsed Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as secretary of defense, calling him “uniquely qualified,” an “exceptional leader at an important time.” Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby announced that he will vote to confirm Hagel.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving 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.
** THE HAILSTORM AROUND HAGEL POINTS UP THE SYSTEM’S DYSFUNCTIONALITY. The hailstorm of controversy around the appointment of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as the new secretary of defense, having long since passed into the realm of hysteria, became a different sort of hysterical this week with the revelation that one of the most sensational charges against the apostate Iraq War backer began as a thoroughly misunderstood joke. Which is funny enough, I suppose, until you consider the deep dysfunctionality which this entire episode is revealing.
While the melodrama around Hagel continues during the latest congressional vacation — not that he won’t be confirmed, because he will, as I discussed here at the end of last week — major national security issues are playing out this week affecting relations with China (reportedly the center of massive cyber-attacks here and around the world), burgeoning nuclear power North Korea, the Afghan War and NATO.
All these things and more have gone by the boards while the tragicomic Hagel confirmation played out.
See if your eyesight is good enough to discern any consideration of cyber-attacks in the increasingly notorious word cloud of last month’s U.S. Senate Armed Services confirmation hearing on defense secretary-designate Chuck Hagel. Hint: Even Clark Kent wouldn’t find it. See if you can find much of anything other than the dominant topic of Israel, and its closely aligned topic Iran.
A new report, published the other day in the New York Times, the Guardian, and other newspapers around the world, identifies a unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army, operating out of Shanghai, as being behind cyber-attacks around the world.
That includes the hacking and ransacking of the New York Times, which occurred when the paper was preparing a story on how the family of the PRC’s premiere, Wen Jiabao, amassed billions of dollars.
You’d think that China, America’s frenemy, a super-power in the making and a proximate cause of the big geopolitical pivot underway to the rising Asia Pacific region, would be a major topic for senators concerned with geopolitics and national security. And you’d be wrong about that. (Here’s an archive of my pieces on the pivot, one of the most important stories of the early 21st century, which still gets little notice in our media.)
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who thought he was retiring to his California Central Coast walnut farm — off to deal with “a different set of nuts,” as he put it — is in Brussels for the NATO defense minister meeting thanks to the Senate Republican filibuster-that-isn’t-a-real-filibuster of Chuck Hagel.
The main topic of the Brussels confab? The winding down of the Afghan War, where we have tens of thousands of troops in the field. Which oddly was barely mentioned in Hagel’s Senate confirmation hearing. Or discussed in all the controversy around his appointment.
Meanwhile, it turns out that one of the dumbest charges against defense secretary-designate Chuck Hagel, that he secretly took money from a group called “Friends of Hamas” — which, as should be obvious, does not exist, as if any senator would speak before such a group if it did — began as an obvious joke which turned into a charge the next day in the far right mediasphere.
This is just pathetic, but par for the course. … From my February 21st essay.
An unlikely ally of Governor Jerry Brown and President Obama on expanding Medicaid is right-wing Florida Governor Rick Scott, who launched his political career on opposing “Obamacare.”
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Illinois and Washington.
After visiting sister Kathleen Brown, the former state treasurer and Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Chicago, Brown is heading to Washington for the National Governors Association annual winter meeting.
Brown, who is one of the most aggressive governors in the nation in implementing “Obamacare” — as was Arnold Schwarzenegger before him — is finding some unlikely allies in Washington this weekend.
Right-wing Florida Governor Rick Scott, who launched his political career as an opponent of national health care reform, on Wednesday joined a group of apostate Republicans governors including Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, and Ohio Governor John Kasich in the push to implement the new law.
Why? Because the federal government is offering billions to expand Medicaid, known as MediCal in California, providing solutions on low-income health care which otherwise costs big bucks in emergency rooms.
** THE ANTI-HAGEL GAMBITS: CLEVER, BUT NOT REALLY THAT CLEVER. … From my February 15th essay.
** WITH LITTLE POLITICAL OR POLICY IMPACT AND DUMBED DOWN LANGUAGE, DOES THE STATE OF THE UNION EVEN MATTER? … From my February 12th column.
** 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.
** 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 $93 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $59 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 $21 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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