Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend a United Nations Security Council meeting Tuesday in New York to lend her support to the Syrian opposition and a resolution calling for the end of the Assad regime.
** QUICK HITS. California’s redevelopment agencies, who fought hard against reform efforts last year and in the past, are on track for the dust bin of history, come midnight on Tuesday. There is no sign of legislation to revive them, and of course Governor Jerry Brown would not sign the bill in any event. … Legislation to amend California’s three-strikes law was defeated today in the California Assembly. For those following along at home, with the defeat of single-payer health care legislation last week in the state Senate, California Democrats are reducing their target profile in a critical election year. … Oakland City Hall re-opened today after city workers cleaned up extensive damage caused by Occupy demonstrators over the weekend.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … REPUBLICANS LOSE BIG ON REDISTRICTING GAMBLE, BROWN MOVES FORWARD.
** U.S. TO PUSH FOR END OF ASSAD REGIME IN SYRIA. After days of behind the scenes maneuvering, and in the midst of widespread fighting in Syria following months of bloody crackdown against pro-democracy protesters, the Obama Administration will join forces with Britain and France to push a UN Security Council resolution on Tuesday in New York which will promote the ouster of longtime Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
These three permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia and China being the rest of the Perm 5, are uniting behind language emanating from the Arab League urging that Assad leave office and turn over power to a deputy in a transitional governance arrangement for Syria, long one of the lynchpins of the Arab world and presently a key ally of Iran.
Russia, Syria’s longtime ally, calls this the beginning of a regime change move by Western powers allied with various Arab states and vows to veto the measure.
But the BBC reports that the resolution has the support of at least 10 of the 15 members of the UN Security Council. With that much support, only a veto by a permanent Security Council member state can block a resolution.
The Arab League finally pulled its monitors out of Syria two days ago after the Assad regime repeatedly violated its pledge to stop visiting violence upon its opponents.
The Assadists say they have no choice, that the suddenly blossoming Free Syrian Army — which is based in part in Turkey — is too strong to ignore. Indeed, the regime has struggled to disperse these organized armed forces from several places they’ve seized, including suburbs of storied Damascus itself.
The head of the Arab League and the prime minister of Qatar, which has called for Arab countries to send troops into Syria, will be in New York to lobby for the resolution.
Could we be headed for another Libyan scenario, this time involving a key ally of Iran, thus linking the scenario to a much more complex and potentially deadly situation?
A resurgent Mitt Romney and mistake-plagued Newt Gingrich battle in the Florida Republican presidential primary.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
A big week on tap in presidential politics, and a quieter one in California politics.
The Republicans fight on in their race for the presidential nomination — with the Florida primary on Tuesday and the Nevada caucuses on Saturday — while President Barack Obama positions himself against their increasingly conservative positions and deals with geopolitical crises. For his part, Governor Jerry Brown, with added support over the past few days for his big revenue initiative and Republicans scrambling to regroup after a huge defeat on redistricting, moves forward with his agenda but has a renewed problem to deal with in his adopted home town of Oakland.
Mitt Romney continues to lead Newt Gingrich in all polls, by varying margins, heading into Tuesday’s Florida Republican presidential primary. Rick Santorum, who actually narrowly won the Iowa caucuses, a victory of which he was robbed by bad reporting of a Romney win there, is fading out of the picture. And Ron Paul, whose main effect thus far in the race has been to help Romney tear down Gingrich, has done little of late.
Gingrich has made quite a few mistakes, and Romney has benefited from a coordinated counter-attack on the former House speaker from many elements of the political and media establishments, conservative and otherwise.
Gingrich has also been blitzed on the airwaves in the Sunshine State, with the Romney super PAC (which still has not divulged its funders) driving a negative campaign against the ex-House speaker which has seen him outspent by 4-to-1, with an stunning $16 million spent for Romney. The pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future super PAC, having spent about $3 million, does not appear to have committed over $3 million it had been expected to spend in Florida.
As was the case with Romney’s first TV ad of the campaign, built around a false attack on Obama, much of what Romney and company are doing is distorted.
Romney and Gingrich’s negatives with independents have skyrocketed in the course of the campaign, as each has struggled to define himself as a true conservative.
Whatever the outcome in Florida, Gingrich, who crushed Romney in South Carolina little more than a week ago, vows to continue for the long term. The vehemence and, in his view, unfairness, of the attacks against him by Romney and by various establishment elements may guarantee a result that the pro-Romney crew fears nearly as much as losing to Gingrich.
Meanwhile, there has been heavy fighting in the suburbs of Damascus and other parts of the country as Syrian regime forces battle insurgent Free Syrian Army forces. Indications are that the Assad regime, with its superior firepower, has gained the upper hand and has quelled the uprising just outside the capital.
Russia says it will not support a UN Security Council move to impose further sanctions on the Assad regime as the Arab League, having withdrawn its monitors following ongoing regime crackdowns on protesters, again denounced the regime’s behavior.
Iran, the Assad regime’s last ally in the Middle East, is focusing, at least in public, not so much on the woes of its friend but on the ongoing stand-off with the US over its nuclear weapons program, demanding that the US release an Iranian semiconductor scientist apparently being held in a federal facility in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Dublin for violating US export laws.
It continued for a second day to send mixed signals over an earlier threat to swiftly stop oil sales to European nations in advance of the European Union embargo going into effect.
Meanwhile, France, in the wake of an incident in which four of its troops were killed by an Afghan solider under their training, has ended all front-line military activities in Afghanistan and will pull out a year earlier than previously scheduled, at the end of 2013.
And outgoing Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, one of the principal targets of Arab Spring protests, arrived in New York on Saturday, ostensibly for medical treatment, the transition to a new government underway.
How long will he be in the US? Who knows?
Syria’s military has launched its toughest offensive yet to keep rebel forces out of the capital, activists say.
The Occupy Wall Street movement continues to flail in counter-productive ways, the latest evidence coming Saturday in Oakland.
Nearly 400 protesters were arrested during a wild sequence of events that began with a march outside Oakland City Hall to the closed Henry Kaiser Convention Center, where protest leaders directed that fences be torn down and the now vacant facility, established in 1914, be occupied as a new headquarters for Occupy Oakland.
Police blocked the move to take over the old convention center, prompting a fallback to Plan B of a building takeover, a march to the YMCA, where hundreds of protesters burst in on exercising members before being forced out of the building.
Later, Occupy Oakland protesters broke in to Oakland City Hall. While there, they vandalized the lobby and burned an American flag.
Protesters are threatening to shut down the Port of Oakland (which they have done very briefly on occasion) and Oakland International Airport. Which seems a brilliant way to alienate much of the 99% while doing very little to harm the 1%.
This is all quite stupid, reflective of a mindset that thought it clever to try to disrupt the annual Christmas Tree lighting in San Francisco’s Union Square.
As I mentioned in my “Ocupado” essay at the beginning of November, there is a large reserve force of fringe lefties in the Bay Area. Put that together with a major anarchist presence and a movement that essentially excuses such tactics on the cop-out rationale of “diversity of tactics” and you get dunderheaded thinking and bad results.
Brown and Democrats won a big victory late last week when the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of using the Citizens Redistricting Commission’s state Senate maps for the 2012 elections, despite a referendum against the plan that may yet qualify for the November ballot.
The Republican Party and its right-wing allies have spent millions to try to block the redistricting reform, which is eliminating the effects of the incumbent protection act of a decade ago.
Their strategy, one of the few keys left to them, has failed.
On Friday morning, Brown appeared on KGO and KCBS radio in the San Francisco Bay Area to discuss his budget and public pension reform plans. In the course of that, he strongly defended the state’s high-speed rail program, which his administration is revamping in the wake of various managerial issues and controversies, saying that he will not allow California to slip into “third world” status and that it must continue to be a leader inside the US, despite the budget problems he is working on.
Brown noted that 14 other advanced industrial nations have high-speed rail, but it has been consistently blocked in the US in favor of old energy economy approaches.
He also said that the program won’t cost as much as current estimates have it and that revenue from the state’s greenhouse gas cap and trade program can be used to help fund future segments of it.
Also on Friday, the California Air Resources Board unanimously approved new rules requiring that 15% of new cars sold in California by 2025 run on electricity, hydrogen or zero or ultr-low emissions systems. Given California’s role as a very large strategic market in the US, this could help transform the auto industry.
Meanwhile, Brown, who is working to gain business support for his initiative and neutralize business opposition, picked up big backing in the past few days from the California Teachers Association and the Service Employees International Union. While I’ve expected this all along, it should help dissuade backers of two remaining competing tax hike measures.
With the Think Long group of billionaires and former officeholders already, as predicted, dissuaded from their own tax initiative, two measures competitive with Brown’s are still out there. One by heiress Molly Munger would raise the income tax for most everyone in the state and, needless to say, does not poll well. Another by a coalition of left-liberal groups would establish a big tax hike on millionaires, which does poll well but lacks resources. Both tout benefits for education. But with CTA backing the Brown plan, they will find the going even tougher.
Legislators have till the end of Tuesday to move bills along from their houses of origin. One much hyped bill that is not moving along, the latest bid to establish a single-payer health care system in California, was defeated last week in the state Senate. It had previously passed, sans any funding mechanism, that is, only to be vetoed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Brown, who backed single-payer in his 1992 presidential campaign, is neutral this time on the issue.
This week may also see Facebook’s initial public offering of stock, likely the largest Internet IPO ever and potentially a large revenue boon for the state.
Here’s what Obama’s week looks like, in public, that is.
On Monday, Obama will welcome President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia to the White House. As the White House pointedly notes with regard to this country which fought a notably unsuccessful war with Russia in 2008: “This year marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Republic of Georgia and the two Presidents will discuss further strengthening the U.S. – Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership by enhancing cooperation in the fields of trade, tourism, energy, science, education, culture, and security. President Obama will underscore the importance of our defense cooperation with Georgia, including Georgia’s substantial contributions to international security operations in Afghanistan. The President will reconfirm U.S. support for the integrity of Georgia’s territory within its internationally recognized borders.”
Attention, Vladimir Putin.
On Tuesday, Obama will attend meetings at the White House. On Wednesday, he will deliver remarks on the economy in Northern Virginia. On Thursday, Obama will deliver remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. And on Friday, he will attend meetings in, yes, the White House.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 11:15 AM Pacific, Obama welcomes President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia to the White House.
The two will meet in the Oval Office.
At 12:15 PM Pacific, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host the Diplomatic Corps Reception in the East Room.
At 2:30 PM Pacific, Obama participates in an interview with YouTube and Google+ to discuss his State of the Union Address from the Roosevelt Room.
Obama is monitoring a variety of geopolitical crises, mostly related to the Arab awakening, AfPak, Iraq, Iran and Israel.
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.
Occupy Oakland’s disruptive moves may complicate life for Governor Jerry Brown.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: WILL GINGRICH BLOW IT (AGAIN)? Most in the media and political worlds are now adjusting to the reality that Mitt Romney is not “inevitable.” But that doesn’t mean that Newt Gingrich can’t blow it. Again.
After all, as I pointed out last week here on the Huffington Post, before Gingrich’s landslide win in South Carolina, the supposedly politically dead ex-House speaker has blown golden opportunities to put Romney away before.
Romney is a hollow man, whose only consistent ideology is radical capitalism, as he showed when he denounced any criticism of his financialized capitalism as tantamount to socialism, and notions of his own success. He’s been an accident waiting to happen for a long time, notwithstanding endless hype to the contrary.
But Gingrich is a political Bibendum, a Michelin Man, someone who, too frequently, becomes puffed up like an alarmingly over-inflated tire at high speeds. … From my January 26th essay.
** 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. … From my January 20th column.
** STATING THE STATE: JERRY BROWN GETS DISCIPLINED AND LAYS IT OUT. … From my January 19th feature.
** EXTREMISM IN DEFENSE OF IRONY: BY ROMNEY’S RADICAL DEFINITION HIS OWN CHIEF STRATEGIST IS “ANTI-FREE ENTERPRISE.” … 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.
** 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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