President Barack Obama touted improved July job growth numbers this morning but said there are “too many folks out there” looking for work. He said the middle class should not be expected to pay for tax cuts proposed for wealthier Americans.
** QUICK HITS. SpaceX, the California-based commercial space exploration firm based in California and headed by Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk, today announced that it has won a contract from NASA to make the orbital manned spacecraft which will take the place of the space shuttle. SpaceX, as you know, made history a few months ago by staging the first private resupply mission to the International Space Station. … And in an even bigger first coming up, the Mars Rover mission Curiosity, which is run, like all unmanned deep space exploration projects, out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California — across LA from SpaceX — is scheduled to land on Mars late Sunday night. … More, as the saying goes, to follow on both these happenings.
** GORE VIDAL: REMEMBERING A BRILLIANT, CONTROVERSIAL LEGEND OF THE SORT WE DON’T FOSTER ANY MORE. The current scene isn’t producing writers like Gore Vidal, one of the towering writers and cultural figures of the post-World War II era. So his passing Tuesday in Los Angeles, where he lived most of the past decade, marks a sad cultural milestone.
I hardly knew him well — he was a cool, aristocratic, witty, mandarin sort of cat who spoke through his work (beneath the icy exterior, he told me, as he apparently liked to say, lies cold water) — but encountered him many times over the years, including when he ran for the U.S. Senate against my old friend Jerry Brown in 1982, and when we featured him at the Shadow Conventions in 2000, the alternative political conventions mirroring those of the major parties spearheaded by Arianna Huffington, for which I served as senior advisor. Ironically, I had just been re-reading one of Vidal’s books when he passed away, after reading several over the past year.
Novelist, essayist, politico, playwright, screenwriter, conversationalist, provocateur, Vidal was the complete package as what used to be called a man of letters back when there was such a thing. He did not, to my knowledge, tweet, nor Facebook. He simply wrote, at proper length, which is what most writing, aside from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, concerning which Vidal had very useful things to say, is about.
Doing my usual Net sweep, I see that there have been a massive number of pieces from people who apparently never met him, as well as a few from those who were very much fans and some more from those brave souls who have waited to rip him until after he was safely dead. In my view, he was a flawed genius, sometimes prone, especially late in the day, to some errant conspiracy-mongering. In the aftermath, I prefer to focus on the genius part of it, especially since brilliance is an endangered species in this era in which a majority of at least one major political party seeks to kill the Enlightenment ideas on which this nation was founded.
Born in New York, Vidal ended, after a lengthy sojourn in Italy, in California. Which in a sense is fitting, since this is where he flourished as a screenwriter and mounted his biggest political effort, his run for the U.S. Senate in 1982 against then and future Governor Jerry Brown. …
** 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 met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Following that, Obama delivered remarks in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the need for Congress to act to ensure that taxes don’t go up on 98% of Americans at the beginning of next year.
But the House of Representatives, going in the opposite direction from the Senate, rejected Obama’s plan to extend the Bush/Cheney tax cuts for the first $250,000 of income only, insisting on ongoing tax cuts for all levels of income above the highest reaches of the middle class.
Obama got some good news today in the form of a higher than expected report of job growth last month.
The economy added 163,000 jobs, nearly twice as many as expected, and the highest level of job growth in nearly half a year. The number would have been higher still were it not weighed down by cuts in public sector employment.
With more people coming back into the job market, the unemployment rate moved from 8.2% to 8.3%.
The report has to be a disappointment for Mitt Romney, who needed bad news to distract from his woes of the past few weeks.
Not that the report is great. This is an anemic economy, with corporations sitting on vast hordes of cash and tremendous uncertainty about the state of the global economy.
The USC Ph.D. who is the new president of Egypt, Dr. Mohamed Morsi, who ran as the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, unveiled the new Egyptian Cabinet yesterday, with 35 ministers drawn from various segments of Egyptian society. But it is not a broad-ranging group.
Seven ministers in the current military-dominated government kept their posts, including Defense Minister/strong man Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, as well as the foreign minister, culture minister, and finance minister.
Ahmed Fawzi, the spokesman of Kofi Annan, the just resigned joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, says that Annan’s six-point peace plan has in part failed due to disunity within the international community, principally opposition from China and Russia.
But there are few women or Christians, and no ministers from the ranks of the secular firebrands who spearheaded the actual revolution which toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood garnered several key ministries, including information (propaganda), higher education, and labor (both of which are key for recruitment).
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Syria, Iraq, AfPak, and the South China Sea.
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. The time in Manila, on the South China Sea, is fifteen hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
California Finance Director Ana Matosantos announced this morning that her department’s audit of some 560 state special funds has turned up no hoarding of state money beyond that already disclosed in the state Parks and Recreation Department, where one special fund based on user fees had some $20 million in it and another based on off-road vehicle fees had over $33 million in it.
She said that there is only a few hundred million in apparent discrepancies between the numbers reported by the state Controller’s office and the numbers reported by departments to the state Department of Finance, and that all but the parks funds can be accounted for by differences in accounting practices.
This flies in the face of a report in the San Jose Mercury-News that there was a $2.3 billion discrepancy between the Controller numbers and the Finance numbers.
I have a document that suggests that the two special funds in the Parks & Recreation Department have had funds beyond what was reported to the Finance Department since the administration of Republican Governor Pete Wilson in the ’90s.
For his part, Brown issued a statement directing that funds from the additional $20 million in park user fee funds be used to help keep parks open and perform critically needed maintenance functions.
The state parks have only $1 billion-plus in unfunded maintenance needs.
The California Nurses Association yesterday gave $1 million to Jerry Brown’s November revenue initiative. His committee had previously raised I believe about $8 million ($6 million-plus through June) for the effort. There is another committee that has also been raising sizable sums on its behalf. No sign of any real money in opposition as of yet.
** ROMNEY’S DANGEROUS BUFFOONERY. … From my August 1st essay.
** SUNRISE IN CALIFORNIA? … From my July 26th feature.
** CHINA MOVES SWIFTLY ON NEW “CITY” ENCOMPASSING SOUTH CHINA SEA, GULF CRISIS SIMMERS. … From my July 24th feature.
** THE DARK KNIGHT SHOOTINGS: “ALL IT TAKES IS A LITTLE PUSH.” … From my July 21st column.
** MITT WHITMAN = MEG ROMNEY. … From my July 19th column.
** CRISES CHAOTIC AND BUBBLING: THE GULF AND THE SOUTH CHINA SEA. … From my July 17th essay.
** WHY THE CLINTONS NEED OBAMA TO WIN: UNCERTAINTY AS HILLARY PUSHES THE BIG GEOPOLITICAL PIVOT. … From my July 13th essay.
** A TICKET TO RIDE: HIGH-SPEED RAIL MOVES FORWARD ON A HISTORIC (AND BUMPY) TRACK IN CALIFORNIA. … From my July 11th feature.
** DARK KNIGHTS, AVENGERS, BONDING RETRO ACTION HEROES: HOW LONG WILL THE SUPERHERO PHENOMENON LAST? … From my July 7th essay.
** FOUNDED IN ENLIGHTENMENT, AMERICA FACES IGNORANCE AND CONFUSION AS THE CHALLENGES GROW EVER MORE COMPLEX. … From my July 2nd 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 $91 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 $23 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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