More than 100,000 people have fled their homes in South Waziristan. The Pakistani province bordering Afghanistan is the setting for intense fighting between troops and the Taliban.
** QUICK HITS. ABC News says that Senator Harry Reid has the votes for public option in the national health care bill. At least 51 for the policy, and the needed 60 to block a GOP filibuster when it’s part of the conference package. Opponents can vote against the policy and accept the package. … A panel of federal judges reiterated that California has three weeks to come up with a workable plan to reduce the prison population by more than 40,000. Okay then. … A top Iranian legislator said today in Tehran that Iran won’t ratify the nuclear deal it negotiated in Vienna yesterday. He may not speak for the regime.
** THE BACKLASH TO THE CALIFORNIA BACKLASH BEGINS? Time magazine has a big story out now on how California is NOT the dystopia that many media reports have made it out to be. That in fact it is the avatar of the latest future that is already being born. Right here.
I think it’s a rosy scenario, yet there is no question that a real sense of history yields the insight that California has been in the toilet many times before. “The Day of the Locust” is a very old story now. Yet the doom never really arrived.
I can write an essay on this, and will, but not today and not in response to a magazine story. For now, I’ll state the obvious, which is that it serves a variety of purposes to claim that California is dead. It serves the far right, it serves the far left, it serves elements of big business, it serves rival regions, and so on.
California has many leading edges, notably green energy and tech, the new next big thing, biotech, the constant next big thing, diversity, and a big economy that’s still ailing.
Its trailing edge lies in and around its Capitol. California’s governance is holding the state back. It’s not the fault of any one person, it’s really a matter of hyperpartisanship taking hold again with state revenues falling through the floor coupled with an excess of interest groups looking at the state in the narrowest of terms.
Anyway, here’s the article. And some excerpts … The End of California? Dream On!
California, you may have heard, is an apocalyptic mess of raging wildfires, soaring unemployment, mass foreclosures and political paralysis. It’s dysfunctional. It’s ungovernable. Its bond rating is barely above junk. It’s so broke, it had to hand out IOUs while its leaders debated how many prisoners to release and parks to close. Nevada aired ads mocking California’s business climate to lure its entrepreneurs. The media portray California as a noir fantasyland of overcrowded schools, perpetual droughts, celebrity breakdowns, illegal immigration, hellish congestion and general malaise, captured in headlines like “Meltdown on the Ocean” and “California’s Wipeout Economy” and “Will California Become America’s First Failed State?”
Actually, it won’t.
Ignore the California whinery. It’s still a dream state. In fact, the pioneering megastate that gave us microchips, freeways, blue jeans, tax revolts, extreme sports, energy efficiency, health clubs, Google searches, Craigslist, iPhones and the Hollywood vision of success is still the cutting edge of the American future — economically, environmentally, demographically, culturally and maybe politically. It’s the greenest and most diverse state, the most globalized in general and most Asia-oriented in particular at a time when the world is heading in all those directions. It’s also an unparalleled engine of innovation, the mecca of high tech, biotech and now clean tech. In 2008, California’s wipeout economy attracted more venture capital than the rest of the nation combined. Somehow its supposedly hostile business climate has nurtured Google, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Facebook, Twitter, Disney, Cisco, Intel, eBay, YouTube, MySpace, the Gap and countless other companies that drive the way we live.
“Whenever we have a problem, everyone makes a big drama — ‘Oh, my God, it’s the end. California is over,’” Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told me. “It’s all bogus.” Schwarzenegger likes spin and drama too — he’s issued warnings about a “financial Armageddon” — and he literally blew smoke in my eyes while we spoke. But his belief in the anything-is-possible dream of California is more than spin; he is, after all, its ultimate embodiment.
California, to borrow a phrase, will be back. It’s been stuck in an awful recession — not quite as awful as Nevada’s — but it’s getting unstuck. …
** JERRY-RIGGING: THE FOIL KNOWN AS CNBC. Jerry Brown garnered lots of buzz with his appearance on CNBC Tuesday afternoon. They invited California’s attorney general on to, ostensibly, talk about his lawsuit against State Street Bank for ripping off the state’s pension fnds. Turns out they wanted to be cynical and, in thinly veiled fashion, make light of the whole thing.
Big mistake. And predictable, given that it’s CNBC.
Brown had his way with them, as he is wont to do, in an inspired bit of theater seen in a popular video clip and in this column on the Huffington Post, where he describes the action.
You’ll note that Brown is now right above me on the HuffPost front page. Which I am, needless to say, none too happy about …
If street thugs were to hold up a convenience store and drive off with $1 million, it would be national news. But when a venerable Boston bank rips off California’s two largest pension funds for $56 million, it’s business-as-usual — at least to the anchors of CNBC. …
But, in a commentary post today, CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera sneered at California’s effort to recover $200 million in damages and penalties, using a made-up quote from Elliot Spitzer to call it “quaint.”
This follows an interview Tuesday that was straight out of the Daily Show. CNBC invited me on to talk about the case, and then Caruso-Cabrera asked why I would come on the air to talk about it.
Her co-anchors seemed to have no problem with the rip-off (“as long as they quoted you a dollar and you paid the dollar, what do you care what they got it for”) and questioned the integrity of the whistle-blowers (“that whistle-blower — is that a private law firm that you guys have hired to do this for you?”) Unbelievable. And for the record, the whistle-blowers are industry insiders who have yet to be named.
The tone and substance of the interview are symptomatic of the Eastern financial elite, who think that $200 million is small potatoes, and big business should be given the benefit of the doubt.
In my book, there’s nothing quaint about corporate fraud. There’s nothing quaint about ripping off pension funds. And, I — along with attorneys general from across the nation — will continue to bring these high-priced rip-off artists to justice.
President Barack Obama announced new lending initiatives to help small businesses have more access to credit during a visit yesterday to Metropolitan Archives in Landover, Maryland.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
Obama has had his daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
At 7 AM Pacific, Obama meets with Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, via videoconference in the Situation Room.
At 8:05 AM Pacific, Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 9:30 AM Pacific, Obama meets with Speaker Nancy Pelosi for lunch in the Private Dining Room.
At 11:15 AM Pacific, Obama signs the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act in the East Room.
At 12:15 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner in the Oval Office.
At 12:45 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.
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.
Iran has until Friday to commit to a draft agreement aimed at reducing global concerns over its nuclear activities. A deal was hammered out yesterday in Vienna by representatives of Iran, Russia, the US and France. Russia will do the bulk of the nuclear fuel processing for Iran, with France also playing a significant role.
Iran yesterday agreed in negotiations with the US, France, and Russia to send 75% of its nuclear fuel for further enrichment to Russia. Now the deal has to be ratified in the respective capitals, with Tehran the potential obstacle.
(France is also part of the nuclear fuel processing, contrary to earlier Iranian protests.)
The other 25% is deemed insufficient to start a nuclear weapons program. I’m not sure of the status of international inspections in Iran with regard to being sure that it is only 25% of the total, or whether the delayed inspection of the previously secret underground facility will take place this weekend. Nevertheless, this is a striking development.
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.
Abdullah has agreed to take part, and there is talk of a coalition government ahead.
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 on a five-day trip to Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic.
Biden is reassuring allies but not rattling the cage of Russia, which is key to defusing the Iranian crisis.
Defense Secretary Bob Gates is in Japan, meeting with the new leadership of a country long governed, until the recent election, by the Liberal Democratic Party. (Which wasn’t all that much of either.) Gates is finding some resistance. Japan has already pulled out of a naval refueling operation for Afghanistan.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds private discussions today in Los Angeles and events in the LA area.
The principal topic? California’s chronic water crisis.
A legislative hearing set for yesterday was postponed till next week.
At 9 AM, Schwarzenegger holds a press conference in the City of Industry to sign legislation easing the path for a possible new NFL football stadium.
At 7 PM, Schwarzenegger speaks to the Southern California Water Committee on the topic of California’s chronic water crisis and a potential breakthrough in the Capitol.
He continues to think that a breakthrough deal is in the cards.
** 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. …
** 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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