The Nuclear Security Summit this weekend in South Korea will be discussing the state of efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons — notably with regard to Iran and North Korea — as well as the state of nuclear power a year after the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.
The Republican presidential race careens on, etch-a-sketches and professed lack of concern about unemployment and all, as do the several geopolitical crises President Barack Obama is attempting to manage, crises which are directly driving a big political problem for the president just as he is resurgent, i.e., the price of gasoline.
Back in California politics, Governor Jerry Brown pushes forward with his big November initiative on revenues and announces a big move to support a new generation of electric vehicles.
After Mitt Romney seemed to regain the upper hand with a 47-35 win in Tuesday’s Illinois primary, Rick Santorum seems set to return the favor in Saturday’s Louisiana primary. Romney just can’t win in the South, even with all his financial advantages and the continued presence in the race of Newt Gingrich.
But he has another new problem that may be equally as problematic, his top communications aide’s characterization of the Romney campaign as an “etch-a-sketch” venture. Just shake the board clear of primary policy stands and change it all around for the general election campaign, if there is one.
Not surprisingly, Democrats continue to have a great deal of nasty fun with Mitt Romney and his top communications aide’s reference to the “Etch-A-Sketch” campaign. Fair? Unfair? How about precisely on target for the chameleon candidate?
Obama wrapped up his “American Energy” tour yesterday, emphasizing his commitment both to renewable energy and to sustainable oil and natural gas development.
He was buoyed by some very good economic news, indicating that jobless claims are down to the lowest point since February 2008. That’s when many were fervently denying that the US was in any recession, much less the worst recession since the Great Depression, not that they will say anything like that now.
But Obama was also clearly on the defensive on gasoline prices, driven much higher in part due to the heightened geopolitical risk factor caused by the various crises Obama is attempting to manage, especially the Iran/Israel crisis.
The Keystone XL pipeline project plays heavily into this, which is why Obama urged its southern portion while wanting to study the main part down from Canada, which many environmentalists imagined had been killed last year. As I discussed yesterday here on NWN, Keystone is quite popular, not that much is known about it, of course.
Obama will try to rally more support for the diplomatic and economic suppression of Iran’s nuclear program, and of North Korea’s, this weekend at the Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea.
In addition to the focus on Iran, look also for a lot of talk about North Korea’s satellite launch next month — which also serves as a test for a long-range missile — in the wake of agreeing to back away from its nuclear weapons program in exchange for major food aid.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has been delivering a number of pointed messages on the Iran crisis, said that the threat of an Israeli attack may be forcing Iran to hold off on deciding to proceed further on developing a nuclear weapon. He acknowledged that the US and Israel have different perspectives on when a strike might be necessary, which he attributes to greater US strike capability and hence a longer time frame for decision. He didn’t say that it might simply be a bad idea. Meanwhile, a new poll of Israeli public opinion shows strong opposition to an Israeli attack without active US military participation. Only 23% support “blue and white” aka unilateral Israeli action.
While all this plays out, and the US publicly and reportedly privately urges Israel not to attack Iran, we have no less than three aircraft carrier strike groups in and around the Arabian Gulf. Ordinarily, there is one. In time of crisis, there are two. The three we have on station there now are the Enterprise, on the final deployment of a 50-year career that began with the Cuban Missile Crisis, Abraham Lincoln, and Carl Vinson.
Secretary of State Hillary Afghanistan, negotiating with Afghan officials, appears to be getting closer to an ongoing status of forces agreement allowing a residual US force to remain in the country after the general withdrawal.
The Afghans are seeking veto power over night raids. They already achieved future control over the prisons.
But another picture is getting messier. The civilian lawyer for the Army sergeant accused of massacring Afghan civilians outside Kandahar, who represented serial killer Ted Bundy, says there is very little actual evidence against his client and that he intends “to put the war on trial.”
And trial there will be, as the Army charged the sergeant today with 17 counts of murder.
Finding himself in a less trying situation with regard to his November revenue initiative, after forging his compromise measure last week, is Governor Jerry Brown. He just has heiress Molly Munger’s terminally ill initiative to deal with now. Oh, and potential opposition from well-heeled donors against tax hikes on the well-heeled. We’ll see if anything like that emerges.
Today in Santa Barbara, at a Wall Street Journal conference on the intersection of ecological concern and economic opportunity, Brown talked up what is happening in California.
He also chose today to announce a big move to create the infrastructure for electric vehicles in California, using a $120 million settlement with one of the rapacious merchant power companies that profiteered in the California power crisis a decade ago to fund the construction of a statewide network of charging stations for zero-emission vehicles.
But, fascinating and important as all this is, there remains one even larger happening this weekend: The return of Mad Men.
I’ll have some things on that ahead, as well.
President Barack Obama announced a surprise pick this morning to head the World Bank, Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim. He’s a medical doctor and with a strong background in global health and soft development programs.
** NEW FEATURE COMING UP … THE REAL GAME CHANGE: PALINISM’S RISE AND MODERATE REPUBLICANISM’S ECLIPSE.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and en route to South Korea.
Obama received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He then met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
And he announced his pick of Dr. Jim Yong Kim, president of Dartmouth College, to head the World Bank, something that was not on his original schedule for the day.
Obama is prepping for this weekend’s Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea.
At 8:45 PM Pacific, Obama departs the White House on Marine One en route Joint Base Andrews, where he boards Air Force One.
At midnight Pacific, Obama departs Joint Base Andrews on Air Force One en route to Seoul, South Korea.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Iraq, and AfPak.
Military Crisis Zone Times: The Arabian Gulf is eleven hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is twelve and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS HAVE ONLY THEMSELVES TO BLAME. There’s a lot of hissing and moaning on the right in California, and among some avowedly middle-of-the-road pundits, about Governor Jerry Brown’s compromise with a left-labor coalition on his November revenue initiative. What’s the complaint? More taxes on the rich. Part of the complaint is about the fiscal volatility of relying more on people whose incomes can fluctuate. Part of it is about protecting the rich, a bottom-line GOP issue these days.
The fact is that if the Republican Party hadn’t determinedly taken itself even further to the right over the past several years, they wouldn’t be facing what shapes up in polling as popular soak-the-rich solutions. Republicans took themselves out of the governance play in California several years ago, ignoring what turned out to be a fateful warning speech about their steep decline from then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, turning into a reflexive Party of No.
Brown, who crushed Meg Whitman’s biggest spending non-presidential campaign in American history as he won a historic third term in November 2010, pushed a more centrist course last year, spending months trying to work with Republican legislators in endless rounds of talks. He began with a big compromise, huge budget cuts delivered on the barrelhead in advance, then spent months working to get a handful of Republican votes needed to surmount California’s unusual two-thirds requirement for revenue increases. (Tax cuts, of which there have been many, especially in flush times, require only a simple majority.)
Logically, Brown’s plan should have worked. He put forward a tough-minded balanced plan that showed dramatically from the beginning his willingness to cut as well as tax. But logic isn’t that big in Sacramento, and it’s not at all big with the Republican Party, long dominated by right-wingers, that became even more conservative even after enjoying an unexpected windfall of success with the much more moderate Arnold Schwarzenegger.
According to well-informed sources, Schwarzenegger, following his landslide election as governor in the 2003 California recall election, met with state Republican leaders and urged that they begin finding ways to appeal more to women voters, on issues such as education and health care. They weren’t responsive.
After his near-death experience in 2005 pushing more conservative initiatives dealing with nonetheless real issues, Schwarzenegger swept to a landslide re-election in 2006, during what was otherwise a very good year for Democrats, pushing an agenda of creative centrism. Clearly he had a very good idea of what it took to succeed, but noticed that most of his party kept on moving further to the right nonetheless.
After an increasingly uneasy experience dealing with the party through much of 2007, Schwarzenegger decided to address matters head on. It didn’t turn out as he’d hoped.
Texas Governor Rick Perry’s presidential candidacy turned out badly, despite having a party that was ready to nominate someone like him, but he neatly demonstrated the ascendance of the far right in the California Republican Party four-and-a-half years ago.
That’s when Schwarzenegger, having won re-election by a 17-point landslide margin 10 months earlier, decided to level with his fellow Republicans at their state party convention outside Palm Springs.
I previewed the speech on my New West Notes blog after reading it the day before. …
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Southern California and Northern California.
As I revealed here a few weeks ago would be the case, Brown was in Santa Barbara this morning where he was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal’s managing editor Robert Thomson on how California’s environmental policies are impacting the economy and driving growth, as part of the newspaper’s ECO:nomics Conference.
He also announced a big move to create the infrastructure for electric vehicles in California, as I discuss in the Friday Funhouse column above.
** JERRY BROWN DEALS AWAY TROUBLE ON THE LEFT. Governor Jerry Brown has dealt away some potential problems on the left to strengthen his chances of passing a revenue initiative in November.
Brown dealt with California’s chronic state budget crisis by making big cuts in 2011. But he couldn’t get Republicans to go along even with a public vote on extending 2009′s temporary tax hikes, and so has had to go to the ballot this year. After Brown and his allies succeeded in convincing a group of billionaires and former officeholders (the Think Long Committee) to back away from their own tax initiative plans, which would have lowered tax rates on the rich and corporations, likely muddying the electoral waters with a big money campaign even though they had little chance of success, he then had two other initiatives to deal with.
This week he dealt with the most problematic for him. I wrote early in the week on New West Notes that “Brown’s problem with the two other tax initiatives may be smaller than it appears. I’ll have more on that.” Here’s the “more on that” part. … From my March 16th column.
** MAKING SENSE OF KALEIDOSCOPIC PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS. Presidential politics has gone kaleidoscopic. Between Mitt Romney’s split decision on a not so Super Tuesday for him and the big geopolitically-driven crises President Barack Obama has to manage, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. Here’s a view of the forest. … From my March 7th essay.
** IMPOSSIBLE MISSIONS AND 50 YEARS OF BOND. … From my March 6th essay.
** JERRY BROWN MAKES SOME SPLASHY MOVES. … From my March 1st essay.
** THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE: IRAN, ISRAEL, AFGHANISTAN. … From my February 29th essay.
** DEBATING IN DISARRAY: SEARCHING FOR SOME CLARITY IN THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL MESS. … From my February 24th essay.
** OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH: ECLIPSING THE EMPIRE STATE. … From my February 21st 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.
The Hunger Games, based on a best-selling novel about a dystopic future, is on track for one of the biggest opening weekends in movie history.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in major military operations in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. 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.
** 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 from the Russia Today channel. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the state-run 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 $107 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $73 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down about $7 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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