Pakistan vows to defeat the Taliban. A major offensive with air and ground forces is underway in the scenic Swat Valley, a one-time resort haven where the Taliban declared sharia law. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are fleeing the scene.
** QUICK HITS. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had a snappy answer when the first question at the big event in LA this afternoon announcing the biggest highway project in the country was about the state budget crisis. Schwarzenegger acknowledged his failure in stopping the global economic meltdown. The Cali budget went from a chronic situation to a critical situation when the economy went down hard last fall. … Another new development coming out of President Barack Obama’s problematic AfPak summit. The Afghan and Pakistani intelligence agencies have agreed to coordinate information. The proof will be in the pudding, of course, with Pakistan’s long highly controversial ISI. … According to Gallup, Democrats now lead Republicans in all age groups of the American electorate.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … STAR TREK‘S NEW COMING-OF-AGE SAGA FOR GENERATION O.
** OBAMA TO ADDRESS MUSLIM WORLD IN SPEECH NEXT MONTH IN EGYPT. It’s not happening in the first 100 days as promised, but President Barack Obama will give a major address to the Muslim world next month in a major Muslim city, somewhere in Egypt. It will probably be Cairo.
Obama did give a widely covered address to the Turkish parliament last month on his international tour. But this is likely to be in a very public setting. The speech will come on the trip in which Obama journeys to France for the anniversary of D-Day on June 6th.
** PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN AGREE TO JOINT BORDER FORCE. Another result of President Barack Obama’s AfPak summit — Pakistan and Afghanistan have announced that they are forming a joint border force to patrol the region between their two countries. There has been very little coordination up to now, allowing Afghan Taliban fighters to use Pakistan as a safe haven.
** CALIFORNIAN CALDERA OUT AS TOP OBAMA AIDE. White House Military Office Director Louis Caldera, a former California assemblyman from LA and secretary of the Army in the Clinton Administration, resigned today after last month’s Air Force One photo op flyby of the Statue of Liberty terrified thousands of New Yorkers, who feared a repeat of 9/11.
Caldera assumed that there had been notification of the move. There had not been. In any event, many would not have gotten the word. Obama was furious.
Under pressure from the Obama Administration, the Pakistani Army has launched an offensive against the Taliban. We’ll see how it goes, and how the army, with many Islamists within, holds up under the stress.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama’s AfPak summit concluded yesterday and his administration has one of its major wishes fulfilled. The Pakistani Army is engaged in a major offensive against the Taliban running things in the Swat Valley, once the country’s resort area.
Obama has had his daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 8:30 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks on job creation and job training from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Jobless claims are down for the first time in six months, though the unemployment rate – always a lagging indicator during an economic recovery – is up again.
At 12:15 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania in the Oval Office. Casey was a key supporter of Obama in the primaries, and is concerned about his state counterpart, Arlen Specter, who has switched from Republican to Democrat, but none too gracefully, perhaps earning a Democratic primary challenge next year.
** NEW CALIFORNIA POLL: MORE TROUBLING NEWS FOR PROPOSITIONS. The new Public Policy Institute of California poll is off embargo, and it contains more troubling news for the state budget compromise-related initiatives on the May 19th special election ballot.
Here are the numbers.
• Prop. 1A (Spending Limit, Rainy Day Fund, Tax Hike Extension)
52% No, 35% Yes.
• Prop. 1B (Guaranteed Education Funding)
47% No, 40% Yes.
• Prop. 1C (Lottery Securitization)
58% No, 32% Yes.
• Prop. 1D (Shift Tobacco Tax for Kids)
45% No, 43% Yes.
• Prop. 1E (Shift Millionaire Tax for Mental Health)
48% No, 41% Yes.
• Prop. 1F (Freeze Legislative Salaries in Budget Down Years)
73% Yes, 24% No.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s job approval rating is 34%. The state Legislature is less than half that.
The poll shows that Californians are frightened and uncertain about their economic futures. In this environment, shelling out more money is a tough sell.
There are other factors as well. The recent Field Poll showed that most voters want spending cut more, but are against cuts in 10 of 12 policy areas, picking only prisons and parks for the axe, a completely non-serious scenario. In addition, you have the recurring hyperpartisanship of state politics. The reaction of the far right is it can all be made up with cuts, not that they are specifying what those might be. On the far left, the line is that it can all be made up with a change in the 2/3 vote requirement on tax hikes, not that the public favors that, or with a majority vote-only budget, not that that can be shown to be constitutional. Speaking of gridlock.
Ironically, Californians, while down on the state’s direction, and state pols, are very much up on America’s future, and one pol in particular.
When Barack Obama was inaugurated, only a third of California voters saw America as moving in the right direction. Now it’s a majority.
** ANOTHER PROBLEM FOR SCHWARZENEGGER. The Obama Administration, at the request of SEIU, has advised the governor that California’s $74 million in cuts for unionized home health care workers violates the economic recovery act and jeopardizes billions in economic recovery funds. The two administrations are haggling over this now, as California doesn’t have the money. On the other hand, it needs the money from the recovery act, needless to say.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joins former Governor-turned Attorney General Jerry Brown and other notables this morning at the Peace Officers Memorial near the Capitol to deliver remarks at the 33rd Annual Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony to honor 19 officers killed in the line of duty. The ceremony will conclude with a 21-gun salute, taps and retiring of the colors.
This afternoon, Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles, where he will be joined by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass to hold a press conference announcing the construction groundbreaking of the largest highway project in the nation utilizing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) funds to date.
The project, a $1 billion-plus widening of I-405 Sepulveda Pass, has been on hold since 2001.
** OBAMA’S TROUBLED AFPAK SUMMIT. The optics seem more telling than the rhetoric.
President Barack Obama is hosting his first summit of his wartime allies, the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the so-called “AfPak” summit, dealing with what Obama calls the biggest geopolitical threat to America’s security. But there’s no state dinner in their honor. No address to Congress, which must fund Obama’s plans (and may attach conditions).
And the principal social event, a dinner for the presidents hosted by Vice President Joe Biden at the Naval Observatory, has its own ironic backstory. Biden famously walked out of a dinner last year with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
After their meetings today, Obama struck a note of optimism. …
** OBAMA’S CRISIS MANAGEMENT: OF FLU AND AFPAK. President Barack Obama has had two more crises to deal with in the past week. And, as he did with the crises around Somali pirates and a North Korean missile launch, he gave the most public attention to the least consequential crisis, while working heavily behind the scenes on the most consequential crisis.
This time it was the so-called swine flu and the rolling jihad in deteriorating Pakistan. The flu has caused media mayhem, with the cable culture locking on to it around the clock.
By now, however, the light is starting to dawn that this really is not like the flu in Stephen King’s The Stand. … From my May 4th column.
The new Star Trek‘s first full day in theaters is today. As in this classic 1967 episode from the original series, The City On the Edge of Forever, shown here in its entirety, time travel figures prominently in the new rebooted version.
** THIS X DOESN’T MARK THE SPOT. Big comic book and scifi movie extravaganzas can make big points about society, sometimes even catching the zeitgeist, as we saw with 2008’s The Dark Knight. The X-Men series has been at the forefront of this, exploring the changing nature of humanity, our relationship with technology, and the concept of otherness in a mass society. And doing it amidst unique powers, cool tech, and some bracing action.
Unfortunately, most of that which intrigues one intellectually and moves one emotionally is missing in the fourth entry in the franchise, X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
It’s not a bad movie. (And it does provide an amusing explanation for one of the most famous events of the 1970s.) In fact, it is shaping up as a big hit. It’s a pretty good action flick, but the movie lacks the intellectual depth and soul frequently found in the X-Men series. I was entertained. But it’s going to fall far short measured against the Star Trek and Terminator movies coming later this month in the cultural significance sweepstakes.
The basic plot seems borrowed, at least in part, from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1985 action vehicle, Commando. …
** OBAMA’S DEEPENING AFPAK CRISIS. With the appropriate huzzahs for President Barack Obama’s first 100 days still ringing in the air, his new AfPak strategy, for the linked crisis of Afghanistan and Pakistan, is already in deep trouble. Events have accelerated beyond the assumptions underlying it, especially in Pakistan, and much of the past few days in the administration was taken up with re-strategizing, including discussions on Air Force One as the president flew back-and-forth for a Missouri town hall yesterday and a full-scale National Security Council session before that.
This could be a tremendous disaster for America. As we are serially distracted by the various ADD obsessions of our media culture.
What’s wrong? Most immediately, the slow-rolling jihad in Pakistan and a relatively new government there that’s been fighting with functional modernist governmental rivals and cutting deals that don’t work with the Pakistani Taliban. And in the long term, an approach in Afghanistan that leans in the direction of nation-building rather than simply — though it’s not simple — keeping Al Qaeda too disrupted to launch serious attacks on America. …
** OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA: ANGST AND IRONY FOR WINNING DEMOCRATS. … From my April 28th column.
** OBAMA’S EARTH DAY ENERGY DECLARATION: CALIFORNIA MAY BE THE NATIONAL MODEL HE SAYS, BUT IT’S NOT ENOUGH. … From my April 23rd column.
** THE REPUBLICAN CHOICE: REACT OR MODERNIZE. … From my April 22nd column.
** THE STATE OF PLAY OF STATE OF PLAY. … From my April 18th column.
** OBAMA AND MEXICO: MANAGING INCIPIENT CHAOS. … From my April 17th column.
** EARL GREY, ANYONE? A CALIFORNIA CAPITOL TEA PARTY. …… From my April 15th column.
** OBAMA’S CRISIS MANAGEMENT: OF PIRATES AND MISSILES. … From my April 13th column.
** 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 Huffington Post column.
** 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, which I know as a former DemRussia advisor, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. 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.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial. 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.
** SCHWARZENEGGER’S CALIFORNIA. Here is my series of five columns on the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Los Angeles Times in debate last fall, prior to the global economic meltdown, with Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times reporter/editor Bill Boyarsky, whose columns are also included. Among them is what I’m sure is the first piece examining Schwarzenegger’s legacy as governor of California. Since he will actually be governor of California until 2011. No technology known to be disruptive to the space/time continuum was used in its preparation.
** 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, crude oil is trading around $58 per barrel, a six-month high.
This is up about $24 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, due in part to some positive economic signs and in part to fresh geopolitical jitters over Pakistan.
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