President Barack Obama today announced that his administration will establish better security for America’s vulnerable cyberspace infrastructure.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … TERMINATING THE DARKNESS?
** QUICK HITS. A few prominent conservatives, such as columnists Peggy Noonan and Charles Krauthammer, tried today to walk back the assault on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor by far right thought leaders such as Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, who describe her as a racist intellectual mediocrity. (Speaking of intellectual mediocrity, at least one of those guys would find that a big step up. …) It’s bound to fail, and further position the reeling national Republican Party as, well, a reeling political party. … Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger received a significant boost in his budget-cutting mission — which I know personally that he is very unhappy about — from Senator Dianne Feinstein. Following Schwarzenegger at today’s dedication of the world’s most advanced fusion energy project, Feinstein said: “I think these cuts are unavoidable. … I have been around in 15 elections. I have never seen a time when the voters did what they did, in view of what they were told about cuts, in the enormous defeat of these propositions. I can’t give you the reason for it, but I can tell you, to me it was astonishing. And what they said is, in so many words, take the cuts, because that’s the alternative. And nobody wants them, but people have to understand.” … In my view, and I’ve followed this for decades, the situation is terrible but not all that surprising. The fierce unreality and intractability of the state’s anti-government and ultra-government factions — about which I’ve written many times and will again, following Obama’s big international tour — have led California to this pass, which in the end will clobber both of them.
** CONTROLLER TO CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE: ACT NOW. State Controller John Chiang, a first-term Democrat who has been the most persistent roadblock to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on the state budget, unsuccessfully challenging his authority, has just sent a letter to the Legislature urging immediate action on the chronic budget crisis given unprecedented dimension by the global economic downturn and the defeat of last week’s special election initiatives.
Chiang warns that without prompt legislative action, “the State will be more than $1 billion in the red on July 29. And, further, “We will have a cash shortage of $22 billion in April 2010.”
“The Legislature,” says Chiang, “must act no later than June 15 to give the Controller time to sell RAWs (revenue anticipation warrants) and get cash into the Treasury so we can continue to make payments this summer.”
With legislative hearings over, Schwarzenegger addresses a joint session of the Legislature on the crisis on Tuesday, June 2nd, just 13 days before Chiang’s deadline.
** SCHWARZENEGGER PROPOSES MORE BUDGET CUTS. While Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the Livermore National Labs presiding over the opening of the most advanced nuclear fusion project in the world, his top budget officials held a press conference call on which they unveiled still more proposed budget cuts. The impacting explosions may have been greater on the phone call.
These cuts come in response to word from the Legislative Analyst Office that the state’s current budget deficit is not $21.3 billion, as Schwarzenegger warned it would be if voters turned down his special election initiatives, but $24.3 billion. The precipitous budget collapse is due to the collapse in state revenues caused by the global economic crisis. California simply has tens of billions less in revenue than it had. Which means the state’s tax burden has actually gone down. Not that people want to pay more in tax during a recession.
In any event, Schwarzenegger’s budget mavens laid out nearly $700 million in further cuts to education funding, cutting in-home health care services to the bone and more, the additional 5% pay cut for state employees I talked about yesterday (bringing the overall pay cut to nearly 15%), and various other procedures. Schwarzenegger addresses a joint session of the Legislature on Tuesday.
** BROWN CRACKS DOWN ON FRAUDULENT CHARITIES. Finishing a week-long drive on various major fraudulent activities, which included the arrest of a ring charged with absconding hundreds of millions in an investment Ponzi scheme, former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown today sued 12 charities, 17 telemarketers, and 53 individuals for alleged charity scams.
“These individuals,” says Brown, “shamelessly exploited the goodwill of decent citizens trying to help police, firefighters and veterans. In point of fact, a shockingly small portion of donations went to those in need, while millions went to pay for aggressive telemarketing and bloated overhead – and in one case – to purchase a 30-foot sailboat.”
** SOTOMAYOR FAVORED BY BIG MARGIN. The new Quinnipiac poll of American voters gives a big edge in support for President Barack Obama’s new nominee to the US Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. The survey was conducted from May 26th through May 28th.
54% support Sotomayor, with 24% opposed, and 22% undecided. Sotomayor is backed by Democrats (81-3) and Independents (50-26). Republicans oppose the nation’s first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, 46-26. 30% say she’s more liberal than they prefer, 5% not liberal enough, and 42% say her politics are “just right.”
The late President John F. Kennedy, in this speech in Houston, Texas in the fall of 1962, discusses the heightened pace, significance, and challenges of technological change and declares: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Kennedy’s birthday is today.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama has received his daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with Vice President Joe Biden and senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 7:55 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks on securing our nation’s cyber infrastructure in the East Room of the White House. He will name a “cyber czar” to deal with threats to America’s computer infrastructure.
At 8:40 AM Pacific, he meets with National Economic Council staff in the Oval Office.
At 11:30 AM, Obama attends a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) headquarters.
Obama is prepping for his big international tour next week, which will take him to Egypt (where he will deliver a major address to the Islamic world at Cairo’s Al Azhar University, the world’s oldest Islamic university), Saudi Arabia, Germany, and France (where he will commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day).
Obama is also monitoring a few geopolitical crises.
Reviewing the North Korean situation, further exacerbated earlier today when North Korea launched yet another short-range missile. … North Korea set off what appears to have been an underwhelming nuclear device on Monday, prompting international condemnation. Obama put out a statement in the middle of the night on the move. And the UN Security Council, meeting in emergency session, thoroughly denounced it.
The Hermit State has launched several short-range missiles since then, further inflaming the situation. The missiles reportedly had a range of about 80 miles. North Korea has placed its forces along the border with South Korea on full alert, and threatens that any attempt to interdict any of its vessels to check for weapons of mass destruction will be considered an act of war.
Secretary of Defense Bob Gates is now in Singapore for a meeting with Asian defense ministers. He says he sees no reason as yet for additional US troops in the region. The US has 28,000 troops in South Korea. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg was dispatched by Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to accompany Gates to the already scheduled Singapore meeting of Asian defense ministers — which is called, in festive fashion, the Shangri-La Dialogue — to further discussion of the North Korean crisis. From Singapore, Steinberg will go to Beijing, Seoul, and Moscow to discuss next steps.
The Pakistani Army offensive against the Taliban, urged by Obama, is continuing, with more signs that Taliban forces are being disrupted and driven back in various places. There is house-to-house fighting underway in at least one city.
But Pakistan now has a sizable refugee crisis, with some 2.4 million people displaced from their homes. Many are staying with friends or relatives, but the country’s support system is strained nonetheless.
And jihadist terrorist attacks have multiplied this week.
The famed Terminator series starring Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t the only show centering on a malign, all-powerful artificial intelligence, as we see in this Star Trek episode from 1968, The Ultimate Computer. The new Star Trek film is, amazingly, the most popular film in America so far this year.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will attend the dedication ceremony for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) at 10:30 AM in Livermore. He was to have toured the facility earlier this morning with Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi and other dignitaries, but is working on the state’s chronic budget crisis.
Schwarzenegger did receive a preliminary tour of the NIF in November. NIF has been in development for 12 years and is about to be the premier such facility in the world. What will it do? NIF will use lasers to create nuclear fusion by compressing and heating hydrogen. It will recreate conditions otherwise found only in the cores of stars and exploding nuclear weapons.
Following the ceremony, Schwarzenegger will hold a press availability with other participants.
This afternoon, Schwarzenegger is in Salinas joining law enforcement officials to highlight California’s Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention (CalGRIP) funding and to announce the rural area’s first “Gifts for Guns” program, modeled after the program created by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Late yesterday afternoon, Schwarzenegger was in Capitol Park with officials of Raser Technologies to show off an electric hybrid Hummer H3. I asked him to compare the fuel efficiency of this vehicle with that of the Hummer H1 he helped launch at AM General in 1992 as a commercial vehicle. (Seen in yesterday’s video below.) He said, naturally, that there is no comparison, acknowledging that the earlier vehicle was very fuel inefficient and that the key is not in getting rid of the vehicle but in seriously upgrading its technology.
The San Francisco Chronicle and other media outlets reported that Schwarzenegger became the first private citizen to own a Hummer in 1992. Actually, the truth is more interesting.
In 1990, while filming Kindergarten Cop in the state of Washington, Schwarzenegger became transfixed by a line of Army HumVees he saw on the highway. That’s the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, the military vehicle the Hummer is based on. In 1991, the HumVee became famous in the Gulf War.
Schwarzenegger, a friend of the first President Bush and then chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, pushed hard to get his very own HumVee in 1991. Which he did, and he loved it. A company rep joked that he used it “to go to Spago.”
Incidentally, I’ve never been a fan of the Hummer, having referred to it and other SUVs in a 1990s column as “global warmers.” Years ago, I asked Schwarzenegger what was with him and the Hummer. To his credit, he didn’t cite the usual reasons people give. He said that he liked the Hummer because it was an expression of his personality — big, bold, and expansive.
** THE AVOIDABLE TRAGEDY OF CALIFORNIA’S PROP 8. The California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Proposition 8, last November’s successful initiative against same-sex marriage is all the more tragic in that the initiative never should have passed in the first place. …
The right to same-sex marriage will, in the end, win out. It’s the getting there that is messy. And it need not have been as messy as the passage of Prop 8, and its expected upholding by the California Supreme Court, has made it. …
Gay marriage opponents got a huge gift immediately from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s comments. Newsom had enraged top national Democrats, including Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, by unilaterally declaring same-sex marriage lawful in San Francisco in the midst of the 2004 presidential race. Though it was a move that was predictably easily overturned, national Republican strategists credited the furor it caused with playing a propulsive role in turning out huge numbers of fundamentalist voters in Ohio, the lynchpin of George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election. … From my new column.
** OBAMA’S NEW CALIFORNIA-BASED CLIMATE POLICY: SIX KEY THINGS TO KNOW. When President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday that he is making California’s standard for vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions the new national standard, he accomplished a number of things. … From my May 20th column.
** 24 AND THE TORTUOUS POLITICS OF TORTURE. The longtime hit TV series 24 has just wrapped a tumultuous seventh season in the midst of national debate about the past national policy of interrogation by torture of terror suspects. And, while 24 returned to past form as a crackling thriller, it’s done it in the midst of presenting a running debate about torture, mostly coming down on the side of torture.
Which, in its way, is appalling. There’s one thing, though. Torture may be more popular than many of us would like to think. … From my May 18th column.
** ANGELS AND DEMONS AND RELIGIOUS POLITICS. The sequel to one of the most controversial movies in recent memory is opening this weekend. And the collective response is a mild “hmm.” … From my May 15th column.
** WHAT DOES OBAMA’S AFGHAN COMMAND CHANGE MEAN? For the first such change in wartime since Harry Truman replaced General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War in 1951, Barack Obama is replacing General David McKiernan in Afghanistan. Obama is moving both to change a stalemated war in Afghanistan and to scale back expectations there. … From my May 13th column.
** THE HYPE FLU’S BIG FADE. Remember that big, dangerous swine flu threat that the cable culture was going on about round the clock, still scaring the sweat out of people a week ago? Why, it’s going to … er, never mind.
It was all very breathless and alarming. … From my May 11th column.
** STAR TREK‘S NEW COMING-OF-AGE SAGA FOR GENERATION O. Let’s get the straight-up politics out of the way up front. Barack Obama, as he says himself, grew up on Star Trek. And both the new Spock, young Heroes TV star Zachary Quinto, and the classic Spock, Leonard Nimoy, each of whom star in the new movie, backed him for president, with Quinto campaigning around the country. … From my May 8th column.
** OBAMA’S TROUBLED AFPAK SUMMIT. … From my May 6th column.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the new Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti. While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, which I know as a former DemRussia advisor, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** SCHWARZENEGGER’S CALIFORNIA. Here is my series of five columns on the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Los Angeles Times in debate last fall, prior to the global economic meltdown, with Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times reporter/editor Bill Boyarsky, whose columns are also included. Among them is what I’m sure is the first piece examining Schwarzenegger’s legacy as governor of California. Since he will actually be governor of California until 2011. No technology known to be disruptive to the space/time continuum was used in its preparation.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, crude oil is trading around $66 per barrel.
This is up about $32 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, due in part to some positive economic signs and in part to geopolitical jitters over Pakistan and North Korea.
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