Tony Blair leaves Downing Street yesterday for the last time as
prime minister and proceeds, in his now armored Jaguar, to Buckingham
Palace to tender his resignation to Queen Elizabeth in this BBC footage.
** GORDON BROWN’S NEW CABINET AND FUTURE U.S. RELATIONS. As expected, new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, has created a mostly new Cabinet. Perhaps the most intriguing appointee is the new foreign minister, 41-year old David Milliband, an Oxford grad who did his post-grad work at MIT. He was already a member of the Blair Cabinet, as the environment minister. In that post, he declared climate change the key mobilizing issue of the age, and late last year floated the idea of issuing “carbon credit cards” to British citizens. It’s an intriguing notion, which is not entirely clear to me, but it seems to involve determining each individual’s carbon output, establishing some sort of allowance, and promoting a market in trading offsets between individuals.
Something not dissimilar can already be done, and is increasingly being done. You can determine your own production of greenhouse gases — in your home, your driving, and your air travel — through various online sources, and figure out ways to lower your GHG production and to purchase carbon offsets for what you do not lower.
In addition to his environmentalism, and perhaps most immediately telling with regard to Britain’s future role with the US in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere in Terror War activities, Milliband is known as an early skeptic of the Iraq War. Though he did vote for it in the House of Commons. So this is a subtle yet not so subtle sign of Brown widening the distance between Britain and the Bush Administration, without any sort of immediate pull-out.
** SCHWARZENEGGER APPOINTS FIREFIGHTERS UNION HEAD TO STATE FIRE BOARD. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today appointed Lou Paulson, president of the California Professional Firefighters union to the California Board of Fire Services. It’s interesting in that Paulson and the firefighters u/nion went all out fo defeat Schwarzenegger during his notably unsuccessful “Year of Reform” special election initiative agenda of 2005. Firefighters were outraged by what they saw as Schwarzenegger meddling with their pensions and health benefits, and that outrage turned to a frenzy when they discovered that the former action superstar’s then misfiring yet very high-priced political team had come up with an initiative that could deny benefits to the survivors of public safety personel killed in the line of duty.
Then last year, Paulson and the union backed Democrat Phil Angelides heavily in the governor’s race. But Schwarzenegger may owe them a debt of gratitude for their work in the race. How so?
Angelides was running behind eBay honcho-turned-state Controller Steve Westly in the Democratic primary. Until the firefighters put their stamp on a $10 million “independent expenditure” campaign for Angelides almost entirely funded by the development empire of Angelo Tsakopoulos, Angelides’ longtime patron and business partner and also finance chairman of his campaign. The firefighters provided TV production facilities and people for TV ads depicting cops, firefighters, and health workers plumping for Angelides. He won narrowly. Which provided the perfect set-up for Schwarzenegger: An underfunded, untelegenic opponent who believed that the best way to beat the former Mr. Universe was to remind California voters that he was really a clone of George W. Bush.
** CALIFORNIA LABOR CHIEF BLASTS DEMOCRATIC LEGISLATURE FOR PASSAGE OF INDIAN GAMING COMPACTS. California Labor Federation chief Art Pulaski issued the following statement: It is with deep dismay that California’s working people have witnessed the passage of tribal gaming compacts, agreements that have all but guaranteed that a generation of workers in California’s fastest growing service sector will be left without the protection of state and federal laws or a union contract.
There is no more important issue to workers than the right to organize themselves and collectively bargain for fair wages and improved working conditions. This is a right that millions of workers hold dear as a symbol of respect and fairness, and which historically has secured the path to better lives for their families.
The middle class has eroded as union membership has declined. Our legislative allies agree that the best way to rebuild our middle class is to create jobs with living wages and decent benefits. And our legislative allies know that a growing and vibrant group of workers with the right to organize is the best way to achieve that goal. Unfortunately, with this vote, the Legislature has abandoned California’s 100,000 current and future casino workers who now risk languishing among the working poor.
We express our deepest gratitude to the dozens of casino workers who injected the Capitol and district offices, first weekly, then daily, with stories of their struggles on the job. It is their collective voice that has challenged the power of the state’s wealthiest casino owners. Today, a clear choice was made. The Legislature chose to stand with wealthy employers over the workers who create their prosperity.
Labor had several issues, but the principal issue was card check. That is a technique by which a union can become authorized by the workers by getting them to sign up on cards, rather than have a secret ballot election.
** THE BIG IMMIGRATION BILL GOES DOWN, AGAIN. IMPACTS. After going down earlier this month on a procedural vote following the sunsetting of its guest worker program at the insistence of organized labor, the Senate comprehensive immigration revamp measure was revived, only to go down again today on what most say is the final attempt before the 2008 elections. The bill needed 60 votes to move forward. It received only 46. Of which only 12 were Republican, yet another sign of the dramatically downsized influence of President George W. Bush.
Even had the bill managed to get out of the Senate, it likely would have languished in the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had told Bush he needed to provide 70 Republican votes there, as many Democrats are opposed. Indeed, most of organized labor — as I predicted last year when the immigration issue emerged as a frontburner matter following large demonstrations around the country — is opposed to this bill, which would provide a pathway to legalization for the 12 million or so illegal immigrants already here, some new border controls, and a large guest worker program. That ran very contrary to the claims made widely by enthusiasts for legalization and more immigration.
Although Republicans are getting the credit or blame, depending upon one’s perpsective for killing the bill, it’s interesting how little Democratic presidential candidates referred to it, much less championed it. They will all privately breathe a sigh of relief that they needn’t deal with it in their campaigns.
On the Republican side, everyone was opposed except John McCain, who co-authored the bill with Democratic Ted Kennedy. Having recovered from a poor start to this campaign, McCain saw his campaign smothered by the immigration issue. If he is to have a chance at the nomination, which he still does, he needed this bill to lose. Though I doubt he saw it that way.
** BLAIR’S EXIT INTERVIEW. Here is Tony Blair’s only media interview of his final day as prime minister, done with his local Northern England newspaper on his train trip from London to his Sedgefield constituency, the Northern Echo. Incidentally, on the video above, as Cherie Blair gets into the Jag for the final time as Britain’s first lady, she tells the assembled media: “Bye. I don’t think we’ll miss you.”
Meanwhile, word out of Washington is that Secretary of State Condi Rice wants to be the one to negotiate peace in the Middle East, rather than new Mideast envoy Blair. That seems, let us say, unlikely.
Says Blair: “I have to prepare the ground for a negotiated settlement, and the key to that is to prepare the Palestinians for statehood. There have to be two states – Israel confident in its security and Palestinians with a viable state not merely in terms of its territory, but also in terms of its institutions, its capability – otherwise there won’t be a deal.
“That’s the reality.
“Anywhere you go in the world, this is the issue which concerns people, not merely because of the plight of the Israelis and the Palestinians, but also the symbolism of the dispute, what it says about the state of the relationship between the Western world and the Muslim world and between different cultures and religions. It is a fundamental issue. I will be starting straight away. I will probably go out in July.”
** CALIFORNIA PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY. CLINTON AND OBAMA 1-2 AMONG DEMOCRATS, GIULIANI AND MCCAIN 1-2 AMONG REPUBLICANS. Running quite contrary to another public poll this week, but tracking private polling, the PPIC poll has Hillary Clinton a clear first among Democrats, Barack Obama a clear second, and John Edwards a distant third.
Without Al Gore in the mix, it’s Clinton 41%, Obama 25%, and Edwards 12%. With Gore, it’s Clinton 35%, Obama 20%, Gore 19%, and Edwards 9%.
Among Republicans, it’s Rudy Giuliani 29%, John McCain 15%, Mitt Romney 12%, and Fred Thompson 11%. Although Thompson is riding a wave of national publicity, and leading in some other early states, he isn’t catching on yet in California, the biggest primary prize of all.
** SCHWARZENEGGER VERY STRONG IN NEW CALIFORNIA POLL. The new Public Policy Institute of California poll shows great support for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his policy agenda. His job approval rating among voters is at 65%. His universal health care proposal is backed by the same numbers. The rest of his policy agenda is also quite popular.
But support for the Legislature has diminished, as have expectations of great post-partisan achievements coming out of Sacramento. This comes in the wake of the right turn by most partisan Republicans in the state, as well as a sharply declining mood about national politics. President George W. Bush is extraordinarily unpopular, as is his latest policy in Iraq. I should probably have a default key to push to say that, so I don’t have to waste time typing what should be obvious.
** CASINO TRIBES WIN. As reported last night, and forecast long before that, California’s Indian casino tribes are getting their new compacts negotiated last year with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration. The administration negotiated some side deals to allow for better accounting practices. But the so-called card check procedure that labor wanted, wherein unions would be recognized by signing workers up on cards, rather than by winning elections, doesn’t fly. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez put out a statement late yesterday acknowledging that the deals are acceptable, but saying next time labor must do much better.
Meanwhile, the biggest expansion of slot machines in California’s history is poised to occur. The move by Assembly Democrats, which comes in the wake of last week’s spirited but small rally outside the state Capitol by labor, will likely forestall a threatened casino tribe campaign against the term limits change initiative which will almost certainly appear on next February’s presidential primary ballot.
** LITTLE CONFIDENCE IN MAJOR POWERS, OR THEIR CHALLENGERS. A new international poll of 47 nations around the world shows declining support for America, but also increasing suspicion of resurgent great powers China and Russia.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. American troops are now in the midst of a 47th day of searching for the remaining two US soldiers captured by Al Qaeda in an ambush south of Baghdad. They have had no luck so far. A video put out by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq claims that all three men were executed after being captured. But, with the exception of the Californian found floating in the Euphrates River, that claim can’t be confirmed. The US high command in Baghdad has revealed that ID cards for the other two American prisoners were found in an Al Qaeda safehouse on June 9th.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Most crude oil prices are up around $70 per barrel.
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