FRIDAY’S MINI-REPORT…. Today’s edition of quick hits:

* Just a reminder, the Monthly‘s annual pledge drive is underway. We sincerely appreciate those of you who’ve already shown generous support, and hope other readers will take a moment to help out.

* President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan this morning, and while a face-to-face meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai was scrapped due to poor weather, the president spoke to 4,000 U.S. troops after he visited with wounded servicemen and women.

* Better late than never: “U.S. and South Korean negotiators agreed Friday to a free-trade deal that the Obama administration hopes will increase American exports by billions of dollars annually and give momentum to a broader free-trade agenda.”

* The Simpson/Bowles fiscal commission not only failed to get the votes needed to send the proposal to Congress, the commission ultimately decided not to take a final vote at all.

* A temporary fix: “A two-week stopgap spending bill cleared Congress Thursday night, averting a threatened shutdown Friday and buying time for the White House to try to salvage some year-end agreement after the collapse of the budget process.”

* President Obama issued the first pardons of his presidency today. There were nine pardons in total, four of which related to cocaine convictions.

* In case you haven’t heard, the House did, in fact, censure Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) late yesterday. The final vote was 333 to 79, making Rangel only the 23rd House lawmaker to receive such a sanction, and the first in nearly three decades.

* Dear Mitt Romney, if you’d only stop pretending to understand issues like New START, then smart people like Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) wouldn’t feel compelled to make you look so foolish.

* The current net neutrality process, after some winnowing down, looks reasonably good.

* Helen Thomas wants folks to know that Congress, the White House, the American entertainment industry, and Hollywood, Wall Street are all “owned by the Zionists.” Oh my.

* Sorry, Daily Caller, your lesbian-conversion-in-the-military piece is still indefensible.

* The Washington Post‘s Kaplan problem appears to have prompted Melinda Gates to resign from its board of directors.

* And finally, Harvard scholar Theda Skocpol offers an observation that sounds awfully familiar: “It looks more and more as if the GOP plan is to sabotage efforts to spur job growth in hopes of winning the 2012 presidential election.”

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.