NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen appeared in Tripoli today to proclaim the end of the alliance’s mission in Libya, and to declare that NATO will not intervene in Syria.
** QUICK HITS. Libya’s National Transitional Council chose a new prime minister, University of Alabama electrical engineering professor Abdurrahim el-Keib, who is to appoint a new government that will pave the way for general elections. El-Keib, an NTC member from Tripoli with a master’s degree from the University of Southern California and a doctorate from North Carolina State University, says he will appoint new ministers within the next month. … Reacting immediately to UNESCO’s admission of Palestine as a member state, the Obama Administration retaliated as required by US law (bills signed by the first President Bush and Bill Clinton) by cutting off all US funding to the UN agency. That includes $60 million that was to be paid next month. The US has provided a fifth of UNESCO’s funding. But the US did this before, pulling out of UNESCO during the Reagan Administration. … And Bosnia, a member of the UN Security Council, reacted today to heavy lobbying from Israel and the US by announcing that it will abstain on the question of full UN recognition of Palestine. The Palestinians had counted Bosnia as a yes vote. … Republican presidential frontrunner Herman Cain denies sexually harassing anyone, saying that any payments made by the National Restaurant Association to settle claims against him were to make the issue disappear without publicity. More to follow.
** NEW POLL: HIGHER THAN USUAL INTEREST IN POLITICS, DRIVEN BY OLDER WHITE CONSERVATIVES. A new Gallup Poll survey reveals that popular levels of interest in politics are higher than normal in the US.
But that’s driven by much higher interest levels among white conservative voters 65 and up.
The poll doesn’t say it, but I think we can ascribe this to the Fox Factor. Fox News does a good job of keeping its people riled up and engaged.
But we already knew that. And we already know it’s an echo chamber. And conservative interest is about the same as it was in 2008, when of course, they lost.
Intriguingly, liberals and moderates are showing less interest in politics, even with the rise of and consequent attention paid to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Of course, that’s a new phenomenon of about a month’s duration.
Americans’ interest in national politics is holding at the elevated level seen in 2009 after record-high attention paid in 2008. More than one in three Americans (35%) say they are following news about national politics “very closely,” a greater percentage than Gallup has found in non-election years prior to 2008. …
Certain groups are significantly more likely to be paying close attention to national political news today than they were at a similar time leading up to the 2008 presidential election. Conservatives, those 65 and older, Republicans, and postgraduates have all registered double-digit increases compared with September 2007. Americans aged 18 to 29 remain the least likely to say they are following national political news very closely. …
Conservatives’ current heightened interest in national politics essentially matches the record-high level of interest they showed in 2008, just before that year’s presidential election. This is especially noteworthy, considering the 2008 survey was conducted just after the Republican National Convention that year. In contrast, liberals’ and moderates’ interest is down from September 2008.
Republican presidential frontrunner Herman Cain is beset today by allegations of past sexual harassment while head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
A very big week on tap in presidential politics, and a fairly big week in California politics as well.
President Barack Obama, monitoring the shifting fortunes of his would-be Republican rivals, as well as a host of geopolitical crises, is off to France for the G-20 summit on Thursday and Friday. There he and other world leaders will address the state of a rickety global economy that is barely escaping a renewed recession. And in California, Governor Jerry Brown’s administration unveils a revamped high speed rail plan and looks to weather the call for a general strike in Oakland on Wednesday, the first anniversary of Brown’s landslide election to his record third term.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential frontrunner Herman Cain is beset by a story placed in Politico of sexual harassment complaints made against him in the 1990s while he served as director of the National Restaurant Association. Cain has held up better than most observers expected, so it was inevitable that any existing material of this nature would be used against him, and that it would be Politico, a conveyer belt for political operatives, that would serve as at least one of the vehicles.
Are the allegations true? I have no idea. Settlement payments may well have been made, but that’s not an uncommon practice in the corporate world to avoid public unpleasantness. Clearly, however, this is bad news for Cain, and he hasn’t handled it well early on.
On Saturday night, the Des Moines Register published its Iowa poll for the first in the nation Republican presidential caucuses.
Despite gaffes, Cain has been holding up as the national frontrunner in the contest.
He and Mitt Romney lead the pack in Iowa, with 23% and 22%, respectively. Cain is up 13 points since the last such poll, in June, despite spending virtually no time in the state. Romney, mindful of the state’s large numbers of fundamentalist voters, and of his own loss there in 2008 after investing heavily in the state, also hasn’t campaigned there much.
Ron Paul is third with 12%, followed by Michele Bachmann at 8% and Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich both at 7%. Rick Santorum has spent the most time in Iowa, and is at 5%. Jon Huntsman, who isn’t contesting the state, is at 1%.
If Romney makes a big move in Iowa, he might wrap up the nomination quickly. But if he tries and loses again, his chances elsewhere will be heavily affected.
What does the poll mean? That the state is up for grabs.
Things can move very quickly in presidential primaries and caucuses, which makes investing too much significance in polls beforehand problematic.
For example, when I flew to Des Moines in January 1984, having just attended Apple’s public unveiling of the first Macintosh computer, Gary Hart was running fifth in polling in the Iowa Democratic caucuses.
Four weeks later, he finished second, which established him as a major presidential contender and provided him the needed springboard to win the New Hampshire primary eight days after that.
Today is a major milestone, with the United Nations saying that Earth is now home to seven billion people. It was just 12 years ago that the planet’s population hit the six billion mark. Then the UN designated a Bosnian boy as the world’s six billionth citizen. But the boy was quickly forgotten, and this time there is no young Ms. or Mr. 7 Billion.
NATO ends its intervention in Libya at midnight tonight, seven and a half months after it began. Thus confounding many predictions of an endless bog for the Western alliance.
The Palestinians continued their drive for UN recognition of their statehood this morning in Paris, winning membership in UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The vote was 107 nations in favor, 14 against, and 52 abstaining. Congress threatened to pull US funding for the agency, some $80 million, or one-fifth its budget, if Palestine was admitted as a member. In addition to providing momentum toward the Palestinians’ goals, it also gives the new member state the ability to seek world historical monument classification for major cultural sites, appropriating them from Israeli definition and control. Sites such as, say, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
What does the US do post-Iraq, with the Iraqi parliament refusing to allow immunity from prosecution for US troops but concerns continuing about post-pull-out stability (and counter-weights to Iran)? Load up some elsewhere in the Gulf, with a potential rapid response force in Kuwait and added naval and air assets coordinating in a tighter alliance with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The GCC being the regional alliance that assisted heavily in Libya, comprised of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.
Violence has continued in Syria over the past few days, with Assad regime forces gunning down at least 40 more protesters. Anti-regime demonstrators have begun calling for a no-fly zone over Syria, similar to that in Libya.
President Bashar Assad warned yesterday that any intervention by the West would cause an “earthquake” that would “burn the whole region.”
Protesters have begun calling for a no-fly zone as army units defect from the Assad regime, thus making them targets of Assad regime air assets.
The Taliban struck again with several deadly attacks over the weekend across Afghanistan, the most damaging of which was in central Kabul where 13 US soldiers and four Afghans were killed in a suicide bombing of their bus outside the entrance to American University. It was the largest single loss of American life in the conflict since the August shoot-down of a helicopter containing dozens of Navy SEALs.
Back in California politics, the loose-knit Occupy Wall Street forces’ Oakland affiliate is going ahead with an attempted general strike in Oakland on November 2nd. But it will be hard for there to be an actual general strike without most people going on strike. Which seems very unlikely. Labor has contracts, for one thing, and seems to be going with solidarity motions in lieu of actual strikes.
But there could be substantial symbolic disruption on Wednesday, which happens to be the first anniversary of the election of Oakland’s former mayor, one Jerry Brown, as governor of California.
The day before that, on Tuesday, the California High-Speed Rail Authority will unveil its revised business plan in an event at the historic California Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento, not far from the Western terminus of the Pony Express. There had been an earlier plan to unveil it at a Sacramento Press Club luncheon, which made absolutely no sense.
Brown’s public pension reform proposal, discussed at length here last week, has won widespread plaudits from editorialists and the like, but mostly brickbats and ominous silence from public employee unions. This is short-sighted on their part, as I’ll discuss in detail moving forward.
We’ll also see if some rumored initiatives emerge this week.
Here’s what Obama’s week looks like.
On Monday, Obama will meet with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the White House. The topic? The complex Palestinian/Israeli situation.
On Tuesday, Obama will participate in interviews with local TV anchors from markets across the country.
On Wednesday, Obama continue prepping for the G-20 summit and will attend meetings at the White House.
On Thursday and Friday, Obama will be in Cannes, France for the G-20 Summit. He will return to Washington on Friday night.
A Taliban attack inside a secured portion of Kandahar today killed five people working with the United Nations assistance mission in Afghanistan.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have received the daily intelligence and economic briefing and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Obama then met with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, special envoy for the Middle East Quartet, in the Oval Office.
At 9:20 AM Pacific, Obama signs an executive order in the Oval Office on prescription drugs for life-threatening illnesses. It will require more reporting of shortages, accelerate reviews needed for production of the drugs, and increase scrutiny of potential price gouging.
Obama is monitoring a variety of other geopolitical crises, mostly related to the Arab awakening, AfPak, and Iraq.
War Zone Times: Libya is nine hours ahead of Pacific time, Iraq is ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
** “OUT OF CONTEXT”: HILLARY’S P.R. OFFENSIVE. It’s been a tumultuous time lately for the Obama Administration in geopolitics, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is more prominent than ever. The polls are strong for her, but the reality is more problematic.
It makes sense for Clinton to be so prominent now. Even when people believed in the economic recovery, President Barack Obama’s extensive early foreign travel had quickly diminishing returns in PR terms. And Hillary brings the Clinton clout which she and Bill have built over many years.
But, aside from Libya, to which she paid a happy visit on October 18 having championed the limited U.S. intervention policy over opposition from then Defense Secretary Bob Gates, she’s been busy spinning up some unsuccessful/highly unconvincing stuff. … From my October 29th column.
** STEVE JOBS: HARDLY A PERFECT PERSON, PERHAPS A PERFECT ICON. As Apple CEO Tim Cook noted again at last week’s memorial service, Steve Jobs liked to say that he modeled his business after the Beatles. So it was interesting to have been around when the Beatles broke up, i.e., when Jobs was fired in the ’80s from the company he so famously co-founded and led. … From my October 26th essay.
** SIGNS: JERRY BROWN AFTER A DISAPPOINTING LEGISLATIVE YEAR. … From my October 20th essay.
** AFGHAN WAR AT 10, 9/11 AT 10+: DID OSAMA BIN WIN AFTER ALL? … From my October 7th essay.
** CALIFORNIA’S WILD RIDE: OF ARNOLD, JERRY, AND VANITIES FAIR (AND OTHERWISE). … From my October 4th essay.
** MAD MEN‘S FEAT. … From my September 28th 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.
A Russian cargo ship to the International Space Station was successfully launched today, ending the stoppage occasioned by a rocket failure in the late summer.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in three wars 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. 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.
** 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.
** 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 $92 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $58 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 $22 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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