Today brought a host of events across the UK to celebrate 100 days to go until the London Olympics. Concerns over security, transportation, and cost continue to provoke criticism, but the organizers say the Games will, in the words of the motto, “Inspire a Generation.”
** QUICK HITS. The top pick in a brand new CNN poll for Mitt Romney’s running mate? Stanford Professor and former Secretary of State Condi Rice. There’s just one thing. The former George W. Bush national security advisor will never do it. … 26% pick Rice, while 21% pick Rick Santorum. Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tied for third at 14% each. … California Republican legislators have found a unifying issue requiring governmental action. A statue of Ronald Reagan in Sacramento’s Capitol Park. It would be built by private subscription, but they are quite vague as to where it would go. I say go for it. So long as the true story of Reagan’s pragmatic governorship is enshrined along with it.
** THE PERSISTENCE OF TUNNEL VISION: ANOTHER PROBLEM FOR JERRY BROWN. Jerry Brown has a number of problems to deal with in his new/renewed governorship. One of the biggest of all is a persistent tunnel vision in California’s frequently dysfunctional political culture.
Unfortunately, it’s a problem that afflicts both political parties and most interests, as well as their adherents, acknowledged and otherwise, in the media. …
The LAO report makes the obvious mistake of proceeding from the premise that a reactionary Congress will be in place for decades to come.
It’s only the advent of the Republican House in elections held little more than a year ago that put a serious crimp in federal support for the project. But since then, Tea Party Republicans and their allies in the old energy economy — and let’s be blunt, the order should be reversed because old energy economy interests have hard right Republicans fronting for them at every turn — have shot down the Obama Administration’s high-speed rail projects everywhere but California.
This is a struggle that has taken place, on and off, for decades, as the rest of the advanced industrial world moved ahead with rail. The same sorts of folks hitting Brown now on high-speed rail hit him during his first governorship for being a “Moonbeam” by pushing renewable energy. …
But it’s not just people pushing perspectives which benefit the entrenched interests of oil, car, and airline companies who suffer from tunnel vision.
Brown, speaking Tuesday at a California Medical Association legislative conference, said that he expects the state’s budget deficit to be a billion or more higher next month than the $9 billion he projected it at in his January budget proposal. Less money is coming in and more money is being spent than forecast.
And legislative Democrats balk, as they have so hopefully for years now — with Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis before him — at his latest budget cuts.
Instead, they choose to delay to see if things magically get better. But wishing for more revenue will not make it happen, and delaying cuts makes them worse.
This has been going on for a decade now, though legislative Democrats have shown themselves far more reality-oriented than legislative Republicans by undertaking necessary cuts on several occasions.
I remember talking with then Assembly Budget Committee chair Jenny Oropeza a decade ago. She insisted that Republicans — some of whose votes were needed to meet California’s unusual two-thirds vote requirement for new revenues (only a majority is needed for tax cuts and special breaks, of which there have been many) — would go along with a tax hike to avoid cuts she didn’t want to make in the aftermath of expanding spending during the dot-com boom-turned-bust.
Why would they go along? They would have to, she insisted.
But they didn’t. Magical thinking did not suffice and the state’s structural deficit grew. …
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this morning that the U.S. Armed Forces continues to plan further ways to try to halt the violence in Syria and will be ready if needed. The veteran California political figure has put those sedate days running the CIA behind.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 11:20 AM Pacific, he welcomes the national college football champion University of Alabama Crimson Tide to the White House to honor their 14th championship, in an event on the South Lawn.
Next year, I expect Obama to be welcoming the University of Southern California Trojans.
At 1:20 PM Pacific, Obama attends a fundraiser at The W Hotel.
While Obama pushed his now well-honed economic themes in Midwestern battleground states — and baited Mitt Romney by noting that he “wasn’t born with a silver spoon his my mouth” — his administration grapples with the latest major embarrassment in Afghanistan.
Despite Pentagon efforts to convince the paper not to publish, pictures surfaced in the Los Angeles Times of US soldiers posing with trophies, in this case the body parts of Taliban attackers who blew themselves up.
I’m told this is not uncommon, and hardly an isolated instance. The difference this time is that a soldier provided the photos to try to get the practice stopped.
US commanders had better get what seems to be a serious and widespread discipline problem under control.
To be fair, the problem is understandable.
This is a war that has dragged on and on, with those who grasp it concerned that it is akin to building castles in the sand.
Less metaphorically, our troops are resented, the early sense of Afghan welcome now largely absent. It’s a foreign culture for our people, one that is physically challenging due to the altitude and weather, with potential peril around most corners.
And the enemy is not afraid to sacrifice their lives. Indeed, they are frequently all too happy to do so.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai today called on the US to speed up its withdrawal, still scheduled for the end of 2014.
Australia, at the beginning of the week, before the photos emerged, announced that it will pull out next year.
And it’s not as though Australia is not a staunch US ally. Darwin, Australia will serve as a dual base for Australian and US naval and ground forces, as announced late last year as part of the Obama Administration’s planned geopolitical transition to a Pacific focus.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Iraq, AfPak, and North Korea.
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.
The virulent right-winger who killed 77 people in Norway told a court in Oslo today that his shooting rampage was inspired by a computer game. Anders Behring Breivik told prosecutors his main target was former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, whom he planned to behead. Brundtland, now UN special envoy on climate change, is partnering with former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Sustainia virtual world project, as reported on NWN last month.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
The Service Employees union gave $1 million to Brown’s November revenue initiative.
That brings the campaign’s fundraising total to date to more than $11 million.
** MAD MEN: ROUNDING SOME HAIRPIN PLOT CURVES. This week’s Mad Men offered up a much more insular episode, though the sense of decay and decline in New York which I wrote about earlier in the season is evident. The American studies social themes, aside from the trademark dissatisfaction with success and a sense of impending change, are absent. … From my April 17th essay.
** FIRST WEEK: A RAGGED START, OBAMA’S BIGGER PROBLEMS. It was an interesting first week in the general election campaign. After Rick Santorum’s sudden withdrawal essentially handed the Republican nomination to Mitt Romney, on the 100th anniversary of Titanic setting sail on its fateful voyage, President Barack Obama had a mostly good week. But the big flap over foolhardy comments by a Democratic lobbyist on a cable chat show demonstrated alarmingly, again, how debate can be derailed by trivial pursuits even in the face of far more consequential issues. And though the domestic dynamics of the campaign — economic fairness and women’s rights — mostly favored Obama, geopolitical crises that could seriously damage Obama’s presidency loomed very large. … From my April 14th essay.
** MAD MEN‘s MASTER CLASS IN AMERICAN STUDIES ROLLS ON TO SOME MYSTERY DATES. … From my April 10th essay.
** JERRY BROWN HITS 74. … From my April 7th essay.
** IS ROMNEY “INEVITABLE,” AGAIN? … From my April 5th column.
** MAD MEN: WHOSE SIDE IS TIME ON, ANYWAY? … From my April 3rd essay.
** CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS IN CRISIS: ANOTHER BIG SHOE DROPS. … From my March 29th essay.
** MAD MEN (FINALLY) RETURNS: WORTH THE WAIT? … From my March 27th essay.
** THE REAL GAME CHANGE: PALINISM’S RISE AND MODERATE REPUBLICANISM’S ECLIPSE. … From my March 23rd essay.
** CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS HAVE ONLY THEMSELVES TO BLAME. … From my March 22nd 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.
Space shuttle Discovery arrived at its new home at Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Northern Virginia early today. Thousands of spectators and many astronauts attended the celebration marking the shuttle’s retirement.
** 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 $102 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $68 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 $12 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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