It’s not the season of goodwill this year in Iowa.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … THE NEW CHRISTMAS TRADITION OF … DOCTOR WHO?
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
And now one of the strangest weeks of the year. President Barack Obama is in Hawaii, on vacation as is customary the week between Christmas and New Year’s. He has no public events, well, that he knows of yet. But, thanks to the bizarre election calendar adopted by their party, the, ah, colorful crew of Republicans who seek to depose him are scrambling like mad to try to stake their claims in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Obama, of course, is hoping that bubbling geopolitical crises don’t boil over to the extent that he has to try to publicly manage them. His vacations have a rather sad history of coinciding with crisis of one sort or another.
Obama had a very big week last week simply by standing up to the bizarre Congressional Republican attempt to blockade extension of the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits. But the solution that passed at the last minute was only a two-month extension, and the effort to link the highly controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada is very much alive.
Back in California politics, Governor Jerry Brown and First Lady/Special Counsel Anne Gust Brown spent a rather quiet Christmas in the San Francisco Bay Area. Brown will meet with Capitol reporters — at least those who are around — on Tuesday to discuss the year past and perhaps some of the year ahead. I’ve prepped a piece for the first anniversary of Brown’s inauguration next week.
Aside from that, it’s a very quiet period in the Golden State. And a quiet vacation week for me, as I only published 12,000 words or so. There was something of a kerfuffle last week when an outfit called ProPublica, with which I’m frankly not familiar and which is evidently somewhere back East, claimed an “expose” that Democrats had manipulated the state Citizens Redistricting Commission into drawing congressional districts which will yield more Democrats.
Since “more Democrats” is the obvious demographic and political direction of the state, and since Republican legislative strength in California has been exaggerated because of the incumbent protection act gerrymander approved a decade ago, as I’ve written quite a few times, there’s really not much to it.
Back to the main events.
Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, among others, are launching bus tours of Iowa early this in advance of the first-in-the nation contest on January 3rd. I’ll have much more on that as we go. Ron Paul is playing it cagier about his schedule, perhaps because many of his newsletters promoting and profiting from racism and bizarre conspiracy theories have come to light. I should say, come to light again. Nobody cared four years ago, and in the end, no one will care this year. But for now, it’s placed some real heat on the zealous libertarian ideologue, and has his cadre of followers spinning frantically away, as I noticed on one of my pieces from the Christmas weekend.
The attack ads were stilled for a few days in the Republican presidential race, but they are back up now. Frontrunner Newt Gingrich, assailed on all sides, especially by Romney’s super PAC and also by Paul’s well-funded effort, is going up with a comparative spots describing his economic plan as “Reaganomics 2.0″ and hitting Romney for his past moderation on Reagan.
Gingrich has an ongoing problem in his home state of Virginia, where he, like everyone in the Republican field except for Romney and Paul, suddenly finds himself excluded from a key Super Tuesday primary ballot due to restrictive regulation and enforcement of ballot access. So, ironically, a rule designed to keep fringe candidates off the ballot has placed a fringe candidate on the ballot while keeping the frontrunner in Virginia’s polls off the ballot.
All that was discussed here on NWN on Saturday. Gingrich plans to run as a write-in, which could actually be a benefit to him. There’s only one problem. Virginia law doesn’t appear to allow for write-in candidacies in primaries.
I suspect the Gingrich forces will also look at overly restrictive verification of voter signatures on petitions. Apparently the officials threw out the signatures of all those that did not exactly conform to registered addresses and so forth.
Hmm, this sounds like what conservatives frequently like to do with Democratic voters, doesn’t it?
Virginia is a key Super Tuesday primary. And Gingrich actually lives in Virginia, in McLean. He had dashed back from Iowa/New Hampshire campaigning late last week to personally rally supporters to make sure he made the ballot.
Virginia Republicans require 10,000 valid signatures of registered Republicans to make the ballot, with at least 400 in each of the state’s 11 congressional districts. Gingrich had nearly 12,000 signatures, but has not made it, either because not enough were valid or because he didn’t reach the quota of valid signatures in each district.
To add insult to injury, Gingrich has a big lead in the polls in Virginia.
We had something not entirely unlike this in Gary Hart’s 1984 campaign. We won the Wisconsin primary, but hadn’t qualified delegate slates in time. So we got a big vote, but no delegates.
If Gingrich does manage to mount a write-in campaign, it could be effective and dramatic in a way that a normal campaign is not.
In his first presidential campaign, in 1976, Jerry Brown entered the race so late that he missed not only the early primaries but many filing deadlines for later contests. Including in the Oregon primary.
Solution? “Write-in Jerry Brown for President.” As the t-shirts read. Running as a write-in, Brown garnered a quarter of the vote in a multi-candidate field and finished a very close third. Which was, frankly, as good as a win.
Obama is undoubtedly getting a few chuckles from all this today.
But he has some very daunting news on the geopolitical front.
There is uptick in chatter in Israel about air strikes on Iran to try to knock out its nuclear weapons program.
Iran has begun a 10-day naval exercise in and around the Strait of Hormuz, one of the principal choke points in the world, through which much of the world’s oil supply must flow by tanker to keep the global economy running.
The US Navy is going to have a very tense holiday season.
In Egypt, the second round of that country’s complex parliamentary voting has concluded and results indicate a repeat of the first round.
Islamist parties have again won around 65% of the Egyptian vote, with some 40% going to the Muslim Brotherhood, which has publicly renounced its past radicalism, and 25% going to the Salafists, who are adamant in in their extreme fundamentalism.
Former cricket superstar Imran Khan, a sharp critic of the US policies on AfPak and an increasingly formidable contender for president of Pakistan, drew big crowds over the weekend.
In Afghanistan, another top Northern Alliance leader was killed on Sunday, along with 20 others in a Taliban bombing attack which also wounded 70 people.
In Iraq, the Sunni vice president, wanted on terrorism charges engineered by the Shia-dominated government and fled to the Kurdistan portion of Iraq for safe-keeping, said that the government itself was behind a wave of terror bombings a few days ago that killed dozens across Baghdad.
Another terrorist attack today in Baghdad killed seven people.
In Nigeria, a major African oil-producing state, Christian churches were bombed Sunday by Islamist guerrillas, killing dozens of Christmas worshipers.
And in Russia, where big crowds — including a Christmas Eve throng of some 80,000 — turned out on the weekend to demonstrate against the ruling United Russia Party and its electoral practices which produced a very narrow majority win in parliamentary elections, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev called on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to step down from power.
Gorbachev chose this Christmas Day, the 20th anniversary of his ending the Soviet Union by resigning its presidency, to push for the departure of the founder of United Russia, who fully intends to return to the presidency in the March elections.
As I mentioned, Obama’s block schedule for the week ahead is clear. He is spending family time, meeting with friends, playing some golf and taking walks, and visiting and working out with the Marines at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, which is just up the road a ways.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Hawaii.
He has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in Kailua, where he is staying with his family.
Obama has no scheduled public events.
Obama is vacationing in his home state with First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha through January 1st.
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.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
** IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD CAST IN THE GOP’S RACE TO CASA BLANCA. The Republican presidential race was a reality TV show. But now that the primaries and caucuses are coming right up, it’s a road picture. Here’s how each candidate, a distinct type, is doing right now.
The Legend in His Own Mind
There aren’t many historical figures that the ostentatiously intellectual Dr. Newton Leroy Gingrich hasn’t compared himself with lately, and always quite favorably. He even declared himself the nominee.
But he should have paid a little more attention to sports than that National Merit Scholarship, especially in a process that doesn’t value intellectual capability all that highly. Because there really aren’t many games that are over before half-time. … From my December 24th essay.
** KEYSTONE PIPELINE: SMALL PART OF A VERY BIG PICTURE. In the chaos that passes for governance in Washington, the Keystone XL pipeline project looms as a seemingly supreme issue. But it is not. To view it as such is to miss the overall, something our media excels at. … From my December 21st essay.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: THE BIG TALK CAMPAIGN. … From my December 17th column.
** JERRY BROWN PULLS A TRIGGER, INVOKES ROME, AND FOCUSES ON CLIMATE AND INITIATIVES. … From my December 14th feature.
** TOP DOG IN THE BIG DES MOINES DOGPILE? IT’S NEWT! … 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.
** 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.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is proving to be the hit movie of the holiday season. Wait, I thought Tom Cruise wasn’t supposed to be a big movie star anymore. Here’s the sandstorm chase sequence.
** 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 $99 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $65 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 about $15 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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