On Dec. 30, 2007, Abdul Razzaq Hekmati, passed away from cancer, making him the first detainee to die of natural causes at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Hekmati, who regarded as a “war hero” in his native Afghanistan for opposing both the Russians and the Taliban, was captured in 2003 and held in Guantanamo until his death. Afghan officials say that Hekmati’s plight “demonstrates the enduring problems of the tribunals at Guant¡namo.”
I just heard David Tyree on CBS news attributing his astounding catch to . . . God. I guess it’s not really my place to say, but I always find this idea that God is intervening in the big game sort of bizarre. Beyond the theological implications, it’s sort of like saying the games are all rigged.
CREW sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey today, asking that he appoint a special council to investigate “whether the White House violated federal record-keeping laws by knowingly failing to preserve and restore millions of emails.” CREW executive director Melanie Sloan stated:
“The importance and historical significance of the missing emails makes it imperative that an impartial special counsel be appointed without delay to investigate the disappearance of these records. [...] The missing emails do not belong to the Bush administration, but to the American people. The Attorney General should take action to protect the right of future generations to look back and understand the role of White House officials in critical events.”
Here’s Pollster.com’s summary of the state of the race on the eve of super-duper-enormous Tuesday. There are kind of two ways you can look at this chart. One is that Clinton’s had about the same level of support forever and now that it’s a two person race the undecideds will break against the de facto incumbent and Obama wins. Another is that Clinton’s maintaining a small lead and will probably secure a narrow victory tomorrow that takes the wind out of Obama’s sails and leaves her victorious.
As is frequently the case in America’s oddly arbitrary candidate selection process, an enormous amount hinges not on the objective results tomorrow but on the reporting of the results. The ambiguity between the results viewed as a race for delegates, as a race for states, and as a race for the semi-national Feb 5 popular vote only increases the extent to which basically made-up media narratives will be very important. Given that he usually gets good press, Obama probably has the edge in terms of winning a spin war in the event of an ambiguous outcome.
In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked the United States 37th in health care out of 191 countries. Nevertheless, in December, President Bush proclaimed that “we have fabulous health care” compared to “other systems around the world.”
Today, OMB Director Jim Nussle echoed Bush’s inaccurate claim while explaining Bush’s new budget. Despite almost $200 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts over the next five years, Nussle alleged the United States still has the “best” health care:
So beneficiaries, I don’t think, will see the differences. … We have the best health care in the world. And our seniors especially get great health care. And that will not be affected by this small drop in percentage increases over the next five years.
In reality, Bush’s harsh budget cuts will make the dismal state of U.S. health care even worse.
The budget cuts Medicaid by $18.2 billion over five years, essentially “shifting costs to the states” and forcing “states to institute even bigger program cuts or tax increases,” according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). On Medicare, Nussle claimed that “access and quality should not suffer at all.” But as CBPP noted:
Many of the proposed cuts go well beyond the reductions that MedPAC, Congress’ expert advisory commission on Medicare payments, recommended and considers safe. These reductions could drive some health care providers to limit the number of Medicare patients they see or drop out of the program entirely. That, in turn, would jeopardize health care for significant numbers of people who are elderly or have serious disabilities.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) noted the irony of preserving Bush’s tax cuts “at a cost of $2.2 trillion” while proposing hundreds of billions in health care cuts. “We believe that is a very odd sense of priorities. That is not a sense of priorities that are shared by the American people,” Conrad said.
Mickey Kaus comes out in favor of Hillary Clinton, arguing convincingly that if you want to stop sensible, humane immigration reform a Clinton victory is your best shot. This seems right to me. The best scenario for immigration reform would be for Democrats to gain congressional seats and John McCain to be elected president. Kevin Drum, meanwhile, decides to back Obama.
In a press release last week, Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) attacked the new economic stimulus bill for sending “hundreds of millions of dollars” to “foreign citizens,” including “residents of Puerto Rico and territories like Guam.” Calling her comments “infuriating and contradictory,” the Puerto Rican House of Representatives demanded “a public apology” today from Brown-Waite for referring to Puerto Ricans as “foreign citizens.” Puerto Ricans were made American citizens in 1917.
Marc Ambinder posts the following data from Pew along with the observation that it shows us that “Republicans like McCain.” And indeed they do. Which, from the viewpoint of professional status, is pretty depressing news. After all, conservative pundits hate John McCain. But if conservative pundits can’t make self-identified Republicans dislike John McCain then maybe all pundits everywhere are powerless.
I could try to console myself with the view that maybe Bill Kristol is just incredibly persuasive but I doubt that’s right. Rather, I think the tendency is for people who participate in the political media to drastically to drastically overstate its importance. After all, the only people who pundits can affect are the relatively small number of people who consume political punditry. What’s more, the consumers of political punditry are, by definition, people with an unusually strong interest in politics. But the people most open to persuasion are the people who don’t take a strong interest in politics.
On top of all that, I think Kevin Drum’s right that strident campaigning by a pundit tends to be ineffective and annoying. Anyone who’s undecided is undecided because their gut tells them it’s a close call. Table-pounding does more to suggest that the pounder lacks perspective than it does to persuade. But if to be effective you can only try to nudge people gently, then it’s just going to be very difficult to have a large effect.
The WSJ (subs. req’d) reports:
Three of Wall Street’s biggest investment banks are set to announce today that they are imposing new environmental standards that will make it harder for companies to get financing to build coal-fired power plants in the U.S.
Citigroup Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley say they have concluded that the U.S. government will cap greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants sometime in the next few years. The banks will require utilities seeking financing for plants before then to prove the plants will be economically viable even under potentially stringent federal caps on carbon dioxide, the main man-made greenhouse gas.
Kudos to the banks and to Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council for working with them to develop the standards. More from the story here:
Today, the White House submitted its fiscal year 2009 federal budget request of $3.1 trillion. President Bush has asked Congress to approve $515.4 billion in funding for the Department of Defense which, when adjusted for inflation, would be the highest defense budget since World War II.
However, the costs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not included in the baseline DoD request. In reality, the war costs will most likely increase the defense budget to nearly $688 billion through the first quarter of FY 2009:
$515.4 billion: Bush’s baseline Pentagon budget request.
+$70 billion: The amount Bush’s defense budget includes as separate request for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. However, this bridge fund only covers the first quarter of FY 2009.
+$102.5 billion: Current emergency war funding request that Congress not yet approved.
TOTAL = $687.9 billion: Bush’s total war budget.
According to a recent Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. is spending over $10 billion a month in Iraq. “With Congress having already approved $691 billion in war spending since 2001,” the WSJ reports, “the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined could rise to just under $900 billion by next spring and could near the $1 trillion mark by the end of 2009.”
To fund his war and preserve his tax cuts for the rich, President Bush is cutting vital services for low- and moderate-income Americans, including child-care assistance for low-income families, low-income rental assistance programs, and total funding for K-12 education.