President Barack Obama said today that he will end a cozy relationship that has existed between federal regulators and companies drilling offshore for oil and gas. He said the rule from now on will be “trust but verify.”
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … MEG WHITMAN’S WILD WEEK THAT WAS.
** CALIFORNIA 2010: REPUBLICAN AD WARS. There’s a very complex situation unfolding with regard to TV advertising in the GOP race for governor. And a more straightforward situation with regard to TV advertising in the GOP race for the Senate.
First to the latter. Ex-Congressman Tom Campbell, who has been the frontrunner, keeps canceling TV ad time he has reserved. He isn’t on the air now and has canceled next week.
In contrast, ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who has closed in on Campbell, is on the air and is going up with a bigger buy next week. She also appears to have more money to spend, having put in another million or so of her personal money in the last few days.
The governor’s race is far more complex.
The once overwhelming frontrunner, billionaire Meg Whitman, had a few ads out there but essentially two in rotation around the state: One in which she proclaims herself the only fiscal conservative in the race. The other a kitchen sink hit on Poizner calling him a typical Sacramento liberal politician.
Then, with polling showing the race neck and neck, not long after the candidate reached out to Madison Avenue, she came up with an unusual 60-second spot, which she rolled out today. (I watched it last night.)
In this spot, she speaks to camera, quite defensively, beginning by noting that politics is a tough business (not a great lead sentence), saying she’s not a Sacramento politician like Jerry Brown and Steve Poizner. She then said that she is working hard to defeat Senator Barbara Boxer (apropos of nothing other than Poizner’s attacks, which the viewer is seeing elsewhere) and is dead set against “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Oh, and she’ll hold the line on spending and fight the unions.
It is, needless to say, a very defensive spot, responding throughout to attacks on her. She looks and sounds defensive, too. None of which is a good thing.
She’s also created a problem for herself, in that a 60-second spot will be harder to clear onto the air through the stations. It probably won’t really start running till next week. And it means that her big slice of the advertising pie has to be sliced differently for her own purposes, as stations sell time in 30-second increments.
This means that one of the other ads, and both of them are better than this, will go by the wayside, and that she will gain fewer impressions.
Frankly, the ad reads like something written by a non-professional writer, perhaps Whitman herself.
And what is the Poizner crew doing?
They went on the air today for the first time in the San Francisco market, which they’ve largely ceded to their opponent till now, with the exception of a few spots on cable. That is a new ad for that market, less incendiary than what is running elsewhere with regard to illegal immigration, which in this new ad is a component of the attack on Whitman rather than the totality of the spot.
And countering, in part, the billionaire’s 60-second spot, in which she claims that she’s never been for amnesty, they are re-running, in a more limited way, an earlier ad which features Whitman saying the same thing on illegal immigration as President Barack Obama.
The other two ads I’ve written about — the tough illegal immigration spot that began at the beginning of this week and the new ad saying she didn’t vote for 28 years — are running in heavy rotation in all non-SF markets.
It’s a fascinating contest.
** NEW NATIONAL POLL SHOWS INCREASED CONFIDENCE. The new Gallup Poll shows that economic confidence is at its highest level in over two years.
Despite the financial crisis in Greece and the European Union, extreme stock market volatility, and the surging price of gold, Americans’ economic confidence remains at its best level of the year in early May. Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index is at -22 for the week ending May 9 — matching its April level and representing an improvement of 8 percentage points compared with March.
Forty-one percent of Americans believe the economy is “getting better” in early May, matching April, which is the highest level of optimism about the future direction of the U.S. economy since Gallup began daily monitoring in January 2008. Despite the increase in optimism in April and early May, 54% continue to assert that the economy is “getting worse.”
Thirteen percent rate current economic conditions as “excellent” or “good” in early May — also the same as in April — and the highest percentage of such ratings since September 2008. At the same time, 44% rate the economy as poor — essentially unchanged from April.
It appears improving job market conditions and increased consumer spending are outweighing global financial concerns as Americans evaluate the outlook for the U.S. economy, at least at this point. Now that there appears to be at least a temporary fix in place for the situation in Greece and the European Union, this seems likely to continue to be the case.
Associated Press reporter Harry Weber and photographer describe being the only members of the news media on board the ship that brought a containment box to the site of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Their reports and images were seen globally.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
Obama has received his daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
At 7:10 AM Pacific, Obama honors the TOP COPS award recipients in a ceremony in the Rose Garden.
At 8:15 AM Pacific, Obama meets with Cabinet members and other administration officials in the Situation Room to discuss ongoing efforts to stop the BP oil spill and help affected communities.
At the administration’s insistence, though it’s also the only PR move available, BP is trying yet another techno-fix to cap the massive leakage nearly a mile under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.
This one involves siphoning oil.
Obama is angry about the disaster.
At 8:50 AM Pacific, Obama makes a statement in the Rose Garden about the Gulf oil disaster.
In other action, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets in Washington with new British Foreign Secretary William Hague, a top Conservative Party leader.
The high-level conference with Afghan officials has ended. President Hamid Karzai was praised as a key partner in the struggle against jihadism.
The Obama Administration has never been happy with Karzai, and some officials have criticized him severely. But for now, in public, they seem to be employing the carrot rather than the stick.
And at the president’s directive the FBI is continuing to pursue the failed Times Square car bomb plot.
Three Pakistani men suspected of providing money to Times Square car bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad were arrested by the FBI in a series of raids across the Northeast.
Three arrests of Pakistanis have been made in Northeastern cities.
More than two months after March 7th national elections, a new Iraqi government has yet to be formed.
With prodding from the Obama Administration, the major Shiite and Sunni parties have agreed to coalition talks.
But the talks between former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, whose secular Sunni party finished first, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have repeatedly been canceled, ostensibly because Maliki objected to the Shiite bloc headed by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr being part of the coalition. Allawi wants his group there, in part because Sadr backs major Sunni participation.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles and Sacramento today.
At 1 PM, Schwarzenegger will unveil his revised state budget proposal for the 2010-11 fiscal year. Schwarzenegger will be joined by state Finance Director Ana Matosantos.
The event will take place at the Secretary of State Building in Sacramento.
This is the May revise of Schwarzenegger’s proposed state budget. With April revenues $3.6 billion short of forecast, the budget is expected to be quite ugly.
With both parties in the Legislature operating on their typical default positions — one for tax hikes, one for tax cuts, none of it going anywhere — Schwarzenegger gets to play the villain rather than the action hero.
Which is the point of the usual state Capitol shenanigans.
The Legislature has done little this year to deal with the chronic budget crisis, to no one’s real surprise.
New Assembly Speaker John Perez will be in Pebble Beach for a yearly golf tournament fundraiser. The event was scheduled before he became speaker, but he’s been the likely speaker for a long time.
Of course, Schwarzenegger could have made his presentation on another day. With Perez in Pebble Beach, easy points are to be made.
Clearly the first half of May, which is the period in which the revised budget is to be presented, is not the right time for this fundraising event.
… 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.
** IRON MAN‘S POST-MODERN HOWARD HUGHES IS BACK AND CONFUSED. The biggest movie of the summer may already be in theaters. It’s Iron Man 2, of course, sequel to 2008’s surprise smash hit starring Robert Downey, Jr. as that billionaire technologist/arms dealer-turned-peaceloving action hero Tony Stark. (Be aware that there are a few spoilers.)
Iron Man has cultural and political roots that elevate it beyond a simple action flick, and in Downey, a seemingly quirky choice, it has the post-modern Howard Hughes it needs. Downey’s old friend Warren Beatty has always said that casting is the key, and nowhere is that more obvious than with Downey. In the hands of a conventional action star or leading man, Tony Stark would not be nearly so interesting a character.
You wouldn’t think that the guy who so brilliantly portrayed Charlie Chaplin — or who was once one of Hollywood’s most dissolute party boys — would be an action movie superstar. And yet he is.
In fact, he’s probably the biggest action movie star in the world now. What do you make of that, Arnold Schwarzenegger? The first Iron Man, wonderfully directed by Jon Favreau, propelled Downey into the firmament. Sherlock Holmes, not, er, the greatest action film ever made, was a very big hit thanks to Downey’s performance. And now Iron Man 2 confirms it.
However, though it’s filled with lots of interesting things and players, and I like it, it’s probably too filled. As in cluttered. And it’s much more of a mess politically and intellectually than the first film. … From my May 13th essay.
** 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. … From my May 7th column.
** “GOLDMEG SACHS WHITMAN” ROILS THE CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S RACE. … From my May 3rd column.
** IS OBAMA FINALLY PIVOTING TO THE ECONOMY? … 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.
** 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.
** 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 $73 per barrel.
This is up about $39 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
However, it is down 15% from early last week. European economic activity is slowing again, and American inventory is increasing.
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