A live video feed that shows the oil gushing from the blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico is now available online.
** QUICK HITS. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Fremont this evening for the announcement that electric car pioneer Tesla and Toyota will make electric cars at Toyota’s late NUMMI car plant there. … Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair is departing after repeated intelligence failures and turf battles with CIA Director Leon Panetta, the former California congressman. … The Senate defeated a filibuster atttempt today against the Wall Street reform bill with the help of new GOP Senator Scott Brown and the Maine moderates. … BP finally acknowledged that its estimates of the Gulf oil spill are way off.
** CONSUMER SPENDING UP IN MAY. Here’s another good sign for the Democrats. Even better than Tea Party leader Rand Paul, who won a smashing victory Kentucky’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, telling MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he opposes the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because he thinks that private restaurant owners should be able to discriminate on race.
Yes, he actually said that. And it turns out it’s not the only time he’s said it. So much for the idea that the Tea Party movement is not neo-Confederate.
Say, what is is about Barack Obama that is so different from the usual?
A new Gallup survey shows that U.S. consumer spending was up significantly in the first two weeks of May.
Americans’ self-reported spending averaged $72 per day in the week ending May 16 — up 18% year over year. Gallup found a similar 16% increase during the prior week when spending averaged $73 per day. May’s spending increases follow similar if smaller year-over-year improvements during March and April.
During the week ending May 16, upper-income spending averaged $158 per day, compared with $122 and $143 during the previous two weeks. These are far higher spending levels than the $109 per day average of April and the $99 per day of March. …
The weekly spending increases among upper-income Americans are particularly encouraging. Prior to recent weeks, upper-income consumers did not seem to be taking part in the year-over-year spending increase that took place during March and April. Additionally, early May spending by this group seems largely unaffected, at least to this point, by the financial crisis in Greece and the European Union, not to mention the recent declines in the equity markets.
Nascent new job creation also seems to be contributing to increased spending among middle- and lower-income Americans in recent months and weeks. Add to this the recent increases in spending among upper-income consumers and — barring some unfortunate fallout from the global financial situation that alters current company hiring and consumer spending behaviors — a sustainable economic recovery could begin taking hold.
** AFTER THE AFGHAN SUMMIT: FIVE KEY THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT OBAMA’S PROBLEMATIC PLANS. Now that the pomp and circumstance of last week’s Washington summit between the Obama Administration and Afghan President Hamid Karzai has faded, what is the state of things?
Not very good. Really, not very good at all.
With the much telegraphed U.S., NATO, and Afghan offensive in Kandahar Province — heartland of the Taliban since the movement’s mid-1990s inception in the midst of Afghanistan’s lengthy post-Soviet chaos — on tap for June, the Taliban aren’t exactly cowering in their caves waiting to lose. In fact, they say they’re launching their own offensive.
A sad milestone was reached on Tuesday. With a morning suicide attack against a U.S. military convoy in Kabul, the 1000th American has been killed in action in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, a small unit of Taliban fighters launched an attack on massive Bagram Air Base. The four suicide bombers in the unit were killed before they could light off their explosives, thus preventing the unit from penetrating deeper into the base. The attack didn’t amount to much in the end.
But the firefight did last for hours, and coming a day after the devastating suicide bombing of the U.S. military convoy in Kabul, counts as a propaganda coup for the Taliban.
Embarrassing and hurtful as these attacks in supposedly secure zones are, the problems for the U.S. in Afghanistan are much deeper.
Here are five key things to know. It’s not meant to be an exhaustive list. …
U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon spoke last night following the state dinner and before the evening performances at the White House.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
Obama has received his daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 12 noon Pacific, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in the Oval Office.
In other action, Biden attends Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s address to a Joint Session of Congress at the Capitol. He also meets with Senator John Kerry on the climate change/renewable energy bill and various geopolitical matters.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is off today for a three-nation tour of Asian countries, meeting with leaders of Japan, China, and South Korea.
But her trip, which was to have largely focused on global economic matters, notably the adjustment of China’s currency to help the trade imbalance with the U.S., will inevitably be dominated instead by the March 26th sinking of a South Korean Navy ship.
An international investigation, which the Obama Administration endorses, concluded yesterday that the ship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo attack.
Obama hosted the second state dinner of his presidency, in honor of Mexico, last night at the White House. His first state dinner, last November, was in honor of India.
In the course of all the festivities, Obama gave fresh impetus to the issue of illegal immigration, denouncing the new Arizona law in his joint press conference with President Calderon.
That will stir up partisans on both sides of the issue, and probably push the issue, which was fading a bit, back into the center of the Republican gubernatorial primary fight in California. Billionaire Meg Whitman opposes the law; her risen rival Steve Poizner supports it.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq. (See my new column, linked above, on Afghanistan and Pakistan.)
In Iran, officials are gauging reaction to their agreement with Turkey and Brazil to swap lightly enriched uranium for further enrichment to use in their medical reactor, and to a reported draft agreement on UN sanctions against Iran.
In Iraq, maneuvering continues around the future government, the shape of which is still undetermined more than two months after the March 7th national parliamentary elections.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who lost the election, vowed today that the election’s winner, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s more secular Sunni party, will never get the opportunity to form a government.
South Korea has accused the North of launching a deadly torpedo attack that sunk its warship March 26th. The Obama Administration, which participated in the international investigation, backs the charge. Pyongyang has warned of war if retaliation is taken against it over the sinking.
Unfortunately for Maliki, the Iraqi constitution gives Allawi’s party the right to take the lead role in attempting to form a government.
Maliki and his backers have tried every trick in the book to try to wriggle out of this fact, as I’ve discussed here over the past few months, from trying to disqualify candidates to a long and pointless recount to various other forms of stonewalling.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley today.
At 10:30 AM, Schwarzenegger will deliver remarks at Google headquarters in Mountain View at the announcement of the first-in-the-nation Green Products Innovation Institute in California. He will then hold a media availability.
Schwarzenegger will also hold private talks on the state’s chronic budget crisis.
On Friday, Schwarzenegger unveiled his revised state budget proposal for the 2010-11 fiscal year.
With the budget $19 billion in deficit, Schwarzenegger proposed eliminating the welfare system and big cuts to health care programs.
He hopes to at last negotiate his way to long sought budget and pension reforms.
Incidentally, a new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll finally reports what I have been reporting since April 16th; namely, the dramatic tightening of the Republican gubernatorial primary race between billionaire Meg Whitman and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.
It also has Jerry Brown ahead of Whitman again — although by a lower margin than shown in private polling — and ahead of Poizner.
And it has Carly Fiorina narrowly ahead of Tom Campbell in the GOP Senate primary.
I’ll have more about the spin around this poll, since the PPIC findings are old hat for NWN readers, later today.
… 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.
** MEG WHITMAN’S WILD WEEK THAT WAS. Is billionaire Meg Whitman having fun yet? She’s certainly had a careening week in her once seeming juggernaut of a bid to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California.
In any car race, the worst moment is not when the trailing car pulls up in the rear view mirror, it’s when you can no longer see it in the rear view mirror. That’s because it’s alongside.
I’ve been reporting for weeks on her steep slide in private polling on her Republican primary race against super-rich state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who was once dismissed by nearly all as a hapless speed bump in the race. That culminated here on the Huffington Post in “Meg Whitman’s Titanic Campaign for Governor of California.”
After a lot of denial of the truth by her chief strategist Mike Murphy and others in the well-paid Whitman camp, this week they had to face facts. This week began with a stark bit of reality. … From my May 15th column.
** 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. … 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.
** 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 $69 per barrel.
This is up about $35 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 one-fifth from two weeks ago. European economic activity is slowing again, there are still major worries about the Greek bail-out, and American inventory is increasing.
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