Following a dramatic filibuster yesterday and last night, John Brennan was confirmed this afternoon as the new director of the CIA on a 63 to 34 vote in the U.S. Senate. This came after Senator Rand Paul finally got a direct answer from Attorney General Eric Holder to his question about whether, under our still murky and highly classified drone policy, an American citizen who is not engaged in a terrorist attack can be killed on American soil.
** QUICK HITS. Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, captured, apparently, by US special forces accompanied by CIA officers and FBI agents while trying to travel from Jordan to Kuwait, will be arraigned Friday morning in New York City on federal terrorism charges. The Kuwaiti citizen has been an official spokesman for Al Qaeda. We’ll be hearing a bit about this going forward. … The California legislature today approved expansion of MediCal (i.e., Medicaid) as part of the national Obamacare program. … It also moved to appropriate $24 million to get guns out of the hands of people legally prohibited from having them due to criminal convictions or mental illness. … The turnout in Tuesday’s Los Angeles municipal elections was a non-whopping 16%. Same as it ever was. LA historically has much lower participation in its local elections than San Francisco and other big cities elsewhere in the US. Though the turnout number could approach 20% after provisional ballots are gone through. … A half-cent sales tax measure to fund strapped Los Angeles city government went down big, 55% to 45%. Proving again that voters require a serious selling job to approve new revenues, especially coming from themselves, especially when they’re suspicious about how the money’s being spent.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … THE ALLURE OF ARABIA and HOW CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATS MIGHT STILL BLOW IT.
** NEW SURVEY: MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE IS VERY POPULAR. A new Gallup Poll survey indicates that raising the minimum wage, one of the proposals in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, is very popular.
Fully 71% back the proposal to raise the national minimum wage to $9 per hour.
Just 27% oppose it.
Even half of the Republicans support the minimum wage hike.
Here’s the partisan breakdown:
And the ideological breakdown:
There is also a wide range of support among various demographic groups, although the majority of every group supports it.
In addition to liberals and Democrats, those most likely to favor raising the minimum wage include nonwhites, adults earning less than $24,000 annually, women, young adults, residents of the East, and moderates. At least three-quarters of Americans in each of these groups support it.
Additionally, at least two-thirds of seniors, lower-middle-income Americans (those earning between $24,000 and $59,999 a year), independents, Western and Southern residents, and adults aged 30 to 49 are in favor.
Support drops below 67% among Republicans, conservatives, residents of the Midwest, men, adults aged 50 to 64, whites, and upper-middle- and high-income Americans. …
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul ended his 13-hour filibuster against the nomination of CIA Director-designate John Brennan and the Obama Administration’s very murky drone policy very late last night.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … THE ALLURE OF ARABIA.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Obama then met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 9:30 AM Pacific, Obama meets for lunch with Maryland Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan in the Private Dining Room.
Ryan, of course, was the Republican vice presidential nominee. He chairs the House Budget Committee, of which Van Hollen is the ranking Democratic member.
Obama, trying a new tack on the sequester and overall fiscal fronts, has embarked on a charm offensive with members of Congress, having privately had a number of them over the last couple of evenings at the White House.
At 10:55 AM Pacific, Obama signs the Violence Against Women Act at the Department of the Interior.
Meanwhile, Senator Rand Paul, who brought the Senate to a standstill yesterday with his actual talking filibuster of John Brennan’s appointment as the new CIA director, ended the effort around midnight last night.
Paul is out to shine a light on the very clandestine US drone strike policies which allow for the execution of American citizens without any apparent due process. Brennan is in large measure the architect of the drone policies in his role as chief White House counter-terrorism advisor.
With the filibuster ended, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can opt to bring Brennan up for confirmation vote.
The drones were just one of the many issues unaddressed in the bizarre confirmation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Another is the F-35 fighter program, the most expensive weapons system ever developed. A new AP story details new problems with the F-35, which just began flying again after its latest fleet grounding.
“Pentagon report warns of F-35 visibility risks. Significant visibility issues could lead to dangerous flight conditions, according to test pilots who have flown the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. That is just one of several issues identified by the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester in a February report, published online today by the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight. Other issues include flawed radar, ongoing challenges with the high-tech helmet required to fly the jet, and potential issues with the touch screen control interface.”
Oh, and North Korea has just threatened to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack on America.
North Korea vowed to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the US, hours ahead of a UN vote on new sanctions against Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test. North Korea has accused the US of using military drills in South Korea as a launch pad for a nuclear war and has scrapped the armistice with Washington that ended hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War.
The UN Security Council early this morning approved a US/China-sponsored resolution with new sanctions on North Korea for its very much for real nuclear weapons program.
I don’t know quite what to say about the North Koreans. Because I’m never quite sure what to do with the insane. I prefer to ignore them.
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.
At 12 noon, he attends the funeral service for Santa Cruz Sergeant Loran “Butch” Baker and Officer Elizabeth Butler at the HP Pavilion in San Jose.
The two officers were gunned down in the line of duty.
My old LA Weekly colleague Harold Meyerson has a brand new American Prospect cover story on Brown, “The Once and Future Guv,” saying “Two years into his second go-round as governor, Jerry Brown has — to the surprise of many — turned California around.”
Meyerson, who took over the late Mary McGrory’s Washington Post column, was once a great critic of Brown for his insufficient old-time left-liberal religionism. He went so far as to forecast that Brown would do less well running for president in 1992 than then Irvine Mayor Larry Agran.
Brown, of course, was for the second time the runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination in that race, finishing behind one William Jefferson Clinton, and Agran, well, we all know what happened there, right?
While Brown has not changed, the results he is getting are (mostly) undeniable, so Meyerson is praising him for the California turnaround which I’ve written about a time or two.
This is a more measured view of a successful liberal politics, one born of realism, a creative centrism, and more than a dash of futurism.
Brown declared today Arbor Day in California, marking the occasion by including in his proclamation a work by his old friend, Beat poet Gary Snyder, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former chairman of the California Arts Council.
Let it be
On a day in March
When the grass is green
On the rolling hills
And the snow
Is deep in the mountains –
Let it be
On a day like this
That we plant a tree
For the years to come
For the little ones
and the lakes
Will be pure in the mountains –
Let it be gold and green
That we touch the ground
That we heal the land
From the mountains to the sea.
“This poem was written in 1978 in honor of Arbor Day which has traditionally been set aside as a day designated for the planting of trees. Trees provide shelter for us and for birds and wildlife. They give us shade and conserve our soil. We harvest fruit from trees and at the same time enjoy their beauty.
“I hereby proclaim March 7th as Arbor Day in order that all Californians may be reminded of the multitude of benefits we reap daily from this precious resource. I hope the day will be dedicated to the planting of trees not only for the benefit of this generation but as our gift to posterity.
“NOW THEREFORE I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim March 7, 2013 as Arbor Day.”
** CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS: OUT OF STUNTS. California Republicans have been living on borrowed time for a long time, relying on a series of increasingly desperate stunts to try to stay competitive. This past weekend, at their state convention in Sacramento, with the stunts done and Democrats mostly triumphant, they went back to basics with a new “nuts and bolt” state chairman in former state Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte. But they forgot the most basic thing of all.
Their basic problem is not one of mechanics or form, but of substance. California Republicans aren’t down to 29 percent registration, with no one to run against Gov. Jerry Brown, no statewide electeds, and shrinking minorities in the state Legislature and congressional delegation because they need a better get-out-the-vote operation or more public relations. They’re dead in the water because they’re too extreme and out of touch with the state.
So, having Brulte, a very competent tactician, come on as chairman is an evasion of the central issue. But at least it’s not another stunt.
The stunts that kept Republicans competitive, to a point, started back in 1994, when incumbent Gov. Pete Wilson, threatened by Kathleen Brown’s candidacy, seized on illegal immigration and rode the draconian Proposition 187—later thrown out by the courts—to a smashing re-election victory. But with Brown taking a determined stand against 187 in defeat, this stunt proved to be a pyrrhic victory in the long run, putting Republicans on the wrong side of the rising Latino community.
The next big stunt was global superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger, who took Republicans with him on two landslide election wins as governor. But they expressly rejected his moderation and kept veering to the right.
Then came the stunt of running a billionaire for governor. But Meg Whitman was crushed by Jerry Brown.
The stunts came faster and more desperately after that.
Next, spending millions the party couldn’t afford in a failed attempt to block new state Senate districts drawn by the citizens redistricting commission.
Then, ginning up the biggest anonymous political contribution in California history in a backfiring attempt to stop Brown’s Proposition 30 revenue initiative. That only fed the Democrats’ victory margin last November.
So, now it’s down to party mechanics. Or is it?
This past weekend, Brulte brought in Karl Rove, the ex-Bush-Cheney political who honchoed a secretive $300 million-plus super PAC operation last year, for a keynote luncheon talk. But, at least in public, Rove offered a boilerplate message that could have been delivered most anywhere. Worse, he dodged the press throughout, probably fearing questions about that anonymous campaign money funneled into California by a group with ties to him.
There were some entreaties to reach out to Latinos, but the materials I saw spread around the convention looked like those at most any other Republican convention in the last few decades.
And the relative moderation of Rove — to the extent that anyone outside the far right would regard him as a “moderate” — was more than balanced by other speakers.
The dinner speaker was Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro, a far-right blogger who debated CNN host Piers Morgan on gun control and declared that the purpose of having Second Amendment rights is to allow people to have enough firepower to fight a tyrannical government.
Shapiro is also a virulent pro-Israel advocate—rejected as an extremist by most Israelis—who pushed the false story about new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel supposedly getting money from the nonexistent “Friends of Hamas.” This is like having a 9/11 Truther as the keynote speaker at a Democratic convention.
Which is another way of saying that Brulte, while certainly not that extreme, is no moderate. He chaired Steve Poizner’s hard right 2010 gubernatorial primary campaign.
Poizner, once an actual moderate Republican, was discovered and encouraged by Schwarzenegger as the only bright light in his failed bid to unseat a host of Democratic Assembly members in 2004. All the candidates Schwarzenegger backed lost, but Poizner engaged him, and Schwarzenegger brought him into statewide politics. The two of them, running as moderates, were the only Republicans elected statewide in 2006.
But Poizner sensed the internal winds pushing the party further to the right and dropped his moderate Republicanism. In the 2010 gubernatorial primary, with Brulte chairing the effort, Poizner ran very hard right. Especially on immigration.
As the latest Field Polls show more signs of a shift to the left by California voters—on immigration, same-sex marriage, climate change, gun control and legalizing marijuana—the GOP looks as hard right as ever.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, speaking to the Sacramento Press Club just before the convention began, sounded a plaintive note about his party’s California plight: “Look, the most important thing the Republican Party has is, I don’t believe we can get any lower, all right?”
Sure you can.
** WILL JERRY BROWN BE UNOPPOSED FOR RE-ELECTION? … From my March 4th feature.
** 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.
** 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 $91 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $57 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 $23 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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