Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is a leading figure in the on-site Democratic counter to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. He described the Republican platform as one not for 2012, but 1812. Villaraigosa, who will chair the Democratic National Convention next week in Charlotte, North Carolina, says Republican efforts to use Latino speakers to win over Latino voters won’t work.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … AFTER THE ROMNEYRAMA, WHY THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS DISAPPOINTING, AND MORE SERIOUS MATTERS.
** QUICK HITS. That’s Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney now, thanks to a quick Tuesday vote at the hurricane-shortened GOP confab in Tampa. Would-be First Lady Ann Romney speaks, according to advance text, “from my heart about our hearts.” Sans Olympic gold medal, sadly, as her horse finished back in the pack in the London dressage competition. … Governor Jerry Brown’s compromise public pension reform bill, finally worked out with Democratic legislative leaders, drew fire today from conservative critics and public employee union redhots. That probably works for Brown, as the public is more muddled on the issue than many reformers like to think it is. If it wasn’t, there would be an initiative. … The inability of public pension reformers to get an initiative off the ground made Brown’s task all the harder, as I may have mentioned to them a while back. …
** NEW POLL: AS REPUBLICAN CONVENTION BELATEDLY BEGINS, MOST EXPECT AN OBAMA VICTORY. A new Gallup Poll survey has some unwelcome news for the new Romney/Ryan ticket. As the hurricane-shortened Republican National Convention gets underway in Tampa, Florida, the expectation of a victory by President Barack Obama is overwhelming in a new Gallup Poll.
The expectation of an Obama victory is 58-36 over Romney.
In May, it was 56-36.
The needle has moved only slightly with all the sturm und drang, and not in the right direction for the conservative challenger and his would-be Robin.
Gallup consistently has the race closer than I believe it is, not incidentally.
The funny thing about polls regarding the likely victor is that the candidate viewed as the likely victory usually wins.
In fact, the candidate expected to win actually did win the last four presidential elections.
Notably, Democrats are more optimistic about Obama’s prospects than Republican are about Romney’s, with 80% of Dems saying Obama will win to only 60% of Republicans saying that Romney will win.
(Naturally, I hear disproportionately from neurotic Democrats and arrogant Republicans.)
Most Americans believe President Obama will win the presidential election this fall, even though the race has been highly competitive for most of the year. Americans’ expectation that Obama will win has been remarkably consistent, virtually unchanged since May despite three intervening months of campaigning. …
Presumptive nominees Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan arrived earlier today in Tampa, Florida for the hurricane-shortened Republican National Convention.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … AFTER THE ROMNEYRAMA, AND MORE SERIOUS MATTERS.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington, Iowa, and Colorado.
Early this morning, Obama delivered a statement on Tropical Storm Isaac (which has just been upgraded to a hurricane) from the Diplomatic Room, urging residents in the path of the incipient hurricane not to delay in evacuating.
He then flew on Air Force One to Des Moines, Iowa.
At 11:05 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a campaign event at Iowa State University.
At 1:40 PM Pacific, Obama departs Des Moines on Air Force One en route Fort Collins, Colorado.
At 3:10 PM Pacific, Obama arrives in Fort Collins, Colorado.
At 4:30 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a campaign event at Colorado State University.
Vice President Joe Biden, who was to have been on hand in Tampa for the Republican convention, cancelled over the weekend due to the extreme weather situation.
Day One of the convention was cancelled, too, making today’s Day Two something of a mish-mash of Ann Romney’s prime time introduction to America and “We Built It Day.”
In the latter theme, the Romney/Ryan team doubles down on its gross distortion of Obama’s remarks to the effect that entrepreneurs benefit greatly from a public infrastructure which they did not build.
But various top hands for the O Team are around, and pushing back hard on the “We Built It” canard.
Meanwhile, while these rather childish antics ensue, some big things of consequence are happening elsewhere.
Iran is hosting the 120 nations in the Non-Aligned Movement, spurred by the Cold War, led by nations who, at least ostensibly, didn’t want to be affiliated with either the Free World or the Communist bloc.
It’s Iran’s turn, by sheer chance, but it doesn’t look like anyone is staying away. So much for Iran becoming totally isolated in the world.
Iran had brandished opening a secret nuclear site to inspection by the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency, but has apparently backed away, once again.
The drumbeat for war continues in the Israeli press, as does the fighting in Syria.
As this multi-faceted Gulf crisis plays out, some new developments in Afghanistan are unlikely to make things any better.
US Central Command leaders have decided on administrative only punishments for US soldiers and Marines who took part in two incidents earlier this year which resulted in major demonstrations across Afghanistan. Dozens were killed as backlash swept the country.
30,000 American troops sent into Afghanistan to bolster the US effort there are due to be withdrawn by the end of the month. But the Obama administration has not specified what the US commitment will be moving forward and the situation is increasingly tenuous, with increasing numbers of “green on blue” attacks by Afghan troops on their American colleagues.
In one incident, troops at Bagram Air Base burned copies of the Koran confiscated from accused Taliban prisoners. About 100 copies of the Islamic holy scripture and other religious documents were destroyed in the incident.
In the other incident, Marines promulgated a video showing them urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters.
In both cases, the troops in question could have been prosecuted for criminal offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Instead, administrative sanctions, as yet undisclosed, will be imposed. They can include reduction in grade of rank and some loss of pay.
This is not going to go over well in Afghanistan, where “green on blue” attacks by Afghan soldiers and police personnel on their American colleagues have increased dramatically this year.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Syria, Iraq, AfPak, and the South China Sea.
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. The time in Manila, on the South China Sea, is fifteen hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Southern California and Northern California.
Brown held a press conference late this morning at the Ronald Reagan State Building in Los Angeles to announce a compromise agreement on his plans for public pension reform.
The details were still being hashed over on Monday as I wrote my latest essay, linked below.
Democratic legislators and their public employee union patrons balked at Brown’s call for a hybrid pension system including payments into private accounts.
Instead, the legislation, backed by Democratic legislative leaders, will include a cap on benefits.
“If the legislature approves these reforms, public retirement benefits will be lower than when I took office in 1975,” said Brown. “Additional changes would require a vote of the people.”
Brown called the agreement a “sweeping” reform that will save billions by capping benefits, increasing the retirement age, requiring state workers to pay half the cost of their pensions, and stop various abusive practices, such as “spiking” and “air time” by which employees have been able to artificially increase the base upon which their pensions are calculated.
Is this reform package adequate to the political occasion, which demands some reform to ensure passage of the Prop 30 revenue initiative? That’s unclear. Voters have an ambiguous view of the public pension situation, one that is not as clearcut as pension reforms want to believe.
Is this package adequate to the occasion of fixing the problem? I need to study it, but my initial guess is no.
More to follow.
** SPACE, JERRY BROWN’S PLACE, AND A RACE. While our presidential race is mired in negativity and marked by shallowness, our economy is stuck in low gear, and our country is in danger of drifting into yet another war as it tries to execute a little-reported and less-understood pivot from over-engagement with the Islamic world to increased engagement with Asia and the Pacific, one aspect of public life is looking up, literally. And that, odd as it would have seemed just last year, is the long-neglected space program.
After 30 years, the space shuttle program finally wound down last year. Many wondered, to the extent they thought about it all, if, after abandoning Moon missions 40 years ago, running the old space truck round and round the planet would turn out — along with Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” — to have been the highlight of our space endeavors, and if deeper exploration and adventures would henceforth be left, albeit fictitiously, in the hands of Hollywood.
But now space is happening again, in ways different than before. While NASA begins to refocus on a true deep-space mission to the asteroid belt while maintaining its presence with the International Space Station, private enterprise is beginning to pick up the slack for orbital missions. And unmanned exploration, run by sci-tech geeks in California, is coming to the fore as never before. These are the missions that are generating the knowledge that will pave the way for interplanetary exploration and travel in the future. Going to the Moon was great. Orbiting the Earth is useful. But the future is out there.
In a major success for the U.S. space program, the Mars rover Curiosity successfully executed a series of complex maneuvers to land on the surface of Mars late on the night of Sunday, Aug. 5. The Mars Science Laboratory is the most complex spacecraft ever to land on another planet — well, from Earth, at least. The mission, like all U.S. deep-space and interplanetary missions, is run out of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Then, after testing various systems, the rover’s software system had to be completely updated and rebooted as it shifted mission focus from getting to Mars and landing there to exploring its environs.
Once that was successfully and laboriously accomplished, it was time for a test drive. Governor Jerry Brown was on hand for that. In fact, it was the anticipated success of that endeavor that Brown’s proclamation of Space Day in California implicitly acknowledged. (Brown declared Aug. 22 Space Day in California.) After all, it wouldn’t have looked too good for the governor to be there when the giant gadget suddenly didn’t work.
But work like a charm it did, showing how it will tool around its new habitat, winnowing out the clues that will enable it to fulfill its mission: to determine habitability, including the past or current presence of water; to study the planet’s climate and geology; and to gather data to prepare a future manned mission to Mars.
Because that, too, is a major goal of NASA, as retooled by President Barack Obama. And Brown has been a longstanding advocate of exploring Mars.
For this was not the first time that he had proclaimed Space Day in California.
The first was 35 years ago, on Aug. 11, 1977, a much more elaborate affair that he timed for the day before the first test flight of the first space shuttle, the Enterprise, named for the Star Trek starship.
Brown put on a day-long Space Day conference at the Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles, attended by all the top leadership of NASA and various science notables such as Carl Sagan, Gerard O’Neill, and Jacques Cousteau. There was even a beat poet or two on hand (those way over the right who deride Brown as a former hippie completely miss it; he’s much more beat-influenced [use the Google]), with Michael McClure ending the day by reading a new work set against spectacular NASA space footage.
The next day, Brown and the crew, including Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweikart, who was to serve first as Brown’s sci/tech advisor and then California Energy Commission chairman, went up to Edwards Air Force Base, the legendary test flight center in California’s high desert country, for the test flight of Enterprise.
Edwards, of course, is where Neil Armstrong, who passed away over the weekend from coronary procedure complications at 82, cut his eyeteeth as an elite test pilot. An engineer educated at Purdue and USC, Armstrong was a naval aviator in the Korean War, decorated for flying nearly 80 combat missions. But it was his prowess flying the hottest experimental jets over the California high desert, taking the famed X-15 into the beginnings of outer space, that, coupled with his engineering expertise, made him a natural for the space program. His leadership of the first Apollo mission to the Moon, and his stature as the first person to walk on another world, deserves more than the somewhat muted attention his passing has received.
Brown proved to be a bit too anticipatory in 1977 on the eve of that first space shuttle test flight, declaring, “The shuttle’s flight tomorrow is truly like laying the last spike on the transcontinental railroad, only much more so. And whether or not we’re going to see in in the next 10 or 20 years, there are people alive today who will see manufacturing in space from moon materials or from asteroids.”
There are, after all, reasons they called him Governor Moonbeam. There are also reasons why hardboiled Chicago columnist Mike Royko, who coined the term, tried to disavow it, indeed dismantle it. (In 1991 Royko called it an “idiotic, damn-fool, meaningless, throw-away line” and, in exasperation, tried to kill off his, er, intellectual creation. “Enough of this ‘Moonbeam’ stuff,” he wrote. “I declare it null, void and deceased.”)
But the moniker stuck, as did the notion, comfortable for some, that Brown’s ideas were simply wacky, pushed along by conventional thinkers in the media and persistent conservative critics, like Sacramento Union columnist turned Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters, who built his career over the past four decades attacking Brown, the Brown family, and most Democrats, for that matter. Walters, who, during Brown’s 1992 presidential campaign, appeared in a faux exposé story on ABC News that alleged a Brown drug scandal, saying he had been at a Brown fundraiser where drugs were used (it later turned out to have been an Eagles concert where — gasp! — some in the huge crowd smoked pot), has, in the absence of a credible state Republican Party PR effort, taken on the role of attacking Brown’s moves to raise taxes on the rich, balance the budget, control greenhouse gas emissions, promote renewable energy, and build a high-speed rail.
At his 1977 Space Day celebration, in L.A. and up at Edwards, Brown sought to square what seemed a contradiction to some between his acknowledgement of the Era of Limits and his advocacy of an expansive space program.
“Ecology and technology,” he intoned, “find a unity in space. When the day of manufacturing in space occurs and extraterrestrial material is added into the economic equation, then the old economic rules no longer apply. Going into space is an investment. It’s not a waste of money, it’s not a depleting asset, it’s an expanding asset, and through the creation of new wealth we make possible the redistribution of more wealth to those who don’t have it. … Awareness of limits leads to awareness of possibilities.”
This time around, presenting less of a profile for attack, Brown was a bit less gushing, this Space Day far less programmed and produced, though he did, and rightfully so, close his telling remarks by thanking the JPL controllers for “taking us to the stars.”
“Ad astra per aspera,” he had just argued, citing the Roman poet Virgil, author of the Aeneid. That means, for those few who never took Latin, “to the stars through difficulties,” or, in the interpretation of UC Berkeley Classics major Brown, “to the stars through the thorns.”
Brown pointed out, as you might guess, that it makes little sense to stop thinking long and building for the future just because there are some budget difficulties, which, as he noted, are much worse at the federal level than they are at the state level.
Brown was especially bullish about the prospects for the California Republic as compared to the Roman Republic, which, as he noted to the laughter of the JPL and Caltech team, took 700 years to collapse, so, bahdump, we have hundreds to go.
Brown was briefed in on the Mars rover mission, examined the tech, and met with the mission controllers. And he was named an honorary member of the JPL Mission Control team. He even got a nifty blue T-shirt, which the JPL and Caltech crew urged him to wear next time he addresses the state legislature. Maybe at a brown bag lunch.
As I wrote here on The Huffington Post at the end of May as the first SpaceX mission to the International Space Station wrapped up, California has emerged as a center of the post-shuttle space exploration movement. …
** AN INSULAR ROMNEY STRUGGLES WITH HIS SURPRISINGLY HEARTFELT VEEP PICK AFTER STRIKING OUT INTERNATIONALLY. … From my August 23rd essay.
** RECALLING TOTAL RECALL: INTRIGUE, ULTRA-VIOLENCE, HUMOR AND WHAT ELSE THAT IS MISSING FROM THE SCHWARZENEGGER REMAKES. … From my August 17th essay.
** LONDON’S GRAND OLYMPICS, ON AND OFF THE TRACK. … From my August 13th essay.
** GORE VIDAL: REMEMBERING A BRILLIANT, CONTROVERSIAL LEGEND OF THE SORT WE DON’T FOSTER ANY MORE. … From my August 3rd essay.
** ROMNEY’S DANGEROUS BUFFOONERY. … From my August 1st essay.
** SUNRISE IN CALIFORNIA? … From my July 26th feature.
** 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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