There is a big wildfire in the high desert country north of Los Angeles.
** QUICK HITS. On this quiet Friday … President Barack Obama, in between extolling the revival of the U.S. auto industry that his administration helped engineer, called on Iran to release three American hikers, recent UC Berkeley grads, as they are “not spies.” Well, after they wandered over the border from Iraq, they are certainly not in the intelligence field. … Eschewing a quiet birthday in LA, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger addressed the annual secret gathering of the Bohemian Club in Northern California’s Bohemian Grove, then rushed to the scene of a fire threatening part of Los Angeles. … With their $110 million-plus and counting campaign clearly behind their own schedule, billionaire Meg Whitman’s high-priced consultants are saying they really do have a great campaign and that Jerry Brown’s campaign, which has spent virtually nothing, is lousy. Perhaps so, he’s only ahead of her by a little. Just as he was after the primary. … The U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, acros the border from El Paso, Texas, closed indefinitely under some sort of drug cartel threat.
** HARSH REALM: THE POST-PRESS ERA AND MEG WHITMAN. Few if any campaigns have been so geared to the ongoing decline of journalism as that of billionaire Meg Whitman, the Republican trying to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California. In her race against Jerry Brown, Whitman, who let the cat out of the bag last year when she wondered why she needed to talk with reporters since their newspapers were going out of business anyway, uses very big money to bend people to her will, individually and collectively, and takes advantage of the emerging post-press era to say whatever she wants, without regard to accuracy or consistency.
By the post-press era, I mean the era in which we are living, in which journalism is rapidly hollowing out and the media is devolving into competing clashes of opinion and propaganda atop a pervasive brew of hype, sensation, and infotainment.
California, with its much diminished state press corps, had seemed to be on the leading edge of the post-press era, just as Whitman calculated for her campaign. I used to read more than a dozen somewhat different versions of the same article; now I see only a few.
The national media, which anachronistically still means East Coast-based, at least to the East Coast-based version of it — which fails to grasp that the Internet has created a post-geographic world even as the old national media retreats from international coverage and analysis — had seemed to be holding on to higher volume and quality. But that illusion surely came crashing down last week, when far right Internet huckster Andrew Breitbart conned the hysterical cable news culture and, stunningly, the Obama Administration, into buying into his latest doctored video. (That would be the Obama crew which in the 2008 campaign rightly disdained the perpetual motion machine cable culture.) …
President Barack Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act yesterday at the White House.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and Michigan today.
Obama travels to Michigan today to highlight major success in revitalizing the auto industry. He receives his daily intelligence and economic briefings on Air Force One.
At 8:05 AM Pacific, Obama arrives in Detroit, Michigan.
At 8:50 AM Pacific, Obama tours the Chrysler Auto Plant in Detroit.
At 9:15 AM Pacific, Obama delivers a statement at Chrysler.
At 9:55 AM Pacific, Obama tours the General Motors Auto Plant in Hamtramck, Michigan.
At 10:40 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at General Motors.
At 12:10 PM Pacific, Obama departs Detroit, Michigan on Air Force One en route to Andrews Air Force Base.
At 1:25 PM Pacific, Obama arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, where he boards Marine One.
At 1:40 PM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
Obama today is highlighting, this week and next, his administration’s major successes in essentially saving the U.S. auto industry.
U.S. auto industry profits not only again exist, but are up very sharply. The industry is on track to hire some 60,000 workers this year, the most in more than a decade. And all $60 billion of the federal money infused by the Obama Administration will be recovered.
Highlighting this success story comes on a day on which it emerges that U.S. gross domestic product growth in the second quarter of the year was less than forecast, some 2.4%
Consumers have throttled back on spending again as hiring slows. Hiring has slowed because corporations — whose coffers are brimming with cash — are sitting on their cash to see which way the wind blows rather than start hiring again.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Korea, where a major naval exercise centering around the USS George Washington aircraft carrier battlegroup wrapped up Wednesday, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.
In Afghanistan, the number of U.S. troops killed in action has passed 60 in July, making it the deadliest month of the the Afghan War to date. As expected, given the surge in both U.S. troop strength and in operational tempo.
In Pakistan, government leaders are reacting to some of the impact of the Wikileaks info-dump of classified rough AfPak intelligence reports on the Internet. While the word in Washington is that there’s nothing new here, move along, the word elsewhere is otherwise.
New British Prime Minister David Cameron has called on Pakistani leaders to purge the top ranks of the military and intelligence services of Taliban supporters. Publicly, Pakistani leaders express surprise and displeasure at the Tory’s statements. Not so publicly, the head of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service canceled his planned trip to London.
In Iran, regime leaders again say they want only a civilian nuclear program even as they maneuver for expanded enrichment. Today they said that they want a new round of international negotiations, to take place in Turkey.
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 yesterday.
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.
Although it is not widely known, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, today’s birthday boy, has appeared in movies.
FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles today.
He has no scheduled public events.
Schwarzenegger turned 63 today.
Incidentally, Sony Pictures announced yesterday that it is remaking, er, “re-imagining” Schwarzenegger’s 1990 smash hit, Total Recall. The image above is from that film, which, as I noted in my essay on Inception, is a mind-bender science fiction action film as well.
There is a recent spate of remakes and sequels to Schwarzenegger hit films, which I’ll get into another time.
Schwarzenegger talked throughout last week and this 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 $78 per barrel.
This is up about $44 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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