Libyan rebels today halted their offensive against Gaddafi forces in the western mountains after three days of fighting.
** QUICK HITS. President Barack Obama will announce his plans for the first phase of the Afghan War draw-down on Wednesday in Washington. On Thursday he will travel to the upstate New York base of the 10th Mountain Division, a light fighter outfit that is one of the most frequently deployed in the US inventory. … The US Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead, declared in a speech late last week which I just received today that climate change in the Arctic is creating the world’s “Fifth Ocean, the first new ocean since the Ice Age.” The Navy is making plans now to accommodate fishing fleets migrating to the Arctic, major new resource extraction ventures, and a new shipping lane over the top of the world from Europe to Asia, all within the next two decades.
** CALIFORNIA 2011: ON STRANGER TIDES. Okay, the movie’s no good, even if it is making a billion dollars, but the sub-title is.
Stirrings around and about California’s dysfunctional state Capitol as Governor Jerry Brown’s historic state budget veto continues to reverberate.
An individual who appears to have exhibited stalker-like behavior toward Brown of late — showing up regularly at the Governor’s Office, praying and wanting to speak with him — got into a noon-time altercation with California Highway Patrol security officers in which he hit one in the face. This led to his being tasered and forcibly subdued in a brief melee with two officers before being taken off in an ambulance, as well as a brief shutdown of the Capitol’s north entrance.
In arguably less peculiar developments, state Controller John Chiang is still pondering whether or not to issue paychecks to state legislators. Who are only supposed to get paid if they produced a balanced budget by June 15th. He’s taking part in a fast to convince Brown, the biggest ally the United Farm Workers have ever had, to sign card check legislation for farm workers in lieu of union representation elections.
Okay. I support card check legislation for farm workers. But not for all workers. Which is another matter entirely, even more so for Chiang as the state controller than for me as a columnist.
While Chiang ponders and fasts, Democratic legislative leaders are said to be opining that only legislators can decide if the budget passes muster sufficiently for them to be paid.
That doesn’t sound right. The budget has to be signed by the governor, after all, in order for it to take effect, and they don’t have the votes to override Brown’s veto. And state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who has been a major Democratic leader longer than these folks have been out of short pants, says that this budget is not sufficient for him to get needed cash flow financing for state operations on Wall Street.
While the drama of the legislative paycheck plays out, and public employee unions signal that they would rather spend their money next year to elect a supermajority than on any election for tax extensions now, state Chamber of Commerce chief Alan Zaremberg says that he things Brown can still reach a deal with enough Republicans to achieve his goal.
** NEW POLL: MAJOR HESITANCE ABOUT MORMON PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES. A new Gallup Poll shows that more than one in five won’t vote for a Mormon for president. This figure is unchanged since the late 1960s, despite Mitt Romney’s candidacy in 2008 seemingly blazing a trail.
Romney’s father George, then the governor of Michigan and former CEO of American Motors, ran very unsuccessfully for president in 1968, starting off a frontrunner and ending losing the nomination to Richard Nixon by a wide margin. He went on to serve in Nixon’s Cabinet as secretary of housing and urban development.
(The elder Romney’s presidential candidacy was hurt more by his bumbling on the stump, most notably his 1967 declaration that his early support for the Vietnam War was due to his having been “brainwashed” by Pentagon officials.)
What’s the problem? Many Christians and others consider Mormonism, a relatively new religion, to be a cult.
This presents a fascinating situation, since not one but two major Republican presidential candidates (with Jon Huntsman’s formal entry into the race tomorrow) are Mormons. “And they’re the reasonable ones,” as a waggish friend of mine puts it.
Though the vast majority of Americans say they would vote for their party’s nominee for president in 2012 if that person happens to be a Mormon, 22% say they would not, a figure largely unchanged since 1967. …
The question is mainly relevant to the Republican and independent vote in 2012, given that the current Republican front-runner, Mitt Romney, is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church, and that another Mormon, former Utah Gov. and former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, may enter the race for the GOP nomination as early as this week. …
The largest differences in opposition to voting for a Mormon for president are by educational level, with adults who have not attended college more resistant than those with some college experience or college graduates. This educational pattern is seen in attitudes about voting for someone from almost all of the specific religious or demographic groups tested in the poll.
There are no significant differences on this question by gender, age, region of the country, or religious preference. Additionally, the views of Americans who attend their place of worship weekly are no different from those of less frequent attenders or non-attenders. …
At 22%, Americans’ resistance to electing a Mormon president, even one nominated by their own party, is exceeded only by their opposition to electing someone who is either gay or lesbian (32%) or an atheist (49%). By contrast, less than half as many, 10%, say they would not vote for a Hispanic, and fewer than 10% would not vote for a nominee who is Jewish, Baptist, Catholic, female, or black. …
The stability in U.S. bias against voting for a Mormon presidential candidate contrasts markedly with steep declines in similar views toward several other groups over the past half-century, including blacks, women, Catholics, and Jews. The last time as many as 22% of Americans said they would not vote for any of these groups (the same level opposed to voting for a Mormon today) was 1959 for Catholics, 1961 for Jews, 1971 for blacks, and 1975 for women. As noted, opposition to voting for each of these has since tapered off to single digits.
Still, it is significant that in 1959, the year before John F. Kennedy won election as the nation’s first Catholic president, 25% of Americans — including 22% of Democrats, 33% of Republicans, and 18% of independents — said they would not vote for a Catholic. Public opposition fell to 21% by May 1960 and to 13% by August 1961. …
>>>>>>LIVE VIDEO NETCAST
At 10:30 AM Pacific, White House press secretary Jay Carney delivers a briefing. The event 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.
As the U.S. deals with the very ragged details of AfPak, an older conundrum re-emerges. Iraq’s government says it is trying to track down some $18 billion — in cash, brought over by the planeload by U.S. forces — for reconstruction which unaccountably went missing after the 2003 invasion.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
A big week in presidential politics is on tap, and what looks be a big week in California politics.
The ranks of President Barack Obama’s would-be Republican challengers grows, with few considering Mitt Romney to be a strong frontrunner, the Libyan War reaches an important turn with Congress moving toward a vote, and the Afghan War review approaches its conclusion with reports of US attempts to negotiate with the Taliban.
In California politics, Governor Jerry Brown’s dramatic first-in-state-history veto of the state budget continues to reverberate as he carries on his quest to get a handful of Republican votes for tax extensions and contemplates prospects for an all-cuts budget to illustrate the situation for determinedly ill-informed state voters. And state legislators, who thought they’d saved their paychecks under the new Prop 25 provision requiring passage of a balanced budget by June 15th only to see Brown veto their cobbled-together version of it now hope that state Controller John Chiang decides to keep issuing their paychecks anyway.
Meanwhile, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will give the keynote address Tuesday at a United Nations conference on renewable energy.
Who won Saturday’s much-hyped golf match at Andrews Air Force Base between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner? Actually, they both won. The two formed a bipartisan team against another bipartisan team consisting of Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio Governor John Kasich and defeated them. No scores were released.
Will the Obama/Boehner golf team be equally successful in dealing with the federal deficit and looming debt limit? We’ll see. I suspect yes, ultimately, on the latter. And no on the former, which I don’t think anyone is really very serious about.
The Federal Reserve meets on Tuesday and Wednesday to contemplate the sputtering U.S. and global economic recovery. A resurgent European debt crisis, especially in Greece, Ireland, and Spain, could drag the economy back down.
On the other hand, crude oil is down over 18% since the death of Osama bin Laden. And gasoline prices are at last heading back down for the highs of recent months which have killed consumer confidence.
On the Sunday chat shows, soon-to-retire Defense Secretary Bob Gates confirmed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s statement Saturday that the US is negotiating with the Taliban, but described the discussions as “preliminary.”
And Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham blasted some of their fellow Republicans running for president for their moves in the past week to back away from the Afghan War and the Libyan War, describing them as “isolationism.”
Karzai also lashed out at the U.S. in his speech to a youth conference in Kabul, saying that America’s motives are highly suspect and its forces are polluting the country.
Not far away from Karzai’s speech venue and the presidential palace, Taliban raiders struck a police station, killing nine Afghan police officers and necessitating the movement of Afghan troops from a nearby province to secure the situation. At least one of the Taliban raiders, who used assault rifles and suicide vests, was wearing an Afghan military uniform.
In the Libyan War, NATO struck Gaddafi regime targets in Tripoli hard again the past few nights. Libyan rebels are moving forward now on several fronts. The attacks prompted a screaming speech, via audio hookup on Libyan state TV, from dictator Moammar Gaddafi, who, spitting into the microphone, vowed not to give up.
NATO acknowledged that its aircraft mistakenly hit a column of Libyan rebel vehicles moving toward the front line of Gaddafi regime forces near the strategic oil port of Brega on Thursday, killing several rebel fighters.
While Democratic liberals and a growing number of Republicans threaten to find a way to withhold funding for US involvement in the Libyan War, claiming that the War Powers Act has been violated despite the back seat American role, former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman plans his formal presidential campaign announcement on Tuesday near the Statue of Liberty. Huntsman, who is positioning himself as the biggest establishment challenger to would-be establishment fave Mitt Romney, will then tour New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Nevada, and Utah.
As this plays out, Texas Governor Rick Perry weighs his own entry into the race, in which a conservative fave with executive credentials such as himself could do very well.
Back in California politics, with state-level political journalism increasingly disappearing into the fragmented, context-free cacophony of Twitter, a coherent narrative is finally emerging in most coverage thanks to Brown’s dramatic veto of the state budget.
Democratic legislative leaders are still perturbed, but can do nothing to overturn the veto. To the extent that they make trouble for Brown, they bolster Brown’s public standing.
But Brown must be realistic as well about what he can actually accomplish in this situation.
All eyes are on state Controller John Chiang, who has the power to withhold legislative paychecks now. But Chiang, who is a fine speaker despite his green eyeshade reputation, may harbor ambitions for higher office, perhaps the governorship itself down the line.
And Chiang will be under pressure from public employee unions to keep issuing the paychecks and forestall Brown’s dramatic budget strategems in their own ambitions to kick the budget can down the road one more time before, hopefully, gaining a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature next year and raising taxes after that without need for Republicans.
As all this plays out, Brown’s predecessor, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, readies his first major public appearance since the controversy over his personal life erupted last month.
Schwarzenegger will deliver the keynote address on Tuesday at a United Nations conference on renewable energy in Vienna. To some, this may look like a move in his home turf. But in the reality of Schwarzenegger’s arc, he emerged not from the sophisticated Old World capital but from a small village in rural Austria far from Vienna’s very bright lights. For the young Schwarzenegger, merely making it to Vienna’s cosmopolitan center would have been a big deal.
Meanwhile, California politicians are all busily trying to figure the angles on the revolution Schwarzenegger wrought in the state’s politics through his redistricting reform initiative of 2008 and open primary initiative of 2010. Many more competitive districts will be on tap, though the precise contours are not yet clear as maps drawn by the new citizens redistricting commission are still preliminary. And the open primary initiative brings its own new dynamics to eat away at the state’s corrosive hyper-partisanship.
Here’s what Obama’s week ahead look like.
On Monday and Tuesday, Obama will attend meetings at the White House. On Wednesday, he will greet Asian American and Pacific Islander community leaders at the White House. On Thursday, the President will travel to New York City and attend DNC events.
And on Friday, Obama will travel to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to highlight the importance of manufacturing to the U.S. economy, as well as key steps that government, industry and universities will take together to create new industries and new jobs.
Clarence Clemons, star saxophonist with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, passed away over the weekend.
On a somber note, one of Obama’s favorite musicians, saxophonist Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band fame, died on Saturday of a stroke. The band’s oldest member, who had many health problems, was 69.
Springsteen and the E Street Band were big backers of Obama’s first presidential campaign. And Clemons, arguably the best known member of the band other than Springsteen, was a major mainstay of it, his solos marking many of Springsteen’s greatest hits. He was also a great favorite of former President Bill Clinton.
I remember seeing the band play a show at the Roxy on Sunset Strip in the summer of 1978. They were absolutely on fire, for a nearly four-hour concert, and Clemons was key to the whole thing.
RIP, Big Man.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have received the daily intelligence and economic briefing in the Oval Office.
Obama then met with with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 10:30 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 sound by clicking on the pause button.
At 12:45 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.
At 1:20 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with a group of Democratic and Republican mayors to discuss the economy in the Roosevelt Room.
At 4:25 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a DNC event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
At 6:10 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at another DNC event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Obama is also monitoring a variety of geopolitical crises, mostly related to the Arab awakening, AfPak, and Iraq.
War Zone Times: Libya is nine hours ahead of Pacific time, Iraq and Yemen are ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
A record-breaking Sierra Nevada snowpack is causing flood concerns in Central California. Governor Jerry Brown declared the state’s drought over early this year.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown is continuing work on California’s chronic budget crisis and his nascent administration.
Brown’s veto of the California state budget passed by Democratic legislative leaders is, predictably, playing very well.
Now we see what comes next.
** JERRY BROWN’S BIG BUDGET VETO, AND WHERE IT GOES FROM HERE. The dust is still settling in the wake of Governor Jerry Brown’s veto of the California state budget. That budget, designed by Democratic legislative leaders and their backers, had good things in it, and also some highly questionable elements, i.e., gimmicks, some of which may be replaceable in another iteration.
Can Brown get his better budget, the sensible compromise mostly blocked by Republican intransigence? That question probably becomes moot on June 30th. Why? It’s simple enough. That’s the point at which his proposed tax extensions become tax increases.
Meanwhile, for the first time in California’s recorded history, a governor has vetoed a state budget. …
After months of negotiations, Brown has come 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.
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 that went bust. … From my June 17th column.
** WEINERGATE’S LASTING IMPACT: THE FIRST BIG SOCIAL MEDIA POLITICAL SEX SCANDAL. New York Congressman Anthony Weiner has his definitive claim to fame. He’s center stage in the first big social media political sex scandal. It seems fitting that his surrealistic meltdown of a press conference came on the same day that Steve Jobs unveiled another path to making our lives more virtual, more convenient, and more risky. … From my June 7th column.
** JERRY BROWN’S NEW PROBLEM. … From my June 3rd column.
** HARSH REALITIES IMPINGE ON OBAMA’S EMERGING DOCTRINE. … From my June 1st essay.
** JERRY BROWN RETURNS (AGAIN!) ONLY TO DROP BACK INTO STEALTH MODE. … From my May 25th feature.
** NCIS: AMERICA’S FAVORITE SHOW AND WHAT IT TELLS US. … From my May 18th essay.
** 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.
NASA’s Messenger probe of Mercury reveals new facts about the solar system’s innermost planet.
** 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 at $93 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $59 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
Oil has dropped over 18% since the death of Osama bin Laden.
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