Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, toured Marjah, site of the recent offensive, today in southern Afghanistan. Yesterday he announced what has already been reported here and elsewhere, that the next offensive will be in the 1990s cradle of the Taliban, Kandahar.
** QUICK HITS. President Barack Obama, appearing with French President Nicolas Sarkozy after their one-on-one Oval Office meeting this afternoon, said that the U.S. and its allies will move on a tough new round of sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program in a few weeks. Sarkozy, for his part, pledged that he will work with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to ensure that all of Europe backs the American play. … Sarkozy also condemned Israel’s recent moves to continue settlements in the disputed West Bank area, saying that it poisons the well with Palestinians and angers the Arab world. … Afghan President Hamid Karzai today ended a round of peace talks with a major group aligned with the Taliban. No agreement was announced.
** GUESS WHICH CALIFORNIA POLITICAL CANDIDATE IS ON THE AMAZON BEST-SELLER LIST. No, it’s not the one who spent weeks on a high-profile book tour and millions on advertising promoting her supposedly wondrous qualities as a corporate executive.
Poizner’s memoir, “Mount Pleasant: My Journey From Creating A Billion Dollar Company To Teaching At A Struggling Public High School,” is number 3 on the Amazon list of best-selling books, notwithstanding the fact that it won’t be released until Thursday.
What’s ahead of the Poizner tome?
The latest book by clever financial writer Michael Lewis, “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine,” on the machinations that nearly collapsed the global economy, is number one.
And far right commentator Sean Hannity’s latest effort, “Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama’s Radical Agenda,” is number two.
I have to confess that I have not read either Poizner’s book or billionaire Meg Whitman’s earlier effort. LIke the ghost in The Ghost Writer, I’m actually not much one for reading political memoirs.
** 24: DOWN FOR THE COUNT? It’s end of the line time for 24, the ground-breaking TV series that, as much as any, seemed to symbolize the Bush/Cheney era. The word came out late last Friday from Fox that the series was ending, “by mutual agreement.”
Ironically, the show hit a high-water mark for the season last night, with a tense, rousing episode harkening back to its glory days. And there wasn’t a torture scene in sight.
Actually, the writing was on the wall last fall, when Fox executives said that this eighth season of the show might be the final one. And so it is. Ratings dropped during the Winter Olympics and haven’t come back up. Before the Winter Olympics, 24 averaged nearly 11 million viewers per episode. That dropped suddenly to 8.5 million when the Olympics began and never recovered; viewership is down to 8.3 million. (Despite the big drop, 24′s ratings are still only a little lower than those of Lost.)
Meanwhile, contracts are up — star Kiefer Sutherland (resolute series anti-hero Jack Bauer) reportedly makes $13 million per season and certainly wasn’t likely to take a pay cut — and so are costs, as happens with any long-running series. And by the end of this season, 24 will be the longest-running espionage series ever.
It would be tempting to say that 24′s controversial — and very unrealistic — reliance on torture as a ready solution to thorny plot points has something to do with ratings going down. But that would be wrong. (Be warned that there are a few spoilers ahead.)
The reality, as a brand-new CNN poll shows, is that most Americans agree with the hardball approach that 24 embodies. Popular support for closing the notorious prison at Guantanamo Bay is down sharply. It was 51% last year; now it’s down to 39%. …
** WHICH PARTY LEADS THE WAY IN SEX SCANDALS? In the wake of the Republican National Committee paying two grand for contributors to party at a Los Angeles bondage club, the Daily Beast raised this pressing question.
The answer seems to be that the Republicans lead the way in sex scandals.
But it’s a fairly close question.
Of course, given the party’s conservative “family values” rhetoric, the fact that the Republicans are in the lead at all raises a massive hypocrisy problem.
What better way to end March than with Michael Steele answering questions about an RNC member’s expenses-paid $2,000 night at a Los Angeles bondage club. Earlier in the month, Kevin Garn, Republican majority leader of the Utah state senate, admitted that he once skinny dipped with a 15-year-old girl and paid her $150,000 to keep quiet, and California State Senator and Republican family-values defender Roy Ashburn was arrested for driving drunk in a state-owned vehicle after leaving a gay nightclub with a new companion.
The Democrats can hardly crow, however. March was the month that “Tickle Me Eric” Massa burst onto the public stage—and out of the House of Representatives.
With every other issue devolving into partisan finger-pointing, The Daily Beast thought it would use two decades of cold, hard data and rational methodology to answer the question everyone in Washington wants to know: Which party has more problems with sex scandals?
After studying the 58 scandals over the past 20 years involving all politicians or major candidates for city mayor and above—many involved crimes, others just allegations, but all wound up as tabloid fodder—some conclusions can be reached.
• The number sex scandals has increased dramatically over the past few decades, thanks to technology, new press standards and a post-Clinton belief that everything is fair game.
• Republicans have more scandals (32 to 26), but Democrats have bigger ones, based on our methodology (13 out of the top 20).
• Democrats tend to have more problems with harassment, staffers and underage girls; Republicans tend to have more problems with prostitutes, hypocrisy and underage boys.
Incidentally, by “new press standards,” I think what the article is getting at is no press standards. It’s a porn-inflected yet oddly prudish infotainment media culture.
A Tennessee man authorities say is a white supremacist pleaded guilty to plotting to kill then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and dozens of other black people in 2008.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
At 8:05 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks and signs the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act at Northern Virginia Community College. These are the changes to the Senate health care bill that the House needed in order to pass it.
At 9 AM Pacific, Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 9:20 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden have lunch in the Private Dining Room.
At 11:45 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Defense Secretary Bob Gates in the Oval Office.
At 12:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France in the Oval Office.
At 1:45 PM Pacific, Obama and President Sarkozy hold a joint press availability in the Rose Garden.
At 3:30 PM Pacific, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a dinner for President Sarkozy and French First Lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy in the Private Residence.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.
In an interview on NBC’s Today Show, Obama said that the situation in Afghanistan is improving, but not rapidly enough.
He said that he flew to Afghanistan on Sunday to urge President Hamid Karzai to “embrace the fierce urgency of now.”
Meanwhile in Iraq, the narrow election victory of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s more secular Sunni slate of parliamentary candidates is being undermined.
The Iraqi elections commission has repeatedly denied demands by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that results from the March 7th election be delayed in favor of a manual recount.
Nine suspects tied to a Christian militia in Michigan that was preparing for war against the government and the supposed “Antichrist” were charged with conspiring to kill police officers.
But a government commission, headed by the controversial Ahmed Chalabi, whose false intelligence fed neoconservative fervor for the 2003 U.S. invasion, says that it disqualified several candidates right before the election for supposed ties to the late Saddam Hussein. This includes three members of the Allawi slate, accounting for its narrow edge over the Maliki party.
And the Iraqi Supreme Court revised the election law, ruling that not only the first place party in the vote can attempt to form a parliamentary coalition.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is out of state.
He has no scheduled public events.
The state Legislature is off on spring break this week.
** NANCY PELOSI’S TRIUMPH: A LONG TIME COMING. It’s been a very heady few days for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called her “a Speaker for the ages” after she ramrodded the national health care reform bill through the House of Representatives. “The most powerful woman in American history,” declared The Economist.
Which had not been my immediate expectation when I met Pelosi, whose 70th birthday is tomorrow, three decades ago at a party at her San Francisco home.
While recollections from the age of four (that’s a little joke) can, as we all know, be decidedly hazy, I remember some clear impressions. Though the daughter and sister of Baltimore mayors, Nancy D’Alesandro Pelosi was relatively new to being in politics on her own hook. … From my March 25th column.
** THE GHOST(S): OF TONY BLAIR, ROMAN POLANSKI, AND A WAR ON TERROR. Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer is one of the best films I’ve seen in recent years. It has masterful suspense, wit, humor, excellent casting and acting, fascinating design and music, and a highly relevant story which does not hit one over the head with a message. Yet it seems unlikely, at least in America, to break out beyond the art house hit status of The Hurt Locker and other much-admired and not widely-seen films.
Why? I think the first two words in the lead sentence provide the explanation. It’s a Roman Polanski film. And the distributor either doesn’t know how to market a film made by so notorious a figure that he is practically a pariah, at least now in America, or has found it to be impossible. It’s certainly an intriguing challenge, one that would tax the talents of a Don Draper. … From my March 22nd essay.
** THE MITT & MEG SHOW: “TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS” … From my March 17th column.
** MEG WHITMAN’S NEW! IMPROVED! POST-JOURNALISM! POLITICS. … From my March 12th column.
** IS MEG WHITMAN LIKE ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER? YES (IN THE WRONG WAYS) … From my March 9th column.
** IS OBAMA’S AFPAK STRATEGY ACTUALLY WORKING? … From my March 5th column.
** THE CALIFORNIA AS FIRST “FAILED STATE” DEBATE: SCHWARZENEGGER, DAVIS, WHITMAN, AND JERRY BROWN. With Democrat Jerry Brown finally declaring his candidacy for California governor today and billionaire Meg Whitman’s super-rich Republican rival Steve Poizner starting his own TV ad campaign against her, this seems a good time to talk about a big new negative theme about the rather tarnished Golden State. Is California America’s first “failed state?” That’s what a lot of people are saying. So I talked about that with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; the governor he replaced, Gray Davis; and a famous former governor favored to be the next governor, Jerry Brown. … From my March 2nd column.
** THE BAND OF THE DECADE: THE BEATLES?! … From my January 1st, 2010 essay.
** HOW JERRY BROWN CLEARED THE DEMOCRATIC FIELD FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA. … From my December 9th, 2009 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 $82 per barrel.
This is up about $48 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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