Wikileaks, which opposes U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, says there is evidence of “war crimes” in the wake of its release of reams of classified U.S. reports sent to it by an Army enlisted man.
** QUICK HITS. As I expected this morning, the Wikileaks story on AfPak is the big noise story of the early part of the week. Much of it is not new, of course, (and these are spot intelligence reports, not to be taken as finished intelligence) but it is massive, and comes at a time when, as I’ve warned for months, the effort in Afghanistan is definitely flagging. … BP CEO Tony Hayward is out, given a post with the energy giant’s Russian partnership, and a massive sinecure. … While billionaire Meg Whitman tries to get a lead, any lead, with her massive advertising in the California governor’s race — she was supposed to be up 15 by now — Democrat Jerry Brown drew massive media attention today in LA as he continued to investigate the incredible salaries being paid city officials in the tiny city of Bell. Needless to say, all those salaries are going to be rolled back.
** MEN RETURNS WITH “PUBLIC RELATIONS,” IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE: WHO IS DON DRAPER? Mad Men returns with “Public Relations,” in more ways than one. Lots and lots of it. Naturally, there be spoilers ahead.
Season 4 of Mad Men got off to a cracking start Sunday night with an episode called “Public Relations,” and darn if that doesn’t mirror what the best show on television is getting a lot of.
After its very consequential Season 3 won the top prizes for a dramatic series from the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, the Writers Guild, and the Directors Guild, Mad Men picked up 17 Emmy nominations a few weeks ago, the most that the two-time winner for best drama on television has ever garnered, this time with six members of the show’s cast nominated for acting honors. Especially after Lost’s disappointing series finale, it has to be the favorite to win a third straight Emmy for best dramatic series. The show has had a lot more PR than that, which I’ll get to after running through the exciting season premiere.
It’s November 1964, not quite a year since the end of Season 3, and change continues to be very much in the air, at least for most of the characters and the country as a whole. There’s sprightly, jazzy music early on, which a reviewer for Entertainment Weekly identifies as music like that of the theme for The Name of the Game, which the writer mistakenly thinks was a 1964 TV series. It actually ran from 1969 to 1971. The music helps establish the new scene for a new ad agency in a new time. …
** NEW GALLUP SURVEY: WITH MORE STATES COMPETITIVE, CALIFORNIA RATED “SOLID DEMOCRATIC.” A new Gallup Poll survey of party identification in America shows that the Democratic edge is down sharply over what it was in 2008. And that the number of states rated “solidly Democratic” is down sharply as well.
But the big gainers are not Republicans, who generally seem stalled, but the ranks of the undecided.
In the West, California, Oregon, Hawaii, and New Mexico are rated solidly Democratic states, with California and its plus-14 point advantage for Democrats over Republicans one of the most solidly Democratic states in the country.
Nevada and Oregon are rated “lean Democratic,” with swing state Colorado rated “competitive. The other Western states — Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Alaska — are rated lean or solid Republican.
More states are politically competitive this year than was the case in 2009, as fewer Americans nationwide identify with the Democratic Party. Vermont — along with the District of Columbia — is the most Democratic state in the U.S. in 2010 so far, while Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho are the most Republican. …
The accompanying map shows each state’s relative party strength in the first half of 2010. States in which one of the parties enjoys at least a 10 percentage-point advantage in leaned identification are considered solid supporters of that party. States in which a party has between a five- and a nine-point advantage are considered leaning toward that party, and states with less than a five-point advantage for one of the parties are considered competitive.
Solidly Democratic states tend to cluster in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, with a few exceptions in the far West (California, Hawaii, and Oregon), one in the Midwest (Illinois), and one in the Southwest (New Mexico). Solidly Republican states are all West of the Mississippi, including Alaska and states in the Mountain West (Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana) and the Midwest (Nebraska and Kansas).
The most politically competitive states in the Union, all of which have Democratic-Republican gaps of less than one point, are Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, and Virginia.
There are 10 fewer states in the solid Democratic category thus far in 2010 than there were in 2009, and one fewer state in the leaning Democratic category. At the same time, there are three more solid Republican states, and four more in the leaning Republican category. Sixteen states can be classified as competitive, four more than last year.
It is important to note that the classification of states reported here is based on the political affiliations of all residents, and does not necessarily match the party preferences of registered voters or indicate how a state might vote in a given election. Also, the partisanship figures include independents who have a partisan leaning along with each party’s core identifiers. This makes the states more comparable because the percentage of independents varies widely by state, and can understate a party’s true strength in a state.
Nationwide, Democrats have a 4-point party identification advantage over Republicans in 2010 (44% to 40%), down from an 8-point advantage in 2009 and a 12-point advantage in 2008.
While Democrats’ party strength fell in each of the last two years, Republicans have not gained concomitantly. Instead, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with or lean toward either political party has increased.
Some shift toward independent party identification is to be expected in the years between presidential elections; in presidential election years, party allegiance tends to be at its height. The key finding at this juncture is that Democrats, not Republicans, have been the net losers as Americans shift away from the major parties. …
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
A big week in presidential politics, and a relatively quiet one in California politics. This week may end up being dominated by charges of war crimes in the Afghan War.
Today President Barack Obama will hold an event at the White House to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
On Tuesday, he will attend meetings at the White House.
On Wednesday, Obama will travel to New Jersey, where he will discuss the economy in Edison. Later, he will deliver remarks at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in New York City.
On Thursday, Obama will deliver a major education reform speech at the National Urban League 100th Anniversary Convention in Washington, D.C. Obama will also meet with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On Friday, Obama will visit Chrysler and General Motors Plants in Detroit and Hamtramck, Michigan.
The White House has also revealed that Obama and his family will spend a weekend in mid-August on Florida’s Gulf Coast, presumably to help stir up tourism again in the wake of the BP Gulf oil disaster. On August 19th, the Obamas go to Martha’s Vineyard for a 10-day summer vacation.
Speaking of the BP Gulf oil disaster, BP CEO Tony Hayward is on his way out, for obvious reasons. After numerous failures and much obfuscation, major progress has finally been made in capping and stopping the undersea oil flow, though it’s been slowed of late by heavy weather.
As you can see by his schedule, Obama is again trying to focus on the economy, which is merely the number one issue in the country. But he may be sidetracked this week by revelations in classified materials released online by Wikileaks, a whistle-blowing organization.
In this case, Wikileaks is a whistle-blowing organization strongly opposed to U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, now clearly bent on proving U.S. war crimes there, as you see above in today’s comments in London by the group’s director. The documents, provided by a 22-year U.S. Army enlisted man, also detail numerous complaints about the role of elements of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service in helping the Taliban. The ISI helped set up the Taliban movement of religious students to fill the void in mid-’90s Afghanistan while the mujahideen leaders who fought the Soviets engaged in civil war.
In California politics, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger continues private talks with legislative leaders on the state’s chronic budget crisis.
Prior to last week, the legislative leaders met among themselves for weeks, but got nowhere. It’s not even clear that the Democrats have a unified negotiating position. The Legislature returns from a month-long summer recess next week.
The governor’s race continues with billionaire Meg Whitman spending a few million dollars every week, mostly on TV attack ads against Jerry Brown which have been widely panned as dishonest.
For his part, Brown came out with his policy on public pension reform, which is much the same as Schwarzenegger’s. This should neutralize Whitman’s core argument that Brown will simply do what the public employee unions tell him to do. Which was certainly not the case during his first two terms as governor, nor his two terms as mayor of Oakland.
The race for the U.S. Senate is also ongoing, with charges and counter-charges. While she and her campaign are spirited, unless ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina finds a way to to get off her rightward tack, she is going to have a very rough time defeating Senator Barbara Boxer, no matter how close the polls or how unpopular Congress is.
The USS George Washington aircraft carrier battlegroup is leading a joint U.S./South Korean naval exercise off the Korean Peninsula. Tensions are high in the wake of the determination by international investigators that North Korean sank a South Korean Navy ship last spring.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
At 10:15 AM Pacific, Obama receives the daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.
At 10:45 AM Pacific, Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 11:45 AM Pacific, Obama receives the daily economic briefing in the Oval Office.
At 1 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.
At 1:50 PM Pacific, Obama meets with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and other leading members of Congress in the Oval Office.
At 3 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at an an event to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on the South Lawn of the White House.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.
The new Iraqi national parliament was scheduled to meet the week before last, but that had been postponed indefinitely. Now it is scheduled to meet on Wednesday..
The reality is that the governance situation in Iraq remains unresolved, four-and-a-half months after national parliamentary elections there yielded a surprise first place victory for former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s secular Sunni party. Meanwhile, the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops, scheduled to be completed at the end of August, is underway and reportedly ahead of schedule.
FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles today.
He holds a roundtable discussion on California’s chronic budget crisis with members of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce at 9:15 AM.
Schwarzenegger talked throughout the week with legislative leaders about the chronic state budget crisis.
But a solution has yet to emerge.
The state Legislature will be back from its month-long summer recess on August 2nd.
… THE CALIFORNIA AS FIRST “FAILED STATE” DEBATE: SCHWARZENEGGER, DAVIS, WHITMAN, AND JERRY BROWN. … From my March 2nd column.
Here is my series of five columns on the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Los Angeles Times in debate in fall 2008, prior to the global economic meltdown, with Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times reporter/editor Bill Boyarsky, whose columns are also included. You can listen to my video webchat last year with Schwarzenegger here. It covers most of the major issues and also reveals his cameo in the latest Terminator movie.
Inception bested superstar Angelina Jolie’s Russian spy thriller Salt at the box office for another first place weekend finish. Inception, with $143.7 million in domestic box office after two weekends, is well on its way to blockbuster status.
** DOES INCEPTION SALVAGE THE SUMMER MOVIE SEASON? Does Inception salvage what’s been a decidedly subpar summer movie season? That’s a big load for any movie to carry, even one as smart as Inception, especially one as seemingly obscurantist as Inception.
Incidentally, I’m going to avoid major spoilers here, though, having said that, it occurs to me that the trick about Inception, which so many seek to understand, may just be that there is no trick at all. Which would be quite the trick for this mind-bender movie about purposeful invaders of the unconscious who use a mysterious biotechnology to hack into one’s mind in order to extract and implant very consequential information. It’s a spy flick, it’s a heist flick, it’s an action flick, it’s a scifi flick, it’s a love story, it’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma… Wait, no, that last is what Churchill said about Russia. … From my July 22nd essay.
** THE MACHINATIONS OF MEG WHITMAN: MURPHY’S MILLION (PLUS) AND MORE. Anyone wondering what oligarch-style politics would look like in America need only check out Meg Whitman’s machinations. The billionaire Republican wannabe governor of California’s technique was in sharp display over the past week. Its focus? Using very big money to bend people to her will, individually and collectively, and taking advantage of what she clearly sees as the emerging post-press era to engage in the most blatant rewriting of her own history, including her most recent history. … From my July 17th feature.
** SHIFT CHANGE: THE 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF JAWS AND SHAMPOO MARKS THE TRANSITION FROM NEW HOLLYWOOD TO BLOCKBUSTER. … From my July 9th essay.
** THE AFGHAN WAR AND THE SPIRIT OF JEFFERSON. From my July 3rd essay.
** MEG WHITMAN SPINS AND SPENDS: MRS. HARSH FACES A HARSH REALITY. … From my July 1st feature.
** FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE: THE “RESET” CONTINUES. From my June 27th column.
** MCCHRYSTAL: RIGHT MAN, WRONG MISSION. From my June 23rd feature.
** 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.
** 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 $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.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum. You can send me a private tip by clicking on the “Contact” button in the upper right.