The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Friday, September 12, 2003

POLLS HEADING WRONG WAY FOR BUSH -- This USA Today poll is not as bad for Mr Bush as some others I've seen recently, but it contains no good news either. The public thinks the country is on the wrong path, is very dissatisfied with the economy, and increasingly skeptical about the course of our policy in Iraq.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

PUT WES IN HIS PLACE -- The Washington Post piece about Dr Dean approaching General Clark to be his Vice President smells of a leak by the Dean campaign. Dr Dean has been moving along smoothly, gaining strength from his scuffles with the Democratic Leadership Council and Senator Joe Lieberman [D-CT]. General Clark's imminent entrance into the primary race threatens to upset all that. [Whether General Clark makes a good candidate or not is something else entirely, of course.] As you will note below, the Clark camp is already telling people the Dean campaign is responsible for this Post story and that the general has no intention of signing on to the Dean campaign. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo agrees:
And now the story of the day is not those very active discussions Clark is having about his own presidential run, but the potential 'Dean/Clark alliance'. And if Clark decides to get into the race after all, doesn't that mean that he wobbled, that as recently as this week he was thinking of taking the number two slot from Dean, or endorsing Dean? (His opponents want to play to the 'indecision' meme, remember.) I think that's what some people would like us to think. The Post calls those people "sources familiar with the [Dean/Clark] discussions." But I think we can imagine who those folks might be.
Exactly. I think we've solved that little non-mystery.

WES CLARK MANIA -- Washington Whispers says it is all about General Wesley Clark in the Democratic primaries.
Wes Clark mania threatens to go nuclear next week if, as expected, he becomes the 10th and last candidate to join the nine other running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Whispers learns that once in, top Democratic elected officials, strategists and donors are ready to join the Clark Brigade. Many of Clark's team-in-waiting are Clintonistas , like the former president's handyman, Bruce Lindsey, scandal spokesman Mark Fabiani, and maybe even ex-deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes, who's close to New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Also, New York Rep. Charles Rangel has pledged to round up endorsements from House and Senate members. What's more, www.DraftClark2004.com, the Web site that's cheering Clark's entry, has lined up 200 coordinators in all 50 states, says spokesman Michael Frisby, president of Frisby & Associates, a Washington-area PR firm. And forget about that talk that all the retired four-star general and former NATO boss wants is the veep nomination. Supporters say that's a dirty-tricks campaign pushed by rival Howard Dean who's scared of a Clark candidacy. Says Frisby: "Wes Clark firmly believes that he is the best choice to be president, not be vice president or hold any other government post."
I know I'm intrigued. A Kerry/Clark or Clark/Kerry ticket would be fine with me. Two decorated veterans against two undecorated draft dodgers. I like. I like.

KERRY IN CALI -- Senator John Kerry [D-MA] will be campaigning in California for fellow Vietnam veteran and California Governor Gray Davis.

THE FALLING MAN -- The photographer, Richard Drew, writes about his photo that has been described as "ghoulish" and "sadistic"--the photo almost no one has seen.
My family calls it "the picture that won't go away." Most newspaper editors refused to print it. Those who did, on the day after the World Trade Center attacks, received hundreds of letters of complaint.

The photograph was denounced as coldblooded, ghoulish and sadistic. Then it vanished.

Yet, two years later, I still get asked about it. I've been invited on national talk shows, interviewed by foreign TV crews and asked to speak about it at universities across the country. Esquire magazine just published a 7,000-word essay that hails it as an icon, a masterpiece and a touching work of art.

All this for a single frame out of hundreds shot in haste before I was pulled to safety as the second tower of the World Trade Center tumbled toward me.

My fellow photographers call it "the most famous picture nobody's ever seen."
Perhaps I've just got a stronger stomach than most, but I don't find the photo sadistic at all. It is the act of terror which resulted in the falling man's death which is sadistic.

U.S TROOPS IN IRAQ FIREFIGHT -- It appears several U.S. troops have been injured and possibly killed during a fiery gun, mortar, and grenade battle near Fallujah in Iraq.
Masked gunmen fired machine guns, mortar rounds and rocket propelled grenades at a US military convoy which had stopped in a small town to the west of Baghdad after a vehicle broke down.

Witnesses say the battle started at around 4.30pm local time when the convoy, consisting of two American transporters and two other vehicles, was hit by a volley of three rockets.

US reinforcements including an Abrams tank were drafted in immediately and fighting lasted for more than an hour.

One eyewitness to the attacks said five US soliders had been killed and two injured.

US officials have not commented on casualties.
Let's hope the eyewitness reports are wrong about the five dead U.S. soldiers.

ISRAEL BACKS ARAFAT EXPULSION -- The Israeli cabinet has voted in principle to expel Yasser Arafat from the West Bank. No move has been made to do it, however, and no word on when or if that would happen. Just the Israelis turning the heat up a bit. I doubt it has been cleared with the Bush regime.

GET RID OF RUMMY -- Congressman David Obey [D-WI], a ranking member of the minority in the House, has written a letter to Mr Bush calling for the resignations of Mr Donald Rumsfeld and Mr Paul Wolfowitz--currently #1 and #2 at the Pentagon. The reason: Screwing up the occupation of Iraq. My favorite phrase in the letter: "I recommend that you allow the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense to return to the private sector."

Priceless.

HILL DEMS RAP DEAN -- A letter signed by ten Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] and Rep. Martin Frost [D-TX], sharply criticizes former Governor Howard Dean [D-VT] for his stated views on the Israel/Palestine controversy. The letter is in response to Dr Dean's statement that the United States cannot "take sides" in the Israel/Palestine dispute. The signatories write that they "believe it is wrong to say the U.S. should not 'take sides' in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute."
"American foreign policy has been--and must continue to be--based on unequivocal support for Israel's right to exist and to be free from terror. The Palestinians have been at best ambivalent about their willingness to accept Israel's existence and from Yasir Arafat on down they have promoted or acquiesced in the use of terrorism as a tactic in their struggle. It is unacceptable for the U.S. to be 'evenhanded' on these fundamental issues.

"All of us want a genuine peace process to succeed, and all of us accept the legitimacy of a Palestinian state once the Palestinian leadership and people recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and not only renounce the use of violence but at last take action to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure inside the Palestinian Authority. Time and time again, the Israeli people have shown their willingness to take risks for peace. But they will only do so with the knowledge that the U.S. support for Israel will not waver.

"It is important for America to help facilitate a peaceful resolution of the conflict, but in playing this role we must be true to our values and make sure that all parties clearly understand our policies. This is not a time to be sending mixed messages; on the contrary, in these difficult times we must reaffirm our unyielding committment to Israel's survival and raise our voices against all forms of terrorism and incitement."
This is an interesting development. When reading the letter the first person who comes to mind is Senator Joe Lieberman [D-CT], the conservative Democrat seeking the party's nomination for president. Senator Lieberman has sharply criticized Dr Dean for his statement about not taking sides in the Israel/Palestine dispute. However, some of the signatories, such as Rep. Pelosi, are not generally regarded as friendly towards Senator Lieberman. Rep. Richard Gephardt [D-MO], also seeking the Democratic nomination against Dr Dean, could also have inspired this response to Dr Dean's comments. I know for a fact that Senator Lieberman's office was distributing the letter last night and alerting the media to its existence.

I suspect the real motivation, however, is to lock up the Jewish vote for the Democratic party in 2004 by ensuring that the eventual nominee cannot be attacked by Mr Bush as being soft on the Palestinians and soft in support for Israel. If the letter also sticks a pin in Dr Dean's eye that's just gravy to the signatories. That's my view on the entire matter anyway, at least until I learn differently. For myself, I don't think Dr Dean meant very much by his comment. I doubt he intended to signal some sort of seismic shift in U.S. policy in the Middle East, but rather emphasize our nation's role as an "honest broker" trusted by both sides to fairly and justly help negotiate an acceptable peace in that region. This is the role we enjoyed under President Clinton and President George H.W. Bush. I think Dr Dean means to return to that policy and de-emphasize the close links with the Israeli Likud party and its hardline leader Ariel Sharon.

NEVER FORGOTTEN

BUSH ECONOMY ROARS NOWHERE -- The economy we have not been enjoying since early in Mr Bush's term is continuing, with more bad news on unemployment.
The number of U.S. workers lining up to claim first-time unemployment benefits showed a surprise increase last week, the Labor Department said, adding to a dismal labor market picture.

A separate report on trade from the Commerce Department showed signs of a slight pickup in economic activity, which economists said bodes well for growth in the third quarter.

But this was not enough to shake claims the economy is stuck in a jobless recovery, a worry for President Bush as the 2004 presidential election approaches.

"It's surprisingly bad news," said John Lonski, chief economist at Moody's Investors Service.

"This tells us that the very good news we had on consumer spending for the months of July and August will not last unless employment growth returns," he added.

The grim news on employment supports comments from Federal Reserve officials that interest rates will stay low for a while even as growth picks up. It also gives ammunition to Bush's opponents who say his economic policies have done little to help Americans find jobs.
More than a few sleepless nights for Bush's Brain--Karl Rove--lately.

SHE DIED -- Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh died of multiple stab wounds inflicted by a man in a Stockholm department store yesterday.
Surgeons at Karolinska hospital struggled all night to save her life, but she died of massive bleeding at 5:29 a.m.

Police said Lindh's killer appeared to have been acting alone. Described as tall and "Swedish-looking," he dumped his army jacket and knife near the scene.
Sweden's is in the midst of a hard-fought referendum campaign about whether or not the country should adopt the euro, the currency of the European Union. The No vote is leading in the polls. Ms Lindh was a champion of the Yes vote. It is unclear if the attack on Ms Lindh was linked to the referendum campaign.

Mourners left red roses at the store where she was attacked, at the hospital and at her ministry, where a flag few at half mast.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

SAVAGE ATTACK IN PEACEFUL SWEDEN -- One of Sweden's most popular politicians, Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, has been stabbed repeatedly while she shopped at a Stockholm department store.
Doctors carried out emergency surgery on what were described as serious knife injuries.

"She has stab wounds in the chest, stomach and arms and is being operated on now, but the wounds are not life-threatening," police spokeswoman Stina Wessling told Reuters.

Prime Minister Goran Persson said: "The attack on her is an attack on our open society and because of this I am feeling great anger and dismay."
Police are searching for a man wearing a camouflage jacket who fled from the store. It is believed this man stabbed Ms Lindh repeatedly, though his reasons for doing so are not unknown. At this time, authorities say, there is no reason to believe the crime was politcally motivated.

YOUR DAILY DOONESBURY -- Absurdist is as absurdist does.

FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES -- It comes as no surprise to thinking humans that certain members of the Bush regime are seeing to it that their friends benefit enormously from the Iraq War. [That's their version of shared sacrifice.]
With a great chunk of President Bush's proposed $87 billion scheduled to flow to Iraqi reconstruction "big time," as they say, we've come across a most timely announcement from the highly regarded international corporate and commercial law firm of Zell, Goldberg & Co.

The firm "has recently established a task force dealing with issues and opportunities relating to the recently ended war with Iraq," its Web site announced. With offices in Israel and Washington, the firm says it "is assisting regional construction and logistics firms to collaborate with contractors from the United States and other coalition countries in implementing infrastructure and other reconstruction projects in Iraq. Through its Washington, D.C., office, ZGC is also assisting American companies in their relations with the United States government in connection with Iraqi reconstruction projects as prime contractors and consultants."

Interested parties can reach the law firm through its Web site, at www.fandz.com. Fandz.com? Hmmm. Rings a bell. Oh, yes, that was the Web site of the Washington law firm of Feith & Zell, P.C., as in Douglas J. Feith, former Pentagon official in the Reagan administration and now undersecretary of defense for policy and head of -- what else? -- reconstruction matters in Iraq.
Repeat after me: It's all about weapons of mass destruction! Except now it's all about removing an evil dictator! Except now it's all about attracting terrorists to a single battlefield. Except now it's all about...

You get the idea. It's all about the monied interests who have seized control of the Republican party. Always has been. And until we get them out of government, it always will be.

THE HORSE GETS IT -- Kudos to Media Whores Online for getting it right about Senator John Kerry's [D-MA] views on the Iraq War.
The media should stop pretending they don't understand Senator Kerry's nuanced position on the Iraq resolution and subsequent invasion. They do. What's more, so do the vast majority if Americans, including the more "impressionable" segment Kerry detractors hope to convince he's a "waffler."

The voting public will understand Senator Kerry's explanation because their view has evolved in precisely the same way. There was a surge of public support for the invasion when the invasion became an inevitability, followed by increasingly expressed doubts and criticisms. When Senator Kerry says he believed the resolution was necessary for the US to negotiate from a position of strength, people will get it. Despite the willful obtuseness of his critics, context matters, and any voter can easily discern the difference between actions such as voting for a resolution out of "statesmanship" and strategy (or voicing support to pollsters during the invasion) - and "flip flopping."

What's more, Kerry is on record as voicing conditions for an invasion similar to those voiced by the public.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Kerry's vote in favor of the Iraq resolution would not a liability in a Kerry-Bush matchup, except for tiny minorities who opposed any invasion under any circumstance and will not vote for either as a result, or who believe affording a liar a degree of trust for defensible reasons is worse than being a liar.

In fact, each time Senator Kerry is asked about it he is granted another opportunity to relay to the vast majority of the American people that he, not the unelected fraud, better represents their favored approach to international relations - the one they have repeatedly told pollsters is their preference.
Exactly. Senator Kerry is--as most Americans are--ambivalent about the Iraq War. Senator Kerry stated at the time he voted to give Mr Bush authority to wage the war that he didn't think the time was right to use that power. Senator Kerry believed Saddam Hussein would not allow U.N. inspectors into Iraq unless he was facing the very real and imminent prospect of invasion, so he voted for the use of force authorization. However, during the debate Senator Kerry told Mr Bush not to use force carelessly and to ponder the long-term effects of an American invasion of Iraq without the cooperation of the U.N. or our NATO allies. Mr Bush did not listen to Senator Kerry and the result is the Iraqmire we are now not enjoying. The question is not why did Senator Kerry trust Mr Bush--it is why didn't Mr Bush listen to Senator Kerry?

RIAA CRACKS DOWN ON LITTLE GIRLS -- The Recording Industry of Association of America has been threatening to sue file-sharers who swap proprietary music. Now, the RIAA has settled its first case, this one with a 12-year-old girl in New York City for $2000.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed 261 lawsuits Monday against computer users it said were exclusively "egregious" file swappers. One of the targets wound up being Brianna Lahara, who was identified by the New York Post as a 12-year-old honours student who lives in a New York City Housing Authority apartment.
This is sad and ridiculous.

SENATE DEMS SUPPORT WORKERS -- Senate Democrats, bolstered by the defection of a number of moderate Republicans, have blocked the Bush regime's attempt to deny millions of workers the right to earn overtime pay. Hooray!

SO MUCH FOR OUR GREAT PROTECTOR -- If one of the goals of the war on terror is to liberate Americans from fear--and it must be one of the goals--then we're not doing too well so far. A new Ipsos Public Affairs poll shows that Americans are more frightened by terrorism than ever before.
The survey revealed that two years after the attacks, more Americans believe that the events of 9-11 fundamentally changed the world forever. On the evening of September11th, 21% of Americans believed things would return to normal, while 74% believed that the events of 9-11 would prove to be a pivotal event. With two years’ hindsight, Americans reveal wider belief in the dramatic impact of the events: only 12 % now believe things have returned to normal, while the vast majority of Americans (82%) now believe that the events were a turning point that fundamentally changed things forever.

More Americans are now fearful, too. In the poll conducted October 19-21, 2001, only 15% of Americans were afraid of personal physical danger from a future terrorist attack. Despite the U.S. Government’s war on terrorism, when the same question was asked September 5-7, 2003, 24% of Americans said they feared personal physical danger from a future terrorist attack.
We need a President who tells us we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Instead, we have a man in the White House who intentionally whips up irrational fear as a way to control the political debate.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

AROUND THE NFL: WEEK ONE

What is going on with the St. Louis Rams? After a nightmarish 2002, marked by injuries and the meltdown of QB Kurt Warner, the Rams thought they had those problems fixed. New stars on the offensive line [RT Kyle Turley] and the defensive line [first round pick Jimmy Kennedy] would propel the Rams back where they belong--in the Super Bowl. Week one didn't look good. Warner was sacked six times, fumbled six times, and looked dazed and confused almost the entire game. Now we learn that Warner suffered a concussion in the first quarter. It isn't clear what Head Coach Mike Martz knew or when he knew it, but there has been some talk about a coach leaving his quarterback in a game when he knew he'd been badly injured in the head. Whatever the case, backup QB and 2002 savior Marc Bulger has gotten the call while Warner recovers. Warner was understandably reluctant to yield his starting job again considering how well Bulger played last season. [Had Bulger thrown enough passes he would have qualified as the top-ranked passer in the NFL in 2002.] Now Martz is counting on Bulger to ride to the rescue again, though. It won't be enough, however, if Martz only gives the ball to star TB Marshall Faulk nine times a game, as he did on Sunday against the New York Giants.

Do the Miami Dolphins have any heart at all? It's amazing how a roster with seemingly no weaknesses can under-perform so consistently. Head Coach Dave Wannstedt is on the hot seat in Miami and it'll get too hot to handle for him if the Dolphins don't make the playoffs and win a game or two in January, at the very least. The previous two years the Dolphins' problem was December swoons that kept them out of the playoffs. This year, however, the team began swooning early with a 21-20 loss to the Houston Texans. This inability to live up to potential is baffling. How can a team with so many good players not win games? Well, a look at the 2000 Washington Redskins may provide the answer. That year, the Redskins acquired a bevy of expensive veterans--CB Deion Sanders, DE Bruce Smith, FS Mark Carrier--but ended the season with an 8-8 record. Before the year was out Head Coach Norv Turner had been fired. What the Redskins didn't have was heart or guts. If a game was close and the Redskins could lose it, they found a way--usually on special teams. The Dolphins have a great kicker and don't suffer the special teams breakdowns the 2000 Redskins did, but the Miami offense seems to have a difficult time getting points when it needs them. If things go badly in Miami this year it won't just be Dave Wannstedt who is sent packing. His old buddy from Dallas, Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner [of 2000 Washington Redskins fame] will be sent with him.

Back and Better Than Ever...That's a description that fits both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills. Both teams had explosive offenses in 2002, featuring stars like QB Drew Bledsoe, TB Priest Holmes, WR Eric Moulds, and TE Tony Gonzalez. However, both teams were repeatedly victimized by defenses that couldn't stop anyone. Not anymore, it seems. The Bills went out and got DT Sam Adams, LB Takeo Spikes, and SS Lawyer Milloy. Those three players combined for three sacks, three interceptions, and one touchdown on Sunday against the division rival New England Patriots. The Chiefs benefited from the contributions of new LB Shawn Barber, who led the team in tackles last Sunday, and DE Vonnie Holliday, who notched three sacks against the San Diego Chargers. It is often said that you cannot build a champion through free agency, but the Chiefs and Bills must disagree. We'll see who is correct this year, but right now Kansas City and Buffalo look like real contenders. If either team can get their defense to play average instead of awful, their potent offense will do the rest.

The Chicago Bears are pretty awful, aren't they? I mean, I figured they would be pretty lousy when I ranked them #29 out of 32 teams in the hR Power Poll to start the season. [The Bears have since fallen to #32, last place.] It wasn't just the opening day loss to San Francisco that bothers me; that was predictable. It was the way the Bears lost which must send shivers down the spines of Head Coach Dick Jauron and General Manager Jerry Angelo. The finger-pointing has already started in Chicago, with Angelo's supporters claiming 2001's 13-3 season was a fluke and Jauron--whom Angelo did not hire--is not an NFL-caliber coach. Jauron's supporters are firing back that Angelo is the one who assembled this team of losers and he must take responsibility for it. Whatever the case, there is no way to sugarcoat a 49-7 loss to the 49ers. New QB Kordell Stewart completed only 14 of 34 passes and threw three interceptions--one of which was returned for a touchdown. Anthony "A-Train" Thomas, the starting tailback, continued his 2002 slide into mediocrity by running for a total of 15 yards. I'd fire both Angelo and Jauron if I owned the Bears, but at least one of them will be gone by January 2004, if not before.

One of the key stories of the first week of 2003 was the improvement shown by last year's first round rookie quarterbacks: Houston's David Carr, Detroit's Joey Harrington, and Washington's Patrick Ramsey. Carr looked like a veteran, throwing for over 260 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions--and he did it against one of the best defenses in football. What's more, the man who set an NFL record by being sacked 76 times last year was not sacked at all by Miami and its vaunted pass rush. If given time and a decent running game, it appears David Carr is ready to move up to the next level of NFL quarterbacks.

Detroit's Joey Harrington had an equally impressive day, throwing for four TDs and leading an offense that produced 42 points. Of course, he produced them against the Arizona Cardinals defense, but a win is a win is a win. Two of Harrington's touchdown passes were to rookie WR Carlos Rogers. Head Coach Steve Mariucci and General Manager Matt Millen were hoping Harrington and Rogers would develop into a potent scoring tandem. I just doubt they thought it would happen so quickly.

Finally, Washington's Patrick Ramsey now has a three game winning streak, going back to the end of the 2002 season. The wins--over Houston, Dallas, and the Jets--did not come over especially impressive opponents, but any kind of winning streak for a quarterback who has started only six career games must be seen as improvement. As far as NFL starting experience goes Ramsey is behind both Carr and Harrington, but probably has more talent to work with than his fellow NFL sophomore passers. Ramsey was virtually perfect in the first half against the Jets, but faltered badly in the second half. Showing he could bounce back from adversity and lead his team to victory in the final seconds is another step in the almost painfully young career of Patrick Ramsey.

Weekly Awards

Offensive Player of the Week: Kansas City TB Priest Holmes [18 carries for 85 yards, 7 catches for 98 yards, 2 TD]

Defensive Player of the Week: Kansas City DE Vonnie Holliday [5 solo tackles, 3 sacks]

Rookie of the Week: Arizona WR Anquan Boldin [10 catches for 217 yards and 2 TD]

Chump of the Week: Green Bay QB Brett Favre [4 interceptions] against an awful Vikings defense

Coach of the Week: Detroit Head Coach Steve Mariucci, for proving that the Lions [42 points on Sunday] can score if they have the right scheme and a few good players

Best Move of the Week: Buffalo GM Tom Donahoe [winner of last year's hR GM of the Year award] for picking up Safety Lawyer Milloy just in time to crush his former team, the New England Patriots

Worst Move of the Week: New England Head Coach Bill Belichick for cutting Lawyer Milloy

Best Quote of the Week: "I'm one of the boys on the team, not some idiot kicker."
-- Indianapolis Colts Kicker Mike Vanderjagt, after saving his team by accounting for all nine points [including a game-winning 45-yarder with one second left in regulation] in a 9-6 win over the Cleveland Browns. Take that, Peyton [2 interceptions] Manning!

KERRY, LIEBERMAN, DEAN LEAD DEMS

UEBERROTH OUT? -- No confirmation yet, but it appears that GOP candidate for Governor of California Peter Ueberroth is dropping out of the race. This probalby helps Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it is too early to tell for sure.

I've never been much of a fan of Peter Ueberroth. He organized the 1984 Summer Olympics at Los Angeles and did such a great job [or was seen to have done such a great job] that he was on the cover of numerous national magazines and even spoken of as a presidential candidate. However, he soon took a job as Commissioner of Major League Baseball and it would be his undoing. As Commissioner, Ueberroth organized an illegal collusion pact among owners, who agreed not to bid on free agents, thus holding down salaries. The scheme was eventually discovered and a court found Major League Baseball guilty of collusion in violation of its Collective Bargaining Agreement. MLB was fined more than $250 billion, with that money going to players who were damaged by the collusion. Needless to say, Mr Uerberroth left his job as Commissioner with his reputation in tatters.

EDIT: It's done--Ueberroth is out. No endorsement yet.

"WE WERE ALL SURPRISED" -- Need further evidence these bumbling twits in the Bush regime had no idea what they were getting us all in to when they launched their invasion of Iraq? Here it is:
The White House acknowledged Monday that it substantially underestimated the cost of rebuilding Iraq and that even the additional $87 billion it was seeking from a wary Congress would fall far short of what is needed for postwar reconstruction.

Administration officials said President Bush's emergency spending request — which would push the U.S. budget deficit above the half-trillion-dollar mark for the first time — still left a reconstruction funding gap of as much as $55 billion.

"It is fair to say that the level of decay and underinvestment in the Iraqi infrastructure was worse than almost anybody on the outside anticipated," said one senior administration official. "We were all surprised," said another.
As you see below, it wasn't just liberals like myself who saw this disaster coming. The Army War College predicted it. The Bush regime was too busy imagining its rosy scenarios to listen to reality.

THESE GUYS OUGHT TO BE FIRED -- As Senator Hagel [R-NE] noted below, the White House and Pentagon civilians did a terrible job preparing for post-Saddam Iraq. Indeed, it seems as if they did almost no planning at all. Nevertheless, those ever-eager to evade their responsibility for the quagmire we find ourselves in are not ready to admit their culpability, no matter how clear it is to the rest of us how guilty they are of arrogance, ignorance, and neglect.
defenders of postwar planning in essence ask, "Who knew . . . ?"

Who knew Iraq's oil industry was so decrepit? Who predicted guerrilla war? Who knew it would cost so much? Who knew that the Iraqi army, which we disbanded back in May, would have been so useful in keeping peace?

Well, a lot of people knew. The administration simply did not listen.

Nine months ago, the well-respected Center for Strategic and International Studies warned that we were sorely ill-prepared for an occupation, listing 10 key steps the United States had to take before invading. Not one was achieved.

The CSIS report cautioned that Iraqi oil proceeds could not begin to cover reconstruction costs. It warned that the Iraqi army had an important role to play, and recommended a donors conference be convened even before war began.

It stressed, in underline and in italics, "Do not underestimate post-conflict security needs."

Another report, this one by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy, also stressed the importance of maintaining the Iraqi army, and it too warned against "a great deal of wishful thinking about Iraqi oil." Released in December, it estimated that up to $100 billion would be needed to reconstruct Iraq.

But perhaps the most perceptive work was done by the U.S. Army War College, the military's own think tank. Its report, issued in February, reads like an after-the-fact autopsy:

--"Having entered into Iraq, the United States will find itself unable to leave rapidly, despite the many pressures to do so."

--"A small number of terrorists could reasonably choose to attack U.S. forces in the hope that they can incite an action-reaction cycle that will enhance their cause and increase their numbers."

--"If the United States assumes control of Iraq, it will assume control of a badly battered economy."

--"To tear apart the [Iraqi] army in the war's aftermath could lead to the destruction of one of the only forces for unity within the society."

Most chilling of all, however, is the report's conclusion:

"Without an overwhelming effort to prepare for occupation, the United States may find itself in a radically different world over the next few years, a world in which the threat of Saddam Hussein seems like a pale shadow of new problems of America's own making."

Like I said, these guys ought to be fired.
Not just Rumsfeld. Not just Wolfowitz and Perle and Feith. Not just Powell and and Rice and Scooter Libby. Right up to the top--Dick Cheney and George W Bush. Fire them. Every last one of them.

"...a miserable job planning for a post-Saddam Iraq"

What follows is an interview on CBS this morning between Harry Smith and Senator Chuck Hagel [R-NE], a highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.

HARRY SMITH: Now, for a view from the Republican side, let's turn to Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel.

Good morning, sir.

SEN. HAGEL: Good morning.

MR. SMITH: The president wants $87 billion for this continuing war in Iraq and partly for Afghanistan. Should he get it?

SEN. HAGEL: He will get it, but not (until) after having to answer some tough questions. The Congress, the American people, deserve to understand where this money is going, how it's going to be spent, what are our plans, how do we include additional allies, what are those responsibilities, and additional questions that were never really asked, certainly never answered up to this point. But they will be demanded, answers now. But he will get the $87 billion.

MR. SMITH: The country asks a lot of the people we send to Iraq. Deployments now, as we reported this morning, up to a year and even more for some of these reservists. Did the administration miscalculate the difficulty of this war?

SEN. HAGEL: Yes, they did miscalculate it. I think they did a miserable job of planning for a post-Saddam Iraq. They treated many in the Congress, most of the Congress, like a nuisance. When we asked questions, we wanted to be helpful; we wanted to participate. And now they are finding out that reality is dominating.

The fact is, this is difficult. This is complicated. This is dangerous. This is uncertain. And many of us, long before we went into Iraq, called for the United Nations and many allies to be with us, knowing that the real difficult part would be right now where we are -- who is going to govern Iraq, who is going to pay for it, what are the consequences, not just in Iraq but in Afghanistan and the entire Middle East.

MR. SMITH: The president has had the support of the American people for this war thus far. But if Congress has to start choosing, say, between a prescription drug benefit for Medicare and the cost of this war, who's going to win?

SEN. HAGEL: Well, those are priority questions that we're going to have to sort out. But right now we need to keep this debate on the high ground. This is about the national security interests of this country. They should not be, these arguments, politicized. I think both parties understand that.

This is very, very important for the future of this country and the stability of the Middle East, and that's the way we should approach it. We have other needs. We have other priorities. You mentioned a couple. We have more than that. And so we'll have to work this out.

It is troubling that we're going to be talking about a $2 trillion budget deficit over the next five years. That means we have to grow the economy, and we have to all make some tough decisions.

MR. SMITH: Senator Chuck Hagel from Nebraska, thank you so much this morning; do appreciate it.

SEN. HAGEL: Thank you.

GOOD NEWS IN CALIFORNIA -- The new Field Poll reveals the California public is slowly turning away from recalling Governor Gray Davis [D-CA], though a majority still favor the recall. However, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante [D-CA] has opened up a small lead over Republican actor/candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger.

BUSH RATINGS CONTINUE TO SLIDE -- A new Time magazine poll indicates Mr Bush's popularity has dropped nine points to 52% since May. Good news? Of course. Why? Well...
"The public's priority has shifted significantly to focus more on the economic side," says Scott Keeker, a specialist with the Pew Research Center, a political research organization in Washington. "Of course, the news continues to be pretty discouraging there."
Screwed up occupation. Finances in a mess. Economy still shedding jobs. Ole'!

The Beltway Bandit Power Poll Week 1 -- Whew, what a week one in the NFL. Alleged Super Bowl contenders got thrashed and upset, while 2002 enigmas showed unexpected strength. The only power poll that matters, this one, has been shaken, but not stirred. Still perched atop this unruly heap is last week's #1, the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

01. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [1-0]: What did I tell you guys about this team last week. Crushing the Eagles at home is cool. The Bucs look better than last year. [No change]

02. Tennessee Titans [1-0]: That was a quality win at home over the Oakland Raiders, who not only beat the Titans last year, but humiliated them twice. Tennessee got a measure of revenge Sunday night and looked good doing it. [+1]

03. Pittsburgh Steelers [1-0]: A win over woeful Baltimore doesn't necessarily mean much, but the Pittsburgh offense looked very good dominating the Ravens' defense. If QB Tommy Maddox is going to play so dominantly this year, the rest of the league is in trouble. [+2]

04. Buffalo Bills [1-0]: No team looked better in week one than the Buffalo Bills, who thrashed division rivals New England Patriots 31-0. Defensive newcomers like DT Sam Adams [interception return for touchdown], LB Takeo Spikes [6 tackles, 2 interceptions] and Lawyer Milloy [5 tackles, 1 sack] propelled a unit that was awful last year. If Buffalo can play even middling defense this year, they're a threat to win it all. [+5]

05. New York Giants [1-0]: A defense that looked awful to close out 2002 looked great to open 2003. Six sacks and six forced fumbles of Rams QB Kurt Warner produced a surprisingly easy win at home for the G-men. [+5]

06. Kansas City Chiefs [1-0]: Like the Buffalo Bills, the Kansas City Chiefs gave themselves a defensive makeover in the offseason. Like Buffalo, the Chiefs got good results on Sunday, as they shut down TB LaDainian Tomlinson and forced Drew Brees into mistakes and turnovers. The other big question about the Chiefs has been answered: Priest Holmes is back. Boy, is he ever back. [+6]

07. Oakland Raiders [0-1]: If the Raiders can cut down on the ungodly penalties they will be just fine. There is no shame in losing by 5 points to a terrific Titans team. Oakland still looks like a playoff team to me. [No change]

08. San Francisco 49ers [1-0]: I'm not sure how much to make out of beating the Chicago Bears, but beating anyone by 42 points is pretty damn impressive. [+9]

09. Philadelphia Eagles [0-1]: The Eagles looked terrible on Monday night, especially on offense, where Tampa completely shut them down. Of course, Tampa does that to a lot of teams. Nevertheless, I don't see explosiveness at the skill positions on offense, aside from QB Donovan McNabb. [-1]

10. Seattle Seahawks [1-0]: When QB Matt Hasselbeck and TB Shaun Alexander play well together the Seahawks win. Hasselbeck picked up where he left off in December 2002 and Alexander rushed for over 100 yards and scored two touchdowns. [+5]

11. Indianapolis Colts [1-0]: Instead of worrying about the kicker, who seems to be just fine, QB Peyton Manning should focus on cutting down his own mistakes. Winning a last-second 9-6 game against a mediocre Browns team isn't very impressive. Peyton and his two interceptions were mostly to blame for that. [No change]

12. Denver Broncos [1-0]: Sorry, but you don't get many brownie points with the hR Power Poll staff by beating the Bengals. We only credit wins over NFL-caliber teams, thank you very much. QB Jake Plummer was exactly the sort of mistake-prone dunce against the Bengals that I thought he'd be. If he plays that way all year, the Broncos will be a last-place team. [+1]

13. New England Patriots [0-1]: Geez, what an egg the Patsies laid in Buffalo against a fired-up Bills team. Losing to a good Bills team in Buffalo is no shame, but losing by 31 points in a shutout? What the hell was that? [-11]

14. Miami Dolphins [0-1]: Does this team truly have as little heart as it appears? There is no more talented roster in the league than the one in Miami, but they lost their opener to the Houston Texans. Houston might be better, but they are not that much better. And not sacking sack-prone QB David Carr once? [-10]

15. St. Louis Rams [0-1]: The Lambs looked like a repeat of the 2002 season instead of the 2001 season, which is what they had in mind. QB Kurt Warner was terrible and couldn't hang on to the ball. The defense was much better than I expected, but Head Coach Mike Martz needs to find out what is going on with his quarterback. And get TB Marshall Faulk more than nine carries, will you? [-9]

16. Green Bay Packers [0-1]: Favre was shockingly awful at home against a terrible Vikings defense, but that performance won't be repeated often. Of greater concern was Green Bay's inability to run or shut down the run. [-2]

17. Washington Redskins [1-0]: QB Patrick Ramsey played well, the tailbacks moved the chains, WR Laveranues Coles should have a monster year, and Steve Spurrier has learned how to coach in the NFL. The team is still losing the turnover battle and the pass rush was nowhere to be found. The Skins won a game they should have won. You don't get big rewards from the hR Power Poll for doing that. [+1]

18. Atlanta Falcons [1-0]: Always good to win when your best player is on the shelf, but all it proves is that Atlanta is good enough to beat Dallas. Unfortunately, Dallas is not on their schedule again. [+1]

19. Carolina Panthers [0-1]: Late rally by backup QB Jake Delhomme saves opener for Head Coach John Fox. Hey, John: Some of us knew all along you couldn't go with Rodney Peete for long. [+1]

20. New Orleans Saints [0-1]: The Saints are not this bad, but they played this badly against Seattle. New Orleans has too much talent on offense for it to be squandered with stupid turnovers. QB Aaron Brooks [3 turnovers on Sunday] has got to set a better example in this area. Right now, he's the biggest problem. [-4]

21. Minnesota Vikings [1-0]: If TB Moe Williams runs as well against the rest of the league as he did against Green Bay, the Vikings have a prayer this season. [+4]

22. San Diego Chargers [0-1]: After being savaged by Priest Holmes it is pretty clear the Chargers' defense is little better than last year right now. In order to compete against top teams San Diego utterly depends on a big game from LaDainian Tomlinson. When he rushes for only 34 yards on 13 carries, the Chargers are toast. [-1]

23. Houston Texans [1-0]: Our biggest leapers of the week are the Houston Texans, who shocked the NFL world by defeating the highly-touted Miami Dolphins. David Carr and his offensive line looked excellent against a supposedly-dominant Miami Dolphins defense. [+8]

24. New York Jets [0-1]: If Mark Brunell was quarterbacking this team, the Jets would have beaten the Redskins by at least two touchdowns. Minding the salary cap is all well and good, but if it causes you to throw a perfectly good season down the drain, you're making a serious mistake. The Jets are making a serious mistake. [-2]

25. Cleveland Browns [0-1]: Defense played much better than advertised, but where was the offense. The Browns switched quarterbacks so they could lose 9-6? [-1]

26. Detroit Lions [1-0]: Defense still looks lousy, but job #1 for Head Coach Steve Mariucci is getting QB Joey Harrington sorted out. The sophomore passer won't throw 4 TD every week, but he looks a lot different than last year's Harrington. [+4]

27. Cincinnati Bengals [0-1]: Head Coach Marvin Lewis will turn things around in Cincinnati, but it won't be easy and teams like Denver might as well be playing in a different league right now. [-4]

28. Jacksonville Jaguars [0-1]: Jags don't fall in the Power Poll due to QB Mark Brunell's sterling performance in a hard-fought last-second loss to the Carolina Panthers. Considering the way Brunell carved up Carolina's excellent defense, it is incredible no other team in the league wanted him. The Jets, for example, would be favorites [with me, at least] to win the AFC if they had Brunell at quarterback. [No change]

29. Baltimore Ravens [0-1]: Looks like the defense will give up a lot of points this year and the offense will be to blame for most of it. Head Coach Brian Billick's decision to start QB Kyle Boller in the opener indicates he threw in the towel on this season before the season began. [-3]

30. Dallas Cowboys [0-1]: Lost by 14 points to Atlanta team without Michael Vick. Most people didn't even know the Falcons had any players aside from Michael Vick. [-4]

31. Arizona Cardinals [0-1]: You may be wondering why the preseason #32, the Arizona Cardinals, lost their opener, but still rose a place in the all-important hR Power Poll. Two reasons: 1] The passing offense [3 TD] showed a little life against the Lions, and 2] They are not the Chicago Bears. [+1]

32. Chicago Bears [0-1]: How many times did I say and write that QB Kordell Stewart wouldn't work in Chicago? Why don't these people ever listen to me. The Bears spent all of last year hitching rides to their "home" games in Champagne, Illinois while Soldier Field was renovated. Now, the old warhorse is back, but I suspect Chicagoans will soon suggest to the Bears that they move back to Champagne. That would be only champagne the Bears enjoy in 2003. This is going to be a very, very long season in Chicago and will be capped by the inevitable firing of Head Coach Dick Jauron. [-3]

Monday, September 08, 2003

FEAR OF TERROR GROWS -- Among the Bush regime's ever-shifting reasons for launching the Iraq War was the proposition that toppling Saddam Hussein would lessen the risk of terrorism. It's always been the opinion here that this was a load of poppycock and I doubt even senior members of the Bush regime believed it. Apparently, the American people are less likely to believe it now, too.
A week after the fall of Baghdad, 58 percent of Americans thought the war would reduce the long-term risk of terrorism. Today that's down 18 points, while 48 percent — up 19 points — think the war has raised the risk.
That's according to a new ABC poll. So, apparently the American people are wising up a bit, but are not nearly wised up enough. It's almost hard to blame them. Who wants to wake up to an ugly reality when burying your head in the sand is so much less frightening?

STRAIGHT FROM THE ASS'S MOUTH -- "If the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation and I will not trust the Bush administration again."
--Bill O'Reilly on GMA, March 18, 2003, as quoted by Utne Reader, Septmber 2003, p.16. [Via Eric Alterman.]

NAZI-ERA ART -- If you're trying to locate Nazi-era art that might have been stolen or misplaced [and you probably are not], the Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal Project is the place to look. There are currently 68 American museums participating in the project, which seeks to locate any and all art lost in Europe from 1933-1946, when the Nazis looted the continent. A great book on this subject, by the way, is called The Rape of Europa by Lynn Nicholas. I read it a couple of years ago and found it very readable and fascinating. You'll be simultaneously amused and appalled by the antics of Nazi bigwigs, especially Hermann Goering, as they attempt to amass vast fortunes by looting European Jews and anyone else unfortunate enough to fall under the German jackboot.

DEAN SAYS THE RIGHT THINGS, BUT... -- I saw former Governor Howard Dean [D-VT] on the NBC morning show being interviewed by Matt Lauer. [Dean was actually on all three network morning shows.] He said all the right things about Mr Bush's gross and incompetent mismanagement of the Iraq occupation and no decent Democrat would disagree with any of it. The problem was that Governor Dean looked like an automaton. Famous for being able to rouse the Democratic faithful with his passionate anger about the Bush regime's fiscal and foreign policy shenanigans, it has been said the Governor Dean does very well in front of crowds on the stump, but less well in a television theater. Judging by this morning's broadcast on NBC I'd have to say I agree. His expression never changed, nor did his tone or inflection. Perhaps his campaign handlers have told him to tone his anger down a bit, but if this is the case, Governor Dean has gone too far. Smile, at least, Governor Dean. America elected Ronald Reagan twice largely on the strength of his winning smile.

RECALL BUSH -- Consider the tragic story of Jane Bright, a San Fernando Valley woman whose son, Army Sgt. Evan Ashcraft, was killed in Iraq last month.
"It's actually harder to deal with it now," she told me Friday, a month after his death. "After you get over the initial shock and disbelief, there are constant reminders of him. And Evan knew so many people, there were 400 people at his funeral. I couldn't believe it. The procession to Oakwood Cemetery in Chatsworth was two miles long."

Bright has joined a group called Military Families Speak Out, whose members have launched a "Bring Them Home Now!" campaign and will address Congress this Tuesday.

Bright was always opposed to the war on several grounds, but supportive of soldiers and respectful of her son's belief that he was doing the right thing for himself, America and the world.

Now her doubts, anger and grief have won out, and she is raging against the lack of planning by U.S. officials and the continued vulnerability of American soldiers.

"It's too late for my son," she wrote in a letter to be read to Congress, "but it's not too late for the many tens of thousands still in Iraq. Bring them home now!"

She signed it: Jane Bright, mother of Sgt. Evan Ashcraft. Deceased.
As a nation, we must get George W Bush and his gang of clueless thugs out of the White House or the number of mothers just like Jan Bright will be too many to endure.

KERRY GETS HIGH MARKS FOR DEBATE -- The New Republic's latest rating has good news for Senator John Kerry [D-MA]:
Last night, it's fair to say, John Kerry had expectations on his side. Based on his previous debating experiences, one began to think of him as a choke. In South Carolina, he appeared with a hoarse voice; the bags beneath his eyes were overstuffed like a Grandma's tsotschke-filled duffel; his answers seemed too long by half and not nearly as sharp as one would hope.

But something strange seemed to happen to him in the debate: He emerged as the most comfortable, most easygoing guy on the stage. His foils helped. Howard Dean, all pinched and serious, made Al Gore look like John Travolta. John Edwards giggled at his own jokes. And Dick Gephardt needed a pulpit placed in front of him to pull off his sermon.

Everyone had anticipated Kerry would devolve into a scrappy, desperation attack mode. But instead of lighting up Dean, he cracked wise. (Sample joke: The only jobs the president has created "are the nine of us running for president of the United States.") He had a looseness that inspired confidence, made him sound like less of a windbag than normal, and more Clintonian. Maybe the relaunch has worked. They faked us out about the new Kerry. It's not that he's Mr. Nam; it's that he will stop mimicing the platonic ideal of Kennedy oration and start being himself, a relatively normal guy.

My advice to the Kerry campaign: Always give your guy a one minute time limit. When he's to the point, he's good.
Let's hope we see more of this from Senator Kerry. Our country might just depend on it.

GOOD NEWS FOR DEAN, KERRY -- A new Zogby poll has good news for former Governor Howard Dean [D-VT] and Senator John Kerry [D-MA], who are tightly bunched at the top of a national poll of Democratic candidates. Senator Joe Lieberman [D-CT], formerly top of the heap due to name recognition alone, has now fallen marginally behind Governor Dean and Senator Kerry. My hunch is that this is the beginning of a steep decline for Senator Lieberman, who has staked out a position on Iraq to the right of Mr Bush.

YOUR DAILY DOONESBURY -- Politics is getting just this silly.

FOREIGN REACTION TO BUSH SPEECH NOT GOOD -- Well, I sure hope the Bush regime isn't expecting a flood of foreign volunteers pledging thousands of lives and billions of dollars to his adventure in Iraq because the early indication are that it is not going to happen. The Japanese are not interested. The Aussies think they're already doing enough and everyone else wants the United Nations to get into Iraq and start calling the shots. Well, no matter. Mr Bush's speech was intended to fool Americans into supporting his Iraq policy, not foreigners.

STUPID HUMANS This certainly doesn't look good for the species.
Sept. 8, 2003 | AUSTIN, Minn. (AP) -- Two teens accused of searching for a marijuana dealer dialed the ultimate wrong number -- they called the Mower County Sheriff's cell phone.

Sheriff Terese Amazi's cell phone rang around noon on Friday. The caller said she wanted a bag of marijuana. After Amazi said she was the sheriff, the caller said, "I'm sorry," and hung up.

A few minutes later, the phone rang again. This time, Amazi let a deputy answer.

The caller again asked for a bag of marijuana, and the deputy -- who called himself "Dupe" on the phone -- arranged for a meeting at a convenience store an hour later.

"Apparently, they didn't know the meaning of 'Dupe' as in 'duped' either," Amazi said. "It's incredible."

The girls, ages 15 and 17, were arrested at the scene. Police said they found cash for the marijuana and drug paraphernalia on both girls. One was released to her parent and the other was turned over to a probation officer.

"Not only did they do something wrong, but they should have been in school," Amazi said.
Remember that Garbage song from a few years back, "Stupid Girl"?

THIS KING LIVING LA VIDA LOCA -- Everyone knows it is good to be the king. [Unless you were King of France circa 1789.] However, for that last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa it is very good to be the king.
Tens of thousands of bare-breasted young maidens danced in front of King Mswati on Friday -- many hoping to catch his eye and become his next wife.
His country, alas, is not doing quite so well.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

EDWARDS WON'T RUN FOR SENATE -- Senator John Edwards [D-NC] says he will not run for re-election so that he can focus on his probably hopeless campaign for President or Vice President. I guess we will see Erskine Bowles, who lost to Elizabeth Dole [R-NC] last year, run to replace Senator Edwards.