Space Shuttle Endeavour landed safely this afternoon at Los Angeles International Airport after a whirlwind aerial tour around California landmarks. In a few weeks, after being prepped, it will move to its final home at the California Science Center.
** NEW COLUMNS COMING UP … JERRY BROWN GEARS UP FOR A BIG ELECTION and PAST POST-PARTISANSHIP?
** QUICK HITS. A bad day for conservative Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, who gave fresh life to the ongoing questions about how he made his vast wealth by releasing 20 years of commentary about his taxes without releasing his taxes even as he fell behind in more key swing state polls. … Meanwhile, running mate Paul Ryan, an advocate of privatizing Medicare, was booed at the AARP conference. … Romney might be able to make some serious hay about the American deaths last week in Libya on the 9/11 anniversary, and the anti-US demonstrations sweeping our ally Pakistan today. If he hadn’t messed up so badly last week, that is. …. You know what I think about this race. I made it clear last January. … The idea that the defeat of Barack Obama by a corporate takeover artist was some sort of slam dunk was simply non-serious.
** JERRY-RIGGING: A $4 MILLION QUESTION. With the Prop 32 initiative to remove public employee union ability to deduct political campaign funds from their members’ paychecks trending rapidly down to defeat — despite a cleverly constructed hook making the measure appear to be evenhanded in clamping down on corporate and labor spending, causing many observers to believe that the initiative would finally pass after two earlier failures — labor and the rest of the Democratic Party coalition can focus in on passing Governor Jerry Brown’s temporary tax hike measure, Prop 30, which has been ahead all along.
But there is an intriguing wild card factor.
You already know about heiress Molly Munger’s role here, spending mega-millions to promote her essentially stillborn Prop 38 initiative to impose an income tax hike on nearly all Californians to direct more funding to schools.
Now her brother, who is a physicist at Stanford — she’s a lawyer — is in the game with a $4.1 million contribution at the beginning of the week to a shadowy outfit called the Small Business Action Committee (SBAC). Both Molly and Charlie, as he is known, are the children of billionaire investor Charles Munger, Warren Buffett’s longtime business partner.
True Cali junkies know what the SBAC outfit is, but here it is for the rest. It’s a political action committee run by career anti-tax/small government activist Joel Fox, former director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. He runs a blog called Fox and Hounds, almost entirely written by conservative to very conservative activists and lobbyists, and gets involved, usually on the far right side of things, in California campaigns.
In 2010, he used his Small Business Action Committee — of which I see no real evidence of small business involvement, aside from the committee itself — as a vehicle for nearly $2 million in attack ads against Brown. They were supposedly issue advocacy ads, so Fox refused to divulge the actual contributors.
But you can bet they weren’t small businesses. No one other than Fox himself is cited as a current member of the Small Business Action Committee on the entity’s web site.
No board of directors is cited, no board of advisors, well, you get the picture. I believe that James Lacey, a well-known hard right political lawyer, is the SBAC legal counsel. So that would make two members I know of.
In the first half of 2012, the Small Business Action Committee PAC raised about $60,000. Since then, it has raised about $4.75 million. From three sources: Munger’s $4,091,499.84. (Interesting number, no?) $300,000 from Otter Capital, which is a private equity firm. And $350,000 from the New Majority PAC, a high-roller Republican fundraising group.
And not a small business among them.
Before his sister emerged from relative obscurity — I’d never heard of her before she surfaced as a big initiative proponent — Charlie Munger, as he is known, was the younger Munger of note in California political circles. I’ve met him a few times. He seems a nice guy.
His involvement in California politics has been decidedly on the mod side till now. He was a volunteer in future former state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner’s 2004 Assembly race in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is before Poizner went hard right in his run for the 2010 gubernatorial nomination.
Munger then became a big backer of political reform measures, notably redistricting reform.
So what he is up to now?
Munger may have been motivated to try to clip the wings of public employee unions with Prop 32, which the SBAC, which is to say, Joel Fox, is a longtime supporter of. But Prop 32 is going to lose, dashing the expectations of many who thought its time had finally come.
Fox, an amiable fellow I’ve known a long time, is one of the three co-chairs of the No on 30 campaign, along with the guy who replaced him as director of the Howard Jarvis group and another right-winger. And that campaign has languished. The California Chamber of Commerce is formally neutral and Prop 30 has some major business support, as well as the staunch backing of labor and the Democratic Party.
Does Munger want his money to go to try to tip the balance on Prop 30? Does he want to change his image from amiable reformer to something else?
With Prop 32 now losing, the California Teachers Association has just given $3.5 million to Prop 30. That means the Yes on 30 war chest is closing in on $20 million.
How would it look for a few really rich people to try to fund the case that voters should vote down a quarter cent sales tax hike when the great bulk of the tax hike is on rich people like themselves?
Some questions answer themselves.
Erstwhile US ally Pakistan was awash today in violent protests against the infamous anti-Islam movie from America Innocence of Muslims and very derogatory images of the religion’s prophet in a French weekly. Nearly 20 protesters died.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and Virginia.
Obama received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He then departed the White House on Marine One en route Woodbridge, Virginia.
After arriving, he delivered remarks via satellite at the AARP Life@50+ National Event & Expo from
Obama then delivered remarks at a campaign event at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, Virginia.
At 11:10 AM Pacific, Obama departs Woodbridge, Virginia.
At 11:30 AM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
Conservative Republican rival Mitt Romney campaigns this afternoon in Las Vegas, Nevada, a key swing state where Obama continues to lead.
Obama has plenty of crises to monitor and attempt to manage.
There were big violent demonstrations today in Pakistan, where the government of our putative ally, key to the entire troubled AfPak strategy, called for a day of protest against the Innocence of Muslims movie. Presumably, at least in part, to channel and control sentiment.
If that was the intent, it doesn’t seem to have worked. There were big, violent demonstrations in Islamabad, Karachi, and elsewhere. As many as 20 protesters were killed in confrontations with police and security forces.
I doubt that was part of the plan.
Anger was also further stirred up by the reckless French weekly which published highly derogatory satirical images of the Prophet Muhammad.
And of course there is ample anger against the US already, for reasons often discussed here.
With increasing criticism around the murder of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday launched a task force to investigate the deadly 9/11 anniversary attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.
Today she finally characterized it as a “terrorist attack.” For more than a week, the State Department position was that the deaths occurred as a result of protest that got out of control.
On the positive side of things, more than 30,000 people demonstrated today in Benghazi, Libya, against the jihadist militias and in favor of the US.
That’s a bigger demonstration than any against the US.
A major US Navy exercise in the Persian/Arabian Gulf, aimed at practicing keeping the Strait of Hormuz and other strategic waters clear of mines, got underway yesterday. 24 other nations have joined the US in participating, though the bulk of the forces, and all command and control, are USN.
Iran responded with some saber rattling about new anti-air systems, but Iranian forces have stayed away from the Navy task force.
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 Persian/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.
Thousands watched Friday morning from nearby rooftops and along a bridge as the retired Space Shuttle Endeavour, strapped to the back of a modified jumbo jet, circled Sacramento and San Francisco before heading to its final home in Los Angeles. Watch it soar over the State Capitol and the Golden Gate Bridge.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown is continuing to go through bills from the recently concluded legislative session.
And he is working on his Prop 30 revenue initiative.
In another sign that, as I’ve suggested, Prop 32, the latest bid to hamstring California’s public employee union spending on campaigns, is going down to defeat, the California Teachers Association yesterday gave $3.5 million to Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 revenue initiative.
And a new Field Poll has the initiative now losing, as I expected, 38-44.
A Field Poll yesterday has Brown’s Prop 30 still well ahead, 51-36. That’s down a few points since the last sounding in, I believe, July, with those points moving to undecided.
Brown had some serious bad press to deal with around the state parks controversy and the controversy over the high-speed rail program, but that has largely been weathered.
Brown’s job approval rating, intriguingly, actually went up during this period, with Brown’s job approval among California voters now at 47% and disapproval at 38%.
The California Secretary of State’s office announced that 43.3% of the state’s voters are Democrats, 30.1% are Republicans, and 21.3% are independents.
** HOW ROMNEY SHOULD HAVE ATTACKED OBAMA: ANATOMY OF A GEOPOLITICAL CRISIS. … From my September 19th essay.
** CONSIDERING THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY. … From my September 15th essay.
** WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED SINCE 9/11? … From my September 11th essay.
** PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE ELEPHANT: THE CONVENTIONS AND THE CLIMATE. … From my September 8th essay.
** WHILE ONE CLINTON WOWS AT THE OBAMARAMA, ANOTHER PIVOTS TO THE LONG GAME. … From my September 6th essay.
** SO WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED WITH CLINT EASTWOOD? (AND THE PERILS OF ARGUING WITH IMAGINARY OBAMAS). … From my September 4th essay.
** AFTER THE ROMNEYRAMA, AND MORE SERIOUS MATTERS. … From my August 30th essay.
** SPACE, JERRY BROWN’S PLACE, AND A RACE. … From my August 27th essay.
** 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.
** 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 $93 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $59 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 $21 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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