The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Saturday, March 13, 2004

KERRY WIDENS LEAD -- A new American Research Group poll has Senator John Kerry widening his lead over George W Bush.
John Kerry has increased his lead over George W. Bush among Americans registered to vote according to a nationwide survey from the American Research Group, Inc. In the ballot preference between Kerry and Bush, 50% say they would vote for Kerry and 43% say they would vote for Bush. In February, Kerry was at 48% and Bush was at 46%. When Ralph Nader is added to the ballot, 48% say they would vote for Kerry, 42% say they would vote for Bush, and 2% say they would vote for Nader.
Independents favor Kerry over Bush 51-42%, with seven percent undecided.

Friday, March 12, 2004

LIES LIES LIES...YEAH! -- They're gonna get you, George. Pardon that brief foray into 1980s Britpop, but it seemed appropriate for this story of yet more Bush regime mendacity.
The government's top expert on Medicare costs was warned that he would be fired if he told key lawmakers about a series of Bush administration cost estimates that could have torpedoed congressional passage of the White House-backed Medicare prescription-drug plan, according to an e-mail by the expert.

When the House passed the benefit by five votes Nov. 22, the White House was embracing an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that the bill would cost $395 billion over 10 years. But for months, the administration's own analysts in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services had concluded repeatedly that the drug benefit could cost upward of $100 billion more than that.

Withholding the higher cost projections was important, because the White House was facing a revolt from 13 conservative House Republicans who had vowed to vote against the Medicare drug bill if it cost more than $400 billion.

Rep. Sue Myrick of North Carolina, one of the 13 Republicans, said she was "very upset" when she learned of the higher estimate.

"I think a lot of people probably would have reconsidered [voting for the bill] because we said that $400 billion was our top of the line," Myrick said.

Five months before the House vote, the government's chief Medicare actuary had estimated that a similar plan the Senate was considering would cost $551 billion over 10 years. Two months after Congress approved the new benefit, White House budget director Joshua Bolten disclosed that he expected it to cost $534 billion.

Richard S. Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which produced the $551 billion estimate, told colleagues in June that it would cost him his job if he revealed numbers relating to the higher estimate to lawmakers.

"This whole episode which has now gone on for three weeks has been pretty nightmarish," Foster wrote in an e-mail to some of his colleagues June 26, just before the first congressional vote on the drug bill.
Not only does this provide the Democrats and the Kerry campaign the opportunity to further expose this administration as corrupt to the core, it also is guaranteed to offend lots of conservative Americans who care about honesty in government and government spending in general.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

MONEY FOR US, NO JOBS FOR YOU -- That is the attitude of Mr Bush and the wealthy special interests which have bankrolled his entire career, as this priceless anecdote makes abundantly clear:
On April 24, 2003, President Bush traveled to Timken Company’s Canton plant to promote his tax plan. In a speech to workers, he promised that the tax cut plan “means more money for investments, more money for growth and more money for jobs.”

Numerous studies have refuted that claim, showing that while the President's tax cuts rewarded wealthy Americans with tens of thousands of dollars in tax windfalls, the rest of America actually received relatively little. The average Bush tax cut for the wealthiest one percent of Americans is $938,000, reports Citizens for Tax Justice.

According to Reuters, the Chairman of Timken Company, W.R. Timken, made $2.62 million in 2003, clearly placing him in the wealthiest one percent of Americans.

Two months later, W.R. Timken co-hosted a fundraiser for Bush’s campaign in Akron which raised $600,000, and earned Timken ‘Ranger’ status (for those who raise more than $200,000 for the campaign).

Then, in September last year, Timken Company announced it was laying off 700 workers, adding more pain to one of the jobless recovery's most hardest-hit states.

So much for “more money for jobs.”
Thanks to Atrios for the tip.

BLOOD MONEY -- The corruption in the Bush admin's Iraq policy is truly staggering:
Halliburton, the oil services company formerly headed by US Vice-President Dick Cheney, was awarded a $1.2bn (£660m) contract in Iraq just three days after Pentagon auditors warned about "systemic" problems in its cost controls.

The warning was contained in a memo the Pentagon's defence contract audit agency sent on January 13 to the US Army Corps of Engineers, citing deficiencies in Halliburton's contracting proposals and questioning the company's ability to supply "fair and reasonable prices".

"We recommend that you contact us to ascertain the status of [Halliburton's] estimating system prior to entering into future negotiations," the memo said.
Either Halliburton is receiving preferential treatment from the Bush regime or it truly is the only company on Earth that can provide these services.

And it isn't the only company on Earth that can provide these services.

THE TRUTH HURTS -- Earlier Wednesday in Chicago, Kerry toughened his comments
about his GOP critics after a supporter urged him to take on Bush. "Let me tell you, we've just begun to fight," Kerry said. "We're going to keep pounding. These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen. It's scary."

Bush-Cheney campaign chairman Marc Racicot called on Kerry to apologize.
That just about sums it up.

SPANISH BOMBS -- But not in Andalucia this time. Over 170 are dead and hundreds more wounded after a series of bombs ripped through trains in Madrid today. The bombs were timed to go off during a high traffic period, thus maximizing human casualties.
"This is a massacre," government spokesman Eduardo Zaplana said.
Let's hope the wounded survive and the guilty are brought to justice and face the most savage penalty the law can provide.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

HISPANICS TURNING ON MR BUSH -- The Bush regime has tried mightily to woo Hispanic voters, who normally support Democrats by a significant margin, though not to the extent that African-Americans do. The good news is that Hispanics have proven too clever for Mr Bush's crude blandishments and are not impressed by Mr Bush's policies. A new poll shows that Hispanics are leery of Mr Bush's immigration policies and then there is this:
Even more problematic for the president: By a 2-to-1 margin, respondents agreed with the statement, "President Bush does not care about immigrants," but "is only interested in getting Latino voters to support him in the 2004 election."
They've caught on to you, Mr Bush.

HERE'S YOUR WEDGE ISSUE, BUSH -- Gay marriage might not be the wedge issue George W Bush is hoping for, according to new polls from The Washington Post-ABC News and the USA Today/CNN/Gallup . Both polls show support for legalizing civil unions for gays and lesbians up sharply in a relatively short period of time. In The Washington Post poll, 51% of respondents now favor legalizing civil unions for homosexuals. In the USA Today poll, support for civil unions is stronger than opposition by a 54-42% margin. While the public does not favor the issuance of marriage licenses to gay couples that is going on in a number of localities around the country, support for Mr Bush's Hate Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is weakening.

Mr Bush's hatemongering is apparently the final straw for that merry gang of abuse afficionados--gay Republicans. The Log Cabin Republicans, the main group for homosexuals in the GOP, opposes Mr Bush's Hate Amendment and plans to spend at least $1 million to air television ads attacking Mr Bush on this issue. These will be the first ads ever aired by the Log Cabin Republicans.

This quote caught my eye:
Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt said: "We respect differences of opinion in the Republican Party, and we feel that during this election the Republicans will unite behind the president on the big issues facing this country -- the war on terror and growing the economy."
Well, if that's the case--that terror and the economy are the "big issues facing this country"--then why is Mr Bush proposing to deface the U.S. Constitution with his bigoted amendment? Don't we only amend the Constitution for "big issues facing this country"? Since when did we begin changing the Constitution for small issues?

Mr Bush's cloak of compassionate conservatism is wearing thin, even for some of his most loyal allies.

SELLING THE WHITE HOUSE, CONTINUED -- George W Bush made a big stink about President Clinton inviting donors to stay in the White House. It did seem a bit unseemly to me, though hardly suprising. Well, the "Say One Thing, Do Another" administration is at it again.
President Bush opened the White House and Camp David to dozens of overnight guests last year, including foreign dignitaries, family friends and at least nine of his biggest campaign fund-raisers, documents show.
...
Some guests spent a night in the Lincoln Bedroom, historic quarters that gained new fame in the Clinton administration amid allegations that Democrats rewarded major donors like Hollywood heavyweights Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand with accommodations there.

That scandal and Bush's criticism of it is one of the reasons the White House identifies guests. In a debate with Vice President Al Gore in October 2000, Bush said: "I believe they've moved that sign, `The buck stops here,' from the Oval Office desk to `The buck stops here' on the Lincoln Bedroom. And that's not good for the country."
...
At least nine of Bush's biggest fund-raisers appear on the latest list of White House overnight guests, covering June 2002 through December 2003, and-or on the Camp David list, which covers last year.
Go have a look and see who those guests are. Naturally, Bush only invited them for the good company.

Naturally.

TENNESSEE TIE -- A new poll shows John Kerry and George W. Bush in a virtual dead heat in the state of Tennessee. Bush leads 48-44%, which is within the four percentage point margin of error. More ominously for Bush, many Tennessee voters have turned against the war, with 48% against the Iraq war and 47% still supporting it. That's a significant fall in support for the war in Tennessee. More ominously still, 63% of Tennesseans polled believe the country is on the wrong track. That's a very bad number for any incumbent.

Remember, Tennessee voted for George W Bush over Al Gore in 2000. They like Bush. But right now, many of them are not willing to vote for him again.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

CIA CHIEF CONTRADICTS CHENEY -- The simmering warfare between Langley and the White House is about to burn hotter with news that CIA Director George Tenet disagreed with Dick Cheney today during testimony before a Senate committee.
Tenet at first appeared to defend the administration, saying that he didn't believe the White House misrepresented intelligence provided by the CIA.

The administration's statements, he said, reflected a prewar intelligence consensus that Saddam had stockpiled chemical and biological weapons and was pursuing nuclear bombs.

But under sharp questioning by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Tenet reversed himself, saying there had been instances when he had warned administration officials that they were misstating the threat posed by Iraq.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you what my interaction was ... and what I did and didn't do, except that you have to have confidence to know that when I believed that somebody was misconstruing intelligence, I said something about it," Tenet said. "I don't stand up publicly and do it."

Tenet admitted to Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee's senior Democrat, that he had told Cheney that the vice president was wrong in saying that two truck trailers recovered in Iraq were "conclusive evidence" that Saddam had a biological weapons program.
We shall see if the mainstream media gives this development the attention it deserves and whether or not it indicates another round in blame-casting between the CIA and the Bush regime.

KERRY IN A STRONG POSITION -- By now you're probably familiar with the new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll that shows Senator John Kerry ahead of Mr George Bush, if the election were held today. You might have missed, however, the news that Kerry is actually leading Bush in a number of politically-important swing states.
A comparison of support for the two candidates by the results of the 2000 election show that among likely voters, Bush is barely ahead in the states he won four years ago by more than five percentage points (which Gallup calls "red" states). He leads Kerry by just 50% to 47%. In the "blue" states, which former Vice President Al Gore won by margins of more than five percentage points, Kerry leads Bush by a substantial margin, 55% to 42%. In "purple" states -- where the margin of victory for either candidate in 2000 was five percentage points or less -- Kerry also leads by a substantial margin, 55% to 39%.

With Nader in the race, the picture changes only a little. In the red states, Bush leads among likely voters by six points, 51% to 45%, but he trails badly in the purple states (52% for Kerry, 39% Bush, 4% Nader) and in the blue states (55% Kerry, 43% Bush, 1% Nader).
It's still very early yet, but obviously it is much better to be in Kerry's position than Bush's position.

PLAME SCANDAL UPDATE -- The cauldron continues to bubble in the Plame scandal. You recall that, right? Ambassador Joe Wilson publicly discredited the Bush admin's false claims that Iraq had attempted to acquire yellowcake in Niger for its non-existent nuclear weapons program. As revenge for this public embarrassment, at least two members of the Bush White House phoned various members of the national media and informed them that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a current CIA operative. Revealing the identity of a CIA operative is a felony. Since then, the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation to find out who is to blame.
A transcript subpoenaed in the CIA leak probe reveals the White House press operation began efforts to personally discredit former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV days before a columnist blew the cover of his CIA-officer wife.

As Newsday reported Friday, a federal grand jury served three subpoenas on the White House in January for Air Force One telephone records and a transcript of a press briefing during the presidential trip to Africa the week before Robert Novak's July 14 column identifying CIA officer Valerie Plame.

The grand jury also subpoenaed White House records of staff contacts with an expanded list of more than two dozen reporters who wrote or broadcast about administration concerns over Plame, Wilson and his CIA report that rejected rumors Iraq tried to buy uranium in Niger.

The White House Friday confirmed it had received subpoenas. "We're still in the process of complying fully," said spokesman Scott McClellan.

The efforts to discredit Wilson came after he went public July 6 with criticism of President George W. Bush for mentioning the uranium rumor in January 2003 in his State of the Union address which helped make a case for the Iraq war.

In the subpoenaed July 12 transcript of a briefing in Nigeria, then-press secretary Ari Fleischer called Wilson a "lower-level official" and said Wilson had made flawed and incomplete statements. Fleischer did not return calls Friday.

Meanwhile, many of the journalists on the subpoena's list have reported various attempts by the Bush administration last year to discredit Wilson by suggesting his wife arranged for the CIA to send him to Niger.
I think this is the ticking time bomb of the campaign. This is a serious matter and if the public comes to believe the truth--that the Bush White House attempted to intimidate its political opponents by illegally "outing" an active CIA operative--it would go to the heart of the case against the Bush admin's dishonesty, corruption, authoritarianism, and phony patriotism. No doubt the admin will seek to stonewall the investigation until after the election.

Definitely one to watch.

CBO DISSES BUSH BUDGET -- The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has declared in a new report that, despite administration claims to the contrary, the new Bush budget would have little or no effect on economic or job growth.
In its annual report on the president's budget, the agency that provides fiscal analysis for lawmakers said Bush's proposals could either increase or reduce economic output through 2009, and improve it in the following five years.

"However, the differences are likely to be small, affecting output by less than one-half of one percentage point on average," the study said.
...
The analysis attributed the budget's scant effect largely to the small size of the policies Bush proposed compared with the $12-trillion annual U.S. economy. For example, its proposed tax cuts would total only 0.3 percent the size of the economy during the next five years and its spending cuts would be 0.4 percent.
It sure seems like the real world is ganging up on Mr Bush lately, doesn't it?

AD OUTRAGE -- If you've got a conscience then you're like me--disgusted by the Bush-Cheney campaign's ads which attempt to make political capital out of the 3000 deaths on 9/11/01. Until now, though, we didn't even know the worst of it. Everyone in those ads, except the firefighters, are actors. And the images of firefighters were taken from B-roll; stock footage available to anyone. So not only are the ads offensive, they're also completely phony.

Actually, perhaps the Bush admin is correct about the ads being essential to describing the Bush presidency. Offensive and phony just about sums it up for me.

ORWELL ADMIN MARCHES ON -- David Sirota has a new blog, Sirotablog, which I urge everyone to check out. [Thanks to my eldest brother for passing it on to me.] In a post from yesterday Mr Sirota reveals how the Bush admin has repeatedly downgraded funding and concentration on counter-terrorism and homeland security, despite non-stop public talk tough emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The American people might be impressed by tough talk, but terrorists are not. And now, it seems, perhaps a few Americans are catching on, as well.

All this comes as the Bush admin has the nerve to assert that Senator John Kerry [D-MA] has tried to hamstring U.S. efforts to combat international terrorism. It's a filthy canard that must be battled. The facts support John Kerry, but will the media report the facts or will the return to their previous stance as faithful stenographers for the Mighty Wurlitzer at the Republican National Committee? We'll see.

THIEVES IN THE DEN -- Dick Cheney's old firm, Halliburton [from which he has NOT severed all his ties] is in hot water again not only for overbilling the U.S. government for work not provided, but also for skipping out on its payments to a military subcontractor providing hot meals to our troops in Iraq. The result? Our troops may soon be eating cold sandwiches.
Halliburton has a multibillion-dollar contract to feed and house U.S. troops in Iraq. But there are problems. A food subcontractor that runs 10 percent of the dining facilities in Iraq claims it hasn’t been paid by Halliburton for months and is threatening to stop serving hot meals.

The company, Event Source, serves 100,000 meals a day in Iraq under a contract with a Halliburton subsidiary. vent Source claims Halliburton owes it $87 million, including payment for President Bush's Thanksgiving dinner with the troops.

“When you get stuck out there for $87 million,” explains Event Source Chief Executive Officer Phil Morrell, “it’s a question of economics.”

In an interview with NBC News, Morrell says he’s already laid off employees in the United States and soon will have to feed sandwiches to the troops, instead of hot meals, because his company is running low on money.

Last month, Halliburton was accused of overcharging the government for feeding troops and agreed to forgo further payments until the issue is resolved.

Morrell says he believes Halliburton and its other food service contractors did overcharge, billing the government not for meals actually served, but for meals a facility could have served.

“In a lot of cases,” says Morrell, “that was two or three times the number of troops who were actually coming in. And we just thought that was just unethical and decided not to go down that path.”
How do these Halliburton bastards sleep at night? Wait, don't tell me. I already know the answer.

On top of a big pile of money.