Backpedaling from his harsh rhetoric, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney outlined plans to overhaul the green card system for immigrants with families and end immigration caps for their spouses and minor children. But Romney, speaking at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference at Disney World in Florida, still didn’t state a position on President Barack Obama’s move stopping deportation of underage illegal immigrants.
** FAILURE(S) TO COMMUNICATE. While there seems to be a California budget deal, which will take its actual public revealing and legislative passage, not to mention the passage of some time for assessment, to get a full handle on it, other negotiations this week are coming up decidedly short.
Governor Jerry Brown appears to have moved Democratic legislative leaders further along in wringing more long-term savings from the chronically unbalanced state budget. State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg told Capitol reporters on hand that the deal requires federal work requirements being met after two years, reduces child care funding, and stops cost of living increases starting next year. It will also move nearly 900,000 children to Medi-Cal from the more expensive Healthy Families program.
These are not exactly accomplishments for which it is appropriate to sing songs of praise, but do provide some needed savings and political bona fides for Democrats needing to pass a tax hike. Public pension reform is coming up, as is approval of the start of construction of high-speed rail. And the big water program bond passed at the tail end of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration is still set for the November ballot, a problematic situation in this very challenging environment if it is not moved and/or substantially altered.
So, in California at least, for once, some progress in negotiation, in communication, albeit on matters that should be fairly straightforward.
Elsewhere, not so much.
For example, the aforementioned Schwarzenegger isn’t going to Rio this week for the UN’s big conference on sustainable development, the 20th anniversary event of the Earth Summit held there in 1992. Nor is Brown, for that matter, whose participation in the first Earth Summit I discussed in “Jerry Brown for President + 20,” linked below. With the global economy in turmoil, the turnout of international leaders for what was to have been the key Rio event is turning out to be low. So Schwarzenegger, a UN renewable energy advocate (who wrapped his third movie since leaving the governorship just last week), and his R20 organization will be represented there instead by former California Environmental Protection Secretary Terry Tamminen.
In Moscow this week, everyone showed up on Monday and Tuesday for the latest round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members: US, UK, France, Russia, and China, plus Germany). But as I expected, the talks went nowhere.
Iran is hurting from major sanctions, with more kicking in. But Iran refused attempts to limit its nuclear enrichment activities, and still hasn’t come through on a supposed agreement earlier this spring to allow UN inspectors into facilities from which they have long been blocked.
And the US and its European allies have refused to pull back on sanctions in exchange for any give on the Iranian side.
Which leaves Iran continuing to move forward on its hotly disputed nuclear program and Israel that much closer to being forced to decide whether or not to follow through on its threatened strikes against the Iranian program.
** NEW POLL: THE MORMON FACTOR. A new Gallup Poll has some unsettling news for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
But it could be worse.
Roughly one-fifth of the electorate says it won’t vote for “a generally well-qualified person who happens to be a Mormon” nominated by their party.
And only 57% know that Romney is a Mormon.
And the bigger problem for Romney is that intolerance of the church in which he was a bishop and a missionary in France during the Vietnam War is greatest among lower-educated voters.
But the best educated voters are, as I wrote recently, most in favor of the Enlightenment ethic which Romney has rejected in this campaign.
Eighteen percent of Americans say they would not vote for a well-qualified presidential candidate who happens to be a Mormon, virtually the same as the 17% who held this attitude in 1967. …
The exact percentage of Americans who resist the idea of voting for a Mormon has varied slightly over the eight times Gallup has asked the question, typically when a Mormon was running for president, including George Romney (1968 campaign), Orrin Hatch (2000 campaign), and Mitt Romney (2008 and 2012 campaigns). The percentage opposed to a Mormon president has averaged 19% since 1967 — from a low of 17% at several points to a high of 24% in 2007. The current 18% is down from 22% a year ago.
Gallup originally asked the question in April 1967, after Mitt Romney’s father, Michigan Gov. George Romney, announced the formation of an exploratory committee for the 1968 Republican nomination. At that point, George Romney was one of the two top contenders for the GOP nomination, along with the eventual winner, Richard Nixon.
Now, some 45 years later, George Romney’s son Mitt will be the Republican nominee — and the pattern of resistance to his Mormon religion has essentially not changed. …
President Barack Obama is urging Congress to stop interest rates on student loans from doubling on July 1, calling it a “no-brainer.” If Congress doesn’t act, interest rates on new loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent come July.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Obama and Biden then met for lunch in the Private Dining Room.
Following that, Obama, speaking in the East Room, delivered remarks continuing to call on Congress to stop interest rates on student loans from doubling on July 1st.
At 12 noon Pacific, Obama meets with John Bryson, who has just resigned as secretary of commerce.
The veteran California utility chief and environmental official, who served as president of the California Public Utilities Commission during Governor Jerry Brown’s first go-round as governor, has resigned after seizures led to a mishap-filled drive recently outside Los Angeles.
The US is planning to extend its military presence in Kuwait. The latest report from Congress said 15,000 US troops are already stationed in the tiny Gulf country and that more troops are need to respond to sudden conflicts in the region. Iran, Iraq and the ability to keep oil flowing from Saudi Arabia are major concerns for the world’s biggest economy.
The state of Egypt’s nascent democracy is increasingly grave, with the ruling military council delaying today’s scheduled release of presidential election results.
News reports indicate that Dr. Mohamed Morsi, an alumnus of the University of Southern California and candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, was the victor in last weekend’s presidential run-off election over retired Air Force General Ahmed Shafiq, Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister.
Now the official vote won’t be released until this coming Sunday, if then.
Even if Morsi is declared the victor, the “interim” ruling military council has already backed steps to retain its own power.
Between the country’s Supreme Court, dominated by Mubarak appointees, and the ruling “interim” military council, the first democratically elected national parliament in decades has been dismissed and most all major decision-making power pertaining to fiscal matters, defense, and the development of a new constitution has been moved away from the presidency to the military council.
Pakistan, that supposed lynchpin of US strategy in the Afghan War when it was escalated in 2009, becomes still more problematic.
Pakistan was thrown into a new political crisis after the country’s supreme court pushed the prime minister, who has clashed sharply with the military, out of his job. Three judges have disqualified Yusuf Raza Gilani, who was jailed for corruption during the Mubarak regime, from holding office and ordered the president to choose a new prime minister. The court ruled Gilani could not continue, after he was found guilty of contempt in April.
Now the new nominee to replace Gilani as prime minister is the subject of an arrest warrant.
More chaos in Pakistan. An anti-narcotics court judge in the northern city of Rawalpindi has issued an arrest warrant for the candidate nominated for the prime minister’s post by President Asif Ali Zardari. The judge on Thursday cited Makhdoom Shahabuddin’s alleged role in a scandal involving the import of a drug that can be used to make methamphetamine. Shahabuddin, a member of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), filed his nomination papers on Thursday. Two other PPP leaders, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Qamar Zaman Kaira, also filed their nomination papers as alternative candidates.
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 is in Sacramento.
He has no scheduled public events today.
On Friday, he will attend the launch of the Tesla Motors Model S in Fremont. Tesla already has the successful halo product in the form of its electric sports car. The Model S is the sedan for more general use.
With legislative authorization of the commencement of the high speed rail project coming up this summer, Brown late yesterday dropped his current move to block conservative attempts to use the California Environmental Quality Act to block and/or delay construction of the project.
Too many environmental groups whose support is necessary were balking at any change in the law.
Brown announced this morning that there is agreement on the state budget. But the announcement, which you can read for yourself below, is extremely vague about the nature of that agreement.
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg today announced an agreement on actions the Legislature will consider next week to finalize the 2012-2013 state budget.
The conceptual agreement protects education, permanently reforms welfare and includes tough ongoing cuts. The Legislature will take final votes on the budget trailer bills in the coming days.
“This agreement strongly positions the state to withstand the economic challenges and uncertainties ahead,” said Governor Brown. “We have restructured and downsized our prison system, moved government closer to the people, made billions in difficult cuts and now the Legislature is poised to make even more difficult cuts and permanently reform welfare.”
“For the second straight year, California will benefit by having a budget in place before the end of the fiscal year,” said Steinberg. “As always, the negotiations were tough, but we move forward together with a state budget that’s structurally balanced, setting us on the path to putting this nagging deficit behind us.”
“We have worked cooperatively and productively with the Governor and our colleagues in the Senate to put forward a budget that reflects the commitment we made in January to eliminate the deficit, protect education and put California’s fiscal house in order by our Constitutional deadline,” said Speaker Pérez. “I am pleased the actions we will take in the coming days will see that important objective realized.”
I expect that Brown has gained ground on tightening down on long-term welfare spending.
Meanwhile, another very prominent California Republican, the highest ranking yet, has left the party to become an independent. That’s former California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, appointed to the office by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. McPherson was a longtime state legislator prior to the Arnold nod. He is running for Santa Cruz County Supervisor, in a race in which he is the frontrunner. More to follow as part of an upcoming piece.
** THE “FAIR SHOT” VS. THE “TO DO LIST” — A BIG REVEALING BLAH IN THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE. … From my June 20th column.
** THE ENLIGHTENMENT DIVIDES AMERICAN POLITICS. … From my June 16th essay.
** LOOKING FORWARD FROM MAD MEN‘S MEANDERING SEASON 5: YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (ONE CAN ONLY HOPE) … From my June 13th essay.
** MIDWAY: 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF ONE OF HISTORY’S MOST PIVOTAL BATTLES CAME IN MIDST OF OBAMA’S BIG STRATEGIC PIVOT TO THE PACIFIC. … From my June 9th essay.
** MAD MEN: THE ANVIL HAS LANDED. … From my June 6th review.
** JERRY BROWN FOR PRESIDENT + 20. … From my June 6th essay.
** FIAT LUX, WILLARD! … From my June 1st column.
** MAD MEN: CONTROVERSY AS JOAN LOWERS HERSELF TO RISE, PEGGY EXITS ANTICLIMACTICALLY (AND SCDP GETS ITS HALO CLIENT). … From my May 30th essay.
** THE NEW SPACE ERA TAKES BIG STEPS FORWARD. … From my May 30th 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 $79 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $45 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 $35 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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