In his commencement address at Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Virginia, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told students that marriage is between one man and one woman.
** NEW COLUMNS COMING UP … JERRY BROWN’S UNHAPPY BUDGET and MAD MEN: “DARK SHADOWS.”
** OBAMA THIS WEEKEND. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
On Saturday morning, he and Vice President Joe Biden honored the 2012 National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) TOP COPS award winners in the Rose Garden.
Obama has no scheduled public events on Sunday.
There’s a lot of confusion about the ballyhooed NATO Summit in Chicago, set to begin in little more than a week, and intended as a big boost to Obama’s geopolitical leadership, showcased in his hometown.
Will Pakistan participate at all in the big discussion on AfPak strategy? It doesn’t seem so. Are countries beginning a rush to the exits in Afghanistan?
How will NATO members advance needed technology when their budgets are in sharp decline? Though the US followed the lead of other nations in Libya, it was US forces who provided the necessary value-added in surveillance, intelligence, refueling, targeting, and command and control needed to make the air war a success.
And how will NATO handle relations with groups that wish to ally, such as the Gulf Cooperation Council, and with groups that may be rivals, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and members such as Russia and China?
Does NATO have a unified position on missile defense? On expansion? On Iran?
Despite the big success in Libya, NATO’s future is still in question.
Obama is still riding a wave of enthusiasm inside Democratic circles in the wake of his endorsement of same-sex marriage, and in the aftermath of his record-setting fundraiser at George Clooney’s home.
After trying to avoid the issue, challenger Mitt Romney addressed it head on in his commencement address at fundamentalist minister Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in rural Virginia, fully embracing the hardline conservative position on same-sex marriage.
That will help Romney with the 19th century constituency, not so much with the 21st century constituency.
But this is still a risky issue for Obama, who when he emerged several years ago struck me as a figure from the future. There are plenty of voters who are afraid of change, especially change that makes them uncomfortable, as gay marriage does.
Still, Obama had a good couple of days in the West, making effective appearances in Northern Nevada after his big night at Clooney’s. Which he followed up the next morning with a pick-up basketball game in which his and Clooney’s team emerged victorious over a team with Tobey Maguire, the former Spiderman, and some Secret Service guys.
The event the night before raised a record-setting $15 million, $6 million from the people on-site and another $9 million from online donations to a raffle for four lucky winners to attend.
One of those on-hand was my old Hart for President friend and colleague and best man John Emerson, once a top Bill Clinton aide and Hillary Clinton advisor who has become a top fundraiser for Obama, whom he’d known through the University of Chicago Law School connection.
The event drew some of the core Obama supporters, notably movie exec Jeffrey Katzenberg of Dreamworks, an early and key Obama backer who played a major role organizing the fundraiser, as well as a number of new major contributors.
Obama praised Clooney to the skies at the event, but also noted amusingly that the actor had been cropped out of the photo used for the famous Obama “Hope” posters. The two had appeared at an event on Darfur.
For his part, Clooney quipped: “Well, we have Iron Man, Spiderman, and Batman present tonight, so the Secret Service gets the night off.”
Clooney was referring to Robert Downey, Jr., Tobey Maguire, and himself. (Clooney played Batman in the last movie in the series before the Christopher Nolan reboot with Christian Bale. Some guy named Arnold Schwarzenegger portrayed Batman’s nemesis.)
Obama, as happens at these events, spent time at each table. And so did key members of the White House staff and political team, in what might be called a political form of speed dating.
Included in that were senior advisors David Plouffe and Valerie Jarrett, top campaign staffers from Chicago, LA consultant Larry Grisolano (a longtime partner of Obama strategist David Axelrod), and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is serving as chair of the Democratic National Convention.
Here’s what Obama’s week ahead looks like. As usual, it does not reflect the geopolitical crises with which he’s dealing and as usual it has space within to allow for emerging issues.
On Monday, Obama will travel to New York City to deliver the commencement address at Barnard College. While in New York City, Obama will also tape an appearance on The View. Obama will then attend fundraisers before returning to Washington in the evening.
On Tuesday, Obama will deliver remarks at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service, an annual ceremony honoring law enforcement personnel who were killed in the line of duty in the previous year. Also on Tuesday, Obama will welcome the Major League Soccer champions, the LA Galaxy, to the White House to honor their 2011 season and their MLS Cup victory.
On Tuesday evening, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will host a dinner for the Combatant Commanders and spouses at the White House. These officers, all four-star generals and admirals, command combined US forces in various regions of the world, or specialized commands such as special operations or strategic weapons.
On Wednesday, Obama will deliver remarks in the Washington, DC area, where he will continue to call on Congress to act on his so-called “To Do List” emphasizing his economic themes. Also on Wednesday, he will posthumously award Army Sergeant Leslie H. Sabo, Jr. the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry during the Vietnam War. Sabo, an Austrian native, was killed in the engagement, then suffered the further indignity of having the paperwork recommending his decoration lost for decades.
On Thursday, Obama will attend meetings at the White House.
On Friday, he will deliver the opening keynote to the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.
Later on Friday, Obama will travel to Camp David for the G-8 Summit, which will address a broad range of economic, political and security issues.
On Saturday, he will remain at Camp David for the rest of the G-8 Summit.
Later on Saturday, Obama will travel to Chicago, Illinois, where he will welcome NATO allies and partners for the NATO Summit on May 20-21.
In his weekend video/radio address, President Barack Obama again called on Democrats and Republicans to come together and act on his so-called Congressional “to-do list,” which emphasizes his economic themes.
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.
** NUCLEAR’S ONCE BRIGHT AND SHINY FUTURE BLINKS OUT. Don’t look now, but one of the biggest and most famous industries in the world, nuclear power, once seen as the lynchpin of the future, is reeling yet again after huge political setbacks in Japan and France.
Last year’s disaster at Fukushima is having an even bigger effect than the Chernobyl disaster of the ’80s. The latter could be blamed on the backward old Soviet Union. But Fukushima happened in future-oriented Japan.
May has seen the shutdown of all 54 nuclear reactors in Japan. Nuclear power had provided one-third of Japan’s electric power.
Then came the defeat of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The new French administration plans to cut the nation’s use of nuclear power by one-third by 2025. Currently, France relies on nuclear power for 75% of its electricity. (The US gets 20% of its electric power from nuclear.) New Socialist President Francois Hollande’s plan would cut that to 50%. He also plans to shut down Fessenheim, France’s most famous nuclear plant, which is located in an area of seismic activity on the Rhine River.
Before these developments, Germany and Switzerland both decided to phase out nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
These are huge developments in the energy economy, and a stunning reversal for a technology that once epitomized the future.
When former House Speaker Newt Gingrich emerged as a leading presidential candidate last year, I went back and read through some novels of the future by Isaac Asimov that he and others, such as left-liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, cite as major influencers of their youth.
Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, which Asimov began writing in 1941, is set in the far future. It revolves around the fall of the galactic empire and the rise of a discipline called psychohistory, the story element that so attracted Gingrich, Krugman, and others, in which human history can supposedly be predicted by a form of mathematical sociology. One thing that was so amusing to me in the stories, which are charming, is how nuclear power was constantly presented as a totem of advanced civilization, almost to the point of fetishism, with leading characters even having nuclear-powered personal devices.
By the ’80s, of course, nuclear was no longer such an element of faith among futurists. But it had become a staple of the Soviet bloc, with its penchant for centralization, and was well-established in Western countries as well. Such as, well, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, and France.
I spoke at anti-nuclear rallies in the ’80s and knew the late German Green leader Petra Kelly well, but I’m open to nuclear power being part of the energy portfolio.
The news flow keeps going in the opposite direction, however, even though the greenhouse effect leading to climate change was advanced by nuclear advocates as a rationale for new expansion.
Nuclear power plants are expensive to construct, despite decades of massive subsidies for fission nuclear power, now a very mature technology. And the biggest subsidies are not the direct financial subsidies, which dwarf those given to renewable energy (as do subsidies for fossil fuels, a long mature industry), but the indirect but very real subsidies of socializing risks posed by radioactive waste and potential accidents and construction costs by shifting those to ratepayers and taxpayers.
And nuclear plants may be vulnerable to cyber-warfare, an increasing concern of defense strategists. Hacking in to take down a wind farm is not catastrophic, aside from the power loss, which can be made up. Hacking in to take down a nuclear power plant is a very different matter.
Looking beyond the problems with fission reactors, nuclear fusion may hold great promise in the future. But that future is still very far off.
Here in California, we had tremendous debates about nuclear in the 1970s and 1980s. Then, during his first two terms in office, Governor Jerry Brown rejected utility plans to build dozens of nuclear plants across the state, focusing California instead on conservation and renewable energy. The state’s moves on energy efficiency were highly successful, and have served as a model for many governments in the US and around the world.
After Brown left office the first time, renewable energy efforts lagged. But when his former chief of staff, Gray Davis, became governor in the late ’90s, he revived them, with a 20% Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Then Arnold Schwarzenegger amped them up tremendously, in the process enacting California’s landmark climate change program.
Now Brown, back as governor for an historic third term, is pushing forward to the target of one-third of the state’s electric power coming from renewable sources by 2020, a target first set by Schwarzenegger. I expect Brown to win another term in 2014, which would place him at the helm of these efforts through January 2019, the year before the 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard is to be reached. …
Governor Jerry Brown announced in this video that California’s budget deficit has ballooned to $16 billion, due to weaker revenues than expected, higher spending than expected due to blocking moves by the courts and federal government, and cuts called for in January that have yet to be made.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events this weekend.
Look for a very rugged California state budget from Governor Jerry Brown in the annual “May revise” release on Monday. Brown has been warning for months about the need for more cuts, and the legislature has refused. (As I have mentioned, oh, 50 or 60 times.) Now the situation is, all too predictably, worse.
Brown and his allies turned in about twice as many signatures as needed to qualify his November revenue initiative, and about twice as many as turned in by heiress Molly Munger’s minions for her income tax hike-for nearly all boost for schools. But many of those signatures will be invalid, as they always are, which accounts for the overage.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in Sacramento on Thursday to meet with Brown and other California leaders, told legislative leaders that it is getting to be time to move forward on high-speed rail. LaHood urged the legislature to approve funds in June to start building the project this year or early next year, rather than put off a vote till September, the customary manana attitude.
Legislators hoping for Facebook’s IPO to stave off, at least on a one-time basis, cuts Brown has been pushing since January are getting some bad news.
Institutional investors are less impressed than many expected by Facebook’s prospects for future growth. I’m no Facebook fan, so it doesn’t surprise here.
** MAD MEN: REJECTING ADVERTISING, OR, DON DRAPER MEETS ACID ROCK, POP BUDDHISM, AND AN INDEPENDENT WIFE. … From my May 8th essay.
** THE CURIOUS CHEN CRISIS SPOTLIGHTS OUR BIG CHINA CONUNDRUM. … From my May 4th essay.
** 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.
** 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 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 $96 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $62 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 $18 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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