At an appearance at a Boeing factory outside Seattle, Washington, President Barack Obama praised Congress for renewing a payroll tax cut for 160 million American workers and jobless benefits for millions more.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … ECLIPSING THE EMPIRE STATE: OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH.
** FRIDAY FUNHOUSE.
Heading into a long national holiday weekend, there are some provocative developments.
President Barack Obama is wrapping up a highly successful West Coast fundraising swing in which it is clear that California has supplanted New York as the key state for his fundraising machine.
Multiple fundraisers in Los Angeles and San Francisco busted through internal targets, raising millions. More to follow.
As for Governor Jerry Brown, he is wrapping up two days of high-level diplomacy and tours with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, the PRC’s next top leader, re-opening California trade offices in China and establishing a joint task force for investment and trade.
Obama received more good news in the form of what is essentially a Republican surrender on the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance extensions, which passed Congress today.
The vote was 293-132 in the House, and 60-36 in the Senate.
Meanwhile, the Republican presidential race continues in its state of disarray and acrimony.
Rick Santorum leads Mitt Romney in Ohio and Michigan, with Romney forces launching bitter attacks on Santorum now as “the ultimate Washington insider” and “Big Labor’s favorite senator.”
And Newt Gingrich, who raised $2 million in his California fundraising swing, is getting another infusion of $10 million for his super PAC from Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
Gingrich has slid in the polls with the ascent of Santorum, but this will make him very viable going forward.
Is Adelson trying to help Gingrich solely, or is this a bank shot to help Romney avoid being defeated straight up by Santorum, as some suggest?
Romney still clearly fears Gingrich, however, as well as Santorum.
He and his de facto ally Ron Paul caused the only remaining pre-Super Tuesday debate, in Gingrich’s home state of Georgia, to be canceled yesterday by CNN when the pair pulled out of the event.
Indeed, it is quite possible for Santorum and Gingrich to both flourish in different states, with Gingrich stronger in the South and Santorum stronger in the Midwest.
This has happened in previous presidential nomination races.
In fact, it is just possible that the ultimate Republican nominee is not presently a candidate.
Romney is very deeply flawed, as is clear now and as I have said all along.
And the others, god bless them, are hard to see as potential presidents. Each is also deeply flawed. I’m referring to Gingrich and Santorum, of course, not Ron Paul, who is no more likely to be the Republican presidential nominee than you are.
While all this goes down, and up, and down, and up again, very serious things are happening in geopolitics.
The UN General Assembly late yesterday overwhelmingly adopted a resolution advanced by the Arab League calling for a ceasefire in Syria and transition to democratic rule away from the Assad regime. The vote was 137 to 12, with 17 abstentions, some of which later complained about problems casting a vote.
China and Russia voted no, joined by North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and a few others. The resolution is non-binding, but ratchets up pressure and further isolates the Assad regime and its small band of supporters, who don’t want any humanitarian intervention in their rather dodgy internal affairs.
The UN vote could further legitimate a move endorsed by the Arab League for its members to provide arms to the Syrian rebels, a dangerous situation which could lead to de facto proxy war.
At the same time, the drift to war with Iran continues. (See the essay linked below.)
In a time of grave geopolitical uncertainty, it’s good to recall a recent Obama Administration success. It is one year since the first anti-Gadaffi demonstrations took place in Libya. People have been celebrating across the country especially in the capital Tripoli, where crowds gathered waving flags and chanting.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in California, the State of Washington, and Washington, DC.
At 9 AM Pacific, Obama departs San Francisco, California on Air Force One en route Everett, Washington.
At 10:50 AM Pacific, Obama arrives in Everett, Washington.
At 11:05 AM Pacific, Obama tours the Boeing Everett Production Facility
At 11:25 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at the Boeing Everett Production Facility
At 2 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a fundraiser in a private residence
At 3:45 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a fundraiser at the Westin Bellevue Hotel
At 5 PM Pacific, Obama departs Everett, Washington on Air Force One en route Washington, DC
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.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Los Angeles.
Brown is very involved with the visit of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who later this year will become general secretary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party and next year is slated to become president of the People’s Republic of China.
At 9 AM, Brown attends the China/US Economic Forum at the J.W. Marriott at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles.
Brown will speak at 10:40 AM.
At 12 noon, Brown and others host Vice President Xi at a private luncheon at the J.W. Marriott.
Brown delivers introductory remarks at 12:45 PM.
At 3:30 PM, Brown hosts the U.S. and Chinese Governors’ Round Table with Vice President Xi at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown LA.
State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said yesterday that it’s time for tax hike advocates to get behind Governor Jerry Brown’s November revenue initiative. He directly contradicted heiress Molly Munger’s assertions that polling shows her measure, which would raise income taxes on most all Californians, stands a good chance of passage. It’s also a message from a top Democratic leader to the two smaller unions, California Federation of Teachers and California Nurses Association, pushing the “Millionaire’s Tax.”
** DRIFTING TO WAR WITH IRAN: BEWARE THE HYSTERIA. With the Republican presidential race in disarray and something of a lull in the post-”inevitable Romney” phase, there is one ongoing constant: All the conceivable nominees, at least in the current set of prospects, are pushing for war with Iran.
I’m referring, of course, to Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich. Not the neo-isolationist Ron Paul, who is about as likely to be the Republican nominee for president as I am. He is so far off the reservation that Santorum and Gingrich passed on the opportunity to guarantee a fourth straight Romney defeat, in the little-attended Maine caucuses, by tossing some support to Paul. The idea of him succeeding, even in this minor way, is simply anathema to them.
Not that these warhawks have anything like a plan as to how an Iran war would, you know, work.
It might be nice to imagine that an attack could work. If one believes that Iran is developing nuclear weapons — as most experts who’ve looked at this, including the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, do — then this is serious business. Notwithstanding the futile protest of iPod-wielding students a few years back, whose fate may be shared by the initial revolutionaries of Egypt (when will we stop imagining that the people most like us represent the mainstream of another society?), Iran is a worrisome, hostile, radical fundamentalist power. One which was held neatly in check by Saddam Hussein. Who of course was removed from power at the insistence of the very people now flipping out over Iran and pushing war there.
The reality is that the US invasion of Iraq ended up empowering Iran, leading to government in Baghdad which is dominated by politicians friendly with Iran.
If we can’t control what happens in Iraq, a nation which we conquered for a time, we’re not very well going to control what happens in Iran, a more formidable opponent which, unlike Saddam’s Iraq, really does have international terrorist assets.
Pushing such a war is an obviously very dangerous idea. But it’s treated rather blithely in a stenographic US media, with little attention to its substance or peril. Even in the record number of Republican debates, in which media moderators have allowed candidates to mouth their shallow talking points without any substantive discussion.
While Iran’s growing role in the region is alarming to many Arab states and beyond, the underlying dynamic is principally Iran vs. Israel, two governments presently controlled by religionists. One which may well have a Mahdi complex, another which may well have a Masada complex. … From my February 16th essay.
** RICKROLLED: ROMNEY WILL BE “INEVITABLE” AGAIN WHEN … So, when will Mitt Romney be “inevitable,” again? And why are his weaknesses and failures a constant source of surprise?
Romney will be the inevitable challenger to Barack Obama when and if he walks on stage in Tampa to deliver his acceptance speech. A good start would be winning somewhere with a positive message, rather than the avalanche of negativity he’s relied on so far in taking only three of the first eight states, losing three in embarrassing landslides.
As to why the ever “inevitable” Romney’s repeated belly flops come as surprise, well, chalk it up to a sort of hive media phenomenon. … From my February 9th essay.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION, THE BIG NEVADA BUST, THE ROAD AHEAD (AND THE RISE OF RICK?). … From my February 7th essay.
** ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT SILVER: HOW NEVADA AND THE WEST GOT SHORT-CHANGED. … From my February 3rd column.
** WHAT LIGHT FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE? What light has been shed by the Florida Republican presidential primary? It’s not easy to see how Newt Gingrich wins. And it’s not hard to see how Mitt Romney falls. … From my February 2nd column.
** REPUBLICANS LOSE BIG ON REDISTRICTING GAMBLE, BROWN MOVES FORWARD. … From my January 30th essay.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: WILL GINGRICH BLOW IT (AGAIN)? … From my January 26th essay.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: UNDERLYING THE DECIDEDLY UNDEAD. … 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.
** 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 several major military operations 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 $104 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $70 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 $10 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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