While the rest of us have to wait until June — well, assuming the news doesn’t leak — the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will know the likely outcome of the historic health care case by the time they go home this weekend.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS IN CRISIS: ANOTHER BIG SHOE DROPS.
** QUICK HITS. Does Israel have a secret deal with Azerbaijan to serve as a staging area for its strike against Iran’s nuclear program? That’s what Foreign Policy is saying in a lengthy new take-out. But how would the planes get back to Israel? … The California Commission on the Status of Women today elected Oscar-winning actress Geena Davis, an Arnold Schwarzenegger appointee, to be its new chair. Davis, a Mensa member and semi-finalist for the 2000 U.S. Olympic archery team perhaps best known for the feminist action classic Thelma and Louise, brings a higher profile to a commission that Governor Jerry Brown has slated for the budgetary axe.
** NEW SURVEY: MEDIA FREEDOM IS (SORT OF) THE GLOBAL NORM. Except where it’s not, of course.
A new Gallup Poll survey shows that nearly two-thirds of adults surveyed in 133 countries around the world say that their country enjoys widespread media freedom.
That’s roughly the same level as it was in 2010.
Finland leads with the highest proportion, 97%, asserting media freedom, while Belarus trails with only 23%.
Media freedom is judged highest in the advanced industrial world of North America and much of Europe and Asia.
Popular assessments generally track with those of acknowledged experts in the field.
The countries where perceived media freedom is lowest span multiple regions, including the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and former Soviet Union countries. Fewer than 4 in 10 adults in 11 countries, including Gabon, Armenia, Palestinian Territories, and Iraq, say their media have a lot of freedom — despite legal or constitutional provisions that guarantee freedom of the press or speech in most of these countries. Independent media evaluators, such as Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders, also rate these 11 countries poorly on their freedom of the press indicators. …
With a few exceptions, perceived media freedom is highest in developed countries in Asia, Europe, and North America. Ghana is the sole representative of sub-Saharan Africa in the list of countries worldwide where roughly 9 in 10 or more adults say their media have a lot of freedom. Freedom House recognizes the press in Ghana as among the most free in Africa.
In an early morning appearance in the Rose Garden, President Barack Obama challenged Congress to end massive subsidies to major oil companies at a time of sky-high gasoline prices and corporate profits. Senate Republicans promptly shot down the idea.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
He then delivered remarks in the Rose Garden urging Congress to vote to end massive subsidies to oil companies.
Senate Republicans promptly blocked the idea on the Senate floor.
There will be plenty of rhetorical moves with no consequent action in this election year.
Various deficit reduction ideas, sometimes paired with big tax cuts for the rich and corporations, have been floated and shot down in recent days.
I don’t see much need to chronicle all that churning.
After three days of oral arguments, James Carville and other Democrats are starting to say it may be best for Democrats if the US Supreme Court strikes down the national health care law, a point made here in the “Teeing Up Tuesday” piece. And something of a tell.
But Obama got good news today in the form of jobs numbers, with unemployment claims down to a four-year low.
Meanwhile, the Republican presidential race keeps on chugging on in advance of next Tuesday’s primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
Newt Gingrich has significantly scaled back his candidacy, as discussed here yesterday, and Ron Paul continues his big fade, leaving Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney battling it out.
Romney appears today with former President George H.W. Bush, who endorsed him a couple of months back, as he attempts to corral what there is of a GOP establishment behind his candidacy.
While that goes on, major geopolitical crises roil the already bubbling waters of the global scene.
The US has suspended its massive food aid to North Korea, granted when the Hermit Kingdom agreed to back away from its nuclear weapons program, in the wake of North Korea’s plan to launch a satellite next month, which also doubles as the test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The US has suspended food aid to North Korea in response to a planned rocket launch next month. Pyongyang insists it is launching a satellite for scientific purposes. But the US suspects the real aim is to test a long-range nuclear missile.
Turkish Prime Minister Reccep Erdogan is in Iran today, where he met with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The two confirmed that new nuclear negotiations will begin on April 13th.
And Erdogan offered Istanbul as the site of negotiations between Iran and the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China.
Israel and others, of course, view this all as a stalling tactic as the Iranian nuclear program advances.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Iraq, and AfPak.
Military Crisis Zone Times: The Arabian Gulf is eleven hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is twelve and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
The California Teachers Association has contributed $1.5 million for the passage of Brown’s November revenue initiative.
CTA has also just given $1 million to the California Democratic Party, which was already rolling in dough, especially compared to the California Republican Party, which has essentially only enough funding to continue basic operations.
University of California president Mark Yudoff also endorsed Brown’s initiative, saying its passage is necessary to protect the state university system from further cutbacks.
Yudoff will ask the UC Board of Regents to endorse the measure.
California Republican legislators have released an alternate budget, which has more big cuts in social welfare programs and relies heavily on borrowing from other funds in order to avoid new revenues. It’s a non-starter.
** MAD MEN (FINALLY) RETURNS: WORTH THE WAIT? Mad Men is back, finally, after the biggest series hiatus since The Sopranos. Was it worth the wait?
Naturally, there are spoilers ahead. I confess to a certain diffidence about it all, all two hours of it. Which is not to say it’s not quite good. It’s just that more is going on this year in what we laughingly call the real world than in 2010. And not much has happened in the Mad Men universe since Season 4 ended nearly a year and a half ago.
Only about half as much time has passed in the Mad Men universe as has passed for us, and not much has happened that was not otherwise obvious. …
Wisely, as Season 5 begins with its cinematic two-hour premiere, the show is only up to around Memorial Day 1966.
Part of the brilliance of Matthew Weiner’s conception of the show is that it has shown us a world we haven’t really seen otherwise. Yes, it’s set in the ’60s, but the bulk of it has been about the early ’60s. Which for most is terra incognita, aside from hazy images of JFK, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the civil rights movement, Sinatra and the Rat Pack, and the early days of the Beatles.
The massively over-exposed part of the ’60s, which gave rise to culture wars which still exist in this country, not to mention a baby boomer cultural dominance which has become more than a little dull even as it has persisted for decades, is still yet to come. …
But the rumblings of change — in this case racial change and generational change — are getting much louder. And the drumbeat of dissatisfaction despite success, a constant in the show, is louder than ever. … From my March 27th essay.
** THE REAL GAME CHANGE: PALINISM’S RISE AND MODERATE REPUBLICANISM’S ECLIPSE. The term “game change,” like so many sports-oriented terms in politics, is decidedly over-used. But the events depicted in the Game Change film really do constitute just that, though not in the way that my friend Steve Schmidt, the top John McCain advisor who utters the phrase in the film and with whom I communicated throughout the period of the film, intended it.
The pick of Sarah Palin was intended to be a dynamic game changer in McCain’s 2008 race against Barack Obama. But it proved to be a different sort of game change. It was the harbinger of a virulent rightward move in Republican politics as we see in today’s presidential primaries, and the further devolution of the media culture into hysteria and hyper-partisanship. And it showed just what going for the win, the sine qua non of consultant culture, can end up meaning.
Now that Game Change has emerged as one of HBO’s biggest movies ever, in a steady rotation on the cable network, and the film itself has yielded widespread acclaim outside of the Palinista camp, it’s useful to pull back and look at the bigger import of the events the film depicts and the background against which they played out. … From my March 23rd essay.
** CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS HAVE ONLY THEMSELVES TO BLAME. … From my March 22nd essay.
** JERRY BROWN DEALS AWAY TROUBLE ON THE LEFT. … From my March 16th column.
** MAKING SENSE OF KALEIDOSCOPIC PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS. … From my March 7th essay.
** IMPOSSIBLE MISSIONS AND 50 YEARS OF BOND. … From my March 6th essay.
** JERRY BROWN MAKES SOME SPLASHY MOVES. … From my March 1st essay.
** THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE: IRAN, ISRAEL, AFGHANISTAN. … From my February 29th essay.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 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 AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in major military operations in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. 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.
** 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 from the Russia Today channel. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the state-run 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 $103 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $69 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down about $11 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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