US and NATO advisors remain detached from the Afghan personnel they are to be mentoring, having a big impact on the planned transition in the Afghan War. Two more American soldiers were killed today in Afghanistan by Afghan colleagues.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … JERRY BROWN, (PARTIALLY) EMERGED FROM STEALTH MODE, MAKES SOME SPLASHY MOVES.
** QUICK HITS. Where would Mitt Romney be without the dysfunctional state Republican parties? Although party rules clearly dictate an split of delegates between Romney and Rick Santorum in Michigan, state party leaders are allocating two “unpledged” delegates to Romney, giving him the edge. I doubt it holds up. This is just the latest egregious violation of party rules by state party leaders to favor Romney, as I’ve been noting. I’d write a column about it if I actually cared. … Reaction is pouring in to the sudden death of 43-year old Andrew Breitbart, the far right Internet impresario. I have no particular comment to make on his passing, other than to note that most deaths are sad. … Another reckless and brutal media ideologue, talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, is doubling down on his calling a Georgetown law student who testified against the proposed ban on contraception in health coverage a slut and whore. Now he is saying that she should be forced to post online sex tapes. Talk about melting down.
** NEW POLLS: OBAMA LOOKING STRONGER IN SWING STATES. Not surprisingly, given the bizarre nature of the Republican presidential race, President Barack Obama is in improving shape in a round of Public Policy Polling surveys in Wisconsin and other key swing states.
They measure Obama against Mitt Romney, on the theory that he is the most acceptable Republican to general election voters and thus represents the best face barometer for Obama’s opponents.
Though if he keeps up his rather pathological flip floppery, that is a debatable presumption even as a hypothetical.
Last night, for example, he told an Ohio outlet that he is against the move to block contraception being required in health care plans. When there was a firestorm of criticism from the right, his campaign flipped Romney back, saying he thought he was talking about something other than the Senate legislation which was so narrowly defeated this morning.
There might not be any state that better represents Barack Obama’s improved fortunes in the opening months of 2012 than Wisconsin. When we polled there in late October Obama’s approval was a 44/51 spread and he led Mitt Romney by only 3 points at 46-43, representing a much closer race than the state had in 2008. Now those numbers have shifted significantly, with Obama’s approval basically flipping to 52/44. And he now leads Romney 53-39, a 14 point margin that matches what he won against John McCain there.
Obama’s 14 point lead in Wisconsin matches a trend we’re seeing in both our national and state polling across the country right now: Obama/Romney is starting to look more and more like Obama/McCain, or even something more friendly to the President. …
In 5 out of 10 places we’ve polled so far in 2012 Obama’s standing matches his 2008 performance, in 4 of them it’s better, and in only 1 is it worse. I fully expect Romney’s numbers to see some improvement if/when he wins the nomination but for now things are shaping up pretty favorably for the President.
Part of Obama’s increased lead over Romney in Wisconsin is due to his own approval numbers improving. But it’s also because Romney’s numbers are headed decidedly in the wrong direction. Only 25% of voters in the one time swing state now have a favorable opinion of him, to 61% with a negative one. Since October his net favorability has dropped by 18 points with Democrats, 16 points with Republicans, and 12 points with independents. …
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a dinner last night at the White House in honor of Iraq War veterans and their families. Vice President Joe Biden also spoke.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington, New Hampshire, and New York.
He received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Obama then flew on Air Force One to Nashua, New Hampshire, where he toured Nashua Community College.
At 12 PM Pacific, Obama departs Nashua, New Hampshire on Air Force One en route New York City.
At 1 PM Pacific, Obama arrives in New York City.
At 1:55 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a fundraiser at a private residence.
At 3:05 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a fundraiser at ABC Kitchen.
At 5:20 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at another fundraiser at ABC Kitchen.
At 6:25 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a fundraiser at private residence.
As the battling Republicans move on to the farflung Super Tuesday primary contests next week, after the Washington state caucuses this weekend, there are other major developments.
Unemployment claims again dipped slightly in the past week.
And Obama got more good news this morning with more details on the decision of North Korea to suspend its nuclear weapons program and let in the UN inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. North Korea is taking this action in exchange for needed international aid, principally food.
The U.S. Senate this morning narrowly defeated a Republican move to block contraception from being part of health insurance coverage. The vote was 51 to 48. Mitt Romney at first said he opposed this extreme move, then his campaign said he supported it.
And seven US NGO workers detained in Egypt for their support of critics of the government, including the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, have been allowed to leave the country.
But the news elsewhere is not good.
Two more American soldiers were killed today by their Afghan colleagues, this time at a base in southern Afghanistan.
Six Americans have been murdered and nearly 20 more wounded in “green on blue” violence stemming from the burning of Islamic holy materials 10 days ago at Bagram Air Base.
Not so in the crisis with Iran and Israel, however.
See the piece linked below for an in-depth analysis and discussion.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is holding meetings in Washington in advance of the arrival of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.
There was no meeting of the minds in his meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Netanyahu will meet with Obama in the White House next Monday and will be pushing for support for his policies during his lengthy US trip.
Despite ongoing international condemnation, Assad regime ground forces are making a major move against Syrian protest leaders in Homs.
While Obama monitors and manages these multiple geopolitical crises having to do with the Arab Awakening, AfPak, Iran and Israel, 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.
Yesterday a state Assembly subcommittee on health and welfare voted against Brown’s cuts to the workfare program. If the decision stands, and that’s a long way off, Brown would need to find nearly a billion more in cuts or revenues.
Brown has another complication coming today when death penalty opponents turn in some 800,000 signatures in their drive to qualify an initiative for the November ballot.
Brown has long personally opposed the death penalty. But he is trying to focus attention in November on his revenue initiative.
** THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE: IRAN, ISRAEL, AFGHANISTAN. It may well be time to start thinking the unthinkable on Iran, Israel, and Afghanistan.
* Israel may be on an inexorable path to an air war against Iran.
* With conventional weapons said by some to be ineffective against Iran’s increasingly underground and hardened nuclear development sites, Israel may come to use nuclear weapons against them.
* And as this melodrama between two governments dominated by conservative religionists plays out, the US and its NATO allies may be on the verge of being run out of Afghanistan in the wake of the latest debacle there.
Israel may well have painted itself into a corner — a metaphor which doesn’t quite work in a dynamic situation — with regard to Iran.
If the present Israeli government really does regard Iran’s progress toward nuclear weapons as an “existential threat” to their nation, what would they not do to prevent it? And if conventional bunker buster bombs won’t work, or at least not yet — the Senate approved an advanced version earlier this month, but it apparently won’t be ready till late this year — why would they not use nuclear bunker busters to stop the Iranian program.
And the Iranians certainly seem bent on moving forward with their program, which they publicly insist is for civilian purposes only, despite all the moves against them and despite offers of having nuclear fuel enriched for them.
Israel has placed itself firmly on the path of brinksmanship. It is evidently in an intelligence war with Iran already and threatens overt war.
If Iran continues on its course, as it gives constant, indeed, accelerating signs of doing, especially in the past week, Israel will be faced with a classic go/no-go decision. … From my February 29th essay.
** 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? … From my February 24th essay.
** OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH: ECLIPSING THE EMPIRE STATE. … 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.
** 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 $110 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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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