The Taliban assault on the heavily defended Afghan capital of Kabul over the weekend went on for nearly a day and exposed, once again, major security problems as it brought the city to a near standstill.
** QUICK HITS. Because it’s never to early to think about the presidential race after the one going on now. Public Policy Polling has numbers for potential candidates in both parties for their respective 2016 presidential nominations. … On the Democratic side, it’s Hillary Clinton in an absolute runaway over Joe Biden. On the Republican side, Chris Christie has a slight edge over Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush. … Governor Jerry Brown, speaking this afternoon at a California Medical Association legislative conference, said that he expects the state’s budget deficit to be a billion or more higher next month than the $9 billion he projected it at in his January budget proposal. Less money is coming in and more money is being spent than forecast. And legislative Democrats balk, as they have so hopefully for years now, at his latest budget cuts. … This morning Brown identified over 700 state bureaucratic reports currently required that he wants eliminated to save time and duplicative effort. Nearly 400 of them require legislative action.
** IF IT’S NOT ONE THING …
No sooner does President Barack Obama find himself confronted with several significant negative developments in geopolitical crises, and get past a day of campaign time consumed by a foolhardy Democratic lobbyist’s comments about Ann Romney, then he has some new problems.
Over the weekend, Obama’s time at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia was overshadowed by a still emerging crisis involving Secret Service and US military personnel drinking and carousing with prostitutes while supposedly seeing to presidential security in advance of his arrival.
Then the Taliban hit hard, in multiple locations, in Kabul, demonstrating that Afghanistan’s capital city is anything but secure despite all the forces concentrated there.
The Secret Service scandal isn’t Obama’s fault, but it is a big distraction. It’s also another sign that there are some discipline problems there, more than two years after problems involving self-promoting reality TV show contestant gate crashers getting into Obama’s first state dinner.
The latest sign of big crisis in Afghanistan is something Obama is responsible for, since it is only the latest indictment of his policy there.
I may have written about the AfPak problems one or two times over the past few years.
While Obama struggles with all this, including the crises I wrote about in the “First Week” piece linked below, back in California politics Governor Jerry Brown is pushing hard for his November revenue initiative.
He and the Democratic Party are pulling out the stops to qualify the initiative and give it a straight shot in the November election. And it seems to be going well.
But heiress Molly Munger, who seems intent in having her face in the dictionary next to the world “stubborn,” keeps pushing for her zombie initiative, which would raise income taxes on most everyone in the state to fund schools while doing very little to deal with the state’s structural budget deficit.
It’s a very rich person’s pet project, and she and her advisors — who don’t get paid to tell her to stop wasting her money and our time — have launched flights of TV ads trying to promote the initiative in the LA and SF Bay Area media markets.
It’s not a very on-point ad, but I won’t get into why that is. No sense providing a useful critique.
But it’s quite silly to imagine that an initiative that starts out down, 64-32, is going to turn that around. Especially one that raises everyone’s taxes.
** MAD MEN: ROUNDING SOME HAIRPIN PLOT CURVES. This week’s Mad Men offered up a much more insular episode, though the sense of decay and decline in New York which I wrote about earlier in the season is evident. The American studies social themes, aside from the trademark dissatisfaction with success and a sense of impending change, are absent. As always, there be some spoilers ahead.
Incidentally, you can see all my Mad Men pieces, going back to 2009, here in The Mad Men File.
Relying heavily on humor, some of it in forced circumstance, and some switchback plotting, “Signal 30″ (the title refers to a drivers ed film endured by Pete Campbell, at last learning to drive, the better to help his new suburban family) focuses on some characters. The action revolves around a potential new client, Jaguar, and a dinner party at Pete’s new Connecticut home.
Don Draper, successfully roped in by Pete’s persistently smart wife Trudy, and Megan attend a dinner party at the Campbells with fellow Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce exec Ken Cosgrove and his wealthy and smart wife Cynthia.
There the genre geek references flow freely. Pete fixed the plumbing before the party just well enough to have it blow up, requiring Don to spring into action, losing his cape, er, atrocious sport coat (forced on him by now shaky fashion maven Megan) and dress shirt, spurring admiring “Superman” references from the ladies. Actor Jon Hamm was much talked about to star in the new Superman, which went in a younger direction. …
President Barack Obama is asking Congress for help in policing oil markets to be on the lookout for price manipulation by speculators. Obama says the country can’t have some speculators reap millions while consumers suffer from high gas prices.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
He then met with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office.
At 1:50 PM Pacific, Obama honors Tony Stewart’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship on the South Lawn.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Iraq, AfPak, and North Korea.
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 Sacramento.
At 12:15 PM, Brown delivers remarks at the California Medical Association’s 38th Annual Legislative Leadership Conference
At 1:15 PM, he delivers remarks at State Farm’s Legislative Day.
Both events take place at the Sacramento Convention Center, with the CMA in the main ballroom and State Farm in a nearby exhibit hall.
Brown will likely talk about slowness in the legislature in dealing with looming budget problems.
** FIRST WEEK: A RAGGED START, OBAMA’S BIGGER PROBLEMS. It was an interesting first week in the general election campaign. After Rick Santorum’s sudden withdrawal essentially handed the Republican nomination to Mitt Romney, on the 100th anniversary of Titanic setting sail on its fateful voyage, President Barack Obama had a mostly good week. But the big flap over foolhardy comments by a Democratic lobbyist on a cable chat show demonstrated alarmingly, again, how debate can be derailed by trivial pursuits even in the face of far more consequential issues. And though the domestic dynamics of the campaign — economic fairness and women’s rights — mostly favored Obama, geopolitical crises that could seriously damage Obama’s presidency loomed very large. … From my April 14th essay.
** MAD MEN‘s MASTER CLASS IN AMERICAN STUDIES ROLLS ON TO SOME MYSTERY DATES. Well, that was one of the spookier Mad Men episodes, complete with not one but two dream sequences. As always, there be some spoilers ahead discussing this episode, the aptly titled “Mystery Date.”
The horizon of the future, i.e., the later ’60s, is getting much darker, and a lot closer. New York City has slid past its peak, at which it glittered as the series began. Things increasingly don’t work, we’re seeing some people who look rather unkempt. And they’re not the hippies, because those folks have yet to arrive. … From my April 10th essay.
** JERRY BROWN HITS 74. … From my April 7th essay.
** IS ROMNEY “INEVITABLE,” AGAIN? … From my April 5th column.
** MAD MEN: WHOSE SIDE IS TIME ON, ANYWAY? … From my April 3rd essay.
** CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS IN CRISIS: ANOTHER BIG SHOE DROPS. … From my March 29th essay.
** MAD MEN (FINALLY) RETURNS: WORTH THE WAIT? … From my March 27th essay.
** THE REAL GAME CHANGE: PALINISM’S RISE AND MODERATE REPUBLICANISM’S ECLIPSE. … 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.
** 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.
The space shuttle Discovery makes one final flight, on top of a Boeing 747, flying low and slow this morning over much of Washington, D.C. The sight drew masses of people looking to the skies at places like the National Mall.
** 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 $104 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $70 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 $10 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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