Former U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards was acquitted of a key charge against him for allegedly violating campaign finance law in using large sums of money from friends to help conceal his affair with Rielle Hunter. A mistrial was declared on the other five counts with the jury deadlocked.
** NEW COLUMNS COMING UP … FOR OBAMA, MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS AFTER IRAN AND NATO TALKS and JERRY BROWN FOR PRESIDENT + 20
** QUICK HITS. Governor Jerry Brown, appearing before county officials today in Sacramento, said he is going to get billions more in budget cuts from the legislature, despite resistance from Democratic legislative leaders who keep hoping for the best, whatever that is, endlessly. The budget deadline is June 15th. … Brown will speak tomorrow in Los Angeles at the memorial for Bishop H.H. Brookins, a longtime leader of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who passed away last Thursday at 86. Brookins was one of the all-time characters
** AMAZINGLY, MITT ROMNEY HAS NOT ONE BUT TWO HARVARD DEGREES (UNFORTUNATELY FOR HARVARD). Mitt Romney today made a surprise, secret visit to the shuttered Fremont plant of Solyndra, the late solar firm which got a half billion in loans from the Obama Administration before going under.
Trying desperately to turn attention away from attacks on his record as a corporate takeover specialist at Bain Capital, and from his close embrace of birther billionaire Donald Trump, Romney declared that Solyndra is “Obama’s Taj Mahal.”
His Taj Mahal?
Romney’s degrees are in business and law. He’s a professional man, not an intellectual. Still, he should know what the Taj Mahal is before he invokes it in such a goofy way.
The United Nations, placing the Taj Mahal on the World Heritage List, describes it thus: “The Taj Mahal is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”
Is he really saying that the shutdown Solyndra plant is an aesthetic masterpiece, one of the greatest places in the world?
Yeah, probably not.
Romney simply doesn’t know what he is saying.
No wonder Romney has aligned himself so closely with the anti-Enlightenment forces in America.
Romney’s visit, and his latest adventure in talking like the Harvard he went to is Harvard Junior High in East Nowheresville, came after a big fundraiser last night at the 65,000 square foot Chateau Carolands in Hillsborough. The gardens are modeled after those at Versailles. Romney knows about that place. (A superhawk today, he was a Mormon missionary in France during the Vietnam War, which he strongly advocated.)
Let them eat cake!
** NEW SURVEY: UNEMPLOYMENT DROPS. A new Gallup Poll survey indicates that US unemployment has dipped in May, to 8.0%.
With seasonal adjustments, it’s 8.3%, still close to the lowest in a few years.
The decline in underemployment is exclusively the result of the decline in the unemployment component of the measure. The number of people working part time but wanting full-time work is essentially unchanged from April 2012 and is unchanged from a year ago. Although more people are finding work, the number of people struggling to find enough hours has persisted in a narrow range between 9% and about 10% since January 2011. …
Despite recent drops in unemployment reported by Gallup and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. employment situation remains fragile. Although Gallup’s unadjusted number is at a new two-year low, the adjusted number remains higher than January’s number, suggesting that the recent declines reported by the BLS may not continue. Further, many demographic groups, including young adults and minorities, continue to be burdened by unemployment rates that are significantly higher than the national average. Substantial improvements will need to be made before these groups feel relief.
Still, the situation is better than it was a year ago, and underemployed workers in the U.S. seem to sense positive momentum and are more optimistic about finding work than they were at the beginning of the year. …
The world has reached what scientists call a troubling new milestone for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the main greenhouse gas changing the planet’s climate.
** NEW COLUMNS COMING UP … FOR OBAMA, MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS AFTER IRAN AND NATO TALKS and JERRY BROWN FOR PRESIDENT + 20
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
It’s a big day in the West Wing with the Bush family.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama then hosted lunch in the Red Room with former President George W. Bush, former First Lady Laura Bush, former President George H.W. Bush, former First Lady Barbara Bush, and Bush family members.
At 10:25 AM Pacific, the Obamas welcome former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush to the East Room for the official unveiling of their portraits. Biden, former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush are also in attendance.
At 12 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in the Oval Office.
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.
** MAD MEN: CONTROVERSY AS JOAN LOWERS HERSELF TO RISE, PEGGY EXITS ANTICLIMACTICALLY (AND SCDP GETS ITS HALO CLIENT). As soon as I saw what happened, I figured there would be a lot of controversy about the latest episode of Mad Men, “The Other Woman.” And sure enough, there is.
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.
Why the controversy? Well, because two of the show’s longtime characters did things that many, if not most, fans don’t like.
Peggy Olson, whom some have believed the series is really about, suddenly left Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. And Joan Holloway (her divorce isn’t final but I’m more than happy not to call her Joan Harris despite the fashion of the time) had sex with a car dealer to help the agency close the deal on getting the Jaguar account. In exchange for which she is now a partner in SCDP, which she should have been all along since she’s probably the most competent person there.
I’ve made it clear from the first piece I wrote about this season that I don’t think Season 5 is as good as previous seasons. I find much of the plotting far too arbitrary, even capricious. The constant tossing about of obvious symbolism — which I suspect the writers do in part to stir up the fans, a la Lost — is grating. And too often the show presents itself as a morality play. Which I find to be frequently pointless.
After all, Mad Men is not The West Wing. (The only other series to win four straight Best Drama Emmys.)
This ain’t a show about the good guys and gals. These characters are not West Wing’s idealists, albeit frequently fallible ones. These characters are deeply compromised, at best.
The brilliant pilot for Mad Men made this very clear from the beginning. Sterling Cooper was working desperately to help its big tobacco company client get around the problem of pesky health regulations on its lethal product. An especially brilliant touch was having the characters, again, right in the pilot, talk about the unfolding 1960 presidential race and the agency’s plans to help one of the candidates. After all, Roger Sterling reasoned, there’s no reason that America can’t fall in love with a good-looking Navy hero like … Dick Nixon. (Not the actually good-looking actual Navy hero Jack Kennedy that one expects to hear. In addition to being decidedly unglamorous, Nixon had been a supply officer in the Navy.) That’s when I decided I was into the show, as it was such a delicious twist.
On to what happened in “The Other Woman,” dealing with Peggy first. …
Dolores Huerta received the Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award, in a Tuesday ceremony at the White House. Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, is a longtime civil rights leader and backer of Governor Jerry Brown.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento.
He will speak today to the California State Association of Counties about the state’s chronic budget crisis and his November revenue initiative.
I have a “Jerry-Rigging” coming up on the meaning of the new USC/LA Times poll, which finds good levels of support for Brown’s governorship and for his November revenue initiative.
It also found deep suspicion of the legislature with regard to state budget decisions.
SpaceX’s Dragon capsule detached from the International Space Station very early on Thursday morning and returned to Earth to conclude its historic mission, with splashdown in the Pacific off the California coast at 8:42 AM Pacific.
Brown toured SpaceX facilities in 2010, inspecting the Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule.
A member of California’s compensation commission will propose today that state constitutional officers and legislators take a 5% pay cut to mirror what Governor Jerry Brown is pushing with state workers. I doubt Brown will have a problem with that.
Meanwhile, a new Field Poll shows sharply diminished support, as have other polls, for the latest tobacco tax initiative.
I guess multi-millions in tobacco industry advertising against it will have that effect.
I also think that the campaign for the measure has no particularly compelling rationale.
The measure now leads by only 50% to 42%.
But a measure to change the state’s term limits law, cutting the number of years allowed in the state legislature to 12 from 14 but allowing all 12 years to be served in one house — thus ending the ridiculous games of musical chairs that predominate — has a stronger shot.
That one is ahead, 50% to 28%.
Term limits really haven’t worked very well, producing a weak and not especially capable legislature, and the public may finally have caught on.
The Dragon spacecraft left the International Space Station early Thursday morning after a five-day visit. The world’s first commercial supply ship then left orbit and splashed down successfully in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.
** THE NEW SPACE ERA TAKES BIG STEPS FORWARD. A very important mission is about to wind up. The first private spacecraft to visit the International Space Station, from California’s SpaceX Corp., has already achieved very notable historical firsts, successfully matching orbits with the ISS at 17,500 miles per hour, performing a series of complex maneuvers in close proximity to the station in the course of that rendezvous, and at last docking with it, bringing the first supplies for the ISS carried aloft by a private vehicle.
Till now, only governments — US, Russia, Europe and Japan — have sent missions to the space station. All that is changing in the post-space shuttle era. The US is dependent on Russia for getting astronauts to the ISS. But private enterprise is beginning to pick up the slack for orbital missions, with LA-based SpaceX, more formally Space Exploration Technologies Corp., leading the way with other companies rushing to compete. As private enterprise emerges, NASA is turning its focus to deep space, continuing with unmanned missions run out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, also in the LA area, and developing ambitious new manned missions to the asteroids and to Mars.
This is all in furtherance of Enlightenment ideals engrained in the fabric of American society by Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin: Curiosity, exploration, scientific advancement turned into ingenuity and know-how to accomplish practical goals and maintain a sense of vision for further advances in knowledge.
Some believe that we have too many problems here on Earth to concern ourselves with space. But problems are part of the human condition. I believe that humanity can and will improve, though there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. But improvement is not perfection. Which is all the more reason why we must continue to look beyond our own insularity and push outward and upward. … From my May 30th essay.
** MAD MEN: A GREAT LEAPER FORWARD? JOAN, JAG, DON’S RETURN TO ADVERTISING (AND OTHER, ER, TREKS). … From my May 23rd review.
** A BUCKET OF WOE: JERRY BROWN’S UNSURPRISINGLY UNHAPPY BUDGET. … From my May 16th essay.
** MAD MEN: DANGER! SLIPPERY WHEN SOAPY (ESPECIALLY IN DARK SHADOWS). … From my May 15th review.
** NUCLEAR’S ONCE BRIGHT AND SHINY FUTURE BLINKS OUT. …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.
** 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 $87 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $53 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 $27 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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