Time magazine reports what the Israeli media gleefully hints at today, that Israel is behind a massive blast at an Iranian military base over the weekend which killed 17 soldiers, including the Revolutionary Guards general in charge of the country’s missile program. Iran says it was an accident at an ammunition dump. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei presided over today’s funeral.
** QUICK HITS. Talk about flux in the crazy Republican presidential race. All polls show ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich rising dramatically, now this Public Policy Polling survey completed last night has him in the lead, with 28% to Herman Cain’s 25% and Mitt Romney’s 18%. Some other polls have Cain sliding as sexual harassment charges take their toll and Romney higher, but still in the familiar one-fifth to one-quarter zone. Expect more zaniness. … The University of California Board of Regents canceled its meeting this week in San Francisco, citing fear of disruptive protests. Many students are upset about program cuts and fee hikes, and some are targeting regents with ties to the financial industry. … Governor Jerry Brown today announced the 80th Annual Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, which will be on December 7th, the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, on the imposing West Steps of the Capitol. This year’s tree is a 40-foot white fir from El Dorado County, and it will be will be decorated with 900 hand-crafted ornaments created by children and adults with developmental disabilities supported by state and regional developmental center. It will be illuminated by 10,000 ultra-low wattage LED lights. … The California Museum today announced that Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the former NBA All-Star, and TV personality Lisa Ling will emcee the California Hall of Fame ceremony on December 8th. Brown and First Lady/Special Counsel Anne Gust Brown are continuing the program established by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver. This year’s Hall of Fame inductees include Carlos Santana, the Beach Boys, Buzz Aldrin, Amy Tan, Father Gregory Boyle, and Magic Johnson.
** NEW POLL: CONGRESS STUCK AT LOWEST JOB APPROVAL RATING ON RECORD. The new Congress continues its record run.
In October, it hit a record low in institutional job approval.
And in November, it continues to match that record!
According to a new Gallup Poll, 2011 is a dead bang cinch to be the worst year for Congressional job approval since the sounding began in 1974, at the height of the Watergate scandal which ended the presidency of Richard Nixon and marked an era of deep suspicion of major institutions.
Congressional job approval remains at 13% in November, identical to October and tying the all-time Gallup low on this measure. The 2011 average is on track to be the lowest annual rating of Congress in Gallup’s history. …
The trend on this measure has been at or near record lows for the last four months, with ratings of 13% in August, 15% in September, and 13% in each of the last two months.
At this point, approval of the way Congress is handling its job remains low among all Americans, regardless of their political party identification: Republicans, independents, and Democrats are all in a range of 11% to 15% approval. …
Congressional approval has averaged 17% so far this year. If that holds, it will be the lowest annual congressional job approval rating in Gallup records dating to 1974 — slightly below the recent annual lows of 19% recorded in 2010 and 2008, and below two years in which Gallup recorded only one measure of congressional approval: 19% in 1979, and 18% in 1992. …
** NEW SURVEY: JOB MARKET SEEN AS WORST IN A DECADE. The US economy is technically out of recession and has been for quite awhile. Another great depression has been averted, so far.
But economic growth isn’t equating to employment growth, or income growth.
So we have a new Gallup Poll survey which indicates that the public view of the job market has worsened in November to the worst level in a decade.
Americans’ assessments of the job market worsened in November and are now the most pessimistic they have been in the past decade. Nine in 10 Americans say it is a “bad time” to find a quality job, while 8% think it is a “good time.” …
Although each individual rating ties the worst Gallup has measured in the 11-year history of the question, not until now has Gallup recorded the 8% “good time” and 90% “bad time” readings in the same month.
The percentage saying it is a good time to find a quality job peaked at 48% in January 2007, prior to the recession. The best ratings this year were in April, when 81% said it was a bad time and 17% a good time to find a quality job. …
Americans clearly perceive that few quality jobs are available. Although Gallup’s unemployment and underemployment measurements remain high, they improved modestly in October. The government’s data are also showing a slight improvement as the unemployment rate declined in October and jobless claims fell again this past Thursday.
But underemployed and unemployed statistics may not be telling the whole story, if millions of additional Americans can’t find quality jobs. A lack of quality jobs reduces not only Americans’ current earnings but also their future earnings because they are failing to gain experience in good jobs. …
While the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Honolulu ended with agreements to increase trade, encourage innovation and make travel between the countries easier, President Barack Obama sharply criticized China for how it values the yuan to maintain export advantages.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
An unusual week in presidential politics is on tap, with President Barack Obama in the Asia Pacific region pursuing geopolitical ends and his would-be Republican challengers trying to sort out their strange primary contest and the so-called Congressional budget supercommittee struggles for decisions and relevance. And in California politics, potential initiatives percolate and the Occupy movement struggles for next steps as the Occupy Oakland encampment is peacefully shut down.
While the US continues its rapid withdrawal from Iraq and searches for momentum in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama is in the midst of a nine-day trip to the Pacific Basin, where the world’s center of gravity is arguably shifting. The troubled Eurozone looks to China for some bailout assistance, and much of the rest of the region casts a wary eye on the Middle Kingdom’s moves.
Meanwhile, Obama’s Republican opponents are in the midst of a very odd race. Mitt Romney is the only candidate who has a seemingly requisite set of credentials in experience, campaign skills, policy, and fundraising, though on any absolute scale he is suspect in every one of those areas. But only about a quarter of the party actually wants to nominate him, despite the stunning ups and downs and frequent sheer wackery of his leading opponents.
Newt Gingrich, defying all those who said he was finished in the spring and summer, is coming to the fore again. And Herman Cain is trying to maintain his lead or co-lead in the polls.
Rick Perry, who has the money and the office with which to contend, is trying to come back from his latest gaffe, but the infamous “Oops” moment in the first debate last week is going to be extremely hard to overcome. If you have three key things to do, and you can’t remember what they are, well, enough said. It’s not as if he said there were six. (Psychological research I’ve seen shows that it’s very difficult to remember more than five such things at a time without notes.)
I’d be happy if he and his party colleagues could get their conceptual reasoning straight.
While Obama was summiting one-on-one in Honolulu with the leaders of Russia, China, and Japan, the Republican field, in its second debate of the week, held on Saturday night, was demonstrating its unreadiness for prime time on geopolitics.
Herman Cain, whose awareness is very sketchy, denounced the Arab awakening, praising Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and Yemeni strong man Ali Abdullah Saleh, and came out foursquare for waterboarding, as did the rest of the field except for Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul. It’s not torture, said Cain, it’s “enhanced interrogation.”
Mitt Romney threatened US military action to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons. How would that actually, you know, work? He didn’t say.
Newt Gingrich also postured on Iran, but argued that covert actions, including killing Iranian scientists, are preferable. That doesn’t sound very covert when he puts it that way, does it?
Huntsman said it’s time to bring the troops home from Afghanistan.
But Romney not only rejected that, he said he would refuse to allow any negotiation with the Taliban. What’s his plan then to win in Afghanistan? Unknown.
Obama will keep an amused eye on these would-be presidents back home, and a wary eye on the Eurozone crisis — where Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is finally out after dominating one of the world’s largest economies for nearly two decades and Greece has, which rattled global markets with its short-lived referendum call, finally settled on a new prime minister — while he moves around the Pacific Basin this week.
Following the APEC Summit, which ended late in the day on Sunday, the North American Leaders Summit, the annual meeting among the U.S. President and the Mexican President and the Canadian Prime Minister, took place in Honolulu. The trio reportedly agreed anew on Obama’s push to bring Pacific nations together in a free trade zone, a plan which China is resisting.
It’s not known what the three had to say about the death of the second Mexican interior minister killed in the past few years in an air crash, which happened over the weekend outside Mexico City. The interior minister is in charge of the fight against Mexico’s very powerful and violent drug cartels.
Part of what Obama is about is an attempt to bell the cat, in the form of China, by getting it to take part in trade and fiscal regimes that remove some of its competitive advantages.
On Monday, Obama will have a fundraiser in the morning in hometown Honolulu. He leaves on Tuesday morning for Canberra, Australia. The flight to Australia moves Obama forward a day on the clock. Obama will be marking the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-Australian alliance on this trip, an alliance forged in the rising tide of the Pacific War, as the emerging World War II in the Pacific is known in much of the Pacific Basin. Australia is a longstanding key American ally, a fact which doesn’t get nearly the media attention it deserves.
Obama will hold meetings with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who just passed a carbon tax to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, and will take part in a dinner with the Australian Parliament.
Then he lays a wreath at a World War II memorial, meets with Australia’s Conservative opposition leader, and addresses the Australian Parliament.
This will be a major address for Obama, about not only the U.S.-Australian alliance, but also the the Asia Pacific region as a whole. Said a White House official in a background briefing: “This will really be the kind of anchor speech by the President in his first term on how the U.S. sees the Asia Pacific, the efforts that we’ve taken, again, within the region over the course of the last three years to strengthen our core alliances to engage emerging powers like China and India and others, and to engage Asian regional institutions like APEC and the East Asia Summit.”
Afterwards, still on Wednesday in the US, Obama will visit a local primary school with Prime Minister Gillard, Obama will visit the US embassy and then fly to Darwin, Australia.
Darwin was the site of a major Japanese attack during the Pacific War and an important Australian base today. Obama will make an announcement there about security arrangements between the US and Australia.
From there, Obama will fly to Bali, Indonesia, and his oft-postponed visit to the country of much of his boyhood. There he will meet privately with the leaders of India, the Philippines, and Thailand and other Asian nations, as well as Indonesia.
He then takes part in Indonesia, as the first US president to do so, in the East Asia Summit. Where the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit (APEC) deals principally with economic issues, the East Asia Summit deals more specifically with security and political issues.
Obama will focus on nuclear non-proliferation, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, disaster relief in a region prone to earthquakes and tsunamis and typhoons, and China’s aggressive maritime moves in the South China Sea.
As you see, this is a totally different set of issues than has been in the forefront since 9/11.
Obama then returns to Washington late on Saturday.
Police from around the San Francisco Bay Area peacefully shut down the Occupy Oakland encampment outside Oakland City Hall early Monday morning.
But old issues remain, and threaten. Especially the brewing crisis around Iran’s nuclear program, with open discussion in the Israeli press and elsewhere of an Israeli military strike against Iran. Over the weekend, 17 people were killed in a huge blast outside Tehran. Said to be an accident involving ammunition, the blast took the life of a top Iranian general who was in charge of Iran’s missile program.
While Obama makes some major moves in the Pacific Basin, on the other side of the world, in Afghanistan, a loya jirga is set for Wednesday to discuss a peace overture with the Taliban. The Taliban publicly threaten to kill attendees, something the Taliban highlighted by today releasing some details of the meeting and its security arrangements, which are now being hastily updated.
Former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, the top non-Taliban rival to President Hamid Karzai, who lost a presidential race shot through with election fraud, says he won’t take part.
Back in California politics, maneuvering continues around 2012 election initiatives. Several shoes have yet to drop around potential revenue measures, and government reform measures. And we will get a much better idea if the right’s top priority, suspending the Citizens Redistricting Commission’s state Senate maps, will work in the form of a qualifying a referendum to overturn the law.
Meanwhile, with what may be a tumultuous University of California Board of Regents meeting set for this week in San Francisco (many students are angry about program cuts and fee increases, and a UC Berkeley demonstration called Occupy Cal was very forcefully squelched late last week), the Occupy Oakland camp outside Oakland City Hall was shut down without major incident early this morning. 32 people were arrested, most from outside Oakland.
The camp has become problematic, as I discussed in my “Ocupado” piece early this month, with the focus moving from the broad Occupy Wall Street themes of economic unfairness to a more street-level distraction of Paris commune fantasies, a lack of willingness to denounce and separate from violent elements, and disruption of local businesses.
It’s a fundamental problem for the left, and not an unfamiliar one.
Other Occupy encampments, in Portland, Oregon; Denver, Colorado; and Salt Lake City, Utah are in various stages of being dispersed.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who flip-flopped all over the place, finally had to move or face recall herself. Her job approval rating was down in the teens in polling I’ve seen.
And this is in a city which largely agrees with the overall critique offered by Occupy Wall Street.
Quan’s legal counsel, Dan Siegel, quit early this morning because of his support for the encampment.
For some reason, the media covering this never gets around to mentioning that Siegel, a college friend of Quan’s, was the UC Berkeley student body president in 1969 who fatefully told a large rally of students that it was time to “Take the park!,” referring to the so-called People’s Park in Berkeley, an attempt to turn a planned university parking lot into a liberated public space.
This led to a huge confrontation with the police which left one person dead and huge numbers of arrests.
People’s Park did ultimately become a public park, but it’s a mess. Siegel, who was also a leader of Students for a Democratic Society, went on to graduate from the Berkeley law school and become a member of the Oakland school board, where he was a significant thorn in Governor Jerry Brown’s side as he pursued school reform measures while Oakland’s mayor from 1999 to 2007.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Hawaii.
The time in Hawaii is two hours earlier than Pacific time.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings.
At 6:15 PM Pacific, Obama attends a fundraiser at the Aulani Disney Resort in Kapolei.
Obama is monitoring a variety of other geopolitical crises, mostly related to the Arab awakening, AfPak, and Iraq.
War Zone Times: Iraq is eleven hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is twelve and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan says she tried to do what was “right for the city” when she ordered police to shut down the Occupy Oakland encampment near city hall early this morning.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
** VETERANS DAY IN A FRACTURED AMERICA. Credit Barack Obama with some brilliant Veterans Day moves. In addition to the customary Arlington solemnities, he presided over the opening of the college basketball season on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier which conducted the funeral of Osama bin Laden.
Obama ESPN hoopster, check. Obama bagging Osama, check. Obama buds with the troops, check.
It’s all a very nice kick-off to Obama’s nine days of Asia Pacific summitry, a neat contrast to the reality show clownfest that is the Republican presidential race.
But the stagecraft obscures basic realities that plague the country, which this Veterans Day found ever more fractured.
After two big wars in 10 years, the country is fractured and fatigued, the economy sputtering after a near depression, with few Americans having any real experience or familiarity with the military.
And the veterans we celebrate, more dutifully it seems to me than not, all too often come back fractured in mind and body, as my father did. … From my November 12th essay.
** RECALLING JOE FRAZIER: AN APPRECIATION, AND A NOTE OF HORROR. The surprise death of former world heavyweight champ Joe Frazier reminds of the man’s elemental greatness, and of the deep pitfalls of high-contact sport.
Frazier, who died unexpectedly of liver cancer on Monday, just two days after his illness was publicly revealed, was an ill-remembered legend. One of the most famous men on the planet in the ’60s and ’70s, he was one of the great figures of the so-called Golden Age of boxing, fighting epic battles with Muhammad Ali while faring much less well against George Foreman.
Today, boxing is a sport in decline, in no small measure because many of us can no longer enjoy it. But in Frazier’s heyday, which coincided with that of the iconic Ali, it captivated people around the globe. … From my November 10th essay.
** OCUPADO. … From my November 4th essay.
** HIGH-SPEED RAIL: JERRY BROWN’S BIG MOVE TO THE FUTURE. … From my November 2nd essay.
** “OUT OF CONTEXT”: HILLARY’S P.R. OFFENSIVE. … From my October 29th column.
** STEVE JOBS: HARDLY A PERFECT PERSON, PERHAPS A PERFECT ICON. … 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.
** 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 spectacular time-lapse video taken from the International Space Station shows lightning striking hundreds of times a second.
** 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 $98 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $64 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 $16 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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