Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking today in Istanbul, condemned the Syrian government for “simply unconscionable” violence, accusing President Bashar Assad of intensifying a crackdown that has already killed thousands.
** QUICK HITS. UN observers seeking to visit the site of a recent massacre in Syria came under attack late today, then were forcefully turned away by Assad regime forces. That Kofi Annan ceasefire deal really hasn’t worked out. … Media reports today say that Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders, working to meet a June 15th California budget deadline, are about $2 billion apart on Brown’s proposed cuts, mostly in welfare, child care, and in-home care. … Republican legislators, having decided to say only “No,” are out of the governance loop, leaving it to Brown to push for fiscal discipline.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … MIDWAY FROM MIDWAY: UNSUNG 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF ONE OF HISTORY’S MOST IMPORTANT BATTLES COMES AS OBAMA TRIES “THE PACIFIC PIVOT.”
** NEW SURVEY: MOST DON’T SEE LAST FRIDAY’S JOBS REPORT AS A BIG DEAL AND VIEW ECONOMY SAME AS BEFORE. This morning, President Barack Obama, raising still more money in California, got good economic news in the form of another drop in unemployment filings. It came in the wake of a somewhat controversial report last Friday that the unemployment rate had slipped upwards again, with much more anemic than expected job growth.
The Friday report caused a sensation on cable news and in most of the moment-to-moment media. But was a big deal for voters?
The Obama crew did a good job ignoring media hyperventilation in 2008. But they get more caught up in now, allowing themselves to become agitated along with the audience, agitation being the point. (Fox likes to fire up right-wingers with outrageousness and make liberals feel bad, MSNBC likes to make liberals feel self-righteous and neurotic, CNN likes to bore people, etc. Which is why I watch international channels.)
Maybe Team O should chill. The popular view of the economy remains the same now as it was before last Friday’s report.
Despite extensive news coverage of what was widely portrayed as a disappointing government jobs report last Friday, Americans are about as likely to describe it as “mixed” (40%) as to say it is “negative” (42%), with a small minority characterizing it as “positive” (9%). But Americans who view the report as negative are more likely to say it was somewhat negative rather than very negative. …
The government reported that 69,000 new jobs were created in May, the lowest amount so far this year, and that the overall unemployment rate rose from 8.1% in April to 8.2% in May. Most news accounts of the report portrayed it in a negative light. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 270 points in Friday’s trading after the report was released, and there was widespread discussion of a “stalled” economy and of the potentially deleterious impact of the report on President Obama’s re-election chances. As NPR host Robert Siegel said on “All Things Considered” Friday afternoon: “It was the worst day of the year on the stock market. The Dow fell 274 points, putting the index back into negative territory for the year. The big reason? The latest monthly jobs report came in far weaker than expected. In May, the economy added just 69,000 new jobs.” …
Despite Friday’s jobs data, ongoing Gallup Daily tracking data continue to show little to no change in Americans’ views of the overall economy since the report was released.
Americans’ ratings of the current economy are essentially the same in the five days since the report as they were in the five previous days of interviewing, with an insignificant three-point increase in the percentage rating the economy as “poor.” There has been no change at all in Americans’ perceptions of whether the U.S. economy is getting better or getting worse. …
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, on a Thursday visit to Afghanistan, pressured Pakistan to do more to root out the Taliban-linked Haqqani terrorist network from its territory, saying that U.S. officials are “reaching the limits of our patience.”
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … MIDWAY FROM MIDWAY: UNSUNG 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF ONE OF HISTORY’S MOST IMPORTANT BATTLES COMES AS OBAMA TRIES “THE PACIFIC PIVOT.”
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in California, Nevada, and Washington, DC.
At 10:20 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a campaign event at a private residence in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles.
At 11:20 AM Pacific, Obama departs Los Angeles on Air Force One en route to Las Vegas, Nevada.
At 12:20 PM Pacific, Obama arrives in Las Vegas.
At 12:50 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks on college affordability at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
At 2 PM Pacific, Obama departs Las Vegas on Air Force One en route Joint Base Andrews.
At 6:10 PM Pacific, Obama lands at Joint Base Andrews, where he boards Marine One.
At 6:25 PM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
Obama appeared last night at another major LA fundraising dinner, this time at the residence of Glee creator and producer Ryan Murphy in Beverly Hills. There he thanked Murphy and former LA Music Center chairman and top Bill Clinton aide John Emerson for their help in organizing the event, which attracted the likes of actresses Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon and featured a member of the Glee cast filling in on 36 hours notice for ailing singer Pink.
The event raised close to $2 million.
I’ll have more numbers on the fundraising trip as we go forward.
Elsewhere, the news was not as bright.
Afghan officials again complain that NATO forces have killed civilians, with President Hamid Karzai charging today that 18 civilians were killed in an air strike in eastern Afghanistan.
Speaking yesterday in New Delhi, where the veteran California political figure is continuing a big tour of the Asia Pacific region as part of the US geopolitical pivot, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defended US drone strikes inside Pakistan. In the wake of the killing of Al Qaeda’s second in command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, Panetta made it clear that the drone strikes will continue.
Today Panetta is in Afghanistan. Speaking at a press conference in Kabul, he indicated that US patience with Pakistan on the disrupted supply route and on safe havens for jihadists is at a breaking point.
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.
President Barack Obama pledged to defend gay rights during an appearance in Beverly Hills, California on Wednesday. Obama also called the moment he signed the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy “as good as it gets.”
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown, who usually skips the president’s appearances in his state, was on hand yesterday when Obama arrived in San Francisco for a pair of fundraisers.
San Francisco Giants legend Willie Mays introduced Obama at a fundraising luncheon in the City by the Bay’s Julia Morgan Ballroom.
Brown was there as well, getting a shout-out from Obama, along with several other officials such as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.
Brown was neutral in the 2008 primaries between Obama and Hillary Clinton, while Newsom was a national co-chair of the Clinton campaign.
Brown noted later that victories for public pension reform measures on Tuesday in San Jose and San Diego point up the potency of the issue.
He wants legislative action before his November revenue initiative comes up for its vote.
** MAD MEN: THE ANVIL HAS LANDED. The anvil has landed. A season full of obvious portents of doom has at last produced a death. I’m just not sure how central this fatality is to the story. But it may illustrate a larger point about the need to be able to surf the waves of changing times.
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.
I have always enjoyed the character of Lane Pryce and think that Jared Harris is a fabulous actor, both on Mad Men and Fringe, as well as in his movie work. He was a terrific Moriarty in Robert Downey, Jr.’s latest Sherlock Holmes epic and I’m looking forward to his Ulysses Grant in Steve Spielberg’s forthcoming Lincoln. In Lane Pryce, the rather old-school and more than slightly fussy British financial manager who is practically the antithesis of Harris’s roustabout movie star father Richard, he has deftly created a portrait of a man who yearns to be free but doesn’t know how to go about it.
And yet. And yet, the character has been something of a third wheel on Mad Men since Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce was formed. His machinations freed the core of the old Sterling Cooper crew from their British corporate overlords, but since then, the show has struggled to provide a strong storyline for Lane Pryce.
So his death, as a result of a chain of circumstances that seems somewhat contrived, doesn’t have the impact that a more highly anticipated (hoped for?) demise would have.
But, and yet again. Despite creator Matthew Weiner’s efforts, the character didn’t pay off in life on the show, yet the death of Lane may point up an extraordinarily important lesson for those in challenging, changing times, which the late 1960s (it’s 1967 on the show) certainly were becoming.
In “Commissions and Fees,” we see Lane Pryce go from the heights to the depths with stunning swiftness, due to his inflexibility and unwillingness to surf waves of change. He is accorded a major honor as a top financial manager by the national advertising association and he is unmasked as an embezzler in rapid succession. Can you say, “ironic?” Anvils.
Anyhow, Don Draper confronts him. The identity thief and deserter under fire from the U.S. Army (that is a very serious crime, which can carry the death penalty) doesn’t like Lane’s explanation for forging his signature on a check — really, Lane should have just asked for help, but was too proud and embarrassed to do so — and forces him to resign.
Which leads to Lane’s suicide. First he tries to kill himself in the beautiful new Jaguar E-Type in the classic British Racing Green that his clueless wife has bought to sacrifice his success, and which won’t start. (A cheap and easy joke on the show’s part, considering how many of those cars are running a half-century later.) Then he hangs himself in his office, leaving behind not a note, but the resignation letter Don had required.
Don is all about reinvention, to a point. He can’t grasp that Lane has not broken free from Old World strictures even as he’s embraced the New World.
But the irony is that this paragon of new starts is himself falling behind the pace of change in the advertising business and in ’60s America. He’s not into the Beatles, he doesn’t really get his smart and spiffy young wife, he may not even be the best advertising mind at his own firm any longer, perhaps because he hasn’t been applying himself.
Don is spurred to self-renewal by Lane’s desperate act. But what he does sounds a little psychotic. He complains that he only wants the biggest companies as clients. (Really, Don?) After getting Roger Sterling to arrange a meeting with Ken Cosgrove’s fairly smarmy father-in-law, a big wheel at Dow Corning — or is it Dow Chemical? — Don blows into the meeting insisting that the corporate giant needs new advertising and he’s just the man to provide it.
Declaring that happiness is just “a moment before you need more happiness,” which sounds like the ethic of the great white shark, which must keep moving constantly forward or else it dies, Don blathers that they can’t be happy with 50 percent market share because 100 percent market share must be the goal. But total dominance, monopoly, is itself the path to stagnation, as AT&T and IBM conclusively demonstrated.
The old Don is back, seeing few limits to possibility even as he rejects the contentment he found for a time with Megan.
But, having just won the account, however it happened — another way to think of it is that SCDP would have won anyway had the car dealer on the advertising committee not practiced sexual blackmail — Don, or someone, doesn’t quite grasp what Jaguar means to his agency.
I see an analogy with the real world example of Chiat/Day and Apple. Like Jaguar, Apple’s Macintosh computers were cool and glamorous, a lucrative niche product not suited to the mass. Just as everyone was not going to want a graphical user interface (or so it was thought), not everyone is going to want a sexy British sports car.
Chiat/Day turned advertising Apple’s products into a sort of art form, with the epic “1984″ ad as only the most famous example. They became a go-to agency as a result.
SCDP’s work for whatever the heck they’ve been selling these last years — floor polish, baked beans, etc. — hasn’t showcased them at all. Nor has it been much of a window into the times, a disappointment of mine with this show. Don had a great shot with Hilton Hotels, but failed to think big and wild enough for his eccentric pal Conrad Hilton.
The fact is, he needs to stop being so damn staid. And that was clear even before the ’60s became “The Sixties.”
On the soap opera level, Don’s callousness has now spurred two people to suicide. First, his own brother; now, the man who made it possible for him to have an agency in the first place.
Incidentally, I haven’t researched this, but something bothers me about the Lane Pryce storyline, well-played though it turned out to be in the end. I thought it was outstandingly presented in this farewell-to-Lane episode. But the conception of it bothers me a bit.
I recall there being some famous British actor tax exiles, i.e., actors in the ’60s and ’70s who got out of the UK’s very high rate of taxation by mostly living and working outside the country. Hmm, who does that sound like?
Lane has lived and worked away from Britain almost exclusively for years. He’s been at Sterling Cooper and then SCDP in New York for at least four years, and may have worked elsewhere abroad for Putnam, Powell, and Lowe before that. After all, they had initially planned to send him off to Bombay, India (now Mumbai), when they brought in the fellow who got his foot chopped off by Lois and the lawn mower.
Is it possible that Mad Men didn’t get this situation right? I don’t know. As I said, I haven’t fully researched it.
But the show certainly appears to have made a mistake about another big part of this storyline.
With regard to the company Don and Roger hit up to make their move into mega-corporate work, the show seems to have gotten confused about what company it’s talking about. Don and company are at last pitching that napalm maker Dow Corning for its advertising business. Except, uh, Dow Corning never made napalm. …
** JERRY BROWN FOR PRESIDENT + 20. … From my new essay.
** FIAT LUX, WILLARD! … From my June 1st column.
** MAD MEN: CONTROVERSY AS JOAN LOWERS HERSELF TO RISE, PEGGY EXITS ANTICLIMACTICALLY (AND SCDP GETS ITS HALO CLIENT). … From my latest essay.
** THE NEW SPACE ERA TAKES BIG STEPS FORWARD. … From my May 30th essay.
** MAD MEN: A GREAT LEAPER FORWARD? JOAN, JAG, DON’S RETURN TO ADVERTISING (AND OTHER, ER, TREKS). … From my May 23rd review.
** A BUCKET OF WOE: JERRY BROWN’S UNSURPRISINGLY UNHAPPY BUDGET. … From my May 16th essay.
** MAD MEN: DANGER! SLIPPERY WHEN SOAPY (ESPECIALLY IN DARK SHADOWS). … From my May 15th review.
** NUCLEAR’S ONCE BRIGHT AND SHINY FUTURE BLINKS OUT. …From my May 12th 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 $85 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $51 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 $29 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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