Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says she is encouraged by Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s pledge to battle corruption and get his security forces sufficiently trained to take the lead within five years. Clinton attended Karzai’s inauguration today in Kabul.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … CONSIDERING MAD MEN.
** QUICK HITS. Little-known Belgian Premier Herman Van Rompuy was selected as the first full-time European Union president tonight at a dinner in Brussels. British Baroness Cathy Ashton was selected as the EU’s first foreign minister, a consolation prize for Tony Blair being denied. If only he hadn’t backed George W. Bush so strongly. He would then have had the left’s backing. Despite Iraq, he never had the right, which runs most small European countries. … University of California regents voted today to raise student fees by one-third over the next year, bringing the annual cost of a UC education over $10,000 before basic costs. … California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass says the state Assembly will act on legislation to qualify the state for Obama Adinistration education challenge grants by mid-December. The Senate has already done it, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is now quite insistent.
** OBAMA RESPONDS, AT LENGTH, TO BANNED CUBAN BLOGGER. Check this out, it is quite intriguing.
President Barack Obama today responded at length to a series of questions from Cuban blogger Yoanni Sanchez, a sharp critic of the Castro regime — and of America’s efforts to isolate the island nation — on her blog.
The president’s answers to seven questions she had sent him run more than 1000 words in length.
Thank you for this opportunity to exchange views with you and your readers in Cuba and around the world and congratulations on receiving the Maria Moore Cabot Prize award from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism for coverage of Latin America that furthers inter-American understanding. You richly deserve the award. I was disappointed you were denied the ability to travel to receive the award in person.
Your blog provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba. It is telling that the Internet has provided you and other courageous Cuban bloggers with an outlet to express yourself so freely, and I applaud your collective efforts to empower fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of technology. The government and people of the United States join all of you in looking forward to the day all Cubans can freely express themselves in public without fear and without reprisals. …
He makes it clear that he wants to talk with Cuban President Raul Castro, but not for the sake of talking alone. And that while he has eased some sanctions on Cuba, there will be no further easing without reciprocal liberalization.
** BRING THE CRAZY: 52% OF REPUBLICANS SAY ACORN STOLE THE ELECTION FOR OBAMA. A brand new Public Policy Polling survey says 52% of Republican voters are saying that the controversial organization ACORN actually stole the presidential election last year for President Barack Obama.
It’s an even bigger conspiracy theory result than the “birther” nonsense that Obama isn’t really an American citizen.
Precisely how ACORN, a community organization which really isn’t very powerful, could pull off such an incredible feat is left unmentioned. I can’t recall the last time I talked with anyone from ACORN, and I do follow Democratic politics a little.
PPP’s newest national survey finds that a 52% majority of GOP voters nationally think that ACORN stole the Presidential election for Barack Obama last year, with only 27% granting that he won it legitimately. …
Belief in the ACORN conspiracy theory is even higher among GOP partisans than the birther one, which only 42% of Republicans expressed agreement with on our national survey in September.
Overall 62% of Americans think Obama legitimately won the election to only 26% who think ACORN stole it for him, as few Democrats or independents buy into that line of thinking.
The organization is generally unpopular though, with only 11% of voters viewing it favorably to 53% with an unfavorable opinion and 36% without one. The only politician we’ve polled on this year with comparably bad favorability numbers is John Edwards. The constant harping on ACORN by Republican politicians may sound nutso in some circles, but it certainly has hurt the organization’s image and it looks like the anti-ACORN message may resonate with a decent portion of the American electorate. ACORN is probably well overdue for a rebranding.
** BROWN SAYS CALIFORNIA COMMISSION CAN SLASH STATE OFFICIALS’ SALARIES. A few weeks ago, top staffers for the California Legislature requested a legal opinion from Attorney General Jerry Brown as to whether the California Citizens Compensation Commission can reduce the salaries of legislators and other state elected officials in the middle of their terms.
Brown’s answer is yes, it can.
Brown pointed to the voters’ 1990 approval of Proposition 112, which requires the Commission to “adjust the annual salaries of state officers” each year. Proposition 112, he says, contradicts and supercedes a ballot measure adopted in 1972 that prohibited mid-term salary reductions.
“Any other interpretation would require assuming against all evidence that the voters in 1990 intended mid-term annual adjustments to only go up and never down, even in the face of a faltering economy and huge budget deficits.”
Legislative leaders had questioned the Commission’s authority after it voted earlier this year to reduce their and their colleagues’ salaries by 18%.
** BLAIR REPORTEDLY WITHDRAWS. When the day began, Britain’s Gordon Brown was still pushing for Tony Blair to become the first president of Europe.
The dinner to decide the presidency of the European Council is tonight in Brussels, with 27 heads of government gathering. Blair had heavy opposition, but it had yet to coalesce.
But now, according to British sources, the former prime minister is pulling out of contention, which he’d never formally announced. Most Eropean governments are center-right, which Blair is not, and the emerging description of the post is centering more on a facilitator than a leader.
As a consolation, Britain may get the new European foreign minister post, with Baroness Catherine Ashton, leader of the Labor Party in the House of Lords and a European commissioner for trade, a likely choice.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama finished his visit to Korea today and is en route to Washington on Air Force One, with a brief stopover in Alaska.
The time in Korea is 17 hours ahead of the time in California. It is GMT + 9.
At 10:20 PM Pacific, Obama spoke with service members at Osan Air Force Base in Soth Korea.
At 11:05 PM Pacific, he departed South Korea on Air Force One en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska.
At 6:40 AM Pacific, Obama arrived in Anchorage, Alaska.
At 8:40 AM Pacific, he departs Anchorage, Alaska en route to Washington, DC.
At 3:05 PM Pacific, Obama arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, where he boards Marine One.
At 3:20 PM Pacific, he lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
Back in Washington, Vice President Biden meets with Senator Richard Lugar at the White House, attends a memorial service for Monsignor William Kerr, and hosts a reception at the Naval Observatory for leading members of the arts community.
And Senator Harry Reid is lining up votes for national health care reform. There may be a vote to stop a Republican filibuster this weekend.
Obama’s trip to Asia had mixed tidings. He probably stabilized relations in the region — a good thing to do, given our fateful fixation on the Middle East and South Asia — without achieving any breakthroughs.
President Barack Obama held a rather stilted town hall meeting with students handpicked by the Chinese government early this week in Shanghai. Obama was joined by his new ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, former Republican governor of Utah.
For example, in their various remarks, Obama and Chinese leaders sounded like they agreed on Iran, climate change, and trade. But the devil is in the details. And the details so far indicate no specific agreements, unlike the progress that Obama made with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Singapore.
And other issues, as I wrote in last week’s column linked below, followed the president to Asia.
Speaking in early today in Seoul, Obama strongly criticized Iran for its endless delays on the nuclear pact its negotiators agreed to last month, delays which have apparently ended with Iran saying no to the deal which would have sent its uranium to Russia for enrichment.
I think the president is postponing the next phase of the Iranian crisis as he deals with other matters.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew on from China to Afghanistan, where she attended today’s inauguration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The decision on Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan is expected in a few weeks.
In other action, Britain’s Gordon Brown is still pushing for Tony Blair to become the first president of Europe.
The dinner to decide the presidency of the European Council is tonight in Brussels, when 27 heads of government gather. Blair has heavy opposition, but it has yet to coalesce.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in California following his trip to Israel, Iraq, Austria, and Italy.
Schwarzenegger is pushing the state Assembly to follow the lead of the Senate in passing legislation to make California eligible for the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top education challenge grants.
Since California had specifically de-linked student performance from teacher evaluation, it is currently ineligible for the big pot of money that President Obama set aside to promote edcational reform. And with the state budget in crisis, those funds will be needed.
At 1 PM, Schwarzenegger tours Sixth Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles, then delivers remarks.
** THE INEVITABLE FLUKE THAT IS SARAH PALIN. Five minutes into yesterday’s Oprah extravaganza with Sarah Palin, I messaged Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s presidential campaign manager: “So how did you know Bristol was pregnant before it was announced?”
His immediate reply: “I didn’t, untrue.”
Palin had just said that Schmidt, the evident villain of her new book, “Going Rogue,” and other top McCain advisors had already known that her teenage daughter was pregnant with an illegitimate child and had marching orders for her even before she was picked as McCain’s shock vice presidential nominee.
Palin continued in a similar vein throughout her ballyhooed Oprah interview, constantly hitting the girrrl power/female victimization tropes of daytime TV, casting herself as an individual struggling against male control. Except, of course, for “God and Todd.” It’s all a tissue of nonsense when you think about it, including her silly notion that an interview with the anchor of CBS News was supposed to be “light and fun.” Whether Oprah really bought the act or not, she appeared to appreciate it. That is, after all, how it’s done.
Which took me back to when I learned that the preposterous Palin had become the possible next vice president of the United States …
Sarah Palin was a fluke. Had to be. A non-serious and irresponsible fluke. That was what I thought when I saw she was about to be named McCain’s running mate on August 29, 2008. …
** OBAMA IN FLUX. As he embarks on his first big trip to Asia, President Barack Obama’s strategies are in flux in many areas. …
It’s no surprise that Obama is being followed on his Asian trip by other crises. Because so much in his geopolitics is so fundamentally unresolved, making that Nobel Peace Prize more than a bit premature. … From my November 13th column.
** MAD MEN‘S SENSATIONAL SEASON FINALE. … From my November 9th review.
** OBAMA’S OFF TO A VERY GOOD START. One year ago, Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. Is his presidency delivering on the promise of his candidacy? Yes. I think he’s off to a very good start. But I’m not doing handstands. … From my November 4th column.
** IT’S NOVEMBER 22, 1963 ON MAD MEN. … From my November 2nd review.
** MAD MEN REVIEW: “THE GYPSY AND THE HOBO.” … From my October 26th review.
** CHINATOWN’S 35TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION AND THE POLANSKI SCANDAL. … From my October 23rd essay.
** OBAMA IN THE THICKET OF “AFGHANIRANISTAN.” … From my October 21st 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 $77 per barrel.
This is up about $43 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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