Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was on hand in Baghdad yesterday to officially retire the flag of U.S. Forces-Iraq. The veteran California political figure presided over the formal cessation of US intervention in the troubled country and handover of all security responsibilities to Iraqi forces. There are less than 4,000 US troops left in Iraq, down from 150,000 when Barack Obama was inaugurated as president.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … NEWTONIAN MOTION: THE BIG TALK CAMPAIGN.
** QUICK HITS. Mitt Romney received something of a boost today with the endorsement of new South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. But Haley’s numbers have slid precipitously, and she faced a firestorm of criticism from the South Carolina right for her backing of Romney’s bid, including a fusillade from beyond by Rush Limbaugh. Romney trails Newt Gingrich by a wide margin in this early primary state. … Newt Gingrich has picked up the endorsements of the the speakers of the Iowa and New Hampshire state houses of representatives. … Romney’s superPAC launched TV attack ads today against Gingrich in Florida, where the ex-House speaker leads by a big margin.
** NEW POLL: THE GREAT CAMPAIGN IS ABOUT TO KICK INTO HIGH GEAR. CAN YOU FEEL THE EXCITEMENT?! Or not.
A new Gallup Poll on popular expectations for the 2012 election season, now well underway, indictates that voters are, well, not all that wowed.
And that would be putting it diplomatically.
Think of the passengers in the car saying: “Are we there yet?”
Oh, and it’s not a matter of folks who are not getting enough attention from the candidates.
In fact, the voters who are getting the most attention are the ones who are already most sick of the campaign.
With the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses serving as the kickoff of voting in the 2012 presidential election campaign, Americans would likely prefer to fast-forward to the end of the campaign than watch it unfold. Given a choice, 70% of Americans say they can’t wait for the campaign to be over, while 26% can’t wait for it to begin. …
Gallup asked the same question Nov. 30-Dec. 7 of residents in 12 states that are expected to be the most important in deciding the electoral vote outcome — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The eventual nominees are likely to focus their campaign efforts on these 12 swing states, meaning their residents will be bombarded with candidate advertisements, events, and grass-roots outreach.
But even before those efforts have begun in earnest in most of these states, swing-state residents express a slightly higher level of negativity toward the campaign than the overall population, with 75% saying they can’t wait for the campaign to be over and 21% saying they can’t wait for it to begin. …
Nationally, there is little difference by party in feelings about the upcoming campaign — 67% of Democrats and 66% of Republicans can’t wait for the campaign to be over.
More generally, all key subgroups look forward more to the campaign’s end than its beginning, but some slightly less so than others. For example, men (31%) are more likely than women (21%) to say they can’t wait for the campaign to begin.
The greatest differences in feelings toward the campaign are by age. Senior citizens, who have seen more presidential elections than younger Americans, are least likely to be looking forward to the campaign, with 16% saying they can’t wait for it to begin. That compares with 27% or more of those in each of the younger age groups. …
NOTE: With some travel and technical issues at this time of year, publishing is less frequent than usual at the moment.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
He then delivered remarks at the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism at the new National Harbor development in Washington.
It’s almost over, folks, one of America’s longest wars, the existence of which probably impelled Obama’s run for the presidency in the first place.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta presided yesterday in Baghdad over a flag lowering and encasement of the colors ceremony which formally marked the end of America’s Iraq War. The veteran California political figure declared the war over, saying that the US looks forward to an “independent, free and sovereign Iraq.” He thanked the more than one million troops who served there since a US-dominated “coalition of the willing” force invaded Iraq on March 20th, 2003.
It remains to be seen how things will go in Iraq after the US departure.
I’m not at all optimistic.
Removing Saddam Hussein removed the greatest counterweight to Iran in the region. And Iran had far more potential influence in Iraq than Messieurs Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz ever realized.
Now that influence is becoming very manifest.
But our ADD American culture has moved on. And with good reason, to our near melted down and still stubbornly slow to recover domestic economy.
Which is actually a globalized economy, not that it gets reported that way.
Obama got some good economic news yesterday in the form of the lowest unemployment claims in the past few years.
And global markets are seemingly stable a week after what looks like an historic European Union — minus only the UK, which held out against any new regulation of the City of London, its equivalent of Wall Street — decision to routinize member state budgets through the EU and have new regulations on the financial sector.
He got more good news last night with agreement between Democrats and Republicans to pass the necessary spending bill.
But political fighting still continues on extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance.
Obama’s would-be Republican rivals held their last debate before the holidays last night in Sioux City, Iowa.
Most of the field took dead aim at frontrunner Newt Gingrich, with Mr. Walks Through the Raindrops Mitt Romney back to getting his customary free ride in the process.
For his own part, Romney did not take shots at Gingrich, defaulting to his bland presentation points of his own perceived virtues and the supposed defects of Obama.
After some rocky going in the beginning, Gingrich did pretty well. We’ll see how his lead holds up against heavy Romney spending against him.
Ron Paul, who delights in attacking Gingrich but not Romney, saw the end of any shot he had at winning in Iowa, where he’s been moving up in third, when he let loose with his libertarian isolationist zealotry in full flower.
Jihadist terrorists attack America, he explained, “because we bomb them.”
He also claimed that the UN nuclear watchdog report on Iran’s nuclear weapons program is wrong.
It’s one thing to be against more foolish adventurism. It’s another to be such a head in the sand isolationist as to deny reality.
Obama is monitoring a variety of 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.
Governor Jerry Brown and former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who joined forces to sue the Bush/Cheney Administration in November 2007 over its attempts to stop California’s landmark climate change program, joined forces again on Thursday at Brown’s Governor’s Conference on Extreme Climate Risk and California’s Future in San Francisco.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in San Diego and Northern California.
Brown went to San Diego today where he joined forces with business leaders and elected officials from the region to dedicate the new North American headquarters of Soltec.
The facility, which has received no government funding for this project, is slated to produce concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) modules for the U.S. renewable-energy market and employ 450 people, while supporting an additional 1,000 indirect jobs in the region.
Brown was joined at the event by a host of notables, including San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, San Diego Gas & Electric CEO Jessie Knight, California Public Utility Commissioner Timothy Simon and CleanTech San Diego President & CEO Jim Waring.
Brown also got some good big picture economic news today. California’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest point in two and a half years.
It’s now 11.3%. For most of the past year it has been around 12.5%. The last time it was this low was in May 2009.
Last month, the state’s unemployment rate was 0.4% higher.
Brown hosted his all-day conference on climate change on Thursday at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.
Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was a last minute addition to the program, which included UN climate chief Dr. Ravendra Pachauri, a Nobel Prize winner, and Sir Richard Branson, head of the Virgin Group.
In a fiery talk opening the conference, Brown denounced the Republican Party and libertarian ideologues as greenhouse deniers and promoters of “cult-like behavior” designed to lead “political lemmings” over a cliff.
It didn’t sound like something intended to promote a continuation of Brown’s practice earlier this year of spending a lot of time courting potential Republican legislative votes.
Of course, that didn’t actually work.
Appearing later in the afternoon, Schwarzenegger — who championed renewable energy and the state’s landmark climate change program as governor and is continuing to work with the United Nations on these issues — said that he is “proud” of Brown as his successor. He urged a positive, conciliatory approach of inclusiveness with regard to climate change. He also noted that, while it was exciting to be there, it “was also weird, in a way.” Since just the day before he was filming in New Mexico on his new movie, The Last Stand, “slamming a guy’s head into a bridge.
Schwarzenegger spoke of avoiding enviro gloom and doom talk, and instead focusing on jobs, health, energy independence, and national security.
** JERRY BROWN PULLS A TRIGGER, INVOKES ROME, AND FOCUSES ON CLIMATE AND INITIATIVES. Governor Jerry Brown is in the midst of a very consequential week, pulling the trigger on mid-year “trigger” cuts in the state budget, hosting a major conference on climate change, and dealing with 2012 initiative politics. He also commented for the first time on the Occupy Wall Street movement, drawing an historical parallel to Rome. …
Brown had just gotten some very good news from the latest Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll. His tax initiative plan is favored by nearly two-thirds of California voters.
Brown’s job approval rating is at 46%, the expected range it’s been in essentially since shortly after his election. Good enough for this political environment, and better than anyone else, though less than it could have been.
Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s job approval rating in this poll a year ago was at 32%, a recovery from the low 20s where it had been early in the summer. And higher than the oft cited 23%, which is from a late summer Field Poll. …
I believe, based on discussions I had last week and the week before with well-placed sources among the potential initiative promoters, that the field will begin to clear. I expect the Think Long Committee of billionaires and former officeholders to avoid going to head to head with Brown’s initiative. As I’ve pointed out, Think Long can’t win next November with its plan, which cuts taxes for the wealthy and large corporations and extends the sales tax to all manner of services. …
The Brown conference’s setting, a wonderful facility founded just a few years after the California Gold Rush in the middle of the 19th century, when Brown’s ancestors came to the Golden State, is fitting for this governor who is a fan of H.G. Wells. … From my December 14th feature.
** TOP DOG IN THE BIG DES MOINES DOGPILE? IT’S NEWT! They said it was going to be a joint rumble against new frontrunner Newt Gingrich, a veritable dogpile in Des Moines. But the ex-House speaker showed that he is the smartest guy on the stage, that stage. And that all those years of honing his media chops on C-SPAN and his study of media dynamics underlie the game changer in this race.
In contrast, Mitt Romney, as I suggested in my piece yesterday on the Huffington Post, “Newtonian Motion: Action Begets Flawed Reaction,” revealed live and in person that he really doesn’t know how to get after Gingrich. And that he is a guy who doesn’t realize that slick and shallow only works in a commercial.
Media skills were dominant in this debate, and Gingrich has them. He parried every attack from every direction, and turned some of them to his decided advantage. And then there was Romney. Remind me, where did people get the idea he’s a good debater? From “debates,” really joint appearances, in which, oddly, no one asked him tough questions, perhaps? … From my December 11th column.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: ACTION BEGETS FLAWED REACTION. … From my December 10th column.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: IN IOWA, A LOT CAN HAPPEN IN FOUR WEEKS. … From my December 6th column.
** JERRY BROWN AND THE 2012 INITIATIVE WARS. … From my December 3rd feature.
** ALTERNEWT: GINGRICH “ALTERNATE HISTORY” NOVELS REVEAL MUCH ON PRESENT POLITICS. … From my December 1st essay.
** A SUBLIME AND RIDICULOUS DAY: MARS MISSION AND AFPAK DEBACLE. … From my November 28th essay.
** SOUND AND FURY: THE UTTERLY UNSURPRISING “SUPER-COMMITTEE” FLOP. … From my November 22nd essay.
** DARWINIAN: OBAMA GOES POST-IRAQ IN OZ, REPUBLICANS RACE TO THE PAST. … From my November 21st essay.
** ALI, FRAZIER, JACKSON, STALLONE: OF IMAGE, RACE, POLITICS, AND MYTH. … From my November 16th 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 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 $94 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $60 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 $20 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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