President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arriving in London today for their first major international trip since the inauguration.
** OBAMA CATCHES A SLIGHT BREAK ON ISRAEL. On the eve of the first meetings of his first major international trip as president, Barack Obama caught something of a break when Israel’s Knesset approved the new government formed by returned Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. It was shaping up as an all-right wing government – a huge international problem both for Israel and its principal supporter, America – until Labour, under former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, agreed to join the coalition.
Barak will be the defense minister in the new government, as he was in the former government convened by the centrist Kadima. But Netanyahu’s conservative Likud is dependent for its power on the far right Israel Beiteinu party, whose chief, Avigdor Lieberman, is Israel’s new foreign minister. As Lieberman is largely regarded as anti-Arab, that is a serious problem.
Even in Israel, where a brand new poll for the Haaretz newspaper shows 54% disapproving of the new government. While Barak is widely accepted as defense minister – he’s actually arguably Israel’s greatest soldier – Lieberman receives only 25% support as foreign minister. But at least Netanyahu can take Barak, rather than Lieberman, with him when he visits Obama in the White House.
** HIGHEST-TAXED CALIFORNIA? NOT SO MUCH. I’ve noticed that every time I write a column about California, a host of right-wingers descend, all repeating the trope – which I think they heard on that “John & Ken” radio show, or Rush Limbaugh – that California is the most highly-taxed state in America.
Actually, it’s not. As the US Census Bureau just pointed out, California ranks only 12th among the states.
** U.S. AND IRAN TALK DIRECTLY AT AFGHANISTAN CONFERENCE. Top US and Iranian officials had a direct, “unplanned” meeting today at the UN conference on Afghanistan in the Netherlands. Special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, former US ambassador to the UN, met with Iran’s deputy foreign minister today at the Hague. Nothing about the discussion has been revealed as yet, but the two agreed to “stay in touch,” according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
** CALIFORNIA SPECIAL ELECTION VIEW. Over at CalBuzz, the very shrewd former Republican consultant Dan Schnur (former communications director for Pete Wilson and John McCain, now director of USC’s Unruh Institute of Politics) lays out why he thinks the Prop 1A initiative on the May 19th special election ballot has a good chance to pass.
Actually, passing Proposition 1A on the May 19 special election ballot is not quite the Mission Improbable suggested above. While Arnold Schwarzenegger’s poll numbers have taken a nasty hit during the recent budget crisis and economic meltdown, voters tend to warm to him considerably when they see him reaching across party lines. Schwarzenegger not only has the support of most of the state’s leading Democrats, but the initiative package was designed specifically to lessen the likelihood of opposition from the California Teachers Association.
And while other unions have come out against the initiatives, the deep-pocketed CTA’s endorsement of 1A almost eliminates the likelihood of significant funding for an opposition campaign. Add the support of the state Chamber of Commerce, and odds are that the initiative committee will have a huge financial advantage during an extremely short and intense campaign. Conservative opponents bring plenty of populist passion to the other side, but without lots of union money to run a “no” campaign, that passion is going to be hard for voters to hear over the advertising onslaught that Schwarzenegger and his allies will be able to buy.
A sizable check from either GOP gubernatorial candidates Steve Poizner or Meg Whitman looks like the last, best hope for the opposition, but neither Poizner nor Whitman has yet indicated a willingness to write one.
** AFGHANISTAN: THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM? America has won two wars in Afghanistan in the past quarter-century. First against the late Soviet Union, then against the radical Islamist Taliban. But each time, eminently distractable America has taken its eye off the ball, and the victories have proved evanescent.
Now, under new President Barack Obama, the U.S. is hoping the third time’s the charm. But does the new strategy miss the reasons why America succeeded — to the extent it did — the first two times around in Afghanistan? Does it meet the announced mission, or lead to something else? And how is it faring so far, in the midst of international conferences and at the beginning of a tour by Obama that takes him to summits in Britain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Turkey? …
Prior to leaving for London and the G-20 summit, President Barack Obama yesterday laid out a hard-edged policy on rescuing the US auto industry.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michell Obama are en route to London on Air Force One. This is the first extensive foreign trip of his presidency, which takes him to Britain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Turkey.
London is the site of the G-20 (group of 20 advanced economies) summit, around which Obama will also hold meetings with a number of heads of state and government.
The Obamas land in London at Stansted Airport shortly before noon Pacific time, 7 PM GMT. They meet later with US Embassy staff at The American School in London.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is at the Hague in the Netherlands for the international conference on Afghanistan.
More than seven years after the US takedown of the Taliban in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Afghanistan is in turmoil.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has no public events today.
Schwarzenegger is on vacation this week.
Today is Cesar Chavez’s birthday. The legendary United Farm Workers leader died in 1993 at the age of 66.
** PRIME TIME O: HOW THE OMNIPRESENT PRESIDENT IS DOING. We can’t afford to go back, and things are on course. That’s the meta-message from six days of very high-profile appearances by President Barack Obama, culminating with Tuesday night’s prime time news conference. … From my March 25th column.
** OBAMA’S RUGGED WEEK. President Barack Obama faces a rugged week with multiple challenges on the economy and in geopolitics. … From my March 23rd column.
** OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA: THE ARNOLD ALLIANCE AND MORE. President Barack Obama is back in the East after a whirlwind visit to California which pointed up his strengths and suggested some things he can do differently. … From my March 20th column.
** CNBC CAN SEE RUSSIA FROM ITS HOUSE, AND OTHER FIN DE SIECLE FOLLIES. CNBC can see Russia from its house. It’s just one example of a fin de siecle folly, albeit one of the the most recent and dramatic.This is clearly end-of-an-era time, but some of the old era standbys haven’t gotten the memo. Or been able to read it. …From my March 16th column.
** OUR MAN IN KABUL: BACKBITING ON THE EVE OF THE NEW OBAMA STRATEGY FOR AFGHANISTAN. … From my March 13th column.
** OBAMA’S DARING TOUR D’HORIZON: THE NEW PRESIDENT ENGAGES MULTIPLE CRISES AND PROBES FOR OPPORTUNITY. … From my March 11th column.
** 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 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.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial.
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.
** 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. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, crude oil is trading in the range of $48 to $49 per barrel.
This is up about $15 a barrel since enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, on anticipation of increased economic activity down the line, and on increased implementation of already agreed upon OPEC production cutbacks to support the price.
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