New Jersey Governor Chris Christie campaigned over the weekend in Illinois for Mitt Romney, who hopes to recoup from some recent major losses to Rick Santorum.
** QUICK HITS. Mitt Romney is projected a big winner tonight in the Illinois Republican presidential primary, blowing open what had been a relatively close race last week with Rick Santorum. The ex-Pennsulvania senator has made several mistakes of late, including saying that he doesn’t care about the unemployment rate. Oops. … The left-labor coalition behind the “Millionaires Tax” initiative in California is dropping its efforts to qualify the measure as a back-up, saying it expects that the compromise version negotiated with Governor Jerry Brown will make it. The group had initially said it would drop its own drive, then said that it would have a back-up. Brown will have a back-up.
TEEING UP TUESDAY.
A big week in presidential politics, with Republican primaries in Illinois and Louisiana on tap, and even bigger doings in geopolitical crises. In California politics, the November revenue initiatives scramble, now on course of sorts, plays out further.
Today is the ninth anniversary of the US and allied invasion of Iraq.
Mitt Romney, who does very well in the US colonies won during the Spanish-American War, took a low-key Puerto Rico primary over the weekend. He has bigger challenges in Illinois today and Louisiana on Saturday.
Polling indicates that Romney will recover handily in Illinois following some big recent losses to Rick Santorum in Alabama, Mississippi, and Kansas. Louisiana may be another matter. If Newt Gingrich weren’t still in the race, however, Illinois would not be at all a comfortable experience for the putative on and off frontrunner.
Iran’s banks and other finance-oriented institutions have been stopped from using the Swift system to make or receive payments. SWIFT is The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. This is a move by the US and other global financial powers as further sanction against Iran’s nuclear program, and will make Iranian trade that much more difficult.
But word of potential Israeli air strikes is spinning up again in the wake of comments by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who says that Iran’s “zone of immunity” to military strikes capable of knocking out its nuclear program has nearly arrived.
The US, which is discouraging military action while new sanctions kick in, will soon have three aircraft carrier strike groups in and around the Arabian Gulf region. Normally, there is only one on-hand. In times of crisis, there are two.
USS Enterprise, on its last deployment in its half-century history, is joining the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike groups.
Enterprise was first dispatched to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, a historical event with some parallels to the Iran crisis, so it is fitting that its last deployment comes now to the Gulf region.
This morning in Washington, Marine General John Allen, our top commander in the Afghan War, testified that he won’t finish assessments for further potential troop witdrawals until after the November election.
Though that wasn’t how he put it, of course.
Things have gone from very bad to decidedly worse there of late, as I have mentioned once or twice.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, looking to survive in the post-US aftermath, has become sharply critical of the American role, and even of the narrative around the disastrous massacre of 16 civilians outside Kandahar the weekend before last.
The Syrian crisis also careens onward, with the Assad regime continuing its bloody crackdown on opposition figures and concentrations, despite widespread international condemnation and sanctions.
Dozens were killed today also in terrorist bombings across Iraq, marking the ninth anniversary of the US invasion.
The Iraqi government is also coming under fire internationally for allowing Iran overflight rights to provide arms to the Assad regime in Syria, in violation of Arab League policy. Baghdad will shortly host the Arab League summit.
Back in California politics, things are much less hot. Governor Jerry Brown, having dealt away trouble on the left by producing a compromise revenue initiative with a left-labor coalition that recognized it probably couldn’t mount a full-scale campaign for its own initiative but refused to abandon the field entirely, is moving forward on an accelerated timetable to qualify the measure.
Meanwhile, heiress Molly Munger, who stubbornly insists that her initiative, which would raise income taxes on virtually everyone to benefit the schools but leave the general fund mostly in the lurch, is trying to pump up the polling numbers for her measure with a hasty TV ad campaign.
Her scenario still has a ways to play out.
Brown is heartened to see that relatively few Republican legislative candidates — now running in open primary scenarios in new districts — have signed the no-tax pledge that proved to be such a hamstringing of governance over most of the past decade.
Had the Republican legislative caucuses been less constrained last year, of course, none of these initiative machinations would be necessary. And taxes on the rich, a great bugbear for, well, the rich, and major elements of the business community, not to mention a few pundits, would be less likely to go up.
The open primary, which Brown supported, was championed by his predecessor, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as was the redistricting reform initiative. Which Brown was much more circumspect about.
Actually, he was pretty circumspect about the open primary, too, not wanting to give potential Democratic rivals any oxygen in the race as he cleared the primary field, but he was for it.
Here’s what Obama’s week ahead looks like. As usual, his public schedule doesn’t reflect much of what he is dealing with behinds the scenes, and has plenty of flexibility built in.
On Tuesday, Obama will welcome Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny of Ireland to the White House as a late celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. They and Vice President Joe O’Biden will attend a St. Patrick’s Day lunch at the U.S. Capitol. In the evening, the Obamas will host a St. Patrick’s Day reception at the White House.
On Wednesday, Obama will begin a two-day trip to highlight his policy to develop the new energy economy in Boulder City, Nevada where he will visit the Copper Mountain Solar 1 Facility, the largest photovoltaic plant operating in the country with nearly one million solar panels powering 17,000 homes. Obama will then travel to oil and gas production fields located on federal lands outside of Carlsbad, New Mexico, an area home to some 70 active drilling rigs.
On Thursday, Obama will travel to the Cushing, Oklahoma area to discuss the sustainable development petroleum energy infrastructure. He will wrap up the trip at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, home to some of the country’s most advanced energy-related research and development. That evening, back at the White House, he will host a reception in recognition of Greek Independence Day.
On Friday, Obama will attend meetings at the White House.
Marine General John Allen, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, testified today in Washington that winding down the decade-plus war is on track.
** NEW COLUMNS COMING UP … THE REAL “GAME CHANGE” and CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS HAVE ONLY THEMSELVES TO BLAME.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He and Vice President Joe O’Biden then met with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Oval Office.
Obama, Biden, and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny attended a St. Patrick’s Day lunch at the United States Capitol.
At 1:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in the Oval Office.
At 4 PM Pacific, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a St. Patrick’s Day reception in the East Room.
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.
Brown’s pick to head the troubled California National Guard, Major General David Baldwin, was confirmed by the state Senate on a 35-0 vote. He had previously sailed through the Senate Rules Committee despite coming under serious fire from old guard Guard elements.
Baldwin, a paratrooper who has served two tours in the Afghan War, was deputy commander of the 101st Airborne Division’s tactical command post in Afghanistan when Brown recalled him last year to take over the state Guard.
Brown also had Baldwin promoted from colonel to two-star general, which is quite a jump all at once.
** JERRY BROWN DEALS AWAY TROUBLE ON THE LEFT. Governor Jerry Brown has dealt away some potential problems on the left to strengthen his chances of passing a revenue initiative in November.
Brown dealt with California’s chronic state budget crisis by making big cuts in 2011. But he couldn’t get Republicans to go along even with a public vote on extending 2009′s temporary tax hikes, and so has had to go to the ballot this year. After Brown and his allies succeeded in convincing a group of billionaires and former officeholders (the Think Long Committee) to back away from their own tax initiative plans, which would have lowered tax rates on the rich and corporations, likely muddying the electoral waters with a big money campaign even though they had little chance of success, he then had two other initiatives to deal with.
This week he dealt with the most problematic for him. I wrote early in the week on New West Notes that “Brown’s problem with the two other tax initiatives may be smaller than it appears. I’ll have more on that.” Here’s the “more on that” part. … From my March 16th column.
** 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. … 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.
** 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.
** 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 from the Russia Today channel. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the state-run 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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