Hours after a car bomb in Peshawar killed at least 91 people, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kicked off a three-day visit to Pakistan, where she praised the country’s fight against jihadists and pledged U.S. support.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … AFPAK, AGAIN: THE THICKET OBAMA’S NOT GETTING OUT OF.
** QUICK HITS. President Barack Obama today signed the national defense bill that kills some costly weapons projects, such as the F-22 fighter, and expands war efforts. In a major civil rights change, the law also makes it a federal hate crime to assault people based on sexual orientation. That was tacked on to the defense bill to gain needed Republican votes it wouldn’t get otherwise. … Obama meets with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Friday to discuss Afghanistan. It looks like he will split the difference on the advice he’s getting. … Legislative hearings today finally, however, no action yet on a California water deal after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger held additional talks with legislative leaders. … Assemblyman Tom Ammiano said today he hopes that he and Schwarzenegger have a “clean slate” after the action superstar sent an acrostic F*** Y** veto message after Ammiano screamed “You lie!” and “Kiss my gay ass!” at him at a dinner at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Schwarzenegger vetoed most of his bills. … Why is the Bay Bridge closed, snarling traffic all over the San Francisco Bay Area? High winds late yesterday afternoon broke a portion of the span repaired over Labor Day weekend. How reassuring. … Advocates of a California constitutional convention turned in language for two proposed initiatives to authorize and then create the convention. They hope to qualify for the fall 2010 ballot. … GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Steve Poizner and Tom Campbell debate each other again tonight at Brandman College in Orange County. Putative front-runner Meg Whitman is again a no-show, after challenging them to debate three times this fall. … I think Jerry Brown is going to speak at a college tomorrow. If he’s able to awaken from his nap in time, I’m sure he’ll bore the poor kids to tears …
** NEW NBC NEWS POLL REVEALS MUCH ON AFGHANISTAN, NATIONAL HEALTH CARE, CONVENTIONAL PARTISANSHIP. With President Barack Obama’s ratings holding steady, a brand new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is very revealing about with regard to views on Afghanistan, national health care reform, and hyperpartisan fighting and gridlock in Washington.
A plurality of Americans now backs a troop increase, and a strong majority supports waiting on a decision until after the country conducts its presidential runoff election next month.
Also, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid moves forward crafting a Senate health-care bill that contains a public option — with a state “opt out” — the survey shows support for a government-run insurance plan is at its highest level since the debate began and opposition is at its lowest level.
Perhaps most revealing, the poll highlights the public’s disgust at Washington, with the number trusting government at its lowest level in 12 years and with nearly half of Americans favoring the creation of a new political party.
Let’s take those one at a time. On Afghanistan, the message is decidedly mixed. Decidedly. While there is support for a troop increase — which is a sharp reversal since last month — it’s at a much lower level than that advocated by the commander for Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal. Think 10,000, not 40,000. And nearly as many want to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan right now.
On national health care, the public option is favored by a near majority. But most doubt the overall plan, not that they understand it. Still, most want to pass an Obama health care plan, while worrying at the same time that it might go too far.
What is especially striking is the public disgust with Washington. (It sounds like Californians’ disgust with the Capitol.) A big majority says there’s too much partisan infighting. Republicans get the rap more than Democrats, but a strong plurality blames both parties. And nearly half want a new independent party.
But asked to choose between Republicans and Democrats, the not so Grand Old Party gets the decidedly shorter end of the stick. Only 25% have a favorable view of the Republican Party, while 42% have a favorable view of the Democratic Party.
That ties the Republicans’ all-time low.
This is a country that is rather confused and contradictory, and decidedly disappointed, with regard to its politics.
Afghan police said an attack today by gunmen on a United Nations house in Kabul has left 12 dead. The Taliban have claimed responsibility, saying the assault was aimed at the upcoming presidential election on November 7th.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have received the president’s daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
At 8 AM Pacific, he delivers remarks at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony in honor of former Senator Edward Brooke, the first black senator.
At 9 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden have lunch in the Oval Office.
At 10:20 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden host a meeting with the co-chairmen of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and the senior leadership of the intelligence community in the Cabinet Room.
At 11:30 AM Pacific, Obama signs the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 in the Rose Garden.
At 12:10 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Secretary of Defense Bob Gates in the Oval Office.
At 1 PM Pacific, Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 2:30 PM Pacific, Obama attends a commemorative tree planting at the North Portico.
At 3:05 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the East Room.
In other action, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden attend Game One of the 2009 World Series in New York City.
Eight American troops were killed on Tuesday in Afghanistan, making October the deadliest month of the war.
National Security Advisor General James Jones is in Moscow today on a two-day visit to confer with top Russian leaders on the Iranian crisis, Afghanistan, NATO, and other matters.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Pakistan, conferring with that nation’s leaders.
Obama is monitoring geopolitical crises in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has private talks in and around the Capitol today.
He has no scheduled public events.
His principal topic? A possible deal on California’s chronic water crisis.
He’ll also be focused on the crisis in the San Francisco Bay Area occasioned by the breaking of a cable on the westward span of the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. That happened last night.
The Bay Bridge is now closed in both directions, which will lead to increased gridlock in the region. How soon will the bridge be fixed? That’s not clear.
Schwarzenegger is getting a lot of attention for a veto message on a minor bill by San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. First reported by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Schwarzenegger’s message, written in innocuous language, takes on a different cast when the first letter of each line is read top to bottom. It’s a two-word phrase that starts with “F.”
Schwarzenegger’s staff calls it a coincidence, noting that other less charged words can be seen in the same way.
Do I think this is intentional on Schwarzenegger’s part?
Ammiano notoriously screamed “You lie!” and “Kiss my gay ass!” at Schwarzenegger when he was Willie Brown’s guest at a recent San Francisco Democratic Party dinner. Brown was greatly and publicly displeased by these childish antics. Not that Schwarzenegger was fazed in the least by the display.
The daily newspapers went wild over this great event. What was oddly never reported, however, is that Ammiano ran against Willie Brown when the ex-Assembly speaker went for his second term as San Francisco mayor in 1999. So there was additional history there. Especially since Brown won in a 20-point landslide after Ammiano forced a run-off as a write-in candidate.
Seeing what was happening, I covered Ammiano’s primary night headqarters event for the LA Weekly. And it was immediately obvious to me, as I reported at the time, that Brown would destroy Ammiano in the run-off. Ammianno wasn’t mainstream enough to win a city-wide election in San Francisco.
** MAD MEN REVIEW: “THE GYPSY AND THE HOBO.” … From my October 26th review.
** CHINATOWN’S 35TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION AND THE POLANSKI SCANDAL. In one of the great ironies, the 35th anniversary edition of Chinatown came out this month, nearly at the same time that its director, Roman Polanski, was arrested in Switzerland after fleeing Los Angeles over 30 years ago following a guilty plea and brief imprisonment for unlawful sex with a minor.
Chinatown, the tale of a smart, tough detective investigating what he thinks, at first, is a simple case of infidelity in late 1930s Los Angeles, is my favorite film. On the surface, it’s a period detective picture, a big Hollywood movie with the trappings of film noir. Beneath, it’s much more. Armed with an alarmingly intelligent screenplay by Robert Towne, brilliantly cast from stars Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway down through the extras, the film creates its own mesmerizing world through evocative music, costuming, and production design.
“You may think you know what you’re dealing with, Mr. Gits. But believe me, you don’t.” (Words to always keep in in mind, which I sometimes have not.) From my October 23rd essay.
** 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. … From my October 21st column.
** 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. … From my October 9th column.
** ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, JERRY BROWN, BILL CLINTON AND THAT CRAZY CALIFORNIA GOVERNORSHIP. … 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.
** 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 $79 per barrel.
This is up about $45 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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