Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is leaving Washington after more than four decades, including tenures as a congressman, federal budget director, White House chief of staff and the CIA director who oversaw the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. He’s returning to California.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … THE ALLURE OF ARABIA.
** QUICK HITS. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who gleefully disrupted then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2007 message to California Republicans to avoid getting so right-wing, went on far right radio talk show host Laura Ingraham’s (what, Glenn Beck was booked?) show today to say that California is beautiful but has been badly governed for a long time and Californians are “voting with their feet” to move to Texas. Which is, well, not so true. Perry and some Texas business executives arrive in San Francisco (San Francisco?!) — very scenic, you know, and a very fun town — on Sunday for the beginning of a slightly ballyhooed business recruitment trip. … Perry, as I suggested in the piece linked below, is trying to solidify the right-wing base in the Texas Republican primary against a potentially powerful intra-party challenge next year. He’s in big trouble in Texas after his disastrous presidential race. … For his part, Governor Jerry Brown joins Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan in Oakland on Tuesday for a summit meeting on the future of California housing sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
** NEW SURVEY: IRANIANS BLAME AMERICA FOR SANCTIONS WOES, BACK NUCLEAR PROGRAM. A new Gallup Poll survey indicates that, if we are hoping to force regime change in Iran, we are not making progress.
Most Iranians say they are feeling the bite of US-led sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. But most blame the US, not their own leaders. And the nuclear program is very popular.
Will they feel the same after more sanctions, which are coming online now? Iranians’ self-described level of suffering is as high as that in Afghanistan, which is at war.
A majority of Iranians (56%) say sanctions the United Nations, the U.S., and Western Europe imposed have hurt Iranians’ livelihoods a great deal, and an additional 29% say sanctions have hurt somewhat, according to a Gallup survey conducted in Iran in December 2012. Separately, 48% say sanctions have affected their own personal livelihoods a great deal and another 35% say somewhat. …
Over the years, international sanctions have taken a serious toll on Iran’s economy and people. Since the U.S. first acted to freeze Iranian assets in 1979 under President Jimmy Carter, then again under President Ronald Reagan in 1987, the U.S. has been leading efforts to use military and economic sanctions in an attempt to influence the country’s policies.
For the past decade, the U.S., U.N., and other nations have used sanctions to target Iran’s nuclear capabilities program. The U.N. specifically has since 2006 worked to isolate Iran from crucial gas and oil markets worldwide. Last year, the European Union adopted an oil embargo against Iran, which is costing the country $4 to $8 billion per month. Consequently, 2012 was a disastrous economic year for Tehran: Oil and gas exports provide roughly 50% of Iran’s government revenue, but by October of last year, the country’s oil exports had dropped by more than 40%. During the first week of that same month, the country saw its currency devalue by 40% from the previous week’s value.
President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law a new round of sanctions that aim to further isolate Iran from the global economy by targeting its energy and media sectors. The Obama administration has imposed the toughest sanctions Iran has ever faced. For an oil-producing country that strategically sits between East and West, the sanctions will no doubt limit Iran’s role in the global economy. …
The effect of sanctions on Iran appears to go beyond macroeconomic factors: Iranians’ wellbeing is low. Thirty-one percent of Iranians rated their lives poorly enough to be considered “suffering” in 2012 — one of the highest rates in the greater Middle East North Africa region. In fact, countries with comparable suffering rates either are at war such as Afghanistan or are experiencing a period of severe instability such as Egypt and Tunisia. …
It’s another mega-storm hitting the East Coast. A huge snowstorm is expected to bring blizzard conditions and hurricane force winds to the Northeast. The massive storm could drop two feet of snow on New England.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and Virginia.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
At 10 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet for lunch in the Private Dining Room.
At 1 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in honor of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at Joint Base Myer-Henderson within Fort Myer, Virginia.
Panetta is stepping down from his latest stint of federal service, this time having spent Obama’s first term as director of the CIA and secretary of defense.
More to follow on the veteran California political figure, who previously served as White House chief of staff, federal budget director, and chairman of the House Budge Committee in a career that began with him as a moderate ’60s Republican.
A rough outing yesterday for the Obama Administration and its drone strike policy. Congress is paying attention again to some of the details.
Obama’s pick for CIA director, John Brennan, testified at his Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing that he doesn’t know “what the truth is” about the effectiveness of torture in gaining useful intel. He also wouldn’t say if water-boarding is torture, preferring the term “EIT” for enhanced interrogation techniques.”
Brennan rejected a suggestion from new Maine independent Senator Angus King, who caucuses with the Dems, that drone killings be approved by a sort of FISA court. Brennan reasoned that courts judge past actions while drone strikes are about preventing future action.
Why does Brennan sound like he’s using dialogue from the BBC series Spooks? (Known as MI-5 in these PC United States.) Americans generally came off like double-talkers in that show.
Actually, now that I think of it, what Brennan is describing sounds more like the scenario in the Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise picture Minority Report, in which people were arrested before they committed their crimes, thanks to a fool-proof prediction system.
Is that what we have?
Under a lot of fire, Brennan defended the Obama Administration policy of escalating the killing of suspected jihadists while minimizing the capture of such folks to gain potential intelligence.
For her part, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee chair, while appearing mostly friendly toward Brennan, said she wants to look into setting up a special court, as used in FISA cases regarding surveillance, to evaluate the evidence against American citizens presently targeted for extra-judicial killing by an anonymous committee.
She and other senators complained rather bitterly that they still had only been shown a few of the classified legal documents used to justify the drone strike decisions and that staff was not allowed to view any of the documents.
Feinstein said she believed that the number of civilian dead in drone strikes is in the single digits, something which others who have reported on this would scoff at. But she told reporters after the hearing that she was unaware of the reported policy of striking all males of “fighting age” in the vicinity of a specific target.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving Mali and Algeria, the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Syria, Iraq, AfPak, and the South China Sea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: Mali is eight hours ahead of Pacific time, 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.
Legislative Democrats yesterday proposed the most sweeping gun control laws in the nation, which would further California’s longstanding reputation as having the most restrictive gun laws in the US.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a package of laws recently that goes beyond what California has done.
Legislative leaders were joined by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, and several police chiefs.
** JERRY BROWN FINDS FUN (IN NEW FOIL RICK PERRY) AND MORE THAN A BIT OF ILLUMINATION. … From my February 7th column.
** COME HAGEL OR HIGH WATER: IN THE SHADE OF IRAQ. … From my February 1st essay.
** THE STATE OF JERRY BROWN’S STATUS: AFTER THE STATE OF THE STATE. … From my January 30th essay.
** OBAMA’S CLEAR YET MUTED TRUMPET: HOPE’S AUDACITY MEETS LOWERED EXPECTATIONS. … From my January 23rd essay.
** HOW NOT TO STAGE MANAGE THE WORLD. … From my January 18th column.
** POWELL POSITIONS THE DEBATE OVER CHUCK HAGEL. … From my January 14th essay.
** JERRY BROWN’S NEW BUDGET FOR POST-CRISIS CALIFORNIA: DISCIPLINE BEGETS OPPORTUNITY. … From my January 11th essay.
** WHY THE HAGEL BATTLE MADE MORE SENSE FOR OBAMA THAN THE RICE BATTLE. … From my January 9th essay.
The Superdome’s power company took the blame Friday for the Super Bowl blackout, saying the cause was a faulty device that had been installed in its switching gear to prevent a failure of electric cables leading to the stadium. The lights went out for some 35 minutes in the midst of the biggest sporting event of the year.
** 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 $96 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $62 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 $18 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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