Former Saturday Night Live star Al Franken, who performed in a bedroom comedy political act in the ’90s with Arianna Huffington, is Minnesota’s new U.S. senator following today’s concession by Republican Norm Coleman.
9:30 PM UPDATE: CALIFORNIA 2010 FUNDRAISING. Fundraising reports are due now for California’s gubernatorial hopefuls.
I called Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom on their cell phones this evening to inquire about their fundraising. I reached the former governor-turned-attorney general, and left a message for the San Francisco mayor. Brown told me he has between $7.3 and $7.4 million in the bank. Since he’s not an announced candidate for governor, he’s only able to raise money at the much lower limit accorded a candidate for attorney general, but he certainly has much more than Newsom, who is raising at the higher level. Once he is an announced candidate, Brown can go back to his contributors for more.
Newsom’s campaign manager did put out a memo late this afternoon which didn’t address his overall fundraising, but did tout his online fundraising, saying that today he passed the $1 million mark since the beginning of his campaign last year. Intriguingly, Newsom also just passed 4000 total online donations. Newsom’s average online donation is much larger than those of Barack Obama, suggesting that his campaign is using his web site as a convenience for its contributors.
I don’t have cell numbers for this season’s Republican gubernatorial hopefuls, but it’s something of a moot point in any event. Two of them are super-rich, ex-eBay CEO and Republican presidential campaign co-chair Meg Whitman, and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Each will self-fund. The third hopeful, former Congressman Tom Campbell, who is not super-rich, doesn’t seem to be raising much money.
** QUICK HITS. While talking continues, still no solution to California’s chronic-turned-chaotic budget crisis as late afternoon turns to early evening on the final day in which a budget can be enacted to avert IOUs. … National Security Advisor Jim Jones, former commandant of the US Marine Corps and commander of NATO, says that US troop levels in Afghanistan will not be increased in the foreseeable future. Jones was there just recently. … WalMart says it’s going to follow President Barack Obama’s call and, for the first time, provide health insurance to its employees.
** IT’S SENATOR AL FRANKEN, AND 60 DEMOCRATIC VOTES IN THE U.S. SENATE. Norm Coleman conceded after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled unanimously today against his long-running court challenge to former Saturday Night Live star Al Franken’s 312-vote recount victory.
It was a very smart move by Barack Obama to ignore the venomous complaints from the netroots left against Joe Lieberman. Kicking him out of the Senate Democratic caucus would have made the 60-vote Democratic majority, which blocks Republican filibuster efforts, impossible. Now Lieberman is very loyal to Obama, and one of his biggest boosters. After campaigning against him last year at the side of his old friend John McCain.
The fact is that a governing coalition has to include both the Al Frankens and Joe Liebermans of the world.
** PALIN’S CAMPAIGN PROBLEMS REVEALED. NWN readers recall that I panned the pick of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s vice presidential running mate very shortly after it happened. Now Vanity Fair has an account, heavily sourced to the late McCain for President campaign, of the multiple problems it encountered in dealing with the Alaska governor. Much of it is not new, but it’s all in one place.
Schwarzenegger campaign manager-turned McCain campaign director Steve Schmidt, who helped push the pick as a Hail Mary pass, figures prominently in the account. Among other things, it recounts how he had to drop most everything for three days in order to prep her for her debate with Joe Biden. And how most of her other early advocates in the campaign found her impossibly difficult to work with.
Parades and a national holiday today marked the withdrawal of US combat forces from Iraqi cities. Iraqi forces are now responsible for security, with US forces pulled back to bases.
** NORTH KOREAN SHIP TURNS AROUND. That North Korean ship believed to be carrying contraband long-range missiles, shadowed down the China coast by the Navy destroyer USS John McCain, has reportedly turned around. Initially thought headed for Singapore, then Burma, both of which denied it was coming, it may now be headed for home.
This could mark a ratcheting down of North Korean crisis-mongering, especially since the threatened long-range missile launch in the direction of President Barack Obama’s home state Hawaii on the 4th of July hasn’t yet resulted in a missile on a launch pad.
** E.P.A. FORMALLY APPROVES CALIFORNIA CLIMATE PROGRAM. The US Environmental Protection Agency today formally approved California’s landmark cutting tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases. The move had been repeatedly signaled and implicitly announced when the Obama Administration essentially adopted the California program on vehicle emissions.
The formal move came today, and allows the state – and more than a dozen other states following California’s lead – to implement its omnibus climate change program. Vehicle emissions are the cornerstone, but not the majority of the problem.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown, both of whom battled the blocking Bush/Cheney Administration and major automakers on the issue, both reacted very positively, as you might suppose.
Schwarzenegger: “After being asleep at the wheel for over two decades, the federal government has finally stepped up and granted California its nation-leading tailpipe emissions waiver. This decision is a huge step for our emerging green economy that will create thousands of new jobs and bring Californians the cars they want while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Thanks to the environmental commitment of President Obama and the continued leadership of state Senator Fran Pavley, California’s long battle to reduce pollution from passenger vehicles is over, and a greener, cleaner future has finally arrived.”
Brown: “EPA’s reversal tears down the last remaining barrier preventing California from enforcing its laws curbing greenhouse gases. Today’s decision stands in sharp contrast to the Bush EPA’s politically driven denial two years ago.”
** FRANKEN DECLARED U.S. SENATE RACE WINNER BY MINNESOTA SUPREME COURT. After months of legal battle and delay by former Republican incumbent Norm Coleman, Minnesota’s state Supreme Court voted 5-0 today that comedian Al Franken has prevailed in the lengthy recount of last November’s Senate race there. Coleman may try to appeal to the US Supreme Court, but it will be very difficult for Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty to try to block Franken’s seating in the Senate now.
** CALIFORNIA BUDGET CRISIS UPDATE. No real progress this morning. I know you’re surprised.
June 30th is Sovereignty Day in Iraq, marking the withdrawal of US combat forces from Iraqi cities.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama has received his daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
At 7:30 AM Pacific, Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 11 AM Pacific, he delivers remarks highlighting nonprofit programs from across the country in the East Room of the White House.
At 12:15 PM Pacific, he meets with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu in the Oval Office.
Obama is prepping for his summit in Moscow from July 6th to July 8th.
With the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraqi cities, Obama and his advisors are monitoring the security situation there. Today is Sovereignty Day in Iraq. Most combat troops, who will now be based outside the cities, were actually removed on Sunday, two days ahead of schedule.
This is actually a landmark, but it’s being largely ignored by the US media.
Incidentally, contracts to develop the big Ramallah oil field in Iraq have just been let. The winners? A partnership between British Petroleum and the Chinese national oil company.
The losers? The partnership between Exxon Mobil and the top Malaysian oil company.
Obama, along with other world leaders, has denounced the military coup in Honduras, where President Manuel Zelaya, a champion of the poor who was trying to get his term extended, was deposed. Zelaya is preparing to return to the country.
And Obama is of course monitoring the situation in Iran, where once large protests have, as expected here, fizzled in the face of a massive security presence ordered by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The time in Tehran is eleven-and-a-half hours ahead of California.
Yet another day has passed in Iran with demonstrations effectively tamped down.
Obama is also closely monitoring several other crises: In North Korea, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
The Russian Army has undertaken a large anti-terrorist military exercise which runs until the arrival of President Barack Obama in Moscow on July 6th.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger engages in private meetings and discussions, mostly focusing on California’s chronic-turned-chaotic budget crisis.
He has no scheduled public events.
Today is the deadline set by state Controller John Chiang to have a budget in place in order to avoid having to begin issuing IOUs.
But the situation is at an impasse.
All the players are saying what they’ve been saying for weeks, though there are attempts to spin up new variations on the same theme.
I can only imagine how mind-numbing it would be to cover this full-time.
Democrats are asking for still more time to negotiate, having recycled various tax hike efforts in various guises – all of which have been defeated before – after going through a lengthy budget conference committee process to arrive at where they began. They can’t even get all the Dems to go along now, much less any Republicans, even when trying the tax-as-fee majority vote gambit. Which failed last year, incidentally.
Incidentally, even if Schwarzenegger were to go along with the gambit, a budget enacted in this manner would not go into effect for 90 days, doing nothing to deal with the need for a balanced budget in place to avert IOUs.
Republicans pretend on the one hand to go along with a stopgap, piecemeal effort to avert IOUs, then block it on the other.
Schwarzenegger comes up with a last minute proposal to deal with fraud in in-home health services and workfare programs, which is quite similar to ideas that have been discussed before.
We’ve been down this road many times.
The talks continue and the Legislature will be in session all day and likely well into the night. It’s all very exciting …
** TRANSFORMATIVE: LE CINEMA DE MICHAEL BAY. I love the films of Michael Bay. In fact, they are so dramatic and compelling that …
Gotcha! I actually do not love the films of Michael Bay. I don’t hate them, either. And there are a couple that I like. But the fact that it is considered preposterous for a writer — a writer who writes about anything, even wallpaper — to not dismiss Bay’s work in the most vehement of terms points up a dramatic disconnect between the critical community and the movie-going audience.
Bay’s new flick, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, just took in an astounding $200.1 million at the domestic box office in its first five days of release. …
** STAR TREK FIRSTS … 43 YEARS ON. Some 43 years after it began, and seven years after the movie franchise seemed completely played out, Star Trek is making firsts again. And so far, it’s the most popular movie of the year in America. …
** OBAMA AND THE AYATOLLAH. Two weeks after his landmark address in Cairo, where he honored traditional Islam and extolled engagement with modern Islam, President Barack Obama finds himself in a conundrum. Determining what to do about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who just told the people of Iran, in an unusual nationally-televised sermon at the end of Friday prayers, to stop acting like they live in a democracy.
It’s a particularly tricky question for Obama, because he has an unusual dual role to play: Inspirational global icon and president of the United States.
As the president of the United States, it’s Obama’s job to figure out the needs of America and go about meeting them. As a global icon, he is expected to inspire. … From my June 19th column.
** OBAMA’S CRISIS MANAGEMENT: NORTH KOREA, AGAIN. President Barack Obama changed the old kabuki in dealing with his second North Korean crisis. The first time around, back in April, dealing with a long-range missile test that failed to place a satellite in orbit, Obama treated the effort as more of the same rather baffling attention-seeking by the Hermit Kingdom. This time, after a string of provocations including an underwhelming underground nuclear detonation, a series of missile launches, and the imprisonment of two California-based journalists, Obama went in another, tougher, direction that may lead to a naval confrontation. … From my June 12th column.
** REMEMBERING AMERICA: OBAMA’S D-DAY SPEECH AND TWO DAYS IN JUNE. There’s no question that timing is, as it were, of the essence in politics. Consider the timing of President Barack Obama’s address to the Muslim world, coming as it did just two days before the 65th anniversary of D-Day.
Most focus simply on the Cairo speech. But that speech exists in a larger context, alongside the speech over the weekend in Normandy which bookended it on Obama’s second big international tour.
On Thursday in Cairo, Obama gave his rhetorical best to reposition a mostly peaceful America in the future of the Muslim world. On Saturday in Normandy, he reminded of America’s glittering, and far more martial, past. … From my June 8th column.
** REPOSITIONING AMERICA: OBAMA’S CAIRO SPEECH AS THE ULTIMATE IN EVENT MARKETING. … From my June 4th column.
** TERMINATING THE DARKNESS: HOPE FLOATS, BUT ANXIETY ABIDES. … From my May 31st column.
** THE AVOIDABLE TRAGEDY OF CALIFORNIA’S PROP 8. … From my May 26th column.
** OBAMA’S NEW CALIFORNIA-BASED CLIMATE POLICY: SIX KEY THINGS TO KNOW. … From my May 20th column.
** 24 AND THE TORTUOUS POLITICS OF TORTURE. … From my May 18th 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 last fall, prior to the global economic meltdown, 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 last July 11th, crude oil is trading between $71 and $72 per barrel.
This is up about $38 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, due in part to some positive economic signs and in part to geopolitical jitters over North Korea and Iran, though the latter have lessened substantially over the past week.
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