Reports of foreign troops burning copies of the Koran led to angry Afghan protests outside the main US military base at Bagram 60 miles outside of Kabul. The Defense Department has apologized to the Afghan people.
** QUICK HITS. A new CNN poll confirms what Public Policy Polling found yesterday, that Mitt Romney’s big lead over Rick Santorum in next Tuesday’s Arizona primary is down to the margin of error. Considering that Santorum leads Romney in his home state of Michigan … Newt Gingrich still has a big vote in Arizona, where he’s not campaigning. If a chunk of those voters go to their second choice, who is generally Santorum … Incidentally, Santorum leads Romney in Washington, which holds caucuses between Michigan/Arizona and Super Tuesday on March 3rd. … Proponents of California’s Prop 8 same sex marriage ban, having lost in federal district court and now before a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal, have decided to appeal to the full 9th Circuit rather than go straight to the US Supreme Court. It’s an interesting move, which means that the Supreme Court is most unlikely to get the case before the November elections.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH: ECLIPSING THE EMPIRE STATE.
TUESDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
In this holiday foreshortened week, a huge week of presidential politics is on tap, and a less consequential but nonetheless intriguing week of California politics.
The Republican presidential race, now in major disarray, rolls on with a debate tomorrow night and the run-up to primaries next week in Michigan and Arizona.
And President Barack Obama, fresh from a big California fundraising tour, with very good news on the economy and a victory over congressional Republicans on the payroll tax and unemployment insurance, has major geopolitical crises to deal with.
The drift to war with Iran continues, with the Islamic republic launching new military exercises and reportedly denying access to key nuclear sites to a just arrived crew from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency.
In Syria, the government crackdown on protesters continues, despite last week’s overwhelming UN General Assembly condemnation of the Assad regime.
And in Afghanistan, the latest fiasco, with Afghan employees at Bagram Air Base discovering US personnel burning Korans and other Islamic religious material confiscated from Taliban prisoners. The Defense Department has issued an apology.
Only in Greece is there good news, after the latest European bailout. Well, good news unless you are a Greek affected by five years of looming austerity policies.
Meanwhile, Rick Santorum continues to lead Mitt Romney in polling for the Michigan Republican presidential primary on February 28th.
Romney, who is from Michigan, where his dad was a popular governor and car company CEO, is counter-attacking viciously, and, with de facto ally Ron Paul, acted to shut down the only pre-Super Tuesday debate, which had been set for Atlanta on CNN.
The four candidates will debate tomorrow night, which I believe is the last debate presently scheduled. Romney clearly doesn’t want any more debates, hoping to hold on with big money and negative ads.
While the Republican disarray plays out, complete with Newt Gingrich getting a fresh $12 million to spend, some top Republicans are, as I expected, looking at the possibility of a new candidate for the presidency.
Names I hear being mentioned are Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush. The only one who impresses me particularly is Jeb Bush. But he has one rather large problem. It has to do with his name. And I don’t mean Jeb.
Obama’s short week ahead is deceptive in its public scheduling.
The Obama schedule betrays none of the behind the scenes drama surrounding the Iran/Israel and Syrian crises. The former crisis is discussed in the piece excerpted and linked below.
On Tuesday, the Obamas bring music legends and contemporary major artists to the White House for a celebration of Blues music in recognition of Black History Month as part of their “In Performance at the White House” series.
On Wednesday, Obama will deliver remarks at the construction site of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum is scheduled to open in 2015 and will be the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life.
On Thursday, Obama will travel to Miami, Florida, to participate in a still undisclosed official event.
On Friday, Obama will host Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark for a meeting in the Oval Office.
The two leaders will discuss preparations for the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago, including proposals for supporting the transition in Afghanistan, increasing Alliance defense capabilities, and advancing NATO’s relationships with key partners. With Denmark currently holding the European Union presidency, they also will talk about the recent European summit and the latest steps that Europe is taking to address its sovereign debt crisis.
Governor Jerry Brown continues working on his November revenue initiative, the chronic budget crisis, public pension reform, and the high-speed rail plan.
He’s continuing to work on water, as well, but I’m getting the feeling that, given all he has on his plate, as well as fiscal complications and the lack of any widespread sense of popular urgency, water may be a second term issue for this governor. Or a fourth term issue, depending on how you look at it.
State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said last week 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.”
Brown wrapped up two days hosting Chinese Vice President Xi in Southern California at the end of last week. Xi is slated to take over the general secretaryship of the ruling Chinese Communist Party this year and to become president of the People’s Republic of China next year. Also on hand were Vice President Joe Biden and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The governor, who was criticized during his first go-round as governor for pursuing a California foreign policy with regard to Mexico, Canada, and Pacific Basin nations, announced that he will open California trade and investment offices in Beijing and Shanghai.
The state’s extensive network of trade offices was shut down as a waste of money in 2003.
But Brown says he will find partnership funding for the renewed offices, which will be re-established in a country on its way to becoming the world’s largest economy, but not there yet.
California has the world’s eighth largest economy.
Brown also announced that he will establish a joint California-China task force for trade and investment.
He is seeking to build a relationship over time, the way the Chinese like to do things, which I believe would extend into another Brown term. His second this time around, a record fourth overall.
And yes, it is my opinion that Brown intends to run for re-election and would be a very clear favorite under all likely scenarios.
Brown gave a well-received speech at a private luncheon for Xi on Friday at the J.W. Marriott in downtown LA.
Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Governor Gray Davis joined Brown and other dignitaries to honor the Chinese leader.
Brown’s speech went quite well, but with one caveat. After beginning with a few short bursts of oratory, then pausing for translation, he galloped ahead of the translator, leaving him in the dust for several minutes.
Naturally, Brown had no text, so the poor translator was left having to furiously scribble down what Brown was saying and recreate it for Xi and his traveling party.
Less consequential doings come this coming weekend, when the California Republican Party convention holds the first of its two annual conventions, this one at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport.
Only Newt Gingrich of the major presidential contenders will be on hand. He raised over $2 million last week in a Golden State fundraising swing, and is letting Santorum and Romney battle it out in next week’s primaries prior to jumping back into the midst of the fray when the Super Tuesday contests head further South.
Oh, and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, representing Romney. Considering that Romney finished a distant third in Pawlenty’s own state, I’m not sure that’s such a big deal.
President Barack Obama today thanked those who made their voices heard in the debate to extend the payroll tax cut for 160 million working Americans through the end of the year, along with unemployment insurance benefits. He also called on Congress to take additional steps to stabilize and revive the economy.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Obama then hosted a payroll tax cut victory event in the South Court Auditorium before joining Biden for lunch in the Private Dining Room.
At 1:50 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in the Oval Office.
At 4:15 PM Pacific, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host music legends and contemporary major artists for a celebration of Blues music in recognition of Black History Month in the East Room.
Obama is monitoring a variety of other 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 Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
** 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. …
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. … 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.
** 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 $106 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $72 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 $8 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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