“Things Can Only Get Better,” the theme song of New Labour’s smashing 1997 victory.
December 30th through January 2nd.
NOTE: NWN is in New Year’s week publishing mode, which means that material will be moved every day, but not all that frequently. And we’ll see more holiday/entertainment video here.
** OBAMA: VACATION’S END. With brand new, and extremely positive, signs from the Gallup Poll that his transition is more than weathering criticism from the left and the right, President-elect Barack Obama’s Hawaiian sojourn is at its end.
It’s that bittersweet time for Obama, a time that we all know, in between the end of the vacation and the renewal of work.
Obama had what appears to have been a lovely working vacation in his native Hawaii, our Pacific paradise which is a source of calming solace for the 44th president.
I hope he’s recharged his batteries from a rough though ultimately commanding election campaign in 2007 and 2008. The current president, after intermittent shows of competence, is leaving him with an historic, multi-layered, mess.
The stock exchange lost nearly a third of its value last year, the worst showing since 1931.
That’s not a haircut. That’s Skinhead Nation.
When did Bush or his allies raise the alarums? That would be, never. In fact, they insisted until the bitter end that all was well.
The environment got worse, too, with the Bush/Cheney regime not only going out of its way to block progress on fuel efficiency and greenhouse gases, as the North Pole melted, but also making late moves to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act. Which environmental groups and former California Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown have just sued to prevent.
Then there is geopolitics. … From my new Huffington Post column.
** NEW POLL: LIBERAL CONFIDENCE IN OBAMA EXTREMELY HIGH, CONSERVATIVE CONFIDENCE IMPROVING. According to a brand new Gallup Poll, liberal confidence in President-elect Barack Obama is beyond sky-high, at an amazing 93%. And confidence in him amongst conservative Republicans is up to nearly a third.
This comes despite a lot of carping on the left about some of Obama’s Cabinet picks, from the centrist range, and especially around his selection of Orange County pastor Rick Warren – an opponent of same-sex marriage – to deliver the invocation at his inaugural.
More than 9 in 10 liberal Democrats have expressed confidence that Obama will make a good president since Gallup began tracking these opinions after the election last November. Moderate and conservative Democrats show nearly as high levels of confidence. …
Perhaps because his choices may signal a more politically moderate approach to governing, conservative, moderate, and liberal Republicans have become more confident in Obama’s potential in recent weeks.
Now, a slim majority of moderate and liberal Republicans, 51%, say they are confident Obama will be a good president, up from 44% in November. Conservative Republicans remain largely skeptical of Obama’s abilities, but in recent weeks his stock has risen slightly among this group, from 23% to 29%.
The place the president-elect just left behind: Kailua.
** OBAMA TODAY – FRIDAY. President-elect Barack Obama and First Lady-to be Michelle Obama are back in Chicago today, following their working vacation in Hawaii. They’re packing this weekend and heading on Sunday to Washington, where they’ll take up residence at the historic Hay Adams Hotel prior to Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States on January 20th.
Why the move? Their daughters, Malia and Sasha, start school on Monday. And dad has a few meetings. He’ll meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to go over his big economic stimulus program and other matters. Then the three will meet with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner.
Arnold Schwarzenegger may wish he could use this negotiation technique in California’s chronic budget crisis. The Terminator was named this week by the Library of Congress as an American movie classic.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE – FRIDAY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is vacationing with First Lady Maria Shriver and their family through the weekend at their home in Sun Valley. On New Year’s Eve, his state budget director, Mike Genest, unveiled a proposal to deal with California’s budget woes over the next 18 months. It would cover a more than $41 billion budget deficit by making a variety of cuts, raising the sales tax, tapping the state lottery, shortening the school year, and borrowing almost $5 billion.
It got the now customary response from legislative leaders. Liberal Democrats sorta liked it, while disliking the cuts. Right-wing Republicans hate the tax hike, while proposing nothing meaningful themselves as an alternative. The game will continue next week.
** OBAMA TODAY – THURSDAY. After celebrating New Year’s Eve in at a party with friends in Kailua, President-elect Barack Obama and his family end their Hawaiian vacation this afternoon and return to Chicago.
They won’t spend much time in Chicago, as they are packing some things up and moving to Washington over the weekend. The Obamas will take up temporary quarters at the historic Hay Adams Hotel in the run-up to his inauguration on January 20th. Barack and Michelle’s daughters Malia and Sasha start school next Monday. And dad has something to do that day, too. He’s meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to go over the agenda.
In the meantime, despite percolating world crises and a terrible economic downturn, Obama managed to get some rest and relaxation before formally inheriting the mess from the Bush/Cheney Administration.
From today’s Honolulu Advertiser: President-elect Barack Obama will leave today after a 12-day, low-profile vacation in the Islands spent golfing, working out, taking his family on a few outings and memorializing his grandmother, who died two days before his historic election.
The holiday — meant as a quiet reprieve before his Jan. 20 inauguration — thrilled Obama supporters here, many of whom tracked down the president-elect for autographs, photos or even a quick glimpse, pat on the back or handshake. It also delighted the small Kailua neighborhood where Obama stayed.
“It’s been very exciting,” said Linda Oifer, who lives down the street from the Kailuana Place compound where the Obamas spent the holidays. She added that the extra security in the community, including a flood of Secret Service agents, hasn’t been much of a hassle. Any inconvenience, she said, was worth it since they got to wave to Obama almost daily as he passed by in his motorcade. Mike Kilpatrick, who also lives in the area, agreed. “It was no inconvenience at all,” he said. “We hope that he comes back.”
On his last full day in the Islands yesterday, Obama’s motorcade left his rental compound at 7:40 a.m. and arrived at the Semper Fit Center at Marine Corps Base Hawaii within 10 minutes. He worked out for about an hour, and stopped outside the gym afterward for about three minutes to greet at least 100 well-wishers, some of whom got themselves photographed with Obama.
“Thank you for your service, guys,” Obama told Marines in the crowd. …
During his stay in the Islands, which began Dec. 20, Obama has played several rounds of golf, worked out almost every day, and has taken his family to Sea Life Park, for shave ice at Koko Marina Center and to the Honolulu Zoo. On Christmas Day, he dropped by Marine Corps Base Hawaii for about an hour to share holiday greetings with mostly single Marines and sailors eating a holiday meal.
And on Dec. 22, Obama and his family finally got the chance to honor the memory of his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who raised him in the Islands. After a private service, he scattered her ashes at Lana’i Lookout, the same spot where Obama scattered the ashes of his mother in 1995. …
Obama was born in Honolulu and graduated from Punahou School. He has routinely made Christmas visits to the Islands but missed a trip in 2007.
Highlights of USC’s victory in the 2008 Rose Bowl.
** NEW YEAR’S DAY. A time to contemplate, to think back, to think ahead … to recover from a hangover and enjoy the biggest day of college football of the year. A week till the national title game between Oklahoma and Florida, but today has five big bowl games. Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. South Carolina. Gator Bowl: Clemson vs. Nebraska. Capital One Bowl: Georgia vs. Michigan State. Rose Bowl: Penn State vs. USC. Orange Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech.
The biggest game is the Rose Bowl, featuring two teams that came close to the national championship themselves. Had USC, with a great defense led by national defensive player of the year Rey Maualuga and good offense led by quarterback Mark Sanchez, not fallen asleep in the first half against Oregon State, just five days after their trouncing of Ohio State in the much- touted “game of the year,” they’d be undefeated and ranked first in the country. As it is, they’re in the Rose Bowl, as usual, expected to beat the Big 10 champion, as usual. But in Penn State, they face a team that also nearly made it to the national title game.
Embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat, yesterday appointed former state Attorney General Roland Burris to the post. Federal prosecutors want two more months to prepare an indictment.
** HOW OBAMA’S ADROIT SYMBOLISM YIELDS SKY-HIGH APPROVAL. Well, President-elect Barack Obama has more than weathered a few highly-publicized controversies. He has the highest approval rating for a president-elect in decades. He’s done it with a lot of good will from the campaign, and some adroit symbolism during the transition. … From my Monday column.
** OBAMA TODAY – WEDNESDAY. President-elect Barack Obama continues his holiday in Hawaii, and private work on his presidential transition.
This coming weekend, Obama and his family will move to Washington, where he will stay at the historic Hay Adams Hotel, in advance of his inauguration on January 20th.
Meanwhile, Israel has rejected a temporary ceasefire, instead launching fresh air attacks in the Gaza Strip in a bid to destroy tunnels through which arms and other materiel are smuggled to Hamas terrorists. Israel appears to be prepping for a ground offensive, judging that days of air attacks have failed to take out the Hamas offensive rocket capability.
And Blagogate, which hasn’t touched Obama in the polls or in any direct way in the storyline of events, just had another twist. Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is going to ask for a few more months to put together his indictment of the the Illinois governor.
This comes on top of his surprise appointment yesterday of former state Attorney General Roland Burris to take Obama’s vacated Senate seat. With Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush, the ex-Black Panther leader who easily defeated Obama in a 2000 Democratic primary, on hand to insist that Burris be seated to ensure that the Senate continues to have a black member. Many legal experts think that Burris will be seated, despite the wishes of Senate and other state leaders.
The Terminator has just been picked by the Library of Congress as an American movie classic. Here the titular character, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, has located his target Sarah Connor in an LA police station.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE – WEDNESDAY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger continues his holiday vacation in Sun Valley with First Lady Maria Shriver and their children.
This shouldn’t surprise you, but it doesn’t look like any solution to California’s chronic budget deficit is coming this week, notwithstanding some breathless reports of major progress at the beginning of the week.
Schwarzenegger’s finance director, Mike Genest, will release a proposed budget this morning to deal with the projected $41 billion deficit over the next year and a half. It won’t be pretty.
But the week brought a new honor to the former action superstar. The film which yielded his signature role, The Terminator, directed by James Cameron, was picked yesterday for the permanent collection of the Library of Congress as an American movie classic. The Terminator was added to the National Film Registry along with several other films such as The Asphalt Jungle, Deliverance, A Face In The Crowd, and In Cold Blood.
Israel says it’s in “a war to the bitter end” against Hamas.
** OBAMA RELEASES STATEMENT DENOUNCING BLAGO MOVE. “Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy.”
** BLAGO MAKES A MOVE. Embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant seat in the US Senate, has appointed former state Attorney General Roland Burris to the seat. After earlier signaling he would not make an appointment.
The press conference was apparently quite a show. On hand for the show this afternoon was Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush, the old Black Panther leader who defeated Obama when he ran for Congress in the 2000 Democratic primary.
Rush insists that Burris must be admitted to the Senate, because otherwise there will be no black member with Obama’s elevation to the Presidency.
Senate leaders, and other Illinois state leaders, vow to block the appointment. But I’ve scanned material on this and it may be that there is no way to stop the appointment.
** BROWN SUES FEDS ON ENVIRONMENT. Former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown announced this morning that the State of California is suing the Bush Administration for trying to change the Endangered Species Act in its waning days by eliminating requirements mandating scientific review of federal agency decisions that may threaten endangered species and their habitat.
Brown filed suit late yesterday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. He charges that the US Departments of the Interior and Commerce are violating “the Endangered Species Act by adopting regulations that are inconsistent with that statute; the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider the environmental ramifications of the proposed new regulations; and the Administrative Procedures Act by not adequately considering public comments submitted by the Attorney General and numerous other organizations and concerned citizens.”
“The Bush Administration is seeking to gut the Endangered Species Act on its way out the door,” Brown said. “This is an audacious attempt to circumvent a time-tested statute that for 35 years has required scientific review of proposed federal agency decisions that affect wildlife.”
** BLAIR TO MEDIATE IN GAZA FIGHT. ISRAEL TO ACCEPT A TEMPORARY TRUCE? Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the special envoy for the Mideast Quartet (US, UK, Russia, European Union) is going to the Middle East to attempt to broker a peace agreement.
Since his appointment in late 2006, Blair has made significant moves to strengthen the Palestinian Fatah government in the West Bank but has been hamstrung around the overall Israeli-Palestinian struggle. First the Bush/Cheney Administration moved for elections in the Gaza Strip, not realizing that Hamas would likely win. They did. Then Bush and Secretary of State Condi Rice insisted on taking the lead in overall peace negotiations. Which predictably went nowhere.
In order for negotiations to work, a ceasefire would have to be in place. Israel is contemplating one now. Of course, most of the aerial targets it can hit have already been hit. Britain, along with the EU, is stepping up its call on Israel to cease its military response to Hamas rocket attacks, calling it disproportionate and counter-productive.
** OBAMA TODAY – TUESDAY. President-elect Barack Obama continues his holiday vacation in Hawaii with his family. While he’s receiving daily intelligence/national security briefings and is continuing work on his presidential transition, he has no public appearances or statements planned.
He’s monitoring the Gaza crisis, which is a shooting war, and the Mumbai crisis, which could become a shooting war. The US is backing Israel, which is retaliating heavily for rocket attacks launched against it by Hamas.
While visiting Israel over the summer, Obama expressed solidarity for Israeli victims of rocket attacks. He has also condemned Hamas as a terrorist organization.
The US backs Israel in the fight with Hamas over Gaza. Ironically, it was a miscalculation by the Bush/Cheney Administration that gave Hamas the opportunity to win elections there.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE – TUESDAY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is vacationing and holding private talks about the state’s chronic budget crisis. He’d like to see a solution come together this week. He’d have preferred to have seen one before Christmas.
** OBAMA FLOATS THROUGH TEAPOT TEMPESTS. With the fastest Cabinet appointments in 40 years completed, Barack Obama is off to a working vacation in his native Hawaii. It increasingly looks like he’s rolled through two teapot tempests. One in which the far right flipped out, and another in which some on the left, frustrated at an avoidable defeat on same-sex marriage, forgot about the center part of center/left.
The far right flipping out about Obama is nothing new. Nor, I suppose, is a lot of the media going along for the ride. The media loves controversy, deep or otherwise. It’s easier than contemplating pressing issues. … From my December 22nd column.
** CALIFORNIA CRACKING. From my December 10th column.
** 12 KEY THINGS ABOUT THE MUMBAI CRISIS. From my December 5th column.
** OBAMA’S NEW POWER TROIKA FACES CRISES OLD AND NEW. From my December 3rd column.
** HAPPY THANKSGIVING, MR. PRESIDENT-ELECT! While Barack Obama promised “a new and brighter day yet to come” in his Thanksgiving address, an old and darker day yet to leave reminds that events — and perhaps political fate itself — can turn on a dime in presidential politics. …
For a political operation that prefers to focus on its preferences, it’s a sharp reminder to Team Obama that the presidency can be every bit as reactive as it is proactive. … From my November 28th Huffington Post column.
** 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, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the new Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti.
While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, which I know as a former DemRussia advisor, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** SCHWARZENEGGER’S CALIFORNIA. Here is my series of five columns on the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Los Angeles Times in debate with Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times reporter/editor Bill Boyarsky, whose columns are also included.
Among them is what I’m sure is the first piece examining Schwarzenegger’s legacy as governor of California. Since he will actually be governor of California until 2011. No technology known to be disruptive to the space/time continuum was used in its preparation.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. After crashing over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, crude oil is trading between $38 and $39 per barrel.
The drop of $109 per barrel since the record high over the summer comes on acknowledgment that the weak US economy will cut future demand and on the easing of geopolitical tensions in the Middle East. It is clear that that, contrary to much chatter, neither the US nor Israel is about to launch a strike against Iran. And the Russian war with Georgia, confounding much speculation and reporting to the contrary, actually decreased the geopolitical risk premium in the oil market.
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