Before heading to Camp David, President Barack Obama called yesterday’s election in Afghanistan a “step forward.”
** GARAMENDI IN STRONG POSITION FOR STRETCH DRIVE IN S.F. BAY AREA CONGRESSIONAL ELECTION. California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi is in a strong frontrunner position for the stretch drive into the September 1st special election to replace East Bay Congresswoman-turned-US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher.
Garamendi, a former US deputy interior secretary, two-time state insurance commissioner, and former state Senate majority leader, has a lead in all polls that I’m aware of, has the most money raised and most cash on hand in the multi-candidate field, and has most of the biggest endorsements, including those of the California Labor Federation, the Sierra Club, the California Teachers Association, and various central labor councils, community groups, and local elected officials.
Garamendi has also been endorsed by former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.
Since stepping away from the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Garamendi has been the frontrunner in the congressional special election and has done nothing other than to bolster his position.
Winning the Democratic nomination on September 1st will be tantamount to election for Garamendi, though he will need to run against a Republican in a run-off since he is unlikely to break the 50% mark.
** U.S. ECONOMY LOOKING BETTER, CALIFORNIA UNEMPLOYMENT UP AGAIN. US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said today that he thinks the economy is close to returning to recovery. But California’s unemployment rate went up again last month, to 11.9%, over 2% higher than the national rate.
Speaking at an annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wy., Bernanke echoed a statement made by the Fed earlier this month, saying that “economic activity appears to be leveling out, both in the United States and abroad.”
Bernanke went a step further though, indicating that “prospects for a return to growth in the near term appear good.”
But the central bank chief warned that problems remain in financial markets around the globe, and that with banks facing “substantial” additional losses ahead, businesses and consumers will continue to have trouble accessing credit.
“Because of these and other factors, the economic recovery is likely to be relatively slow at first, with unemployment declining only gradually from high levels,” he cautioned.
The New York stock market rallied today on Bernanke’s remarks, with the Dow Jones average up 156 points to 9506. You will recall that many worried that 7000 might not be a floor only a few months ago.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had this to say about California’s unemployment rate: “These numbers indicate that we must do everything possible to get California moving forward again. We must fix what is broken in this state – whether it is our water infrastructure, our prisons and pensions systems or updating our tax structure – these are the critical issues that need to be addressed to rebuild the Golden State. These reforms along with our on-going efforts to jump-start the economy and put Californians back to work will ensure that our state is on a direct path to recovery.”
** HEADING OFF TO VACATION, OBAMA SAYS HE’S SATISFIED WITH AFGHAN ELECTION. Just before flying over to Camp Davis for the first phase of his August vacation, President Barack Obama stood on the White House South Lawn and said he felt the election yesterday in Afghanistan went well. Some 300,000 US, NATO, and Afghan troops were deployed to prevent the Taliban from carrying out their threat to stop the election.
As he headed off to Camp David for the weekend, the president stopped to deliver a statement hailing the successful conclusion of the balloting as a victory for the USA and its Afghan allies. “We knew the Taliban would try to derail this election,” Obama said.
The president, who has made Afghanistan the main front in the USA’s war on terror, hailed “the record number of women” who ran for office in a country where the Taliban once banned women from obtaining an education.
But the president reserved his highest praise for the voters. “I was struck by their courage in the face of intimidation and their dignity in the face of disorder,” the he said.
There may be more Taliban violence to come, Obama warned. And his administration still doesn’t know with whom it will be working to quell that violence. Obama noted that the USA — a close ally of incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai during the Bush administration — did not back him or any other candidate.
Martha’s Vineyard is getting ready to welcome the Obamas for a week-long vacation on Sunday.
UPDATE: Obama will deliver remarks on the presidential election in Afghanistan at 10:20 AM Pacific on the South Lawn of the White House, and depart for Camp David on Marine One at 10:30 AM Pacific.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama heads to the presidential retreat at Camp David today as his summer vacation begins. The Obamas then go to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts on Sunday.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
At 7:30 AM Pacific, he meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 8 AM Pacific, Obama meets with former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in the Oval Office. Daschle, a top advisor in the Obama campaign, was to have been his health and human services secretary.
At 9:50 AM Pacific, Obama delivers brief remarks on the recent elections in Afghanistan on the South Lawn of the White House.
At 10 AM Pacific, Obama departs the White House on Marine One en route to Camp David.
** OBAMA AND THE AFGHAN ELECTION: WHAT IT MEANS, WHAT IT DOESN’T. The Obama Administration should be sighing with a sense of relief after the presidential election in Afghanistan. However, for those with nascent/encroaching nation-building fantasies, what happened with the Afghan election should be thoroughly disabusing.
The Taliban failed in their threat to halt the election, and were unable to pull off any of the promised spectacular attacks demonstrating a strong military capability. But that’s to be expected, as some 300,000 US, NATO, and Afghan troops were fanned out across the county to prevent just that. Better to keep our eyes on the real world goals in Afghanistan: Denying it as a base to Al Qaeda, and moving on in the mission of dampening Islamic opposition to America.
While we slid by in this election, it would be a huge mistake to imagine that we are any closer to realizing persistent nation-building fantasies in Afghanistan. It’s nowhere near a 20th century democracy, much less a 21st century democracy. Perhaps a 19th century democracy. But for the powerful forces ever insistent on dragging it back into the Dark Ages. … From my new column.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has private discussions today in and around the Capitol.
Schwarzenegger’s plan to reduce crowding conditions, and the state budget by more than a billion dollars per year, by reducing the prison inmate population by 27,000 was brought up yesterday in the Legislature.
It had to pass on a Democrats-only vote, as conservative Republicans do not want to be on record supporting such cuts.
The bill passed the state Senate, 21 to 19, but stalled late last night in the state Assembly. Even though Democrats have an overwhelming majority and mostly safe seats, not enough votes were mustered.
BBC coverage as Jamaica’s Usain Bolt did it again yesterday at the world championships in Berlin, shattering his own world record in the 200-meter dash with the astounding time of 19.19 seconds, just four days after shattering his own world record in the 100-meter dash with a 9.58.
** MAD MEN: “OUT OF TOWN” … SEASON 3 OPENER SATISFYING NOT SCINTILLATING. … From my August 18th column.
** MAD MEN RETURNS: THE ‘60S ADVERTISING DRAMA IS A TIME TUNNEL TO THE PRESENT. The much acclaimed, if not so much watched, Mad Men makes a welcome return for its third season Sunday night. I’ve found the series, now the flagship show on AMC, a channel once best known as a reliable source for late night viewings of Commando, to be very compelling from the beginning, if not exactly action-packed.
There are a number of ways to view Mad Men. For my own part, I can take it as a period piece, a sort of time capsule of the early ’60s, at once relatively close yet far enough away to be intriguing for its unfamiliarity. Or as an evocation of style, with the sort of glamour and cool associated with JFK and the early Bond films, in this case a New York variant including chain smoking, constant drinking, and sexual play continually tinged with sexual harassment.
It’s a character study, as well, for the surface glitter of the persuader class and those who attend them masks confusion and lack of identity. That could also make it a cautionary tale, albeit one set during the height of the post-war expansion of American affluence.
Which makes it, in turn, a meditation on the American Dream. Not entirely unlike The Sopranos, on which Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner served as an Emmy-winning writer and producer. Well, except for the fact that Mad Men protagonist/anti-hero Don Draper is a charismatic and enigmatic New York ad man, not a perpetually depressed, poetically crude New Jersey mob boss. … From my August 14th essay.
** SOTOMAYOR, OBAMA, AND THE LOOMING REPUBLICAN RACE PROBLEM. … From my August 13th column.
** WHEN SHOULD GAY MARRIAGE ADVOCATES TRY TO REVERSE CALIFORNIA’S PROP 8? … From my August 11th column.
** OBAMA’S CAIRO ADDRESS: TWO MONTHS ON. … From my August 5th column.
** IS OBAMA GETTING OVEREXPOSED? … From my July 28th column.
** ANOTHER ‘60S ANNIVERSARY: THE UR-ACTION BLOCKBUSTER GOLDFINGER. … From my July 21st essay.
** WHY THE BIG FADE FOR BRUNO? … From my July 19th column.
** HILLARY’S BACK! (OR NOT). … From my July 15th column.
** DIMINISHING RETURNS FOR OBAMA’S SUMMITEERING? … From my July 12th column.
** OBAMA DOES MOSCOW, AND VICE VERSA. … From my July 8th 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 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 is trading around $74 per barrel.
This is up about $40 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.