Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, has been charged by the UK’s public prosecutor with perverting the course of justice, as the scandal enveloping Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp media empire deepens. Brooks, a close friend of British Prime Minister David Cameron, was something of a surrogate daughter to News Corp mogul Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News.
** QUICK HITS. A peer review panel that previously gave thumbs down on California’s high-speed rail project delivered a measured thumbs up today at a state Senate hearing. … Former President George W. Bush today endorsed Mitt Romney for president. I expect to see that in ads, just not Republican ads. …
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … JERRY BROWN’S UNSURPRISINGLY UNHAPPY BUDGET.
** NEW POLL: VOTERS SEE OBAMA AS THE WINNER IN NOVEMBER. By a very wide margin, President Barack Obama is viewed in a new Gallup Poll survey as the likely winner in November over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
These things have a tendency to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, even with most polls showing Romney competitive with Obama.
The history of these things is that the candidate expected to win is the candidate who does win.
Democrats are notably more enthiastic over their candidate’s prospects than are Republicans.
And by a 2 to 1 ratio, independents expect an Obama victory.
Fifty-six percent of Americans think Barack Obama will win the 2012 presidential election, compared with 36% who think Mitt Romney will win. Democrats are more likely to believe that Obama will win than Republicans are to believe Romney will. Independents are nearly twice as likely to think that Obama, rather than Romney, will prevail.
Americans are a bit more likely now to say Obama has a better chance of winning than they were at a similar point in 2008. A June 2008 Gallup poll found 52% predicting Obama would win, while 41% thought Republican John McCain would. By October 2008, weeks after the financial crisis, Americans were more certain Obama would win that election, 71% to 23%.
Including the 2008 election, Americans’ predictions of the four prior presidential elections were also generally accurate.
In three separate measurements in 2004, Americans thought Bush would be the winner in two and were split in their predictions in the other, conducted immediately after the Democratic convention. In the final prediction, from mid-October, 56% thought Bush would win and 36% thought Kerry would.
The accuracy of the 2000 election prediction is harder to evaluate, given that Al Gore won the popular vote and George W. Bush the electoral vote. In four out of five measurements that year, Americans thought Bush would win, though in the final measurement, taken in mid-September, Americans gave Gore the edge.
In an August 1996 poll, Americans overwhelmingly believed incumbent Bill Clinton (69%) would defeat Bob Dole (24%). …
** MAD MEN: DANGER! SLIPPERY WHEN SOAPY (ESPECIALLY IN DARK SHADOWS). If there’s one thing we know for sure about the latest episode of Mad Men, it’s this: All this soapiness can mean only one thing. People are about to die. You simply can’t have so many soap suds flying around without folks slipping and hitting their heads on the sharp edges of all the symbols lying about.
I wrote this sentence in the second paragraph of “Mad Men (Finally) Returns: Worth the Wait?,” my piece here on the Huffington Post about the Mad Men season premiere: “I confess to a certain diffidence about it all, all two hours of it.”
I have more than a certain diffidence about the latest episode, which takes us into the final third of a great show’s uneven fifth season.
As always, there be some spoilers ahead. Incidentally, you can see all my Mad Men pieces, going back to 2009, here in The Mad Men File.
Dark Shadows , which I believe refers to the soapy ’60s vampire show, a rather dreadful affair not coincidentally just remade into the quite dreadful brand-new Tim Burton movie with Johnny Depp — Megan is doing auditions — is another big turn on the soap opera side of Mad Men.
Big things are happening in 1966 America, and in advertising, the business which the show revolves around, and which one of the lead characters just rejected in a very telling sign of the times. But all that is somewhere over …there.
Here’s what we have over here in this episode. Mostly unhappy self-involved people. And a couple of happy self-involved people.
And the return of Betty Draper Francis. A dieting Betty Draper Francis.
The plot twist of “Fat Betty” was the first of a few big plot twists I found arbitrary and unlikable. January Jones’s pregnancy sharply limited her availability for this season of the show. But she never ballooned anywhere near to the extent that her character did. Making Betty fat spurred a lot of chatter, and made the Betty-hating portion of the audience happy, but bored me. She’s unhappy, so she’s fat, and it’s ironic, which means yada yada.
Some of the biggest and best moments in this show have revolved around Betty, even though she was becoming a largely unlikable character. The “Souvenir” episode, in which the Drapers go to Rome and she dazzles Conrad Hilton with her beauty, smarts, education, and sophistication, illustrates how Don blew it with Betty and how she was left as a Grace Kelly type stuck in the suburbs.
She’s gone on to marry Henry Francis, a top advisor to Governor Nelson Rockefeller when we meet him, now a top advisor to Mayor John Lindsay. He moves in very high-level, sophisticated and, quite frankly, very glittering circles, more so than Don Draper does. Circles in which a wife like Betty is a major asset, as any smart pol knows.
Yet we’ve never seen her in these circles, as I’ve noted before. Where are the Rockefellers? Where are the power players around the glamorous and instantly very famous but somewhat fatuous new mayor of the Big Apple? (Who, incidentally, had quite an interest in advertising.) Instead, what glimpses we’ve had of Betty are in the same old suburban milieu as before, albeit with a different, more attentive husband.
So, Betty is back, again, and it’s more of the same. She’s dieting, but she’s unhappy, and she doesn’t want anybody else to be happier than she is.
Oh, and Don, who is kind of rusty because he’s been so busy being happy happy happy with Megan, does some work in this episode and is a little mean to the talented new guy. I’ll get to that after I attempt to sprint through the bathwater. Oh, and Roger has sex with his estranged trophy wife, because, well, because her character has been under-utilized and because it’s wash day. …
The US Armed Forces are expanding the number of jobs available to female soldiers that potentially would bring them near the front lines. The Pentagon has announced it will open more than 14,000 combat-related roles to women serving in the army, breaking with the long-held policy of excluding female soldiers from most jobs that would potentially put them in harm’s way, a move meant to help US women achieve promotion to the military’s highest ranks.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … JERRY BROWN’S UNSURPRISINGLY UNHAPPY BUDGET.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Obama then delivered remarks at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol Building.
Following that, he welcomed the Major League Soccer champions, the LA Galaxy, to the White House
At 12:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner in the Oval Office.
At 1:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in the Oval Office.
Panetta is moving to expand the role of women in the US Armed Forces, allowing them to serve closer to the front lines — though that is a rather quaint concept in a time of asymmetric warfare — and have greater opportunity for promotion, especially in the Army.
At 2:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with the U.S. Combatant Commanders in the Cabinet Room.
These officers, all four-star generals and admirals, command combined US forces in various regions of the world, or specialized commands such as special operations or strategic weapons.
At 4 PM Pacific, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a dinner for the Combatant Commanders and their spouses in the Blue Room of the White House.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters early on Tuesday morning that JP Morgan’s $2 billion loss in risky trades is a perfect example of why President Barack Obama fought so hard for Wall Street reform and why the additional steps need to be taken.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Iraq, AfPak, and North Korea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: The Arabian Gulf is ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento.
Brown spoke early this morning at a victims’ rights conference hosted by the California District Attorneys Association and the California Crime Victims Assistance Association at the Sheraton Grande Hotel.
As I wrote over the weekend, Brown delivered a very rugged California state budget in the annual “May revise” release on Monday. Brown has been warning for months about the need for more cuts, and the legislature has refused. (As I have mentioned, oh, 50 or 60 times.) Now the situation is, all too predictably, worse.
Naturally, I have a piece coming up on this, as well as the political and media reaction to the situation.
** NUCLEAR’S ONCE BRIGHT AND SHINY FUTURE BLINKS OUT. Don’t look now, but one of the biggest and most famous industries in the world, nuclear power, once seen as the lynchpin of the future, is reeling yet again after huge political setbacks in Japan and France.
Last year’s disaster at Fukushima is having an even bigger effect than the Chernobyl disaster of the ’80s. The latter could be blamed on the backward old Soviet Union. But Fukushima happened in future-oriented Japan.
May has seen the shutdown of all 54 nuclear reactors in Japan. Nuclear power had provided one-third of Japan’s electric power.
Then came the defeat of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. …From my May 12th essay.
** MAD MEN: REJECTING ADVERTISING, OR, DON DRAPER MEETS ACID ROCK, POP BUDDHISM, AND AN INDEPENDENT WIFE. … From my May 8th essay.
** THE CURIOUS CHEN CRISIS SPOTLIGHTS OUR BIG CHINA CONUNDRUM. … From my May 4th essay.
** MAD MEN: TO THE MOON! (AND CRASHING BACK AGAIN). … From my May 1st essay.
** SEALED UP, BUT NOT SEALED OVER: THE OSAMA BIN LADEN RAID AT 1. … From my May 1st essay.
** BACK ON THE NATIONAL STAGE? JERRY BROWN BRINGS AN INCOMPLETE STORY. … From my April 28th essay.
** MAD MEN: WIBBLY-WOBBLY, TIMEY-WIMEY, TRIPPY-WIPPY (AND PEGGY OLSON IS NO DANA SCULLY). … From my April 24th essay.
** HILLARY FOR PRESIDENT? ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GAUNTLET. … From my April 24th essay.
** THE PERSISTENCE OF TUNNEL VISION: ANOTHER PROBLEM FOR JERRY BROWN. … From my April 19th essay.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** 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 AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in major military operations in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. 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.
** 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 from the Russia Today channel. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the state-run 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 $93 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $59 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down about $21 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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