Israeli commandos stormed a six-vessel flotilla of activists seeking to run the blockade of Gaza in early morning hours, prompting a firestorm of international condemnation. At least 10 activists were killed and many more wounded during the operation, which took place in the international waters of the Mediterranean. President Barack Obama’s Tuesday meeting at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is off.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … MEMORIAL DAY MAUNDERINGS, AND THE MEANING OF THEY WERE EXPENDABLE.
** OBAMA TODAY – MONDAY. President Barack Obama is in Illinois and Washington, DC today.
Obama received the daily intelligence and economic briefings this morning in his Chicago home. This weekend marks the first time he has slept in his own bed since becoming president. This is in rather marked contrast with former President George W. Bush, who spent so much time at his Texas ranch that it’s hard to count that high in a timely manner.
Much of Obama’s time was taken up with the sudden international crisis occasioned overnight by the backfiring attempt of the Israeli military to turn back a six-vessle flotilla of activists seeking to breech its blockade of Gaza. More about that in a moment.
Obama attended Memorial Day ceremonies at Illinois’s Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.
There he presented a large wreath.
Obama was to have delivered remarks to a crowd of thousands there, but a violent thunderstorm caused the postponement and ultimate cancellation of the bulk of the ceremonies.
At 1:40 PM Pacific, the Obama family departs Chicago on Air Force One en route to Andrews Air Force Base.
At 3:15 PM Pacific, the Obamas arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, where they board Marine One.
At 3:30 PM Pacific, the Obamas land on the South Lawn of the White House.
For his part, Vice President Jo Biden and Dr. Jill Biden hosted breakfast for Gold Star Families at the White House.
Biden then participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns before delivering remarks at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.
Sadly, Memorial Day festivities have largely been overshadowed by the backfiring interdiction by Israeli commandos and naval vessels of a six-vessel flotilla of international activists carrying supplies to break the blockade of Gaza.
The interdiction took place under cover of darkness some 40 to 65 miles away from the Gaza coast, still well within international waters out in the Mediterranean.
Israeli forces jammed communications as they engaged the flotilla of Turkish, Greek, and Irish-flagged vessels, carrying some 750 activists and thousands of tons of supplies. The activist ranks included a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a number of elected officials from various countries.
Helicopter-borne Israeli commandos rappelled onto the decks of the vessels. What happened after that is in dispute. (What happened before it is in some dispute as well, as one Al Jazeera reporter on the lead vessel said the Israeli forces fired on the ship, wounding its captain.)
What we do know is that at least 10 activists were killed, and many more wounded. Several Israeli solders were also wounded.
The Israeli version of events is that they were ready to deal with peace activists, but encountered violent resistance. The Israelis say that two commandos suffered gunshot wounds. But the guns were reportedly taken from the raiding commandos. A few other Israelis were reportedly wounded after being hit with clubs and so forth.
All the activists were detained by Israeli authorities and have not been available to be interviewed.
It’s hardly a surprise that the Israeli commandos would encounter some resistance when they showed up on these vessels in the middle of the night. That’s obvious, so any protestations to the contrary are quite foolish.
The operation was carried out under cover of darkness, far out in the international waters of the Med so as to avoid media coverage. Well, so much for that.
The UN Security Council is in emergency session today on this.
The European Union has denounced the operation. Britain’s new Conservative/Liberal Democrat government has criticized the Israeli move and called for an end to the Gaza blockade. Turkey, Israel’s longtime ally which nonetheless unofficially sponsored this flotilla, has recalled its ambassador and canceled joint Israeli/Turkish military exercises. Condemnations have poured in from around the globe.
Washington and Moscow have offered a very measured response so far, calling for more information.
One immediate political casualty of the early morning raid on the flotilla is tomorrow’s White House meeting between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. The Israeli PM was in Canada when the operation went down; he’s returning to Israel, where there are also demands for an inquiry into what looks like a huge fiasco.
Now let’s not be naive. Quite a few peace activists also hate Israel and wish to see it go away. Israelis have genuine existential fears. The Hamas government which currently governs in Gaza is an extremist variant of the Palestinian independence movement and a history of backing terrorism.
Yet the policy of continued settlement by far right religionists in disputed areas only further fans the flames of extremism.
And, in one of those ironies of history, it was actually the Israeli government and the Bush/Cheney Administration which further empowered Hamas. They pushed for separate elections in Gaza a few years back, not thinking that Hamas could win.
Which proved to be yet another miscalculation by then Secretary of State Condi Rice, the conservative Stanford academic who recently resurfaced in TV advertising in California endorsing billionaire Meg Whitman as the right choice for governor.
Rice had no clue what was happening in Gaza, just as she had had no clue what was happening in Iraq when, as Bush’s national security advisor, she was a chief architect of the Iraq War.
FROM THE ARNOLD FILE – MONDAY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles today.
He has no scheduled public events.
** MEG WHITMAN’S WHOPPERS. As someone with no experience in public affairs prior to being talked into running for governor by her business mentor, Mitt Romney, Meg Whitman is totally dependent on a coterie of lobbyists and consultants. …
BP’s ballyhooed “top kill,” the latest effort to stop the disastrous Gulf oil spill, has failed despite repeated assurances to the contrary.
** OBAMA TODAY – SUNDAY. President Barack Obama is in Chicago.
He has no scheduled public events.
Despite earlier reports of success, BP admitted on Saturday that the “top kill” effort to stop the Gulf oil spill is a failure, the latest in a string of failures by the company to stop the spill that began on April 20th with the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling platform. 11 men died in the catastrophe.
BP is trying something else, another undersea techno-fix, but Obama Administration officials say that the spill may not be stopped until August, by the drilling of relief wells.
In the meantime, however, hurricane season is about to begin. And forecasters say that this year’s hurricanes will in intensity those of 2005, when Hurricane Katrina nearly drowned New Orleans.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE – SUNDAY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles.
He has no scheduled public events.
In his weekend video/radio address, President Barack Obama asks all Americans to join him in remembering and honoring those who have died in service to the country.
** OBAMA TODAY – SATURDAY. President Barack Obama is in Chicago today.
He has received his daily intelligence and economic briefings in his private residence there.
Obama has no scheduled public events today.
This is Obama’s first extended visit to Chicago since becoming president.
Obama visited the Gulf Coast yesterday to pledge more federal action on the BP oil disaster, now by far the worst oil spill in American history.
Unfortunately, BP’s much ballyhooed “top kill” procedure to stop the underwater oil flow from the ruptured well by injecting a heavy mud-like substance is not working as advertised.
BP officials, who have given conflicting and evasive reports on the procedure over the past few days, now say they won’t know until Sunday if it is working.
In other action, Vice President Joe Biden is in Washington.
He delivered the commencement address at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland on Friday.
Biden will preside over a number of Memorial Day activities in the Washington area, and will be at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday.
Obama will speak at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois on Memorial Day.
Obama is being slammed by many on the far right for not being at Arlington on Monday, as presidents usually are. But as it happens, a number of Republican presidents have also celebrated Memorial Day away from Washington.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.
The governance situation in Iraq remains unresolved since the March 7th national parliamentary elections.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger discusses the meaning of Memorial Day to him as an immigrant and the recent groundbreaking of new Veterans Homes in California. While Schwarzenegger did not serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, he did serve in the Austrian Army prior to emigrating to America.
FROM THE ARNOLD FILE – SATURDAY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles today.
He has no scheduled public events.
… THE CALIFORNIA AS FIRST “FAILED STATE” DEBATE: SCHWARZENEGGER, DAVIS, WHITMAN, AND JERRY BROWN. … From my March 2nd column.
Here is my series of five columns on the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Los Angeles Times in debate in fall 2008, prior to the global economic meltdown, with Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times reporter/editor Bill Boyarsky, whose columns are also included. You can listen to my video webchat last spring with Schwarzenegger here.
** TIME SLIPS AWAY FOR 24 AND LOST IN VERY DIFFERENT FINALES. I don’t like when somebody comes up to me the next day and says, “Hey, man, I saw your play. It touched me; I cried.” I like it when a guy comes up to me a week later and says, “Hey, man, I saw your play … what happened?”
– off-off-off-off Broadway playwright Jeff Slater (played by Bill Murray) in Tootsie
Two of the most important and popular television series of the past decade had their series finales this week. One, Lost, opted for a relentless, rather gooey positive ending, stepping literally in the last into the light. The other, 24, ended in a far darker, essentially shattering place. Spoilers await. …
** THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: BILLIONAIRE MEG WHITMAN BATTLES BACK IN THE CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S RACE. After finally losing nearly all her lead last week in the Republican primary to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California, billionaire Meg Whitman is battling back against super-rich state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, whom she led a few months ago by a whopping 50 points. She has a lead again, but it’s only about a fifth what it was, and less than her campaign claims. With little more than two weeks to go till the primary, with over a third of the voters still undecided, she’s in a precarious position.
Before delving again into the particulars of this race, let’s pause a moment in wonderment at this spectacle before us. (And yes, this weekend is the 30th anniversary of the launch of a little movie called The Empire Strikes Back.)
Whitman is really showing us the possible future of oligarchic politics if she survives this far more difficult than expected primary and then manages to pull out a victory against Jerry Brown, who’s barely spent a dime so far, in the fall. It’s a possible future of unlimited spending and unlimited spin. Which is also, paradoxically, the problem with her candidacy. … From my May 22nd column.
** AFTER THE AFGHAN SUMMIT: FIVE KEY THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT OBAMA’S PROBLEMATIC PLANS. Now that the pomp and circumstance of last week’s Washington summit between the Obama Administration and Afghan President Hamid Karzai has faded, what is the state of things?
Not very good. Really, not very good at all.
With the much telegraphed U.S., NATO, and Afghan offensive in Kandahar Province — heartland of the Taliban since the movement’s mid-1990s inception in the midst of Afghanistan’s lengthy post-Soviet chaos — on tap for June, the Taliban aren’t exactly cowering in their caves waiting to lose. In fact, they say they’re launching their own offensive.
A sad milestone was reached on Tuesday. With a morning suicide attack against a U.S. military convoy in Kabul, the 1000th American has been killed in action in Afghanistan. … From my May 19th column.
** MEG WHITMAN’S WILD WEEK THAT WAS. … From my May 15th column.
** IRON MAN‘S POST-MODERN HOWARD HUGHES IS BACK AND CONFUSED. … From my May 13th essay.
** MEG WHITMAN’S TITANIC CAMPAIGN FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA. … From my May 7th column.
** “GOLDMEG SACHS WHITMAN” ROILS THE CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S RACE. … From my May 3rd column.
** IS OBAMA FINALLY PIVOTING TO THE ECONOMY? … From my April 29th column.
** PUNDITS, BLOGGERS, ACTIVIST LEADERS THINKING OF RUNNING FOR HIGH OFFICE? THINK AGAIN. … From my April 27th column.
** CALIFORNIA STORY: BROWN, BOXER, AND (UN)CONVENTION(AL) POLITICS. … From my April 21st essay.
** JERRY BROWN’S LONG AND WINDING ROAD. … From my April 15th column.
** HOW JERRY BROWN CLEARED THE DEMOCRATIC FIELD FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA. … From my December 9th, 2009 column.
** 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 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, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti. While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT 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 AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial. 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.
** 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 closed on Friday at $73.97 per barrel. Energy markets are closed on the weekend,
This is up about $40 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
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