Senior defense officials say outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is removing the military’s ban on women serving in combat.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … THE STATUS OF JERRY’S STATE.
** QUICK HITS. The White House announced today that President Obama’s nomination of Marine General John Allen, now the Afghan War commander, to be the next supreme commander of NATO, will go forward. Allen’s appointment had been suspended pending investigation into his lengthy e-mail relationship with a Tampa socialite who triggered the Petraeus sex scandal. Allen was cleared yesterday of any potential conduct unbecoming an officer. … In one of the goofier things I’ve seen lately, veteran California Republican consultant Rob Stutzman is suing dethroned global cycling champ Lance Armstrong on a class-action basis for supposedly deceiving him and other readers in a 2001 best-selling book. The suit, amusingly, notes that Stutzman “does not read many books” but found Armstrong’s story, in which he denies using PEDs, so compelling he read the book cover to cover and recommended it to friends. Okay then. Stutzman was a top advisor to billionaire Meg Whitman’s landslide losing campaign for governor of California in 2010 and was Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s communications director for most of his first term, delivering counsel I didn’t think much of. But he got paid a lot of money. … Governor Jerry Brown delivers his State of the State address at 9 AM on Thursday morning before a joint session of the California Legislature. You can watch live on the California Channel.
** 2013 CALIFORNIA HALL OF FAME HONOREES ANNOUNCED. The California Museum and Governor Jerry Brown’s office have announced this year’s new round of people to be inducted into the California Hall of Fame. This year’s class, which some thought would be enshrined this past December, will be honored at a ceremony in late March.
The Hall of Fame, instituted by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, is designed to honor individuals who demonstrate California’s spirit of innovation.
This year’s honorees are the late anthropologist Gregory Bateson, acclaimed actor and filmmaker Warren Beatty, legendary San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, visionary designers Charles and Ray Eames, United Farm Workers co-founder and Latino rights leader Dolores Huerta, famed Native Californian Ishi (who was the last surviving member of his tribe), and motion picture pioneers the Warner brothers.
I’ll have a lot more on this as we go, for there is a great deal of California history, and Brown history, wrapped up in this.
** DAVIS, (WILLIE) BROWN, NEWSOM, AND OTHERS JOIN IN 10TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION OF KEY BIOSCIENCE CENTER. Former Governor Gray Davis joined former San Francisco Mayor and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, Nobel Prize-winner Dr. J. Michael Bishop, Lieutenant Governor and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, and UC San Francisco Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann in celebrating the 10th anniversary of what has become a key center of innovation in bioscience.
UCSF Mission Bay, the University of California at San Francisco’s research campus at Mission Bay, turned what had been a somewhat abandoned area of railroad yards and warehouses into a $3 billion bioscience research campus.
As governor, Davis helped finance the project in its foundational stages with $145 million in revenue bonds and by puting the Institute of Quantitative Bioscience, a $100 million piece of the project, immediately adjacent to the Genentech building where press conference was conducted.
As mayor, former Assembly Speaker Brown played a crucial role in brokering a deal that resulted in the donation of 43 acres of land, as well as shepherding the project through its approval process.
UCSF Mission Bay is one of the largest bioscience research hubs in the world, as well as a major employer, and its footprint will only increase as the decade goes on.
Workers are now building the state-of-the-art UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, which will open in February 2015 to offer pioneering care for children, women, and cancer patients.
The hub is also a major incubator for bioscience start-ups through an entity called QB3, which was launched by Davis to help turn UC research into the basis of products. Dozens of companies have sprung up from Mission Bay as a result.
** OBAMA’S CLEAR YET MUTED TRUMPET: HOPE’S AUDACITY MEETS LOWERED EXPECTATIONS. A spirited if episodic address delivered by our first black president on the occasion of his second inauguration, acclaimed by most of the media, living up to many expectations of the Democratic base, and… a relatively flat response from the public as a whole.
A new Gallup Poll survey indicates that President Barack Obama’s second inaugural was not nearly the smash with the public that his first was.
Far fewer watched the inaugural events or followed media coverage of them. Obama’s second inaugural address garnered far less support than his first. And people are notably less hopeful about the next four years than they were four years ago.
That last, of course, is probably as much a factor of hard experience as it is reaction to what Obama and his advisors produced in the way of an inaugural spectacle.
There was actually less attention paid to Obama’s second inaugural than there was to George W. Bush’s second inaugural in January 2005. Which has to come as a surprise.
But Obama’s speech played better than Bush’s.
Which, to be frank, is rather damning with faint praise if you think about it, since, quite unlike Obama, no one has ever suggested that Bush is a great orator.
Aside from the inevitable carping from conservative Republicans, Obama garnered mostly positive reviews for his second inaugural address.
I found it to be a spirited speech, a defense of and case for a modern sort of liberalism, but too much the laundry list for great oratory.
It sounded to me like an extension of his campaign rhetoric, which is certainly fine, since he won the election rather handily as it happens, but it didn’t blow my skirt up the way it did a lot of East Coast media types. Perhaps they are compensating for doubting his election prospects. Perhaps their excitement stems from Obama’s seeming determination this time around to stick to a mostly liberal agenda. But he had already signaled that in the course of the endless campaign, and in the wake of the ongoing failure of compromise in Washington except in the most extreme and obvious circumstances.
The speech was more like a shorter, more elegant version of a State of the Union than what I was hoping for. Of course, it may just be that I’ve watched and read too many Obama speeches, and have become somewhat indifferent as a result.
Yet the stage had been set for something truly memorable.
Obama, our young president gone gray, began his second term as America’s first black president, marking the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, taking the ceremonial oath using the King and Lincoln bibles.
He of course won re-election in November in rather handy fashion, beating his chameleon conservative Republican opponent Mitt Romney 51 percent to 47 percent in the popular vote, and by a much wider margin in the electoral vote, just as polling guru Nate Silver and, well, some others of us, predicted. The seeming drama of the campaign turned out to be more a function of cultural neurosis than actual reality. But surprise is surprise, whether it ought to exist or not, so Obama’s victory had an added frisson of drama attached to it.
The campaign, however, modeled in many ways on Bush’s grinding 2004 re-election, did not uplift, and there was little beyond a late coming-together around Superstorm Sandy to suggest a bright path forward. Which was quite ironic, considering how little has been done on climate change.
The grinding hyper-partisanship of the election season has continued beyond, and, aside from ending the Bush/Cheney tax cuts for the rich, the president’s campaign sounded an uncertain trumpet with regard to any sense of mission. …
And a lot of the muted reaction to Obama’s inaugural is simply a matter of lowered expectations.
Whether one wants to blame Obama or not, the fact is that Washington has made no progress in slicing the Gordian knot of gridlock, to mangle a few metaphors.
Aside from ending the Bush/Cheney tax cuts for the rich, Obama hasn’t gotten much done in the way of raising revenues. Nor has he gotten much done on the alternative, cutting spending.
Washington just sails on in its loud, cranky dysfunction, with the inmates in its political and media communities all too happy to keep on bleating and tweeting on matters of trivia and matters of significance alike, investing each with equivalent import.
Of course, public expectations were probably too high in the first place.
Four years ago, Obama entered office with the glow of post-partisanship, an admittedly amorphous but popular concept, amidst hopes that he could get fractious partisans of both parties to work together in the common good. This was consistent with the positioning he adopted in the speech which rocketed him on to the center stage of American politics, his much acclaimed keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
And Obama tried. He hosted a pre-inaugural dinner for his defeated opponent, Senator John McCain, who rose to fame as a politician by reaching across the aisle. He gave up potential negotiating points in advance on key issues to demonstrate his willingness to compromise. It didn’t work.
While it was wise for him to open matters with a post-partisan stance, he generally hung with it too long, seeking deals that were probably never there.
In California, the governor and former presidential candidate who invented the notion of “lowered expectations” in an “Era of Limits,” Jerry Brown, also opened his new/renewed governorship at the beginning of 2011 with a post-partisan stance.
He enacted big budget cuts and worked around the clock to try to cobble together a handful of Republican legislative votes — in California’s unusual system, requiring a two-thirds vote to raise taxes but only a simple majority to cut them — to raise some revenues by extending temporary tax hikes in a popular vote. Republicans wouldn’t even give him the votes needed to allow a vote of the people on taxes.
But Brown only pursued this course for the first half-year of his governorship. He then regrouped, as he told me he would do if needs be, and pulled together an initiative campaign to raise needed revenues. Which passed with a whopping 11-point margin of victory in November.
The reality is that American politics is marked by hyper-partisanship. Democrats are very partisan. Republicans, well, they are generally virulently partisan. With very few exceptions, moderate Republicans today exist only on Mad Men.
If there is a future for post-partisanship, and there should be, it will only come as the result of seriously hard work carving out the space for it. But that’s another essay entirely. …
** NEW COLUMNS COMING UP … OBAMA’S CLEAR YET MUTED TRUMPET: HOPE’S AUDACITY MEETS LOWERED EXPECTATIONS and THE STATUS OF JERRY’S STATE.
** NEW SURVEY: LITTLE SUPPORT FOR OVERTURNING ROE V. WADE. A new Gallup Poll survey indicates that there is little support for one of the key issues of the American right, the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision which established the right to abortion.
Only 29% support that position.
But there is a higher degree of uncertainty than registered in previous polls.
And of course there is widespread support for limits to abortion with regard to trimesters.
Forty years after the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Roe v. Wade, significantly more Americans want the landmark abortion decision kept in place rather than overturned, 53% to 29%. Another 18% have no opinion, the highest level of uncertainty Gallup has recorded on this question in trends dating to 1989. …
Gallup trends indicate that the increase in public uncertainty about overturning Roe v. Wade is largely the result of a growing percentage of young adults aged 18 to 29 expressing no opinion. This suggests that the generation born entirely after Roe became law has had less exposure to information about the decision than those who lived through the original decision, or were at least old enough to witness some of the major abortion debates during the 1980s and ’90s, such as those involving President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987 and reaction to the high court’s Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey decision in 1992. …
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified this morning before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Benghazi disaster, emerging essentially unscathed. While she did not criticize UN Ambassador Susan Rice, she noted that she had referred to the episode as a terrorist attack early on.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … OBAMA’S CLEAR YET MUTED TRUMPET: HOPE’S AUDACITY MEETS LOWERED EXPECTATIONS.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
At 9:30 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet for lunch in the Private Dining Room.
Meanwhile, Obama’s life is about to get more complicated, at least in the short run, with regard to Israel.
Israel’s election brought an intriguing surprise. A brand new center/left party headed by a former newscaster ran second behind Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu alliance party, which lost a quarter of its seats in the just folded parliament. Despite dropping from 42 seats to 31, Netanyahu may have the edge in forming a coalition, however, in that Israeli President Shimon Peres is likely to ask him to try.
The big winner in terms of late-breaking momentum was not Netanyahu, who had been expected to coast to victory, or his ballyhooed far right former chief of staff Naftali Bennett, whose Jewish Home party finished a disappointing fourth, but former newscaster/columnist Yair Lapid, whose new Yesh Atid (There Is A Future) party, taking up space once occupied by the imploded Kadima party, came second with 19 seats, ahead of third place Labor with 15 seats.
Since the Likud itself only won about the same number of seats as There Is A Future, whose very name is a rebuke to far right apocalypticism — former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party has a third of the seats in the new lashed-up alliance with Likud — Netanyahu is reaching out to Lapid as part of a coalition-building process. Which looks potentially very unstable.
In the new results, the parties of the right and the parties of the center and left each control 60 seats in the Knesset.
What will that mean for the Iran crisis, for the Syrian crisis, for the crisis over Palestine, part of which Israel just fought a limited war against after the US elections?
French and Malian government troops are consolidating their hold on towns in central Mali recaptured from the rebels in recent days. The United States, along with Britain and France, is helping to transport French troops and equipment. Meanwhile, France’s ambassador to the United Nations has requested that UN monitors be deployed to Mali.
Marine General John Allen, our commander in Afghanistan, was cleared Tuesday of possible conduct unbecoming an officer surrounding his e-mail relationship with Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, a figure also at the center of the Petraeus sex scandal.
Allen had been up for promotion to supreme commander of NATO, a nomination placed on hold. The president will have to move affirmatively to re-light that appointment. He has not yet done so.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s statement of praise for Allen and his continuing leadership in Afghanistan made no mention of the NATO post.
That may be because Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel would like to weigh in on one of the biggest commands in his future bailiwick.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving Mali and Algeria, the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Syria, Iraq, AfPak, and the South China Sea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: Mali is eight hours ahead of Pacific time, 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.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown spent yesterday with the California State University Board of Trustees in Long Beach, where trustees decided against any tuition or fee hikes, as expected.
He is prepping for his State of the State address, set for 9 AM tomorrow in the State Capitol.
Brown got good news with California revenues running far ahead of forecasts. Why that is so remains a bit unclear.
** HOW NOT TO STAGE MANAGE THE WORLD. … From my January 18th column.
** POWELL POSITIONS THE DEBATE OVER CHUCK HAGEL. … From my January 14th essay.
** JERRY BROWN’S NEW BUDGET FOR POST-CRISIS CALIFORNIA: DISCIPLINE BEGETS OPPORTUNITY. … From my January 11th essay.
** WHY THE HAGEL BATTLE MADE MORE SENSE FOR OBAMA THAN THE RICE BATTLE. … From my January 9th essay.
** CALIFORNIA’S FUTURIST AGENDA: A TALE OF THREE GOVERNORS. … From my January 4th 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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