The day after elections in Britain, America’s closest ally, finds that Conservatives have gained nearly a hundred seats in parliament with only a four-point gain in the popular vote. Yet they are 20 votes of a majority, meaning that some sort of coalition deal will be necessary. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the two left of center major parties, won 29% and 23% of the popular vote, but lost seats, especially ruling Labour, down 91. The Lib Dems, who fell back from earlier polling and are ideologically closer to New Labour, seem to hold the balance of power.
** QUICK HITS. President Barack Obama’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court is reportedly impending. … Some good news out of Iraq after a spate of bad news: Coalition talks between Shiite and Sunni parties will supposedly get underway next week. … As alluded to earlier, the State of California’s revenue dropped $3.6 billion below forecast in April, reversing the trend from earlier months of higher-than-anticipated revenues, placing the budget $1.2 billion below forecast on aggregate. …
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … IRON MAN, AGAIN: THE POST-MODERN HOWARD HUGHES RETURNS IN FULL BLOCKBUSTER MODE.
** CALIFORNIA 2010: FIORINA MAKES A MOVE. Ex-Hewlett Packard CEO, running either a relatively close second or in a dead heat with ex-Congressman Tom Campbell in the Republican primary to take on Senator Barbara Boxer, is on something of a roll. She’s picked up big endorsements this week, including Sarah Palin, the moderately conservative New Majority California fundraising group, and big anti-abortion outfits. Last night she turned in the better performance in the only primary debate. And today her team, including seemingly zany ad man Fred Davis, announced two new TV ads.
They’re both positive spots. And there are, sadly, no demon sheep, nor is a HindenBoxer anywhere in sight. One is entitled “Work,” positioning Fiorina as superior to Boxer in “making Washington work for California.” The other is entitled “Jobs,” casting Fiorina as superior to Boxer in stimulating the economy.
In a morning conference call, the Fiorina crew made it clear that their aim is to activate primary voters with a hard comparison of their candidate with Boxer, rather than primary rivals. When I asked why they weren’t simply shooting down Campbell — who in my view is extraordinarily vulnerable — they made it clear that they preferred to go the positive route instead, stressing Fiorina as a tougher candidate to take on Boxer.
This may also be because they don’t think Campbell has the resources to compete very effectively. Nevertheless, they did not suggest that they wouldn’t go negative if need be.
** MEG WHITMAN’S TITANIC CAMPAIGN FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA. What has a record $70 million in primary spending gotten billionaire Meg Whitman? A plummeting Republican primary lead over state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, not long ago dismissed as a hapless figure by the state’s diminished press corps. And a lot more trouble besides.
Today the Democratic Party and Jerry Brown, the de facto nominee, are intervening with a tough new TV ad against Whitman, hitting her on ethics and Goldman Sachs.
It’s been a wild slide of a ride for the “inevitable” Meg Whitman these past few weeks.
Three weeks ago, I revealed on my blog, New West Notes, that private polling showed her once 50-point primary lead over Poizner had been cut in half. A week ago, I revealed that Poizner was going up on the air with a rugged TV ad attacking Whitman, a controversial former Goldman Sachs board member, for her deep linkages to the investment banking house. On Tuesday, I revealed that private polling showed Whitman’s lead cut further, to 10 points or less. All these things came as shocks to most.
Kudos, incidentally, to Poizner, who made his fortune as a Silicon Valley inventor and entrepreneur, and his gritty team. …
President Barack Obama is hailing April’s increase in jobs as further evidence of an improving economy. Obama said that the steps by his administration have helped the nation pull out of a serious recession, but there is more work to do.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
Obama received his daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
At 8 AM Pacific, joined by his top economic advisors, he made a statement about the latest job numbers, which show a gain of nearly 300,000 jobs in the past month.
He also pledged to investigate the bizarre drop in the Dow Jones average yesterday, apparently caused by a trade entering a wrong number in his trading program, which then triggered computerized trading algorithms leading a 1000-point drop.
The market quickly recovered two-thirds of the drop.
Obama has a light planned public schedule today, as he is closing in on his Supreme Court pick and monitoring a number of situations.
Pakistani officials have reportedly arrested eight people in connection with the attempted car bombing Saturday in New York City’s Times Square.
Prior to those arrests, a naturalized American from Pakistan, Shahzad Faisal, was arrested late Monday night while attempting to fly from New York to Dubai. He is the prime suspect in the car bombing attempt. He managed to elude federal investigators in Connecticut and got onto the Emirates airliner when the airline failed to check the updated watch list. But his name was spotted on the plane’s manifest before the aircraft pulled away from the gate.
The suspect is reportedly cooperating with the FBI. He was recently in Pakistan for a five-month stretch, where he apparently received bomb training from the Taliban.
The political situation in Iraq remains distinctly unsettled nearly two months after national parliamentary elections. No one has been able to form a new governing coalition, and there is a major recount underway, by hand, in Baghdad Province, which will take two to three weeks to complete. Needless to say, this is threatening the timetable for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops, set to happen this summer.
On Wednesday, Iraq’s two leading Shiite parties announced that they have formed a coalition, which leaves them several votes short of the number needed to form a government. They have offered the presidency to Kurdish leaders and will conduct an internal election to select their candidate for prime minister, who may not be current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
But this won’t sit well with the secular Sunni party which finished first.
Yesterday’s national election in Britain, America’s closest ally and one of the world’s largest economies, yields a hung parliament.
In the UK’s first past the post system, the Conservatives gained nearly a hundred seats in the 650-seat House of Commons, dealing a big blow to the ruling Labour Party of Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
But the Tories only won 36% of the national popular vote, to Labour’s 29% and the Liberal Democrats’ 23%.
Conservative leader David Cameron is 20 seats shy of a parliamentary majority. Putting the party of the right in an odd position of seeking to run the country with little more than a third of the national vote, compared to the 52% of the national vote cast for the two parties of the left and center/left.
Some serious horsetrading will ensue.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles and Sacramento today.
At 10:30 AM, Schwarzenegger will deliver remarks at the 34th Annual California Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony to honor 10 fallen officers. The Ceremony will conclude with a 21-gun salute, taps and retiring of the colors.
Schwarzenegger is joined by Attorney General Jerry Brown, sheriffs, police chiefs, district attorneys, and thousands of law enforcement officers from around the state.
The ceremony takes place at the Peace Officers’ Memorial Monument near the Capitol.
… THE CALIFORNIA AS FIRST “FAILED STATE” DEBATE: SCHWARZENEGGER, DAVIS, WHITMAN, AND JERRY BROWN. … From my March 2nd column.
Here is my series of five columns on the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Los Angeles Times in debate in fall 2008, prior to the global economic meltdown, with Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times reporter/editor Bill Boyarsky, whose columns are also included. You can listen to my video webchat last spring with Schwarzenegger here.
** “GOLDMEG SACHS WHITMAN” ROILS THE CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S RACE. It’s the relationship that won’t go away, and it comes at a bad moment for billionaire Meg Whitman in her unlikely quest for governor of California. Her vaunted megabucks exercise in branding — actually an attempt to appropriate the eBay brand — is turning into something quite different and damaging. She’s become GoldMeg Sachs Whitman.
Even before her Republican primary rival, super-rich state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, began airing a tough new TV ad over the weekend hitting Whitman for her deep involvement with Goldman Sachs, Whitman’s lead in the GOP primary had slid precipitously. Once ahead by an astonishing 50 points, thanks to her many months of unanswered advertising, her lead over Poizner in private polling had slipped down into the teens prior to the advent of the new ad. …
Even before the launch of the new attack ad and the Sunday night debate, Whitman was under the gun on GoldMeg Sachs. Last week, she and her campaign tried furiously to spin away the controversy that could consume her massively funded candidacy. Namely, her controversial tenure as a member of the board of Goldman Sachs, which ended with the investment bank settling federal charges against it, and with her disgorging millions she garnered through her trading on inside information granted to her. That’s the so-called “spinning” of initial public offerings, in which she took stock granted to her in advance of it being publicly available, as an insider and board member, and sold it for huge profits a few days later when the shares hit the public markets.
So Whitman did an interview with the Associated Press, in which she did not adequately push back against the controversy. Whitman said she’d left the Goldman Sachs board because she “wasn’t a good fit.” Which she evidently learned as federal regulators and eBay shareholders were closing in, and not a moment before. … From my May 3rd column.
** IS OBAMA FINALLY PIVOTING TO THE ECONOMY? I started hearing it last December. President Barack Obama was at last about to pivot to a principal focus on the issue that people care about the most, the economy. It would be right after the holidays.
But after Christmas morning dawned, it was anything but that.
There was the barely thwarted Christmas Day airline bomber. Terrorism was suddenly back in the forefront of public concern. Just as that settled down, Scott Brown won the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, throwing the national health care bill into total disarray. Which lasted for some time, before it became the total focus again, in part at the insistence of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who got the Senate’s version through the House. When that finally passed, the pivot to the economy was to take place once again, but it never quite happened.
In fact, it’s just one thing after another, with geopolitics playing a big part, as it should. Yet Obama is dealing with a media culture geared to simplistic takes on simple issues, and a public that is understandably most concerned about the ever so slowly recovering economy.
Now Obama has spent most of the week focusing on economic recovery and Wall Street reform, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid breaking the Republican filibuster against the latter and with Obama spending two days appearing in key heartland swing states. But Obama may be distracted again, this time by the massive offshore oil drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which comes only weeks after he reversed his campaign position and championed more offshore drilling. … From my April 29th column.
** PUNDITS, BLOGGERS, ACTIVIST LEADERS THINKING OF RUNNING FOR HIGH OFFICE? THINK AGAIN. … From my April 27th column.
** CALIFORNIA STORY: BROWN, BOXER, AND (UN)CONVENTION(AL) POLITICS. … From my April 21st essay.
** JERRY BROWN’S LONG AND WINDING ROAD. … From my April 15th column.
** OBAMA’S NUCLEAR STRATEGY AND THE RUSSIAN RESURGENCE. … From my April 12th column.
** OBAMA’S BIG NEW AFPAK PROBLEMS. … From my April 7th column.
** 10 KEY THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE HIGH-STAKES CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S RACE: WHAT IT MEANS FOR BROWN, WHITMAN, POIZNER, ROMNEY, AND OBAMA. … From my April 1st column.
** HOW JERRY BROWN CLEARED THE DEMOCRATIC FIELD FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA. … From my December 9th, 2009 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, 2009 Huffington Post column.
Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow are joined by Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, Mickey Rourke and many more for the Iron Man sequel, already an international hit. It opens today around North America on a record number of screens, and looks to challenge The Dark Knight for the biggest opening weekend ever.
** 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 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, 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.
** 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 $76 per barrel.
This is up about $42 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
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