The US has re-purposed radar systems and deployed an Aegis missile destroyer and a squadron of F-22 stealth fighters to the vicinity in the tense crisis on the Korean Peninsula. The ship deployed from its Japanese homeport is USS John S. McCain, named for the four-star admirals who were father and grandfather of Senator John McCain.
** QUICK HITS. Reportedly no real sign of large-scale military mobilization today in North Korea. But missile attacks wouldn’t require that; the response to retaliation, if it is symmetrical, might. But not if the response is asymmetrical. … Perhaps the distraction of the crisis is why President Barack Obama reportedly hit only a handful of jump shots today at the White House Easter Egg Roll. Obama went 2 for 22, which is nearly as dire as me. … The triumphant California Democratic Party holds its annual convention the weekend of April 12-14 in Sacramento. I’ve been to every one of those since Jerry Brown first became governor. … Speaking of which, Brown won’t be there. He’ll be in the midst of his trip to China. … But Sutter Brown will be there. The famed Corgi, First Dog of California (and rumored candidate for the lieutenant governorship) will put in a Sunday morning convention appearance. … Who else will be there besides the portly pooch? That’s a bit unclear, though political satirist Will Durst is the Saturday dinner speaker. … Former state Senate President and Congressman John Burton will be re-elected to another term as California Democratic Party chairman.
** NEW SURVEY: THE MOST RELIGIOUS AND NON-RELIGIOUS CITIES IN AMERICA (CALIFORNIA HAS TWO TOP 10 CITIES IN THE LATTER CATEGORY). A new Gallup Poll survey reveals the most religious and non-religious metropolitan areas in the US.
Provo, Utah, dominated of course by Mormonism, is the most religious.
Burlington, Vermont (a hotbed of anti-war activity, the war being the War of 1812) and Boulder, Colorado (home of the University of Colorado) are the least religious.
No California metro area is in the Top 10 of the most religious places, but two are in the Top 10 for the least religious.
They are Santa Rosa-Petaluma, which is Number 5 among the least religious metro areas in America, and San Francisco-Oakland, just behind at Number 6 in a tie with the Eugene-Springfield metro area in Oregon.
The Top 10 in religiosity are all located in the South and in Utah, with the exception of Holland-Grand Haven, Michigan.
The Top 10 in non-religiosity are all in New England and the West, with only two exceptions: Madison, Wisconsin and Albany-Schenectady-Troy in upstate New York.
Throughout the country in 2012, 40% of Americans were classified as very religious — based on saying religion is an important part of their daily life and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week. Thirty-one percent of Americans were nonreligious, saying religion is not an important part of their daily life and that they seldom or never attend religious services. The remaining 29% of Americans were moderately religious, saying religion is important in their lives but that they do not attend services regularly, or that religion is not important but that they still attend services. …
The most and least religious cities generally reflect the religiousness of the state in which they are located, although there are some interesting exceptions. Utah, for example, is one of the nation’s most religious states, and two Utah cities — Provo and Ogden — are indeed among the most religious cities in the nation. But Utah’s largest metro area, Salt Lake City, is significantly lower on the religiousness list (47% very religious) than the other two Utah cities. This most likely reflects Salt Lake City residents’ more urban, less Mormon nature compared with other Utah metro areas. And, although Michigan as a state has below-average religiousness, that state’s Holland-Grand Haven metro area is tied as the nation’s fifth most religious. …
America is a remarkably religiously diverse nation, and much of this diversity is geographically based. Residents in some areas and cities — namely, those in the South and in Utah — are two or three times as likely to be very religious as those living in cities in the Northeast, the Northwest, and other Western locations. …
Feelings run high in North Korea and South Korea as the Korean Peninsula Crisis plays out.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
An interesting week in presidential politics, with Congress still on break but President Barack Obama dealing with various matters. And a possibly intriguing week in California politics, with the state legislature back from break and Governor Jerry Brown prepping for his big trip next week to China.
Obama monitors and manages geopolitical crises, including the hot one going on the Korean Peninsula, with the new North Korean leader raising the Hermit State’s level of bellicose rhetoric up several notches, declaring a “state of war” in the wake of a frosty international reception to his testing of a more sophisticated nuclear weapon.
The central committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers Party delivered a warning over the weekend. Nuclear weapons, it declared, are “the nation’s life” and will not be traded even for “billions of dollars.”
It’s still talk, and the flipping of some switches to bring rocket systems to a greater degree of readiness, but given the new leader’s youth and inexperience the situation is volatile.
Incidentally, Obama’s controversial new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel gives his first address on the strategic and fiscal challenges facing the Department of Defense this week. That comes on Wednesday at the National Defense University in Washington.
Hagel had a fabulous time last month in his first visit to Afghanistan as secretary of defense. His sudden antagonist of that trip, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is in Doha, Qatar meeting with Qatari leaders to further a dialogue with the Taliban.
Once Obama finishes with today’s Easter Egg Roll festivities, he turns the attention of his public schedule back to the geopolitical pivot to the Asia-Pacific, welcoming Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore to the White House on Tuesday.
The US and Singapore have a longtime economic and security alliance, which is being heightened by the development of the Trans Pacific Partnership on trade and by the stationing of a new flotilla of US Navy ships in Singapore as the decade unfolds. The first of which, the littoral combat ship USS Freedom, is now in the region after making its way from its previous home port of San Diego.
Obama then heads West, first to Denver to push gun control, then to San Francisco and Silicon Valley to raise money for Democratic candidates. Then he’s back to DC for Friday’s Easter prayer breakfast at the White House.
While Congress frolics, immigration reform continues to bubble along.
Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio announced before the Sunday chat shows that the bipartisan group of eight Republican senators, of which he is a key member, is not yet close to agreeing on an overall package. Though he and others continue to express optimism after more than three months of work.
Business and labor interests have agreed to a plan to allow visas a year for low-skilled workers. It remains to be seen how that goes over with the populist opponents of immigration changes who have derailed previous elite agreements.
Back in California, Governor Jerry Brown is prepping for his big trip to China next week. It comes at a tricky moment in geopolitics, with the new Chinese leader Xi Jinping, with whom Brown has become acquainted, seeming open to new relationships but having just returned from Moscow, where he sought to further a major alliance which many consider antithetical to the US.
It’s not clear, however, what Xi found in Russia other than the expected energy and arms deals.
Brown’s goals are more modest, of course, centering on fostering trade and foreign investment.
Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger undertook a trade mission to China in the fall of 2010, the last time a California governor ventured to the Middle Kingdom.
With legislative Democrats largely eschewing potentially backfiring legislation so far, Brown has some more mundane concerns such as prison management and the perpetual struggle with federal judicial overseers who seemingly seek a world-class health care system within the walls which does not exist without. And there’s the latest problem with the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge rebuilding of a major span triggered by the 1989 earthquake — the bridge has continued to operate through nearly all the period since — and at last scheduled for opening in September 2013.
Some bolts, this time steel from an American source, have broken in place and are having to be replaced. Which I’m told will be done in time for the fall.
Being a governor isn’t all glamour.
** STRATEGY DOCUMENTS REVEALED. Strategy documents from an eminent consultancy circulating in the highest level of political circles around the President of the United States and the Governor of California have recently come into my possession. Having properly vetted these memoranda, and with slight redaction for redundancy, I present them for your perusal.
TO: Hon. Barack Obama, President of the United States
FROM: Lucas North, The Starbright Group
SUBJECT: Correcting Your Disappointing Level of Support in the Principal Target Population
Whilst your recent trip to the Mideast had the salutary effect of brokering a new rapprochement between an increasingly isolated State of Israel and the Republic of Turkey, it does appear to have fallen decidedly short of the major goal, as defined by many commentators and wise media outlets such as Politico, of making you as popular in Israel as you are in other nations of the world, including the United States.
As you are aware from the teachings of your critics, your Presidency cannot be considered a success so long as you are not a popular figure in Israel.
Fortunately, the opportunity to correct this situation has presented itself.
After several exercises in scenario building, we believe that you must undertake steps to short circuit the criticism of you as insufficiently supportive of Israel. These steps will, we believe, constitute a quantum leap forward for your standing amongst the principal target population.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly declared a nuclear-capable Iran to be an “existential threat” to his nation. Yet the PM has not taken the logical step which that assessment implies.
This provides you with a golden opportunity to vault forward in popularity in Israeli public opinion surveys.
You can best effectuate this through adoption of a new doctrine of containment through prevention.
Utilizing a series of carefully targeted low-yield nuclear strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, United States forces will succeed in stopping the Iranian drive toward nuclear weapons capability in its tracks.
This combination of doctrinal innovation with measured yet decisive action will achieve your goal of popularity in the target population.
Potential repercussions in the form of so-called “blowback” are anticipated to be minimal. Long-term threats can be effectively deterred by another doctrinal innovation: Placing Israel formally under the USA’s nuclear umbrella.
Your popularity amongst the principal target population will be assured.
TO: Hon. Jerry Brown, Governor of California
FROM: Lucas North, The Starbright Group
SUBJECT: Increasing the Pop Factor in Your Popularity
Next week, you will lead California’s trade mission to China, your first major international trip in this, your third term as Governor of California. Whilst this journey contains all the usual potential rewards of increased export and foreign investment opportunity, we believe that the trip holds a special personal promise as well with the Obama Administration’s increasing emphasis on its geopolitical pivot to the Asia-Pacific region.
As we have discussed previously, there was a time when you were the preeminent pop politician in the United States. That is to say, “pop” in the sense of consorting with the Princess of Pop, and pop in the sense of having the fizziest favorability rating on record. No one could ever be sure what you might say in the course of your public effervescences.
Your return to the Governorship of California, lo these many years later, is by most accounts a great success. Yet, as you know, something is missing.
That sense of pop. By which we at Starbright do not simply mean the ability to attract paparazzi.
You are a pragmatic figure now. You exercise restraint in your public comments to an unprecedented degree.
It is effective. But it is not very much fun.
What we at Starbright propose for you will return you to another dimension of public acclaim, a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, and a dimension of mind.
Just as your one-time guru E.F. Schumacher taught that small is beautiful, another of your economic guiding lights, Joseph Schumpeter, preached the doctrine of creative destruction.
This is what we propose for your trip to China.
Any governor of America’s largest state, itself one of the world’s largest economies, can undertake a trade mission to the wealthy and rising People’s Republic. More exports, more foreign investment, these are matters of routine.
Your unique value-added is to stir things up, to bring out the contradictions, as Karl Marx would say.
When you are in Beijing, you must go to the spot in Tiananmen Square where the “Tank Man” confronted a column of People’s Liberation Army tanks cracking down on student protesters for democracy on June 5, 1989.
Demand to know who he is, what became of him, and why the democracy movement was suppressed then and continues to be suppressed today.
When you are in Shanghai, go to the building that the New York and London press identify as the center of cyber-attacks by a unit of the PLA on targets around the world.
Demand to be admitted to the facility and allowed to inspect it.
You will have injected the “pop” back into your popularity at home.
The added bonus is that our projections indicate that new Chinese President Xi Jinping will be happy to shower your delegation members with trade deals as you all depart the PRC.
The United Nations is now considering all options, including a peacekeeping force, as part of its plan if Syria’s Assad regime falls. The UN always anticipated playing a humanitarian role. But now it concedes it may have to go beyond that – as most countries have shown little interest in getting involved.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He and the rest of the family then attended the 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will speak.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the North Korean nuclear program, 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.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
** IN THE FUTURE, PEOPLE WILL WONDER WHAT THE FUSS WAS ALL ABOUT. … From my March 27th column.
** CALIFORNIA’S TIDES OF OPINION: STRONG BACKING FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM AND GUN CONTROL, SKEPTICISM ABOUT MORE TAXES. … From my March 25th essay.
** OBAMA IN THE MIDDLE EAST: THE SEEMINGLY SCHIZOID MAN PROVES TO BE PRAGMATIC PACIFIC PIVOTER. … From my March 23rd feature.
** PIN THE FAIL ON THE DONKEY: HOW CALIFORNIA DEMS COULD YET BLOW IT. … From my March 21st feature.
** OBAMA, ISRAEL, IRAN … AND IRAQ: NOT A HAPPY ANNIVERSARY. … From my March 20th 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.
** 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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