France today suspended training of Afghan troops after four French soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier. The Pentagon privately acknowledges attacks by Afghans on NATO troops have been rising. Ominously, it blames hostility toward coalition forces more than Taliban plotting.
** QUICK HITS. Another conservative icon endorsed Newt Gingrich today. It’s Chuck Norris, one of the best karate black belts and action movie stars ever. Gingrich tweeted in response, saying he’s honored blah blah and “He will make an excellent Secretary of Attack.” … For his part, Mitt Romney sang “Happy Birthday” today to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who just turned 40. She’s on the verge of having made an embarrassing endorsement move in her first foray into presidential politics. … Gingrich-hating Romney surrogate John Sununu, the ex-New Hampshire governor and Bush I White House chief of staff who resigned after his private trips on military aircraft were revealed, said today that the Romney campaign is settling in “for the long slog.” … Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, who memorably tried to cut Governor Jerry Brown off during a 1992 presidential debate for repeating his 1-800 fundraising number, stopped by the Capitol today for a visit. I once sat on his daughter by mistake. Which is another story entirely.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: UNDERLYING THE DECIDEDLY UNDEAD. Back from the dead. Again. Newt Gingrich. Amazing, isn’t it?
What’s actually amazing is that Gingrich was “dead” in the first place.
The fact is that the ex-House speaker had the Republican race in his hands last month and then proceeded to blow it.
And Mitt Romney is one of the most hollow, and hyped, political figures to come down the track in some time. He’s a consultant culture dream candidate: Big money and heavily into “messaging.” However, messaging, i.e., constantly repeating crafted talking points, is often not the same as having a message, which is why what he says is so malleable and chameleon-like. It’s obvious that there is very little that interests Romney besides success.
It’s a combination of unforced Gingrich errors, erroneous media coverage, and Romney’s nature peeking out all too often from behind the slick facade that has led to these seemingly shocking twists and turns.
Gingrich should have taken command of the race in December. Instead, he portentously declared that he would be the nominee and oddly proceeded to avoid any real campaigning, allowing Romney’s super PAC operatives to get the jump on tearing him down, until the tide had turned decidedly against him.
But Romney is Romney, and Gingrich has skills, so between Romney’s radical capitalist contradictions coming to the fore — complete with his bizarre attacks on any criticism of Wall Street ways — and Gingrich’s ability to get back in debates, the undead has risen. No wonder that Romney is now trying to skip future debates. …
** NEW SURVEY: HALF FEEL WORSE OFF THAN A YEAR AGO. A spate of improving economic news can serve to obscure a deeper reality.
Better is not the same as good.
A new Gallup Poll survey drives that point home, revealing that that half of Americans say they feel worse off financially than a year ago. Less than a third say they feel better off.
So President Barack Obama can hold off on popping the corks on those chilling champagne bottles, whose icy allure is given a greater frisson by the events of this Republican presidential race.
Things did not collapse into depression on his watch, as they threatened to do when he assumed the presidency. But he has not been able to deliver much in the way of a recovery for most Americans, excited as high-income Americans may be about their expanding good fortune.
Nearly half of U.S. adults, 49%, say they are worse off financially today than a year ago, while 29% say they are better off and 21% volunteer that their finances haven’t changed. The percentage rating their current finances negatively compared with a year ago is down from the high of 55% recorded twice in 2008, but is still among the highest in Gallup’s four decades of measuring this attitude. …
The same Jan. 5-8, 2012, Gallup poll finds the majority of Americans feeling optimistic about the direction of their finances, with 56% saying they expect to be financially better off a year from now.
Gallup’s trend shows that the majority of Americans have typically been optimistic about their finances on this measure. However, the 56% currently optimistic matches the average “better off” prediction for this trend since 1977, which is better than the decidedly subpar evaluation of their present finances.
A quarter of Americans, 26%, expect their finances to be worse in a year, while 14% volunteer that they will be the same. …
It is not clear what effect, if any, perceptions of personal finances have on Americans’ presidential vote preferences. However, to the extent they do influence candidate choice, a review of Gallup trends near the start of prior election years finds current attitudes most similar to the mood in 1992 and not far off from where they were in 1980 — two election years in which an incumbent president was defeated in his bid for re-election.
Americans are a bit more negative today than they were in January 1992 about how their current finances compare with a year ago, and they are a bit more optimistic their finances will improve over the next year. However, these differences produce an identical index score of +5, the lowest of the nine presidential election years since 1980. …
Newt Gingrich stoned CNN moderator John King in last night’s Republican presidential debate in South Carolina when the unfortunate journo opened the debate by asking him about his ex-wife’s allegation that he asked her for “an open marriage.” The audience gave Gingrich a standing ovation.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … NEWTONIAN MOTION: UNDERLYING THE DECIDEDLY UNDEAD.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He then met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.
The US is trying to figure out how to finally get Ali Abdullah Saleh out of Yemen. He wants to come here. Obama and company aren’t happy about that, as it would be a PR problem in the Arab world. But Saudi Arabia doesn’t want him, either, and his options are limited.
At 2:05 PM Pacific, Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
I thought that Newt Gingrich won the second South Carolina debate of the week last night on CNN in Charleston. It would have been hard for him to lose it after the way it opened.
CNN moderator John King, rather amazingly, opened the debate by asking Gingrich about allegations from his second wife Marianne Gingrich, just aired on ABC less than two days before the pivotal primary, that he had asked her for “an open marriage” over a decade ago when they were still married.
Gingrich proceeded to stone King, saying “No,” he did not want to answer his questions, then did, denying the specific charge in the process and declaring it “despicable” that a presidential debate would be opened in this manner. None of his opponents contradicted him.
The audience went wild for Gingrich, giving him a standing ovation.
Meanwhile, a new Public Policy Polling survey shows Gingrich holding a 6-point lead over Mitt Romney, who had held a big lead at the beginning of this very eventful week.
This is consistent with, in fact better than, what I reported here Wednesday night with an Insider Advantage poll giving the ex-House speaker a smaller edge over the Romney.
It’s Gingrich 35%, Romney 29%, Rick Santorum 15%, and Ron Paul 15%.
A caveat. People are only now beginning to learn of his ex-wife’s dramatic and salacious charges against Gingrich. That could impact his now big lead among evangelicals.
Or it may not. Rick Perry sought to inoculate Gingrich as a reformed sinner yesterday morning when he pulled out of the race to endorse him. And Gingrich has previously acknowledged behavior he regrets, behavior which has been widely reported.
Events are driving President Barack Obama to song. Last night at a fundraiser at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, he sang a few bars of Al Green’s soul classic “Let’s Stay Together.”
Romney, who was booed for giving yet another waffling answer about his financial dealings, has big problems of his own. Including yesterday’s revelation that he didn’t really finish first in Iowa, which I’ve been mentioning as a likelihood for quite a while now.
I’m not seeing any mea culpas from the media types who rushed to anoint Romney as the Iowa winner.
The crises with Iran and Israel continue to percolate. A top Iranian leader today declared that Israel must be “punished” for last week’s assassination of the head of Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment plant.
US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey is in the midst of closed door meetings in Tel Aviv with Israeli military leaders.
Obama is monitoring a variety of other geopolitical crises, mostly related to the Arab awakening, AfPak, and Iraq.
Military Crisis Zone Times: The Arabian Gulf 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.
Brown got good news this morning in the form of California’s unemployment declining for a fifth straight month.
It dropped to 11.1% in December, down from 11.3% the month before.
A year earlier, it was at 12.5%.
On a second day touring Southern California in the wake of yesterday morning’s State of the State address, Brown drew warm reactions from crowds of business executives in Orange County and civic types in San Diego.
But, while Orange County business leaders indicated they would back Brown’s initiative, some of those in San Diego were more circumspect.
Brown said yesterday he may delay the big water bond passed late in the Schwarzenegger Administration to provide a clearer shot for his revenue initiative.
Meanwhile, legislative Democrats not surprisingly reacted with some skepticism about Brown’s proposed budget cuts and legislative Republicans didn’t like the proposed tax hikes. I should have a function key for those stances.
** STATING THE STATE: JERRY BROWN GETS DISCIPLINED AND LAYS IT OUT. Straighten out the chronic crisis of the present and move the state forward into the future. That’s Jerry Brown’s mission as governor of California this time around, which he laid out rather clearly in his new State of the State address.
He’s also making progress early on in clearing the field for his revenue initiative in November.
Brown has articulated everything he said in this speech before. But he hadn’t framed it up and put it all together in a coherent way, preferring too often to rely on his improvisational rhetorical skills. And he certainly hadn’t ventured out from the capital in the North in any sustained manner to push his program around the state, yet he followed this State of the State address by, in essence, bringing the State of the State to several communities across Southern California on Wednesday and Thursday. … From my January 19th feature.
** EXTREMISM IN DEFENSE OF IRONY: BY ROMNEY’S RADICAL DEFINITION HIS OWN CHIEF STRATEGIST IS “ANTI-FREE ENTERPRISE.”
Q. “Do you suggest that anyone who questions the policies and practices of Wall Street and financial institutions, anyone who has questions about the distribution of wealth and power in this country, is envious, is it about jealousy, or is it about fairness?”
A. “You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare.”
Mitt Romney on The Today Show after his New Hampshire primary victory, reacting to criticism of his record as head of the unfortunately named Bain Capitol.
So much for the idea of Mitt Romney as a moderate. A chameleon or flip-flopper on social and environmental issues, sure, which in some circles counts as “moderate.” But on economic issues, a radical capitalist employing extreme rhetoric.
Shocked by being under fire from fellow Republicans for his work as a corporate takeover specialist, Romney and his allies have reacted with a semi-controlled hysteria, deeming any criticism of the era’s anything-goes financialized capitalism the functional equivalent of socialism. … From my January 15th essay.
** BOMBING BAIN: HOW DOES THE POLITICS OF WALL STREET GREED PLAY IN THE G.O.P.? … From my January 10th column.
** JERRY BROWN 2.0 AT 1. … From my January 7th essay.
** IOWA THEN AND NOW. … From my December 30th essay.
** IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD CAST IN THE GOP’S RACE TO CASA BLANCA. … From my December 24th essay.
** KEYSTONE PIPELINE: SMALL PART OF A VERY BIG PICTURE. … From my December 21st essay.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: THE BIG TALK CAMPAIGN. … From my December 17th column.
** 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 $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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