Western and Arab government ministers meeting in Rome today as the Friends of Syria pledged more political and materiel support for the Syrian opposition and called for an immediate halt to arms supplies to the Assad regime.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … WILL JERRY BROWN BE UNOPPOSED FOR RE-ELECTION?
** QUICK HITS. And so the fabled Sequester is upon us. At least for now. The Fiscal Cliff went into overtime, too. This mode of governance by impending disaster is losing its needed sense of melodrama. … I’m hardly the only one who thinks Bob Woodward made a big mistake in claiming he’d been threatened by, er, Gene Sperling. (See the morning discussion.) Even folks at Fox News and the Washington Post are reacting with incredulity. … The Obama Administration today filed an amicus brief at the US Supreme Court, joining in the bid to overturn California’s Prop 8 anti-gay marriage initiative. The administration argues that same-sex couples are covered under the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection.” Under this line of reasoning, same-sex marriage could be viewed as a constitutional right. But it does not explicitly call on the USSC to make that finding for all 50 states, though it certainly under that line of reasoning. … Governor Jerry Brown released information about his judicial appointees last year noting that a third are women and just over a third members of ethnic minorities. These appointees include California’s first Muslim judge and the first openly gay justice to serve on the state court of appeals.
** NEW SURVEY: AMERICANS WANT TO AVOID THE SEQUESTER, BUT IT’S NOT A BIG THING. A new Gallup Poll survey reveals that the incessant chatter about the federal budget sequester is yielding a muted response from the public.
Only a plurality favors avoiding the sequester.
And only 60%, average for a major news story, are following the endless sequester coverage on a regular basis.
And, while no one involved is coming off well, President Barack Obama is doing twice as well as congressional Republicans. The danger for him, as I’ve suggested before, is in over-selling the impact of the sequester.
Given a choice, Americans would by a modest margin tell their representatives in Congress to vote to pass legislation this week that would avoid the scheduled March 1 sequestration (45%) rather than let the budget sequestration go into effect as planned (37%). Democrats prefer the legislative option that would avoid sequestration and independents tilt that way, but Republicans are essentially divided on the question. …
Despite Democratic leaders’ clear preference for avoiding sequestration, less than half of rank-and-file Democrats across the country take this position, reflecting in part that 19% of Democrats do not have an opinion on the issue. The no opinion response is equally as high among Americans as a whole. …
None of the three major players involved in the sequestration debate — President Barack Obama, Democrats in Congress, and Republicans in Congress — get majority approval ratings for their handling of the situation, and none has a higher approval than disapproval rating. Still, on a relative basis, Obama does best, with a 45% approval rating, compared with 37% for Democrats in Congress and 25% for Republicans in Congress. The contrast perhaps most relevant to the politics of the sequester battle is between Obama and the Republicans, and the president clearly comes out on top in that comparison. …
Speaking yesterday to business executives, President Barack Obama said automatic budget cuts caused by the sequester would be a “tumble downward” for the economy. However, he also said many Americans might not feel the impact immediately. Which they will not, making this look like the latest Washington “phony war.”
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … WILL JERRY BROWN BE UNOPPOSED FOR RE-ELECTION?
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
At 9:40 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet for lunch in the Private Dining Room.
Last day till the big Sequester.
Suspense and tension build.
The rhetorical guns fall silent today, as you see from Obama’s schedule.
Obama will meet with congressional leaders at the White House on Friday.
Meanwhile, the White House war of words with Bob Woodward took a predictable turn today, with the release of the “threatening” e-mail and subsequent exchange that Woodward cited on Fox News absent any detail. If you’re interested in this silliness, you’ll see that Woodward accepted the apology of the White House official — yes, the apology — for raising his voice in their conversation, and goes on to blah blah blah. Nothing to it.
My favorite part? The “threatening,” to hear Woodward tell it, White House character was not one of the political tough guys and gals around Obama, it was veteran economic advisor Gene Sperling! Who is slightly more intimidating than my late cat.
The US Senate easily confirmed former White House chief of staff Jack Lew as the new secretary of the treasury yesterday on a vote of 71 to 26.
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: 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.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Veteran columnist Jules Witcover (I’m sure everyone remembers Germond & Witcover, although that’s a little pre-Zoe Barnes) checks in with this syndicated Chicago Tribune column on Governor Jerry Brown, “Bringing California Back.”
Meanwhile, the latest Field Poll continues its much beloved here trickle-out roll-out pattern with more sign of a shift to the left by California voters.
Same sex marriage is now overwhelmingly favored by California voters, 61% to 32%, an almost exact turnaround over the past 36 years.
In 1977, when Field first polled on gay marriage, it was overwhelmingly opposed, 59% to 28%.
Same sex marriage is now supported by all the major groupings in the state — ethnic, geographic, sociological, ideological, partisan, religious — with only three exceptions: Conservatives, Republicans, and Protestants.
Or, put another way, the folks who will be meeting this coming weekend at the California Republican Party convention, where they propose to re-make their reeling party.
Brown approved state Attorney General Kamala Harris filing a legal brief Wednesday on behalf of the State of California opposing the Prop 8 anti-gay marriage initiative coming up before the US Supreme Court. Arguments are expected in late March.
** SECRETARY HAGEL AND THE SENATE’S MASSIVE WASTE OF TIME. … From my February 27th essay.
** OSCARMANIA! (OR NOT): A POLITICAL STEW ON LIGHT SIMMER. … From my February 25th essay.
** THE HAILSTORM AROUND HAGEL POINTS UP THE SYSTEM’S DYSFUNCTIONALITY. … From my February 21st essay.
** 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.
Dennis Tito, the world’s first space tourist, has revealed plans to send a couple on a 501-day journey for a flyby mission to Mars in 2018 in an attempt to inspire future generations and revitalize American science. Tito, who founded Wilshire Associates investment managers in Santa Monica and served on the LA water and power commission, said it was important that the mission take place in 2018 because the planets will be closest in their orbital paths. If the opportunity is missed the next chance would be in 2031.
** 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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