The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Saturday, October 18, 2003

IRAQ PROFITS KEPT SECRET -- Profits earned by companies with new contracts in Iraq are being kept secret from Congress and the public, leading to fears of abuse and rampant profiteering by businesses with close ties to the Bush regime.
Dozens of American corporations working in Iraq are being paid under "cost-plus" contracts that reimburse them for their expenses while also awarding fees and bonuses, U.S. officials and private contractors said. While the contracts themselves are public records, many details are kept secret under federal acquisition regulations designed to protect trade secrets, U.S. officials said.

On Capitol Hill, critics said the secrecy thwarts proper congressional oversight of the massive spending program.
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Critics say their concern is not only the fees and bonuses, but the very structure of the contracts. They say cost-plus contracts provide little incentive to economize, since profits grow as costs rise. A cost-plus contract encourages such practices as importing expensive building materials when local products could be used.

That kind of "gold-plating" has enraged critics such as Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

In a scorching letter Oct. 6 to White House Budget Director Joshua Bolten, Waxman complained: "Basic facts are not being shared with me or others in Congress about the process by which contracts are being awarded, the scope of specific contract terms, the details of task orders and the payments being made.

"The failure of the (Bush) administration to respond to congressional requests has made it impossible for members of Congress to have a full understanding of how the administration is spending taxpayer dollars in Iraq."
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Waxman, meanwhile, wrote in his letter that anecdotal evidence suggests an emerging pattern of "waste and gold-plating that is ... costing the U.S. taxpayer millions and imperiling the goal of Iraqi reconstruction."

In northern Iraq, for example, U.S. Army commanders seeking to rebuild a local cement plant were told by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working with American contractors, that the job would cost $15.1 million. Instead, the Army commanders turned to local Iraqis, who got the job done for $80,000, Waxman said.

More often, however, the work goes to U.S. contractors and sub-contractors.
Meanwhile, the Bush regime and its allies in the right-wing media wonder why so many people are reluctant to fund the Iraq reconstruction the way the administration would like. Congress' vote to loan billions to Iraq rather than grant it is an understandable display of political cowardice, considering that waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq is likely to be a potent electoral issue in 2004. That "loan," however, is almost certain to be forgiven by the United States government, probably in conjunction with a general loan forgiveness program by Russia, France, and other creditors of Iraq. Nevertheless, excessive profiteering and defrauding of American taxpayers is almost certainly already rampant in Iraq and will only get worse if strict nonpartisan oversight of the projects is not instituted immedialy. Fat chance.

BUSH SAYS U.N. IS "OLD" -- Mr Bush, in Japan for the APEC conference and to drum up money for his Iraq adventure, told Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi over dinner Friday night thatthe United Nations is "old" and its structure should be reformed. Well, the U.N. is almost 60 years old, that true. Of course, so is Mr Bush. Maybe he should be scrapped, too, eh?

Friday, October 17, 2003

4 MORE DEAD YANKS IN IRAQ -- Three died after a fierce and long firefight in Karbala while guarding a controversial Shiite cleric and another died in Baghdad. The bleeding just won't stop.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

TAKING BUSH VOTERS -- Arab-Americans supported Mr Bush over Vice President Al Gore in 2000, but due to the foreign and security policies of the Bush regime, those voters are now leaning Democratic. And Democratic presidential hopefuls have noticed; a number intend to speak to the Arab American Institute's leadership conference Friday and Saturday in Dearborn, Michigan. Arab-Americans are a growing population in the United States. Democrats can win their votes. They should.

MEDISENSE -- It appears both political parties are showing a bit of sense on Medicare, with the news that affluent seniors will probably pay more for their Medicare benefits, starting next year. Means-testing Medicare is long overdue.

ANOTHER GREAT CHOICE, MR BUSH -- I just thought everyone would like to know that the man Mr Bush chose to be deputy undersecretary of defense and the man in charge of our anti-terror operations is a freaking loon. To be more specific, General Bill Boykin is a fundamentalist Christian who views the terror war in starkly theological terms, with the god of Christianity duking it out with the sinister god of Islam. And in a slide show presentation to a church group earlier this year, General Boykin elucidated his views on our current foreign policy dilemma and who America's real enemies are.
“Well, is he [bin Laden] the enemy? Next slide. Or is this man [Saddam] the enemy? The enemy is none of these people I have showed you here. The enemy is a spiritual enemy. He’s called the principality of darkness. The enemy is a guy called Satan.”

Why are terrorists out to destroy the United States? Boykin said: “They’re after us because we’re a Christian nation.”

NBC News military analyst Bill Arkin, who’s been investigating Boykin for the Los Angeles Times, says the general casts the war on terror as a religious war: “I think that it is not only at odds with what the president believes, but it is a dangerous, extreme and pernicious view that really has no place.”

During a January church speech in Daytona, Fla., Boykin recalled a Muslim fighter in Somalia who bragged on television the Americans would never get him because his God, Allah, would protect him: “Well, you know what I knew, that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.”
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Boykin also routinely tells audiences that God, not the voters, chose President Bush: “Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he’s in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this.”
The best part comes in this conclusion to the article:
Boykin tells NBC News that, given his new assignment, he is curtailing such speeches in the future. He says, “I don’t want … to be misconstrued. I don’t want to come across as a right-wing radical.”
Oh, General Boykin, why would anyone think that?

THE DOCTOR IS OUT... -- to lunch, apparently. At least in the mental sense. What else to make of comments by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to a conference of Islamic nations that Jews rule the world by proxy and are bent on destroying Islam. He also added this priceless little piece of advice:
'We cannot fight them through brawn alone, we must use our brains also,' he said.

He did, however, call on Muslims to match their studies of religion with attention to science and mathematics because 'we need guns and rockets, bombs and warplanes, tanks and warships for our defence'.

He said enemies of Islam 'attack and kill us, invade our lands, bring down our governments'.
And this guy is considered one of the moderates of the Islamic world. Ugh.

CLARK RELEASES GLOWING REVIEWS -- As he rose quickly through the ranks of the United States Army [too quickly for some envious colleagues], General Wesley Clark received almost unbelievably glowing performance reviews from his commanding officers. Yesterday, the Clark campaign released the records of those reviews and it makes fascinating reading.
The comments of his commander when he oversaw a tank battalion in Germany in 1977 were typical: "The most brilliant and gifted officer I've known." The commander, Col. Charles G. Prather IV, added: "I have never been more impressed with an officer's talent and dedication." He added that he should rank with men like Douglas MacArthur.

A year later, the future General Clark, now 58, had advanced to assistant executive officer to Gen. Alexander M. Haig Jr., then Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. In his evaluation, General Haig wrote: "Major Clark is an officer of impeccable character with a rare blend of personal qualities and professional attributes which uniquely qualify him as a soldier-scholar."
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The records include high praise from Colin L. Powell, now secretary of state and then an assistant division commander at Fort Carson, Colo., who called then-Lieutenant Clark an officer of "the rarest potential." The evaluations end in 1993, when General Clark earned his second star; officers at or above the rank of two-star general do not receive such performance reviews.
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The years of evaluations released by the campaign show a cadet who rose through the ranks with ease. His superiors consistently described him as confident, imaginative, organized, an inspiration to his troops, a trusted adviser to his commanders and an officer with unlimited potential.

One commander took note of the superlatives frequently used in such reviews but said that then-Lieutenant Colonel Clark deserved them.

"Every once in a while, one is privileged to encounter an officer so uniquely gifted that the overworked superlatives commonly utilized on evaluation reports are inadequate to effectively describe his duty performance," the commander wrote in 1981. "LTC Clark is that officer. A brilliant, dynamic and exceptionally innovative commander, his battalion has been characterized by superb esprit, discipline and professionalism."

The next year, Colin Powell similarly noted the penchant for the "raters" on performance reviews to exaggerate. But in this case, he said, "The rater does not overstate." He added, "Wes Clark has been a superb battalion commander and will be a superb brigade commander. He is an officer of the rarest potential and will clearly rise to senior general officer rank. He will be one of the Army's leaders in the 1990's."

One recurring trait that appears in the evaluations is that General Clark always spoke his mind. The evaluations are replete with mentions that he "was not a yes-man," and "says what he thinks."
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Through most of his career, his willingness to question served him well.

"Completely candid," one evaluator wrote in 1977. "Exceptionally stable," he added. "Never careless or irrational in his judgment."

It was the following year that General Haig wrote his evaluation.

"Major Clark's earnestness, sincerity of purpose and absolute dedication convey a moral force in his work which gives him a significant voice in this headquarters."
It should be noted that General Shelton, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has very unkind words for General Clark, accusing him of lacking integrity, though in only the vaguest of terms. General Clark refers to General Shelton's comments as coming out of a personal dispute between the two men and not connected to his professional duties as a soldier.

In any case, I'm sold on General Clark the man. The more I learn about his views the more I like General Clark the politician. I'm still learning about General Clark the campaigner, though. He must excel at that latter role before we will be able to truly appreciate the former ones.

HIGHWAY ROBBERY -- It won't surprise any of you to learn that Halliburton is making a killing off the killing in Iraq. What might surprise you is just how they are doing it. It turns out that gasoline is very, very expensive in Iraq. You might think it would be cheap, considering the country is sitting atop the second-largest proven reserves of oil in the world. Nevertheless, sanctions, war and neglect have left the Iraqi oil infrastructure dilapidated and unable to meet demand for gasoline. The result is that companies like Halliburton are moving gasoline into the country and are being paid a lot of money to do it. Much more money than they would earn in the United States for similar purposes. And just who is paying Halliburton so much money to do this? You guessed it: the American taxpayer is paying.
Iraq, you may have heard, has a lot of crude oil. Before the war, this was the one point that both the Bush administration and its fiercest critics seemed to agree on. Everyone had a different theory about what would happen to the oil in the event of war -- the administration promised that Iraq's resources would pay for its redevelopment, while the critics argued that the oil money would fill the coffers of Western corporations -- but at least people saw eye to eye on what seemed like an incontrovertible fact: A Saddam-free Iraq would be an endless source of cheap gas.

But, at least so far, gasoline in Iraq has not been cheap. And it might surprise you to learn that you've been paying for it. According to a study released on Wednesday by Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman and John Dingell, each gallon of gas sold in Iraq has cost American taxpayers $1.59, and possibly as much as $1.70. In the rest of the Middle East, gas costs about half that amount; even in Toledo, Ohio, gasoline's cheaper than it is in Baghdad.

Why is getting gasoline to oil-rich Iraq costing Americans so much money? The congressmen have a one-word, obvious answer: Halliburton.

Because Iraq's oil industry, battered by war and sanctions, can't yet handle the country's fuel demands, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been paying Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, to buy gas in Kuwait and transport it about 400 miles to Baghdad. The Corps assigned KBR this duty under the "no-bid" contract it signed with the company in March; under that contract, KBR is responsible for repairing Iraq's oil infrastructure and some related work, and it has received about $1.4 billion for its work so far.

In a letter that Waxman and Dingell sent to the White House, the congressmen cite an e-mail message they received from the Corps in which the Army discloses how much of the money to Halliburton went for fuel imports. As of Sept. 18, Halliburton received $304,486,577 to bring 191,965,150 gallons of gas into Iraq. That's $1.59 per gallon. If you add to that Halliburton's share -- under the contract, it is entitled to charge the government between 2 and 7 percent on top of its costs -- the per-gallon price of gas in Iraq could be as high as $1.70. Oil experts who spoke to Waxman's staff called that amount "outrageous," a "rip-off" and "highway robbery."

In their letter, the Waxman and Dingell say that where Halliburton seems to be pushing up the prices is in the transportation of the fuel from Kuwait to Baghdad. In Kuwait, the wholesale price of gasoline -- the price Halliburton is likely paying -- is about 71 cents a gallon. According to Gordon Schremp, an oil expert at the California Energy Commission who spoke to Waxman's staff, it should cost between 10 and 20 cents to transport a gallon of gas over the distance between Kuwait and Baghdad; that's about what it cost American trucks (driven by expensive American drivers) to transport gas to Arizona from neighboring states during Arizona's gas shortage this summer, for example.

Halliburton, though, is charging about 91 cents to drive each gallon 400 miles, a price that Philip Verleger, one of the experts the congressmen consulted, said was preposterously high. In an interview with Salon, Verleger noted that it costs 20 cents a gallon to transport gas through some of the most expensive terrain in America -- the high-grade Rocky Mountains. The road to Baghdad is, by comparison, flat, and therefore cheap to drive. "For gasoline to cost as much in Baghdad as it costs in Aspen, Colo., is stunning," Verleger said. He added that Waxman and Dingell aren't the only ones worried about Halliburton's charges. "I have also heard from a couple of sources that the people [at the Defense Department] at CENTCOM are utterly appalled at the waste. I've been hearing about this for at least the last five months. This is just like the $600 hammer or the $1,000 toilet seat that we've seen in the military in the past."
This will have to be an issue in the 2004 election. It's just to target-rich for the Democrats to resist. Please read the letter from Congressmen Waxman [D-CA] and Dingell [D-MI] on this subject. It is most enlightening.

TROOPS CONTRADICT BUSH SPIN -- A survey by Stars and Stripes newspaper finds that a large percentage of U.S. troops in Iraq are demoralized and believe the training they received does not prepare them for the jobs they are doing in Iraq right now.
In the survey, 34 percent described their morale as low, compared with 27 percent who described it as high and 37 percent who said it was average; 49 percent described their unit's morale as low, while 16 percent called it high.

In recent days, the Bush administration has launched a campaign to blame the news media for portraying the situation in Iraq in a negative light. Last week, Bush described the military spirit as high and said that life in Iraq is "a lot better than you probably think. Just ask people who have been there."

But Stars and Stripes raised questions about what those visiting dignitaries saw in Iraq. "Many soldiers -- including several officers -- allege that VIP visits from the Pentagon and Capitol Hill are only given hand-picked troops to meet with during their tours of Iraq," the newspaper said in its interview with Sanchez. "The phrase 'Dog and Pony Show' is usually used. Some troops even go so far as to say they've been ordered not to talk to VIPs because leaders are afraid of what they might say."

The newspaper also noted in that interview that its reporters were told that some soldiers who had complained of morale problems had faced disciplinary actions known as Article 15s, which can result in reprimand, extra duties and forfeiture of pay. Sanchez said he did not know of any such punishments, but he added that they would have been handled at a lower level.

The paper's project recorded significant differences in the morale of various units, but overall found that Army troops tended to sound more dissatisfied than Air Force personnel and Marines, and that reservists were the most troubled.
Additionally, half of those questioned said it was unlikely that they will reinlist in the Armed Forces when their current tour of duty expires. This is the reality Mr Bush and his regime does not want you to see.

THIS IS ACTUAL NEWS -- From today's edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Concerned about the appearance of disarray and feuding within his administration as well as growing resistance to his policies in Iraq, President Bush - living up to his recent declaration that he is in charge - told his top officials to "stop the leaks" to the media, or else.

News of Bush's order leaked almost immediately.
And this little gem from the same story:
Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he "didn't want to see any stories" quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used.
I repeat: This is an actual news story, not a comedy bit from The Daily Show. This is America during the Bush regime.

Via Atrios.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

ANOTHER CLASSIC FROM TOM TOMORROW -- Holy false rationale for war, Batman!

ABSOLUTELY DAMNING -- The CBS report that just finished airing on 60 Minutes 2 was absolutely damning about the lies Secretary of State Colin Powell and the rest of the administration told the world about Iraq's non-existent WMD. I hope you watched it.

IRAQ WAR BOOSTS AL QAEDA -- The International Institute for Strategic Studies, a highly-respected British think tank, asserts that the Iraq War swelled the ranks of Al Qaeda by inflaming Muslim passions against the United States. In other words, by focusing on someone not responsible for 9/11/01 [Saddam Hussein] instead of destroying those who were responsible for 9/11/01 [Al Qaeda] we have made the people responsible for 9/11/01 stronger. Pretty clever, eh?

Have a look at the transcript of the press conference to announce the findings of the IISS's latest edition of The Military Balance.

BAD POLL NEWS FOR BUSH -- According to the latest ABC News poll, more people want a Democrat in the White House than a Republican, by a margin of 49 to 44 percent. Also, according to the same poll, the public is divided on Mr Bush's handling of Iraq, with 50% approving and 47% not approving. That's within the statistical margin of error for the poll.

Meanwhile, a CNN/Gallup poll finds that the public is evenly split on who is winning the war on terror--the U.S. or the terrorists themselves. Forty-two percent think the U.S. is winning and an equal number believe the terrorists are winning. That's down from a +14% that thought the U.S. was winning the terror war this summer.

BARBOUR PLAYS RACE IN RACE -- Haley Barbour, former head of the national Republican party and current Republican candidate for governor in Mississippi is using the Confederate flag as part of his campaign material. There is even more.
Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Jim Herring said the party conducted a poll recently in which voters were asked their position on the state flag. He said the question was used to find potential supporters.

"We think the people voted on that issue, spoke on that issue, and we have no plans to make it an issue," he said. However, he said, "it's legitimate to find out how people voted on the flag issue. It helps you determine who your voters are and how you identified them."
In other words, the state GOP wanted to identify the racists so they could better communicate with their voting base.

And even that does not end it all. That photo you see is of Mr Barbour hanging out with the good ol' boys of the Council of Conservative Citizens, the successor to the White Citizens Council, which fought de-segregation. Among the many racist articles on the CCC website is one entitled "In Defense of Racism." This is the sort of company Mr Barbour prefers to keep. I hope decent people in Mississippi remember that during the campaign for governor. [Mr Barbour will face off against incumbent Governor Musgrove, a Democrat.] Mr Barbour says he has no idea what the views of the CCC are. Just how stupid does he think the rest of the planet is?

Thanks to Political Wire.

MED POT LAWS UPHELD -- The Bush regime has been trying to prosecute doctors who recommend medical marijuana to their patients or even discuss the possible benefits of the drug. It's all part of the drug war, which continues to spin hopelessly out of control and defy all manner of common sense and decency. An appellate court ruled the Bush regime has no constitutional right to punish doctors who prescribe or discuss medical marijuana for/with their patients and now the Supreme Court has upheld the lower court decision.
The justices, in declining to review an appellate decision favoring the doctors, handed a big victory to medical marijuana patients in nine states that allow the infirm to smoke or grow marijuana with a doctor's permission.

Besides Washington, those states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada and Oregon. Thirty-five states have passed legislation recognizing marijuana's medicinal value, while federal law declares marijuana an illegal drug with no medical benefit.
Look, I'm not a pothead. I've never done any drugs and never would, but the drug war has needlessly imprisoned countless people and cost billions of dollars--all without reducing the availability of drugs a bit. And here we have a chance to actually use a drug for a positive purpose and the administration is so worked up over the drug war that they would punish doctors who prescribe medical marijuana and punish those who need it to relieve their chronic pain. It's absurd. The courts appear to be finally standing against this nonsense. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.

MAN ARRESTED FOR TEACHING DOG THE NAZI SALUTE -- No, really.

BETTER HIM THAN ME -- Christopher Monks is guest-blogging in Neal Pollack-land and spending all day reading and laughing at Instapundit. He calls it an Instapunditathon. It's dirty work, but someone's got to do it. I like arrangement whereby he does all the work and I do all the laughing.

COLIN POWELL, THE LIAR? -- Top American WMD specialists knew Colin Powell was deceiving the world about Iraqi weapons capabilities when he spoke at the United Nations last February, according to a new report that will air during "60 Minutes 2" on CBS tonight at 8 PM.

Former U.S. intelligence specialist Greg Thielmann, who left the government in disgust, told CBS reporter Scott Pelley that it was widely known in U.S. intelligence circles that Secretary of State Powell was not truthful when he spoke to the U.N. and that the entire WMD case against Iraq was built upon a straw house of supposition and ideology-laced suspicion.
Thielmann also tells Pelley that he believes the decision to go to war was made first and then the intelligence was interpreted to fit that conclusion. “…The main problem was that the senior administration officials have what I call faith-based intelligence,” says Thielmann.

“They knew what they wanted the intelligence to show. They were really blind and deaf to any kind of countervailing information the intelligence community would produce. I would assign some blame to the intelligence community and most of the blame to the senior administration officials.”

Steve Allinson and a dozen other U.N. inspectors in Iraq also watched Powell’s speech. “Various people would laugh at various times [during Powell’s speech] because the information he was presenting was just, you know, didn't mean anything -- had no meaning,” says Allinson.

Pelley asks, “When the Secretary finished the speech, you and the other inspectors turned to each other and said what?” Allinson responds, “’They have nothing.’”

Allinson gives Pelley several examples of why he believes Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. One time, he was sent to find decontamination vehicles that turned out to be fire trucks. Another time, a satellite spotted what they thought were trucks used for biological weapons.

“We were told we were going to the site to look for refrigerated trucks specifically linked to biological agents,” Allinson tells Pelley. “…We found seven or eight [trucks], I think, in total, and they had cobwebs in them. Some samples were taken and nothing was found.”
I'll be watching. I hope you will be, too. After doing such a dismal job of covering the Iraq War and the real reasons for it, perhaps the electronic media are coming around. This CBS report comes hard on the heels of last Thursday's devastating "Frontline" documentary on PBS, which laid bare the lies and double-talking of the Bush regime and its allies about the Iraq War.

GAZA BOMB KILLS 3 YANKS -- A bomb blast in the Gaza Strip has murdered three Americans and wounded another today. The target was a U.S. diplomatic van and the attack appears to signal a change in strategy by the presumed perpetrators of the atrocity--Palestinian militants. Previously, Palestinian terrorists had refrained from attacking Americans and focused on Israeli targets. No longer, it seems.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

100 BASE CLOSINGS TO COME -- A report in the L.A. Times asserts that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld plans to close as many as 100 military bases in the U.S., beginning in 2005. While I think it rather gutless for this to begin after the 2004 election, I find it hard to argue with the overall decision. The country has far too many military bases as it is. I understand that some local economies will suffer from the loss of a military base, but the point of our military should not be to prop up local economies in politically important states, but to adequately defend the nation and its interests. For too long both ruling political parties have treated the Pentagon as a very expensive welfare system. It is long past time that stopped.

A FEW GOOD MOVIES -- "Kill Bill" is excellent and I recommend it highly. I'm not sure what got into David Denby of the New Yorker [usually the best magazine in the world] when he described the latest from Quentin Tarantino as "crap," but he is very, very wrong. I also recommend going to see "School of Rock," if you have not done so already. It's pretty predictable, but also funny and I was finally able to tolerate Jack Black in a role he seems born to play. On dvd, I recommend "The Italian Job." It's not great, but it is pretty good. The action scenes are fairly convincing and the dialogue not nearly as bad as I'd feared.

BELTWAY BANDIT POWER POLL: WEEK 6 -- Another wild week in the NFL and another previously unbeaten team feels the bitter sting of defeat. The Chiefs and Panthers are for real and the big news is that Marty Schottenheimer did not lose this week!

01. Kansas City Chiefs [6-0]: Down two TDs in the 4th quarter in Green Bay is no problem for Trent, Priest, and Dante. Dick Vermeil was crying again Sunday, but it is his opponents who ought to be weeping. [No change]

02. Carolina Panthers [5-0]: Playing the Colts and missing their top player, TB Stephen Davis, late in the game, the Carolina Cats come up with a huge win. Seems good defense, a strong running game, and smart coaching still work in the NFL. [+2]

03. Minnesota Vikings [5-0]: Used bye week to get QB Daunte Culpepper healthy and TB Michael Bennett is close to returning. The unbeaten Vikes might only get better. [No change]

04. Miami Dolphins [4-1]: After four straight wins, that opening day loss to Houston is starting to look like a fluke. [+1]

05. Indianapolis Colts [5-1]: Exhausted after their heroic Monday night comeback victory over Tampa, the Colts finally fell--to an unbeaten team. No shame. [-3]

06. Denver Broncos [5-1]: Unimpressive victory over slumping Steelers pays no dividends in the hR Power Poll. [No change]

07. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [3-2]: Finally shook off their lethargy and stomped the Redskins in the second half, but how did a team like Washington hang with the world champs for almost three quarters? Tampa seems to be coasting at times. [No change]

08. Tennessee Titans [4-2]: Air McNair is soaring like never before. [No change]

09. Seattle Seahawks [4-1]: Will spend the rest of the season duking it out with the Rams for the top spot in the NFC West. [+1]

10. New England Patriots [4-2]: Two straight wins over quality opponents puts Boston back in the Pats back in the thick of things. Must be nice to be a Boston sports fan right now, eh? [+2]

11. Green Bay Packers [3-3]: You never know which Packers team will show up, but clearly these guys are not bulletproof at home anymore. [-2]

12. St. Louis Rams [3-2]: No Kurt. No Marshall. No problem. [+2]

13. Dallas Cowboys [4-1]: Four straight wins and 2-0 in the division! Who woulda thunk it?! [+2]

14. Baltimore Ravens [3-2] As long as TB Jamal Lewis and that fearsome defense are still around, the Ravens will be competitive in almost every game. [+3]

15. Cleveland Browns [3-3]: I'm still not sold on Tim Couch or William Green, but as long as at least one of them shows up to play, Cleveland should stay out of the cellar. [+5]

16. Philadelphia Eagles [2-3]: Who the hell are these guys? [-3]

17. New York Giants [2-3]: And who the hell are these guys? [-1]

18. Washington Redskins [3-3]: Sapp to Lavar: "I'm varsity. You're JV." [No change]

19. Buffalo Bills [3-3]: Savage beatdown by the Jets is a major warning sign. Those first two weeks of the season look like a mirage now. [-8]

20. San Francisco 49ers [2-4]: QB Jeff Garcia is injured and WR Terrell Owens is biding his time until he can leave in free agency in February 2004. It's going to be a long, long year for the Niners. [-1]

21. Houston Texans [2-3]: That win over Miami looks a long way away now. [No change]

22. Cincinnati Bengals [1-4]: Their bye week over, look for a Bengals team that plays better in the second half of the season. [+1]

23. Pittsburgh Steelers [2-4]: It's going to be a long bye week for Bill Cowher and his troops. [-1]

24. New Orleans Saints [2-4]: Playing the Bears is good for what ails you. [+1]

25. Oakland Raiders [2-4]: These guys are old and they just suck. [-1]

26. New York Jets [1-4]: Crushing the Bills was a good start. QB Chad Pennington will be back in a few weeks.

27. Atlanta Falcons [1-5]: I cant figure out which is worse: QB Doug Johnson or the Atlanta secondary. [-1]

28. Arizona Cardinals [1-5]: QB Jeff Blake, WR Anquan Boldin and a few offensive linemen look like keepers. The rest of the team is headed for the trash heap. Including Emmitt Smith. [-1]

29. Detroit Lions [1-4]: Bye week gave Mooch more time to study his roster and weep uncontrollably at 3 AM. [-1]

30. Jacksonville Jaguars [1-5]: Rookie QB Byron Leftwich getting a rude welcome to the NFL. [-1]

31. Chicago Bears [1-4]: I'm not sure why the Bears thought QB Kordell Stewart would work in Chicago, but it is time to get someone else in there. [-1]

32. San Diego Chargers [0-5]: Off week ensures Marty did not lose last week. [No change]