A 150-foot asteroid passed within 17,150 miles of Earth today, making the closest known flyby for a rock of its size. A meteor one-tenth the size, coming from another angle, struck Russia early today injuring more than a thousand people.
** QUICK HITS. Well, we survived the sudden meteor flyby without the aid of deep space missions commanded by either Robert Duvall (Deep Impact) or Bruce Willis (Armageddon). How are we set up for such encounters in non-reel real life? Er, not well. … The California Republican Party convention the first weekend in March has some scheduling changes. Headline speaker Karl Rove is now the Saturday luncheon rather than dinner speaker due to Rove’s schedule requirements. The Saturday dinner speaker will now be someone named Ben Shapiro, with whom I’m not familiar, who is the new editor of Breitbart.com now that the far right Internet flamer has passed away. The party had said initially that conservative humorist Ben Stein was taking that slot, perhaps also due to a lack of familiarity with Ben Shapiro. … Other GOP convention speakers include some comedians and writers I’m also not familiar with, as well as former state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, who ran for the U.S. Senate and then moved to Texas.
** THE ANTI-HAGEL GAMBITS: CLEVER, BUT NOT REALLY THAT CLEVER. So what does all this latest angry maneuvering around former Senator Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as secretary of defense amount to? Not that much, actually.
Hagel’s die-hard neoconservative opponents, permanently angered by his opposition to an Iraq War which they can’t admit was a debacle, keep trying to move the goalposts as they reach desperately for something, anything, with which to derail him. Which in a sense is irritating. And in another sense is simply lame.
But all it actually amounts to is a brief delay in Hagel’s final confirmation. Well, I should say, that’s all it amounts to if Senator John McCain’s word is to be relied upon. Which, though he’s been shifting around quite a bit lately, I believe it is.
An angry Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, perhaps rueing his decision not to do away with the filibuster, called a snap procedural vote Thursday afternoon to move Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary forward past the thicket of procedural objections which amount to a filibuster, whether Republicans want to admit it or not.
Reid’s move fell one vote short of the 60 needed to invoke cloture and move directly to a vote on the nominee, who needs only a majority vote to become the next secretary of defense. The final vote was 58 to 40, with one Republican senator, Utah’s Orrin Hatch, voting present.
But the vote was actually 59 to 40, with Reid then switching his vote to “no” so as to enable him to bring up the vote again whenever he chooses.
There are several Republican senators beyond the handful who voted to end the filibuster, including Hatch, who say they will end the filibuster after some more questions are answered. Which will come after the week-long Presidents Day weekend break coming up.
Some of the questions the Republicans are posing in the meantime are legitimate, some are bogus.
Is it a good thing to know more about how the Obama Administration handled the Benghazi disaster in real time, in particular, what the president and his most senior associates did? Sure. Just as it is a good thing to know what George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were doing during the much greater disaster of allowing Osama bin Laden to slip away at Tora Bora in December 2001, just three months after the 9/11 attacks.
Which, come to think of it, I don’t think we do know. Too bad the Democrats didn’t make more of an issue of that.
Does this have anything to do with Hagel? Not really, as he had no involvement with Benghazi. But it does provide insight into the national command structure which he will soon be a part of.
Of course, the search for knowledge is not exactly what this exercise is about, at least for the loudest. Senator Lindsey Graham and others complain that Obama himself didn’t call the Libyan leadership while Benghazi was going down, that instead it was “merely” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Frankly, I think a call from Hillary is nearly as impressive.
A better question might be why we were so caught off guard in Benghazi in the first place, especially since it turns out to have been such a major base of operations for the CIA. Only a quarter of the Benghazi evacuees were State Dept. personnel, the rest were CIA. We should know what’s going on with all the spooks around.
Still, Obama’s leadership style is a legitimate line of inquiry.
What is bogus are the attempts to hold Hagel to a very different standard of disclosure than other appointees by demanding that not only his own sources of income be disclosed but those of the organizations and corporations he’s been affiliated with. Which can’t be done.
That’s all about smearing Hagel as being the creature of evil foreign interests. Hmm, seems we’ve seen this movie before, with the Manchurian Candidate fantasies around Obama himself.
This time around, the cudgels of character assassination are in the hands of crude characters like Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who indulge in 21st century McCarthyism in implying that Hagel is a tool of nefarious Islamists. Though the amusing Cruz — a vehement hawk who never wore the uniform but was undoubtedly quite fierce on the debate team, and keeps hoping that some smoking gun of non-Likudnik Hagel rhetoric can be found — also managed to throw North Korea in there, too.
Speaking of North Korea, the hermit kingdom set off a more advanced nuclear device this week, a device that, while not yet ready for rigging on a missile, is much closer to that capability. While much of what North Korea says can be dismissed as churlishly childish demands for attention to a still impoverished society, this move clearly ups the ante in the geopolitics of the Asia Pacific region. So much so that its longtime ally China, that budding superpower and US frenemy, has denounced the move as too disruptive.
Yes, we are trying to pivot to the Asia Pacific region, that rising and complex part of the world in which the US and its allies have vast interests. (Which I write about as you can see in this archive. The Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing on Hagel didn’t delve into such matters. We keep getting hung up on the other end of the pivot.
Which is putting it mildly.
There is a depressingly revealing “word cloud” on the topics addressed in the Hagel confirmation hearing.
Israel was the utterly dominant topic, linked with Iran. Everything else, as you can see, was either minor or non-existent in comparison.
Not even Afghanistan, where we are trying to the longest war in American history but still have tens of thousands of troops in the field, registered as a major topic, much less pressing questions of future geopolitical strategy and military doctrine.
There’s a lot to address going forward.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has designated McCain as the point person in determining when the filibuster ends. …
** NEW SURVEY: LGBT IDENTIFICATION BY STATE. A new Gallup Poll survey has interesting data on those who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, and those who do not. By state, I mean.
Aside from the District of Columbia, where a striking 10% of the population self-identifies as LGBT, all the states, cosmopolitan/gay-friendly or not, are within two percentage points of the overall national average.
Which is 3.5%.
Hawaii is the highest among the state with 5.1%; North Dakota is the lowest with 1.7%.
California is 4.0%, just slightly above the national average.
While the variation in LGBT identification across states is relatively small, findings do suggest some evidence that the variation is not entirely random. Social climates that promote acceptance of or stigma toward LGBT individuals could affect how many adults disclose an LGBT identity. LGBT people who live in places where they feel accepted may be more likely than those who live in places where they feel stigmatized to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity to a survey interviewer.
In general, states where residents express more liberal views are more accepting of LGBT individuals, while socially conservative areas are less accepting. Of the 10 states and D.C. where at least 4% of respondents identified as LGBT, seven are among the most liberal states in the country. Conversely, six of 10 states with the lowest percentage of LGBT-identified adults are among the top 10 conservative states in the country.
The states with proportionally larger LGBT populations generally have supportive LGBT legal climates. With the exception of South Dakota, all of the states that have LGBT populations of at least 4% have laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and allow same-sex couples to marry, enter into a civil union, or register as domestic partners. Of the 10 states with the lowest percentage of LGBT adults, only Iowa has such laws.
Higher proportions of LGBT individuals in a state could also suggest that LGBT individuals move there in higher proportions than the general population does. While highly concentrated (and mostly male) LGBT neighborhoods exist in many cities and are certainly in part a result of this type of migration, little is known about the broader migration patterns of the LGBT community. Given prior Gallup findings showing that the LGBT population is disproportionately young, female, and nonwhite — all of which are groups with economic disadvantages that could limit their abilities to move — it seems unlikely that migration is the primary reason for variation in LGBT identification across states. …
A 150 foot-wide asteroid is set to fly past Earth today. NASA says the asteroid will come within 17,150 miles of the earth, which is closer than many communications and weather satellites. The event reaches its peak brightness at 11:24 AM Pacific.
** NEW COLUMNS COMING UP … THE ANTI-HAGEL GAMBITS: CLEVER, BUT NOT REALLY THAT CLEVER and THE ALLURE OF ARABIA.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington, Illinois, and Florida.
Obama received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He then met with President Giorgio Napolitano of Italy in the Oval Office.
Following that, Obama welcomed and congratulated the 18 recipients of the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal in the East Room.
He then departed the White House and flew on Air Force One to Chicago, Illinois.
At 11:10 AM Pacific, Obama arrives Chicago, Illinois.
At 12:45 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at Hyde Park Academy on his middle class economic proposals.
At 2:30 PM Pacific, Obama departs Chicago on Air Force One en route West Palm Beach, Florida.
At 5 PM Pacific, Obama arrives West Palm Beach, Florida.
He will spend the Presidents Day weekend there.
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 as of this morning.
A finally completed report from the California Auditor says that major funds have been secreted in state Parks and Recreation Dept. accounts for the past 20 years, as the state press is today reporting.
Readers may recall that I said that last year.
** WITH LITTLE POLITICAL OR POLICY IMPACT AND DUMBED DOWN LANGUAGE, DOES THE STATE OF THE UNION EVEN MATTER? … From my February 12th column.
** 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.
Southern Russia received a major shock from a flaming meteor in the morning sky. A thousand people in the Chelyabinsk region were hurt and buildings were damaged by the resultant meteorite shower. The surprise event is reportedly unrelated to today’s big meteor flyby.
** 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 $95 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $61 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 $19 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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