Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s funeral was today in Moscow. Yeltsin
faced down resurgent Communists at a critical moment in the final days of
the Soviet Union, but leaves a mixed legacy as Russia’s first democratically
** PRISON BREAK. There are many details in the compromise on the California prison crisis announced by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. But I’m not a prison policy expert and will not become one late today.
To make a long story short, the plan calls for lots of new construction, though not so much as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed, tied to the implementation of more rehabilitation programs and a call for stronger management practices in the state corrections department. The deal provides for 53,000 new inmate beds, in two phases of construction. The second phase kicks in after benchmarks on delivering rehab and improving management are met.
The total cost of the program would be $6.1 billion, with $1.2 billion in local matching funds, funded by revenue lease bonds, along with $350 million from the state’s general fund. Revenue lease bonds do not require a public vote, but are usually more expensive than other bonds. There would be no early release of inmates.
** THERE IS A CALIFORNIA PRISON DEAL. MORE DETAILS TO FOLLOW.
** SCHWARZENEGGER SAYS HE WILL SUE BUSH ADMINISTRATION. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency providing legally required formal six-month notice of his intent to sue the agency if it fails to grant approval to California to regulate greenhouse gases. The former action movie superstar reiterated the threat in a phone call today to EPA chief Stephen Johnson.
The Bush Administration had maintained that there was no legal authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. But the US Supreme Court held differently a couple of weeks ago, saying that greenhouse gases are clearly pollutants covered by the act. California has the ability to regulate air pollutants on its own autority, but requires a formal waiver from the EPA do so. The Schwarzenegger requested that nod in 2005, after the Air Resources Board had developed regulations to implement a 2002 law to sharply curtail tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases. Last year, California enacted an additional omnibus act to cut greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming.
“I have called on the federal government to expedite California’s request, and now with a Supreme Court decision behind us, the time to act is now. If the federal government once again fails to act, we have an obligation to take legal action,” said Schwarzenegger. “Californians clearly want to protect our environment. The U.S. EPA must act aggressively to grant our waiver so we can begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
** SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE TOMORROW NIGHT. Don’t forget that the first Democratic presidential debate takes place tomorrow night in South Carolina, from 4 PM to 5:30 PM Pacific time. You can watch it on MSNBC and msnbc.com.
South Carolina will be the fourth state in the presidential nomination contests for both the Democratic and Republican parties in 2008, following Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire. During the debate, John Edwards will urge the firing of presidential political counselor Karl Rove.
** NUNEZ BACKS CLINTON ON VIDEO. Here is video of Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez explaining why he backs Senator Hillary Clinton for president.
** RICE TO TALK WITH RUSSIANS ON MISSILE SHIELD. With Defense Secretary Bob Gates having tried and apparently failed to assuage Russian anger about the proposed US missile defense shield in Eastern Europe on a visit to Moscow, Secretary of State Condi Rice will take her shot in side talks during her trip to the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Oslo, Norway. Gates offered Russia participation in the shield project, but was turned down. Russian rhetoric has become somewhat heated about the shield project, with top generals saying Russian missile technology can defeat the US project.
** CLINTON WITH SLIGHT EDGE IN SOUTH CAROLINA. And speaking of tomorrow’s South Carolina Democratic presidential debate, a new poll by Garin-Hart-Yang Research shows Hillary Clinton with a narrow lead over Barack Obama, 31% to 28%. John Edwards, a native of the state who won the South Carolina primary in 2004, is third with 21%. Roughly half of the vote in 2004 was from the African American community. Clinton leads Obama there, 40% to 35%, with Edwards way behind at 9%.
** NUNEZ CO-CHAIRS CLINTON’S NATIONAL CAMPAIGN. As first reported here yesterday, and again in the morning column, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez has endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton for president. In addition to a leading role in her California campaign, Nunez is a national co-chairman of her presidential campaign. Clinton and Nunez made the announcement via conference call, Nunez in Sacramento and Clinton in Washington, where she is preparing for tomorrow’s debate in South Carolina.
** MCCAIN FORMALLY ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY. Senator John McCain formally announces his candidacy today in a New Hampshire address. His announcement tour takes him to Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada before ending up at home in Arizona on Saturday. McCain is languishing in national polls, well behind Rudy Giuliani, but is strong in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
Among his announcement remarks: “We are fighting a war in two countries, and we’re in a global struggle with violent extremists who despise us, our values and modernity itself. If we are to succeed, we must rethink and rebuild the structure and mission of our military; the capabilities of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies; the purposes of our alliances; the reach and scope of our diplomacy; the capacity of all branches of government to defend us. We need to marshal all elements of American power: our military, economy, investment, trade and technology. We need to strengthen our alliances and build support in other nations. We must preserve our moral credibility, and remember that our security and the global progress of our ideals are inextricably linked.
“We all know the war in Iraq has not gone well. We have made mistakes and we have paid grievously for them. We have changed the strategy that failed us, and we have begun to make a little progress. But in the many mistakes we have made in this war, a few lessons have become clear. America should never undertake a war unless we are prepared to do everything necessary to succeed, unless we have a realistic and comprehensive plan for success, and unless all relevant agencies of government are committed to that success. We did not meet this responsibility initially. And we must never repeat that mistake again.
“We must also prepare, far better than we have, to respond quickly and effectively to another terrorist attack or natural calamity. When Americans confront a catastrophe, natural or man-made, they have a right to expect basic competence from their government. They won’t accept that firemen and policemen are unable to communicate with each other in an emergency because they don’t have the same radio frequency. They won’t accept government’s failure to deliver bottled water to dehydrated babies or rescue the infirm from a hospital with no electricity. They won’t accept substandard care and indifference for wounded veterans. …
“Our dependence on foreign sources of energy not only harms our environment and economy, it endangers our security. So much of the oil we import comes from countries in volatile regions of the world where our values aren’t shared and our interests aren’t a priority.”
** YELTSIN FUNERAL IN MOSCOW. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush were on hand at Christ the Savior Church in Moscow for the funeral of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin faced down would-be military coup leaders in the streets of Moscow when hardline Communists attempted to overthrow reformer Mikhail Gorbachev during the last stages of the Soviet Union and became Russia’s first democratically elected president.
But Russia’s new democracy and capitalist economy proved quite chaotic. The Yeltsin transition led to the rise of a highly-connected oligarchy controlling the key elements of the post-Soviet economy, as the dash for cash led to astounding riches for a few (Moscow leads the world in billionaires) and endless disappointment for most of the rest. The political transition was wracked by chaotic alignments, violence and contract murders, all of it with an overlay of regret and shame over the nation’s precipitous fall from superpower status.
Vladimir Putin was his handpicked choice as successor. Putin has stabilized the country and restored a greater sense of pride, but in so doing made it much more authoritarian. Yet Yeltsin did hold the country together and prevented its vast storehouses of advanced weaponry from destabilizing the world. His frequent public drunkenness embarrassed, but he had a good heart. If he lacked the vision of Gorbachev, he possessed more than enough of the Russian soul to see his rodina through one of its most difficult passages.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices are in the $64 to $65 per barrel range.