President Barack Obama received a very warm welcome today in Dublin as he visited his ancestral (!) Ireland.
** QUICK HITS. The latest big Icelandic volcanic eruption is disrupting some European air travel and caused Air Force One to fly tonight from Dublin to London, depriving the Obamas of the rest of their evening in Ireland. As a result, they’re spending three straight nights in London. … In California, Governor Jerry Brown’s administration is reacting to today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision ordering a big reduction (see item below) in the state’s prison population with alacrity. As need be, since they need a plan in two weeks to reduce the number of state inmates by more than 30,000 over a period of two years. Brown has a plan to do it in four years. … Brown will meet with California State University campus presidents tomorrow at noontime in the state Capitol to discuss budget scenarios. … Susan Kennedy, a fixture in California politics as chief of staff to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and cabinet secretary to Governor Gray Davis, is now the senior California policy advisor to Alston & Bird, a national law firm pursuing governmental policy work with an already existing crew of former senior members of Congress.
** NEW POLL: PAKISTANIS VERY DOWN ON AMERICA IN WAKE OF BIN LADEN’S DEATH AND JIHADIST REVENGE. A new Gallup Poll indicates that popular attitudes in Pakistan toward the U.S., which haven’t been good for a long time, are even worse in the wake of the take-down of Osama bin Laden, embarrassment over the ease with which U.S. forces penetrated Pakistani air space and operated with impunity next to the nation’s leading military academy, and subsequent retaliatory strikes by jihadist followers of the terrorist icon.
The stunning Taliban attack on a major Pakistani naval base on Karachi over the past day will only cause more upset across the country.
The U.S. military operation that resulted in Osama bin Laden’s death in Pakistan made an already unpopular U.S. even less popular with some Pakistanis. Sixty-four percent of Pakistanis who were aware of the U.S. action say it made them have a more negative opinion of the U.S., while 5% say it made them have a more positive opinion. …
The poll also found the majority of Pakistanis condemn the U.S. action, and most who were aware of the action disapprove that it took place without their government’s prior knowledge.
Approval of U.S. Leadership Sinks, Disapproval Soars
Pakistanis’ opinions of U.S. leadership have never been favorable in the years Gallup has been polling there. Overall, the 10% of Pakistanis who approved of U.S. leadership last week is down from 18% in 2010, but not meaningfully lower than what Gallup measured in 2008 and 2009. Disapproval, however, soared to a record-high 85%. …
Many Pakistanis believe the U.S. should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan now that bin Laden is dead — possibly reflecting their frustration with drone attacks that did not stop with his demise. Seventy-nine percent of Pakistanis who were aware of the U.S. action say the U.S. should go now, while 14% think the U.S. should stay. Even among Pakistanis who approve of U.S. leadership, a majority say U.S. troops should go. …
While the U.S. is not offering any apologies for killing bin Laden on Pakistani soil, it did step up efforts this week to smooth relations between the two countries, even as some lawmakers called for U.S. aid to be cut. The deputy director of the CIA and another envoy met with Pakistani intelligence and leadership Thursday, after U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s visit there earlier this week.
With Pakistanis’ opinions about the U.S. moving from bad to worse after bin Laden’s death, it is not clear even whether full U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would reverse this decline. For its part, the U.S. does not yet see its mission in the region as complete, and neither do many Americans. Gallup’s data reinforce the significant diplomatic challenges that lie ahead for both countries.
** CALIFORNIA 2011: JERRY BROWN SAYS “PASS MY REALIGNMENT PLAN” AS U.S. SUPREME COURT ORDERS HUGE CUT IN CALIFORNIA PRISON POPULATION. As I discussed this morning in the Monday Morning Quarterback, the U.S. Supreme Court took up the question of California’s chronically over-crowded prisons this morning. And issued a 5 to 4 ruling — with the majority opinion written by Californian Anthony Kennedy — ordering that California cut its prison population by a whopping 30,000.
The Supreme Court on Monday narrowly endorsed reducing California’s cramped prison population by more than 30,000 inmates to fix sometimes deadly problems in medical care, ruling that federal judges retain enormous power to oversee troubled state prisons.
The court said in a 5-4 decision that the reduction is “required by the Constitution” to correct longstanding violations of inmates’ rights to adequate care for their mental and physical health. In 2009, the state’s prisons averaged nearly a death a week that might have been prevented or delayed with better medical care.
The order mandates a prison population of no more than 110,000 inmates, still far above the 80,000 the system was designed to hold.
There were more than 143,000 inmates in California’s 33 adult prisons as of May 11, so roughly 33,000 inmates will need to be transferred to other jurisdictions or released.
“The violations have persisted for years. They remain uncorrected,” Justice Anthony Kennedy, a California native, wrote for the court. The lawsuit challenging the adequacy of mental health care was filed in 1990.
The court’s four Democratic appointees joined with Kennedy in upholding a court order issued by three federal judges in California, all appointees of President Jimmy Carter.
Justice Antonin Scalia said in dissent that the court order is “perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history” and that it did not comply with the Prison Litigation Reform Act, a 15-year-old law intended to limit the discretion of judges in lawsuits over prison conditions.
Scalia, reading his dissent aloud Monday, said it would require the release of “the staggering number of 46,000 convicted felons.”
Scalia’s number, cited in legal filings, comes from a period in which the prison population was even higher.
Scalia is well behind the curve, since Brown’s predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, cut the prison population by more than 10,000 before Brown took office.
Brown issued this statement at noontime today:
“The Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s decision that California must reduce its prison population. In its ruling, the Supreme Court recognized that the enactment of AB 109 is key to meeting this obligation. We must now secure full and constitutionally guaranteed funding to put into effect all the realignment provisions contained in AB 109. As we work to carry out the Court’s ruling, I will take all steps necessary to protect public safety.”
>>>>>>LIVE VIDEO NETCAST
At 9:30 AM Pacific, President Barack Obama speaks at an Irish celebration in Dublin. This event will be netcast live 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.
President Barack Obama discussed America’s essential bond with Israel, and Israel’s need to compromise to achieve peace with its Arab neighbors, in a Sunday morning address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
A big week in presidential politics, with President Barack Obama on a near week-long tour of Europe, dealing with AfPak, the Libyan War, and the Arab awakening with a G-8 summit on tap while the Republican field to oppose him continues to take shape. And in California politics, Governor Jerry Brown may be reverting to stealth mode in his lengthy, overtime quest to get a handful of Republican legislative votes for a compromise solution to the state’s chronic budget crisis. More about that in a moment.
Some fascinating developments in the past few days to drive the underlying dynamics of the 2012 presidential race.
* Mitch Daniels out. The tabloidization of media that began with Gary Hart claimed this candidacy. The story of his stop and start marriage, his wife’s absence from his political life, all that, would never sell and would never end.
So a potentially major Republican candidate takes a knee behind the starting line. Which is bad for Democrats. There were going to be three — Mitt Romney, Mitch Daniels, and Jon Huntsman — fighting it out for rational establishment support. Now it’s only two. The idea of George W. Bush’s federal budget director, who low-balled the Iraq War and much else, as a reasonable Republican prospect, was good for Democrats.
Huntsman, the ex-Utah governor and Obama’s former ambassador to China, is courting the Bush constituency in the party, with a visit today to the 41st president’s home in Maine. He spends several days this week in fundraising activity in California, where he has significant ties as a Palo Alto native and through top members of his new staff, including former Arnold Schwarzenegger deputy chief of staff and communications director Matt David, longtime Schwarzenegger aide Jake Suski, and former Schwarzenegger media consultant Fred Davis. All of whom also worked with John McCain’s presidential campaign.
* Yemen’s crisis is still on, and still very much up in the air. President Ali Abdullah Saleh never quite signs his departure deal, does he? On Sunday, the US, UK, and Gulf Arab ambassadors were trapped for hours by his thugs. This scene is such an accident waiting to happen, in multiple ways, in the failing Middle Eastern state in which Al Qaeda has found a major toehold.
Heavy fighting has broken out in Yemen’s capital city in the wake of Saleh’s latest reneging.
* Gasoline and oil continue their disconnect. Crude oil has dropped dramatically since the death of Osama bin Laden. But gasoline has not. Most economic signs have improved as the uneven recovery plows on. But gas prices are keeping widespread economic confidence low, and dissatisfaction high. What’s Obama going to do to make the majors drop prices?
In a potential harbinger for 2012, Tuesday’s New York state congressional special election in Buffalo could yield a major Democratic upset in a district held for decades by Republicans, most notably Jack Kemp. Democrat Kathy Hochul has a slight lead over Republican Jane Corwin, who backs the controversial conservative fiscal plan authored by Congressman Paul Ryan, with self-styled wealthy Tea Party type Jack Davis garnering 10% or so of the vote. This is one of only four New York congressional districts carried by John McCain over Obama in 2008.
While Republican presidential candidates struggle to gain traction — oh, yes, ex-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty at last made it official this AM (yawn) — and the party begins to realize what it did in voting for the highly-touted Ryan Plan, Obama has a very full week abroad, with serious statecraft mixed amidst major pageantry. I laid out the political dynamics of Obama’s trip in the NWN Weekend Edition.
Here’s what his week looks like.
On Monday, the Obamas arrive in Dublin, Ireland, where they meet with President McAleese and Dr. McAleese of Ireland and later will meet with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mrs. Kenny. Then they travel to Moneygall, Ireland, which is the town in Ireland where Obama’s ancestors on his mother’s side came from. In the afternoon, the Obamas return to Dublin and the president will deliver remarks at a public event about the ties between the United States and Ireland, before spending the night in Dublin.
On Tuesday, the Obamas will travel to London, England for a state visit. Following the arrival ceremony at Buckingham Palace, they will have lunch with Queen Elizabeth and the U.S. and U.K. delegations. In the afternoon, Obama will visit Westminster Abbey. In the evening, the Obamas will attend a state dinner at Buckingham Palace hosted by the queen. The Obamas will spend the night there.
On Wednesday, Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Cameron. Following that, the two leaders will attend an event hosted by Mrs. Cameron and the First Lady to honor military families, U.S. and U.K. service members and veterans. Then Obama and Cameron will hold a joint press conference. Later in the afternoon, Obama will deliver an speech to the U.K. Parliament. In the evening, the Obamas will hold a dinner in the queen’s honor at the residence of the American ambassador in London.
On Thursday, Obama will travel from London to Deauville, France for the G-8 meetings. In Deauville, Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia. Obama will then participate in the G-8 working lunch and working sessions. Obama will also hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan.
On Friday, Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France. Obama will then participate in the G-8 working sessions. Following that, he will travel from Deauville to Warsaw, Poland. In the evening, Obama and President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland will host a dinner for the heads of state of Central and Eastern Europe.
On Saturday, Obma will hold a bilateral meeting with President Komorowski. Later, Obama and Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland will hold a working lunch. Following that, Obama and Tusk will hold a joint press conference. Then Obama will depart for Washington.
While Obama contends with affairs of state, Jerry Brown, who mounted two runner-up campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination — and might have done more still had he run for the U.S. Senate in 1992, which is another story — is stuck with the usual lousy state of affairs in California’s dysfunctional state Capitol.
After months of negotiations, Brown has run up against the same intractable dynamics that bedeviled Arnold Schwarzenegger in his last years as governor. An ultra-government faction that wants to keep expanding government vs. an anti-government faction that wants to contract government. Add in term limits, gerrymandered safe districts for hyper-partisans, ballot box budgeting, and an odd constitution that cuts a tax on a majority vote but takes a two-thirds vote to raise one, and there you go. Or, more accurately, don’t go.
The state’s fiscal problems date back to the late ’90s and early noughties, with each faction pushing program expansions and tax cuts based on a dot-com bubble gone bust.
And Brown, like Schwarzenegger before him, is left to deal with a Republican Party leadership which has gone from very conservative to extremely conservative.
He also must deal, perhaps more immediately, with an impending U.S. Supreme Court decision which may mandate major releases from California’s long overcrowded prisons. Brown has anticipated this to a large extent with his realignment policy of shifting lesser offenders to local jails.
But the Legislature, typically, has not acted on this.
Schwarzenegger began taking steps to reduce the prison population five years ago, shipping thousands of prisoners out of state, increasing early release opportunities, and creating a higher standard for sending ex-convicts back to prison. But the backlog was quite large, and the state’s sentencing laws, many imposed by popular initiatives, tie a governor’s hands.
All of which is to say that this is another example of the fact that there is plenty for Brown to speak out about in public that is not simply related to progress in state budget negotiations, or lack of same. And plenty that Californians should be hearing from their governor on in his role as the state’s civic leader.
Hiding his light under a bushel keeps Californians from seeing how talented and engaging their new/renewed governor is. And it’s bad for Brown, as well. He needs as much clout with the voters as he can get to do what he needs to do. When he is out of sight and out of mind, he slips in the polls and looks less formidable than he should to the deeply entrenched interests who have California’s Capitol tied up in knots.
The Obamas arrived in Ireland, one of his ancestral homes, this morning at the start of a six-day European tour which takes him also to Britain, France, and Poland.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Ireland.
Obama received his daily intelligence briefing while flying overnight to Dublin on Air Force One.
Here is his schedule, in local time. The time in Ireland is eight hours ahead of Pacific time.
9:35AM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY arrive in Dublin, Ireland
Dublin Airport, Dublin, Ireland
10:15AM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY arrive at President’s Residence and sign guest book
President’s Residence, Dublin, Ireland
Travel Pool Coverage
10:25AM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY meet with President McAleese and Dr. McAleese
President’s Residence, Dublin, Ireland
10:50AM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY participate in a tree planting ceremony
President’s Residence, Dublin, Ireland
Travel Pool Coverage
11:15AM THE PRESIDENT holds a bilateral meeting with Taoiseach Kenny
Farmleigh, Dublin, Ireland
Travel Pool Spray at the Bottom
1:20PM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY attends U.S. Embassy meet and greet
U.S. Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
3:15PM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY visit Moneygall, Ireland
Travel Pool Coverage
5:30PM THE PRESIDENT delivers remarks at Irish Celebration
College Green, Dublin, Ireland
Obama is also monitoring a variety of geopolitical crises, including a third attack in Pakistan in retaliation for the death of Osama bin Laden, a Gaddafi regime peace feeler in the Libyan War, and very damaging suicide bombing attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq.
War Zone Times: Libya is nine hours ahead of Pacific time, Iraq is ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … JERRY BROWN RETURNS. AGAIN!
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown is working on California’s chronic budget crisis and his nascent administration.
** NCIS: AMERICA’S FAVORITE SHOW AND WHAT IT TELLS US. Tuesday night saw the season finale of NCIS, the most watched scripted television series in America. Indeed, if a national poll is to be believed, the veteran CBS procedural about Navy cops (NCIS standing for Naval Criminal Investigative Service), finishing its eighth season, is not only the most popular current scripted show in the country, it’s the favorite show of all time.
How was the season finale? On the anti-climactic side, actually, and not nearly as good as the penultimate episode, one of the show’s best. But it did set up an intriguing beginning to the show’s ninth season in the fall, one which says nefarious things about our national security apparat. More about that in a moment. There be some spoilers ahead.
So, NCIS, the most popular show of all-time? Really? … From my May 18th essay.
** 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. … From my May 11th feature.
A Pakistani Taliban raid on a major naval base in Karachi, reportedly in retaliation for the death of Osama bin Laden, destroyed at least two American-built aircraft and killed more than a dozen military personnel in another embarrassment for Pakistan’s military establishment.
** IN THE SHADOW OF BIN LADEN: REPUBLICANS AND THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE. … 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.
** 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 $97 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $63 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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