In a brief respite in between crises, President Barack Obama paid tribute to a young University of Kentucky men’s basketball team for winning the NCAA championship last month. He admits Kentucky wasn’t the team he had picked to win.
** QUICK HITS. Governor Jerry Brown has paid no money to consultants for his November revenue initiative. In contrast, heiress Molly Munger is spending over $100,000 a month on consultants for her zombie income tax hike for nearly all initiative. Some pretty big names, too. Who I am absolutely sure know better. But if they tell her she doesn’t know what she’s doing, they ain’t getting those big bucks. … Hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, an effective co-chair with Arnold Schwarzenegger and George Shultz of the successful campaign to defeat the 2010 initiative to stop California’s landmark climate change program, had his organization pushing a November initiative to eliminate a billion dollar corporate tax break in favor of help for green energy and the state budget deficit go ahead and turn in nearly a million signatures today. The complex tax break, which benefits companies which do not create jobs in California, was adopted as part of the 2009 budget deal which enacted temporary tax hikes. … Brown is said to prefer that Steyer not go ahead with the initiative, fearing ballot clutter on fiscal measures. I don’t know if that is so or not, but if that is Brown’s opinion, I don’t agree with it.
** THE CURIOUS CHEN CRISIS SPOTLIGHTS OUR BIG CHINA CONUNDRUM. As if he didn’t have enough geopolitical crises already.
President Barack Obama got a complicated new crisis to manage this week, this one in China, where blind dissident icon Chen Guancheng — who, somehow, escaped house arrest in his village and made his way hundreds of miles to the U.S. embassy, where he received temporary sanctuary — “voluntarily” left the embassy and returned to Chinese soil.
With supposed new safeguards for his freedom, it was hailed as a diplomatic success by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Then Chen said that he had been coerced to leave the U.S. embassy by Chinese government threats to incarcerate his wife. Or even kill her.
Then the activist reached out to Republicans in Congress, seeking to come to the U.S. on Hillary’s plane when it leaves China. Clinton was there to work on bilateral relations with the Middle Kingdom, which already theatened a turn for the worse. Later, a resolution of sorts seems to have been achieved, in which Chen, joined by his family, will come to America “temporarily” as a new fellow of New York University.
The whole thing is very odd. How did Chen, who is blind, escape through layers of custody and get to and gain entrance to the U.S. embassy in the first place? Was he allowed to do so to create a crisis in the midst of high-level U.S./China negotiations? If so, why? If not, well, perhaps it’s just an odd confluence of events.
It all highlights what a conundrum that leaders from Washington to California face in dealing with the challenges and opportunities presented by a clearly ascending and not very well understood China.
Whatever is really going on with Chen, it could hardly have been less opportune, with Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in Beijing to try to work out better economic and financial arrangements with the fast-rising power, as well as try to coordinate efforts on the crises with North Korea, Iran, and Syria.
In the midst of it all, we of course have reflexive super-hawk Mitt Romney — who toughed out the Vietnam War, which he strongly advocated, as a Mormon missionary in France — saying Obama is weak and he would be tougher with China, whatever that means. Which is quite ironic, since Romney made his incredible fortune in the leveraged buyout business, a business in which I don’t believe he ever went out of his way to alienate his lenders.
For the U.S. and China have a symbiotic economic relationship. We provide China with markets for their hyperactive export sector. China provides us with debt financing.
But China is on the rise, while the U.S., having made some massive mistakes, is struggling to hold on to its post-World War II and post-Cold War preeminence.
Yet China has big problems of its own, not the least of which is a huge and increasingly restive population which wants to share in a revolution of rising material expectations and chafes at the authoritarianism of one of the world’s last Communist governments. China’s government has reacted with alarm to the Arab Awakening, probably fearing such an awakening among its own people, as a result joining Russia, which also cracks down on internal dissent, in opposing widespread international moves to support human rights and democracy. …
The unemployment rate dipped again last month, to 8.1%, but job growth was lower than hoped.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and Virginia.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Obama then held a roundtable discussion with a group of high school seniors and their parents at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.
Obama then delivered remarks about the importance of having the opportunity for affordable higher education, also at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington.
At 1:55 PM Pacific, Obama welcomes the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team to the White House Rose Garden.
The Kentucky Wildcats are this year’s national collegiate champions.
It’s a game that Obama played himself, on Hawaii’s state high school basketball championship team and at Occidental College in California, which he attended before transferring to Columbia University in New York.
Obama got some mixed news today on the economy.
While the unemployment rate dipped again, this time to 8.1%, job growth was somewhat lower than expected.
Still the economy continues to grow, despite continued slashing of government jobs.
But there is little margin for error, which is why geopolitical crises are so important.
That said, crude oil is sliding today in global markets.
That is because an Israeli military strike against Iran looks less likely amidst all the sudden open opposition from key members of the security apparat.
And Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is talking about an early election this year, while his coalition still has an edge despite economic woes. That may militate against military action as well.
Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who fled house arrest and made his ways hundreds of miles to the US embassy just as high-level US/China negotiations were about to begin, will now apparently be allowed to take his family to study in the US as a fellow at New York University.
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 ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown has left the state.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
With Brown’s November revenue initiative wrapping up the signature phase of its campaign, as he noted in remarks yesterday in Silicon Valley, California Republican Party leaders kicked off what they say will be a “whistle-stop” campaign against the ballot measure at the Capitol. State GOP Chairman Tom DelBeccaro, Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, and Assembly Minority Leader Connie Huff, defensively dubbing themselves the “Party of Yes” rather than the Party of No, urged a no vote but did not lay out a campaign plan for the cash-strapped party.
** MAD MEN: TO THE MOON! (AND CRASHING BACK AGAIN). … From my May 1st essay.
** SEALED UP, BUT NOT SEALED OVER: THE OSAMA BIN LADEN RAID AT 1. … From my May 1st essay.
** BACK ON THE NATIONAL STAGE? JERRY BROWN BRINGS AN INCOMPLETE STORY. … From my April 28th essay.
** MAD MEN: WIBBLY-WOBBLY, TIMEY-WIMEY, TRIPPY-WIPPY (AND PEGGY OLSON IS NO DANA SCULLY). … From my April 24th essay.
** HILLARY FOR PRESIDENT? ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GAUNTLET. … From my April 24th essay.
** THE PERSISTENCE OF TUNNEL VISION: ANOTHER PROBLEM FOR JERRY BROWN. … From my April 19th essay.
** MAD MEN: ROUNDING SOME HAIRPIN PLOT CURVES. … From my April 17th essay.
** FIRST WEEK: A RAGGED START, OBAMA’S BIGGER PROBLEMS. … 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.
** 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.
In a small film you may have heard of called The Avengers, Tony Stark aka Iron Man (played by Jerry Brown friend Robert Downey, Jr.), spars with Loki (played by some clever Brit). The film, which has already taken in over $300 million in various international markets, opens across North America today.
** 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 $98 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $64 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 $16 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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