Afghan Taliban fighters with AK-47s and suicide vests attacked a police station today in Khost, a provincial capital near the Pakistani border, the second such recent attack less than a month before Afghan elections. The effort failed again, with seven Taliban killed and none on the allied side.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … IS OBAMA GETTING OVEREXPOSED?
** OBAMA TODAY – SUNDAY. President Barack Obama has no scheduled public events.
US special envoy for South Asia Richard Holbrooke is in Afghanistan this weekend, where Taliban forces in their stronghold of southern Afghanistan have been dispersed, at least for now, by the Marine offensive Obama ordered there.
With less than a month till Afghanistan’s presidential election on August 20th, Taliban fighters have been attempting to stage terrorist attacks in other parts of the country, without success so far, as you see in the footage above from Khost.
Also on Sunday, Taliban fighters attempted to assassinate one of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s two vice presidential running mates as he campaigned outside Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. The attempt failed.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on CNN’s State of the Union, said that she has the votes in her chamber to pass universal health care. The details, however, are still being worked out.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her first appearance in her new post on NBC’s Meet The Press this morning. She said that Iran will not be allowed to develop a deployable nuclear weapon and that the US is committed to diplomatically engaging the troublesome Islamic republic despite the regime’s crackdown on protesters claiming that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wasn’t really re-elected last month. Protests have largely subsided.
Clinton also credited China with helping bring North Korea back from the edge of confrontation.
Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will co-host with their Chinese counterparts a conference on global economic recovery on Monday and Tuesday in Washington. Both America and China will have large delegations in attendance.
In other news, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin formally steps down as governor of the Land of the Midnight Sun today after a series of three picnics with soon-to-be former constituents. Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and poster girl for America’s far right, served just over half of her first and only term as governor. At just under 700,000, Alaska’s population is less than that of any of California’s 40 state Senate districts.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE – SUNDAY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has no scheduled public events.
Schwarzenegger is working this weekend on another $1.1 billion in cuts to California’s reeling state budget. These cuts will come through line-item vetoes.
The additional budget cuts — on top of the approximately $15.5 billion already enacted in the latest budget — were made necessary by the state Assembly knocking a $1.1 billion hole in the budget passed by the Senate.
In his weekend video/radio address, President Barack Obama argues that small business will benefit from his health care reform.
** OBAMA TODAY – SATURDAY. President Barack Obama has no scheduled public events today.
Obama has received his daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He is continuing to focus on universal health care, which has run into some turbulence. Not surprising, as it was President Teddy Roosevelt who called for universal health over 100 years ago and it has yet to be achieved.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she has the votes to pass health care in the House. Of course, if she had them in hand for a bill in actuality, she would probably call the vote.
There is still major wrangling underway regarding the shape of the bill between liberal and moderate Democrats, with LA Congressman Henry Waxman’s Energy and Commerce Committee the center of contention. Negotiations have waxed and waned, but are apparently on again. A bill has already cleared the House Ways & Means Committee, once the key committee in the House.
In the Senate, the Finance Committee is the center of contention. That’s why Obama summoned Senate Majority Harry Reid of Nevada and Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus of Montana to the Oval Office during the week.
There’s a good chance that the House will pass universal health care legislation before the August recess. Though Pelosi may delay the recess for her members until they pass the bill.
There is no chance that the Senate will pass a bill before going on recess, though the White House has hopes that the Senate Finance Committee will.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attended the Friday evening parade outside the U.S. Marine Corps Barracks in Washington, a staple of summertime in the capital.
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden is resting up some this weekend at the Naval Observatory, which is the vice presidential residence in Washington. He’s back from his tour of Ukraine and Georgia, where he reassured the two US allies and former Soviet republics on the border of Russia about US intentions toward them while pursuing a closer relationship with Russia. Without committing to any new program of military support.
Biden also met yesterday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was still in Washington following his first-ever visit to the White House earlier in the week. Here’s the pool report, from a Politico reporter, which inadvertently shows you how worthless most pool reports from the conventional media really are:
Your pool was escorted into the Roosevelt Room at 11:37a.m as Biden–just back from his four day trip overseas– was casually chit-chatting with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki. “It’s so good to have you, welcome,” Biden said to al-Maliki.
Appearing in the room with VPOTUS this morning: Ambassador Chris Hill, Jeffery Feltman (the acting secretary of state for near east affairs), Molly Phee the (NSC director for Iraq), Tony Blinken, Herro Mustafa and Gamal Helal, (the interpreter.) Standing alongside al-Maliki: Hoshyar Zebari (Iraqi Foreign Minister), Abd al Qadir al-Mufriji (Iraqi Minister of Defense), Sadiq al-Rikabi (adviser), Yasin al-Majid (adviser), and Samir al-Suaydi (Iraqi ambassador to the U.S.)
Biden did not make remarks to the press. He simply shook hands and cracked a few jokes along the way.
After greeting al-Maliki, Biden recognized a familiar face in the room, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, and he proceeded to crack a friendly joke at his expense. Pointing at the foreign minister, he turned to al-Maliki and then to the interpreter in the room and said, jokingly, “Would you translate…I said, ‘You had to bring him along?”
After the interpreters translated Biden’s remarks, the row of Iraqi leaders laughed and made little quips of their own.
After hugging the foreign minister, Biden shook hands with all the Iraqi leaders.
“How are you…good to see you,” Biden said, making his way down the row. “Nice to see you.” At the end of the line, he cracked another joke: “This is what I want to look like when I grow up,” he said.
It was unclear who he was referring to.
Pool escorted out at 11:40a.m.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE – SATURDAY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has no scheduled public events today.
In his weekend radio address, he maintains a positive mode with regard to the legislative leaders and the version of the state budget that finally emerged on Friday afternoon.
But the reality is that the state Assembly opened a $1.1 billion hole in the budget, as I mentioned yesterday, which Schwarzenegger will have to make up in as yet undisclosed ways.
Schwarzenegger is expected to sign the budget next Tuesday.
Needless to say, California’s chronic-turned-chaotic budget crisis isn’t over. But the state will be able to stop issuing IOUs.
Though not yet. The state Treasurer’s office needs to assess the budget and financial markets to determine when and how the state can gain the customary bridge financing of summer months.
** ANOTHER ‘60S ANNIVERSARY: THE UR-ACTION BLOCKBUSTER GOLDFINGER. We have two iconic ’60s anniversaries this week. Ironically, it’s the least known by far of the two that continues to resonate most in the culture. On July 20th, 1969, a human being first walked on the Moon. On July 21st, 1964, Goldfinger wrapped principal photography.
We haven’t gone to the Moon for 37 years, nor can we go to Mars, as the Apollo 11 astronauts are urging, anytime soon, but we sure go to blockbuster action movies. And Goldfinger is the ur-action blockbuster. … From my new essay.
** WHY THE BIG FADE FOR BRUNO? Bruno, the follow-up to ace comedy star Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 smash hit Borat, is one of the most hyped movies of the year. It’s gotten so much publicity it feels like it’s about to come out on DVD. But after a fast start on Friday, July 10th, the mockumentary about a gay Austrian fashionista has been fading badly ever since. This past weekend, it’s down 73% from the opening weekend.
Why the big fade? It’s actually not much of a mystery.
Once you see the movie, the only mystery is why it wasn’t predicted in the first place. … From my July 19th column.
** HILLARY’S BACK! (OR NOT). Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ballyhooed address Wednesday to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington fell decidedly flat. For a few fairly obvious reasons.
First, President Barack Obama, like a number of other presidents before him, starting with Thomas Jefferson, is his own secretary of state. Second, Obama has already laid out America’s new geopolitics, in a series of major addresses in Prague, Cairo, Moscow, and Accra, Ghana, as well as in announcements here in the US on new policies with regard to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Thus making Clinton’s speech an exercise in echo. Third, Obama has other very powerful geopolitical counselors, including Vice President Joe Biden (whom a mutual friend told me when he was tapped for the ticket really wanted to be secretary of state), a coterie of special envoys reporting to the White House, and National Security Advisor Jim Jones, the former NATO commander and Marine Corps commandant.
And fourth, Clinton has been neatly mouse-trapped by Obama. She and her husband have been moved off the political gameboard by Team Obama. As I expected when I wrote about her appointment here on the Huffington Post when it was rumored last November. … From my July 15th column.
** DIMINISHING RETURNS FOR OBAMA’S SUMMITEERING? President Barack Obama returned early Sunday morning from a near week-long international tour that took him to a key summit in Moscow, a G-8 summit, and his first appearance in Africa as president. But some suggested, with his poll numbers down a bit and media attention mostly elsewhere, that his summiteering is having diminishing returns.
Perhaps. But I think it has at least as much to do with the media culture.
American media, especially cable TV news, is moving more into infotainment mode, stuck on a few areas. Geopolitics has never been its strong suit, and political coverage is mostly focused on food fights. Which was unfortunate, as following on to his addresses in Prague and Cairo, Obama gave the final two of his advertised four major speeches on his new geopolitics last week, in Moscow and in Accra, Ghana. … From my July 12th column.
** OBAMA DOES MOSCOW, AND VICE VERSA. … From my July 8th column.
** OBAMA’S CONSEQUENTIAL FIRST 4TH: NOKO, AFPAK, IRAQ, RUSSIA, PALIN (PALIN?!) … From my July 4th column.
** THE GOP’S PALIN FOOD FIGHT: WHY NOW? … From my July 2nd column.
** TRANSFORMATIVE: LE CINEMA DE MICHAEL BAY. … From my June 29th essay.
** STAR TREK FIRSTS … 43 YEARS ON. … From my June 23rd essay.
** OBAMA AND THE AYATOLLAH. . … From my June 19th column.
** OBAMA’S CRISIS MANAGEMENT: NORTH KOREA, AGAIN. … From my June 12th column.
** REMEMBERING AMERICA: OBAMA’S D-DAY SPEECH AND TWO DAYS IN JUNE. … From my June 8th column.
** REPOSITIONING AMERICA: OBAMA’S CAIRO SPEECH AS THE ULTIMATE IN EVENT MARKETING. … From my June 4th 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, 2008, crude oil closed on Friday at $68.05 per barrel. Energy markets are closed on the weekend.
This is up $34 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.