Another big car bombing has hit Baghdad, this one targeting a police crime lab, killing at least 21 people, many of them police officers involved in crime scene investigation.
** QUICK HITS. A few conversations with folks in Washington yields a sense of incipient hysteria that might even begin to approach that of cable and the blogoshere. Deep breaths, everybody. A little zazen is in order on all sides. The alternative is a political and media culture that strokes out. … With serious trouble in Afghan governance, major efforts are underway to reach out to the Taliban. Several leading Taliban members have been removed from a UN sanctions list. Will this create a split with more hardline members? … The accused shooter at an Army recruiting office in Little Rock last June (he killed one soldier and wounded another) now says he’s a member of Al Qaeda. The recent Muslim convert did travel to Yemen in 2007 and 2008, before, ironically, being deported back to the U.S. … The state Assembly has yet to schedule hearings in the latest special session on California’s chronic budget crisis. The state Senate has been having hearings for the last week or so. …
** SCOTT BROWN NEED NOT APPLY: CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS IN THE POST-ARNOLD ERA. Is there a Scott Brown-like figure to surprise California Democrats this year? No. The politicians who are vying to replace Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as the ranking California Republican could scarcely be less like Scott Brown. Or, for that matter, Schwarzenegger.
The Republican who takes on wily Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown — the former governor, presidential candidate, and Oakland mayor — will be not a pickup truck-driving pseudo-independent but a plutocrat hugging the far right rail of the current Republican primary.
The Republican who takes on feisty Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer will be not a populist-sounding moderate inveighing against the manipulations of entrenched wealth and power but a golden parachute corporate CEO, a fringe right state legislator, or an intellectual ex-congressman whose faculty advisor was Milton Friedman.
And none of them will be a global icon with a common touch. …
An enthusiastic President Barack Obama welcomed the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers to the White House yesterday, along with some enthusiastic LA area members of Congress.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
Obama has received his daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 9 AM Pacific, he has lunch with business leaders in the State Dining Room.
At 1:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Defense Secretary Bob Gates in the Oval Office.
Obama is prepping for Wednesday night’s State of the Union address.
He is expected to focus on economic revival efforts and on blossoming federal red ink.
Obama had always planned to pivot to the economy and a more populist stance with regard to Wall Street excess following the holidays. He was blocked in this first by the 12/25 Al Qaeda attack, then by the need to finalize negotiations on the national health care reform bill, the positive aspects of which he’d planned to trumpet in his State of the Union address.
That’s not happening, of course, due to last week’s debacle in Massachusetts. Without which most of the noise in the media culture since then would never have been heard.
Obama will propose something of a freeze on federal spending, but only in limited fashion. Independent voters are wary of all the goverment spending of the past year on bailing out the financial system and stimulating the economy, which in turn comes on top of the record deficits that Obama inherited from the Bush/Cheney White House. And there is creditor concern over America’s heavy deficit spending.
The federal government, unlike, say, the State of California, can borrow and print money for its day to day operations. Which in the Bush/Cheney era included massive unfunded federal programs and tax cuts for the wealthy and two overseas wars.
Obama’s proposed three-year freeze on spending covers programs for which Congress appropriates money every year, such as parks, air traffic control, education, and farm subsidies. It does not include defense and security spending, foreign aid, veterans benefits, or entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
It also does not include a second economic stimulus package of $150 to $200 billion, which passed the House last month.
The $250 billion in savings over 10 years is dwarfed by the roughly $10 trillion in additional debt the governemnt is expected to accrue over that time period.
Obama has also proposed a deficit reduction commission. But that is likely to die in the Senate, perhaps today. Why? Because conservatives fear that some tax increases will be proposed. And liberals fear that some spending cuts will be proposed. This will undoubtedly sound familiar to Californians who’ve seen their state become increasingly ungovernable.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq, where suicide bombers struck again today, killed about 40 people in bombings targeting hotels in Baghdad.
Vice President Joe Biden’s mediation efforts in Iraq, where the government is banning hundreds of Sunni candidates from national parliamentary elections, do not seem to have borne fruit.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in San Diego today.
At 10 AM, he holds a press conference at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, presumably to announce a new grant for biomedical research from billionaire Denny Sanford, who made his fortune in the credit card business.
** WHAT SCOTT BROWN KNEW IN 2010 AND BARACK OBAMA KNEW IN 2008. This past Tuesday night, the politics of positioning beat the politics of branding. As it frequently does. Scott Brown figured it would. As Barack Obama did in 2008.
Here’s something to keep in mind amidst all the hype, hysteria, and hubris srrounding last Tuesday’s Massachusetts special election. But for one of the worst Democratic campaigns in American political history, you wouldn’t be hearing any of this. … From my January 22nd column.
** 24 NATION. Well, 24 has returned, with a vengeance. The controversial hit TV series, one of the key shows of the past decade, is proving relevant in this decade, too. As recent polling clearly shows, it turns out that its hardball ethos on terrorism resonates just as well in the Obama Era as it did in the Bush/Cheney years. … From my January 19th column.
** DOCTOR WHO: THE LONG GOODBYE. … From my January 6th essay.
** THE BAND OF THE DECADE: THE BEATLES?! What does it say that the biggest musical group of the first decade of this new millennium recorded its last album 40 years ago? … From my January 1st essay.
** DOCTOR WHO: THE ENDING IMPENDING. … From my December 28th essay.
On Monday, Avatar passed director James Cameron’s previous record-holder Titanic in global box office. Each film has grossed over $1.8 billion around the world. Avatar was released just five-and-a-half weeks ago. Cameron also directed Terminator, Terminator 2, and True Lies starring Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
** THE COMMON THREADS OF AVATAR. Is Avatar the future of cinema? Probably. … From my December 22nd essay.
** COPENHAGEN BLUES: OBAMA’S WEAK HAND ON CLIMATE, AND THE CALIFORNIA OPTION. … From my December 16th column.
** OBAMA’S LINCOLNESQUE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE. … From my December 11th column.
** HOW JERRY BROWN CLEARED THE DEMOCRATIC FIELD FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA. … From my December 9th 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, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** HELP FOR HAITI.
** 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.
** 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 $75 per barrel.
This is up about $41 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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