** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. A 20th day of searching by thousands of US troops south of Baghdad for the two remaining surviving American soldiers captured in an ambush by Al Qaeda has ended. The prisoners have still not been located.
** SCHWARZENEGGER ON CANADA’S WEST COAST. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is wrapping up his three-day tour of Canada on its Pacific coast, doing a number of events in the lovely city of Vancouver, British Columbia. There he signed the previously reported upon climate change accord with BC Premier Gordon Campbell, toured a major public/private partnership rail project, and wore a colorful Indian blanket. But unless he wears a hat, NWN will not run such pictures.
** ROMNEY IN CALIFORNIA. The presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, which previously announced state Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman of Orange County and former state controller nominee Tony Strickland as its state chairs has announced more members of its Califonria leadership team. San Diego/Sacramento consultant Duane Dichiara, who did campaigns for Congressman Brian Bilbray and Assemblywoman Shirley Horton, will be Romney’s state director. Checking in as Romney senior advisors are conservative stalwarts Rob Stutzman and Mike Schroeder. Stutzman was former Attorney General and 1998 gubernatorial nominee Dan Lungren’s communications director, along with holding the same post during the more conservative phase of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s governorship. Schroeder, a powerhouse Orange County political lawyer, is a former state Republican Party chairman and another stalwart of the right wing.
** FREEH BACKS RUDY. Bill Clinton’s FBI director, Louis Freeh, has today in New York City endorsed Republican Rudy Giuliani for president.
“Rudy Giuliani’s optimistic leadership is responsible for making the city of New York what it is today –one of the safest large cities in the country and a place where the world feels safe to visit. Through Rudy’s use of innovative crime fighting programs like CompStat, he demonstrated that with determination and strength, solutions can be crafted to seemingly intractable problems. I have known and admired Rudy for his law enforcement leadership and innovation for over twenty-five years. His devotion to public safety and the rule of law, plus real life knowledge about crime reduction turned one of the country’s most dangerous cities into the model for law and order.”
Freeh will serve as senior homeland security advisor to Giuliani and as Delaware chairman of his campaign.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. Thousands of American troops are now in the midst of a 20th day of searching for the remaining two US soldiers captured by Al Qaeda in an ambush south of Baghdad. They have had no luck so far. But the activity may be preventing Al Qaeda from having the time and space to film the captives in a propaganda bonanza.
Former California Controller and eBay honcho Steve Westly, now
on the cover of Venture Capital Journal, discusses greenhouse
politics and investing in this NWN video.
As Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger spends the bulk of his week up in Canada, signing climate change accords with British Columbia and Ontario, fending off the array of wind and solar farm developers who want him to dedicate their projects, we’re reminded of the impact of California, with top Democratic presidential candidates adopting the state’s climate change program and Silicon Valley leading the charge in new tech investing for the greenhouse era.
Former state Controller and eBay honcho Steve Westly, a longtime Democratic and environmental activist, has thrown himself into the era of greenhouse investing and, now in a venture capital firm housed at Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firm, is the cover subject of the latest Venture Capital Journal. He’s on the board of directors of Tesla Motors, maker of the first electric-powered sports car, which Schwarzenegger and George Clooney have on order, and is very involved with solar energy and biofuels.
Westly ran a near-miss race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination last June in California against a conventional liberal Democrat, Phil Angelides, embraced by the party’s establishment. Angelides went on to a 17-point landslide loss against Schwarzenegger, in one of the more Democratic states in the nation, in the midst of a national Democratic wave.
You might suppose Westly would be upset about this. But the former top eBay executive is, as Warren Beatty puts it, a “sunny personality.” Besides, he probably saved himself $40 million from his personal fortune. Schwarzenegger, once he was off his seemingly right-wing kick of 2005 and back on the course he discussed in 2002 and 2003, was going to be hard to beat. And now Westly, having gained valuable experience, his fortune more or less intact, can be a major participant in the green tech/clean tech — advocates can’t quite decide on the name — “explosion,” as Schwarzenegger calls it. The phenomenon is something that all the top Democratic presidential candidates extoll, although perhaps none so much as Barack Obama, for whom Westly is the California co-chairman.
Some Republicans talk up the bandwagon of clean tech, too, with John McCain, an advocate of greenhouse gas regulation, and Rudy Giuliani, seen in an earlier NWN video discussing the problem of climate change, foremost among the new crew. Even President George W. Bush pays some lip service to the idea. But no one is quite so much on the bandwagon, with the possible exception of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as California’s governor.
Schwarzenegger, in his speech before the Economic Club of Toronto, intended as a follow-on to his address at last month’s Newsweek forum address in Washington, was in exuberant mode.
“My discussion of the United States,” he told the Toronto crowd yesterday, “today relates to something that Canadians care very much about-and that is the environment. I’ve come to Canada to tell you something you may find shocking — and yet I hope also encouraging. In spite of disagreements over global warming at the G-8 summit or elsewhere, I believe the United States is about to go from environmental problem to environmental problem solver. In fact, I believe the United States is the world’s best hope for solving the global warming crisis.”
“In fact, California may be doing more to save U.S. automakers than anyone else, because we are pushing them to change if they want to sell cars in the Golden State.”
Schwarzenegger said this shortly after signing a deal with the provincial premier to adopt a low carbon fuel standard, in which all transportation fuels will cut their carbon content 10% by 2020.
“California,” declared Schwarzenegger, “has set standards more stringent than any nation. Now, do I believe the standards in California will solve global warming? No. That’s not why I did it. What we’re doing is changing the dynamic. California is so big, California is so powerful that when the seventh largest economy in the world does something, it has consequences. California is sending the world a message: we are going to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions. We are going to lead. We are going to show the way forward.”
As Schwarzenegger sets the table rhetorically, Westly and other venture capital investors look to the nitty gritty. Along with the electric car company Tesla — which just did another $45 million round of venture investing, and has sold out its first “halo” round of sports cars at $92,000 per car and is raising the price to $98,000, and is developing a sports sedan for the upper middle class — Westly is very involved with solar electric power generation and “cellulosic,” i.e., non-corn ethanol projects to fuel vehicles. Cellulosic ethanol, which can be made from the “wood chips” for which former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown was once much derided, is key to ethanol’s future, because it does not drive up the price of an important food stock.
The fact is that we’re not yet sure what new fuels will be most appropriate for personal vehicles — the clear and overwhelming choice for Californians — in the greenhouse era. It may be hydrogen, which Schwarzenegger hypes, it may be hybrid, it may be electric, it may be ethanol or other biofuels.
The future, as a certain character in a movie called Terminator 2 once said, is not set. But its general direction is.
** GIULIANI IN “SILICON VALLEY.” Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani had a fundraiser this afternoon in Burlingame, billed by supporters as a Silicon Valley event. (Actually, in point of fact, Burlingame is not in the Valley, it’s on the San Francisco Peninsula, north of the Valley.) He’ll also do some fundraising in Beverly Hills, following on the heels of birthday fundraising in New York (he turned 63 on Memorial Day), where he was dogged by 9/11 victim families and firefighters union officials, who, striking at the heart of his candidacy, assail him for his leadership on and immediately after 9/11. But that is another matter.
Giuliani attacked the former first lady, whose husband, former President Bill Clinton, was a great favorite of California’s high tech elite, for supporting increases in capital gains taxes and rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthiest.
Giuliani is just the first of three major presidential candidates to appear in Silicon Valley, or thereabouts, in just over 24 hours.
Democrat John Edwards is doing a town hall meeting at Google right now. Hillary Clinton herself will address the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which provided a backdrop for one of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s events in favor of his comprehensive health care plan, last week. And Barack Obama will be arriving this weekend.
** VILLARAIGOSA IS A NATIONAL CHAIR OF HILLARY CLINTON’S CAMPAIGN. As revealed yesterday on NWN, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa this afternoon endorsed Hillary Clinton at an event on the UCLA campus. Villaraigosa will serve as one of the national chairs of her presidential campaign.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. A 19th day of searching by thousands of US troops south of Baghdad for the two remaining surviving American soldiers captured in an ambush by Al Qaeda has ended. The prisoners have still not been located.
** ARNOLD IN CANADA. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tour continues. He visited a stem cell research lab in Toronto and announced that UC Berkeley’s Stem Cell Center and Canada’s International Regulome Consortium will coordinate research. He and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty then announced the creation of the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium, which will coordinate and fund cancer stem cell research of both Canada and California researchers, universities and private industry. The Ontario Institute of Cancer Research (OICR) will donate the first $30 million, that’s Canadian dollars, to fund the new consortium.
Then Schwarzenegger addressed the luncheon of the Toronto Economic Club, where he received the Newsmaker of the Year award. This afternoon, he meets with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Hunter in the national capital of Ottawa.
** REPUBLICAN SCUFFLING ON IMMIGRATION CONTINUES. The McCain campaign wonders if Mitt Romney, now a staunch foe of illegal immigration after previous ambiguous statements, will respond to President Bush’s characterization of criticism of the immigration bill as “empty political rhetoric, trying to frighten our citizens.” Probably not.
** CALIFORNIA AND ONTARIO ACCORD ON CLIMATE CHANGE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, continuing his jaunt through Canada, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty for the American state and the Canadian province to develop ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. As Ontario is Canada’s chief car-producing province, it may not be as amenable to California’s overall cap on greenhouse gas emissions. But the premier of the Canadian province has committed it to follow California’s new low carbon fuel standard, in which the carbon content of transportation fuels sold in the state is to be reduced 10% by 2020.
“We are going to work with Ontario to develop a similar low carbon fuel policy in their region,” says Schwarzenegger, “which is even more powerful because Ontario is known as the ‘Detroit of Canada,’ the hub of all the automobile manufacturing. So what we are doing here today would be like establishing a Low Carbon Fuel Standard in Michigan. Just imagine the progress we will make in our fight against global warming.”
** A NEW/OLD TACK. With the lawsuit to overturn California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s ballot description having predictably failed, and with new polling indicating positive prospects for the initiative to change term limits next February, the backers of the current term limit law in the Golden State, headed by Washington-based US Term Limits, are turning to a golden oldie tactic. Attack the politicians. They intend to attack the state Legislature as corrupt and do-nothing. It’s not a popular institution, though it’s not as unpopular as it was, so it’s not an unsound thing to do. But with the relatively minor distinctions between the current version and the proposed version — 14 years allowable in both houses today (only six in the Assembly, eight in the Senate) vs. 12 years allowable in both houses in the new version, but all 12 could be served in the same house — voters may shrug at the fuss. That’s especially true if Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is very popular, weighs in on behalf of the change.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. Thousands of American troops are now in the midst of an 18th day of searching for the remaining two US soldiers captured by Al Qaeda in an ambush south of Baghdad. They have had no luck so far. But the activity may be preventing Al Qaeda from having the time and space to film the captives in a propaganda bonanza.
Senator Hillary Clinton discusses her campaign theme song.
As the top candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards come west this week, Clinton gets a boost for her frontrunning Democratic presidential campaign today from LA’s mayor. NWN learned yesterday morning that the touted “major announcement” this afternoon at UCLA is the endorsement of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
It’s not a big surprise, in that Villaraigosa’s close ally, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, is national co-chairman for Clinton and his former campaign manager, Ace Smith, is Clinton’s California director. Both were previously revealed here.
Before Clinton comes to California today, she campaigns in Nevada, meeting with the culinary workers in Las Vegas before holding a noon town hall meeting in North Las Vegas. Her town hall in Reno a few weeks ago drew a whopping 3500 people. Clinton leads in the polls in Nevada, the second-in-the-nation contest in the Democratic presidential race, where she was just endorsed by former Governor Bob Miller, the last Democrat to hold the office and a strong supporter of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
On Thursday, Hillary Clinton gives a speech in Silicon Valley, to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. She’ll do some California fundraising on both days.
John Edwards will also be here for fundraising. He actually has a $15 per person fundraiser on Thursday in San Jose, a way for the grassroots to get some personal access to him.
Barack Obama will be in California over the weekend for fundraising, and probably something else to be announced. Obama’s strong fundraising, which surpassed that of Clinton during the first quarter, is continuing apace.
The Villaraigosa endorsement of Hillary Clinton came after some big-time wooing on the part of the former first couple, which is ever mindful of the strong challenge being mounted by Obama. Hillary Clinton met at length with the mayor in LA. The two appeared together earlier in the year to promote an LA clean-up drive. And Bill Clinton had dinner with him in New York earlier this month when the LA mayor attended the Clinton Foundation’s climate change summit for major cities around the world.
While Villaraigosa is a major Latino political star in America, his record as an endorser is mixed. He’s also had a rougher time of it lately as mayor, with a number of things going wrong. As speaker of the California Assembly, he backed super-rich businessman Al Checchi for governor in 1998. He lost the race for the Democratic nomination in a landslide to Gray Davis.
In 2004, Villaraigosa was a national co-chairman of John Kerry’s presidential campaign, gaining valuable experience and connections. Last year, he endorsed movie director Rob Reiner’s tax-the-rich for universal preschool initiative. It lost in the California primary election, which was dominated by Democrats.
Close to home, Villaraigosa’s candidates this year for the sprawling LA Unified school board triumphed. But it took millions of dollars of spending and voters did not exactly flock to the polls in answer to the mayor’s call. The turnout in the first round of voting was an astonishingly meager 9%; in the run-off just 6%.
Endorsements have historically had limited utility in California Democratic presidential primaries, in which insurgents have at least as good a track record as do candidates of the party establishment, which Clinton is clearly becoming here. Clinton is putting together a strong conventional campaign here, staffing up early as I’ve reported and is likely to run a strong campaign geared to constituency groups with a major vote by mail operation.
While Iowa and Nevada wait to hold their presidential caucuses in mid-January, many Californians will already be voting by mail. The Clinton campaign wants to bank those votes early, and a figure like Villaraigosa, with strong appeal to Latinos and to LA area voters, may be very helpful in that regard.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the international scene
again this week, on a three-day trip to Canada where he’ll sign
greenhouse accords with two provinces and promote trade.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. An 18th day of searching by thousands of US troops south of Baghdad for the two remaining American soldiers captured in an ambush by Al Qaeda has ended. The prisoners have still not been located.
I remember hearing Obama had been selected and wondering, who on earth is that guy? The choice was John Kerry’s. Ultimately. Kerry himself, impressed by Obama during an April 2004 campaign swing, had put his name in the hopper, along with several others. Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill made the fateful pick, and Kerry agreed.
** VILLARAIGOSA WILL ENDORSE CLINTON. NWN has learned that the “major announcement” tomorrow at UCLA will be the endorsement of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Senator Hillary Clinton for president. It’s not a big surprise, in that Villaraigosa’s close ally, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, is national co-chairman for Clinton and his former campaign manager, Ace Smith, is Clinton’s California director. Both were previously revealed here.
** HILLARY TO NEVADA. Senator Hillary Clinton campaigns in Nevada tomorrow, meeting with the culinary workers in Las Vegas before holding a noon town hall meeting in North Las Vegas. Her town hall in Reno a few weeks ago drew a whopping 3500 people. Clinton leads in the polls in Nevada, the second-in-the-nation contest in the Democratic presidential race.
** HILLARY, OBAMA, AND EDWARDS TO CALIFORNIA. The top three Democratic presidential candidates all make it to California this week. Hillary Clinton arrives tomorrow in LA, swinging over from Vegas. She’ll go to UCLA for a “major announcement.” One clue is that the event is at a preschool. On Thursday, she’ll give a speech in Silicon Valley. In between, she’ll do some fundraising.
As will John Edwards, who arrives later in the week. He actually has a $15 per person fundraiser on Thursday in San Jose, a week for the grassroots to get some personal access to him.
Barack Obama will be in California over the weekend for fundraising, and something else TBA.
** ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the road again this week, this time spending three days in Canada. There he will sign memorandums of understanding with the premiers of two Canadian provinces — British Columbia, which I’ve already reported on, and Ontario — to share information on climate change, begin to monitor greenhouse gas emissions, promote renewable energy, and begin to develop a cap & trade carbon market. (The last point is controversial with some, advocates of hard-and-fast regulation who want hardline regulation to happen first, and apparently think the law California passed last year is less vague than it is.)
Schwarzenegger and his band of 52 business folks along for the trip will also promote California products and services. The trip is being paid for by the California protocol fund, i.e., through a Chamber of Commerce-associated entity using undisclosed private contributions. This is controversial as well, as well it should be.
The practice of private finance of public trips began with Governor Pete Wilson’s administration in the early ’90s. I wrote about it then to expose it, and the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission took up the issue. But Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters defended the practice, and then Controller Gray Davis’s appointee went missing when a vote was taken, and that was that.
Meanwhile, legislative leaders continue to haggle over and hassle with each other over term limits and redistricting reform. As I’ve said before, nothing will be settled on that front absent Schwarzenegger and the top leaders getting together. And that won’t happen for awhile.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. Thousands of American troops are now in the midst of an 18th day of searching for the remaining two US soldiers captured by Al Qaeda in an ambush south of Baghdad. They have had no luck so far. But the activity may be preventing Al Qaeda from having the time and space to film the captives in a propaganda bonanza.
The U.S. Navy faces wave after wave of suicide bombers. 62
years ago. From the classic, Victory At Sea.
This Memorial Day finds the country in an extraordinary situation. Embroiled in a war in Iraq which has lasted longer than World War II, over 70% say America is moving in the wrong direction. Nearly two-thirds say the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. The war itself has become a bloody stalemate. Because of the unprecedented use of the National Guard, which the Bush Administration never anticipated, states such as California find their ability to respond to crises at home sharply diminished, as equipment departs with the units to Iraq, but doesn’t come back with the citizen-soldiers.
It’s ironic, because the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the toppling of Saddam Hussein was actually a great triumph of American arms. Saddam was clearly one of the worst dictators in the world. He looted his country of revenues it earned while being sanctioned for weapons programs violations after the first Gulf War, causing the death of hundreds of thousands of his own citizens while making himself one of the richest men in the world. He used poison gas to put down internal uprisings, freely employing a murderous secret police for which the most grotesque forms of torture were de rigeur.
The US armed forces stormed through Iraq, captured Baghdad, eliminated the regime, and sent Saddam into a pathetic course of hiding in spider holes. But by the time he was captured, it had all gone sour for America in Iraq. And the execution of Saddam a few months ago, seen here, dramatically revealed how little real control or understanding of the situation we have, as the event turned into an impromptu demonstration on behalf of a fundamentalist cleric whose militia kills American soldiers.
Did it have to be this way? Simply looking at the map reveals the significant advantages of having bases in Iraq. From there, the US could readily check the adventurist ambitions of Iran and Syria, strike at terrorist enclaves throughout the region, and backstop Israel. With a multi-national presence, power and oil revenue sharing arrangements, and a decision not to make American soldiers targets, things might have gone better. Or maybe not.
But egged on by con men and charlatans, the US seized on a pretext and a fantasy to embark on a massive project it never understood. A pretext of largely non-existent weapons of mass destruction (to be fair, a fiction engineered at least in part by Saddam, to maintain order and pose a credible threat after his army was exposed in the first Gulf War). And a fantasy about the likely response of the Iraqi people. Having denounced “nation-building” as a presidential candidate, George W. Bush, with the exile Iraqi National Congress exposed for what it was, and with the Iraqi people souring quickly on a US occupying force that couldn’t keep the lights on, ended up engaged in exactly that.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who’d had ample opportunity to think through the Iraq War, having publicly committed to it in the late 1990s, employed his conception of the “revolution in military affairs” — a melding of high tech weaponry with fast-moving, smaller forces — to quickly topple Saddam. But the force was far too small to maintain order and infrastructure in the country, showing that he and his allies had no concept of what they were doing once there. A comedy of errors ensued as the complex ethnic and religious brew of a country created by British imperial fiat and maintained through brute dictatorial strength spiraled into chaos. Which made it an excellent haven and proving ground for Al Qaeda, which previously had had only incidental contact with the Iraqi regime.
As we struggle to come to grips with the situation, those who would replace the shrunken president struggle with their own concepts and statements.
John McCain mused about how safe it is now to move about Baghdad. When accompanied, as it happens, by a company of infantry with helicopter gunships overhead.
Rudy Giuliani torturously struggles to distinguish between torture (which is not nearly so effective as it seems on 24, which actually cut back the torture-for-information scenes on advice of the Army) and “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Which is a clear frontrunner for euphemism of the year.
John Edwards declares the war on terror to be a bumper sticker slogan. Which ignores the fact that America has very real enemies who have attacked us — New York, Washington, 9/11, ring a bell? — and are undoubtedly waiting to do so ago. And that the war is no less real for being botched.
There have been others, but those spring immediately to mind. Sadly so, since each of those men is quite able and quite intelligent.
And so we muddle on on this Memorial Day. Facing a complex set of challenges that become harder rather than easier as misfiring strategists keep moving the target. Oh, we’re having trouble catching Bin Laden, the real problem is Saddam. Oh, surprise, we’re in deep guano in Iraq, the real problem is Iran. And so forth.
America has faced and overcome many excruciating challenges in the past. As the video above shows, suicide bombers are nothing new except to the ahistorical. Challenges can be met, but they should not be treated as dares. With intelligent leadership, blending sophisticated diplomacy with military power, the anti-American wildfire that Islamic jihadist forces seek to ignite around the world will go unlit.
With a policy of aggressive containment, Al Qaeda will be effectively countered around the world. Iran, to the extent that it poses a threat, can be countered and reformist forces within can begin again to flourish. Iraq is a stickier wicket, having been so thoroughly botched through each iteration of policy. US troops will not be withdrawn anywhere near immediately. The country, while rejecting the latest Iraq policy as it has every other, has no consensus on how to end the war. So the Bush Administration slowly but surely moves to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, seemingly rejected months ago, and meets today in Baghdad with representatives of Iran and floats scenarios of massive troop cutbacks even as it moves to further increase the number of combat troops in the short-term. It’s a mess shot through with irony. But a solution will be found. The lesson of Memorial Day, and the sacrifice of centuries, is that one nearly always is.
Formula One world championship contender Kimi Raikonnen, in his blazing qualifying lap for the Monaco Grand Prix two years ago, roars through the streets of Monte Carlo.
** MONACO GRAND PRIX. A light day of politics, needless to say. The Formula One circuit hit Monaco this weekend, running the Grand Prix of Monaco through the colorful streets of Monte Carlo. The video above gives you a sense of the view. Reigning world champion Fernando Alonso of Spain led from start to finish through all the twists and turns, beating his British teammate Lewis Hamilton with the British McLaren-Mercedes team by four seconds. Brazil’s Felipe Massa was a distant third for Italy’s Ferrarri team. Finland’s Kimi Raikonnen, now racing for Ferrarri, had engine trouble and finished eighth. Alonso and Hamilton, a 22-year old rookie, are tied after five races in the hunt for the F1 world title. The globe-spanning F1 circuit hits North America in the next few weeks, with the Canadian and US Grand Prixs.
** BIG CALIFORNIA PENSION FUND JOINS COALITION PRESSURING EXXON MOBIL. California’s massive Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS), has joined the coalition of two dozen institutional investors pressing Exxon Mobil to regulate its greenhouse gas emissions, invest more in renewable energy, and remove Stanford economist (and chief economic advisor to Republican presidential frontrunner Rudy Giuliani) from the Exxon Mobil board. As chairman of Exxon Mobil’s Public Issues committee, say the investors and their environmentalist allies, Boskin has refused to meet to discuss climate change.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. A 16th day of searching by thousands of US troops south of Baghdad for the two remaining American soldiers captured in an ambush by Al Qaeda is nearing a close. The prisoners have still not been located.
** “CRAZY” RUDY. There’s been some chatter, including in the NWN forum, about Ronald Reagan calling Rudy Giuliani “crazy” in his diaries. It turns out that Reagan wrote the comment when he learned that Giuliani was proposing to indict Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who many believed looted his country.
Reagan: Jim Kelly NSC came in to report Philippine legis. is giving us trouble on renewing our mil. bases there. And Giuliani (U.S. Attorney) is talking of drawing up an indictment against Marcos. I think he’s crazy.
That kind of puts a different spin on things, don’t you think? Giuliani successfully prosecuted Michael Milken and other corporate takeover artists of the 1980s.
“Never tell me the odds.” It’s the 30th anniversary of Star Wars this Memorial Day weekend. This is actually a scene from the second film in the series, best of the six, The Empire Strikes Back.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. A 15th day of searching by thousands of US troops south of Baghdad for the two remaining American soldiers captured in an ambush by Al Qaeda has ended. The prisoners have still not been located.
** ISG RULES. Incidentally, as I’ve said from the beginning, President George W. Bush is going to end up doing mostly what the far right’s bete noire, the Iraq Study Group, recommended late last year. Just somewhat later than advised by his father’s (and Ronald Reagan’s) wise men. That’s because it’s the logic of the situation. Yet he is quite stubborn. Witness the dramatic force reduction scenario being floated today. Not to mention next Monday’s negotiation in Baghdad with Iran on the future of Iraq.
** SCHWARZENEGGER AND DELLUMS. This is over the heads of the largely non-historically oriented California press corps. But I’m wondering who else was amused by the lengthy and, by accounts from both sides, quite amiable time spent together yesterday by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and new Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums. Dellums, as well-informed people over the age of 25 know, was perhaps the most famous left-wing member of Congress in his heyday. Then the former House Armed Services Commitee chairman retired and became a lobbyist. For some major corporate interests. Then he came to back to politics to help reassert the fading black community’s interest in California politics, taking advantage of then Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown’s wildly successful campaign for attorney general.
The famous Dellums won the Oakland mayoralty in a landslide. Then yesterday found himself in quite agreeable circumstances with Schwarzenegger. Lauding the state’s super-prompt reopening of the Oakland-based MacArthur Maze east of the Bay Bridge following the massive, disrupting tanker truck accident there less than four weeks ago. And spending the better part of an afternoon in agreement with Schwarzenegger’s anti-gang strategies.
** A CONSERVATIVE REJECTING THE RIGHT’S LEGAL ARGUMENTS. The Sacramento Superior Court judge, incidentally, who summarily rejected the right-wing challenge to Atttorney General Jerry Brown’s ballot description of the California term limits change initiative, is a Republican apppointed by the very conservative former Governor George Deujkmejian. And Judge Gail Ohanesian is also the judge who tossed with more than a little contempt the lawsuit which sought to block Brown from being installed as the state attorney general. After the former governor and Yale Law School grad had won a 19-point landslide victory over the relentlessly negative campaign of former state Senator Chuck Poochigian.
** AN ANNIVERSARY. 30 years ago this weekend, a little film called Star Wars went into wide release in US theaters. The movies were never the same after.
** AND INDY. The most recent Indiana Jones picture, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, which features Sean Connery as Harrison Ford’s dad, a thrill for Connery to be sure, was released 18 years ago this weekend. The fourth movie in the series is scheduled to go before the cameras on June 12th, with Steven Spielberg directing and Star Wars guru George Lucas producing. Connery is still likely to appear in the latest sequel. With the great Cate (Elizabeth) Blanchett.
I don’t want to spend an enormous amount of time writing on a holiday weekend, since I write too much as it is. But the “he wouldn’t know an RPG from a bong” shot on Obama by an unnamed McCain advisor — and my observation is that Republican political staffs are equivalent to Democratic political staffs in their relative absence of vets — reminds me of McCain’s wonderful memoir, Faith of My Fathers. (McCain’s father and grandfather having been four-star admirals.) I’m not at home, so don’t have the personally inscribed copy of it in front of me. But I am reminded of the senator’s own tales of himself as perhaps the hardest partying officer in the Navy of the 1960s. And there was a great passage of a training base he was stationed at, with regular booze and babe-soaked parties, in which he was the “commodore” of the Lake Something or other Yachting Club. Which had, as I recall, a raft with a flag on it as its “flagship.” Which occasionally sallied forth on the “lake.”
I’m thinking an Obama-McCain race would be most entertaining.
There’s a backlog of at least 10 produced NWN video clips of
Arnold Schwarzenegger, and many hours more unproduced footage,
but heading into a holiday weekend his discussion of an upcoming
film seems most appropriate.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. A 14th day of searching by thousands of US troops south of Baghdad for the two remaining American soldiers captured in an ambush by Al Qaeda has ended. The prisoners have still not been located.
** COURT DISMISSES BID TO CHANGE CALI TERM LIMITS INITIATIVE DESCRIPTION. The attempt by Washington-based US Term Limits to overturn California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s ballot description of an initiative to change the state’s term limits law was thrown out today in court.
“We applaud the court for rejecting this transparent campaign stunt,” said campaign strategist Gale Kaufman. “The Attorney General did his job and wrote an accurate and fair Title and Summary of this initiative. The U.S. Term Limits lawsuit was a cynical campaign tactic to garner free media attention while clogging our overworked court system with a meritless case.”
The initiative, if passed at next year’s February primary election, would reduce the total number of years that can be served in the state Legislature from 14 to 12, but allow a member to serve up to 12 years in one house. Currently, members are limited to six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate. The initiative would also have the effect of allowing current leadership to remain in place.
** POLITICAL FIREFIGHT ON IRAQ.
“This country is united in our support for our troops, but we also owe them a plan to relieve them of the burden of policing someone else’s civil war. Governor Romney and Senator McCain clearly believe the course we are on in Iraq is working, but I do not.
“And if there ever was a reflection of that it’s the fact that Senator McCain required a flack jacket, ten armored Humvees, two Apache attack helicopters, and 100 soldiers with rifles by his side to stroll through a market in Baghdad just a few weeks ago.
“Governor Romney and Senator McCain are still supporting a war that has cost us thousands of lives, made us less safe in the world, and resulted in a resurgence of al-Qaeda. It is time to end this war so that we can redeploy our forces to focus on the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and all those who plan to do us harm.”
U.S. Senator Barack Obama
“While Senator Obama’s two years in the U.S. Senate certainly entitle him to vote against funding our troops, my service and experience combined with conversations with military leaders on the ground in Iraq lead me to believe that we must give this new strategy a chance to succeed because the consequences of failure would be catastrophic to our nation’s security.
“By the way, Senator Obama, it’s a ‘flak’ jacket, not a ‘flack’ jacket.”
U.S. Senator John McCain
** STAR WARS ANNIVERSARY. Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of a little film called Star Wars. But it’s being celebrated tomorrow, so no spaceships making the jump to hyperspace or corny witticisms today. It is also the sixth anniversary of the release of Pearl Harbor. Which, were it the fifth anniversary of the film’s release, i.e., post-9/11, would be a much bigger deal.
** ON THE ONE HAND, ON THE OTHER HAND.
“Senators Obama, Clinton and Dodd stood up and did the right thing — voting down the president’s war policy. They’re showing real leadership toward ending the war, and MoveOn’s members are grateful. This bold stand won’t soon be forgotten.”
MoveOn.org Director Eli Pariser
“I was very disappointed to see Senator Obama and Senator Clinton embrace the policy of surrender by voting against funds to support our brave men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. This vote may win favor with MoveOn and liberal primary voters, but it’s the equivalent of waving a white flag to al Qaeda.”
** AMERICAN CAPTIVES OF AL QAEDA STILL NOT FOUND. Thousands of US troops are in their 14th day south of Baghdad searching for the two surviving American soldiers captured by Al Qaeda on May 12th. Their captive compatriot, a 21-year old from the LA area, turned up dead in the Euphrates River on Wednesday.
** SCHWARZENEGGER AT MACARTHUR MAZE WEBCAST. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will celebrate the rapid reopening of the I-580 connector melted down in a fiery crash less than a month ago. The connector opened to traffic this morning. He’ll be at the MacArthur Maze just east of the Bay Bridge linking San Francisco with Oakland. The webcast begins at 10:45 AM.
** AN $80 MILLION WARHOL. Now this is a bargain. Just a week after the artist’s “Green Car Crash” set an auction record of nearly $72 million, another work by Andy Warhol, “Turquoise Marilyn,” has just been sold in a private deal for $80 million. It’s one of the artist’s pieces from the ’60s, this one a portrait of Marilyn Monroe.
** THE LOST / CALIFORNIA POLITICS LINKAGE.The woman who played the head of the secret underwater jamming facility on the season finale of Lost, Tracy Middendorf, is, as Schwarzenegger finance spokesman H.D. Palmer tells us, married to former senior Pete Wilson aide Franz Wisner. She quite convincingly tortured hero Charlie, played by Dominic Monaghan, one of the heroic hobbits in the Lord of the Rings movies, when he showed up to turn off the jamming device so the losties could be rescued. But when she herself was shot, fatally, by another henchman of the chief bad guy, she gave Charlie the code he needed. A Beach Boys song. The California connections abound.
** PARIS AND ARNOLD. Forgot about this one. On The Tonight Show Wednesday, Schwarzenegger, asked about the Paris Hilton controversy — an issue he has no patience for — and whether he would pardon her (that would be a no), quipped: “I’ve seen all her films. Obviously, we both do action movies.”
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders working on universal health care plans find their efforts under attack now from a big insurance company. Likening the Schwarzenegger efforts to the disastrous energy deregulation scheme of the 1990s, Blue Cross has formed the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform, a coalition in search of members, with a $2 million budget starting out.
“Unintended consequences do happen,” the insurer says in a newspaper ad. “Other states have tried healthcare reforms like ‘guaranteed issue’ that sounded good. They now have the highest premiums in the country while California has the lowest. Sound familiar? Remember how the rash deregulation of the energy market in California spawned power outages and soaring rates? Let’s not go there again.”
Blue Cross, unlike some other health insurers, essentially cherry picks its clients. It’s gotten some bad publicity over that. I suspect that it will get some more. Under Schwarzenegger’s plan, all Californians would have access to health care.
Is the comprehensive health care issue like the energy deregulation issue? Not so much. There was little airing of the issues beforehand with regard to electric power. The energy bill that passed a decade ago, and which spawned the electric power crisis of 2001, was actually little discussed or publicized. Few members of the Legislature knew what they were voting on, and the scheme passed overwhelmingly. Even Tom Hayden voted for it, to his lasting dismay.
In contrast, the health care issue is being exhaustively discussed, in public. And, foolish as the “deregulation” of energy scheme was, the crisis still could have been averted with timely and decisive action in 2000 and early 2001. Which the consultants working for Blue Cross, being Republicans who backed the electricity deregulation debacle, should know quite well. But that is a story for another column.
Schwarzenegger has done a very good job of splitting the business community in what many had expected to be a solid front of opposition to his or any other comprehensive health care program. Others, such as the Chamber of Commerce and, perhaps, the California Restaurant Association (with which Schwarzenegger had a lengthy private session), may join in the effort against Schwarzenegger’s proposal and the proposals of Democratic legislative leaders Fabian Nunez and Don Perata, which are readily combined, but millions are being ponied up by the lone insurance company.
The California Nurses Association has already been attacking from the opposite end of the spectrum, pushing the so-called single-payer solution. Which even John Edwards rejected for his much praised on the left health care plan. Single-payer was wiped out at the polls in a California initiative campaign several years ago. But the attacks from the left aren’t a real problem.
The Blue Cross campaign may not be a real problem, either. Beginning with a very faulty analogy isn’t good. Being a coalition of one, and one that is readily exposed as a self-interested party, also is not good.
The truth is, people don’t like health insurance companies much. Polling and focus groups show that — as you might suppose simply from talking to people you know — consumers think insurers charge too much money and deliver too little service. And they don’t trust that their coverage will be honored when it counts. Having the opposition charge led by such could be a good thing for universal health care advocates.