Secret talks are underway between the Afghan government and the Taliban, with U.S. and NATO support.
** QUICK HITS. Jerry Brown is lighting it up the final two weeks of the campaign against billionaire Meg Whitman. He’s spending about $12 million on TV and radio advertising, about $5 million on direct mail, and is doing nearly two dozen events between now and the end of the campaign, including a rally tomorrow at San Diego State and a big rally on Friday at USC with President Barack Obama. And that is what a candidate can do who is able to hold off the biggest spending candidate in American history without falling behind. Brown has a good lead in the race to succeed Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. and intends to hold and perhaps extend it. … Senator Barbara Boxer still has an edge, as well, and will appear at the SC rally with Obama on Friday. Ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, aided by advertising from the Republican Party and Karl Rove’s Crossroads group, has closed some of the gap on her, but Boxer is up with a tough new ad starting tonight featuring workers who lost their jobs during Fiorina’s HP tenure. … San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who has a 7-point lead over Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado in a new private poll, is up with a new TV ad hitting Maldonado for voting for education cuts and closing with Newsom speaking effectively to camera.
** MAD MEN‘S SURPRISING YET LOGICAL FINALE: DON DRAPER GOES ALL CALI IN “TOMORROWLAND.” Turns out that it’s all Glen Bishop’s fault. Oh, and the negative ions. It’s the terrific if perplexing Season 4 finale of Mad Men, and as always there be spoilers ahead.
No, I didn’t see it coming beforehand. But as it unfolded in the season finale, very tellingly entitled “Tomorrowland,” Don Draper’s sudden proposal to his lovely and oh so young secretary Megan, whose last name we’d never heard before and about whom we know next to nothing, made perfect sense. From his point of view. And while I’ve been critical of some of the plotting in Season 4, this move felt like a key turning in a lock.
While the move is logical, is it also dopey? Oh, yes. But will it work? It just might. And if it doesn’t, Don has a second ex-wife, assuming they make it to the altar.
Is the greatest of season finales? No, it’s clearly not as good as the Season 3 finale, and perhaps not as good as the others. Yet there’s much we don’t know, as there usually is when we’re midway through a novel, and this is ultimately a novel for television. I have many thoughts about this, but first let’s run through the episode, during which some of what I think will be apparent, then get into more of it all.
It’s October 1965, and we’ve come not quite a year in Mad Men’s fourth season. A year in which, incidentally, the outside world of historical events hasn’t intruded much, in sharp contrast with previous seasons.
Don is getting ready to go to California with the kids. He has “a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.” …
** NEW POLL: PELOSI APROVAL DROPS AGAIN. A new Gallup Poll has some more bad news for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, toast of my native San Francisco. Her national approval rating is down again.
Here in California, Jerry Brown has a strong lead over billionaire Meg Whitman in the race to replace Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. And Senator Barbara Boxer is clinging to an edge over ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. But things are much tougher elsewhere for Democrats.
Despite the emerging California Exception, Pelosi isn’t very popular here, either. That’s frequently the fate of legislative leaders. But it’s much worse around the country.
The only good new for Pelosi is that she is more popular than Newt Gingrich when he was speaker of the House. But not by much.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s favorable rating is down seven percentage points since May to 29%, a new low for her since assuming the top congressional post.
Pelosi’s ratings were 2-to-1 positive, 44% to 22%, when she first assumed the speakership in January 2007, but they became closely divided by March of that year and remained so in November 2008. Views became more negative than positive for the first time in the first half of 2009, possibly because of Pelosi’s public stance against the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation” of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay prison, and her dispute with the CIA over whether she had been briefed on the matter. Spanning the period these issues were in the news, her favorable rating fell from 42% to 32%. Pelosi’s favorable rating recovered slightly in the first half of 2010 to 36%, but it has since tumbled to the new low.
Independents in particular have become more negative about Pelosi, with her favorability dwindling nine points among this group since May, to 21%. Nearly 6 in 10 independents (58%) now view her unfavorably, compared with 86% of Republicans and 22% of Democrats.
Pelosi’s negative image is apparently not simply a reflection of Americans’ dissatisfaction with the leadership in Washington, or with the economic climate more generally. President Obama’s favorable rating has also declined (the new figure will be released later this week), but continues to register well above Pelosi’s.
The new poll also finds Pelosi significantly more unpopular with Americans than House Republican Leader John Boehner. Boehner is less well-known than Pelosi (58% of Americans have an opinion of him compared with 85% for Pelosi), but among those who know him, Boehner’s image is generally balanced: 27% view him favorably vs. 31% unfavorably.
Boehner’s ratings are largely unchanged this year, although they are slightly more negative now than in 2009 as he has become more familiar to Americans.
Pelosi is still more popular than former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was at his lowest point, however just barely. Gingrich’s worst favorable rating was recorded in April 1997, when 24% of Americans viewed him favorably and 62% unfavorably.
It should be noted that Pelosi had a lower favorable rating in 2003 (23%) than she does currently, but that was at a time when the majority of Americans were not familiar with her, and her unfavorable rating was also low — registering 18% to 19%. The net view of Pelosi today is -27 (her favorable minus unfavorable ratings), worse than any prior reading on her.
Pelosi’s image has gone from bad to worse in recent months, with independents, in particular, growing more critical of her. Her resulting 2-to-1 negative to positive image presents a challenge for congressional Democrats as they try to convince voters to send them back to Washington for another term. While President Obama may be of some benefit on the campaign trail in terms of firing up the Democratic base to turn out, Pelosi’s subdued favorability among Democrats and highly negative image among independents suggest she is a far riskier person for Democratic candidates to be associated with — something Republicans who are using her in ads against their opponents have already concluded.
OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington, DC, Oregon, and the State of Washington.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
He then met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.
At 8:10 AM Pacific, Obama meets with his national security team for his monthly meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Situation Room.
The U.S./NATO/Afghan offensive against the Taliban this year has stalled out. As has the Taliban offensive.
Reconciliation talks are underway, with only Mullah Omar left on the sidelines due to his tight relationship with Al Qaeda.
Following this long session, Obama leaves to begin his West Coast campaign swing.
Incidentally, Obama will appear at a DNC reception Thursday night at the Atherton home of ex-eBay honcho and former state Controller-turned-greentech venture capitalist Steve Westly, one of his earliest and biggest backers, and a high-roller fundraiser at the Palo Alto home of Google vice president Marissa Mayer.
At 12:10 PM Pacific, Obama departs the White House on Marine One en route to Andrews Air Force Base.
At 12:25 PM Pacific, Obama departs Andrews Air Force Base on Air Force One en route to Portland, Oregon.
At 2:30 PM Pacific, Obama arrives in Portland, Oregon.
At 3:45 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a rally at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland with gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber and other notables on hand.
At 5:45 PM Pacific, Obama departs Portland, Oregon on Air Force One en route to Seattle, Washington.
At 6:30 PM Pacific, Obama arrives in Seattle, Washington.
Obama is monitoring geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.
As confirmation continues to emerge that the U.S. and NATO are supporting secret negotiations between Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government and the Taliban, it emerges that fully one-quarter of all the votes in the recent national parliamentary are being thrown out on account of fraud.
The governance situation in Iraq remains unresolved more than seven months after national parliamentary elections.
California voters may legalize recreational usage of marijuana, though different polls give different signals.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles today.
He has no scheduled public events.
… 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.
** WHAT’S IN A WORD? What’s in a word? When the word is “whore,” quite a lot. And yet, when it comes to the reality of California politics, not so much.
Pushed along by bad reporting and outright journalistic promotion of a campaign stunt, the story of the voicemail recording of Jerry Brown discussing with advisors billionaire Meg Whitman’s backing away from her supposed public pension reform imperatives in pursuit of a police union endorsement got a lot of attention. Not because it showed the supposed labor patsy Brown hanging tough with unions, but because an unnamed advisor wondered if they ought to type Whitman as a “whore.” Which frankly, considering the serious implications of the massive hypocrisy involved, is an insult to sex workers.
Oddly, no one reported that it was actually a woman who said it until I did, first on my blog, New West Notes, then here on the Huffington Post. Now the the rest of the press accepts and reports that the reference was made by a female, which obviously puts an entirely different spin on the matter than if it were Brown himself or another man. Even the state president of the National Organization for Women, which backs Brown, calls Whitman a “political whore.”
And what is the upshot after days of hyperventilation? Not much. Brown was ahead of Whitman before and he’s ahead of her now. Three very good private polls over the last few days give Brown a seven or eight point lead. Even the Republican Rasmussen poll, notorious for skewing conservative, put Brown in the lead on Friday, 50% to 44%.
Naturally, Whitman chief strategist Mike Murphy claims that he has not one but two private polls showing Whitman ahead by four points. Talk about doubling down on nonsense. … From my October 16th feature.
** MAD MEN: NOTHING LIKE A LITTLE LEMONADE TO RINSE THE SMOKE FROM ONE’S EYES. … From my October 12th essay.
** JERRY BROWN, MEG WHITMAN, AND THE DUST THAT WON’T SETTLE. Billionaire Meg Whitman has flailed for the past week-and-a-half after being caught in the grip of her own massive contradictions on illegal immigration. What to to, what to do, for a candidate who’s already spent well over $140 million and is losing? Try the kitchen sink comeback.
First Whitman and her panoply of pricey consultant/lobbyists falsely charged that Jerry Brown, who had already taken a slight lead in the race to replace Arnold Schwarzeneger as California’s governor, caused her illegal immigrant woes. He didn’t. We saw how well that worked when Whitman tried it face to face with Brown in debate. Then Camp Whitman tried linking Brown with Fidel Castro. Then Whitman’s Fox News allies tried to move the focus to what the Obama Administration is going to do about Nicky Diaz. Then came a pair of new TV ads, one an attempt at a positive reboot, the other another attempt to paint Brown as a big tax-and-spender. All of which I’ll get to after dealing with the latest distraction factor, the purported “whore” comment, in which Whitman’s efforts turns on a private conversation and, to be as charitable as possible, sloppy reporting. … From my October 9th feature.
** MAD MEN: BREACH ONE “CHINESE WALL” AND YOU JUST WANT TO BREACH ANOTHER ONE AN HOUR LATER … From my October 6th essay.
** BROWN FLOATS, WHITMAN FLAILS, AND BOXER MOVES TO PUT HER RACE AWAY. … From my October 5th feature.
** MAD MEN: “DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET?” (AND REALLY SUSPEND DISBELIEF?) … From my October 1st essay.
** WHY ON EARTH WOULD JERRY BROWN WANT TO BE GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA? … From my September 27th essay.
** OBAMA STRUGGLES WITH FEAR OF “THIRD WORLD AMERICA” AMIDST MEDIA AND BANDWIDTH CHALLENGES. … From my September 23rd column.
** MAD MEN: “THE BEAUTIFUL GIRLS” REVOLVE AROUND THE NOT SO BEAUTIFUL MEN AND THE NOT SO BEAUTIFUL BIZ. … From my September 20th essay.
** EXPENDABLE ARNOLD: WHAT’S AHEAD FOR SCHWARZENEGGER? … From my September 18th essay.
** BILL CLINTON HEARTS JERRY BROWN! (AND OTHER TALES OF INTRIGUE) … From my September 16th 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 $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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