The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise has taken part in the largest anti-mine naval exercise ever staged, aimed at Iran’s repeated threat to shut down the Strait of Hormuz.
** QUICK HITS. Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, talking about some big mistakes, appears on 60 Minutes Sunday night in a preview of his Total Recall autobiography. More to follow. … Governor Jerry Brown, getting ready to spin up the public portion of the campaign for his Prop 30 revenue initiative, leading by 15 to 23 points in three polls this week, is busy going through legislative bills as the decision deadline looms. … Brown has signed bills prohibiting the open carry of unloaded rifles, limiting Public Utilities Commission regulation of voice over internet calls, and allowing participation in a portable retirement plan. He also vetoed legislation to raise penalties for texting while driving.
** OBAMA PASSES THROUGH THE MINEFIELD OF U.N. WEEK (BUT SETS UP A POTENTIAL EXPLOSION NEXT YEAR). Like a ship navigating through a strait filled with mines, President Barack Obama succeeded in getting through this year’s United Nations week gathering of heads of government in New York without damage to his re-election. But he also set up a potentially explosive confrontation during his second term over Iran’s nuclear program.
It was a week of adjustments and avoidance for Obama.
And a week of notable speeches and moves by several figures, highly relevant to Obama’s hopes, at one end of America’s tricky geopolitical pivot from over-engagement with the Islamic world of the Middle East and Central Asia to enhanced engagement with the ascending nations of Asia and the Pacific. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and new Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a USC alumnus, all made significant moves.
Obama’s address to the United Nations may not have been as important a speech as his Cairo address in 2009, when he laid out an expansive program of positively engaging the Islamic world, but it was at least a significant strategic adjustment. The Arab Awakening which Obama saw would come some day arrived, to the surprise of most, in January 2011, and has provided a roller coaster ride ever since.
Now the tangled US involvement in the Islamic world, especially the Middle East, of which the Arab Awakening is such a dramatic part, stands as a potential X factor in the presidential race, the sort of geopolitical upset I’ve long thought might be the only thing to deny Obama a second term.
Obama vowed that he would not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons, which is different from Netanyahu’s insistence on denying it the capability to build a nuclear weapon. Obama refused to lay out the “red lines” of development of nuclear weapons potential repeatedly demanded by Netanyahu which would trigger military action. But he pledged that Iran would not be allowed to have nuclear weapons, which may set up a massive confrontation in his second term. Obama also denounced the anti-Islam video which prodded widespread anti-American demonstrations while at the same time upholding the American value of free speech.
And his administration this week acknowledged the obvious, that the murders of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, including Ambassador Chris Smith, on the anniversary of 9/11 were the result of a terrorist attack.
All this comes as new Gallup Poll surveys indicate that the the waves of anti-government rhetoric of recent years in the US may be receding.
One survey shows that trust in the ability of the federal government to handle problems at both the international level and the domestic level is up substantially, to the highest level since the invasion of Iraq. This is good news for Democrats, bad news for the anti-government lobby that has held such sway in Republican ranks in recent years.
There is one big caveat, however.
The polls were taken before the wave of violent unrest in the Islamic world following the hate-Islam video Innocence of Muslims, before the attacks on American missions, the burnings of American flags, the murders of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The only good news is that the the protests weren’t all that large and have not been sustained.
Following the old dictum that the best spin consists of telling the truth slowly, the administration this week finally acknowledged the obvious, that Stevens and the others were killed in a terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11. The early spin that the killings happened only when the protesters got out of hand and started firing their rocket launchers and machine guns is now out the window.
The jury is still not in on how all these things play out.
The greatest overt conflict was between Iran’s Ahmadinejad and Israel’s Netanyahu. …
** NEW SURVEY: SUPREME COURT JOB APPROVAL ON LOW END OF HISTORIC SCALE, BEST AMONG DEMOCRATS THOUGH IT’S A REPUBLICAN COURT. A new Gallup Poll survey, out prior to the beginning of the new US Supreme Court session on October 1st, has some interesting numbers.
The Court’s surprise decision upholding President Barack Obama’s controversial national health care law seems to be at the center of public attitudes.
A big majority of Democrats approves of the Court, which is actually quite conservative for the most part.
But little more than a third of Republicans approves of the Court’s performance.
As the Supreme Court returns to work on Oct. 1, sharp partisan divisions in its job approval rating — which initially emerged after the court upheld the 2010 healthcare law — remain. Currently, 57% of Democrats approve, while a similar percentage of Republicans, 56%, disapprove.
Overall, 49% of Americans approve of the way the Supreme Court is handling its job and 40% disapprove. That approval rating is slightly more positive than in Gallup’s last update in July, but remains on the lower end of what Gallup has measured since 2000, the first time it asked about Supreme Court approval. Since that time, the court’s approval rating has averaged 54%. …
Campaigning today in Pennsylvania, where he trails President Barack Obama by a wide margin but is trying to get some traction after losing ground in swing states, conservative Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney pledged not to raise taxes on the middle class.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … OBAMA PASSES THROUGH THE MINEFIELD OF U.N. WEEK (BUT SETS UP A POTENTIAL EXPLOSION NEXT YEAR).
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He then met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 1:20 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a fundraiser at the Capital Hilton
At 3:05 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at fundraiser at a private residence in Washington.
At 5:25 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at another fundraiser at the Capital Hilton.
The realization that Obama’s lead is real is setting in among Mitt Romney’s cheerleaders in the media and elsewhere, with Romney’s old friend Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu praising Obama yesterday in his much anticipated UN address and appearing to concede that there will be no Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program before the election or, seemingly, before next spring at the earliest.
Of course, if I were planning a daring and risky military attack, I would do something to bring back the element of surprise, which Netanyahu’s endless saber rattling had certainly removed.
Now Romney boosters are looking for a breakthrough in the first presidential debate, set for October 3rd in Denver. Having watched Romney in 20 Republican debates last year and earlier this year, I would suggest that that is a thin reed of hope.
There is some concern today with the Syrian military moving chemical weapons as rebels make significant gains in the embattled country, where the Assad regime has tried for more than a year to forcibly put down a pro-democracy movement which has now taken up arms.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this morning that the government appears to remain in control of the weapons.
The potential of these weapons getting into the wind has long been feared.
“There has been some intelligence that with regards to some of these sites that there has been some movement in order for the Syrians to better secure … the chemicals,” Panetta said Friday morning during a press conference at the Pentagon. “So while there’s been some limited movement, again the major sites still remain in place, still remain secure.”
Syria is believed to have stockpiles of nerve and mustard gas. The regime of President Bashar al-Assad admitted earlier this year it has unspecified chemical weapons, though it later back-tracked on those remarks.
The regime’s war with the Syrian rebels has stoked fears that the weapons could fall into other hands.
Panetta’s remarks come as Western and allied nations meet in New York, looking to unite the fractured rebel forces.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is hosting talks among the Friends of Syria — a coalition which includes the United States, the European Union and the Arab League — on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, seeking to encourage better co-operation among the rebel groups.
The UN Security Council remains deadlocked on on efforts to halt the 18-month long civil war, which activists say has led to more than 30,000 deaths.
The talks do not include Syrian allies Russia, China or Iran. Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring Assad to enter negotiations on a political transition, paralyzing the UN’s most powerful body and denting chances of any progress during the General Assembly.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said it is “shocking” that the Security Council had been unable to act, while British Prime Minister David Cameron denounced the deaths of Syrian children as “a stain on those who have failed to stand up to these atrocities,” a reference to Russia and China.
Clinton has decried al-Assad’s “murdering of his own people,” while Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — who will address the General Assembly on Friday — has accused the U.S. and other countries of encouraging terrorism in their stance on Syria.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says intelligence suggests the Syrian government has moved some of its chemical weapons, but the U.S. believes that the main sites still remain secure. The veteran California political figure spoke out as the Syrian rebels made significant gains in their battle with the Assad regime.
Might the Assad regime use these weapons against the rebels in a last gasp attempt to remain in power?
That’s a question that Panetta did not address today.
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 Persian/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.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown is continuing to go through bills from the recently concluded legislative session.
And he is working on his Prop 30 revenue initiative.
Brown signed legislation yesterday enabling Californians to keep their social media passwords private from prying superiors and bureaucrats, and to require transparency and notice on college fee increases and provide free digital textbooks to college students.
He also signed 19 bills promoting renewable energy, including legislation strengthening a partnership between the State of California and the Department of Defense to develop renewables.
And he also signed legislation authorizing the placement of a privately-funded statue of Ronald Reagan in the State Capitol, noting that Californians will be interested to learn of the two-term president and governor’s pragmatism and courage in supporting tax hikes when they were needed. Giving the obvious needle to the right-wing Republicans who pushed the bill forward.
Brown learned of polls today showing his Prop 30 initiative still ahead by wide margins.
In the USC Dornsife/LA Times poll, it’s 54-37.
In the California Business Roundtable poll, it’s 58-35.
Prop 30 is down 10 points in the USC/LAT poll, as the press release notes, since last March.
But the relevant point is where it is compared to other recent measurements. And in that regard, it’s actually up a few points from its standing in the latest Field Poll.
The public pension reform bill Brown got through the legislature gets relatively high marks in the USC/LAT poll.
** IS POST-PARTISANSHIP PASSE? SCHWARZENEGGER AND COMPANY (AND BILL CLINTON) SAY NO. … From my September 26th column.
** DETHRONED: MAD MEN‘S DOWN SEASON OPENED THE DOOR FOR A SUPERLATIVE HOMELAND. … From my September 24th column.
** JERRY BROWN: GEARING UP A CAMPAIGN AT LAST? … From my September 22nd feature.
** HOW ROMNEY SHOULD HAVE ATTACKED OBAMA: ANATOMY OF A GEOPOLITICAL CRISIS. … From my September 19th essay.
** CONSIDERING THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY. … From my September 15th essay.
** WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED SINCE 9/11? … From my September 11th essay.
** PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE ELEPHANT: THE CONVENTIONS AND THE CLIMATE. … From my September 8th essay.
** WHILE ONE CLINTON WOWS AT THE OBAMARAMA, ANOTHER PIVOTS TO THE LONG GAME. … From my September 6th essay.
** SO WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED WITH CLINT EASTWOOD? (AND THE PERILS OF ARGUING WITH IMAGINARY OBAMAS). … From my September 4th essay.
** AFTER THE ROMNEYRAMA, AND MORE SERIOUS MATTERS. … From my August 30th essay.
** SPACE, JERRY BROWN’S PLACE, AND A RACE. … From my August 27th 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 $92 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $58 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 $22 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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