Afghanistan is hurriedly preparing for its presidential run-off election on November 7th.
** QUICK HITS. Former Barack Obama campaign manager David Plouffe and former John McCain (and Arnold Schwarzenegger) campaign manager Steve Schmidt are joining forces to establish a center for political communications at the University of Delaware. Both attended the school, but left before graduating, and both are finishing their bachelor’s degrees. … That Sacramento Bee story revealing that ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman hadn’t registered to vote until she was in her late 40s continues to fall apart. … Someone named Jerry Brown has caused a bit of a stir with an appearance on CNBC. I may get into it in another “Jerry-Rigging.” Along with other things. He’s not someone you necessarily want to debate …
** OBAMA IN THE THICKET OF “AFGHANIRANISTAN.” Considering that he is the most recent winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, President Barack Obama is in a seemingly curious set of positions. He’s spurred major military offensives in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has been deeply enmeshed in a tense stand-off with Iran.
There are many complex things to be said about each of these situations, which are all interrelated with not only one another, but also US relations with such challenging countries as Israel and Russia. But let’s start with the basic versions. …
Obama is in the thicket of “Afghaniranistan,” a multi-faceted complex of geopolitical crises. He is actively using military force in two of the countries, and has threatened, at the least, tough sanctions in the third. (The Obama Administration also recently accelerated the development of advanced bunker-buster bombs, suitable for use against, say, underground nuclear facilities.)
Which is a seemingly odd place for the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner to be. …
** BIG PAY CUTS COMING FOR EXECS AT BAILED-OUT FIRMS. The Obama Administration is preparing to order major cuts in pay and bonuses for executives of the big companies bailed out by public funds.
Kenneth Feinberg, who was named the White House’s so-called “pay czar” in June, will demand that the seven largest bailout recipients lower the total compensation for their top 25 highest paid employees by 50%, on average, the official told CNN. For the past two months, Feinberg has been reviewing pay plans at Citigroup (C, Fortune 500), AIG (AIG, Fortune 500), Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), General Motors, Chrysler, GMAC and Chrysler Financial in an effort to put these firms in a position to pay back bailout money as soon as possible.
Under the plan, which is expected to be officially released by the Treasury Department next week, annual salaries for executives at those seven firms are expected to fall 90%, on average, the official said.
This has been a simmering public outrage for months, the phenomenon of firms that only exist today because they were bailed out by the government, continuing to pay enormous salaries and “performance” bonuses to executives who ran them into the ground with reckless moves.
** GUN OWNERS THINK OBAMA WILL TRY TO TAKE THEM AWAY. The new Gallup Poll contains an interesting piece of paranoia. Most gun owners say they think that President Barack Obama will try to take their guns away.
Which I am quite sure is false.
Gallup cites the results as explanation for the recent increase in the sales of guns and ammunition in the US.
Well, that and the preposterous level of conspiracy-mongering about Obama ginned up by the far right.
Majorities of those who personally own a gun (55%) and of those with a gun in the household (53%), as well as 41% of all Americans, believe that President Obama “will attempt to ban the sale of guns in the United States while he is president.”
The issue of Obama’s intentions relating to guns has particular relevance given the widespread news reports of sharply increased sales of guns and ammunition. Many of these reports suggest that the reason behind these increased sales is the belief — right or wrong — that the president intends to severely curtail the legal availability of guns and ammunition. A recent National Public Radio news story, for example, reported: “Gun dealers and bullet-makers are straining to keep up with record demand for ammunition. Some dealers think it’s because of fear that President Obama might limit gun use. Although the president has made no specific proposal, bullets for sportsmen have been scarce for months.”
And similar themes were struck in an Associated Press report: “American bullet-makers are working around the clock, seven days a week, and still cannot keep up with the nation’s demand for ammunition. Shooting ranges, gun dealers, and bullet manufacturers say they have never seen such shortages. Bullets, especially for handguns, have been scarce for months because gun enthusiasts are stocking up, in part because they fear that President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress will pass antigun legislation — even though nothing specific has been proposed and the president [in May] signed a law allowing people to carry loaded guns in national parks.”
Gallup’s question documents that for a majority of gun owners, the belief that the president intends to try to ban the sale of guns is apparently quite real. One is reminded of the sociological principle that if people believe a situation to be real, the consequences are real — whether or not that belief is factually correct. Thus, although the survey did not ask directly whether those who hold the belief that Obama wants to ban gun sales have acted on that belief in terms of increased purchases of guns and ammunition, a connection between the belief and the behavior is a logical hypothesis.
Those who have guns in the home are demographically and politically distinct from those who do not, so it is not surprising to find that belief that Obama is going to try to prohibit gun sales follows these same patterns. For example, Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats to have a gun in the home, and they are significantly more likely than Democrats to believe that Obama will attempt to ban the sale of guns. Additionally, the belief about Obama’s intentions regarding guns is somewhat more prevalent in the Midwest and South than it is on either coast, and is higher among conservatives than among moderates or liberals.
After international negotiations in Vienna appeared to stall in the wake of the deaths by terrorist bombing of much of its Revolutionary Guards leadership, Iran has agreed to have 75% of its nuclear fuel undergo further enrichment in Russia.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and New Jersey today.
Obama has had his daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 9:40 AM, Obama meets with Senator John Kerry in the Oval Office.
Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, has returned from Afghanistan where he played a key role in effecting a run-off presidential election upon a reluctant President Hamid Karzai.
Kerry, incidentally, personally picked Obama to deliver his famed 2004 Democratic national convention address, which vaulted Obama into the political stratosphere.
At 10:50 AM Pacific, Obama announces a package of initiatives that will increase credit to small businesses in the White House Rose Garden.
At 12 noon Pacific, Obama attends a Cabinet-level earthquake tabletop exercise at the Treasury Department.
At 12:40 PM Pacific, Obama departs Andrews Air Force Base on Air Force One en route to Newark, New Jersey.
At 1:35 PM Pacific, Obama arrives in Newark, New Jersey.
At 3:05 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a rally for New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
President Barack Obama, in New York last night, called on Wall Street to accept financial regulatory reforms after the near collapse of the global financial system.
Corzine is locked in a tight battle for re-election next month, but is on upward trend. The former Wall Street mogul is backing Obama’s call for re-regulation of the financial industry in the wake of last year’s near collapse of the global financial system.
At 4:25 PM Pacific, Obama departs Newark, New Jersey on Air Force One en route to Andrews Air Force Base.
At 5:20 PM Pacific, Obama arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, where he embarks on Marine One.
At 5:35 PM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
On the domestic front, Obama pressed Wall Street leaders during his trip yesterday to New York to accept financial regulations.
In Washington today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other congressional leaders are playing hardball with the insurance industry on national health care reform, threatening to strip the industry of anti-trust exemptions.
With regard to the Iranian crisis, there appears to have been something of a breakthrough in Vienna in the second round of international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. After refusing yesterday to deal at all with France, stalling yesterday’s talks, Iran today agreed in negotiations with the US, France, and Russia to send 75% of its nuclear fuel for further enrichment to Russia.
The other 25% is deemed unsufficient to start a nuclear weapons program. I’m not sure of the status of international inspections in Iran with regard to to that to be sure that it is only 25%, or whether the delayed inspection of the previously secret underground facility will take place this weekend.
However, this is a striking development, coming as it does not only on the heels of refusal yesterday to deal with the France but also on the heels of Iran accusing the US, Britain, and Pakistan with participating in terrorist bombings that killed much of the leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Perhaps that was a positive development in the diplomatic process.
In Afghanistan, officials are scrambling to mount a November 7th run-off election for president between President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. Half the country’s local elections officials have been fired in the wake of findings of massive fraud in what was claimed at first to be a landslide win for Karzai.
The Pakistani Army’s offensive in the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan is continuing. Pakistani forces are moving in a deliberate manner; this is not a blitzkrieg. Which would probably miss major pockets of resistance.
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden is off on a five-day trip to Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic. Biden today offered Polish leaders reassurance about their security following the Obama Administration’s decision to dump the Bush/Cheney missile shield plan (which would also have established an American base in Poland, angering Russia). Biden said that better ties with Russia will be best for the region.
Defense Secretary Bob Gates is in Japan, meeting with the new leadership of country long governed, until the recent election, by the Liberal Democratic Party. (Which wasn’t all that much of either.)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gives a major speech today in Washington on nuclear non-proliferation.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds private discussions today in Los Angeles and the Capitol.
The principal topic? California’s chronic water crisis.
However, a legislative hearing scheduled for today on a comprehensive water package has been posponed to next week.
At 3 PM, Schwarzenegger holds a press conference in the Capitol and signs state Senator Elaine Alquist’s bill restoring funding for battered women’s shelters.
** MAD MEN REVIEW: “THE COLOR BLUE.” … From my October 19th review.
** MAD MEN REVIEW: “WEE SMALL HOURS.” … From my October 12th review.
** WHY OBAMA DOESN’T DESERVE THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE, OR THE OLYMPICS RAP. When the Vulcans finally make first contact with the peoples of Spaceship Earth, there’s no doubt who most will choose to represent us. Which is when we may learn that President Barack Obama really is a “Manchurian candidate,” an alien agent, albeit not of the sort featured in even the sweatiest imaginings of the yaposphere.
Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize this morning makes it two surreal Fridays in a row.
Last week, we learned that Chicago would not host the 2016 Olympic Games. Which should have surprised approximately no one, not that you’d know that from the profusions of rage and disappointment — or from the far right, happy rage — that Obama’s trip to Copenhagen came up short. … From my October 9th column.
** ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, JERRY BROWN, BILL CLINTON AND THAT CRAZY CALIFORNIA GOVERNORSHIP. Six years ago last night, Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California in a 17-point landslide. It was the dramatic California recall election, and I spoke with Schwarzenegger in his suite at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles before he went downstairs to deliver his victory speech in the ballroom below.
The sun was setting, in the rather nice view from the presidential suite, into the Pacific and what proved to be more a more than capacity crowd was gathering downstairs. Schwarzenegger, naturally excited even when he’s not all that excited, told me he intended to do big things for California, and end the gridlock that ground state government to a halt less than a year after the re-election of Gray Davis.
Five years earlier, in 1998, I spoke with Gray Davis in his rather less cinematic election night suite at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. He had just won a 20-point landslide election as governor of California.
Davis, a less excitable fellow than Arnold Schwarzenegger, was nevertheless quite pleased at gaining this goal of a lifetime. He told me that he intended to do big things for California, but wanted to avoid spending commitments that the state’s revenue — then flush from the dot-com boom — couldn’t sustain over time.
Despite all the drama, and landslide election victories for governors of two different political parties — who are nonetheless friends now notwithstanding Schwarzenegger ousting Davis in the recall election six years ago — including another 17-point landslide victory for Schwarzenegger in 2006, the state’s budget is a mess, its political gridlock seemingly intractable.
Now California is heading into another gubernatorial election. And according to the brand new Field Poll, and everything else I know, the likely next governor is someone who’s already won a landslide election as governor, albeit 30 years ago. That’s Jerry Brown, who won his latest landslide in 2006 when he was elected California’s attorney general, the state’s top law enforcement officer. Brown is a former two-term governor, two-term mayor of gritty Oakland, and two-time runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination. … From my October 8th essay.
** MAD MEN REVIEW: “SOUVENIR.” … From my October 5th review.
** IRANIAN CRISIS: PROGRESS, PROBLEMS. … From my October 2nd column.
** IRANIAN CRISIS: RUN-UP TO NEGOTIATION. … From my September 30th column.
** MAD MEN REVIEW: “SEVEN TWENTY THREE.” … From my September 28th review.
** OBAMA’S SUMMITEERING: HIGH ALTITUDE HEADACHES AND RUMORS OF WAR. … From my September 25th 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, 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. You can listen to my recent video webchat with Schwarzenegger here.
** 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 $80 per barrel.
This is up about $46 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
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