Eight minutes from Charlie Wilson’s War: The playboy congressman (Tom Hanks) and maverick CIA officer (Philip Seymour Hoffman) meet and forge a sardonically amusing and fateful partnership to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. Which will hinge, as present irony would have it, on the participation of Pakistan.
** IOWA TRACKING POLL SHOWS VERY TIGHT RACES IN BOTH PARTIES. The Zogby organization has a telephone tracking operation, polling each night. The first set of results were released early Sunday morning. Here are the rolling numbers based on polling from December 26th through Saturday night.
Democrats: Hillary Clinton 31%, Barack Obama 27%, John Edwards 24%. All other candidates are way back in single digits.
Republicans: Mike Huckabee 29%, Mitt Romney 28%, John McCain 11%. Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani, thought a few weeks ago to be fighting it out for third, are both at 8%, as is Ron Paul.
A major caveat. I’m leery of any polling conducted over the holidays, not to mention polling on a weekend.
** RIGHT TIME FOR CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR? It’s an historical irony that Charlie Wilson’s War is out now as Pakistan dominates the headlines and newscasts. For it was with a necessary partnership with Pakistan that the US was able to prosecute the most successful covert war in history — the taking down of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The US forged an alliance with Pakistan’s dictator of the time, General Zia, to train and equip Afghan insurgents.
Zia, as it happens, overthrew Benazir Bhutto’s father, Prime Minister Ali Bhutto. Who was then tried by a tribunal and executed. Following the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan, Zia himself was killed — along with a planeload full of top generals and advisors, as well as the US ambassador — in a mysterious plane crash. This happened before the last Soviet troops, led by General Gromov, marched out of Afghanistan across the inaptly named Friendship Bridge in 1989.
The movie, incidentally, is also succeeding. Its box office this weekend will be higher than last weekend’s opening, which is quite unusual. The movie has garnered five Golden Globe nominations, for best picture, best screenplay (Aaron Sorkin), best actor (Tom Hanks), best supporting actress (Julia Roberts), and best supporting actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Hanks, by the way, is a San Francisco Bay Area native and alumnus of Sacramento State.
It’s succeeding where other war/Middle East-themed pictures have failed. I have to admit that I haven’t seen the Iraq-type pictures which came out in the fall. They looked boring and earnest and depressing. I deal with that stuff all the time in real life; I don’t need to be “entertained” by it. Apparently, and not surprisingly, few others did, either.
This movie is serious, but it’s also quite entertaining.
** IOWA, IOWA, IOWA. AND NEW HAMPSHIRE. The candidates continue their barnstorming across icy Iowa today, with the top three Democrats locked in a what might be a three-way statistical dead heat. Most soundings continue to give Barack Obama a slight edge over Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, depending upon how turnout is measured. Obama, Edwards, and Clinton each have four rallies today across the Hawkeye State. The weather forecast for January 3rd is clear and cold. In California terms. At 34 degrees, it’s positively balmy by Iowa standards for this time of year.
The Edwards strategy is predicated on the reduced universe of proven caucus-goers. Obama and Clinton are each looking to expand that. In Obama’s case, with young people. In Clinton’s case, with older women. Each is probably advantaged by good weather.
Meanwhile, the Republicans keep up their five-sided game of pool across two states, Iowa and New Hampshire, with Fred Thompson trying to restart his car and Rudy Giuliani trying to hold on while the three candidates of the moment — Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and John McCain — all duke it out.
Actually, Romney is forced to fight two formidable foes in two states that are absolutely key to his hopes. Despite some spin put out by Bob Novak, who is helping lead the charge against Huckabee, the ex-Arkansas governor continues to lead in Iowa. McCain is coming on in New Hampshire, where he has all the newspaper endorsements — including the neighboring conservative Boston Herald and liberal Boston Globe, Romney’s key papers when he was Massachusetts governor — and the two biggest papers in New Hampshire issuing “anti-endorsements” of Romney.
But Romney has the resources that Huckabee and McCain lack, and is a polished campaigner.
Pakistan, America’s frontline ally in the Terror War, is in a
suppressed state of chaos following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
** PAKISTAN CRISIS. Rioting continued for a third day across Pakistan, but declined in its intensity. Nevertheless, a survey of media reports indicates that few are buying the government’s story about how Benazir Bhutto died. The government, after initially saying she was shot to death, then saying she was killed by an explosion, is sticking with its third version of the story — that she was killed when her head hit the lever on her SUV’s sunroof. I don’t have an SUV, but my sunroof, moonroof, actually, doesn’t have a lever. Whatever.
The government story is incredible. Meanwhile, Bhutto advisors are saying that the government repeatedly denied her security requests. And no one has explained how her exit point came to be jammed by a crowd as she attempted to leave her kick-off rally site.
** NEW ENGLAND GOES FOR THE RECORD(S). The New England Patriots go for two records on Saturday as a team, and two key records for their star players. If the Pats beat the New York Giants tonight, they will break two amazing records. The perfect 14-0 regular season record set by the Miami Dolphins in 1972. Against a weak field, as it happens, with opponents who won barely a third of their games. And the 15-game regular season win mark first established by the 1984 edition of the San Francisco 49ers. Whose sole loss came on a hotly disputed pass interference call against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But who’s counting that? Besides NWN …
Also, Tom Brady goes for the single-season touchdown pass record tonight. At 48, he’s one away from Indy QB Peyton Manning’s 49. And Randy Moss goes for the single-season touchdown receptions record. At 21, he’s one away from 49er Hall of Famer Jerry Rice’s mark. Of course, Rice’s mark was set in a strike-shortened 12-game season 20 years ago, so if the astonishing Moss — so ill-used by the presently benighted Oakland Raiders the last couple of seasons before his escape to NFL nirvana in New England — breaks it, there will be an asterisk.
** 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 new 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. 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.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND U.S. ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Crude oil closed at $96 per barrel on Friday, down after flirting with $100 in the wake of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Energy markets are closed on the weekend.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.