New West Notes presents Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rehearsal of
his exclusive Inaugural production, Terminator 2: The Super-Fantastic Musical!.
Another Austrian shoe queen, that legendary fashionista Bruno, does funkyzeit LA
seeking new style for new year.
** SADDAM’S DEATH. A very good end for a very bad guy. Yet it seems curiously anti-climactic, certainly compared to his capture. And it’s nowhere near the event that a similar end for Osama bin Laden would be.
I haven’t found full video of the event yet, though admittedly I haven’t put much effort into it. Is this a major event? Or a passing spike in the pre-New Year’s news flow?
** JOHN EDWARDS NEVADA REPORT. NWN Forum blogger Barbara checks in with this report from the Democratic presidential candidate’s town hall last night in Reno, Nevada:
“The John Edwards Town Hall just ended about 20 minutes ago. He spoke for about 20 minutes and then spent well over an hour taking questions from a crowd (per a reporter) of well over a thousand people. I was so fortunate because I was able to sit on bleachers 3 feet to his left behind the chain separating him from the audience. As we waited for him to come out I chatted with everyone around and also while I waited in the line to get in to the hall. Unlike me, most people that I talked came from a union phone call. Also unlike me they had heard him speak a lot in the last two years.
“Many of those attending appeared at least to me to not be coming out to support or hear a Dem but to hear John Edwards. He covered many subjects from campaign finance reform (of great interest to this audience), CIRA, universal healthcare, education, poverty…Iraq…China Africa..Israel all places he has visited and studied up on the last couple of years. He showed enormous depth and wonderful people skills. There is so much to say but he kept telling us this is our campaign not just his that we have as individuals to help in our own way to make this country whole. I was able to shake his hand at the end and thank him for advocating for the poor. He took my hand into both of his, looked me straight into my eyes and said: “As long as I am alive.” I believe him. He reminds me of the documentaries I have seen on Bobby Kennedy. I urge everyone to go to his website and learn more about him. I hope the mainstream press does justice to what I heard and saw this evening. This is a remarkable man by any measure.”
** SUPERHERO QUIZ. Click here and answer a short psychographic questionaire to find out which superhero you are most like. (Passed along by TechCrunch.) The Terminator is not one of the options. I took the quiz and found out that I’m, ah, Supergirl. Maybe I should have gone with a very hard no on the cape question.
** Track global and national energy prices via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices rose some in late trading yesterday, to $61 per barrel in some cases, on speculation that the execution of Saddam Hussein could lead to some disruption in Iraq oil supply.
Borat Sagdiyev discusses the politics of Central Asia during a visit to Washingtons.
** 7:30 PM UPDATE: SADDAM EXECUTED. Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has just been executed by hanging, according to multiple reports. He was executed at dawn in the country he ruled with an iron fist for decades.
The earlier confusion about his disposition was clearly deliberate, intended to throw potential saboteurs and protesters off the scent.
** GEORGE LUCAS SAYS INDIANA JONES 4 SET FOR NEXT YEAR. Now the really big news of the day. In his pre-Rose Parade comments, 2007 grand marshal George Lucas , creator of the franchise, says the long in the making fourth Indiana Jones picture will go before the cameras next year, for release in 2008. Star Harrison Ford and director Steven Spielberg have at last approved a script. Or so we hope.
** UPDATE: ROB LOWE OUT! Arnold Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Julie Soderlund advises that former West Wing star Rob Lowe has just cancelled his headlining role for the Schwarzenegger Inaugural’s big environmental event on January 4th at the state Capitol. Okay. I like Rob Lowe. He got into a little trouble in 1988 with some underage girls. But they looked older, you know. Later on, his leaving The West Wing played havoc with a TV show I was a consulting producer on. Hmm. Maybe not so okay. Not that his new show got nearly the ratings ours did. Now he has ditched the Arnold for yet another TV show. That is the latest.
** ARNOLD GOES GREEN AND VEGAS FOR HIS SECOND INAUGURAL IN SACTOWN. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s inaugural committee announced green and Vegas-oriented lineups for his second inaugural as governor of California. On January 4th, the Schwarzenegger Inaugural galas kick off with an open to the public festival of environmentalism in Capitol Park headlined by former West Wing star Rob Lowe and former NBA star and fellow European Vlade Divac. (Incidentally, an appearance was made by yours truly on the infamous Rob Lowe tape. More about that another time.)
Further Arnold Inaugural entertainment choices are set for January 5th, including welcoming taiko drums (bring your extra strength Excedrin), Irish folk dancers with loud clogs, mariachi bands, Jose Feliciano, Paul Anka, and Donna Summer.
Ms. Summer will perform her famous hits, “Hot Stuff” and “She Works Hard For The Money.” I think I know what that song is about. Anka will perform “My Way,” the Frank Sinatra standard, with special lyrics customized for Arnold. Feliciano will perform the national anthem at the actual inaugural ceremony. (Which will not actually be the actual inaugural, but ask me no questions and I will tell you no lies.)
I think I know where the governor got the Feliciano idea. (He had the fabulous Vanessa Williams perform the national anthem at his much bigger, overflow inaugural three years ago.) At a recent dinner with a special friend in the capital, at a Schwarzenegger favorite restaurant, Feliciano was singing his version of the Doors classic “Light My Fire” while I was in the men’s room. As for Anka and Summers, let’s say that I love Vegas. I’ll be there in a few weeks for my first 2008 presidential campaign road trip. But couldn’t Arnold have been into, you know, the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac or the Police as his ’70s/’80s fixation? Just asking.
** BIG CROWDS FOR JOHN EDWARDS. Former Senator John Edwards is doing well on day two of his Democratic presidential campaign announcement tour. Yesterday, he announced his candidacy in Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, then did an overflow town hall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, site of the first-in-the-nation Iowa presidential caucuses. This morning he was in New Hampshire for a big event. He’s flying across the country for a 5:30 PM event today in Reno, Nevada, site of the second-in-the-nation Nevada presidential caucuses.
“My vote was a mistake and I should never have voted for this war,” he said of the Iraq War, adding that the Bush Administration “has been an absolute disaster in the conducting of the war. But none of that changes or affects my responsibility. I’m responsible for what I did.”
** U.S. FORCES FREE IRANIANS. Two Iranians operating in Iraq with diplomatic credentials, captured by U.S. forces on December 21st during a Baghdad raid and suspected of weapons trafficking and related insurgent activities, have been released. The two were reportedly in Iraq at the invitation of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani as part of the aftermath of his summit in Tehran with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
** 4:30 PM UPDATE: SADDAM EXECUTION. The former Iraqi dictator’s execution is now reported to occur in a matter of hours. US forces have been holding on to his physical, as distinguished from legal, custody, to ensure his continued custody and to avoid his humiliation while still living and mutilation once deceased.
** SADDAM HUSSEIN REPORTEDLY HANDED OVER TO IRAQI AUTHORITIES. Saddah Hussein has, according to his lawyers, been handed over by US forces to the Iraqi government for execution. The Iraqi government, however, says it does not yet have him.
** CASINO ROYALE PASSES TERMINATOR 3 ON ALL-TIME GLOBAL BOX OFFICE LIST. Not only did Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger break his leg last weekend, his third Terminator picture was passed on the all-time global box office list by the new Bond film, Casino Royale. Coming out of Christmas weekend, Casino Royale — released on November 17th — had taken in $454 million at the box office around the world. Terminator 3 is at $435 million. Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig as the new Bond, also passed the last Pierce Brosnan outing in the role, Die Another Day, which was the previous highest grossing Bond film around the world.
But it’s not exactly all bad. Schwarzenegger is a huge Bond fan. Indeed, he played his own version of Bond in True Lies — replete with a Goldfinger homage at the beginning in which the former action superstar emerges from a lake in scuba gear with a white tuxedo underneath — which Casino Royale passed a couple weeks ago. Despite being passed by the new Bond, Schwarzenegger has three movies on the Top 100 all-time global box office list: Terminator 2, Terminator 3, which Schwarzenegger opened just before parachuting into the tumultuous 2003 recall campaign in which he was elected governor, and True Lies. Popular as the new Bond film is, it’s not likely to catch up with T2.
What’s number one on the all-time global box office list? That would be Titanic, at $1.8 billion, from Terminator director and Schwarzenegger motorcycle buddy James Cameron. Number two is the final Lord of the Rings picture, The Return of the King, at $1.1 billion.
** Monitor computer memory prices on a daily basis. Prices are stable.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices dipped below $60 per barrel in one one market on milder than normal weather in much of the US.
Former Senator John Edwards discusses his presidential candidacy yesterday in New Orleans.
** EDWARDS ANNOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY IN NEW ORLEANS. John Edwards formally announced his campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination today in New Orleans, hard hit by last year’s devastating Hurricane Katrina. Later in the day, he continues his announcement tour with a town hall in Iowa. On Friday, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee has events and town halls in New Hampshire and Nevada. On Saturday, he journeys to South Carolina, then a homecoming event in North Carolina, which he served during his sole term in the U.S. Senate and where he became one of the country’s top trial lawyers.
Edwards has real strength in the early caucus and primary states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. He’s the brightest dark horse in either party, but will struggle for media attention with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
** SCHWARZENEGGER CREATES PENSION COMMISSION. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today created by executive order the Public Employee Post-Employment Benefits Commission to study and make recommendations on the problem of vast unfunded pension and health care benefits for retirees and the otherwise “post-employed.” (Attention, Dept. of Buzzwords.) Both the problem for the state — estimated early in the year as $49 billion in terms of pensions and $40 to $70 billion in terms of health benefits for the “post-employed” and their families — and local governments around the state will be studied by the commission, which is to report back on January 1st, 2008. The commission will consist of 12 members, six appointed by Schwarzenegger, three appointed by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, and three appointed by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata. Nunez has already put out a statement of support.
From a political standpoint, this is a good way to signal to the unions that there will not be a resumption of last year’s war over pension reform, at least this coming year. It also is a way to establish a bipartisan buy-in to the breadth and scale of the problem and provide a forum for work toward possible agreed-on solutions. Without, of course, actually moving on any in the current, somewhat troubled, fiscal year.
** JIHADISTS LOSE MOGADISHU, CONFOUNDING LAST WEEK’S FORECASTS ON THE RIGHT. Just a week after some on the right predicted that Al Qaeda was about to win Somalia as its new Afghanistan, Somali goverment forces retook the traditional capital city of Mogadishu. Ethiopia, as widely anticipated, had intervened in the war-torn country and quickly routed the militias of the Islamic Courts movement, aligned with but not directed by Al Qaeda. While there may well be a guerilla war, and there are threatened terrorist reprisals against Ethiopia, the picture is not all that bleak.
** ANTI-WAR SOLDIERS. New West friend Marc Cooper has a long take on the nascent anti-Iraq War movement in the U.S. Armed Forces. They’re playing largely by military rules this time, as distinguished from the Vietnam era.
** Monitor computer memory prices on a daily basis. Prices are stable.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices are around $60 per barrel on continuing milder than normal weather through much of the US.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tour a greentech firm in Silicon Valley.
While the boss recuperated in bed at an undisclosed LA hospital location following his Sun Valley skiing mishap, some of his top minions, along with leaders of California’s academic/technocracy complex, unveiled a major new tech initiative on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s behalf.
“The governor wants California to be number one in everything,” noted his communications director, Adam Mendelsohn, in something of an understatement. These programs could help.
The amount of money proposed, some $95 million, is small by big-time governmental standards. But it will, if successful, leverage many times that.
For example, much of the proposal — $40 million — would come into play only if the University of California wins a a half billion dollars for research from oil giant BP to develop alternative fuels in the stead of fossil fuels. And $5 million to pursue the next generation supercomputer project, which California has a good chance at, would generate another $200 million. If successful, the funding will leverage about a billion dollars in research and development spending.
Very little of the money would come out of the state’s general fund, which is under pressure from a reduced yet chronic structural budget deficit. Proceeds from the commercial applications are to be shared with the state.
The Arnold proposal would use the latest version of magic money, which does not require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or a popular vote on an initiative. Lease revenue bonds would be used to fund $70 million of the proposals. That includes nearly half the sum, the $40 million needed to get the BP grant. Lease revenue bonds constitute the bulk of his $11 billion prison program.
There are four major projects in the Schwarzenegger initiative.
$40 million in lease revenue bond funding if BP chooses UC Berkeley or UC San Diego for a $500 million energy biosciences institute, which will look for more fuel efficient biofuels than ethanol. The two UC campuses are among five finalists for the institute.
$30 million in lease revenue bond financing for the Helios Project at UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which will focus on next generation solar energy and the use of nanotechnology.
$20 million from the general fund for the existing California Institutes for Science and Innovation (CISI) at the University of California for work on nanotechnology, biomedicine, and information technology.
$5 million to help the University of California in a competition to receive grants to build the most powerful computer in the world, the Petascale Supercomputer Project.
University of California President Robert Dynes said on a conference call that the the computer system would be in a very large room at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, consisting of thousands of microcomputers linked together. He views California as having an excellent chance in competition with the University of California and Carnegie Mellon to create the new computer, which would be a thousand times faster than the fastest computer now.
The death of Turkmenistan’s dictator, an ex-Soviet bureaucrat who named the month of January after himself, is another aspect of the brewing crisis in strategically key post-Soviet Central Asia (BBC).
** AN OBVIOUS “DISCOVERY” MISSES A CRISIS. While some on the right fulminate about the capture of a few Iranian operatives in Iraq, most everyone misses the brewing crisis in Central Asia. Which is merely key to the US effort in Afghanistan, not to mention global energy markets.
Iranians operating in Iraq. Imagine that. Of course they are in Iraq. They’ve been operating there for many years, building powerful networks among the majority Shiite population. President George W. Bush met with one of Iran’s chief allies in Iraqi politics a few weeks ago. They helped the US effort in invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, after providing even greater help in the US takedown of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime and disruption and dispersal of Al Qaeda. Iran wanted the Taliban ousted, they were ousted. Iran wanted Saddam ousted, he was ousted. Iran has served its strategic interests, and continues to do so. It’s central to any settlement of the crisis in Iraq, as the Iraqi politicians who journeyed to Tehran for summits recently are obviously only too well aware.
Meanwhile, the US victory in Afghanistan is in danger of reversal, as previously discussed. Lest we forget, the war was begun in order to find and punish the perpetrators of 9/11. More than five years later, the top leaders of Al Qaeda continue to elude us. Their likely safe havens in Pakistan remain safe. Their allies in Afghanistan are making a comeback.
The US moved into post-Soviet Central Asia in the immediate wake of 9/11, establishing bases with the support of Russia, which has remained relatively friendly with its five former Soviet socialist republics there: Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Borat‘s purported home, Kazakhstan. Last year, the US lost its base in Uzbekistan supporting operations in Afghanistan, leaving only the air base in Kyrgyzstan.
Unlike Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union, Central Asia never underwent a tumultuous transition of leadership. The five former Soviet republics-turned-new countries went on to be run by former Soviet bureaucrats, remaking themselves in nationalist images.
Kyrgyzstan is in crisis, as previously discussed on NWN, its increasingly chaotic government united on few points, one of which is its anger about the US base outside its capital city of Bishkek. But it has at least undergone a political transition, ousting its Soviet legacy leader, who is now a math professor in Moscow.
Now Turkmenistan, one of the world’s greatest natural gas producers, is undergoing political transition following the death of its notorious dictator. His deputy premier, who does not appear to be a strong leader, is in charge for now and may win elections set for early next year. But the real jockeying is for power from the outside. Russia needs to maintain its hold over Turkmemistan’s vast gas reserves, which fuel its country and which it sells for great profit to Europe. It will need to fend off the interests of neighboring Iran, which also sees great opportunity. This also, as previously discussed, creates a fascinating new dynamic, in that Russia has helped Iran and served as a back channel to Iran.
It’s a process likely to play out across the region, as leadership changes in other countries occur. Kazakhstan is particularly key, given its even greater energy reserves. It’s actually not at all the incredibly backward place depicted in the Borat movie and skits. That’s a totally fictional comic amalgam. The character himself is based on a Russian doctor he met, according to Sacha Baron Cohen, the creator and actor. His home village is actually in Romania. And so on.
In addition to Russia and Iran, China, the European Union, and the US have major interests at play in the region. Let’s see if we can get a handle on the future there — and preserve our base there as we seek to revive our fortunes in Afghanistan — and seem less surprised by discovering the obvious about Iran and Iraq.
** U.S. TO LIST POLAR BEAR AS THREATENED SPECIES. According to the Washington Post, the U.S. Department of the Interior will propose that the polar bear be listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Polar bears depend upon sea ice, and that has been receding dramatically in the greenhouse era. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experts say that polar bears have begun resorting to open sea swimming and even in some instances cannibalism in order to survive, though their possible extinction is viewed as decades away. The federal government has been under intense pressure on this from environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace.
But, you know, it’s okay, because no matter what happens we can always enjoy those great, heartwarming polar bear computer animations in the Coca Cola commercials.
** CONAN THE GREEN. Over Christmas weekend, the Washington Post published a front page story on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as the leading environmentalist Republican, championing efforts to control greenhouse gases. In it, he sounds themes very familiar to NWN readers, and completely consistent with my discussions with him in 2002 and 2003 before he became governor, much less pushed the big renewable energy and global warming programs of this year.
Schwarzenegger says that he will push to make climate change a major issue in the 2008 presidential election. “We want to put the spotlight on this issue in America. It has to become a debate in the presidential election. It has to become an issue.”
He calls himself a “sane Republican,” noting that he can’t be stereotyped as many pro-environment politicians have been as “the tree hugger, the crazy guy out there who wants to live on the moon and talk about the spirits and all this holistic stuff.”
“With me they can’t do it, because my whole history is different. It’s unexpected, so therefore you have a better chance to have an impact.”
** SCHWARZENEGGER’S HIGHLY-RATED SPEECH. As he contemplates next months’ State of the State address, snug in his hospital bed, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger can take satisfaction in last January’s State of the State address, which a PR expert has rated one of the best speeches of the year. It merely apologized for past mistakes and positioned him for this year’s dramatic comeback. The worst speeches were more off the cuff affairs, by Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, and outgoing Virginia Senator George “Macacca” Allen.
** GERALD FORD PASSES. Former President Gerald Ford has died at the age of 93. After retiring, he lived for many years in California, in the Palm Springs area. It would be hard to say that his presidency was especially distinguished, but he restored a sense of decency to a politics traumatized by the Watergate scandal and forced resignation in 1974 of California’s first president, Richard Nixon. Ford, of course, became vice president when Nixon’s first vice president, Spiro Agnew, was forced to resign in the midst of a corruption scandal. Ford then became president upon Nixon’s resignation. The longtime Republican leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ford was an amiable man, a star athlete at the University of Michgian. It was his fate in presidential politics to be a transitional figure. The U.S. defeat in and withdrawal from Vietnam was finalized during his presidency, which ended following his defeat by Democrat Jimmy Carter in November 1976.
** Monitor computer memory prices on a daily basis. Prices are stable.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices have dropped to around $60 per barrel on forecasts of warmer than usual weather in much of the US.
** EDWARDS TO NEVADA. As mentioned here last week, John Edwards will make his anticipated Hurricane Katrina-oriented New Orleans formal announcement of his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday. He’ll follow that on his announcement tour with a town hall meeting in Iowa. As his tour continues, on Friday he will hold an event and a town hall meeting at 5:30 PM in Reno, Nevada, at the Grand Sierra Resort’s Silver State Pavilion. Edwards’ goal is to maintain and build his strength in the early states of the nomination contest while the Obama media wave crests.
** IDAHO NEWSPAPER EXPLAINS ARNOLD’S BROKEN LEG.
Schwarzenegger slips on Bald Mountain
By JODY ZARKOS
The Sun Valley ski patrol responded to six accident calls on Bald Mountain Saturday, including one for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Skiing with family members and friend Adi Erber of Ketchum, Schwarzenegger was standing next to the half-pipe on Lower Warm Springs when he slipped, according to Adi Erber.
“His pole got caught underneath his ski and he tripped over it,” Erber said. “He fell on his ski pole and the impact broke his femur.”
Erber, a fellow Austrian and ski buddy of Schwarzenegger’s for the last 18 years, said the accident occurred around 12:15 p.m. and the Governor fell on his right side.
Schwarzenegger was transported off the mountain by toboggan and taken to St. Luke’s Hospital by ambulance.
While Sun Valley patrollers would not comment about the accident itself, one did say, “I do know he was really tough about it. He was tough.”
According to reports by The Associated Press, the 59-year old Schwarzenegger has surgery to repair his fractured femur in California today. Schwarzenegger and wife Maria Shriver own a home north of Ketchum.
** LOCKYER CLEARS UNITED FARM WORKERS. Outgoing California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who will be inaugurated next month as the new state treasurer, has cleared the United Farm Workers union of possible criminal wrongdoing in the wake of several highly critical articles about the UFW at the beginning of the year in the LA Times about the union’s non-profit organizations and problems organizing farm workers. In a statement, Lockyer said that “the organizations broke no nonprofit laws but need to strengthen their procedures governing transactions and solicitations to avoid the appearance of impropriety.”
** TELLING POLLS IN IOWA AND NEW HAMPSHIRE. Last week’s poll in Iowa, already reported on here, and a new poll in New Hampshire sketch a very intriguing picture in this early stage of the 2008 presidential race. On the Republican side, John McCain is neck and neck with Rudy Giuliani in both states.
But the real intrigue is on the Democratic side. In Iowa, Barack Obama has climbed into a tie with John Edwards, while Hillary Clinton trails far behind with Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. In New Hampshire, there is essentially a dead heat for first place between Clinton, who still has a slight edge, and Obama, with Edwards slightly behind. Of course, these polls were taken following an amazing wave of publicity for Obama, who has the best-selling book in the country, “The Audacity of Hope,” reviewed here in the New York Times by Gary Hart.
Hart, the former Colorado senator and one-time presidential frontrunner, after noting diplomatically that Obama’s book is mostly about himself and not so much about a coherent strategy for America, writes admiringly but tellingly: “In a very short time, Barack Obama has made himself into a figure of national interest, curiosity and some undefined hope. This book fully encourages those sentiments. His greatest test will be that of sensing the times, of matching his timing with the tides of the nation.”
Obama’s New Hampshire trip earlier this month saw him rapturously received with many days of wall-to-wall media coverage. This also reverberated in Iowa, which gives heavy play to coverage of presidential politics. Unlike the other prospective candidates, there have been no negatives on Obama. Yet.
11:30 AM UPDATE: ARNOLD SURGERY UPDATE. Here is the statement from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s surgeon, Dr. Kevin Ehrhart:
“At 9:45 this morning our surgical team, consisting of myself, two assistant surgeons, an anesthesiologist and two nurses, completed a successful open reduction internal fixation on the upper part of Governor Schwarzenegger’s thigh bone. The surgery involved using cables and screws to wire the two main fragments of the Governor’s broken femur bone back together. It lasted approximately an hour an a half, was without complication, and the post-operation x-rays look great.
“Following the surgery, the Governor was awake, alert and talking in the recovery room. He is now fully coherent and I have cleared him to resume his duties as Governor. The Governor will remain in the hospital for three days, as is standard for this type of operation. Recovery will take approximately eight weeks and I expect the Governor to fully recover. The Governor is not in a cast and will use crutches to walk while his leg heals.”
** ARNOLD UNDERGOES SURGERY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is back early from his traditional Sun Valley vacation, repairing from his Idaho mansion to an undisclosed LA area hospital where he is undergoing surgery this morning to repair his broken leg. The Governor’s Office put out this statement from orthopedic surgeon Kevin Ehrhart: “Our team will repair the Governor’s fractured right femur by performing an open reduction internal fixation on the upper part of the thigh bone. This relatively common surgery involves using orthopedic cables and screws to help the bone heal.
“Governor Schwarzenegger will be put under general anesthesia for no longer than two hours and the surgery should last less than two hours. As is standard for this type of surgery, the Governor will be kept for observation for three days. The Governor will use crutches following the surgery and recovery will take approximately eight weeks.”
Outoing Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante serves as acting governor while Schwarzenegger is under anesthesia. California’s strategic forces have been placed in stand-down mode.
While Schwarzenegger’s surgeon says he expects no complications while the former action superstar makes a full recovery, the mishap will undoubtedly put a crimp in his style at next week’s second inaugural festivities.
** Monitor computer memory prices on a daily basis. Prices are stable.
** 8 AM ENERGY UPDATE. After rising some on word of Iran’s intransigence on its nuclear program, crude oil prices have slipped on expectations of further milder than normal weather through much of the U.S.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices are around $63 per barrel and appear to be rising on word that Iran will defy UN Security Council sanctions on its nuclear program.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger decks the halls with Santa(s) in his super-fantastic
Christmas classic, Jingle All The Way.
** TRACK SANTA AROUND THE WORLD. With a little help from NORAD.
** THE GOOD SHEPHERD. This long (2 hours, 40 minutes), deliberately paced film directed by Robert DeNiro, who plays a supporting role as a thinly fictionalized version of OSS spymaster General William Donovan, tries to tell an origin story of the CIA via the fictionalized tale of legendary/notorious CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton. The famous, or infamous, mole hunter of later years is presented here as “Edward Wilson,” a conveniently central figure in all aspects of the CIA, portrayed by Matt Damon in decidedly non-”Jason Bourne” mode.
Written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Eric Roth, who has dealt with somewhat similar material before in Munich and The Insider, The Good Shepherd is less successful. It follows the arc of the Angleton stand-in’s life from Yale in the 1930s to the immediate aftermath of the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961. (The US, for those not doing the history honor society thing, organized and backed a disastrous invasion of Communist Cuba by Cuban exiles.) The film, incidentally, posits the failure at the Bay of Pigs to a leak to a Soviet agent. Actually, it may have been due more to the fact that it was a completely idiotic plan.
It’s an interesting film, but, unlike Munich and The Insider, an honorable failure. There’s the pacing, which is not brisk. And there’s the central character, played with little affect and little more subtext by the estimable Damon, who is playing the character he’s given. The fictional Angleton figure is something of a cipher, relatively emotionless. His patriotism seems more a function of his emotionally closed off state and desire to please … As a young boy, he covers up the suicide of his high-ranking father, who was about to be disgraced, and as a young man is eager to betray a mentor. He’s a member of the Skull and Bones secret society, like President George W. Bush, which is presented as a founding cabal of the CIA.
He ends up married, through a misadventure that you might guess, to a senator’s daughter played by Angelina Jolie. Who then plays the wildly cast against type role of neglected wife. She’s fine in it, as is most everyone else in their roles in an outstanding cast, but a distraction from the overall gray tone of the film.
While he seemingly bizarrely ignores his spectacular wife — not because she is irritating, but because that’s just the closed off kind of guy he is — Damon’s character is off propagandizing and destabilizing governments. In a direct parallel to the real Angleton, he accepts and benefits from a KGB defector, who seems almost too good to be true. Then another defector emerges, who claims to be the first man.
Failed lie detector tests ensue, with the proferred explanation that Russians usually fail lie detector tests, due to the national soul, or something like that. All of that ends badly. In the murky conclusion of the affair, the name of a real life KGB officer, Yuri Modin, is tossed into the mix. Probably something of a writer’s in joke that no one will get, Modin was the real life controller of the Cambridge Five, famous Soviet double agents in British intelligence.
Chief among them was Kim Philby, who nearly became head of British intelligence (MI6) before being found out. (Yes, that would have made him James Bond’s boss.) Philby used to lunch every week with Angleton, who was apparently none the wiser. Angleton became the great mole hunter of the CIA. Having failed to tumble to Philby (who ended up in a vodka-drenched existence in Moscow, the Soviet honors for his treachery mostly posthumous), he later found moles and Soviet agents everywhere, disappearing down the rabbit hole of brilliant paranoia.
This latter part — in other words, that for which Angleton is famous — is not in the movie. That would make a great movie. This story is interesting, but not nearly so dramatic, notwithstanding its depiction of dramatic events. I think this movie is trying to say that the CIA was the invention of cold WASP elitists, who became utterly ruthless in the manipulation of information and the exercise of power. (And I of course deeply resent this callous stereotyping of my ethnic background.) The film plays stylistically and in terms of some of its tone in the manner of The Godfather II. In fact, at one point Francis Ford Coppola, one of its producers, was going to direct it. But it doesn’t reach anywhere near those heights, constricted as it is by its conception of its central character.
John and Elizabeth Edwards on Hardball, MSNBC.
** JOHN EDWARDS PREPS THURSDAY MOVES. Former Senator John Edwards, the Democrats’ 2004 vice presidential nominee, is getting ready to announce his candidacy for the 2008 presidential race. His campaign has said it will be sometime next week, in the unusual setting of New Orleans, where he is expected to emphasize the plight of the poor in Hurricane Katrina as emblematic of his Tale of Two Americas theme. While the campaign has not said when the announcement will take place, Edwards has scheduled a special town hall meeting in Iowa for Thursday, which sounds very much like part of a presidential announcement tour.
While the media has beey focusing almost entirely on the phenomenon of Barack Obama, until two years ago a state legislator in Illinois, and frontrunner Hillary Clinton, Edwards, runner-up for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, has been getting short shrift. But he is an experienced and attractive candidate, with real strengh in early states like Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina.
** ARNOLD BREAKS A LEG. You know the old show biz saying, a wry wishing of good luck prior to a performance: “Break a leg.” Well, that’s just what Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger did today. Break a leg. On the ski slopes of Sun Valley. Here’s the statement from his communications director and deputy chief of staff, Adam Mendelsohn:
“This morning while skiing with his family in Sun Valley, Idaho, Governor Schwarzenegger suffered a fracture to his right femur. After the accident the Governor was taken to a local hospital for x-rays and was soon discharged. He is currently at his home in Sun Valley, Idaho with his family. When the Governor returns to Los Angeles from his scheduled Christmas trip, he will have surgery to repair his femur. No one else was involved in the skiing accident.”
** OBAMA TIED WITH EDWARDS IN AN IOWA POLL. Senator Barack Obama‘s media phenom surge continues, with a new poll for a Des Moines TV station showing him tied with John Edwards for the lead in the 2008 Iowa Democratic presidential caucuses, 22% to 22%. Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, and the frontrunner for the nomination, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, trail with 12% and 10%, respectively. On the Republican side, Arizona Senator John McCain has 27% and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has 26%.
** GROW UP AND BE A PRISON GUARD. LA Times reporter Dan Morain has a jaw-dropping story today on by far the highest paid public employees around … California’s unionized prison guards. Over 6,000 of them make over $100,000 a year. More than 1600 make more than members of the state Senate and Assembly. How? Two reasons. Prison overcrowding and policies are leading to a lot of overtime. And the contract that the prison guards union struck with administration of former Governor Gray Davis is highly lucrative.
** PELOSI SAYS NO TO C-SPAN. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s widely proclaimed glasnost in congressional affairs will not extend to allowing C-SPAN to run its own cameras. The cable public affairs network requested control of the TV cameras in House proceedings, but on Friday the San Francisco Democrat said no. The shots currently allowed by the congressional leadership don’t really show what’s going on, restricted as they generally are to tight, static shots of whomever is speaking. As you can see from NWN videos, there are much more interesting and telling shots to be found at political events than the official view would have you see.
** Track global and national energy prices via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices are around $62 per barrel on expectation of warmer than normal weather in much of the US. Prices would probably be lower but for the usual spike in driving over the Christmas holiday.