Monday, April 05, 2004

Around the Horn

  • According to the Globe, AZ Sen. John McCain "unleashed an attack on his own party" 4/1. McCain, "criticizing GOP stands" on environmental and minority issues: "I believe my party has gone astray." More McCain: "I think the Democratic Party is a fine party, and I have no problems with it, in their views and their philosophy. But I also feel the Republican Party can be brought back to the principles I articulated before."

    McCain made the comments at a seminar hosted by MA Dem US Rep./Kerry backer Marty Meehan "as he again ruled out" a VP bid. He also "took on" Pres. Bush, saying: "You can't fly in on an aircraft carrier and declare victory and have the deaths continue. You can't do that." And he said: "Many people in this room question, legitimately, whether we should have gone in or not," adding that the debate "will be part of this presidential campaign"

  • The WH announced that Pres. Bush "has accepted an invitation to speak" at LSU's 5/21 commencement. Bush's visit to Baton Rouge, his third LA visit this year, is another sign" that Louisiana's Electoral Votes are in play. Bush is also doing the same thing at the Air Force Academy (in the possible swing state CO). Both are signs that Bush is worried that once "Red" states may turn "Blue" (and right now might be "Purple").

  • Two-Thirds of Bush's campaign ads are negative. Yet another sign that even his own people know he is in trouble.

  • Just who are those "independent contractors" that died in Fallujah anyway? DailyKos got a lot of flack when he called them "mercenaries" and didn't feel so bad about them dying. Blackwater Security Consulting, the company that employed the 4 fallen contractors, is one of several independent contractors working for the U.S. government that have come to the "forefront of the thriving business of going to places that most people--even the U.S. military--would rather not go." The 3/31 violence has depicted this "large, expensive and shadowy presence of private security companies" working in Iraq in an "unwelcome spotlight." Some of the "highly trained civilian commandos" who work in war zones are paid up to $2K/day and "as long as nothing goes wrong, their presence there goes largely unnoticed to the outside world." Most of the companies, many using ex-military personnel, take on responsibilities such as protecting coalition contractors and defending oil fields and important buildings. Blackwater handles security for Bremer.

    According to the Chicago Tribune, the presence of security companies in Iraq is expected to "linger" as the U.S. approaches the 6/30 power transition deadline and intends to put a private security contractor in charge of protecting the Green Zone, the area of Baghdad where coalition officials live and work. TX-based security contractor company Meyer & Meyer pres. Tim Meyer says that "private security is going to be the stopgap. It's really cheaper for the U.S. government to have private security than to keep rotating forces in and out." He adds that they are also more "politically palatable" because they have a lower media profile; if something goes awry, private companies are "a little less scrutinized than if something happens with the military."

    The Globe says, because there is no "official" estimate of how many security specialists are active in Iraq and reconstruction contracts are not made public, the costs of the "growing security burden" in Iraq to American taxpayers is "hard to gauge." However, security costs, as indicated in proposals submitted to the government by contractors, appear to constitute a "larger share" of the $18B that the U.S. government has set aside for rebuilding Iraq. Analysts estimate that companies have roughly 30K to 40K workers in Iraq and they set aside "about" 10% of their costs for security. Bigger question: Why do we have to hire people to go into these areas?

  • According to the US Treasury, 24,987 Americans (including a whopping 996 Ohioians and 111 New Mexicans) benefit from the top tax rate reductions that John Kerry would reverse if elected president. Here's a great gimmick: the Kerry camp should offer to write a letter of apology to those 25K people ask them to give back more (Clinton Levels) to help our country fight terrorism, improve schools, care for the elderly, disabled and destitute. Then they can say, "I would rather be one of the 25K having to pay a bit more to help my society than the millions of Americans without work or health insurance. I challenge any of my fellow top rate payers-- especially president Bush-- to explain why he can't give a bit more to help move our country in the right direction."

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