Former South African President Nelson Mandela, the legendary icon of the anti-apartheid struggle, celebrated his 94th birthday today. Former President Bill Clinton was a surprise visitor in Mandela’s home village.
** NEW COLUMNS COMING UP … MITT WHITMAN = MEG ROMNEY and THE DARK KNIGHT FALTERS AGAINST A GRITTY BOND VILLAIN, HIMSELF, AND US.
** QUICK HITS. Israel today blamed Iran for a bomb blast that killed six Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu pledged “a strong response.” … Netanyahu was already shaken by the collapse late yesterday of his national unity government. The opposition centrist Kadima Party, which actually finished first in the most recent Israeli national elections, pulled out of the government it entered with fanfare a few months ago. This may lead to an election that seemed to have been postponed from this year till next. … Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hasn’t been seen or heard from since the dramatic assassinations of his defense minister, interior minister, deputy president, and brother-in-law inside a very high-security complex in Damascus.
** NEW SURVEY: SATISFACTION STILL LOW BUT UP TO HIGHEST LEVEL SINCE 2009. A new Gallup Poll survey finds that satisfaction with life is rising in the US. It’s still low, but it’s as high as it’s been since several months after President Barack Obama took office.
Satisfaction among Republicans is very low and unchanged from that low level. But satisfaction among Democrats and independents is rising.
These aren’t good numbers for Obama, but the trend line is. And the numbers are over twice as high as they were when Obama took office.
Twenty-eight percent of Americans are now satisfied with the way things are going in the country, up from 20% in June and roughly matching the highest levels recorded at various points since 2010, of either 26% or 27%. Satisfaction has dipped much lower during this time period, but the last time satisfaction was statistically higher was in mid-2009. …
Most Americans — 69% — remain dissatisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. according to the July 9-12 Gallup poll; however, this is the first time since 2009 that the figure has registered below 70%.
Democrats’ satisfaction increased to 45% in July, up from 34% in June, but similar to the 43% seen in May. Independents’ satisfaction also increased, rising to 26%, from 17% in June and 20% in May. But, Republicans’ satisfaction was statistically unchanged at 10%. …
Americans are significantly more satisfied today than they were in January 2009, just before Barack Obama took office. At that time, 13% were satisfied. The percentage satisfied surged to 36% within the first seven months of his administration, but gradually fell to the mid-20s and has since averaged 21%, with a period of lower ratings in the second half of 2011. Today’s 28% thus marks an encouraging departure from the norm seen over the past three years. …
Following the bombing in Damascus that killed at least three top Syrian officials including the Assad regime’s defense minister, interior minister and the president’s brother-in-law, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta this morning expressed concern over the increased violence and called on the international community to pressure the Assad regime to step down.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … MITT WHITMAN = MEG ROMNEY.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Obama then met with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in the Oval Office to discuss the efforts to respond to the drought.
At 9:30 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet for lunch in the Private Dining Room.
At 11:25 AM Pacific, Obama honors the 2012 NCAA Women’s Basketball Champion Baylor University Bears in the East Room.
At 12:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.
At 1 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in the Oval Office.
At 2:40 PM Pacific, Obama attends a fundraiser at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Obama is spending a lot of time today on managing several crises, notably the crises in the Gulf and the South China Sea, which are discussed in depth my essay excerpted and linked below, and the fighting in Damascus, capital of Syria.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Syria, Iraq, AfPak, and the South China Sea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: The Arabian Gulf is ten hours ahead of Pacific time and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time. The time in Manila, on the South China Sea, is fifteen hours ahead of Pacific time.
** CRISES CHAOTIC AND BUBBLING: THE GULF AND THE SOUTH CHINA SEA. Two crises, a half a world away from each other on very strategic, very different bodies of water. One I believe, the one in the South China Sea — a major key to America’s geopolitical pivot from over-engagement with the Islamic world of the Middle East and Central Asia to heightened engagement with the rising Asia Pacific — is going to U.S. plan. Or at least it was until China upped the ante. The other, in the Persian Gulf, which most countries in the region call the Arabian Gulf, is close to spiraling out of control.
I’ve been to these places and know them, but I’m not there now so I’m sure I’m missing some of the telling detail, the enlivening color, that can make a big difference in analysis.
Yet several themes seem to be emerging: The perpetual powder keg that is the Gulf is increasingly unstable. The failure of the People’s Republic of China’s Southeast Asian neighbors to achieve consensus on China’s increasingly aggressive moves in the South China Sea primes the pump for greater U.S. involvement. But China is upping the ante there with even more aggressive moves. The “Open Door” which the U.S. has promoted in East Asia for more than 110 years swings in more than one direction. And, while the prospect of confrontation between the U.S. and China is ratcheting up, the likelihood of war, between the two at least, is not.
Taken together, these developments of just the past few days point up once again why the big geopolitical pivot is arguably the biggest (though wildly under-covered) story in the world.
Incidentally, you can check a number of my related articles here in The Pivot Archive. …
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Brown will be joined state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez and other state and local officials when he signs the High-Speed Rail funding bill (SB 1029) at Union Station in Los Angeles, and later at the future Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco.
Brown’s first signing event is at 10 AM at Union Station in Los Angeles.
His second signing event is at the Transbay Transit Center construction site at 2 PM in downtown San Francisco.
** WHY THE CLINTONS NEED OBAMA TO WIN: UNCERTAINTY AS HILLARY PUSHES THE BIG GEOPOLITICAL PIVOT. … From my July 13th essay.
** A TICKET TO RIDE: HIGH-SPEED RAIL MOVES FORWARD ON A HISTORIC (AND BUMPY) TRACK IN CALIFORNIA. … From my July 11th feature.
** DARK KNIGHTS, AVENGERS, BONDING RETRO ACTION HEROES: HOW LONG WILL THE SUPERHERO PHENOMENON LAST? … From my July 7th essay.
** FOUNDED IN ENLIGHTENMENT, AMERICA FACES IGNORANCE AND CONFUSION AS THE CHALLENGES GROW EVER MORE COMPLEX. … From my July 2nd essay.
** THE “MOMENTARY MEDIA” STRIKES: EPIC FAILS BY CNN AND FOX NEWS HIGHLIGHT DYSFUNCTIONALITY. … From my June 28th column.
** THE “SLOW BORING OF HARD BOARDS” IN AN ERA OF LIMITS. … From my June 27th essay.
** A RUGGED TIME FOR OBAMA’S BIG GEOPOLITICAL PIVOT. … From my June 22nd essay.
** THE “FAIR SHOT” VS. THE “TO DO LIST” — A BIG REVEALING BLAH IN THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE. … From my June 20th column.
** 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.
The Dark Knight Rises, arguably the key film of the year, opens on Friday.
** 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 $90 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $56 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 $24 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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