The Taliban struck Kabul today in the immediate aftermath of President Barack Obama’s surprise visit to Afghanistan.
** QUICK HITS. In its latest odd move, heiress Molly Munger’s income tax hike for all education initiative turned in some of its signatures today in Los Angeles. And promises to turn in the rest, ah, elsewhere, sometime in the next week. Keep us posted on that. … Munger’s initiative trails badly in all polls, despite some spin efforts claiming the contrary that make up in persistence for what they lack in intelligence. … Governor Jerry Brown, whose November revenue initiative leads in all polls, even the recent PPIC poll which gives the same result for a revamped measure made more popular in other polls, speaks tomorrow at the annual Bay Area Council Outlook Conference. As does his 1992 presidential rival, former President Bill Clinton. … That reminds me that the 20th anniversary of Brown’s last presidential campaign is just about upon us. Which will lead to a very interesting and fun piece. … Former Secretary of State Condi Rice, another old acquaintance, from the days when she served on an advisory board of Gary Hart’s think tank, also speaks at the conference.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Afghanistan and Washington.
Obama left Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan very early this morning on Air Force One en route Joint Base Andrews, where he arrived late this morning East Coast time.
He then boarded Marine One and flew to the White House.
At 12:45 PM Pacific, Obama participates in an Ambassador Credentialing Ceremony in the Oval Office.
At 1:30 PM Pacific, Obama attends a fundraiser at The W Hotel.
At 2:30 PM Pacific, Obama attends a fundraiser at The W Hotel.
Obama pulled off a surprise visit to Afghanistan yesterday.
Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed an agreement aimed at cementing a lasting but very limited U.S. commitment to Afghanistan after the long and unpopular war comes to an end. The Afghans appear to have gotten most of what they wanted in gaining control over U.S. operations.
Look for an ongoing but vastly scaled down presence after 2014, with US personnel in a support and training role only.
Unless the Karzai government collapses relatively quickly.
The Taliban struck inside the capital city Kabul only hours after Obama and Karzai concluded their deal. Seven people were killed in the “Green Village” of international workers not far from the presidential palace. Schools were shut down today.
Obama also has a complicated crisis to manage in China, where over the weekend blind dissident icon Chen Guancheng — who escaped informal house arrest in his village and made his way to the US embassy, where he received temporary sanctuary — “voluntarily” left the embassy and returned to Chinese soil.
It was hailed as a diplomatic success by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, slated already for days of talks with top Chinese officials, and those same officials.
Then Chen said that he had been coerced to leave the US embassy by Chinese government threats to incarcerate his wife. Or even kill her.
How did Chen, who is blind, escape custody and get to and gain entrance to the US embassy in the first place?
Is there a plan of some sort here? Or is this just a comedy of errors sort of crisis?
Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich ended his presidential campaign today. He had planned to make the announcement yesterday, but realized that he would be totally lost in the shuffle of the first anniversary of the bin Laden raid, which some see as being today. It was May 2 in Pakistan when bin Laden was killed, though the raid began the previous day. And it was always May 1 in the US during the whole of the raid.
Gingrich had previously pulled back from his campaign, as discussed here, but kept a semblance of it going to try to take part in the campaign dialogue.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, appearing this morning in Arlington, Virginia, formally suspended his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
But that didn’t work very well. And now, with Rick Santorum out, that Mitt Romney is the de facto GOP nominee, there’s little sense continuing in any guise. Though that doesn’t seem to bother Ron Paul.
Gingrich has only “suspended” his campaign, because he needs to keep raising money to pay off big campaign debts.
Gingrich, like Santorum, did not endorse Romney.
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 ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** MAD MEN: TO THE MOON! (AND CRASHING BACK AGAIN). Somewhere, Conrad Hilton is saying he always thought Don Draper should listen to his wife. He always wanted the Moon, that ultimate symbol of Space Age striving in the ’60s, from Don, and he didn’t get it, which is why he dumped him at the end of Season 3. But Megan’s brainstorm, which merely saves the day with Heinz, all primed to fire the agency after Peggy Olson’s gaffes, finally delivers it. For Heinz, though, not Hilton.
“There’s something happening here / What it is ain’t exactly clear …”
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.
Since Don and Megan actually seem to talk — she knows he is Dick Whitman and isn’t thrown in the least by it — she probably knows about the unrealized Hilton Moon shot ad that eliminated Don’s most important client by far.
After a few weeks of episodes dominated by stagey set pieces driven by forced plotting, entertaining though it was, which was perhaps prompted by complaints that not enough happens on the show, Mad Men is back to its more customary approach of organic storytelling.
Three young women, in one case, extremely young, get (most of) what they think they want. But it doesn’t suffice. Not by a long shot. Each excitedly sees the stars in this episode, only to be drawn back, as ever, to a dour world view.
Oh, and Don Draper learns about the hypocrisy of big New York corporations. That might be significant, in the early fall of 1966. …
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Los Angeles.
It’s JB meets JB, and the debut of First Dog Sutter Brown at a press conference.
At 2:30 PM, Brown joins actor Pierce Brosnan, star of four James Bond films in the ’90s and early Naughties, Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, and California First Dog Sutter Brown at an event at Petco in the Westwood area of LA to promote public support for the California Pet Lover’s License Plate. The California Pet Lover’s License Plate provides a funding source for free and low-cost spay and neuter programs.
At 4 PM, Brown appears at the Milken Institute 2012 Global Conference at the Beverly Hilton Hotel California’s attraction to out of state venture capital and other investing in innovation-oriented businesses.
The California state budget looks like it’s running about $3 billion below projections. But of course there’s no need for those cuts that Brown has been pushing since January.
Maybe Facebook’s IPO in mid-May will save the day. But that’s a one-time windfall.
** SEALED UP, BUT NOT SEALED OVER: THE OSAMA BIN LADEN RAID AT 1. It’s a year since the daring Navy SEAL raid that took down Osama bin Laden. (The Al Qaeda leader was killed around 1 a.m. on May 2 in Pakistan, but it was mid-day to early afternoon on May 1 in the U.S.)
It was a triumph of American arms, satisfying retribution for al Qaeda’s attacks on New York and Washington, and a major blow to the global jihadist network. But it points up the many mistakes we’ve made and continue to make in the wake of 9/11, and reminds that even the surgical use of military force provides only part of a solution. …
* The raid into Abbottabad was a great success. …
* In contrast, there was Tora Bora. …
* All things have consequences. …
* The debacle that is AfPak strategy. …
* Counter-terrorism, yes. Counter-insurgency, no. …
* The success of the bin Laden raid is a big problem for Mitt Romney. …
* A bigger picture: The old energy economy and the new. … From my May 1st essay.
** BACK ON THE NATIONAL STAGE? JERRY BROWN BRINGS AN INCOMPLETE STORY. Governor Jerry Brown is in Washington for a round of meetings and appearances on CBS’s Face the Nation and at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, where he and First Lady/Special Counsel Anne Gust Brown will be at the Newsweek table, along with General David Petraeus, the Iraq War and Afghan War commander-turned-CIA director, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon.
While Brown is not exactly Arnold-like in his round of public appearances, or even Jerry-like in this particular incarnation of himself, he is getting out and about more than he did last year. After skipping appearances in the East during 2011, this is his second trip of the year to Washington. He was there in February around the National Governors Association conference. … From my April 28th essay.
** MAD MEN: WIBBLY-WOBBLY, TIMEY-WIMEY, TRIPPY-WIPPY (AND PEGGY OLSON IS NO DANA SCULLY). … From my April 24th essay.
** HILLARY FOR PRESIDENT? ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GAUNTLET. … From my April 24th essay.
** THE PERSISTENCE OF TUNNEL VISION: ANOTHER PROBLEM FOR JERRY BROWN. … From my April 19th essay.
** MAD MEN: ROUNDING SOME HAIRPIN PLOT CURVES. … From my April 17th essay.
** FIRST WEEK: A RAGGED START, OBAMA’S BIGGER PROBLEMS. … From my April 14th essay.
** MAD MEN‘s MASTER CLASS IN AMERICAN STUDIES ROLLS ON TO SOME MYSTERY DATES. … From my April 10th essay.
** JERRY BROWN HITS 74. … From my April 7th 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 $106 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $72 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 $8 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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