NATO announced all that foreign advisors will be pulled out of their posts at government ministries in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. US Marine General John Allen made the move on Saturday just hours after the murders of an American colonel and major in the Ministry of Interior headquarters in the capital. The killings are part of a wave of anti-American protest which continues to sweep Afghanistan in the wake of Monday’s burnings of Islamic holy books by US personnel at Bagram Air Base.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE: IRAN, ISRAEL, AFGHANISTAN.
** OBAMA THIS WEEKEND. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
He has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
On Saturday, Obama has no public events scheduled.
At 4:10 PM Pacific on Sunday, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will welcome the National Governors Association to the White House for the 2012 Governors’ Dinner. Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will also attend.
Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum continue battling it out this weekend before primaries in the Romney strongholds of Michigan, Romney’s home state, and Arizona.
As the seriously disarrayed Republican field plays out its dynamics, major geopolitical crises are unfolding.
Stunning news from Afghanistan, where two relatively high-ranking US officers, a colonel and a major, were murdered early Saturday in a highly secure area of the Afghan Interior Ministry headquarters in Kabul. The Taliban have claimed credit for the killings, first reported to be carried out by an Afghan police officer with security clearance, though Afghan officials have just told the BBC that it is not clear who pulled the trigger.
Just hours later, Marine General John Allen, with whom I’m acquainted from many years ago, ordered the end of all regular US/NATO advisory missions inside Afghan ministries.
This was just more bad news from Afghanistan, during yet another day of widespread demonstrations against America across the country in which several more people were killed.
Obama has apologized after Afghan employees at the big Bagram Air Base discovered that Korans and other Islamic religious material were being burned by US military personnel on Monday. The Afghan Parliament moved Wednesday to require that any US personnel involved in the debacle be turned over for trial by sharia law. Failure to comply would lead to the US being denied access to the country after 2014.
Then on Thursday two US soldiers were killed by an Afghan officer at a coalition military base in eastern Afghanistan.
More than 30 people have been killed so far, with four of them Americans.
As Afghanistan moves toward the boiling point for the US and NATO presence there, the looming crisis with Iran and Israel has ratcheted up further.
First came word from the UN’s nuclear watchdog that Iran has accelerated nuclear enrichment efforts beyond those needed for their expressed civilian purposes.
Then came another warning from a top Iranian general against any Israeli military strike against the Iranian nuclear program.
Iran, which this week refused to allow UN inspectors access, bringing their visit to a quick halt, appears to be pushing forward to expand nuclear enrichment activity deep inside another mountain fastness.
This comes after the UN nuclear watchdog’s visit to Iran ended ahead of schedule on Tuesday when Tehran refused to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors any access to key nuclear facilities.
Meanwhile, some 70 mostly Western and Arab nations met Friday in Tunis, capital of Tunisia, where the Friends of Syria demanded an immediate ceasefire by the Assad regime and the granting of access for the provision of humanitarian relief to besieged portions of the country.
Speaking at the Friends of Syria gathering, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton blasted Russia and China as “despicable” for opposing U.N. Security Council action on Syria.
Gulf Arab states are pushing for more, namely for direct intervention in Syria. Qatar wants an Arab force sent into the country to bring order. Saudi Arabia, which showily walked out of the conference, its reps claiming the contact group isn’t aggressive enough, wants to arm the Syrian opposition.
Here’s what Obama’s public week ahead looks like. Obviously his intense focus on the major geopolitical crises is not at all reflected in it.
In his weekend video/radio address, President Barack Obama talks up his “all-of-the-above approach” to addressing national energy challenges.
On Monday, Obama and Biden will host a meeting with the National Governors Association in the State Dining Room.
On Tuesday, Obama will deliver remarks at the United Auto Workers conference in Washington.
On Wednesday, Obama and the first lady will host a dinner at the White House to honor Armed Forces personnel who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn and to honor their families. This dinner will include men and women in uniform from all ranks, services, states and backgrounds, representative of the many thousands of Americans who served in Iraq.
On Thursday, Obama will travel to Nashua, New Hampshire, and deliver remarks on the economy. In the evening, Obama will attend fundraisers in New York City.
On Friday, Obama will travel to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to visit with wounded service members.
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 Washington.
On Saturday, he takes part in the National Governors Association meeting.
On Sunday, Brown takes part in the Western Governors Association meeting.
Brown also appears on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Following that, he meets with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
On Sunday evening, he attends the Governors’ Dinner at the White House with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
On Monday, Brown takes part in the National Governors Association closing session, then attends a meeting with President Obama.
Following that, Brown meets with the California Congressional delegation.
On Thursday, he met with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, not one of his favorite officials. Brown is rather critical of the Obama Administration’s testing-based approach on education reform.
On Thursday night, Brown appeared at a fundraiser for his revenue initiative hosted by lobbyists Tony Podesta, former Clinton White House chief of staff, and an old colleague of mine from Gary Hart for President days, Mike Stratton.
On Friday, he took part in a Democratic Governors Association meeting with President Barack Obama and other top officials at the Eisenhower Executive Office Bldg.
Brown then had lunch with People’s Republic of China Ambassador to the U.S. Zhang Yesui.
Following that, he met with State Department officials and attended the Democratic Governors Association dinner.
Brown, who hosted Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping last week and announced new California trade offices in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as a California/China task force, not surprisingly plans a China trip later this year.
Conservative Republicans on Friday barely qualified a November referendum to do away with the bipartisan Citizens Redistricting Commission’s new maps for state Senate districts. The effort, which cost the state Republican Party more than $2 million which it does not otherwise have, made it to the ballot with fewer than 7000 signatures to spare.
Will the party now spend the many millions more it would take to try to win the election? Or will it accede to the obvious, that it has no hope as a sour grapes effort, especially in light of its failure before to get the state Supreme Court to draw new lines even if the referendum qualified?
Meanwhile, the California Republican Party is holding the first of its two annual conventions this weekend near the San Francisco Airport in Burlingame, a thoroughly desultory affair which I discussed on Friday and earlier in the week. I won’t be attending, obviously.
** DEBATING IN DISARRAY: SEARCHING FOR SOME CLARITY IN THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL MESS. If Wednesday night was the last Republican presidential debate, it sure was another missed opportunity. And a great example of the deep disarray afflicting the Republican field at this stage of the race.
What do we know, in this period after the last debate and before Tuesday’s must-win primaries for Mitt Romney?
* Rick Santorum makes only a so-so frontrunner.
In the latest Gallup Poll, Santorum has expanded his lead over Romney among Republicans nationally. Santorum now leads Romney, 36% to 26%. Gingrich, the former leader, is now a distant third at 13%. Paul, his much-hyped libertarian uprising having fallen short even in lightly-attended caucus states, brings up the rear with 11%.
Santorum is an effective speaker and a good debater. He has a generally pleasant manner yet carries some authority. But he allowed himself to be thrown off his game by Romney’s relentless attacks in his first debate as the frontrunner.
He can’t have been surprised by Romney’s approach. It’s what Romney does when he’s in trouble. He doesn’t play up the passion of his positive message, such as it is, he launches attacks.
* Ron Paul is Romney’s de facto ally.
Paul again showed himself to be Romney’s wing man. Rather than criticize the notorious flip-flopper Romney, Paul instead attacked the staunchly conservative Santorum as a “fake” conservative. Santorum seemed a bit taken aback that Paul would do this to his face. He should not have been surprised.
Paul’s extreme laissez-faire economic philosophy gives pseudo-intellectual cover for Romney’s Wall Street economics, which are all about financialized capitalism and how anyone with any criticism of it, even after the disasters of the past several years, is a socialist. And his millions in funds from zealous supporters are employed to attack Romney’s chief rivals.
Paul, who was unintentionally amusing in his denunciation of any spending on foreign aid during the debate — gosh gee, why in the globally interconnected world of the 21st century would we have a foreign policy? — is also attacking Santorum with TV ads. He did that with Newt Gingrich as well, when Gingrich rose to supplant Romney’s frontrunnership.
But he doesn’t go after Romney, whose all-over-the-lot politics and deep establishmentarianism would be a massive target for a genuinely anti-establishment candidate. …
From my February 24th essay.
** OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH: ECLIPSING THE EMPIRE STATE. In the latest dramatic sign that California has supplanted New York at the premiere locale for Barack Obama’s fundraising, the Democratic president raised, according to sources, close to $8.5 million here last week on his two-day swing through the state. Even before this, it was clear that California was well ahead of New York in Obama’s fundraising operation.
It’s important to note that some issues exist with respect to Obama in New York that aren’t the case in California.
Some $4 million of last week’s haul came in three events in San Francisco, which included attendees from nearby Silicon Valley, with the rest from events in Los Angeles and Orange County.
Intriguingly, Obama’s extremely formidable California fundraising machine relies hardly at all on the state’s popular Democratic governor or on its dominant Democratic Party organization.
Instead, Obama has forged an operation largely his own, fusing his highly successful 2008 primary campaign organization with that of Hillary Clinton, building on strong potential support bases in Silicon Valley and Hollywood, fusing those with more traditional sources of funds from the professions, real estate, and finance. It’s a more variegated approach than in New York, which is heavily dependent on Wall Street. And it has flourished despite disappointing some, such as Hollywood interests who wanted to crack down on the Internet and its potential for piracy and those who worry that Obama hasn’t gone far enough on the environment, or has gone too far in Afghanistan. … From my February 21st essay.
** DRIFTING TO WAR WITH IRAN: BEWARE THE HYSTERIA. … From my February 16th essay.
** RICKROLLED: ROMNEY WILL BE “INEVITABLE” AGAIN WHEN … … 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.
Act of Valor, which began as a semi-documentary/recruiting video for the US Navy SEALs and became a feature film, opened this weekend as the number one movie at the North American box office. The film is directed by someone who will direct one of former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s upcoming films.
** 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 closed on Friday at $109.77 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Energy markets are closed on the weekend.
This is up about $76 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 $4 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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