Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is getting some push-back after she warned the People’s Republic of China of “conflict” if it does not agree to a maritime code of conduct in the South China Sea. Clinton is following Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on a geopolitical pivot tour of the Asia Pacific region.
** QUICK HITS. The Drudge Report is insisting that Stanford Professor and former Secretary of State/National Security Advisor Condi Rice is the frontrunner to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate. That’s not going to happen. Rice, who ended as a confidante of the Bushes, was on the advisory board of Senator Gary Hart’s Center for A New Democracy in the ’80s. I was in the meeting when she agreed to serve. … The conservative Republican interests that spent millions via the state party to try to block California’s new citizen-drawn state Senate districts via referendum formally threw in the towel today, admitting they will not campaign for their referendum on the November ballot. The California Supreme Court previously blocked their implicit move to have the Senate districts thrown out for this election, and declared the districts constitutional. Why go to all that trouble in the first place? Because the right fears that the un-gerrymandered districts will give Democrats a two-thirds majority.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … WHY THE CLINTONS NEED OBAMA TO WIN: UNCERTAINTY AS HILLARY PUSHES THE BIG GEOPOLITICAL PIVOT.
** NEW POLL: ROMNEY APPARENTLY HURT BY GREAT WEALTH. A new Gallup Poll survey indicates that conservative Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s super-rich status may be a drag on his popular appeal.
Who would ever have imagined that?
20% say Romney’s great wealth makes it less likely that they will vote for him.
Only 4% say it makes it more likely that they will vote for him.
That last surprises me a bit, because I thought there were more idolators of wealth than that in America.
The bad news for Romney is not that it’s a problem with a lot of Democrats, that’s a given. The bad news is that it is a problem with a lot of independents.
Of course, Romney’s penchant for trying to make $10,000 bets in the middle of presidential debates, intoning that “Corporations are people,” and claiming that any criticism of Wall Street ways is un-American hasn’t helped.
Three-quarters of registered voters say the fact that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is worth more than $200 million makes no difference to their likelihood of voting for him. However, 20% of voters, mostly Democrats and independents, say Romney’s wealth makes them less likely to vote for him, while 4% say it makes them more likely. …
The Obama campaign has targeted Romney’s wealth in recent weeks, stressing his net worth and how he earned it as head of Bain Capital, where he has invested it, and the fact that he has not released all of his tax returns from the last decade. Obama’s campaign is apparently using Romney’s wealth in its efforts to convince voters that Romney is not as well-equipped as Obama to understand the problems and needs of middle- and lower-class Americans. The Romney campaign has pushed back, stressing that voters are more interested in fixing the economy than in the candidates’ personal financial situations. …
Vice President Joe Biden delivered a strong rebuttal to Mitt Romney this morning at the NAACP convention in Houston, Texas.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … WHY THE CLINTONS NEED OBAMA TO WIN: HILLARY PUSHES THE BIG GEOPOLITICAL PIVOT.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and today.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He has no scheduled public events today.
Obama got a nice boost this morning from a new jobs report showing that unemployment claims unexpectedly dropped to the lowest level since March 2008.
Vice President Joe Biden addresses the national NAACP convention today in Houston, Texas.
Conservative Republican challenger Mitt Romney spoke there yesterday, and was booed when he called for the repeal of the national health care law modeled on his own program as governor of Massachusetts.
Far right radio talker Rush Limbaugh told his dittoheads afterward that Mitt Romney was booed at the NAACP convention this morning in Houston because he is white.
Come to think of it, I do think that Romney wanted to get booed, even as he appeared to reach out to a different constituency. It’s multiplex messaging for him.
Meanwhile, in somewhat more consequential news, the US Navy is moving many Sea Fox underwater drones to the Gulf to find and destroy mines in case Iran makes good on its recently repeated threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most critical choke point in terms of oil supply.
This is part of a build-up of naval, air, and ground forces in the region as nuclear negotiations flounder and the Iran crisis continues.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Syria, Iraq, and AfPak.
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.
** A TICKET TO RIDE: HIGH-SPEED RAIL MOVES FORWARD ON A HISTORIC (AND BUMPY) TRACK IN CALIFORNIA. Last Friday’s narrow passage of legislation authorizing the beginning of construction of the first high-speed rail system in America was a dramatic moment many years in the making. And while it was undertaken entirely by Democrats at the end, some famous Republican politicians made it happen along the way. In fact, it would never have happened without them.
Which makes the current version of the once Grand Old Party and its knee-jerk opposition to the project all the more ironic.
It’s Governor Jerry Brown who gets the credit — and takes the heat from conservatives, sizable elements of the media, and the old energy economy interests whose die-hard opposition naturally underlies the opposition — for pushing the project over the political goal line. But had former Governor Pete Wilson (ironically, a longtime Brown bete noire) not gotten the ball rolling in 1996 with the creation of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, it might not have happened.
And had Brown’s far more friendly predecessor, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, not supported the empowering initiative and pushed for ever more funding even as the economy sank into the great global recession, promoting high-speed rail through the very end of his term in January 2011, it would not have happened at all.
Brown joined U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Monday at the Port of Oakland to announce a $15 million grant to expand its rail yard and especially to discuss the legislature’s decision to begin construction of the high-speed rail project.
The plan is to begin construction in the winter, now that the release of funding — a combination of already approved state bond funds and federal grants — has been approved for that purpose.
LaHood hailed the decision as a landmark in U.S. transportation policy.
Brown, who loves the story, cited the example of Abraham Lincoln building the transcontinental railroad during the Civil War to make light of objections raised against the new project. (More about that later.)
Right-wing opponents of transit and advocates of the old energy economy have succeeded in blocking the Obama administration’s plans to begin high-speed rail elsewhere in America. Only California, with first Schwarzenegger and then Brown in staunch and steely support for the past few years of a shaky economy, remained. Would America join most of the rest of the advanced industrial world in developing high-speed rail? Or would it stay stuck in the old energy economy model?
After taking office a year and a half ago, Brown retooled the state’s troubled high-speed rail agency and had its business plan overhauled, then pushed it through the state legislature. …
The opponents of high-speed rail, dominated by the Republican Party, deliberately conflate the facts about the funding for this project as part of their agenda to further wreak havoc on the state budget and block Brown’s November revenue initiative.
The funds in question do not come from California’s general fund, aside from some interest payments down the line which are minor. They come instead from proceeds of already approved bonds backed by Schwarzenegger and many others in 2008 and from federal funds, which Schwarzenegger played the lead role in securing, especially from some states whose conservative Republican governors spurned funding in 2009 and 2010.
But the anti-bullet train PR, aided by reporting that in some cases deliberately distorts and in others glides over the facts, was much more effective than the pro-side, which made only a minimal effort.
Distortion and poor reporting led to a false meme, based on a Field Poll, that getting high-speed rail going would kill Brown’s initiative. …
The poll — the release of which was geared directly to the legislative vote — did not present voters with the facts about where the money comes from, either.
Ironically, the people who were pushing this meme — concern trolling all the way — are opponents not only of high-speed rail, but of raising taxes on the rich. They include LA Times columnist George Skelton, who has devoted several columns to his opposition to raising taxes on the rich as well as the bullet train itself, and Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters, who has been attacking Brown for about 40 years now. Skelton likes to praise Brown’s liberal father, but Walters built his career attacking Brown, during his first governorship, and Democratic liberals, for the far right Sacramento Union, which was owned by Eastern billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, one of the principal funders of far right think tank and media efforts around the country. The paper was also owned at one point by an agent of the apartheid government of South Africa. The ostensibly liberal Bee hired Walters as part of its effort to kill the Union, which finally closed in 1994.
There has been a very sophisticated and persistent PR campaign against high-speed rail in California, because this is where the hope can be snuffed out in America. And the anti-side’s PR has definitely gotten the best of things.
But the pro-bullet train’s side has notably lacked a powerful and persistent communications operation of its own.
This video was part of a paltry PR effort for high-speed rail in California.
There are many statements and articles attacking the project that could be readily pushed back. But no one has been doing it on anything like a regular basis. As a result, high-speed rail opponents have largely enjoyed free rein with their PR and attendant media coverage.
Opposition hinges on the silly notion that right-wing control of Congress, a key funding source, is assured in perpetuity. And on conflation of funding sources. Aside from some interest payments, which amount to budget dust, none of the authorized project will be financed out of the state’s general fund. The start-up phase will be financed by federal grants and already authorized bonds.
Because Brown and other proponents have pointed to real history in discussing this project and likening its opponents to the naysayers who attended similar great ventures, a beat reporter and would-be pundit described the debate as “History vs. Math.” Better to describe it as history vs. pottery shards realism.
Because the “math” is a myth that depends on the most fragmentary understanding of politics. The project, which is very long-range, a couple of decades, actually, until ultimate fruition, is only short of federal funds if one assumes that right-wing Republicans will control the House of Representatives in perpetuity.
They just won it for the first time since the ’90s in the last election! And polls show it to be the most unpopular Congress in history, because it is so extreme.
Does that mean that Democrats will win it back in November? Not at all. But they will win it back. To imagine that reactionary politics is the unbroken wave of the future in the 21st century is to have the most blindered view of history imaginable. And if that were, by some bizarre stroke of fate, to turn out to be reality, we would have vastly deeper problems than an unfinished rail system.
Meanwhile, the federal funding needed, along with the authorized bond money, to complete the first phase of the project, which runs through the remainder of this Brown term as governor and virtually all of the next term, is already in hand, finally secured by the legislature’s vote to begin construction.
Much time is also taken up with something easily answered. Why run it down the Central Valley instead of the Pacific Coast? …
While it is true that the project began under one Republican governor, Pete Wilson, and sprung into life under another, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the deeper metaphor for this controversial undertaking goes back much farther.
Brown likes the story of Abraham Lincoln pushing the transcontinental railroad amidst the incredible turbulence of the Civil War. It’s a stunning story, one which captures the imagination.
It certainly captured the imagination of state Senator Michael Rubio, a Central Valley Democrat who got off the fence last Friday and delivered a floor speech citing Lincoln’s example as he explained his yes vote.
But the truth is that, as rugged as some of the orchestrated criticism that Brown has received has been, and as difficult as California’s challenges still are, Lincoln built a transcontinental railroad while fighting the Civil War, so all this is more than a bit on the light side.
I love the Lincoln story, too, because it so audacious. Far more audacious that Brown damning the torpedoes and ordering full speed ahead, declaring this an ultimate priority and ramming this bill through the legislature, far more audacious than Schwarzenegger ignoring the naysayers pushing for more federal funding and promoting high-speed rail till the last day of his governorship.
Lincoln, as the head of the “modernizers” of the Republican Party, pushed through his plan for the transcontinental railroad in 1862. Which was not only in the midst of the Civil War, but the Civil War that he was actually losing at the time! (Of course, the fact that removing the old Confederate States of America from U.S. politics would immediately delete the base of the current anti-Enlightenment version of the Republican Party takes us into another article entirely.)
Lincoln was still working his way through a succession of losing generals, and the Battle of Gettysburg, at which the Confederacy finally lost the initiative, was still a year away, and it was nearly two more years before Lincoln placed Ulysses S. Grant in command.
Lincoln was on the verge of losing a country when he decided to seize the future, healing a nation riven north to south by binding it together from east to west. What California is going through now is as nothing compared to that. …
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Yesterday he joined Attorney General Kamala Harris to sign the California Homeowner Bill of Rights (AB 278 and SB 900) at ceremonies in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will be featured today at the annual Comic Con pop culture convention at the San Diego Convention Center.
He will be there with Sylvester Stallone and other stars of The Expendables 2, which opens on August 17th.
** DARK KNIGHTS, AVENGERS, BONDING RETRO ACTION HEROES: HOW LONG WILL THE SUPERHERO PHENOMENON LAST? … From my July 7th essay.
** FOUNDED IN ENLIGHTENMENT, AMERICA FACES IGNORANCE AND CONFUSION AS THE CHALLENGES GROW EVER MORE COMPLEX. … From my July 2nd essay.
** THE “MOMENTARY MEDIA” STRIKES: EPIC FAILS BY CNN AND FOX NEWS HIGHLIGHT DYSFUNCTIONALITY. … From my June 28th column.
** THE “SLOW BORING OF HARD BOARDS” IN AN ERA OF LIMITS. … From my June 27th essay.
The Obama Administration is pressing Beijing to accept a code of conduct for resolving territorial disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea, a difficult mediation effort that has faced resistance from the Communist government which has made extraordinarily expansive territorial claims, leading to frequent naval confrontations with its neighbors. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered the message today at a meeting in Cambodia.
** A RUGGED TIME FOR OBAMA’S BIG GEOPOLITICAL PIVOT. … From my June 22nd essay.
** 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.
** 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 $86 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $52 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 $28 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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