Hoover has a somewhat anomalous role at Stanford, in most respects being much more conservative than the university as a whole, not unlike an American Enterprise Institute West. It’s also semi-autonomous, with a fellowship appointment like that of Rumsfeld — architect of the Iraq War — not needing to be approved by the university administration.
Bonds is 43 and the Giants are mired in last place in the National League West. He’s hitting .279 this season with 28 homers — and leads the league in on-base average because so many pitchers still walk him, making the National League All-Stars again this season — but he doesn’t move nearly as well as he used to, needs more rest, and made over $15 million this season.
Bonds has 762 home runs for his career. He broke Hank Aaron’s career record on August 7th, as you watched here on NWN. The seven-time league MVP says he had hoped to end his career in San Francisco, where his father Bobby also starred and where his godfather, Willie May, was the superstar of his childhood. Now he aims to play elsewhere next season, probably as a designated hitter.
The US State Department, which of course runs the US Embassy in Baghdad, has become almost completely dependent upon Blackwater for the security of its personnel in Baghdad. So much for the traditional US Marine Corps detachments.
** HILLARY CLINTON’S BLOCK PARTY IN OAKLAND. Incidentally, I’m reminded that Hillary Clinton’s big event in downtown Oakland Sunday afternoon is not a rally per se, it’s a block party, an outing for the family with all that block party kind of stuff. It will still be interesting to compare the size and enthusiasm of her crowd with that of Barack Obama, who did a huge rally in downtown Oakland several months ago.
That’s all for the general election. The AFL-CIO is neutral in the presidential primaries, although individual unions are free to choose their own candidates.
** CALIFORNIA GETS MITT ROMNEY FOR FIVE DAYS. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has ridden a wave of mostly unanswered early advertising to leads in Iowa and New Hampshire among Republicans, but has lagged in California and national polls. Now the new poll discussed in this morning’s column shows him tied for second, running just six points behind Rudy Giuliani.
And by coincidence, Romney, credited with saving the Winter Olympic Games in Utah early in the decade, is about to arrive in California for five days of campaigning. He’ll do a lot of fundraising, naturally, but he’s also going to do a fair amount of public campaigning, including several “Ask Mitt Anything” town halls. We’ll see how that last goes.
Unfortunately, his schedule is “for planning purposes only,” so I can’t tell you now what he’s going to do. But he will be campaigning in Southern California, Northern California, the Central Valley, and the state capital.
** HILLARY IN CALIFORNIA. Hillary Clinton returns to California — her husband was here a few days ago, for a private Hollywood fundraiser and an appearance with Arnold Schwarzenegger promoting their children’s healthy lifestyles project — for some, you guessed it, fundraising. And for a big rally. It’s Sunday afternoon in downtown Oakland. Barack Obama had a huge rally in downtown Oakland several months ago. It will be interesting to compare the two. Right now, she has a big lead on Obama in California, as seen in the poll discussed in this morning’s column.
But their movements are limited and require Iraqi approval. Blackwater’s license to operate in Iraq has been suspended and the US and Iraq have formed a joint commission to determine any wrongdoing in an incident last weekend in which personnel guarding a State Department motorcade are said to have killed a number of civilians.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry issued a report that concluded that Blackwater operators in Baghdad’s Nisour Square started shooting after two mortar rounds landed nearby.
“They started shooting randomly from four positions in the square, killing 11 civilians and injuring 12 other,” Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the interior ministry spokesman. “The first one who was killed was a driver who failed to stop and then his wife,” Khalaf said.
The report also calls for the lifting of legal immunity for foreign security companies operating in Iraq, which was an early edict of the US provisional authority before Iraq got its own government up and running.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki calls the shootings last weekend a “criminal act” by Blackwater.
Blackwater is responsible for security for US embassy and CIA station personnel in Iraq. But they play a more expansive role than that.
From the Blackwater mission statement: We are not simply a “private security company.” We are a professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations firm who provides turnkey solutions. We assist with the development of national and global security policies and military transformation plans. We can train, equip and deploy public safety and military professionals, build live-fire indoor/outdoor ranges, MOUT facilities and shoot houses, create ground and aviation operations and logistics support packages, develop and execute canine solutions for patrol and explosive detection, and can design and build facilities both domestically and in austere environments abroad.
Blackwater lives its core values of excellence, efficiency, execution, and teamwork. In doing this, we have become the most responsive, cost-effective means of affecting the strategic balance in support of security and peace, and freedom and democracy everywhere.
Note: MOUT is the acronym for Military Operations on Urban Terrain.
** RECORD OIL PRICE, AGAIN.Oil continued its surge yesterday, boosted by bullish geopolitical uncertainties around Iraq and Iran and the evacuation of crews from oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico threatened by heavy weather.
Crude oil reached yet another new record high of $84.10 during the day, settling at a record $83.32 upon the close of trading.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. American troops are now in the midst of a 129th 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. A video put out by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq claims that all three men were executed after being captured. But, with the exception of the Californian found floating in the Euphrates River, that claim can’t be confirmed. The US high command in Baghdad has revealed that ID cards for the other two American prisoners were found in an Al Qaeda safehouse on June 9th.
Driven in large measure by insecurity about the housing and stock markets and dissatisfaction with the summer’s state budget stall and the latest Iraq policy, the mood of Californians has darkened in a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). Not surprisingly, support for government intervention in health care is high, and the term limits change initiative is favored.
First the news about politicians in this environment. Only Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, among the names polled, is holding up well with voters. He has a job approval rating of 59% among likely voters. His possible opponent in the 2010 Senate race, Senator Barbara Boxer, has dropped to a 46% job approval rating, with nearly as many, 41%, disapproving. Senator Dianne Feinstein, historically equivalent with Schwarzenegger, is in between at 52% approval. Her decline is probably attributable to frustration with the Iraq situation.
Speaking of which, President George W. Bush continues to be massively unpopular in California, along with his latest Iraq policy, which is favored by only 24%. Only 25% believe the surge is working. Over 60% want a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops.
Other state officials, such as former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown, were not measured in this poll. But the state Legislature was, and its job approval rating is only 29%.
All these job approval numbers are lower among California residents at large.
Yet the state government, while held in low esteem — only 25% trust it to do the right thing all or most of the time — is a little bit better liked than the federal government. While 73% think that state government is dominated by a few big interests, 77% think that of the federal government. That’s probably due to Iraq.
In the presidential primary, Hillary Clinton continues to lead Democrats, with 41% to Barack Obama at 23% and John Edwards at 14%. On the Republican side, where dissatisfaction with the candidates is greater, Rudy Giuliani’s lead has slid. He’s now at 22%, with Fred Thompson at 16%, Mitt Romney at 16%, and John McCain at 15%. 76% of Democrats are satisfied with their candidates, while only 55% of Republicans say the same about theirs.
42% of the voters identified themselves as Democrats, 33% Republicans, 20% independents, and 5% members of other parties.
Now to the policy. The term limits change initiative, which would lower the overal length of service in the Legislature from 14 to 12 years but allow it all to be served in one house, is backed by a healthy 55% of the voters.
On redistricting reform, shelved at the last minute this year by intransigence among some Democrats and increasingly cold feet among Republicans, 66% want the task taken out of the hands of the Legislature and given to an independent commission.
On health care, among all Californians, 61% favor the plan of Democratic legislative leaders Fabian Nunez and Don Perata, with employers bearing the brunt of the burden of expanding health care. But 72% favor the plan of Schwarzenegger, with employers, health care providers, and individuals picking up the tab.
But among likely voters, the numbers are different. Only 47% favor the Democratic health care plan, while 63% favor the Schwarzenegger plan.
Underlying the support for health care reform is economic insecurity. 62% of likely voters say they expect bad economic times next year. That’s up a whopping 20 points since January.
General Wes Clark, former NATO commander, on Iraq and regional solutions.
** NORMAN HSU ARRIVES BACK IN CALIFORNIA, INDICTED ON NEW FEDERAL CHARGES IN NEW YORK. Disgraced political fundraiser Norman Hsu, one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest financial backers — her campaign has returned $850,000 raised by him after it became apparent he may have been using “straw man” donors to launder funds into the 2008 presidential venture — is back now in California following an expedited extradition from Colorado urged by Attorney General Jerry Brown.
As projected in the early morning report on NWN, Hsu was indicted on federal charges today in New York. He’s alleged to have swindled $60 million from investors and to have violated campaign finance laws. Obviously, this is going to be a big ongoing story.
** IT MAY NOT QUITE BE THE UNTOUCHABLES, BUT IT’S NOT BAD. Former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown announced this afternoon that the Division of Gambling Control caught two counterfeiters who were feeding fake $100 bills into slot machines at a Tribal Casino in Mendocino County.
Brown said: “These two bandits used home printers to make fake bills that tricked casino slot machines into paying out more than $100,000. Our Division of Gambling Control demonstrated great skill and incredible ingenuity in catching and arresting these counterfeiters.”
Jack Daniels Ewing, 27, and Mikael Inturbe, 27, were arrested today at the Sho-Ka-Wah Casino in Hopland, that’s in Mendocino County, on charges of conspiracy, counterfeiting and burglary. A four-month investigation revealed that the two-man team was bleaching real $1 bills and using home printers to make counterfeit $100 bills. Brown says the counterfeiters bilked at least 20 casinos in Northern California and Nevada out of more than $100,000.
** MOVEON FIGHT CONTINUES AS U.S. SENATE PASSES AMENDMENT CONDEMNING PERSONAL ATTACKS ON PETRAEUS. The Senate has passed an amendment by Republican Senator Jon Cornyn of Texas to the defense authorization bill condemning attacks on the “honor and integrity” of General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq. This is the continuation of the furor over last week’s MoveOn.org ad in the New York Times attacking Petraeus as “General Betray Us.”
The vote was 72-25. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd voted no, as did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and California Senator Barbara Boxer. California’s senior Senator Dianne Feinstein voted yes, as did Virginia Senator Jim Webb. Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Joe Biden did not vote. All Republicans voted yes, naturally, as this is part of a Republican strategy to isolate MoveOn.org.
Here’s what the Senate passed: It is the sense of the Senate –
(1) To reaffirm its support for all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, including General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq;
(2) To strongly condemn any effort to attack the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all the members of the United States Armed Forces; and
(3) To specifically repudiate the unwarranted personal attack on General Petraeus by the liberal activist group Moveon.org.
Florida is key to Giuliani’s strategy. The state is a rogue, in that it has moved its primary ahead of the schedule agreed to in both national political parties, with Florida now set for late January. But the Republicans are threatening relatively weak sanctions, while the Democrats are stripping all delegates and the major candidates have agreed not to campaign in the primary.
It’s not impossible that Giuliani could lose most of the other early states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. So Florida becomes critical for him. But right now, Thompson’s surge has moved him to the top there, at least with the Law & Order star sharing a piece of it with the former New York mayor.
** IRAN TO THE FORE. Rudy Giuliani used the global spotlight of a trip to London, replete with an award from former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and meetings with current Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former Prime Minister Tony Blair, to declare that stopping Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon would be a top priority of his presidency. He labeled a proposed visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Ground Zero in New York an “obscenity.” The visit won’t happen while the firebrand is in town for the UN General Assembly.
France, under new management with President Nicolas Sarkozy, is in the midst of a firestorm of controversy after Sarkozy’s celebrity Socialist Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that war may be necessary to prevent an Iranian nuke.
The lame duck Bush Administration has been rattling sabers with Iran for many months, to little apparent effect. Over the weekend, I had the chance to ask two very important Americans who figure into future policy, General Wes Clark, the former NATO supreme commander, victor in the Kosovo War, and Senator Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential frontrunner, what they think about the situation.
Clinton primarily deferred to Clark, whom she somewhat jocularly described as a “friend of 25 years, not that we want to remember that.”
Clark, who was the commander of US Southern Command before assuming the command of NATO, and ran a spirited campaign for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, said that Iran is a major threat in three ways.
First, in “utilizing regional proxies through training and direct assistance, all of which is destabilizing for the Middle East.” Second, “through having its tentacles deep inside Iraq.” Third, through its “attempt to build nuclear weapons capacity.”
“This is a serious challenge to the US, to the Middle East, and to all the world.”
I asked how this challenge is best met.
Through “a strategy of engagement,” Clark replied. “But all options must remain on the table. Iran must not be permitted to have nuclear weapons. First, we have to have a serious sustained dialogue with Iran. This administration is not doing that. We have to pursue all avenues of diplomacy and sanctions. But the window is closing.”
“If we haven’t done everything possible,” said Clark, “and that would be and is irresponsible, then the president will be faced with the military option, which must only be used as a last resort. This administration simply is not fulfilling its obligations to Americans and to the region.”
For her part, Clinton said that “I underscore the understanding General Clark has of this problem. We have tried to outsource our policy on Iran to the British and the Germans (who have undertaken back-channel negotiations on our behalf). This has been a big mistake. All we have done is have a series of sporadic announcements and meetings. It is imperative that our engagement with Iran begin as General Clark described.”
** HILLARY FUNDRAISER EXTRADITED TO CALIFORNIA TODAY, FEDERAL CHARGES IN THE WORKS. Top Hillary Clinton fundraiser Norman Hsu, wanted for years on fraud charges in California, who fled to Colorado only to turn up on a train ill from a possible suicide attempt which he bizarrely blamed on Barack Obama, will return today to California upon the insistence of Attorney General Jerry Brown.
Clinton agreed to return the $850,000 raised by Hsu for her presidential campaign amidst widespread concern that he simply laundered the money into her campaign via straw donors.
Meanwhile, federal officials are expected later today to charge Hsu with violating campaign laws and running a multi-million dollar pyramid scheme. The case is expected to be announced by the U.S. attorney in New York. Many investors gave millions of dollars to Hsu for a purported apparel business, but came up short on the return on investment. There are also rumors that Hsu received money from China for his various schemes, including the ventures into political finance.
** SCHWARZENEGGER CLOSETED IN CAPITOL MEETINGS. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is off the public radar today, closeted in meetings on his speicial legislative sessions on health care reform and water policy.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. American troops are now in the midst of a 128th 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. A video put out by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq claims that all three men were executed after being captured. But, with the exception of the Californian found floating in the Euphrates River, that claim can’t be confirmed. The US high command in Baghdad has revealed that ID cards for the other two American prisoners were found in an Al Qaeda safehouse on June 9th.
Here is a thought, gentlemen. At this rate, despite all the terrific accomplishments, you will both be the lamest of ducks in November 2008, while of course NWN remains.
Despite many promises, you failed on redistricting reform. (Of course, the Republicans got cold feet there, too, but they are nowhere near being in charge.) Health care reform is iffy, looking presently like a Rube Goldberg construct. One thing the state actually needs in order to function is a highly reliable supply of water. Get something done. That is, if you want the term limits change initiative to pass next February. From the polls I have, which you may or may not have, California voters are not happy with you.
** JIM WEBB BILL FALLS SHORT IN U.S. SENATE.Virginia Senator Jim Webb’s bill to short-circuit the Iraq military build-up by requiring that US troops spend as much time in the US as they do on deployment in Iraq not surprisingly fell four votes short of the 60 it needs in the Senate to cut off debate on the issue. The vote was 56-44. This is is the most moderate of the bills tried by Democrats to curtail the Iraq War. But it only attracted a handful of Republican votes, with the rest still frozen in place by General David Petraeus’s argument last week for more time.
Webb, the most high-decorated Marine combat officer of the Vietnam War, is a best-selling novelist who served as secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration. His hopes on the bill were dashed when fellow Virginian John Warner, also a former secretary of the Navy, switched from supporting the bill to opposing. Warner, the former Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who has become a reluctant critic of the Iraq War, is retiring at the end of next year.
** BLACKWATER CRISIS.A joint US-Iraqi commission on the Blackwater situation is being formed. Over the weekend, security personnel from the controversial private security firm killed some 10 Iraqi civilians as they escorted a US State Department motorcade through the streets of Baghdad. The Blackwater personnel say they came under attack. Iraqis say no. The Iraqi prime minister labeled Blackwater a menace and the Iraqi interior ministry revoked Blackwater’s license to operate in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Blackwater will continue to guard State Department personnel. The State Department and other US officials in Iraq rely on Blackwater — rather than US military or State Department protective services personnel. But they have been instructed not to travel outside the so-called Green Zone enclave inside Baghdad.
** CLINTON AND SCHWARZENEGGER. Appearing together this in morning in a live webcast from Columbia Middle School in El Monte, east of downtown Los Angeles, former President Bill Clinton and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that they are co-chairing the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to promote healthier lifestyles for children. The two, accompanied by the president of the American Heart Association, appeared about 50 minutes later than scheduled after touring the school and its facilities.
Clinton praised Schwarzenegger for having the best child fitness and nutrition policies in the country. For his part, Schwarzenegger, in an energized and jocular mood, noted that he and the president have much in common, both coming from small towns and being married to “women who look a lot better than we do on television.”
Clinton, ever the master analyst of political performance, had a familiar appraising look on his face while Schwarzenegger spoke, and frequently peered at the governor’s text, the better to compare what was written there with what Schwarzenegger actually said.
The two both talked up the school’s weight room and how active and fit the children looked as they performed their morning exercises. Both spoke of a spreading obesity crisis around the country, with Schwarzenegger in particular imploring the school children before them to live healthy lifestyles, while Clinton, once the overweight boy in the school band, said that he can identify with people grabbing on to food, a still very affordable pleasure compared to others, one all too readily available in a society with increasingly sedentary lifestyles.
The governor said that, over the paast decade, Californians have gained 360 million pounds. (Presumably compared to a similar sample the decade before. One of three children and one of four teens he deemed overweight or at-risk of obesity. “Second only to tobacco,” said Schwarzenegger, “obesity is a leading cause of preventable death among Californians and costs the state $28.5 billion in health care costs, lost productivity and workers’ compensation.”
** CALIFORNIA BLACK CAUCUS MYSTERY. Last week, the California Legislature’s Black Caucus voted to endorse Barack Obama for president. Yesterday, two members who voted to endorse Obama reversed themselves and endorsed Hillary Clinton. They are current caucus chairman Mervyn Dymally of LA, who had a chilly relationship with then Governor Jerry Brown during his one term as lieutenant governor in the 1970s, and Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, once chief of staff to Ron Dellums. I haven’t heard a credible explanation for the shift. But I’ll bet one of you knows what’s at the bottom of this little mystery.
Giuliani had a public meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and a private meeting with former Prime Minister Tony Blair, now the special Mideast envoy. Giuliani, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2002 for his leadership of New York during 9/11, is clearly making the rounds in London.
But it is his linkage with Thatcher that may be most valuable. The former prime minister, a great ally of Ronald Reagan, may be the greatest conservative icon remaining. Fred Thompson, who went to London in July and also delivered an address there, also met with Thatcher but appeared to come away empty-handed. Giuliani is picking up some of Thatcher’s foreign policy advisors, along with his award and high-profile lectureship.
** UPDATE: SCHWARZENEGGER AND CLINTON WEBCAST TO START AT 9:45 AM. Let’s see, Schwarzenegger is well-known for being late, Clinton is well-known for being late …
** SCHWARZENEGGER AND CLINTON IN LIVE WEBCAST AT 9:15 AM. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former President Bill Clinton join forces this morning at a middle school in El Monte, several miles east of Los Angeles, in a new partnership to promote healthier living for schoolchildren. The two will announce that they are co-leaders of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. American troops are now in the midst of a 127th 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. A video put out by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq claims that all three men were executed after being captured. But, with the exception of the Californian found floating in the Euphrates River, that claim can’t be confirmed. The US high command in Baghdad has revealed that ID cards for the other two American prisoners were found in an Al Qaeda safehouse on June 9th.
** ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER AND BILL CLINTON LIVE WEBCAST TOMORROW MORNING FROM L.A. Now this going to be interesting. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former President Bill Clinton will tomorrow morning announce their partnership as co-leaders of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The pair will do a live webcast together at 9:15 AM tomorrow morning.
The alliance they’ll head up is designed to inspire young people to lead healthier lifestyles. Clinton and Schwarzenegger will tour a middle school in El Monte — a small city in the San Gabriel Valley directly east of downtown Los Angeles — and hold their joint presss conference afterward.
** SCHWARZENEGGER ANNOUNCES $9 BILLION WATER INFRASTRUCTURE PROPOSAL. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger this afternoon announced a $9 billion water infrastructure proposal to be carried in two bills by Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines of Fresno and Republican state Senator Dave Cogdill of Modesto. Most of the financing would come from new bonds, though some would come from existing bonds to swiftly relieve environmental problems in the Sacramento Delta, where the Sacramento River meets San Francisco Bay and which is a key backbone of the water supplies for both domestic consumers and for agriculture. A federal judge, citing endangered species concerns, threatens to block much of that water supply. The proposal does not provide for new conveyance, i.e., aqueducts, but may set the stage for them.
Said Assembly Republican Leader Villines in a statement: “I am confident we can reach bipartisan consensus in the special session to responsibly shape California’s water future, and this plan will be an important part of that effort.”
Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata has his own $5.4 billion proposal. Here are some of the details in the Schwarzenegger plan, carried by Villines and Cogdill.
>$600 million from Propositions 50, 84 and 1E to immediately relieve pressure on the Delta from environmental concerns
>$5.6 billion in above and below ground water storage
>$5.1 billion in surface storage
>$500 million in groundwater storage
>$1.9 billion for Delta Restoration and water supply reliability
>$1.4 billion for habitat restoration
>$500 million in early actions to address environmental concerns in the Delta
>$500 million in grants for specified watersheds throughout the state, including the San Joaquin River, Klamath River, Los Angeles River and others
** AS PALESTINIAN PEACE PROCESS HEATS UP, ISRAEL TOUTS RENEWABLE ENERGY ROLE AS WAY TO COMBAT GREENHOUSE EFFECT. US Secretary of State Condi Rice is in the Middle East for two days this week in advance of a likely negotiation in America sometime in November between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Mideast envoy Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, has just spent two weeks in the region and will report to the Mideast Quartet powers (US, Russia, EU, and UN) this weekend in New York.
“Israel in my judgment can and should become a laboratory, or a pilot plant, for most of the solutions which are necessary in our time,” Peres said today in Jerusalem.
“We want to go from oil energy to solar energy. We feel that the sun is more reliable than the Saudis. The sun is more permanent, more democratic and… more objective,” said Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for an earlier Mideast negotiation.
** GIULIANI IN THE THICK OF IT.Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is in London now to give the inaugural Margaret Thatcher Atlantic Bridge lecture at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Earlier in the day, he fielded questions on international affairs from Winston Churchill’s grand-daughter. Every Republican presidential candidate wants to be like Ronald Reagan these days, but Giuliani’s particular hero is Churchill. He hopes to return to the US, to Washington as it happens, tomorrow, with a bit of the Churchill/Thatcher cachet that Fred Thompson sought in London over the summer, but didn’t really come away with.
Meanwhile, his strategy of gaining further traction in the race for the Republican nomination by attacking Democrats has landed him in a real rhubarb with MoveOn.org, the big lefty lib online outfit who so scandalized the right by attacking President Bush’s handpicked Iraq commander. You saw his ad yesterday attacking Hillary Clinton and demanding that she denounce MoveOn. Today, above, you can see the ad the anti-Iraq War group is putting on the air in Iowa, the first in the nation contest next January. It’s a very tough attack on Giuliani for missing the meetings of the Iraq Study Group, of which he was an original member, then quitting altogether “so he could give speeches, for money.”
Today, Giuliani is hitting the liberal group again, and covering himself in Iowa, with this new radio ad going up in the Hawkeye State: Voiceover: MoveOn.org is the most powerful left wing group in the country. They spent millions electing anti-war liberals. And publicly brag how the Democratic Party is theirs – bought and paid for.
Why is MoveOn attacking Rudy Giuliani? Because he’s their worst nightmare. They know Rudy is a Republican who can beat the Democrats. And they know, no matter what they say, Rudy will never, ever back down.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. American troops are now in the midst of a 126th 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. A video put out by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq claims that all three men were executed after being captured. But, with the exception of the Californian found floating in the Euphrates River, that claim can’t be confirmed. The US high command in Baghdad has revealed that ID cards for the other two American prisoners were found in an Al Qaeda safehouse on June 9th.
A mistake by Attorney General Jerry Brown led to a legal setback for the former governor yesterday. A lawsuit he okayed after he became California’s top law enforcement officer was thrown out of court yesterday by a federal judge.
Despite his long-standing green credentials, Brown was skeptical during last year’s campaign about a high-profile lawsuit filed by his predecessor as attorney general, Bill Lockyer, now the state’s treasurer, against major U.S. and Japanese automakers over vehicle emissions.
Lockyer thought the big car makers should pay for damages to the state’s environment from greenhouse gases emitted by their cars, but Brown had been leery about Lockyer’s high-profile lawsuit. His wife and campaign manager Anne Gust Brown noted that what the car manufacturers have been doing is legal, and Brown himself said, “I’m going to enforce the laws vigorously and with common sense.”
Environmentalists wanted Brown to stick with the suit. “I think Lockyer’s suit against the car manufacturers can be a creative way to get at global warming,” said John White of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies. “I hope Jerry doesn’t abandon it.”
But though he’d made critical comments about it in last fall’s campaign, Brown decided not to drop the suit upon assuming the office in January, opting instead to retain it as leverage.
He said he would use the lawsuit to pursue settlement talks with the CEOs of the car companies. It didn’t work out that way. They weren’t interested in talking and they weren’t interested in settling anything. Not around a lawsuit they expected to win. The problem with the suit is that, while automakers have undoubtedly contributed to the greenhouse effect, in California and of course elsewhere, they haven’t broken the law.
The suit sought to hold the six biggest automakers in the world — Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota — liable for their contribution to climate change. But U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins in San Francisco ruled it that it is impossible to determine to what extent automakers are responsible for any such damages in California. He said that it is up to legislators and not judges to determine how responsible automakers are for climate change.
“In this case,” wrote Jenkins, “by seeking to impose damages for the defendant automakers’ lawful worldwide sale of automobiles, plaintiff’s nuisance claims sufficiently implicate the political branches’ powers over interstate commerce and foreign policy.”
A court “injecting itself into the global warming thicket at this juncture would require an initial policy determination of the type reserved for the political branches of government.”
A fairly predictable result, and one that Brown should have anticipated.
Actually, he probably did anticipate it last fall. And changed his mind anyway. While it made environmentalists happy, it also led to a legal defeat for the state and for Brown himself.
** NEW SPY MOVIE CHAMP.The Bourne Ultimatum, a politically-tinged post-9/11 action movie thriller starring Matt Damon as ultra-black amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne reviewed here in early August, became the highest-grossing spy movie of all-time at the domestic box office over the weekend with a new cumulative gross of $216.2 million. It passed Mission Impossible II and the third Austin Powers movie to take the crown, having long since passed the recent James Bond blockbusters Casino Royale (a huge hit last year with $167.4 million) and Die Another Day.
With another $4.2 million over the weekend, the third film in the Bourne series it looks set to continue its run into the fall. Some on the right dislike the film, because its principal villains are American officials abusing their authority. They claimed the film was geared to the European audience. Which would not explain why it is the most successful spy film at the American box office. Or why it is actually more popular among Americans than among Europeans.
It didn’t work out that way. The problem with the suit is that, while automakers have undoubtedly contributed to the greenhouse effect, in California and of course elsewhere, they haven’t broken the law.
Warner leads former Governor Gilmore by 28 points and former Senator Allen by 19 points.
** DAILY NEWSPAPER BREAKS EMBARGO, L.A. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE BACKS ARNOLD HEALTH CARE REFORM PLAN. Since a large daily newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, has broken the embargo on the story, I will tell you what you may have already guessed from the item early this morning on the 3:30 PM live webcast by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the governor’s universal health care plan, providing some needed momentum for his special legislative session on health care.
The story was embargoed until 3 PM. But the daily newspapers have apparently gotten tired of being constantly scooped, despite their having large, though decreasing, staffs. So the embargo was broken.
(Embargoed Until 3:00 PM)
The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce today endorsed Governor Schwarzenegger’s health care reform proposal …
** HILLARY UNVEILS HEALTH CARE PLAN.Hillary Clinton this morning unveiled her national health care reform plan. Sounding like an amalgam of plans offered in California by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislative leaders, the Clinton plan would require all Americans to have health insurance, would impose mandates on employers to provide health insurance for their employees, and would subsidize health care for people needing help to pay for insurance by taxing the wealthy.
Rudy Giuliani, as predicted, continued his attack on Clinton, saying: “If you liked Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko,’ you’re going to love HillaryCare 2.0. Senator Clinton’s latest health scheme includes more government mandates, expensive federal subsidies and more big bureaucracy – in short, a prescription for an increase in wait times, a decrease in patient care and tax hikes to pay for it all.”
** A NON-GREEN CAR. One of the highlights of the Frankfurt Auto Show: The Bugatti Veyron Pur Sang. (Pur sang means pure blood.) This is a special edition of the fastest road car in the world. 1001 horsepower, top speed of 252 miles per hour. Zero to 60 in three seconds. Miles per gallon? Also, er, three.
Only five are being made, at a cost of $2 million a piece. There are no plans for a hybrid version. The ’80s Arnold might have bought this car. (I recall that he had a Ferrari, which did not end all that well. It’s entirely possible that your humble correspondent is a better driver than the fabled Terminator Governor.) The 21st century Arnold, of course, wouldn’t be caught dead in such a beastie.
Blackwater, with its fleet of Little Bird helicopter gunships and high-profile protective assignments, has become the symbol of the controversial practice of outsourcing security arrangements in Iraq and elsewhere. The firm, founded by a former Navy Seal who is a fundamentalist Christian, has close ties to the Bush Administration and to right-wing groups.
** SCHWARZENEGGER LIVE WEBCAST THIS AFTERNOON ON HEALTH CARE REFORM. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will hold a Capitol press conference at 3:30 PM this afternoon with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce to make an announcement on health care reform. The event will be webcast live.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. American troops are now in the midst of a 125th 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. A video put out by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq claims that all three men were executed after being captured. But, with the exception of the Californian found floating in the Euphrates River, that claim can’t be confirmed. The US high command in Baghdad has revealed that ID cards for the other two American prisoners were found in an Al Qaeda safehouse on June 9th.
Rudy Giuliani hits Hillary Clinton in this new ad for backing the Iraq invasion and opposing the latest Iraq policy. He especially goes after her for not criticizing the lefty group MoveOn.org for its sharp criticism of General David Petraeus.
Hillary Clinton tried a few days ago in Los Angeles to match Barack Obama’s huge Oprah Winfrey fundraiser with an event hosted by Lakers great Magic Johnson. But even though the two campaigns are busy training California volunteers, the week ahead in presidential politics is about Iraq.
The aftermath of Iraq week, aka the past week of General David Petraeus reporting to Congress and the nation on the results, and lack of same, on the surge, makes it plain that Iraq and its affiliated matters will continue to dominate presidential politics this year and the next. The week ahead in presidential politics is no different.
John McCain wraps up his “No Surrender Tour” in South Carolina, which holds a key early primary next January. McCain has been touring early primary and caucus states the past week, coinciding of course with the Petraeus report, with fellow distinguished vets of the Vietnam War, vowing no retreat in Iraq while pointing out the myriad of mistakes made there by the Bush Administration. According to quite a few reports I’ve heard, it’s been good for him. McCain did well in the recent New Hampshire debate. So the Vietnam War hero may actually be on the comeback trail once again this year, after earlier meltdowns with independents on Iraq and conservatives on immigration.
Rudy Giuliani will continue banging away at Hillary Clinton this week. He has a new ad attacking her for changing her position on Iraq — she backed the invasion and continued to support the Bush Administration through early stages of the policy — and for criticizing Petraeus and his report (she praised him when she voted to confirm his command in Iraq) not criticizing MoveOn.org for its harsh New York Times ad attacking General “Betray Us.”
Giuliani, along with some other Republicans, portrays Petraeus as a figure above politics, sacrosanct and above criticism. The MoveOn ad is tough and, like much of what the lefty-lib outfit does, not to mention much of the blogosphere in general, verges on nasty hysteria in its tone. But Giuliani, who backed George McGovern back in the day and never wore the uniform — in the process availing himself of multiple deferments — may not be aware that Petraeus is only the latest in a long line of generals who have placed themselves in the middle of politics.
Criticism comes with the territory, as a far greater and much more famous general, Douglas MacArthur, could tell Petraeus, who prior to being hand-picked by Bush for the Iraq command was virtually unknown to the American public.
Nevertheless, Giuliani is bound and determined to go after Clinton. Notwithstanding its lack of historical sense, Giuliani’s strategy makes political sense for him. He’s trying to fend off the emergence, at long last, of Fred Thompson as a declared candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Although his launch has had its rocky moments, Thompson has moved up again in the polls, surging into a tie with Giuliani nationally in last week’s CNN poll.
Getting into a fight with Hillary is a tried and true way to engage Republican base voters, the one constituency that continues to back the various Iraq policies of the Bush Administration, and which generally has a longstanding hatred of the controversial former first lady.
“Saigon. Shit. I’m still only in Saigon.” In the opening sequence of Apocalypse Now, Capt. Willard awakens from his fever dream only to discover he’s still in Saigon. President Bush, who after much denial likens Iraq to Vietnam, made clear last week that a huge number of US troops will remain in Iraq as the fall ’08 election begins.
** IRAQ ABOVE ALL. What President George W. Bush and his associates such as General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker did last week all but guaranteed that Iraq and affiliated matters will be the dominant issue of the 2008 elections.
By an odd coincidence, the US is now slated to have just as many troops in Iraq come next July as we had before the latest “surge” strategy began. And while there have been some successes — as well there might be, given the extraordinary efforts underaken — they remain isolated both geographically and politically, with their sustainability in deep question. Indeed, the key Sunni sheik Bush had met with only 10 days earlier who was so key to the newfound ability to take on Al Qaeda in Anbar province was assassinated just before Bush spoke to the nation last Thursday night.
And the following day, this past Friday, the White House sent a new benchmarks report to Congress showing progress on only one indicator. The various factions have agreed to allow former members of Saddam’s Baath Party to hold government posts. The de-Baathification policy pursued by the Bush Administration was one of the most boneheaded moves made after the invasion of Iraq. Even in Germany after World War II, many former Nazis were allowed in the system.
The history of unconventional warfare suggests that the enemy is dispersed rather than defeated by the insertion of large numbers of troops in an area.
I have no doubt that there would be signficant US troop withdrawals underway now if the latest Iraq policy — or, I should say, the one just before the one announced this week — were working better. Stubborn though he clearly is, Bush undoubtedly knows that it is not in his interest or in the interest of the Republican Party to have the news flow continue to be dominated by trouble in Iraq.
But he really has no choice, aside from giving in, which he has refused to do. Even as he has slowly but surely adopted the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group — first reviled on the right and by Bush’s diehard supporters — he has done so haltingly and late. So everything becomes even further attenuated.
Which is actually good for Democrats, from a cynical point of view. Cynicism, nonetheless, not infrequently wins elections.
** SOME SUNDAY THOUGHTS ON CALIFORNIA POLITICS. If Republicans really want more water storage and conveyance, i.e., aqueducts to carry water from one place to another, why are so many of them taking off from the special legislative session on water to go on foreign junkets and other forms of vacations?
Unlike the special session on health care reform, which can go on for quite awhile since nothing in it is aimed for the February ballot, the special session on water has only a few more days or it will miss that ballot.
With climate change, California clearly does need more water storage. Legislative Republicans have pushed and nagged about water storage for the last few years. And unlike the case with health care, where their votes aren’t needed for any likely legislation, their votes probably are needed on water, given the reflex position of many environmentalists against dams and aqueducts.
It’s a strange time for serious political people to go missing.
On health care reform, there is a lot of talk about raising the sales tax to help finance a new comprehensive program. It’s a regressive tax, of course, but as a well-known Democrat was pointing out in a recent discussion, the national health systems of Western Europe are funded by a regressive VAT (value-added tax) and no one whines about that. Attitudes here, however, are different, and the sales tax certainly hasn’t been pre-sold. In fact, it’s barely been mentioned as a health care option — outside the few hundred people involved with the issue, who frequently forget how insular they can become — until a few weeks ago.
Another big problem with the sales tax option. It would likely have to pass through the general fund, in so doing giving up about 40% of its take to education per the Proposition 98 education finance strictures California operates under.
That’s a good way to get support from the teachers unions. But not a good way to get support from voters, who think that education already gets enough money, and that that money needs to be used more effectively.
And also a fleeting thought about redistricting reform, left off the special session menu after another supposed near-miss at an agreement. I’ll write more specifically about the latest failure on redistricting another time. But at the California Republican Party convention last weekend, it occurred to me that — no matter their rhetoric — there is really little reason to believe that right-wing Republicans actually want competitive legislative districts.
Just as the ultra-government faction is against redistricting reform, so too is the anti-government faction. Which is perhaps a reason why Republican legislators began getting very cold feet a few days before that convention.
A yacht makes it through the Arctic’s long-sought Northwest Passage
in this brand-new video. New satellite photos show a very reduced ice pack.
** NORTHWEST PASSAGE NOW OPEN THROUGH THE ARCTIC CIRCLE. For centuries, seafaring nations sought and hoped for a “Northwest Passage” between Europe and Asia, through the Arctic Circle. It was never found, for it did not exist, due of course to the deep and vast polar ice cap atop the planet in its Arctic Circle.
So finally the Panama Canal was built. But new satellite photos released late yesterday by the European Space Agency demonstrate that the Northwest Passage is now real.
Here are excerpts from the ESA statement released last night, entitled “Satellites Witness Lowest Arctic Ice Coverage In History”:
The area covered by sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk to its lowest level this week since satellite measurements began nearly 30 years ago, opening up the Northwest Passage – a long-sought short cut between Europe and Asia that has been historically impassable. …
Leif Toudal Pedersen from the Danish National Space Centre said: “We have seen the ice-covered area drop to just around 3 million sq km which is about 1 million sq km less than the previous minima of 2005 and 2006. There has been a reduction of the ice cover over the last 10 years of about 100 000 sq km per year on average, so a drop of 1 million sq km in just one year is extreme.
Mosaics of Arctic Ocean for 2005, 2006, 2007
“The strong reduction in just one year certainly raises flags that the ice (in summer) may disappear much sooner than expected and that we urgently need to understand better the processes involved.”
Arctic sea ice naturally extends its surface coverage each northern winter and recedes each northern summer, but the rate of overall loss since 1978 when satellite records began has accelerated.
The most direct route of the Northwest Passage across northern Canada is shown fully navigable, while the Northeast Passage along the Siberian coast remains partially blocked. To date, the Northwest Passage has been predicted to remain closed even during reduced ice cover by multi-year ice pack – sea ice that survives one or more summers. However, according to Pedersen, this year’s extreme event has shown the passage may well open sooner than expected.
The previous record low was in 2005 when the Arctic area covered by sea ice was just 4 million sq km. Even then, the most direct Northwest Passage did not fully open.
The Polar Regions are very sensitive indicators of climate change. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed these regions are highly vulnerable to rising temperatures and predicted the Arctic would be virtually ice free by the summer of 2070. Still other scientists predict it could become ice free as early as 2040 due to rising temperatures and sea ice decline.
Because sea ice has a bright surface, the majority of solar energy that hits it is reflected back into space. When sea ice melts, the dark-coloured ocean surface is exposed. Solar energy is then absorbed rather than reflected, so the oceans get warmer and temperatures rise, making it difficult for new ice to form. …
In 2009, ESA will make another significant contribution to cryosphere research with the launch of CryoSat-2. The observations made over the three-year lifetime of the mission will provide conclusive evidence on the rates at which ice cover is diminishing.
This is why Russia has been the most aggressive of nations in staking claims to the North Pole, going so far as to plant a Russian flag beneath it. The Russian version of a Northwest Passage, as noted in the ESA statement, remains blocked.
Although in time, the Arctic Circle may be better known as the Arctic Sea. And its projected treasure trove of oil, gas, and minerals — free at last from its impenetrable icy enclosure of millennia — at last accessible to the most aggressive of corporations and nations.
** 9:15 AM UPDATE: GENERAL WES CLARK ENDORSES HILLARY CLINTON. Retired Army General Wes Clark, the former NATO supreme commander who successfully prosecuted the war in Kosovo and unsuccessfully sought the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, has just endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.
In a conference call just now, which was bedeviled by repeated technical glitches linking up with the general’s cell phone in Arkansas, Clark called Clinton “smart and strong, a great choice to lead America. She’ll be an excellent commander in chief.”
For her part, Clinton told of her “25-year friendship with the general, longer than both of us may want to recall” and said his advice and counsel will be important to her.
I asked the general and the senator about the nature of the threat posed by Iran, and got a multi-faceted response that deserves a non-weekend story.
Clark, like Bill Clinton, is from Arkansa and is a Rhodes Scholar. (Though, like Hillary, he was born in Chicago.) He will be familiar to readers not only from the Kosovo War and his own presidential campaign, but also as a regular cable news analyst on politico-military affairs.
Clark was valedictorian of his West Point class, graduated from Ranger School, and won the Silver Star as a company commander in the Vietnam War. His career advanced rapidly in the Clinton years, which he began as commander of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division and ended up supreme commander of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization comprising the combined military forces of the US, UK and Western Europe.
He considered running again for the presidency earlier this year — making several forays into early states, including Nevada, as reported on NWN — but decided against it. In the 2004 campaign, he began as an early favorite, but found the going fairly rough as a first-time candidate for public office, though he did show well in a number of primaries and won the Oklahoma primary.