Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has exploded across US movie screens, grossing over $200 million in its first five days, second fastest start of all-time behind only The Dark Knight. I find the critically-reviled film only moderately entertaining, but a fascinating phenomenon.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … TRANSFORMATIVE: LE CINEMA DE MICHAEL BAY.
** OBAMA TODAY – SUNDAY. President Barack Obama has no scheduled public events today.
The US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, said today that US combat troops were withdrawn from Iraqi cities today. This move came two days ahead of schedule.
Some troops remain as advisors and security for US personnel.
In Iran, a few thousand people reportedly tried to demonstrate outside a mosque in Tehran. They were forcibly dispersed by Iranian security forces.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad again complained that Obama should not criticize the Iranian regime for its crackdown on protesters. He did not again demand that Obama apologize.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE – SUNDAY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has no scheduled public events today.
He is holding meetings and discussions in and around the Capitol on California’s chronic-turned-chaotic budget crisis.
Schwarzenegger has some changes to his budget plan that do not raise taxes or cut as heavily into what he see as an illusory budget reserve as Democrats want, but would preserve a diminished version of the state’s welfare program.
In his weekend video/radio address, President Barack Obama praises the major energy and climate change legislation that passed the House of Representatives late on Friday.
** OBAMA TODAY – SATURDAY. President Barack Obama has received his daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Obama has no scheduled public events today.
He and his administration are pleased that the House passed, late yesterday, a major energy and climate change bill by LA Congressman Henry Waxman and others, which would set up a cap and trade system on greenhouse gas emissions and a renewable energy portfolio. It’s the first time that either house of Congress has adopted major climate change legislation.
But the vote was only 219 to 212, with 44 Democrats voting no — and eight Republicans voting yes — and the legislation faces a tough hurdle in the Senate. House passage required the strong support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a push by the Obama Administration and former Vice President Al Gore, Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work on climate change.
Obama is of course monitoring the situation in Iran, where once large protests have fizzled in the face of a massive security presence ordered by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The time in Tehran is eleven-and-a-half hours ahead of California.
The Iranian regime, having largely shut down the protest movement, is moving now to brand it as largely an invention of foreign manipulators.
Indeed, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said again today that Obama made a mistake in criticizing the regime if he intends to negotiate with Iran.
The real action in Iran may be the infighting amongst the ruling elite.
There are various rumors about the whereabouts and activities of opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, the former prime minister under Ayatollah Khomeini. He does seem to have urged his supporters to be more circumspect in their opposition with various symbolic acts that don’t directly challenge the Islamic state, which he says he continues to support. Communicating almost entirely through his web site, Mousavi nonetheless vows to fight on, though to what effect is another matter.
Mousavi agreed today to seek government permits for any future demonstrations he participates in, effectively removing himself from the fray as those permits will not be forthcoming.
Obama is also closely monitoring several other crises: In North Korea, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
President Obama dispatched Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for three days of talks in Moscow in advance of next month’s summit with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE – SATURDAY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger engages in private meetings and discussions, mostly focusing on California’s chronic-turned-chaotic budget crisis.
He has no scheduled public events.
Various moves by Democratic legislative leaders on the budget have failed, as predicted.
And nothing was accomplished Friday, though the late Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett were honored by the Legislature.
** STAR TREK FIRSTS … 43 YEARS ON. Some 43 years after it began, and seven years after the movie franchise seemed completely played out, Star Trek is making firsts again. And so far, it’s the most popular movie of the year in America. …
** OBAMA AND THE AYATOLLAH. Two weeks after his landmark address in Cairo, where he honored traditional Islam and extolled engagement with modern Islam, President Barack Obama finds himself in a conundrum. Determining what to do about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who just told the people of Iran, in an unusual nationally-televised sermon at the end of Friday prayers, to stop acting like they live in a democracy.
It’s a particularly tricky question for Obama, because he has an unusual dual role to play: Inspirational global icon and president of the United States.
As the president of the United States, it’s Obama’s job to figure out the needs of America and go about meeting them. As a global icon, he is expected to inspire. … From my June 19th column.
** OBAMA’S CRISIS MANAGEMENT: NORTH KOREA, AGAIN. President Barack Obama changed the old kabuki in dealing with his second North Korean crisis. The first time around, back in April, dealing with a long-range missile test that failed to place a satellite in orbit, Obama treated the effort as more of the same rather baffling attention-seeking by the Hermit Kingdom. This time, after a string of provocations including an underwhelming underground nuclear detonation, a series of missile launches, and the imprisonment of two California-based journalists, Obama went in another, tougher, direction that may lead to a naval confrontation. … From my June 12th column.
** REMEMBERING AMERICA: OBAMA’S D-DAY SPEECH AND TWO DAYS IN JUNE. There’s no question that timing is, as it were, of the essence in politics. Consider the timing of President Barack Obama’s address to the Muslim world, coming as it did just two days before the 65th anniversary of D-Day.
Most focus simply on the Cairo speech. But that speech exists in a larger context, alongside the speech over the weekend in Normandy which bookended it on Obama’s second big international tour.
On Thursday in Cairo, Obama gave his rhetorical best to reposition a mostly peaceful America in the future of the Muslim world. On Saturday in Normandy, he reminded of America’s glittering, and far more martial, past. … From my June 8th column.
** REPOSITIONING AMERICA: OBAMA’S CAIRO SPEECH AS THE ULTIMATE IN EVENT MARKETING. … From my June 4th column.
** TERMINATING THE DARKNESS: HOPE FLOATS, BUT ANXIETY ABIDES. … From my May 31st column.
** THE AVOIDABLE TRAGEDY OF CALIFORNIA’S PROP 8. … From my May 26th column.
** OBAMA’S NEW CALIFORNIA-BASED CLIMATE POLICY: SIX KEY THINGS TO KNOW. … From my May 20th column.
** 24 AND THE TORTUOUS POLITICS OF TORTURE. … From my May 18th 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 last July 11th, crude oil closed on Friday at $69.16 per barrel. Energy markets are closed on the weekend.
This is up about $35 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 geopolitical jitters over North Korea and Iran, though the latter have lessened substantially over the past week.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.