** 3 PM UPDATE: TROLLING FOR TROOPS. U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice will be trolling for more troops for Afghanistan to meet the challenge of the Taliban resurgence there when she meets with America’s NATO allies tomorrow in Brussels. But it doesn’t look like the Brits or anyone else will be making any announcements of new deployments, at least not right away.
Meanwhile, the government of Kyrgyzstan, the former Soviet republic which hosts the last remaining major US base in Central Asia, which is crucial to effort in Afghanistan, is in total disarray, with parliament having today rejected the president’s choice for prime minister for the second time in a row.
** U.S. AUGMENTS FORCE IN AFGHANISTAN. With the Taliban making a comeback in Afghanistan, aided by their safe haven in Pakistan, the US is augmenting its force structure in the mountainous country. As reported here last week, new Defense Secretary Bob Gates toured the country and came away promising to take the advice of commanders on meeting new needs in-country.
Here is the rather terse statement from the U.S. Department of Defense: The Department of Defense announced today Secretary of Defense Robert Gates approved a request from commanders to extend for up to 120 additional days 3,200 soldiers of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division currently operating in Afghanistan. This extension will provide military capability for NATO to maintain the initiative and build upon the success achieved in promoting stability and security, while denying safe haven for the Taliban.
** LAW FIRM DROPS ANTI-JERRY BROWN LAWSUIT. You remember that lawsuit toward the end of the election, trying to disqualify former Governor Jerry Brown from being a candidate for or holding the office of California attorney general because he’d been an inactive member of the bar association? It didn’t go anywhere, of course, as predicted here, and Brown went on to crush conservative Republican Chuck Poochigian and was inaugurated as attorney general earlier this month.
The case did continue, in altered form. Now the law firm handling it has dropped out of the suit, leaving only the Contra Costa County Republican chairman, Tom Del Beccaro, coincidentally running for state vice chairman of the Republicany Party, handling his own case. It will be heard right before the state Republican convention next month. Coincidentally.
** HOLLYWOOD PRIMARY FOR DEMOCRATS? An early Hollywood primary of sorts in the Democratic presidential race will take place on February 20th. That’s when we see who shows at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for a big fundraiser for Barack Obama being thrown by longtime Clinton supporters Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg. It’s hard to tell who will be there now because the invitations are just arriving. Here is the invitation. Only $2300 per person! Co-chairs, who sell 20 tickets, get a private dinner with Obama at David Geffen’s art-strewn home. Incidentally, that’s the night before the first candidates’ forum for the Nevada presidential caucuses, which will take place in Carson City (decidedly not to be confused with Beverly Hills).
** BUDGET WARNING SIGN FOR CALIFORNIA. Despite the great news in the poll for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, there is something to give him and other state leaders pause. Income tax payments since December are substantially below projections. While corporate tax payments are up, it’s still a potential problem.
** Monitor computer memory prices on a daily basis. Prices are stable.
** NOON UPDATE: Crude oil prices have slid again, to the $53 to $54 per barrel level.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices have crept up to $55 per barrel on colder weather in the US and more kidnappings of oil workers in Nigeria.