The chief engineer of the destroyed BP Deepwater Horizon offshore oil platform testified that the rig’s warning alarms were “inhibited,” with company approval, so as not to disturb the crew’s sleep with “false alarms.”
** QUICK HITS. Vice President Joe Biden, speaking today in South Carolina, said that “the heavy lifting” for the Obama agenda is essentially done for this year in Congress and it’s time to go out and make the case. … The California Field Poll, perhaps finally done coming out in dribs and drabs, find that support for offshore oil drilling has dropped in the wake of the BP Gulf oil disaster. Offshore drilling is now opposed in California by a 2 to 1 margin. Billionaire Meg Whitman, the Republican gubernatorial hopeful currently buying up the airwaves, supported offshore drilling until a few months ago. Jerry Brown has always opposed it. … Speaking of Jerry Brown, he has released his public pension reform program, and it essentially endorses the approach that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has successfully taken with half a dozen union bargaining units. …
** REPUBLICAN INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURE GROUP INTERVENING IN NEVADA SENATE RACE FUNDED BY TEXAS OIL BILLIONAIRES. That Republican group headed by Karl Rove called American Crossroads — which describes itself as “a grassroots operation” — turns out to be funded almost entirely by four billionaires.
Salon looked into it and discovered that, along with the fact that three of the four billionaires are based in Dallas, Texas.
Virtually all of the $4.7 million raised by Karl Rove’s new conservative outfit was contributed by just four billionaires, three of whom are based in Dallas, Texas, and two of whom made their fortune in the oil and gas industry.
The IRS filing of American Crossroads, an outside 527 group that was conceived by Rove and ex-RNC chair Ed Gillespie, gives a good taste of who is funding the GOP effort to make big gains in the House and Senate come the fall. The group has already burned through $600,000 on ads attacking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is facing a reelection contest against Republican Sharron Angle (see one of the spots below). Chaired by another ex-RNC chair, Mike Duncan, American Crossroads has pledged to raise $50 million to beat Democrats in the midterms and has been seen by some as a competitor to the Republican National Committee itself.
And despite the group’s description of itself as “grassroots,” Salon’s review of its IRS filings show that four billionaires have contributed 97 percent of the $4.7 million it has raised to date. There are no limits on how much corporations, unions, and individuals can donate to 527 groups. Here’s a guide to American Crossroads’ four donors:
* Trevor Rees-Jones, president of Dallas-based Chief Oil and Gas, gave a $1 million donation to American Crossroads just as the group was starting in April. That’s small money for Rees-Jones, who, Forbes estimated in 2009, amassed a $1.5 billion fortune investing in gas prospects around America. He has also been a big donor to John McCain and the Texas Republican Party, Politico reported.
* Bradley Wayne Hughes, chairman of Public Storage Inc, is American Crossroads’ biggest donor, contributing $1.55 million to date. Hughes founded Public Storage in 1972 and the company has grown into a self-storage behemouth with over 2,000 locations. Worth $3.9 billion, he lives in Lexington, KY, where he actively raises thoroughbred horses at Spendthrift Farm. (Hughes’ son, B. Wayne Hughes Jr., is on the board of former Senator Norm Coleman’s new conservative group, the American Action Network.)
* A company called Southwest Louisiana Land LLC donated $1 million to American Crossroads in June. It turns out Southwest, which doesn’t have much of a public footprint, is owned by Dallas billionaire investor Harold Simmons — no stranger to conservative causes. Since the 1980s, he has ponied up for everthing from Oliver North’s defense fund, to Newt Gingrich’s PAC, to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004, to the American Issues Project, a group that ran ads attempting to tie Obama to Bill Ayers in 2008 (Simmons was the sole funder of the Ayers effort, giving nearly $3 million.) Simmons is worth $4.5 billion.
* TRT Holdings, owned by Dallas’ Robert Rowling, gave American Crossroads $1 million. Rowling, whose firm owns Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym, got started at his father’s successful company, Tana Oil & Gas. He’s now worth $4.4 billion. In 2004 Rowling gave $1 million to Progress for America, an outside group backing President Bush’s reelection.
American Crossroads has an affiliated group called American Crossroads GPS. It’s a little more limited in what it can do, but also doesn’t have to report its donors at all. That group took in over $5 million in June alone.
** DOES INCEPTION SALVAGE THE SUMMER MOVIE SEASON? Does Inception salvage what’s been a decidedly subpar summer movie season? That’s a big load for any movie to carry, even one as smart as Inception, especially one as seemingly obscurantist as Inception.
Incidentally, I’m going to avoid major spoilers here, though, having said that, it occurs to me that the trick about Inception, which so many seek to understand, may just be that there is no trick at all. Which would be quite the trick for this mind-bender movie about purposeful invaders of the unconscious who use a mysterious biotechnology to hack into one’s mind in order to extract and implant very consequential information. It’s a spy flick, it’s a heist flick, it’s an action flick, it’s a scifi flick, it’s a love story, it’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma… Wait, no, that last is what Churchill said about Russia. …
President Barack Obama yesterday signed a bill to promote efficiency in government.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 9:05 AM Pacific, Obama delivers a statement to the press on the economy in the Roosevelt Room.
Obama will talk about the unemployment insurance extension bill which passed the House yesterday and which he signed late yesterday, as well as various economic numbers.
It’s also a way to get back on his message after the recent distraction of the manufactured media firestorm caused by a doctored video released by far right web impresario Andrew Breitbart of Los Angeles. (See yesterday’s edition for explanation.)
Vice President Joe Biden is in South Carolina, where he appears at a congressional fundraiser and participates in the dedication ceremony for the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library at the University of South Carolina, delivering the keynote address for his former Senate colleague.
After great progress lately, there is a setback in the BP Gulf oil disaster. A brewing tropical storm is forcing recovery workers to evacuate the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This will lead to a delay of approximately two weeks in the drilling of the relief wells that are the ultimate solution to stop the undersea flow, which is currently capped.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.
The new Iraqi national parliament was scheduled to meet last week, but that has been postponed for an indefinite period.
The reality is that the governance situation in Iraq remains unresolved, four-and-a-half months after national parliamentary elections there yielded a surprise first place victory for former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s secular Sunni party. Meanwhile, the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops, scheduled to be completed at the end of August, is underway.
Biden called leading Iraqi politicians yesterday and urged them to form a coalition government.
FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles today.
He will hold private talks, much of them around the chronic state budget crisis.
Yesterday in the Capitol Rotunda, Schwarzenegger presented his pick to be the new chief justice of the California Supreme Court, state Appellate Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. They were joined by outgoing Chief Justice Ronald George.
It was a high-energy, packed crowd, a festive occasion, filled with her large extended family and many excited about the firsts that her appointment brings. Cantil-Sakauye, 50, turns out to be a very mediagenic and engaging personality with a great personal story.
She would be, if confirmed by a judicial body, the first Asian American to head a state’s judiciary and would give the state Supreme Court its first female majority. The panel which must approve her consists of current Chief Justice Ronald George, Apppeals Court Justice Joan Dempsey-Klein, and Attorney General Jerry Brown.
I expect her to be confirmed unanimously.
She then faces a November confirmation vote on the statewide ballot. It’s hard to see an opposition mobilizing against her.
… 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 year with Schwarzenegger here. It covers most of the major issues and also reveals his cameo in the latest Terminator movie.
** THE MACHINATIONS OF MEG WHITMAN: MURPHY’S MILLION (PLUS) AND MORE. Anyone wondering what oligarch-style politics would look like in America need only check out Meg Whitman’s machinations. The billionaire Republican wannabe governor of California’s technique was in sharp display over the past week. Its focus? Using very big money to bend people to her will, individually and collectively, and taking advantage of what she clearly sees as the emerging post-press era to engage in the most blatant rewriting of her own history, including her most recent history. … From my July 17th feature.
** SHIFT CHANGE: THE 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF JAWS AND SHAMPOO MARKS THE TRANSITION FROM NEW HOLLYWOOD TO BLOCKBUSTER. Just over 35 years ago, 4th of July weekend moviegoers across America thrilled to the tale of how a huge shark cleared 4th of July weekend beaches faster than a huge oil spill. What they didn’t know then is that a movie that would fill a generation with an unrealistic fear of sharks was also changing the culture of movies, less than a decade after they had shifted in a dramatic new direction.
Another film which had its 35th anniversary earlier this year, Shampoo, captured much of what was best about the so-called New Hollywood movement, more realistic, youth-oriented, and anti-establishment. Sexy, funny, candid, incisive, and satirical, Warren Beatty’s Shampoo, released in February, was a big hit, too, the fourth biggest of 1975. But nowhere near the scale of Jaws.
Jaws, directed by a 27-year old Steven Spielberg, marked a pronounced shift change in the culture of movies, from New Hollywood to high-concept blockbuster. Considering that the New Hollywood era had dawned just eight years earlier, with Beatty’s Bonnie and Clyde, and that the blockbuster era is still very much with us, it was in hindsight a sudden and dramatic shift. … From my July 9th essay.
** THE AFGHAN WAR AND THE SPIRIT OF JEFFERSON. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Today he is best known as the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and in particular for that starburst of Enlightenment thought you see just above. It’s because of the famed document that he largely wrote in June, adopted with a few edits by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, that we celebrate the 4th of July. But Thomas Jefferson wasn’t just a writer, intellectual, and political theorist, he was a politician and a president.
And a rather cagey one at that, for all his famed idealism and lofty intellectualism.
After serving as governor of Virginia during the Revolutionary War, Jefferson was America’s first secretary of state, appointed by George Washington, and our third president.
One of the amusing intellectual parlor games of recent times is contemplating what some great historical figure might do. “What would Jesus do?” Or, more recently: “What would Don Draper do?”
So on this 4th of July weekend, with General David Petraeus taking command of U.S. and NATO forces there, what would Thomas Jefferson do in Afghanistan? … From my July 3rd essay.
** MEG WHITMAN SPINS AND SPENDS: MRS. HARSH FACES A HARSH REALITY. … From my July 1st feature.
** FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE: THE “RESET” CONTINUES. From my June 27th column.
** MCCHRYSTAL: RIGHT MAN, WRONG MISSION. From my June 23rd feature.
** WHAT WE KNOW NOW ABOUT THE BIG CALIFORNIA RACES. … From my June 19th feature.
** THE ARNOLD FACTOR. … From my June 16th 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.
Mad Men season 4 premieres on Sunday night. My reviews will continue on the Huffington Post.
** 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 $79 per barrel.
This is up about $45 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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