President Barack Obama’s administration and Afghan War policy is once again in severe damage control mode after 16 Afghan civilians were massacred in a village outside Kandahar, reportedly by a lone US soldier.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … GAME CHANGE AND THE REAL GAME CHANGE.
TEEING UP TUESDAY AND BEYOND.
Tuesday sees big Republican presidential primaries and the beginning of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s major trip to the US, as well as President Barack Obama’s attempt to deal with spiking gasoline prices and the geopolitical crises that are providing the rationalizations for them.
It also sees Governor Jerry Brown working on moving his November revenue initiative plans while coping with potential initiative rivals, as well as dealing with a bigger than expected state budget gap which majority legislative Democrats don’t want to accommodate with more budget cuts.
In presidential politics, Rick Santorum swept the big prize of the weekend past, Kansas, as expected, while Mitt Romney won in much smaller island protectorates. The truth is that Romney should be blown out again in the two big contests today in Alabama and Mississippi. But he actually has a very decent chance of finishing first in one or both primaries because Santorum and Newt Gingrich are both very strong in the two states, thus splitting the overwhelming Non-Romney vote in the Deep South.
At least according to what little polling there is, polling which may not be all that reliable. Why aren’t there better polls? Because the big media outfits blew their polling budgets on highly repetitive polling of a few early contests, convinced that Romney would wrap things up early, a conviction reflected in their erroneous analysis and reporting for months.
While the Republican race rambles along, Obama is dealing with the latest disaster in Afghanistan. Frankly, it’s something I find not only appalling but depressing, not least because it’s part of an expected downward spiral for the Afghan War policy.
Reports are conflicting as to how many American soldiers participated in the weekend massacre of 16 Afghan villagers, mostly children and women, outside Kandahar, and the US is insistent that the rampage was carried out by a lone gunman.
We’re getting ever closer to the scenario I discussed in a recent piece, i.e., getting run out of Afghanistan on a wave of popular revulsion. The US strategy of counter-insurgency/nation-building, as distinguished from counter-terrorism, has been a major mistake as I’ve discussed in a variety of pieces over the past few years.
The news is not nearly so sad with regard to Iran and Israel, but I believe we’re merely in a respite period that lulls rather than solves. Israel is allowing some time for new sanctions to cut on Iran and see if the latest hits will dissuade the Islamic republic from its course of taking the increasing steps needed to develop nuclear weapons.
And there is negotiation over negotiation. Negotiation over when and how UN inspectors can look at secret Iranian facilities, negotiation over when a new round of negotiations will begin between Iran and UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany.
Some, of course, would call it all a stall. But in the meantime, there are no air strikes.
Which may be fortunate for Israel because the Israelis have just had a lethal round of air strikes between them and the Palestinians. The good news for Israel is that their Iron Dome anti-missile system got a thorough-going real world test against a flood of rockets launched in response to their assassination of a major militant leader. The bad news is there were casualties on both sides in the exchange of rocket fire and air strikes.
And the other good news is that the new Egyptian regime helped broker a ceasefire that is holding today.
No ceasefire has been brokered in Syria, where days of effort by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan have come up short. The Assad regime continues to crack down on reformers and armed opponents.
All of this instability creates a geopolitical risk premium that drives higher oil prices, and thus gasoline prices, which are hurting Obama.
But there is a disconnect he hasn’t really addressed. When oil prices have gone down, gasoline prices have gone down much less. But when oil prices go up, gas prices go up just as much if not more.
Much of this week will be taken up around the visit by British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The UK is America’s closest ally, and the two leaders and many of their top advisors and ministers will be working to more closely coordinate the US/UK positions on key geopolitical and economic issues.
Despite his lacking popularity in the Deep South Republican primaries, Mitt Romney has a decent chance to eke out wins in either or both of Tuesday’s big primaries in Alabama and Mississippi as Rick Santorum and a resurgent Newt Gingrich come close to an even split of a big conservative vote.
Here is what the rest of Obama’s week looks like. As always, he will be spending much of his time on geopolitical crises, which are not reflected in his public schedule.
On Tuesday, Obama and Cameron will travel together to Dayton, Ohio to watch an NCAA Tournament basketball game. Also on Tuesday, the two first spouses will be participating in an Olympics-themed event with DC-area school children.
On Wednesday, there will be a formal arrival ceremony for the Camerons and a State Dinner in honor of Britain. The two leaders and their advisors will consult on a wide range of issues on which they are working together including Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and global economic and trade issues.
Obama and Cameron will also consult and coordinate around the upcoming G-8 and NATO Summits. The G-8 Summit was set for Chicago but Obama has moved it to Camp David to avoid protesters. The NATO Summit remains in Chicago. Both summits are in May.
On Thursday, Obama will attend meetings at the White House. This Wednesday’s State Dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha, is the sixth of the Obama Administration. And on Friday, Obama will attend campaign events in Chicago, Illinois, and Atlanta, Georgia.
Back in California politics, the state Chamber of Commerce joined the California Business Roundtable in opposing the two state income tax-related tax measures proposed for the November ballot not push by Jerry Brown. They are formally neutral on the Brown initiative.
Late on Monday, the California Federation of Teachers put more than a million additional dollars into the drive for the Millionaires Tax initiative.
The CFT, by far the smaller of the state’s two teachers union, the other of which is firmly in the Brown camp, has enough money to qualify the initiative, probably, but the lack of any additional major fundraising to date, despite lots of rhetoric claiming that money would soon be on the way, bodes very poorly for the initiative’s prospects should it be on the ballot.
Brown’s problem with the two other tax initiatives may be smaller than it appears. I’ll have more on that. Meanwhile, his state budget is again under projections, perhaps due to increased tax refunds.
And he has a longstanding legacy problem on his hands in the form of venerable utility Pacific Gas & Electric, whose aging natural gas lines turn out to be rather uncharted and uninspected. That led to lethal a catastrophe in 2020 in the Bay Area city of San Bruno, for which PG&E will pay a $70 million fine.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and Ohio.
Obama received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
He then met with the 2012 Intel Science Talent Search finalists in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Following that, he delivered a statement announcing new efforts to enforce trade rights with China in the Rose Garden.
At 1:20 PM Pacific, Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron depart the White House on Marine One en route Joint Base Andrews, where they will board Air Force One.
At 1:35 PM Pacific, Obama and Prime Minister Cameron depart Joint Base Andrews on Air Force One en route Dayton, Ohio.
At 2:55 PM Pacific, Obama and Prime Minister Cameron arrive in Dayton, Ohio
At 3:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Prime Minister Cameron attend an NCAA Tournament “First Four” or opening round basketball game at the University of Dayton Arena.
At 6 PM Pacific, Obama and Prime Minister Cameron depart Dayton, Ohio on Air Force One en route Washington.
At 7:20 PM Pacific, Obama and Prime Minister Cameron arrive at Joint Base Andrews, where they board Marine One.
At 7:35 PM Pacific, Obama and Prime Minister Cameron land on the Ellipse.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Iraq, and AfPak.
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.
On Wednesday at 11 AM, he will be at Boeing’s C-18 Globemaster facility in Long Beach to speak at the debut of the new 787 Dreamliner.
Boeing, though not based in the state, is a major California employer with more than 20,000 on staff in the state.
** MAKING SENSE OF KALEIDOSCOPIC PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS. Presidential politics has gone kaleidoscopic. Between Mitt Romney’s split decision on a not so Super Tuesday for him and the big geopolitically-driven crises President Barack Obama has to manage, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. Here’s a view of the forest.
The Republicans who would be president are the least of Obama’s problems, and what they’ve been doing over the past few months only makes that more so. Obama is most threatened now by a looming war involving Iran and Israel and a collapsing war in Afghanistan. There are a variety of crosscuts with those real and potential wars. … From my March 7th essay.
** IMPOSSIBLE MISSIONS AND 50 YEARS OF BOND. … From my March 6th essay.
** JERRY BROWN MAKES SOME SPLASHY MOVES. … From my March 1st essay.
** THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE: IRAN, ISRAEL, AFGHANISTAN. … From my February 29th essay.
** DEBATING IN DISARRAY: SEARCHING FOR SOME CLARITY IN THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL MESS. … 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.
** 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 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. 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.
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** 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 $107 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $73 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 $7 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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