Arizona Senator John McCain spoke today on the take-down of Osama bin Laden and the role, if any, of torture in leading to the Al Qaeda founder.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … JERRY BROWN RETURNS. AGAIN!
** QUICK HITS. With Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in attendance for the first time, the Arctic Council meeting ended today in Greenland with the release of a report finding that the last five years in the region are the hottest in at least 2000 years, leading to much faster melting of the ice cap than expected. Which may ironically pave the way for, yes, a big oil and gas rush to get at fossil fuels previously locked beneath the ice. Accordingly, the Council adopted new search & rescue protocols for the Arctic Sea. … Initial reaction to Mitt Romney’s attempt to eliminate his little problem with being the intellectual father of “Obamacare” is, well, not good. For him, that is. No surprise here. … Top leaders of Libya’s rebel national council meet tomorrow at the White House with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. … Here’s a question in California politics: Will public employees protesting the state budget impasse try again tomorrow to occupy the Capitol? The attempt the other night failed, ending in arrests. … SEIU will launch a multi-million dollar ad blitz tomorrow aimed at persuading targeted Republican legislators to vote for Governor Jerry Brown’s budget compromise.
** POST-BIN LADEN: A VERY INTRIGUING QUOTE. Defense Secretary Bob Gates, who retires at the end of June, is on something of a farewell tour of military units and bases. It’s something that’s flying in large part under the media radar. But I just found something very interesting while skimming the transcript of his appearance this morning at the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
After his speech, an enlisted Marine asked Gates about what measures are being taken to protect the identities and provide security for members of Navy SEAL Team Six. Naturally, Gates couldn’t answer that question, but the beginning of his answer was extremely interesting.
Gates: I think that there has been great — frankly, a week ago Sunday, in the Situation Room, we all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden. That all fell apart on Monday — the next day.
So the secretary of defense is saying that the National Security Council decided not to release details of the bin Laden raid. Yet less than a day later, a detailed narrative was put out by the White House. A narrative that proved problematic and had to be significantly amended on several occasions.
I wonder how that happened.
** MCCAIN SAYS TORTURE DID NOT LEAD TO OSAMA BIN LADEN. With debate flaring, once again, about the efficacy of torture in gaining consistently usable intelligence, Senator John McCain weighed in today in dramatic fashion. And he went very much against the grain of his fellow Republicans, many of whom are trying to claim a share of credit for the takedown of Osama bin Laden.
The 2008 Republican presidential nominee, now the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and arguably America’s most famous Vietnam War hero, weighed in in dramatic fashion today with a speech on the Senate floor and in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post.
In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, the Arizona Republican said former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and others who supported those kind of measures were wrong to claim that waterboarding al-Qaida’s No. 3 leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, provided information that led to bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. …
He said he asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and that the hunt for bin Laden did not begin with fresh information for Mohammed. In fact, the name of bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, came from a detainee held in another country.
“Not only did the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed, it actually produced false and misleading information,” McCain said. He called on Mukasey and others to correct their misstatements. …
On Thursday, McCain also penned an opinion piece for The Washington Post on the topic, saying, “I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence but often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear — true or false — if he believes it will relieve his suffering. Often, information provided to stop the torture is deliberately misleading.”
Last week, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the U.S. got vital information from waterboarding that led directly to bin Laden.
McCain said he opposes waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning, and any form of torture tactics. He said that they could be used against Americans and that their use damages the nation’s character and reputation. “I do not believe they are necessary to our success in our war against terrorists, as the advocates of these techniques claim they are,” he said.
** CALIFORNIA 2011: WITH BROWN BACK IN TOWN, REPUBLICANS UNVEIL ALTERNATE BUDGET (WELL, NOT REALLY). With Governor Jerry Brown very much back in town, and I can tell you from conversations with him that he is every bit as high energy as before his routine skin cancer procedure, Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway has unveiled her budget “roadmap.” It’s available exclusively, naturally, on the far right Flash Report.
It’s a budget plan that simply bets on the come, i.e, extrapolates current unanticipated revenue from the strengthening California economy — mind you, Conway and others in her caucus have been insistently, well, insisting that the economy is absolutely in the tank — not only this year but into the future in yet another attempt to cut taxes and avoid future taxes.
It also relies heavily on one-time shifts and other short-term fixes. And of course slams state workers some more.
In other words, it is not a structural solution.
But you can read the whole thing for yourself right here. And, yes, this is it. The entire official Assembly Republican “budget plan.”
On a more serious note, Brown will unveil his May Revise of the state budget next Monday.
Today, I sent a letter to Speaker Pérez on behalf of Assembly Republicans, laying out what we are calling our “Roadmap to a No Tax Increase Budget.”
We have heard a constant drumbeat from Sacramento liberals that sky will fall unless the voters agree to a $55 billion tax increase. This is a myth. In fact, they want you to pay a massive tax hike so they can grow government by 31 percent. This shows how out of touch liberals really are with working families.
When I’m in the grocery store or at community events, my constituents tell me that they want their hard-earned tax dollars to go to the essentials, such as good local schools for their kids and ensuring police and sheriffs have the tools they need to keep us safe. They don’t want their tax dollars wasted on inefficient, big government programs.
Our “Roadmap to a No Tax Increase Budget” is all about getting our budget priorities focused on what really matters, bringing in new revenue by creating jobs and helping state government live within its means again. Our plan shows that we can balance the budget and protect core priorities – without raising taxes.
Specifically, our Assembly Republican budget roadmap would:
Protect Education – Assembly Republicans are concerned about the impact the budget will have on classroom dollars. The announcement that California has brought in $2.5 billion in new tax revenue is good news. Assembly Republicans will insist that this “real money in the bank” is used to fully fund the Constitutional minimum funding guarantee for schools.
Democrats, in contrast, have proposed an additional $4.1 billion cut to K-12 education, and $847 million in cuts to higher education. Assembly Republicans will fight any attempt by Democrats to suspend the Proposition 98 constitutional funding guarantee.
Ensure State Workers Contribute Their Fair Share – In these tough times, state government must also cut back. Local governments, school districts and the private sector have had to reduce their workforce. It is astonishing that Democrats actually want people to pay higher taxes so they can grow our state workforce by 1,000 new government workers and shield public employees from budget cuts.
Government workers must also be asked to contribute to a budget solution. Our roadmap includes $1.1 billion in budget savings from the state workforce. It’s also time to enact public employee pension reform. We must address out-of-control pension costs before they bust the budget. Every dollar we spend on pension is money we don’t have for our schools and other essential services.
Keep Californians Safe – Our roadmap also provides $500 million to support law enforcement programs that would have been funded through the Democrats’ proposed car tax increase. We also reject Governor Brown’s dangerous public safety realignment plan. Californians shouldn’t have to live in fear because the state is facing budget problems. By providing zero funding for this scheme, our plan would stop the potential early release of dangerous criminals into our communities.
Eliminate Waste and Abuse block, taxpayers are demanding that their tax dollars be spent as wisely and efficiently as possible. By adopting proposals to end waste and abuse in areas like Medi-Cal eligibility and inmate health care, we can save nearly $1 billion collectively. Enacting reforms to increase efficiency and introduce competition, such as allowing agencies to contract out for non-essential services, would save $1.2 billion collectively.
Adopt Remaining Solutions Proposed by Governor Brown – It is ironic that Governor Brown has proposed additional budget cuts and program savings that lawmakers in the Governor’s own party have failed to enact. If Jerry Brown actually wants to cut government spending, Republicans are happy to help him accomplish his goal. Our roadmap includes many of the Governor’s proposals, which would save up to $3.2 billion.
Our “Roadmap to a No Tax Increase Budget” is only part of the equation. To get California on the road to recovery, we must also work to reform state government, address unsustainable gold-plated public employee pensions and bring back private sector jobs to our state. We will continue to fight for these reforms to get California on the road to economic recovery.
Now the budget debate truly begins in Sacramento. Democrats want to raise your taxes by $55 billion so they can fund bigger government and more giveaways to public employee unions. Republicans want to balance the budget without raising taxes, while protecting the priorities of working families like education and public safety. The choice is clear, and Assembly Republicans will fight hard on behalf of hard-working California taxpayers every step of the way.
>>>>>>LIVE VIDEO NETCAST
At 9:30 AM Pacific, White House press secretary Jay Carney delivers a briefing. At 10:35 AM Pacific, President Barack Obama takes part in the Top Cops honors. The events will be netcast live here on New West Notes.
** LIVE FROM THE WHITE HOUSE.
With massive geopolitical events swirling and the 2012 presidential race unfolding, the White House is increasingly a pivot point for the day’s events. Live streaming of key presidential events is now available as a matter of course here on New West Notes. You can mute the audio by clicking on the pause button.
NWN will continue to present other live netcasts in full streaming mode, as it did with the Ronald Reagan Centennial events from the Reagan Library, as they emerge and are technically available and as significance dictates.
Two men have been arrested in a suspected terror plot in New York City in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama has received his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.
He then delivered remarks at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast at the Mellon Auditorium.
Following that, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with the Senate Republican Caucus in the Eisenhower Executive Office Bldg.
At 9:30 AM Pacific, Press Secretary Jay Carney delivers a briefing in the James S. Brady Briefing Room.
The event will be netcast live here on New West Notes. You can mute the audio by clicking on the pause button.
Also at 9:30 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden have lunch in the Private Dining Room.
At 10:35 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden honor the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) TOP COPS in the Rose Garden.
The event will be netcast live here on New West Notes. You can mute the audio by clicking on the pause button.
At 11:30 AM Pacific, Obama meets with the Congressional Black Caucus in the State Dining Room.
At 1 PM Pacific, Obama is interviewed by Telemundo in the Diplomatic Room.
At 1:25 PM Pacific, Obama is interviewed by KINC Univision/Entravision Las Vegas, WLTV Univision 23 Miami and Telemundo Dallas in the Library Room.
For his part, at 11:30 AM Pacific, Biden hosts a meeting with a bipartisan, bicameral group of Members of Congress to continue work on a legislative framework comprehensive deficit reduction at Blair House.
Good news for Obama this morning on the economy. Unemployment claims have dropped sharply in the past month.
And oil is down, too, continuing its subsidence since the death of Osama bin Laden.
Gasoline prices are still high, however, and Senate Democrats are urging that the oil industry’s big tax breaks be eliminated. The industry has pre-tax profits in excess of $200 billion.
Would-be Obama opponent Mitt Romney delivers a speech today trying to explain his support as Massachusetts governor for the universal health care program remarkably similar to “Obamacare.” This is a serious problem for him in the Republican primaries. And it’s a problem should he make it to the general election.
In the Libyan War, NATO strikes hit hard again last night in Tripoli against potential locations of dictator Moammar Gaddafi. He finally surfaced for the first time since his son was killed in a strike at the end of last month, appearing in video footage on Libyan state TV.
But it is not entirely clear when the footage was taken, and there was no audio. The only signifier of a date was not a newspaper, or remarks geared to current events, but a video image in the background which could be manipulated.
In Yemen, longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who keeps saying he will go but turning down deals for just that, had his forces shoot demonstrators again today, killing three. The Gulf Cooperation Council, which thought it had a deal with him for his departure only to find that he refused to sign, is again sending a high-level emissary, and a State Department spokesman called on him to depart on GCC terms.
NATO hit Tripoli hard again last night after video footage of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi surfaced seeming to show that he has survived previous attacks. Libyan rebels claim to have pushed Gaddafi forces out of the airport of Misurata, their besieged stronghold in the west.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Greenland for the Arctic Council meeting. Climate change is rapidly altering the environment, opening new sea lanes in the near future and roughly a quarter of the world’s oil and natural gas reserves for exploitation. But there are many unresolved problems with all of this, including the likely rise in sea levels around the world.
Obama is monitoring several other geopolitical crises, mostly related to the Arab uprising, AfPak, Iraq, and Japan.
War Zone Times: The time in Libya is nine hours ahead of Pacific time; the time in Iraq is ten hours ahead of Pacific time; and the time in Afghanistan is eleven-and-a-half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento.
He has no scheduled public events.
Brown continues working on the state’s chronic budget crisis and his nascent administration.
He will be back in the public spotlight very soon.
Brown is putting the finishing touches on the “May Revise,” the annual revision of a governor’s budget proposal, which he will unveil on May 16th.
I’ve spoken with him this week and his energy is high and attitude positive.
Meanwhile educators and public employees are staging protests on university campuses urging cuts in upper management and sports programs rather than on programs and faculty and service employees.
** IN THE SHADOW OF BIN LADEN: THE CALIFORNIA CONNECTION. The first official to announce the death of Osama bin Laden was not President Barack Obama, it was Senator Dianne Feinstein. The Senate Intelligence Committee chair was speaking at a memorial service in Santa Monica for her longtime campaign manager, Kam Kuwata.
Feinstein says she thought that Obama was about to give his nationally televised address. Which he actually gave about an hour later. And that the memorial, filled with pols and media types, was off the record. Which of course is why her remarks were reported in the media.
But Feinstein’s premature announcement of one of the biggest stories in recent memory is only one of the California connections to the demise of the legendary founder and leader of al Qaeda, who claimed credit for ordering the 9/11 attacks on America and eluded American forces for nearly a decade.
Obama credits another fixture in California politics, longtime Congressman-turned-federal budget director-turned-Clinton White House chief of staff-turned CIA Director Leon Panetta with having held overall command of the mission to find and take down bin Laden.
Not long after Obama became president and made Panetta his surprise pick to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency — over Feinstein’s objections, as I wrote about at the time on the Huffington Post — he charged him with a special mission. Revive the long lagging hunt for bin Laden, find him, and capture or kill him. … From my May 11th feature.
** IN THE SHADOW OF BIN LADEN: REPUBLICANS AND THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE. If there was a worse week in which to hold the first Republican presidential debate, it’s hard to think of when that might be.
It’s probably poetic justice that the first Republican presidential debate took place Thursday night in the shadow of Osama bin Laden, for his very existence spurred the accomplishment of some of the right’s biggest objectives in the past decade:
* The Bush/Cheney crew had made their desire to invade Iraq clear from the beginning. The post-9/11 atmosphere of fear, and bin Laden’s ability to slip through our grasp at Tora Bora, created a very supportive atmosphere for the invasion of Iraq, which was supposedly aligned with bin Laden and supposedly possessed of WMD.
* Then, with Al Qaeda recruitment up in response to America blundering into the Muslim world, that provided more of a rationale to stay in Iraq. In order to defeat Al Qaeda, whose ranks were swelled by the invasion.
* And bin Laden’s dramatic 2004 election eve tape threatening America helped George W. Bush eke out his re-election win over John Kerry.
So the halting start of the competition for the Republican presidential nomination in the shadow of bin Laden’s death holds no little irony. … From my May 7th essay.
** CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATS: AN UNCERTAIN TRUMPET. … From my May 2nd feature.
** OBAMA’S BIGGEST PROBLEMS STILL LIE ABROAD. … From my April 29th essay.
** HAS CALIFORNIA’S REFORM MOMENT ARRIVED? … From my April 26th column.
** THE NON-IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY: OBAMA AND LIBYA. … From my April 21st essay.
** ASSESSING THE JERRY BROWN ASSESSMENTS (AND WHY HE WAS IN STEALTH MODE SO LONG). … From my April 18th feature.
** MAD ABOUT MAD MEN: WILL IT MATCH WEST WING‘S MARK? … From my April 14th essay.
** THE RETURN OF JERRY BROWN. … From my April 11th column.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM 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 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, 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 three wars in the region, and the Arab uprising underway, 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.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $96 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $62 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
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