The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

NFL POWER POLL -- It's back and it keeps getting better.

01. Pittsburgh Steelers [9-1]: Big Ben finally looked like a rookie, but the NFL’s #1 defense won the game for him. [No change]

02. New England Patriots [9-1]: Always overlooked at linebacker, Mike Vrabel is hoping to make the Pro Bowl at wideout this year. [No change]

03. Philadelphia Eagles [9-1]: Here’s an idea: What about telling Ron Artest that Terrell Owens was the guy who threw that cup of ice? [No change]

04. Atlanta Falcons [8-2]: Why not just switch to an option offense? [No change]

05. Denver Broncos [7-3]: I’ll bet Mike Shanahan didn’t think he’d have to battle the Chargers for the division championship. [+1]

06. Indianapolis Colts [7-3]: Manning on a pace to throw 168 TD this year. [+1]

07. Baltimore Ravens [7-3]: Will the league PLEASE STOP MIKING UP BRIAN BILLICK FOR EVERY DAMN GAME?!?! [+1]

08. Green Bay Packers [6-4]: Does Brett Favre even sweat anymore? [+1]

09. San Diego Chargers [7-3]: Did you know that only the Colts have scored more points this year than Marty Schottenheimer’s Chargers? Marty freaking Schottenheimer’s Chargers?!?! [+2]

10. New York Jets [7-3]: Jets fans being advised not to watch this Sunday’s game, featuring Quincy Carter against that New England defense. [No change]

11. Minnesota Vikings [6-4]: That the Vikings could make the playoffs without a healthy Randy Moss tells you a lot about the NFC this year. [+1]

12. Jacksonville Jaguars [6-4]: David Garrard looks good for a newcomer, but the Jags need Leftwich back to make the playoffs. [-7]

13. Seattle Seahawks [6-4]: If you were wondering how Mike Holmgren would do without Brett Favre, I guess you know now. [+1]

14. Tennessee Titans [4-6]: Steve McNair returns, bringing a win with him. [+5]

15. St. Louis Rams [5-5]: Mike Martz is a terrific offensive coordinator. Unfortunately, his title is Head Coach. [-2]

16. Cincinnati Bengals [4-6]: Marvin Lewis and Carson Palmer have what it takes to lead the Bengals back to the playoffs. Next year. [-1]

17. Kansas City Chiefs [3-7]: Well, the head coach fired his defensive coordinator and that didn’t work. What now, Mr Vermeil? [-1]

18. Houston Texans [4-6]: Someone needs to tell David Carr that no one is going to take him seriously as a QB until he gets rid of that girly-boy haircut. [-1]

19. New York Giants [5-5]: The Eli Manning era didn’t begin with a win, but the kid showed enough to make the fans hopeful for the future. [-1]

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [4-6]: The Bucs and Brian Griese were both left for dead, but now he’s led them back to wild card contention. [+7]

21. Buffalo Bills [4-6]: There are eleven teams behind the Bills in the world’s most prestigious power poll. Eleven very embarrassed teams. [+8]

22. Chicago Bears [4-6]: I still can’t figure out how these guys won four games. [-2]

23. Arizona Cardinals [4-6]: Shaun King? [-3]

24. Cleveland Browns [3-7]: Butch Davis should tell his agent to find out if that Florida Gators job is still open. [-2]

25. Washington Redskins [3-7]: It’s called the forward pass, Coach. [-2]

26. Detroit Lions [4-6]: Joey Harrington about two months away from sharing a one bedroom condo with Tim Couch. [-2]

27. Dallas Cowboys [3-7]: How do you give up 30 points to a Ravens team playing without Jamal Lewis? Seriously, how do you do that? [-2]

28. Carolina Panthers [3-7]:Who the hell is Nick Goings and how did he score three touchdowns in an NFL game? [+2]

29. New Orleans Saints [4-6]: Aaron Brooks recently rejected by the American Brain Donors Association. [-3]

30. Oakland Raiders [3-7]: Norv’s brother just got fired from his head coaching job at Illinois. It’s going to be a merry Christmas in the Turner family this year. [-2]

31. Miami Dolphins [1-9]: Didn’t get humiliated so I’ll give them one spot in the world’s most prestigious power poll.[+1]

32. San Francisco 49ers [1-9]: Unable to take advantage of widespread recruiting violations as an NFL coach, Dennis Erickson suffers the fate predicted for him almost two years ago by this author. [-1]

DANGER AHEAD -- Award-winning economist, Priceton University professor, and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman believes the Bush administration is leading the U.S. to a fiscal and economic meltdown.
The most immediate worry for Krugman is that Bush will simultaneously push through more tax cuts and try to privatize social security, ignoring a chorus of economic thinkers who caution against such measures.

"If you go back and you look at the sources of the blow-up of Argentine debt during the 1990s, one little-appreciated thing is that social security privatization was a important source of that expansion of debt," said Krugman.

In 2001, Argentina finally defaulted on an estimated $100 billion in debt, the largest such event in modern economic history.
...
"So if you ask the question do we look like Argentina, the answer is a whole lot more than anyone is quite willing to admit at this point. We've become a banana republic."

Crisis might take many forms, he said, but one key concern is the prospect that Asian central banks may lose their appetite for U.S. government debt, which has so far allowed the United States to finance its twin deficits.
A deeper plunge in the already battered U.S. dollar is another possible route to crisis, the professor said.

The absence of any mention of currencies in a communique from the Group of 20 rich and emerging market countries this past weekend only reinforced investors' perception that the United States, while saying it promotes a strong dollar, is willing to let its currency slide further.

"The break can come either from the Reserve Bank of China deciding it has enough dollars, thank you, or from private investors saying 'I'm going to take a speculative bet on a dollar plunge,' which then ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy," Krugman opined. "Both scenarios are pretty unnerving."
I'm not sure this is what the American people voted for on November 2, but it could very well be what they get. This is a democracy. You get the government you deserve.

NEW MATH! -- Privatizing Social Security, as the Bush admin wants to do, is costly. Even pro-privatization analysts estimate it would cost at least $1.5 trillion over ten years. Other estimates are considerably higher. The question is, how to pay for all this? Well, the GOP Congress has a great idea: Borrow the money!

But, you may wonder, wouldn't that massive borrowing, on top of the record budget deficit we already have, send the deficit into the stratosphere, with catastrophic effects for interest rates and economic growth? Yes, it would. But what if you don't count all that borrowing as...you know...borrowing?
Republican budget writers say they may have found a way to cut the federal deficit even if they borrow hundreds of billions more to overhaul the Social Security system: Don't count all that new borrowing.

As they lay the groundwork for what will probably be a controversial fight over Social Security, Republican lawmakers and the Bush administration are examining a number of accounting strategies that would allow the expensive transition to a partially privatized Social Security system without -- at least on paper -- expanding the country's record annual budget deficits. The strategies include, for example, moving the costs of Social Security reform "off-budget" so they are not counted against the government's yearly shortfall.
...
"We're entering the theater of the absurd, where you spend money, but it doesn't count, you borrow money, but you deny it," said Kent Conrad (N.D.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee. "Republicans are becoming further and further detached from reality."
New math was a popular notion in communist countries. If the Party says two plus two equals five, then it equals five. That's new math. The Berlin Wall might have come down, but new math lives on!

Monday, November 22, 2004

BUSH'S SECRETARY OF STATE -- bashes Bush's Secretary of State. That's Bush 1.0 v. Bush 2.0:
One of the woes of former President George H. W. Bush 's administration was that top aides didn't shut up when the media asked them to dis each other. That is still the case with the younger President Bush 's nomination of National Security Adviser Condi Rice as secretary of state. Take, for example, the former president's secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger. On CNN last week, he said Rice's close relationship with the prez would create groupthink. Afterward, wiping off his TV makeup, he sighed, "I will never be invited back to the State Department." But the regrets didn't stop his assault. He went on to call Rice "a paper pusher."
The more I get to know Bush 2.0, the more I like Bush 1.0.

PRIORITIES -- Families of soldiers in Iraq are holding bake sales to buy their loved ones proper body armor. Meanwhile, the GOP Congress wants to buy George W. Bush a yacht.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

IS THERE NO END to the savage incompetence of the Bush administration? This speaks for itself:
Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government.

After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to a study conducted by Iraq's Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway's Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from "wasting," a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.
...
The surveys suggest the silent human cost being paid across a country convulsed by instability and mismanagement. While attacks by insurgents have grown more violent and more frequent, deteriorating basic services take lives that many Iraqis said they had expected to improve under American stewardship.

Iraq's child malnutrition rate now roughly equals that of Burundi, a central African nation torn by more than a decade of war. It is far higher than rates in Uganda and Haiti.
Freedom [to starve] is on the march!

GOP TAX PLOT EXPOSED -- In case you thought the Republican party was going to become less obnoxious after the November 2 elections, you may now consider yourself properly educated and warned. They're going to get worse. Their latest scheme, which they are now lamely passing off as a mistake, is to invade the privacy of every American who files a tax return in this country.
Congress passed legislation Saturday giving two committee chairman and their assistants access to income tax returns without regard to privacy protections, but not before red-faced Republicans said the measure was a mistake and would be swiftly repealed.

The Senate unanimously adopted a resolution immediately after passing a 3,300-word spending bill containing the measure, saying the provision "shall have no effect." House leaders promised to pass the resolution next Wednesday.
...
"There will be no window where this will be law," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said. He referred to the provision as the Istook amendment and congressional aides said it was put in the bill at the request of Rep. Ernest Istook Jr., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's transportation subcommittee.

The provision and the inability of Hastert, R-Illinois., to get the votes he wanted on an intelligence overhaul bill left Republican leaders chagrinned on a day they had intended to be a celebration of their accomplishments.

"This is a serious situation," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. "Neither of us were aware that this had been inserted in this bill," he said, referring to himself and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Florida.

Questioned sharply by fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, Stevens pleaded with the Senate to approve the overall spending bill despite the tax returns language.

But Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, said that wasn't good enough. "It becomes the law of the land on the signature of the president of the United States. That's wrong."

Conrad said the measure's presence in the spending bill was symptomatic of a broader problem -- Congress writing legislation hundreds of pages long and then giving lawmakers only a few hours to review it before having to vote on it.

Stevens, who repeatedly apologized for what he characterized as an error, took offense at Conrad's statement. "It's contrary to anything that I have seen happen in more than 30 years on this committee," he said.

Pounding on his desk, Stevens said he had given his word and so had Young that neither would use the authority to require the IRS to turn over individual or corporate tax returns to them. "I would hope that the Senate would take my word. I don't think I have ever broken my word to any member of the Senate."

"... Do I have to get down on my knees and beg," he said.
I don't know that you have to beg Senator Stevens, but a little humility from your and your party wouldn't be such a bad idea.
Some Democrats didn't accept the assertion that the provision was a mistake and demanded an investigation.

"We weren't born yesterday, we didn't come down with the first snow," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. ``This isn't poorly thought out, this was very deliberately thought out and it was done in the dead of night.''
That's exactly correct. No staffer stuck this in by accident. The language was carefully drawn, it was inserted in the dead of night, and was presented to the Senate, in a scene which has become depressingly familiar over the last few years, at the last moment, giving Senators very little time to read it. We can all be very grateful the Democrats were paying close attention to this one.