Troops from the 101st Airborne Division at Combat Outpost Nolen engaged in a firefight today in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province. Meanwhile back in Washington, President Barack Obama and others maintained that the massive Wikileaks drop of classified Afghan War documents represents a bygone period and that things are better now. We’ll get to that argument tomorrow in another video from this same location.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … HARSH REALM: THE POST-PRESS ERA AND MEG WHITMAN.
** QUICK HITS. The House today passed a big new funding bill for the Afghan War, seemingly shrugging off the Wikileaks info-dump of classified documents from 2004 to 2009. But the alternative was to leave troops in the field unfunded. And more than 100 Democrats voted against the funding, the most yet. … Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today hailed the launch of the nation’s largest wind farm, in the Southern California desert. He also welcomed California’s selection as a finalist in the next phase of the Race to the Top education challenge grants from the Obama Administration’s Department of Education. And Schwarzenegger welcomed the report of the Western Climate Initiative, which he co-founded, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The WCI encompasses American states and Canadian provinces that represent 20% of the U.S. population and 70% of the Canadian population. …
** CALIFORNIA 2010: BROWN MOVES, WHITMAN ADVERTISES, SCHWARZENEGGER DEFENDS. Attorney General Jerry Brown has made some fancy moves the past few days, first essentially endorsing the public pension reform moves pushed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which a number of unions have begun to accept in contract negotiations, and investigating the scandal in the little LA suburban city of Bell, where local officials governing the barely 40,000 people there have been paying themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars a year as actual public services deteriorated.
Brown’s move on pension reform neutralizes the conservative Whitman attack against him that he is a tool of the public employee unions — some tool, as newspaper articles are beginning to show his longtime record of independence both in his first two terms as governor of California and in his two terms as mayor of Oakland — and is consistent with his rhetoric of many years. In fact, the last governor to have a veto overridden was Jerry Brown. The issue? A pay raise for state employees.
For her part, Whitman, under widespread criticism for her highly inaccurate TV attack ads against Brown, today unveiled a new positive 30-second TV ad. This one shows pictures of her policy book — the one she loves, and pushed her staff to unsuccessfully try to place in public libraries across the state — and extols her three-point plan for California. You know, “targeted tax cuts” to revitalize the economy, strict spending limits for the state budget, and putting more money into school classrooms.
Trouble is, Whitman’s “targeted tax cuts” are targeted to the super-rich — in the form of the elimination of the capital gains tax, which would blow a $10 billion-plus hole in the already reeling state budget — and corporations.
Whitman has no plan for strict spending limits. What she does have is a pledge to cut 40,000 state jobs, but she still can’t say where they would come from. And she claims the ability to eliminate $15 billion in “waste, fraud, and abuse.” Again, she can’t say where that is, or how it might have survived the recent massive budget cuts.
As for the problem of putting money into classrooms, Whitman has already been exposed for putting out false statistics on how much already goes into classrooms.
Back to the drawing board.
Whitman did agree to a second debate with Brown, this one in September at UC Davis sponsored by the Sacramento Bee. She had previously agreed to one in October at Marin’s Dominican College.
Brown challenged Whitman to 10 freewheeling town hall debates, which she has ducked, and has accepted more than a dozen debate invitations.
For his part, Schwarzenegger, who blasted those who want to “suspend” the state’s landmark climate change law (read: Whitman, though she actually has said she wants to end it as well) in an interview last week, has fresh support for his drive to defeat the oil company-financed initiative to end the innovative climate change/renewable energy program.
Billionaire Tom Steyer, a San Francisco money manager who heads Farallon Capital, is putting $5 million into the No on 23 campaign. That will put the No side, which leads in the polls, ahead of the Yes side on funding for now.
Steyer has joined former Secretary of the State and Secretary of the Treasury George Shultz, the Republican icon that Schwarzenegger recruited for the task, as a co-chair of the No on 23 campaign.
Meanwhile, the Texas oil companies behind the Yes on 23 campaign announced today that they are suing to overturn the ballot description of their initiative published by Attorney General Brown. They say his depiction of it as a rollback of environmental regulations is unfair.
Lots of luck …
** DEMOCRATS MAINTAINING ADVANTAGE IN GENERIC CONGRESSIONAL POLL. For the third week in a row in the new Gallup Poll, Democrats have an edge over Republicans in the preference for Congress.
Prior to the past few weeks, things seemed to be going the Republicans’ way.
Democrats have a 48% to 44% advantage for the week of July 19-25 in Gallup tracking of registered voters’ preferences for the 2010 congressional elections. This marks the second straight week in which Democrats have held an edge of at least four percentage points.
Although Republicans have moved to a four-point or higher advantage on three separate occasions, this is the first time either party has held an advantage of that size for two consecutive weeks. Republicans and Democrats have been tied on average across the 21 weeks of Gallup’s tracking.
Republicans continue to be substantially more enthusiastic about voting, as they have been since March. Their current 18-point lead in voting enthusiasm is down slightly from last week’s 23-point lead, but it remains slightly higher than the average 16-point lead they have enjoyed since tracking began in March. …
This past week marks the second time since March that either party has held any type of edge on the generic ballot for three consecutive weeks. Exactly what is behind the uptick in support for Democrats is not clear, although last week’s gains coincided with the passage of the financial reform bill. Independents continue to be more likely to say they will vote for the Republican rather than the Democratic candidate, while both Republicans and Democrats maintain more than 90% allegiance for their party’s candidates.
Democrats’ improved position on the generic ballot is counterbalanced by the continuing wide advantage Republicans have in voting enthusiasm. This GOP enthusiasm gap foreshadows a typical Republican turnout advantage in midterm election voting, meaning that Democrats need a substantial lead on the registered voter generic ballot to offset their turnout disadvantage. Still, the results show that expectations of an assured Republican landslide in the congressional elections this fall are not a foregone conclusion. …
Beleaguered BP CEO Tony Hayward is out, amidst record corporate losses, off to work with BP’s Russian joint venture. He and incoming CEO Bob Dudley faced the press outside the firm’s London headquarters today, and Dudley said he will work to build strong relationships on the Gulf Coast and in Washington.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
He then met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Mitch McConnell, Congressman John Boehner, and Congressman Steny Hoyer in the Cabinet Room.
At 9 AM Pacific. Obama delivers a statement to the press from the Rose Garden.
At 9:20 AM Pacific, Obama has lunch with House members in the Roosevelt Room.
At 12:05 PM Pacific, Obama congratulates the Warner Robins Softball World Series Champions, who are from Georgia, in the East Room.
At 1 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in the Oval Office.
At 1:30 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Defense Secretary Bob Gates in the Oval Office.
At 4 PM Pacific, Obama attends a Democratic National Committee fundraising dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
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. Then it was scheduled to meet on Wednesday.
Now this meeting has been canceled, as well, indefinitely.
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.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown yesterday issued subpoenas to determine how officials of tiny Bell, California came to pay such outrageous sums to city officials. The city council last night revoked the high salaries.
FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles, Riverside, and Sacramento today.
At 10 AM, Schwarzenegger will participate in a demolition ceremony in Riverside to make way for the construction of March Memorial Hospital, part of the March LifeCare project.
He will hold private talks during the day.
Schwarzenegger talked throughout last week with legislative leaders — who met on their own for weeks, to no avail — 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.
** MAD 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. … From my July 26th essay.
** 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 $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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