The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Thursday, January 06, 2005

THE GOP LOVES VETS -- Okay, after seeing what happened to John McCain and John Kerry [and will happen to Chuck Hagel if he's foolish enough to take the party crown away from Karl Rove's new golden boy, Bill Frist], we know the GOP does not, in fact, love veterans. And here is more proof:
Worried that House Republican leaders are poised to oust Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) as chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, a wide array of veterans groups is warning that such a move would send the wrong signal to U.S. troops abroad.

Sources on and off Capitol Hill said Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) is the leading candidate to take Smith’s gavel. If GOP leaders appoint Buyer, a loyal supporter of House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), it would signal clearly to the Republican caucus that rebels will be punished.

Smith has been outspoken on veterans funding. He has two more years remaining on the Republicans’ self-imposed term limits for committee chairs, but veterans groups fear he will not finish his term.

Sources said Smith’s chairmanship is to be challenged as the Republican Steering Committee today weighs which lawmakers will chair committees in the 109th Congress.

Dennis Cullinan, national legislative service director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), said it would be an “absolute disaster” that “such an effective chairman would be removed for political reasons.”

He said it would send the wrong message to U.S. troops, adding, “We’re at war.”

Buyer ranks fourth in seniority on Veterans Affairs, behind Reps. Smith, Michael Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and Terry Everett (R-Ala.).

Over the past several years, loyalty to House GOP leaders has been viewed as more important than seniority in securing committee gavels. But removing Smith before his term is up would accentuate Hastert’s demand for loyalty.
Veterans groups have showered Smith and Bilirakis with praise but are wary of Buyer. They fear that under his leadership veterans funding could be cut substantially in 2005, noting that the White House wants to scale back federal spending sharply this year.

While Smith has been outspoken against proposed cuts to veterans programs, sources with these organizations speculate that Buyer would do whatever leadership wants.

One source said Buyer “would toe the party line” and “is ideologically loyal” to leadership.

Leading veterans groups are standing firmly behind Smith. In a Jan. 3 letter to Hastert, 10 organizations, including the VFW, the American Legion and Vietnam Veterans of America, urged the GOP leader to make sure Smith remains at the helm.
Well. There you go. The Bush admin and GOP leadership in Congress plan to make deep cuts in spending for U.S. veterans this year and they want a reliable crony running the Veterans Affairs Committee to see that there is no interference to their plans.

The Democrats MUST make something of that!

GOODBYE TO THAT -- Tucker Carlson is leaving CNN and the network is ending its long-running "Crossfire" program. Good. It stunk. Jon Stewart was right.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

BANDIT'S NFL POWER POLL -- It's back and as good as ever. Enjoy.

01. Pittsburgh Steelers [15-1]: Last week I speculated that the team MVP might be TB Jerome Bettis, not QB Ben Roethlisberger. This week they beat a good Buffalo team without either one of them. Perhaps the entire team is the MVP. You know what they usually call teams like that? Super Bowl champs. [NC]

02. New England Patriots [14-2]: The team closest to Pittsburgh in mentality and “who’s going to win it for us this week?” tenacity. TB Corey Dillon had the best year of his career. [NC]

03. Indianapolis Colts [12-4]: QB Peyton Manning is going to the Hall of Fame with an armload of NFL records to call his own—just like his hero Dan Marino. The only question is whether he can do the one thing Marino could not—win a Super Bowl. [NC]

04. San Diego Chargers [12-4]: Competitive every week and they improved as the season progressed. But can they win in cold weather? [+1]

05. Philadelphia Eagles [13-3]: This is the lowest ranking the Eagles have had all year in the world’s most prestigious power poll. Early reports indicate Head Coach Andy Reid is taking this news harder than the news about T.O.’s injury. [-1]

06. Atlanta Falcons [11-5]: It’s eerie how much this team resembles the mid-to-late 1980s Denver Broncos teams. Stronger at RB and weaker at WR than those Denver teams, but like those Broncos, only in the playoffs because of one great quarterback. [No change]

07. Green Bay Packers [10-6]: Winners of nine of their last 11 games, the Packers have almost been forgotten in the NFC. Sure, the defense is terrible, but you don’t want to play the hottest team in the conference. [+4]

08. New York Jets [10-6]: Started out 5-0, finished 5-6, needed help to get into the playoffs and went 0-3 against Pittsburgh and New England . [NC]

09. Denver Broncos [10-6]: Throttled the Colts yesterday, but Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James played one series. Nevertheless, Denver safety John Lynch believes “we sent a message today.” Yes, you did, John. You sent a message that you can beat the Indianapolis J.V. Peyton Manning has a message waiting for you on Sunday: “Enjoy the offseason.” [+3]

10. Buffalo Bills [9-7]: Improving wideouts, a good young tailback, and a great defense are all excellent building blocks for 2005. But how much longer can they stick with Drew Bledsoe? [-3]
11. Jacksonville Jaguars [9-7]: If this team gets another good wideout…[+2]

12. Baltimore Ravens [9-7]: Offense is slowly rising, but the defense is slowly falling. Still a good defense, but not good enough. [+2]

13. Cincinnati Bengals [8-8]: Marvin Lewis has done what some thought impossible: Return the Bengals to respectability. And he did it this year while breaking in a rookie-ish quarterback. The future looks bright. [+2]

14. Seattle Seahawks [9-7]: Probably the most under-achieving team in 2004. [+2]

15. New Orleans Saints [8-8]: Owner Tom Benson is a cheapskate who does not like to pay off coaches, so the team’s late surge could be enough to save Jim Haslett’s job. As usual, though, the Saints under-achieved and Haslett, who is supposed to be a defensive whiz kid, fielded one of the most embarrassing defenses in the NFL. [+2]

16. Carolina Panthers [7-9]: Get healthy, re-sign WR Mushin Muhammad, and challenge the Falcons for the NFC South in ’05. [-7]

17. Kansas City Chiefs [7-9]: Defense. It helps. [-7]

18. St. Louis Rams [8-8]: Vatican researchers confirm that if the Rams actually win a playoff game, they will be on the look-out for the other signs of the Apocalypse. [+2]

19. Minnesota Vikings [8-8]: You know that phrase, it’s better to be lucky than good? My guess is that Minnesota ’s luck runs out on Sunday in Green Bay . [NC]

20. Houston Texans [7-9]: I was just beginning to like these guys when they went out and lost their season finale to the Cleveland Browns. [-2]

21. Dallas Cowboys [6-10]: Bill Parcells did almost nothing to improve this team during the offseason and it showed on the field during the regular season. And that’s why they’ll have no postseason. [NC]

22. Washington Redskins [6-10]: The good news: They played hard all year. The bad news: They didn’t play well all year. [+1]

23. Tennessee Titans [5-11]: Hard to believe that a team virtually synonymous with good defense for years would actually give up more points than the Kansas City Chiefs. [+2]

24. Arizona Cardinals [6-10]: Averaged a league-low 3.5 yards per carry. That’s only 3.5 yards per carry more than I averaged this year and I’ve never played a down in the NFL. The Cardinals are just one good running back away from respectability. [+2]

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [5-11]: Does it make me a bad person if I enjoy Chucky’s pain? [-3]

26. Oakland Raiders [5-11]: This is God’s punishment for all those hideous track suits, Al. [-2]

27. New York Giants [6-10]: This is one season New Yorkers would like to fuhgedaboutit. [+2]

28. Detroit Lions [6-10]: High hopes undermined by consistent crappiness of the team. [-1]

29. Miami Dolphins [4-12]: Jim Bates leaves with his head held high. [-1]

30. Chicago Bears [5-11]: If Chris Rock were paying attention to the NFL he might suggest that it takes a miracle for a brother to get a top job in the NFL and when one does, they give him a crappy job like this one. [NC]

31. Cleveland Browns [4-12]: Terry Robiskie now undefeated in interim head coaching season finales. Meaning of this statistic: None. [+1]

32. San Francisco 49ers [2-14]: Should consider trading that top draft pick for a freaking clue. [-1]

ALL NFL AWARDS -- What follows is the Bandit's rundown of NFL Awards, the traditional ones and a few of my own devising. Enjoy.

Offensive MVP: QB Peyton Manning [Indianapolis Colts]

Honorable Mention: QB Daunte Culpepper [Minnesota Vikings]

Defensive MVP: S Ed Reed [Baltimore Ravens]

Honorable Mention: CB Shawn Springs [Washington Redskins]

Overall MVP: QB Peyton Manning [Indianapolis Colts]

Rookie of the Year: QB Ben Roethlisberger [Pittsburgh Steelers]

Honorable Mention: WR Michael Clayton [Tampa Bay Buccaneers]

Comeback Player of the Year: QB Drew Brees [San Diego Chargers]

Honorable Mention: TB Corey Dillon [New England Patriots]

Still Got It: TB Curtis Martin [New York Jets]

Honorable Mention: TB Jerome Bettis [Pittsburgh Steelers]

Best Trade: TB Corey Dillon [New England Patriots]

Honorable Mention: Detroit trading 5th overall pick to Cleveland

Worst Trade: QB Mark Brunell [Washington Redskins]

Honorable Mention: No one even comes close.

Best Free Agent Signing: WR Terrell Owens [Philadelphia Eagles]

Honorable Mention: DE Bertrand Berry [Arizona Cardinals]

Worst Free Agent Signing: DE Jevon Kearse [Philadelphia Eagles]

Honorable Mention: TB Eddie George [Dallas Cowboys]

Best 1st Round Draft Pick: QB Ben Roethlisberger [Pittsburgh Steelers]

Honorable Mention: WR Michael Clayton [Tampa Bay Buccaneers]

Worst 1st Round Draft Pick: QB Phillip Rivers [San Diego Chargers]

Honorable Mention: TB Chris Perry [Cincinnati Bengals]

Head Coach of the Year: Bill Cowher [Pittsburgh Steelers]

Honorable Mention: Marty Schottenheimer [San Diego Chargers]

Worst Head Coach of the Year: Butch Davis [Cleveland Browns]

Honorable Mention: Mike Holmgren [Seattle Seahawks]

Assistant Head Coach of the Year: Gregg Williams [Washington Redskins]

Honorable Mention: Jerry Gray [Buffalo Bills]

Black Assistant Coach Who Should Be Promoted, but Probably Won’t: Romeo Crennel [New England Patriots]

Honorable Mention: Jerry Gray [Buffalo Bills]

Best Coaching Staff: New England Patriots

Honorable Mention: Philadelphia Eagles

Worst Coaching Staff: Minnesota Vikings

Honorable Mention: Oakland Raiders

Best Front Office: Pittsburgh Steelers

Honorable Mention: New England Patriots

Worst Front Office: Cleveland Browns

Honorable Mention: San Francisco 49ers

Best Ownership: New England Patriots

Honorable Mention: Green Bay Packers

Worst Ownership: San Francisco 49ers

Honorable Mention: New Orleans Saints/Arizona Cardinals

Biggest Over-achiever in the Playoffs: Pittsburgh Steelers

Honorable Mention: San Diego Chargers

Biggest Over-achiever Not in the Playoffs: Buffalo Bills

Honorable Mention: Carolina Panthers

Biggest Under-achiever in the Playoffs: Seattle Seahawks

Honorable Mention: Minnesota Vikings

Biggest Under-achiever Not in the Playoffs: New Orleans Saints

Honorable Mention: Washington Redskins

THE REAL IRAQ -- Freedom is on the march...backwards:
The war's worse, the insurgency's worse," said a senior U.S. Embassy official in Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to talk candidly. "This is not going to be a short fight. Nobody should think it is."

The assessment reflected a new willingness among senior Iraqi and American officials to acknowledge that large tracts of the country remain beyond the control of their combined forces. More than three months ago, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi asserted during a visit to Washington that 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces were stable and largely peaceful. Now, in interviews, he routinely refers to the situation as "our catastrophe."
Mission accomplished.

THE GRAY LADY -- The American Prospect has an interesting interview with Seth Mnookin, author of the new book Hard News: The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media. I recommend reading the interview. Once you've read that, you can decide if you want to buy the book.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

BLEEDING IRAQ -- The beat goes on...
Four American soldiers and a marine were killed today and three other soldiers were wounded on a day that also saw the assassination of the governor of Baghdad, one of the highest-profile killings of an Iraqi official in months.

In other violence, a bomb-laden fuel truck killed eight Iraqi commandos and two other people when it crashed into a checkpoint in western Baghdad about 9 a.m. today, according to an Interior Ministry official. Sixty others were wounded in the attack, which happened near the scene of two deadly car bombings on Monday.
As ever, no end in sight.

WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS? -- Actually, it's just more of the same from the Bush admin and their gang of comical accountants.
To show that President Bush can fulfill his campaign promise to cut the deficit in half by 2009, White House officials are preparing a budget that will assume a significant jump in revenues and omit the cost of major initiatives like overhauling Social Security. To make Mr. Bush's goal easier to reach, administration officials have decided to measure their progress against a $521 billion deficit they predicted last February rather than last year's actual shortfall of $413 billion. By starting with the outdated projection, Mr. Bush can say he has already reduced the shortfall by about $100 billion and claim victory if the deficit falls to just $260 billion.

But White House budget planners are not stopping there. Administration officials are also invoking optimistic assumptions about rising tax revenue while excluding costs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as trillions of dollars in costs that lie just outside Mr. Bush's five-year budget window.
As in past years, the budget will exclude costs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which could reach $100 billion in 2005 and are likely to remain high for years to come. The budget is also expected to exclude Mr. Bush's goal to replace Social Security in part with a system of private savings accounts, even though administration officials concede that such a plan could require the government to borrow $2 trillion over the next decade or two.

Among the costs that are expected in the five years after 2009 are nearly $1 trillion to make Mr. Bush's tax cuts permanent, nearly $500 billion for the new Medicare prescription drug program and at least $400 billion to address widely acknowledged problems with the so-called alternative minimum tax.
Even those librulcommiepinkos on Wall Street are offended by this nonsense.
Many analysts are dubious about the long-term plan. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that deficits will remain well above $300 billion if Mr. Bush's tax cuts are made permanent and if Iraq war costs taper off gradually. On Wall Street, analysts at Goldman Sachs predict that budget deficits will total about $5 trillion over the next 10 years.

"I've been watching this more than 30 years, and I have never seen anything quite this egregious," said Stanley Collender, a longtime author on budget issues and a senior vice president at Financial Dynamics, a communications firm in Washington.

"They are cutting the deficit from a number they never believed in the beginning," Mr. Collender said, referring to the decision to measure progress against the unrealized $521 billion deficit projection. "What if they had forecast that the deficit would be $800 billion last year? Would they take credit for having cut it by half?"

White House officials are making several budgeting decisions that make their tax revenues look higher and their spending look lower than many analysts think is realistic.
And you know what? It'll probably happen. Who is going to stop it? The Democrats are a minority party now. The Republican party long ago decided to abandon its committment to balanced budgets [remember the balanced budget amendment they said they wanted back in the 1990s?] in favor of Mr Bush's plan to bankrupt the country. Cut taxes on the wealthy. Spend money like a lottery-winner on a year-long bender. Tell the next generation [you and me] to pay the bill. And how will that bill be paid? A tax increase, of course. Remember that whenever some hotshot politician runs a big deficit by cutting taxes, he's not really cutting taxes. Not for everyone. For the elderly, it's a tax cut. For everyone else, those who plan on living long enough to see the bills come due, it's actually a tax increase. That's why Bush 1.0 and Clinton both had to raise taxes in the early 1990s, to pay off the then-record budget deficits of the Reagan years.

Of course, by now I'm well familiar with the standard Republican response to things like this: Don't be bitter.

Okay. I'll try to smile when they hand me the bill for their party. You smile, too, smartass Republicans. It's going to be your bill, too. That's the only part that makes it bearable.

Monday, January 03, 2005

CRYBABY -- Christine Todd Whitman wants you to know the GOP needs moderates like her, too. And she feels so strongly about it she's written a book called "It's My Party, Too," in which she dishes the extremist dirt on the Bush administration. The problem, my dear Ms Whitman, is that the GOP has already proven they don't need you.

TOM TOMORROW KNOWS -- Read and know what he knows. You'll probably chuckle a bit, too.