Friday, December 29, 2006

2006 Reflections : Best and Worst of What Was

As 2006 closes, I come to the realization that some personal New Year’s Resolutions will not be achieved while others were accomplished. The last item on my list was a blog entry on the Best and Worst of 2006 … so with out further ado …

Most Fortunate Minnesota Politician – Norm Coleman
Somehow the Democrat-turned-Republican continues to be adept at smelling like a rose even when others have election losses. Coleman campaigned hard for the Republican Senate Campaign Chair … Libby Dole won by one vote… and I’ll bet Coleman is smiling now that he isn’t straddled with being the Chair when the Dems retook the Senate. And now after months of Mark Dayton pleading for support on the DM&E issue, Coleman realizes that Gutknecht’s fate was decided in Rochester over DM&E … so guess who’s trying to rally the cavalry? Oh, and did you notice that after a two day visit to Iraq, Coleman opposes increasing the troop presence in Iraq but would support an overall increase in size of the military … ah, this guy wants it both ways … recognizes that Bush/Rumsfeld have broken the military but realizes that America cannot put Iraq back together. Here’s hoping that the Dems pattern the 2008 election after the Klobuchar model and give serious consideration for Susan Gaertner - the Ramsey County Attorney -- or if nomination needs to go to someone who has already been tested in Congress, Rep. Betty McCollum be encouraged to seek the office.
Question : will any Republican compete for the Senate nomination now that Coleman is leaning so far to the middle? ( Kennedy again? Gutknecht? Brian Sullivan?)

MN Congressional District Looking Up – First District
Tim Walz is off and running. Hopefully the Everyman can ignore the tapestry of the political world and refrain from the temptation of earmarks … if so, the country may be able to make small steps at getting our financial house in order.

MN Congressional District Looking Down – Sixth District
Michelle Bachmann’s agenda may have had some Congressional support [Fiscal Issues (no taxes, cut taxes, extend tax cuts) and Social Issues (Constitutional Amendment on Abortion, Constitutional Amendment on Same-Sex Marriage)] in 2000, but with Democratic control of Congress, these are not going to be at the top of even Bush’s agenda. With Coleman’s evolving Iraq position, it may make Bachmann stand alone in her blind zealot-like support for Bush’s stance.

Best Book – Tempting Fate – An Inside Story of Political Seduction by David Kou
While there were many other good books (Cobra 2 : the inside story of the invasion and occupation of Iraq by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor; State of Denial by Bob Woodward; Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks; and
Chasing ghosts : a soldier's fight for America from Baghdad to Washington by Paul Rieckhoff), but Kou’s book was not what I expected. I knew about Bush’s faith-based iniatives and that some Republicans felt that Kou was doing a hatchet job while trying to capitalize on his White House job experiences for his own personal gain. Kou started out working for Ted Kennedy, wrote speeches for John Ashcroft, Bob Dole, and GW Bush … all with his intent of trying to promote the idea of fighting poverty. In the end, the reader sees that the politicians care more about getting political donations and maintaining power than actually improving society. I would love to hear Kou's opinion of Paul Wellstone.

Worst Book – Godless : The Church of Liberalism by Ann Coulter
I prayed for the strength to read this garbage without vomiting, but that is not possible … the venom is too strong.

Worst Foreign Policy Move – Oh, there are so many.
Long Term – United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act
The escalation of nuclear proliferation by North Korea and Iran (a Shiite country) will not be helped by this agreement. The US is rewarding India who developed its own nuclear weapons. Since regional neighbor Israel has nuclear weapons, when will Saudi Arabia (a Sunni country) begin to develop their own nuclear program? Saudi Arabia will state that they need nuclear energy power plants since their petroleum supplies are being depleted and will need the financial compensations derived from supplying oil to America … and from spent nuclear fuel rods they will build their own bombs.
Looking at the Senate approval of this legislation, Coleman supported an amendment that would have required India to agree to suspend military-to-military cooperation with Iran; that amendment failed. So Coleman realized the Iranian implications, but in the end voted to give nuclear technologies to India. This is a Bad Deal for humanity, but good for the business of nuclear technology.

Short Term – Bush’s tacit approval to allow Israel to invade Lebanon.
For the man who is a born-again Christian advocating compassion and promoting democracy, Bush did not get involved and the end result was, death and destruction to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. While previous Presidents would exert influence to mediate the situation, America has lost the high moral ground under Bush.

Best Foreign Policy Move – The Dubai Port Deal
Congress actually exerted some backbone and challenged this Administration on allowing a foreign country to operate a significant number of seaside ports. The funny thing is that the United Arab Emirates -- our ally – was purchasing the business from another ally – the United Kingdom, but in this day of fear of anyone that may be an Arab … much less a Muslim nation, that was political suicide. What we learned from this situation is that there are a lot of foreign companies running our ports … Congress got public support to support stopping the deal but the problem still exists. Bush was probably right that if the Brits could run our ports, then why not the UAE ... Congress needs to follow through.

Best Movie - An inconvenient truth
If you believe that global warming is overblown imaginary issue and/or that Al Gore is an android, you will be surprised and informed after viewing this movie. It’s an issue that should be non-partisan, and secular. It’s a short movie at 96 minutes, so SEE IT. Copies are available at your local library and the producers are offering 50,000 copies to teachers.

Best Columnist (Minnesota) – Nick Coleman – Star and Tribune.
Naturally, I would think he’s the greatest … he referenced me by name in two of his columns.

Best Columnist (National) - Fareed Zakaria – Newsweek
An insider with insight.

Worst Columnist (Minnesota) - Katherine Kersten – Star and Tribune
Minnesota’s own Ann Coulter … finding evil in everyone (including Tim Pawlenty) unless you are an affluent WASP. Reading her column is like listening to Rush or O’Reilly, sometimes you gotta do it to try to understand the narrow-minded thinking of some people.

Best Blog (Minnesota) – A Bluestem Prairie (
Hard working and informative blogger who focuses on the First District … something new there everyday.

Best Blog (National) - Informed Comment (
Cole is a professor at Michigan and an expert in the Middle East who provides a daily recap of events in that region. During my college days, one of my professors would travel to Washington for weekend meetings with Nixon’s staff to discuss Vietnam and that region. If Bush wants to hear from outside his bubble, Cole would provide great insight and opinion.

Here’s hoping that 2007 will be a lot better than 2006 !

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Gil Gutknecht, who voted against the Prescription Drug plan known as Medicare Part-D, has endorsed legislation to alter that law to allow the government to negotiate prices directly with pharmaceutical companies. The Republican leadership would not allow this legislation to be voted upon and this became a rallying cry for the Democrats in November’s election. No doubt, this will be addressed early when the next Congress convenes in January.
But, for many Americans there are changes coming that cannot wait until January.

Last year, the federal government randomly assigned 6 million people, who had received their medicine through the Medicaid program for low-income families. Now, the government is telling an estimated 1 million low-income seniors that they will be randomly assigned - again - to a new plan next year because their current plan was canceled or raised its price. At the same time, some enrollees also are receiving letters from their current plans telling them they can stay. These letters don't mention they will have to pay for the privilege, even though they qualify for a waiver of the premium and other fees. If low-income drug plan members disregard the wrong letter, they could end up paying a bill they didn't expect.

Confusion seemed to be the norm when the program started. Pharmacists often couldn't confirm coverage with the government's computers. Many seniors wound up in plans that didn't cover their drugs, were enrolled in two plans or were overcharged.

We don’t need this happening again.

Gutknecht has a chance to step up and lead on legislation to delay the government from implementing these changes until the next Congress can thoroughly review this poorly managed and excessively costly program.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Rumsfeld crisis : Mutiny or Wasted Words ?

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has been a hot topic during this election season punctuated by calls from Republican candidates and officeholders to resign (Hagel, Shays, Kean) joining those who have previously expressed a voice of no confidence by Senators McCain, Snow, Lott and Minnesota’s own Norm Coleman.
Retired generals have spoken out before but on Monday, an editorial appeared in four military newspapers calling for Rumsfeld to be replaced. The editorial rehashes a number of mistakes and questions whether he still has the allegiance of the military establishment.

From the editorial

Now, the president says he’ll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.
This is a mistake. It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation’s current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads.

Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.
Obviously there is a question of confidence in leadership, but as a fiscal conservative, I am as concerned about the Bush/Rumsfeld handling of the funding for the war on terror.

The wars have contributed to the rising deficit. And how the war spending is authorized has created a situation of irresponsible budgeting whereby the wars have been paid for through emergency spending bills and “bridge funds” that amount to about $450 billion so far. Congress recognized that we are masking the problems of the future by not including provisions for war funding in the budget process. An amendment requiring war funding to be included in the regular defense budget, introduced by Sen. John McCain, was approved 99 to 0 by the Senate in July. It was accepted by the House in September. In a “signing statement” released when Bush signed the 2007 Defense Authorization Act on Oct. 17, the President listed two dozen provisions in the act that he indicated he may or may not abide by. Among the provisions is Section 1008 of the Authorization Act, which requires the President to submit defense budgets for 2008 and beyond that include funding for the wars.

Centcom’s commander, Gen. John Abizaid, likes to refer to it as the “long war,” where “long,” means generational, with no end in sight … so why isn’t it being included in the budget ?

At a press conference during the last week of October, Rumsfeld was asked about funding shortfalls and his response was to wave it off as insignificant since they would rely on supplemental spending bills … obviously rejecting the efforts by Congress to include some degree of fiscal responsibility for the Department of Defense.

Q I've got a quick question on the Army budget. Last week, Gordon England came out with his three-page fiscal guidance to the Army, giving them $120.6 billion in '08 instead of the $138 billion that you and General Schoomaker have pressed OMB on.

Question one, why did you not get the larger figure? And two, how are you going to make up this rather large shortfall where the Army --

[snip to his answer]
SEC. RUMSFELD: You see, the trouble with chasing that number until you look at the totality of it is that in the environment we're in, we have to give guidance, so the work has to be done, and then the services do the work. And then they start putting all that together, and simultaneously there is a -- the issue of a supplemental. And it is very difficult to know what ought to go in the budget and what ought to go in the supplemental.

The question is will it make any difference if Rumsfeld resigns, as the Bush’s management of the will not change ?
Past experiences (i.e. replacing the CIA Director, Chief of Staff, Press Secretary, etc). seem to be more akin to changing chairs on the Titanic than addressing the problems of accountability – both of the operation of the war and its fiscal management.
When the 109th Congress returns next week, it needs to address the Bush Administration's financial management of this war.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Remember Father Tim when you vote

I have previously written about a priest from Minnesota who was injured in Iraq; initially when CBS ran a story and subsequently when Congress was considering cutting funding for veteran’s treatment.
The Star-Tribune has an update on Father Tim.

Just three weeks ago, one of his doctors said she thought he'd never speak again. The hospital was preparing to cut off his speech therapy because they had seen no progress.
And then he spoke.
On Oct. 26, Phyllis Vakoc of Plymouth got a phone call from her son's hospital room.
"Hi, Mom," he said, and she froze. It had been two and a half years since her son had suffered a devastating head injury in Iraq. Two and a half years since he had spoken. "I thought I was hearing things," she said last week. "I thought I'd never hear that voice again."
The Rev. H. Timothy Vakoc, a Catholic priest, was so seriously wounded that doctors at first thought he wouldn't survive. But in recent days, he has started to speak, to the astonished delight of family, friends and caretakers.

Here's the rest of the story :

Treatment and care of our soldiers is the nation's duty. Funding is a battle. According to the Office of the Surgeon General of the Army, 64 percent of soldiers recently wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom have sustained "blast injury," which is the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries for active duty military personnel in war zones.

As we go to the polls on Tuesday, the Disabled American Veterans have issued their ratings on Congressmen in our area :
20 % - Gil Gutknecht
0 % - John Kline
20 % - Mark Kennedy
And for reference, although they are not on the ballot Tuesday, Norm Coleman received a 50 % rating and Mark Dayton a 92 %.
Also, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) issued the following ratings :
C+ Gil Gutknecht
C John Kline
C+ Mark Kennedy
D Norm Coleman
A- Mark Dayton

I know that Gil Gutknecht is proud of his 2001 Charles Dick Award of Merit from the National Guard, but that was five years ago. The soldiers, and their families, need help today and tomorrow. Let's elect leaders that will not go wobbly when it's truly time to support the troops and their families.

Ratings :

Previous Commentaries :

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Gutknecht’s Iraq Plan – 10 year or 30 year plan ?

Gil Gutknecht is running a radio commercial in which he states that “HIS plan is the only plan for winning in Iraq.” He states that the Walz plan is diplomacy and “we’ve tried that before.” He states that the key to HIS plan is to build up the Iraq police force. Somehow, HIS plan sounds an awful lot like the one mentioned by President Bush at Fort Bragg on June 28, 2005 when he said “our military is helping to train Iraqi security forces so that they can defend their people and fight the enemy on their own. Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down."

It’s too bad that HIS plan is not on his campaign website so that voters could understand exactly what his thoughts are. In fact, his website is void of any mention of Iraq or the overall War on Terror. The issue statements that are presented relate to Agriculture, Health Savings Accounts, Prescription Drugs and Renewable Energy. Apparently those issues matter to Gutknecht, but the Federal Budget, Taxes, entitlement programs such as Social Security, Immigration, Ethics, Trade imbalances, Stem cells and Global warming / environment, etc. do not warrant a written position statement.

Basically, it sounds like nation building … something that Gutknecht opposed in Bosnia. Yet, nation building may be more involved than just policing / protecting the citizens … such as improving the economy which would reduce the unemployment levels which some have estimated to be 60 %.

The stability of the region is at stake … and Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey … as well as Syria and Iran have an interest … although each country may have different viewpoints. I would think that a 12 year Congressman would have an appreciation that diplomacy has a role.

For discussion stake, let’s accept Gutknecht’s plan. U.S. officials say Iraq now has nearly 310,000 security forces trained and equipped, including the army, the national and local police forces, and units to patrol the roads and borders. In Bush’s 2005 speech, 160,000 were stated as trained. Rumsfeld is presently reviewing a proposal to increase the number of trained security forces. Further, approximately 300 police have been killed in October thus far.

The Washington Post had an article in today’s paper which American military personnel are estimating that it could be decades before the Iraqi police forces are competent. Here are some excerpts :

"How can we expect ordinary Iraqis to trust the police when we don't even trust them not to kill our own men?" asked Capt. Alexander Shaw, head of the police transition team of the 372nd Military Police Battalion, a Washington-based unit charged with overseeing training of all Iraqi police in western Baghdad. "To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure we're ever going to have police here that are free of the militia influence."
The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., predicted last week that Iraqi security forces would be able to take control of the country in 12 to 18 months. But several days spent with American units training the Iraqi police illustrated why those soldiers on the ground believe it may take decades longer than Casey's assessment.
Seventy percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias, primarily the Mahdi Army, according to Shaw and other military police trainers. Police officers are too terrified to patrol enormous swaths of the capital. And while there are some good cops, many have been assassinated or are considering quitting the force.
"None of the Iraqi police are working to make their country better," said Brig. Gen. Salah al-Ani, chief of police for the western half of Baghdad. "They're working for the militias or to put money in their pocket."
The Iraqi police are not the only ones who feel unsafe. The American soldiers and civilians who train the Iraqis are constantly on guard against the possibility that the police might turn against them. Even in the police headquarters for all of western Baghdad, one of the safest police buildings in the capital, the training team will not remove their body armor or helmets. An armed soldier is assigned to protect each trainer.
"I wouldn't let half of them feed my dog," 1st Lt. Floyd D. Estes Jr., a former head of the police transition team, said of the Iraqi police. "I just don't trust them."
Jon Moore, the deputy team chief, said: "We don't know who the hell we're teaching: Are they police or are they militia?"
The difficulty of eliminating corruption and militias from the Iraqi police forces can be exasperating for the American soldiers who risk their lives day after day to train them. "We can keep getting in our Humvees every day, but nothing is going to work unless the politicians do their job and move against the militias," Moore said.
Sitting in the battalion's war room with four other members of his team, Moore estimated it would take 30 to 40 years before the Iraqi police could function properly, perhaps longer if the militia infiltration and corruption continue to increase. His colleagues nodded.
"It's very, very slow-moving," Estes said.
"No," said Sgt. 1st Class William T. King Jr., another member of the team. "It's moving in reverse."


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Gutknecht and McCain : Strange Bedfellows

Politics makes strange bedfellows, so let’s compare John McCain and Gil Gutknecht on some issues.

Iraq Troop Levels
- McCain increase
- Gutknecht withdraw

- McCain opposed
- Gutknecht voted in favor

Guest Workers & Amnesty for illegal immigrants
- McCain authored bill to approve
- Gutknecht opposed

Homeland Security
- McCain authored bill to approve
- Gutknecht opposed

Same Sex Marriage Constitutional Amendment
- McCain opposed
- Gutknecht in favor

Farm Bill
- McCain opposed
- Gutknecht voted in favor

Campaign Finance Reform
- McCain authored bill
- Gutknecht opposed

See below for supporting details.

I have a lot of respect for John McCain. He is a recognized as an active leading voice influencing the moderate faction of the Republican Party and a Fiscal Hawk. Gil Gutknecht is an ineffectual, six-term Congressman who is aligned to the extremist wing of the party and is a Fiscal Fraud.

McCain is a statesman – standing up for 9/11 families, protecting our troops regarding the question of torture, recognizes the unfairness of tax cuts, recognizes global warming and the Patients Bill of Rights. However, by campaigning for Gutknecht, McCain is exhibiting himself as a purely partisan politician.

The question is how will Minnesota Republicans, who do not have an affinity toward McCain, respond? ( Note : McCain was fourth in the 2008 straw poll at the state convention – well behind Newt Gingrich and George Allen.)
Will independent voters recognize this as a cheap ploy to cover up Gutknecht’s extreme views?
And will independent voters that consider McCain a voice of reason, realize that Tim Walz is closer to McCain’s views then Gutknecht is?

= = = = = = = =
Sources :

McCain first visit to Iraq was in August 2003 and he has made numerous trips since. He has repeated called for additional troops and as recently as Friday (10/27/06), McCain said that the United States should send another 20,000 troops to Iraq.
Gutknecht, made his only visit in July, 2006 and called for troop withdrawal. He clarified his comments to reporters by stating that he "called for was a "symbolic" reduction of 25,000 troops which would force the Iraqis to step in the breach and take responsibility for their own security. He offered no timetable for troop withdrawal. [snip] Still, Gutknecht said he still supports President Bush's basic strategy of withdrawing Americans as Iraqi forces take over the security burden. However, he admitted that he's felt uneasy about American policy toward Iraq for the last two or three years.",CST-NWS-iraq28.article

H.R. 3 (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005 ) A bill to authorize funds for Federal-aid highways, highway safety programs, and transit programs, and for other purposes. Became Public Law No: 109-059 signed by the President on 8/10/05.
The $286.4 billion TransPORKtation bill, which is $30 billion more than Bush requested, includes the funding for the DM&E loan as well as $941 million in projects for the state of Alaska including the Bridge to Nowhere.

McCain has introduced S.1033 Title: A bill to improve border security and immigration. The companion bill in the House is HR2330 which was introduced by Republican Jim Kolbe and includes such heavyweights as Republicans Jeff Flake and Curt Welden and Democrat Jane Harmon as co-sponsors. It includes guest worker visas and a fine for those already here (aka amnesty). His bill was never voted upon as S. 2611 (Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 : A bill to provide for comprehensive immigration reform and for other purposes), was passed by the Senate. S2611 includes a path to citizenship as well as allowing credit for social security benefits based on past work while undocumented.
Gutknecht supports H R 4437 TITLE: Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act which does not address guest workers but does make it a felony to be an undocumented alien as wells a felony to "assist" or house an undocumented alien.
The Republican National Committee issued a memorandum where it clearly advised its candidates to support a temporary worker program.

The bill was entitled : Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 : A bill to reform the intelligence community and the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government, and for other purposes.
Since this bill had President Bush’s support, one would have thought it should have the support of Republicans. In the Senate, it was overwhelming approved with only two dissenters ( Coleman and Dayton both voted to approve the legislation.) On December 7, 2004, the House took its vote … the Minnesota House Republicans had one dissenter … as Kennedy, Kline and Ramstad voted in favor of Security, but GUTKNECHT voted AGAINST it

McCain, who opposed the measure, said: "Most Americans are not yet convinced that their elected representatives or the judiciary are likely to expand decisively the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples." Explaining his opposition on the floor yesterday, McCain said that although he believes that expanding the definition of marriage may be "of questionable public value," he also believes that the debate "is currently and properly being resolved in different ways, in 50 different states."
Gutknecht responded to the Senate vote in his eline of June 6, 2006 : "Recent rulings of the Courts have forced the hands of Congress - we must act. The question before us is: Do we want a few judges to decide the fate of marriage or do we want legislators, elected by the people, to decide this issue?"

Title: To provide for the continuation of agricultural programs through fiscal year 2007, and for other purposes.
Became Public Law No: 107-171 when signed by President Bush on 5/13/02.

Title: To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to provide bipartisan campaign reform
Became Public Law No: 107-155 signed by Bush March 2002
Click here: Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress)

Gingrich has left open the possibility of running for president. He got 210 votes in the straw poll, or almost 39 percent -- more than twice as many as Sen. George Allen of Virginia, who came in second. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was third, followed by McCain, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Gutknecht, Kline, Bachmann Ignore RNC Guidance

If this election is going to be a referendum on illegal immigration policy, why are Minnesota Republican candidates ignoring the Republican National Committee strategy ?

On May 26, 2006 Matthew Dowd, RNC Senior Advisor, issued a strategy memo entitled Public Opinion on Immigration Reform.

The first thing that you will notice after reading the memo is that the Republican-controlled Congress did just what the RNC did not want to happen – inaction. The RNC pleaded to get the immigration issue resolved … but the extremists in the House (Gutknecht) refused to meet with the Senate in a Conference Committee to resolve the House version versus the Senate version.

Second, the memo clearly recognizes that criminalizing illegal immigrants is a bad strategy and that there is support for a temporary worker program as long as immigrants pay taxes and obey the law. Further, it states that voters do not consider granting legal status to those already here amnesty.

The oddball aspect in the Congressional Debates thus far is the blaming the undocumented workers instead of the employers of those workers. Tim Walz in his debate with Gil Gutknecht questioned “why in 1999 were we issuing hundreds of fines against employers for the hiring of undocumented workers and today we're issuing three." In the Bachmann-Wetterling debate, Wetterling, advocated prosecuting employers whom she blamed for hiring illegal immigrants. "Stop them, charge them, jail them," she said. Bachmann took the opposite approach. Leave the employers alone, she said, and make the illegal workers "pay the price."
The Bachmann response is akin to solving a street drug problem by going after the hundreds of users instead of concentrating the efforts on the one dealer.

Undocumented workers are coming here for the jobs. Proper policing of the employers will insure that only legal immigrants and US citizens get jobs. Without the possibility of employment, many will soon realize that it is foolhardy to bother attempting to cross the border. But the focus on undocumented workers is just another example of the fear that Republicans have that they might upset their corporate backers.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

On Bush’s issues : Vote Walz

President Bush responded to a question at Wednesday’s (10/25/06) press conference about the upcoming election :
BUSH: “I think the coming election is a referendum on these two things: which party has got the plan that will enable our economy to continue to grow and which party has a plan to protect the American people.”
He said he also will push the unfinished business of his second term -- reforming Social Security, overhauling the tax code and pushing for a broad immigration bill -- and is "more likely to achieve those three objectives with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican-controlled Senate."

My thoughts.

SECURITY : We’ve heard it before … everything changed on 9/11.
I remember 9/11 not only for the attack, but also that the Bush Administration was, dispite warnings, oblivious to the threat.
On January 31, 2001 former Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman issued their report on the U. S. Commission on National Security/21st Century which included projecting a direct attack on the United States and concerns terrorism in general. Bush put Cheney in charge of this.
On September 10, John Ashcroft submitted his first budget which although he sought increases in funding for sixty-eight Department of Justice programs, none were related to counterterrorism. In fact, he rejected the FBI’s request for $58 million for 149 new counterterrorism field agents, 200 additional analysts and 54 extra translators. On the same day, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff informed Senator Dianne Feinstein that the draft legislation on counterterrorism and homeland defense would require another six months to study.

After the tragedy of 9/11, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States – more commonly known as the 9/11 Commission – was created. Although it was composed of 5 Republicans and 5 Democrats, it issued a unanimous report – with no additional views and no dissents – recommending changes that needed to be made to improve our security. These changes required Congressional action. The bill was entitled : Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 : A bill to reform the intelligence community and the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government, and for other purposes.

Since this bill had President Bush’s support, one would have thought it should have the support of Republicans. In the Senate, it was overwhelming approved with only two dissenters ( Coleman and Dayton both voted to approve the legislation.) On December 7, 2004, the House took its vote … the Minnesota House Republicans had one dissenter … as Kennedy, Kline and Ramstad voted in favor of Security, but GUTKNECHT voted AGAINST it. Why would Gutknecht vote against this legislation? I can only surmise that it was because it did not include provisions regarding the issuance of driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants … America was attacked by terrorists who entered the country legally … Gutknecht would rather delay improving our National Security by attaching an issue that he cares about to critical legislation. Virtually, two years later, America does not have a compressive illegal immigration plan because of the extreme views of Gutknecht, Tancredo, Sensenbrenner and other alarmists who act in defiance of the majority of Republicans (Bush, Frist, Coleman, et al) and Democrats.

Do you know the difference between a Recession and a Depression ?
A Recession is when your neighbor is out of work; a Depression is when you are out of work.

That’s what this economy is about. I’m doing okay … but at my neighbor’s house, both the husband and wife lost their jobs this year … and they had each worked in their individual field for over 20 years … he’s found a job, she hasn’t.

The economy may be growing but what is also growing is income inequality -- especially at the top -- the very rich are pulling away from the ordinary rich and the middle class. Case in point : the total pay for chief executive officers at 1,522 of the largest U.S. companies swelled by a median of 30 percent in 2004. That's double the rate of growth in 2003, according to a survey released in October by the Portland, Maine-based researcher Corporate Library. President Bush commented on CNBC on Monday: "I get astounded by the size of the pay packages. Consider me floored, when I see a guy making a billion dollars as the CEO of a company."
For ordinary folks, our biggest asset is our home and those values are dropping. Yesterday, the National Association of Realtors reported a sharp decrease in the price of homes. The price of existing homes fell 2.2 percent last month, while the median price of a single-family home fell 2.5 percent from September of last year. This marked the largest annual decrease since the NAR started tracking prices in 1969.
So the stock market is up and those that are rich are doing fine, but us, ordinary folks, we’re concerned about our jobs, families, retirement, health care, college-education for our kids, etc.

Gutknecht’s tax plan is maintain the status quo.

Congress continues to approve to deficit budgets which increase the national debt which increases the birth tax. After 9/11, there may have been acceptance of a temporary budget imbalance, but why is that so five years later ?

The economy has grown and tax receipts have risen over the past two years, but the Bush tax cuts played a small role in that process. An analysis of Treasury data prepared last month by the Congressional Research Service estimates that economic growth fueled by the cuts is likely to generate revenue worth about 7 percent of the total cost of the cuts, a broad package of rate reductions and tax credits that has returned an estimated $1.1 trillion to taxpayers since 2001. In short, the Treasury lost more in taxes than it gained from the resulting economic stimulus. Yes, the federal revenues increased but not as much as it could have.
Gutknecht embraces lower tax rates on passive income (dividend and capital gains) which help advance the fortunes of wealthy Americans versus working families wage income.
Gutknecht also favors tax breaks for corporations such as H.R. 4761 which would award tax incentives for oil companies that even the White House acknowledges would reduce federal receipts by several hundred billion dollars over 60 years.
Gutknecht idea of the status quo is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent.

If the issue is tax fairness, Gutknecht clearly favors the affluent and corporations.

Bush has repeatedly made it clear that he plans to resolve the Social Security question in the last half of his term. Gutknecht favors privatization which will only add trillions to the national debt.

: Gutknecht is not running for another term … he’s running for a lifetime appointment. I, and the next generation, cannot afford a Congressman who so clearly uses taxes as a campaign slogan without consideration of our long term financial future. The question is not whether "you can spend your money smarter than the federal government"; the question is "why won't the Congress make others pay their FAIR share?"

I have read the Walz position paper (link below) and clearly he gets it.
Eliminate the Democrat or Republican candidate label and it is clear who is the most fiscally responsible candidate.

Roll Call vote on Terrorism Prevention

Walz’s position paper on Middle Tax Cuts

Monday, October 23, 2006

VOTER WARNING : Gutknecht “Problems With Amnesty” mailing

On Saturday, I received the first piece of campaign literture from the Gutknecht For Congress committee. The front side photo depicts barb wire on top of a chain link fence with the question “If we grant illegals amnesty, who will pay?” The other side has three sentances warning of the potential drain on Social Security and jeopardizing Medicare with references to The New Ulm Journal and Washington Post newspapers.

I’m glad that Gutknecht is addressing Social Security and Medicare funding, but in three short sentences, he does not give the complete story.

The Washington Post story states : “In the long run, tax revenue generated by new workers would ease the baby-boom generation's burden on Social Security and offset virtually all the additional spending … [snip] … the report said legalized immigrants would represent "only a modest increase" in enrollment for child nutrition programs, food stamps and Medicaid. Caseloads would be 2 to 3 percent higher by 2016, the CBO said.

The real fight is not between Gutknecht and Walz, but instead between Gutknecht and President Bush, Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Norm Coleman and many other Republicans and Democrats.

Gil Gutknecht, Tom Tancredo and other extermists are hijacking the problem of border security, anti-terrorism and immigration by inciting fearmongering and promoting polarization based on ethnicity. The legislation offered by the Senate is considerably more comprehensive. It increases the number of H1-B visas for skilled workers from 65,000 to 115,000 annually, beginning in 2007. Immigrants with certain advanced degrees would not be subject to the caps, which could rise by 20 percent depending on labor market demands. This need has been recognized by many politicians such as Governor Tim Pawlenty. Additionally, the Senate bill would fund the hiring of a substantial number of border patrol agents … much more than the number authorized by the House bill ( ? Did anyone learn anything from attempting to liberate Iraq with too few troops to police the Iraq borders and maintain order ? ).

Last week on KTOE’s Talk of the Town radio program, Tim Walz expressed his frustration with Gutknecht’s antics. Walz wanted to discuss Social Security (an ISSUE that needs serious debate during this election) but instead had to re-educate voters and the media on his Immigration Proposals.

But not only was Walz upset, so was The New Ulm Journal which complained of having its reporting willfully manipulated. From their editorial :
It is discouraging for newspaper reporters who find a lengthy interview with a candidate boiled down and distorted to be used in an attack ad. A report from The Journal in July on Tim Walz, for instance, is the basis for a claim in a Gil Gutknecht ad that Walz favors amnesty for illegal aliens. The full story shows Walz would require illegal aliens to leave the country first before applying for citizenship.


NEWS FLASH : Gutknecht Supports Minimum Wage Increase

NEWS FLASH : Gutknecht Supports Minimum Wage Increase
… and I’ve got a bridge in the desert to sell the believers.

Gil Gutknecht is running a radio commercial challenging some of the assertions in Tim Walz’s commercials. I heard it a number of times during the afternoon … good strategy … the target audience is workers with a radio on in the background … this strategy was successfully used by Richard Nixon to win the White House.

Gutknecht asserts that he voted to support an increase in the minimum wage.

Voting for a bill and actively supporting legislation are two distinctly different activities. Congressmen vote on a number of bills for the pure purpose of telling their constituents that they supported that concept while knowing fully well that legislation will never become law.

Fact : Gutknecht did vote to raise the minimum wage. Fact : In the same bill, he also voted to give tax reductions ranging from timber sales to inheritance taxes.

Would you tell me how important increasing the minimum wage was to Gutknecht based on the first line of his August 28th press release.

Washington, DC -Representative Gil Gutknecht (MN-01) today voted with his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Estate Tax Extension and Tax Relief Act of 2006, which provides permanent estate tax (better known as the death tax) relief.

The precise bill is H.R.5970 : Estate Tax and Extension of Tax Relief Act of 2006

( Introduced 7/28/06 and passed 7/29/06)
Title: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to increase the unified credit against the estate tax to an exclusion equivalent of $5,000,000, to repeal the sunset provision for the estate and generation-skipping taxes, and to extend expiring provisions, and for other purposes.

Although passed by the House of Representatives, it would still have to be approved by the Senate and the President. When a bill is introduced and voted on within 24 hours, I think you can safely say “election-year gimmick”.

Now, if Gutknecht would truly be in favor of raising the minimum wage, he would work to pass H.R.2429 which is entitled : To amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide for an increase in the Federal minimum wage.

That is a straightforward bill.

It was introduced on 5/18/2005 and has 144 co-sponsors

Since it has been held up by the Republican leadership, a discharge petition (#109-11) was started on 2/28/06 ... and although all four Minnesota Democratic Congressman signed the petition, none of the Minnesota Republicans did ... it should be noted that Republican Congressmen from other states did sign the petition ... but not Gil.

So here is the question for the next public debate : Congressman Gutknecht, will you sign the discharge petition and vote in support of H.R. 2429 - a straightforward bill which will increase the minimum wage?

So voters remember even when you hear the words “I approved this message” … ignore the message. Instead look at the complete voting record and any policy statements.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: Gutknecht’s Signature Issue But NOT Minnesotan Voters’

Although totally unscientific, Minnesota Public Radio interpreted voter survey data to determine what issues Minnesotans are most interested in this election. Immigration came in 8th.

Based on Gutknecht’s advertising campaign for re-election, illegal immigration is his top priority. [ WEBSTER’s DEFINITION : Advertising : 1: the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements so as to arouse a desire to buy or patronize: promote. MY DEFINITION : Magnify an issue for political gain especially when you have failed to perform in the past and offer no vision for the future. ]

Have you noticed that there has been no commercials being run in the Governor or US Senate race where illegal immigration is the topic?

What about the other US House races ? Of the competative races, immigration does not get top billing. The Oberstar-Grams the topic seems to be about jobs. The Bachmann-Wetterling race seems to be about moral values and taxes. The Kline-Rawley race seems to be about Iraq. In the non-competative districts, incumbents are talking about their issues that affect their constituents : Ramstad – Healthcare, Peterson – Ethanol and McCollum – Iraq.

The illegal immigration issue is not a Republican Party issue, but instead issue between a group of extermists versus Republicans and Democrats. Last week in Albert Lea, Gutknecht lashed out at the Senate calling it “the graveyard of all good ideas”. I suppose that is because the Senate Majority Leader, Republican Bill Frist, Norm Coleman and over 20 other Republican senators offered an opinion that differed with the extremist views of Tom Tancredo and Gil Gutknecht.

Consider the following statement from the Republican-endorsed candidate’s website for MN-5th District. “Regarding the eleven million illegal immigrants who are already here, it is impractical and unreasonable to consider widespread deportation. Instead, we need to integrate the majority of this population into our society. This does not mean amnesty. This means that we must screen these individuals (and consider deportation of those who have committed criminal acts), get those who need it into guest worker programs, and put these people on the path to legal immigration that every legal immigrant has had to follow.“

Gutknecht offers no solution for the 11 million people that are here. Many of those have come here over the 12 years that Gutknecht has been in Congress. This unwillingness to compromise with Republicans and Democrats has stalled legislation and left our borders unprotected. Gutknecht would rather encourage gridlock than engaged, thoughtful discussion.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

State of Denial – Gutknecht Style

During his October 12th campaign rally at Minnesota State Mankato, Gil Gutknecht observed that it is the best of times stating "If there was ever a time and place to be alive it would be here and now."

Looking at the political world in a positive perspective was an undercurrent of Gutknecht's speech: citing progress "in what the president calls 'the war on terrorism'”; observing during his Iraq visit “an oasis of peace and prosperity" in the Kurdish area; and in Iran, there is a new generation of young people that Gutknecht said loves America.

Wow, that’s pretty positive. As happy as he saw the world on Thursday, by Friday, things looked a little different from the Congressman's world viewpoint.

In his October 13th eline, Gutknecht addresses the North Korea situation :
“Earlier this week, North Korea announced that it had conducted a successful nuclear test. If this claim is proven true, it would be the first nuclear bomb detonated since June 1998. We are working to confirm North Korea's claim. This threat is a terror tactic that endangers our international community.
It's a very scary world we live …”

I will address Korea later, but for the purpose of this commentary, my only question is : if Gutknecht is so positive, why are all his campaign ads so negative ?

Based on his self-approved commercials currently running on TV and radio, illegal immigration is his biggest concern. In the commercials, he makes a number of assertions including the impact to Social Security funding. This claim is not unique to Gutknecht, as locally we see it in Mark Kennedy’s commercials also. In fact at least 29 GOP ads have been run nationally using these claims.

As such the Annenberg School did an analysis of these assertions … and it is to put it mildly, they found them to be “misleading”.
The analysis states : “Nobody's proposing paying benefits to illegals, not until and unless they become US citizens or are granted legal status.”
The current law already allows illegal workers to get Social Security credit for the taxes they pay while illegal, if and when they become citizens or gain legal permission to work.
There were changes offered in the Senate version of the immigration reform bill that would have addressed the Social Security issue, but those changes were not included in the final version. In May, the Senate version passed 62-36 with Norm Coleman and 22 other Republicans voting in support.

The problem that Gutknecht has with Immigration Reform is not with the Democrats, but with his own fellow Republicans. Once again, I must ask, if this is his biggest concern, why have Gutknecht and the House not conferred with the Senate to resolve these bills? If an overwhelming majority of Senators believe this is good legislation, how can he claim that anyone that doesn’t agree with him is out of the mainstream and not representing Minnesota values?

He’s in a state of denial.

Sources :

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gutknecht Points Finger at Republican Failures

My Mother, rest her soul, taught me many lessons including NEVER Point your Finger at anyone. And the explanation of that admonishment was “remember, you’ve got three fingers pointed back at you.”

Congressman Gutknecht is running an attack ad pointing a finger Tim Walz over border security, yet it seems to me that he is also pointing three fingers at the Republican Party.

The ad starts off with a quote allegedly from President Ronald Reagan “A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation.” [NOTE : I say allegedly because I cannot find a source for these exact words … it may be a reincarnation of another Reagan quote "A nation without borders is not a nation."] The ad goes on to cite impacts to Social Security benefits and all sorts of other horrors that could happen.

First comment, I would suggest rather than allowing Gutknecht to interpret Walz position, why not read Walz’s position paper available on his website.

Now, to those three fingers.

FINGER # 1. Although Reagan is an icon to many Republicans and converted many Democrats into Republicans, it was President Reagan who signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) which legalized 3 million aliens. The theory of IRCA was that by legalizing the country’s undocumented population and then creating a stronger enforcement system, we would end illegal immigration. IRCA created the I-9 forms that every employer must check to ensure that an employee is authorized to work in the US. Included in that legislation, the federal government mandated that all amnesty applicants spend 40 hours in English language, history and civics instruction.

Based on the on-going debate and the estimated over 11 million illegal immigrations currently in the country, it is fair to say that IRCA did not work.

FINGER # 2. The illegal aliens issue has been known for years and President Bush offered his own support for guest workers and a route to citizenship for existing residents. Bush's plan includes support for the State Department package called "totalization." That is a bureaucratic code word for a plan to make illegal aliens eligible to receive Social Security benefits even though they committed fraud by using a false Social Security number. In one version of "totalization," the foreign workers would be given credit toward U.S. Social Security benefits for years they worked in a foreign country when they did not pay into our system.

The Bush idea, the McCain idea, the Tancredo idea and many more ideas have created legislative gridlock. The House passed a version. The Senate passed a different version. Instead of resolving the issue in conference committee, the House (yes, that’s Gutknecht’s group) decided to stall by holding “listening sessions” around the country … or to make sure that there was a campaign issue for November’s elections.

As a point of clarification, Bush, McCain and Tancredo are all Republicans. The Senate and the House are both controlled by Republicans. Further, illegal immigrates generally use false social security numbers, which means that those dollars fund the social security reserve but the worker never gets to claim the benefits … and the social security reserve fund has been used to help offset the current budget deficit.

Based on the fact that the issue has been known for years and the Republicans have been in control of the government for the past six years, it is fair to say that the Republicans are not resolving the issue. If Gutknecht has a complaint, his complaint is more so with the Republicans in the Senate and President Bush.

FINGER #3. Control of the borders is not only an entrance for illegal immigrants but also a concern for terrorist activity.

The 9/11 Commission reported that all 19 hijackers successfully entered the country through regulated entries. False passports and overstayed visas are problems that do not appear to be a concern for Congressman Gutknecht.

Since 9/11/01, ABC News packed 15 pounds of depleted uranium in a steel pipe with a lead lining in a suitcase that sailed through customs undetected … not once, but twice.

For three straight years after 9/11, Bush did not include any monies in his budget for port security.

During the Cheney-Edwards Vice-Presidential debate, Cheney said “the biggest threat we face today is the possibility of terrorist smuggling a nuclear weapon or biological agent into one of our own cities and threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.”

Al Queda has demonstrated the capacity to use watercraft as weapons (remember the USS Cole was attacked when a small boat was used as a weapon).

So, we see the problems and it should not take much imagination to see what a terrorist could do. Imagine smuggling a bio or chemical or nuclear device in a ship container. Just by exploding that container on ship … for example in a tanker at anchor … might wreak havoc on petroleum ports. Or if a large vessel was commandeer, it could be used as a bludgeon knocking out bridge abutments and blocking shipping channels.

The 9/11 Commission has made recommendations and issued follow-up grades in December 2005.
Grade of C- for a National Strategy for Transportation Security
Grade of F for Airline passenger pre-screening
Grade of D for Airline screening at commercial airports
Grade of D for Airline cargo screening.

This is a legitimate campaign issue … but not one the Republicans which to recognize as their own shortcomings are evident. Maria Cantwell is using port security as her main issue for reelection as Senator representing the port state of Washington … polling indicates that she is winning because she is exposing the Republicans failings.

Based on the above, it is clear that Congress is not securing the borders.

My advice for Congressman Gutknecht, don’t point any fingers.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Money makes the man - How do Congressmen invest their monies?

When Money Speaks, the Truth is Silent ... old Russian proverb.

Mark Kennedy came out swinging at Amy Klobuchar during the State Fair debate over her investments in Big Oil and Pharmaceutical companies. This was just one of many stupid campaign foibles that Kennedy has tried. Yes, Klobuchar does have investments … through her retirement fund … which she does not have any control over how the fund manager invests her (and thousand of others') payroll contributions.

But now, has Federal employees' personal financial disclosure forms online. Lo and behold, upon checking Congressman Kennedy, we find his largest publicly traded asset is a mutual fund – Fidelity Spartan 500 Index. Anybody want to guess the number one asset in that fund? Can you say ExxonMobil ? Based on the fact that 3.21 % of the fund’s assets are in XOM, Kennedy owns somewhere between $3,210 and $6,420 of ExxonMobil. Now, I don’t think that Kennedy would be influenced by such a paltry amount, yet he’s attacking Klobuchar who has less control than he does. Remember, Klobuchar’s monies are in a retirement fund … Kennedy’s is in his personal portfolio. In theory, Kennedy could decide to buy/sell the mutual fund based on the fund’s objectives and portfolio.

It should be recognized that Kennedy’s portfolio is currently entirely invested in mutual funds. Using mutual funds minimizes any potential influence.

However, when I checked Gil Gutknecht’s form, I have some concerns. He does invest directly in companies. His largest holdings are in BellSouth and Fastenal. Both of these companies are Fortune 500 companies.

Fastenal is a Winona based company and one that has seen its share price double in the past five years. Fastenal’s primary business is nuts and bolts and other MRO items. There is probably little direct legislative action that Fastenal’s business would need the influence of a Congressman. Back in the late 90’s Congress enacted legislation when it was concerned about the quality of foreign produced fasteners and required testing laboratories be used. DCAA (government inspectors) pay a lot of attention to nuts and bolts in a manufactured product … stresses impact performance and if the product is used in a space shuttle, Navy ship, etc, lives could be at stake. Based on Fastenal’s standing as an employer in the First District, I would think that they would get pretty easy access to the Congressman, regardless of him being a stockholder. Yet, it does not look good. With an investment of over $30,000, the how, when and why Gutknecht bought the stock should be disclosed.

BellSouth is a name that most would know since it was created by the government break-up of American Telephone and Telegraph Company. With Gutknecht's stock investment value at over $50,000, this IS a concern. Historically, investing in telephone companies was considered a safe investment for retirement, but with today’s everchanging technologies, that is not the same environment. Most troubling is that Gutknecht is the Telecommunications Task Force Co-Chairman. In his June 23, 2006 eline, he trumpeted the House passage of HR 5252 which changes the rules of how the Internet operates and allows telephone companies to charge fees and determine what information is made available. Despite appeals by such groups as Christian Coalition of America and Gun Owners of America, Gutknecht listened to the telecommunications industry and the reaction from the telecommunications industry was quick. BellSouth immediately announced a change in policy to charge user fees, even though the bill had not been passed by the Senate. Reaction from customers was swift and on August 25, it rescinded the user fee charge … but the point is that BellSouth tried, and who knows if the Senate had passed the bill, if they would have rescinded the fee charge.

Additionally, BellSouth Corp through their Political Action Committee gave Gutknecht $1,000 for his 2006 primary campaign. (LOL … for his primary campaign???? … did anyone think that Greg Mikkelson was going to beat Gutknecht???).

When a politician has earned his monies from family businesses or personal involvement, I can understand the reluctance to divest those monies. But a politician should avoid - at all costs - making investments in individual stocks. Senators Bill Frist and George Allen have been in the headlines based on how they have handled Blind Trusts. If I were an elected official, I would only use large mutual funds.

Kennedy’s Personal Disclosure Form

Gutknecht’s Personal Disclosure Form

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Congressman Boehner, welcome to Mankato ... got time for a few questions?

When was the last time that Gil Gutknecht resorted to having outsiders campaign for him ?

When Newt Gingrich came to the First District, it was fair to ask who was doing the campaigning. Gingrich won the MN Republican Presidential straw poll at their convention, so he may have been motivated to meet, greet and grab favors for a 2008 run.

But Republican Majority Leader Boehner? I do not see a strong ideological relationship between Gutknecht and Boehner. The reality is that Gutknecht is a back bencher holding a seat as a RoveRobot. In his 12 year performance, he has no personal legislative accomplishments and no national prominence. Essentially, he is campaign for a lifetime appointment as a back bencher who takes the people’s paycheck to support corporate and party interests.
It is unknown who Gutknecht supported as DeLay’s replacement but based on his voting record, I suspect that he was more akin to ultra- conservative Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona than Boehner. When the party did break down and individuals voted their conscience, Gutknecht and Boehner did not always vote the same way.
Most interesting to me is the site of the meeting – Mankato State University. Boehner, was a prominent member of the Agriculture Committee, and I would have thought Austin or Blue Earth may have made more sense to appeal to the farm interests.

But that all stated, I do have a few questions for John Boehner and Gil Gutknecht.

Rule of Law
The President has expressed a belief that legislation is needed to reform the legal system so that it delivers swift justice for real victims of wrongdoing instead of enriching an elite class of lawyers. Would you comment on these areas where it appears there has been an effort to ignore contractual responsibilities and if legal action is warranted?

1. Both of you were proud endorsers of the Contract With America. One of the provisions was for term limits. You are both campaigning now to violate your commitment to that concept. If you could not get what needed to be accomplished during the past twelve years, why didn’t you give others in your party a chance?

2. Military families have experienced the emotional trauma of deployment on an unprecedented scale. These long separations are of increasing concern with two-thirds of soldiers now married and deployments to the Afghanistan / Iraq theatre entering a fifth year. About 3,500 troops with the Alaska-based 172nd Stryker Brigade were nearing the end of their 12-month combat tour in July when they were informed that they'd have to stay in Iraq for as long as four more months. This marks the third time that U.S. forces have been notified that they'd have to stay in Iraq beyond their original return date. The first time occurred in December 2004, when more than 12,000 soldiers and Marines were told that they would have stay for two additional months in order to bolster security for Iraq's first round of parliamentary elections. The second was the Stryker Brigade extension in July. Is the military violating the spirit of the deployment contract with the soldiers and their families? Since the military is now acknowledging that the current troop levels will be maintained in Iraq, why hasn’t Congress addressed increasing the size of the military?

3. The non partisan Congressional Research Service on September 20th issued a 27-page report written for lawmakers in which it said the Bush administration is using signing statements as a means to slowly condition Congress into accepting the White House's broad conception of presidential power, which includes a presidential right to ignore laws he believes are unconstitutional. In June, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter held hearings on signing statements but these are still continually being issued by the Executive Branch. On October 4th, President Bush signed a homeland security bill that includes an overhaul of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $1.2 billion for fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border to stem illegal immigration. Bush also issued a 1,078 word long signing statement objecting to a slew of the bill's provisions. Does this leave the Bush administration with authority to decide where, when and how long a fence will be built? Do you think that Congress has been effectively asserting its constitutional responsibilities to provide oversight of the Executive Branch? If so, how can you explain why there are no ongoing investigations on waste and incompetence at the Department of Homeland Security? Also, the House Government Reform Committee only held its first full committee meeting during the last week of September to review the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) report that stated U.S. reconstruction efforts have been plagued by problems & fraud, and that projects will not be completed?

After considering these questions, would you concede that maybe lawyers could preform a valuable service to protect the American people and our Constitution?

Congressman Boehner, your were a prime sponsor of the No Child Left Behind Act which was passed despite the nay vote from a majority of Minnesota Congressmen (Republicans Mark Kennedy, Gil Gutknecht, Jim Ramstad, and Democrats Martin Sabo and Betty McCollum) as well as a number of prominent fiscal conservative Congressmen including Walter Jones (whom I believe you were campaigning for last week), Jeff Flake, Mike Pence, Dan Burton, and Tom Trancredo.
Interestingly, this issue is one that Gutknecht and his Democratic challenger, Tim Walz, agree on … it has room for improvement. But they are not alone. A Commission on No Child Left Behind has been established to evaluate its effectiveness prior to the laws proposed renewal in 2007. As Tommy Thompson, the co-chairman of Commission said "ideas and motives were good, but the way it's implemented right now leaves a lot to be desired."
How do you evaluate the program considering that President Bush has proposed $3.2 billion in education cuts in his 2007 budget, just as NCLB's testing provisions are kicking in? And what is your opinion of Bush’s 2006 State of the Union proposal to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead courses in math and science ? If America is going to be a leader in nanotechnology, broadband and energy, don’t we need a workforce trained for the high-tech world? Lastly, being a product of a private secondary school and private college, how did you gain an understanding of public school operations?

Faith and Politics
Congressman Boehner being a Roman Catholic – as are Gil Gutknecht and Tim Walz – what was your reaction to the Pope John Paul II’s disapproval of the Iraq invasion and his comments on torture and Abu Ghraib prison ? Many Christians are also concerned about the issues of poverty and the responsibilities of environmental stewardship. How does your faith infect, or reflect, your political decisions – or conversely, does religion only matter in issues of abortion, stem cell research and same sex marriage ?

As Majority Leader, Congressman Boehner, you have access to many top secret items. When did you read the April, 2006 National Intelligence Estimate report? Did that report help you guide the other Congressman who did not read the report in your June votes on House Resolutions to support the Iraq War? Congressman Gutknecht emailed a report containing Key Declassified Comments from that report – but without reading the whole report, citizens do not know the context of how to interpret the comments ( Gutknecht wrote “Selective leaks (for political purposes) could lead people to the conclusion that the war has made terrorism worse.”) Some Congressmen who have read the complete report have stated that there is nothing in the report to prevent it from being released in its entirety. Tom Kean in his memoir Without Precedent described reading top secret files and made the comment “I knew all of this. There almost nothing in here that I couldn’t have known from reading the newspapers.” So, to eliminate the concerns of only declassifying portions of the report for political interpretation, should the entire report be declassified ( with agency names redacted) ? Have there been other Intelligence Reports that you have read since the April report that should be made available to all Congressman so that they can make informed decisions? Lastly, your bio does not indicate any military service even though you were of age during the Vietnam era, how did you gain an understanding of military operations and needs?

Local Issues
Congressman Gutknecht has been harping on two initiatives since the start of the Congressional term in January 2004 – Prescription Drug Re-importation and 10/10 Plan (ethanol). Both of these bills have languished in the House. Why haven’t you helped Gutknecht get theses bills to a vote? Are Gutknecht’s speeches just campaign fodder that he knows you and the other Republican leaders will never consider but make it seem like he is a hard working Congressman for seniors and farmers? Does the pharmaceutical and oil industries matter more to the Republican leadership than southern Minnesota issues?


Congressman Gutknecht in his campaign ad states that Tim Walz would “repeal the tax cuts…costing the average Minnesota family an extra $2,396 per year.”. Since the medium family income per the 2000 US Census is $40,941, that would be a significant tax impact. There is some concern that this campaign claim is just a scare tactic, but even so, would you assure us that you would remind President Bush that he can use the veto to make sure that working families do not pay greater unfair burden of taxes? And lastly, you and Congressman Gutknecht have preached the unfairness of the Estate Tax – or as you like to call it – the Death Tax. However, according to the same Census figures, only 1.4 % of your district residents (which is also the same percentage for the First District) earn more than $200,000 per year. I have to confess to you that I do not know anyone that would be paying an Estate Tax based on any of the proposals being offered. If the number of people affected by the Death Tax is so small, why are you so emphatic that it be eliminated? With the increases in the national debt that we have experienced under the past six years of Republican control, I do not understand why the rich need another tax break.

Monday, October 09, 2006

This Week’s Political Buzzword : DISTRACTION

Everybody’s talking about Distractions, but I only heard one person talk about the distractions that matter to me.

President Bush said in an address before the Military Officers Association of America "Iraq is not a distraction in their war against America" but the "central battlefield where this war will be decided."
MY COMMENT : It’s not about distractions, but the lack of attention.
Candidate Bush after the U.S. S. Cole was attacked said "This tragedy is a reminder that peace is always fragile, and risk is always real and hate in this world does not sleep. We remain in a contest of will and purpose, with enemies who hate America, and target those who defend her. We must always be prepared. And those who attack our nation and its people must always be punished.”
So how did President Bush react to the Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6th entitled “Bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States”?
Or, how did the “War President” react to U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Eric K. Shinseki response to a Congressional question in February 2003 (pre-invasion) regarding the number of U.S. troops needed in Iraq to pacify the country and protect the infrastructure?
Or, how did the “War President” react to John McCain, Joe Biden, and Dick Lugar’s pleas for more troops in 2003?
Or, how did the “War President” react to McCain’s proposal in November, 2005 when he outlined his “Winning the War in Iraq” plan ?
Or, how did the “War President” react to Democratic Congressman Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland proposal “Ensuring America’s Strength and Security: A Democratic National Security Strategy for the 21st Century”?
Or, how did the “War President” react to the April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate?
From Bob Woodward’s book “State of Denial”, there is ample evidence that the real problem is that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld are ignoring reality and not providing maximum alternatives to resolve Iraq or to finish the job in Afghanistan.
A true “War President” would be involving allies and “the loyal opposition”.
IF Iraq is lost, it won't be the Democrats fault - or any weak-kneed liberal Pacifist - but the "War President" who wouldn't listen to any advise.

In discussing the Mark Foley scandal, Gil Gutknecht said last week's events are "more distractions than they are pivotal to the outcome of November's elections," adding that "it could get dangerous'' if those distractions pile up."
MY COMMENT : Foley’s actions are of a personal nature ( not legislative ) and are deplorable. A personal act by one Congressman should not damn the entire Congress. But looking at this over the Congressional term where three other Congressmen have resigned and at least one being investigated (plus investigations into Congressional staffers), it is appropriate to ask how Congress is policing itself. Despite the revelations of the Jack Abramoff influence peddling case, this Republican-led Congress has not enacted meaningful reform legislation that addresses earmarks, privately funded travel, gifts, and campaign contributions. And remember the Republican leadership has not exactly embraced their internal ethics committee as illustrated when Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert replaced the Republican Chairman of the House ethics committee, Joel Hefley, after the committee admonished Tom DeLay for ethical misconduct.

On Tom Hauser’s Debates and Candidate Conversation’s program, Tim Walz was asked about The Wall Street Journal’s description of him as being “The Republican nightmare here in the First District is a burly, high-school teacher and coach who is running as a Democrat ..” [Note, I was channel surfing during a football game commercial when I came across Hauser’s program, so this is from memory – which at my age may be faulty.] Walz’s response was to talk about the District and its Independent and Republican voters. He pointed out the success of Democratic Party legislators from Rochester and that he hears voters being disappointed over using social issues as “distractions” over real concerns. Walz stated that he is a fiscal conservative and expressed concern that our needs are not being addressed.
MY COMMENT : Walz gets it. While most of us are concerned about health care, the national debt (and our personal debts), safety ( be it in the world, at the airport, or even at the schoolyard ), job insecurity, an effective energy policy that limits our exposure to manipulation by other countries, an un-equitable tax policy that favors investment income as opposed to working income, etc.; this DoNothing Congress has wasted more legislative time on Terri Schiavo, same sex marriage and flag desecration.
What happened to the Republican Party that believed that Federal government should not interfere with the rights of the individual? What about the separation of church and state? Where is the support for the rule of law and the importance of oversight to maintain a separation of powers between the three branches of government?
In my opinion, the 109th Congress has accomplished zero and moved to appease corporate interests at the expense of citizen’s necessities.

Friday, October 06, 2006

REAL Challenger Supports Incumbents

It’s officially election time – the question is who will vote and who will not?

Apathy is the big advantage for incumbents. Why did Gil Gutknecht say that he doesn’t think the voters will fire him? Easy answer, he doesn’t think enough voters will show up to counter his base of uninformed, easily manipulated, repeat voters.

Respondents to poll questions may offer their opinion; but that does not mean that they will actually show up and vote.
In fact, polls increase apathy.
If a poll indicates his candidate will win, then the apathetic voter does not have an incentive to participate.
Case in point : voters in Mankato can thank the polling done before a referendum vote to authorize a local sales tax. Polls indicated that a majority did not approve of a local sales tax to construct and operate a community civic center; but they did not show up to vote. It passed due to an unprecedented increase of voter participation in one precinct. That precinct was largely composed of students at Minnesota State University-Mankato. The students were motivated as they thought the civic center would be big-time concert venue. A decade later and Mankatoans are still paying the sales tax while I cannot think of any tier-one or tier-two event that picked the Mankato venue over the Twin Cities facilities.

The weather on November 7th is unknown, but what is known is that there will be lines at the ballot box. The apathetic voter will use this as a rationale for not participating.

It’s an affront to democracy that the politicians use gerrymandering to create districts that protect the incumbents, unverifiable electronic voting machines, inadequately equipped precincts, and now enacting voter identification laws.

Now is the time to confront apathy.
Absentee ballots are now available.
Contact your county Board of Elections. Request an Absentee Ballot Request form via the mail or even better, go the Board of Elections and fill out your ballot.
If you are a student and new to the district, get registered and get an absentee ballot.
If you, or a friend, or family member, have problems getting to the polls, request an absentee ballot.

APATHY is the REAL Challenger.

Remember your opinion only counts, if you participate in the election process.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Gutknecht explains DM&E loan rational – Questions to Ponder

At Monday, October 2nd, Gutknecht-Walz debate, the subject of the DM&E expansion was discussed.

For anyone that is not familiar with DM&E, the stated reason for the legislation is to move coal from Powder Basin Wyoming eastward. Despite the fact that two Class I railroads currently move coal out of the Powder Basin, Senator John Thune – a former employee of DM&E – included funding in the 2005 Transportation Bill to provide billions in federal loans so that DM&E can upgrade track (including through the southern portion of Minnesota.)

At the debate, Gutknecht defended his support for the DM&E loan (which has been denounced by fiscal hawks as inappropriate use of taxpayers monies) – but the logic Gutknecht used was not based on coal, but based on ethanol.

KEYC-TV was there and reported : “Gutknecht not only says he stands behind ethanol production, but, unlike his opponent, he says he also agrees with the Dm & E railroad expansion, saying it's cheaper to loan the money, then to keep up with concrete repairs on the roads. We will be producing about a billion gallons of ethanol within 5 years, here in southern Minnesota if we don't have rail service to move that ethanol it will mean we will have to use 252, 000 trucks to move ethanol that's not safe either.” See the film footage at

Gutknecht has a point that America is increasing its production of ethanol. There are over 100 ethanol facilities currently operating in America … and more planned. Oh sure, Minnesota has existing and planned facilities but so do other states. Iowa has 25 ethanol refineries in production and have three dozen ethanol and bio-diesel projects in various phases of completion. Last month, Missouri Ethanol LLC in Laddonia MO ( about 100 miles NW of St. Louis) began production. It seems as if these facilities are popping up wherever corn can be grown – in towns many of us have never heard of – Portland Indiana, Leipsaic Ohio, just to name two.

So a few questions for Congressman Gutknecht : How large of a rail loan program do you envision to support the logistics for the hundreds of production facilities located throughout America’s countryside? How many ethanol facilities will be serviced by DM&E ? How will ethanol producing facilities in Winnebago, Fairmont, Granite Falls, Little Falls, etc. link up with the DM&E tracks? Why are the taxpayers being used for a program that will largely benefit one company ? U.S. railroads are slated to invest a record $8 billion in capital expenditures this year. How will BN, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, etc respond when the government sets up a program that benefits one competitor? Isn’t a railroad a capative mode of transportation (it goes one way and only one train can be on that section of track at a time) but roads can be used by passenger vehicles as well as trucks, so why not invest in better roads?

Gutknecht is correct that rail can be part of the solution, but not to the advantage of one company. Congressman Jim Oberstar has offered a broader solution in H.R. 5965 which was introduced into the House on July 28, 2006 and already has 126 cosponsors. H.R. 5965 is the Railroad Track Modernization Act of 2006 and Transit Rail Accommodation Improvement and Needs Act which would promote Transit Use & Develop a Rail Infrastructure Program that would create a stimulus package of infrastructure investment that upgrades the pipeline for biofuels – the freight rail system – in order to get an affordable and reliable supply of biofuels to market.

Gutknecht has identified a problem, but is trying to justify constituents’ complaints concerning DM&E by aligning it to an entirely different problem.

Gutknecht Negative Ad Illustrates Differences

Gil Gutknecht has started his television media campaign with a negative ad. The conventional wisdom is that negative ads work - especially if released close to the election when the opponent cannot respond. By going negative so early, Gutknecht is acknowledging that he cannot run based on his performance but must scare voters on the evils that his opponent will do. It’s a bad strategy -- and could actually benefit Walz, if Walz can get the facts out.

The “Meet Tim Walz” ad asserts that :
“…he’ll increase spending on virtually every federal government program”;
He’d repeal the tax cuts…costing the average Minnesota family an extra $2,396 per year.”;
Plus, he’d increase the estate tax, gas taxes, Social Security payroll taxes, and even tax the Internet.”

Let’s evaluate these assertions.

First, how does Gutknecht justify his own votes to increase federal spending? He has twice voted to raise the National Debt Limit in the past two years to accommodate the inability for Congress to pass a balanced budget while the National Debt has increased over $1.1 Trillion. Gutknecht is a FiscalFraud – not a FiscalHawk. He may argue that he has voted to approve omnibus spending bills as the good, and necessary, outweigh the wasteful. But what about when specific items are processed via amendments which actually require a roll call vote. Why did Gil Gutknecht support $500,000 in funding to be used for renovations to the Banning, California city-owned pool (although San Bernardino Sun reports that Banning city officials have been “stockpiling” this federal funding in order to build the new pool, which will serve a town of 26,000 and will cost approximately $4 million to build (H.R. 5576 See Roll Call 277- FY2007 TransPORKtation Bill)? And what about his salary increases that he has approved every year? Gutknecht is a classic TaxCut and Spend RoveRobot.

I will concede the second point that Walz would repeal the tax cuts. After all, Walz’s website says “Eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the wealthest 1% for the ten year period from 2006-2015 will reinstate $725 Billion in tax revenues with another $180 Billion for the interest on the money to borrow to finance them. Additional revenues can be realized by taxing Anti Family practices like Internet pornography. The cost of the Middle Class Tax Cuts outlined below is less than $21 Billion -- less than 3% of the tax breaks eliminated.” But I disagree that each Minnesota family would incur an additional $2,396 tax bill … as I do not think that every Minnesota family is in the top 1%.

I will also concede Gutknecht’s point that Walz would “even tax the Internet”. Once again, Walz’s website provides some details : “The Internet Pornograpy Industry generates $12 Billion in annual revenues – roughly equal to the combined revenues of ABC, NBC, and CBS combined. Revenue estimates for child pornography range from $200 million to $1 Billion per year.
[snip to Walz’s Plan]
Require real child access prevention for pornographic websites and impose a 25% smut tax on adult Internet pornography.”
WOW. There you have it – Walz would tax the Internet to combat crimes against children.
Now let’s also consider how Gutknecht stands on the Internet. This summer, on HR 5252 Gutknecht effectively voted to change the rules of how the Internet operates and allow telephone companies to charge fees and determine what information is made available. Despite appeals by such groups as Christian Coalition of America and Gun Owners of America, Gutknecht listened to the telecommunications industry. And the reaction from the telecommunications industry was quick as Verizon immediately announced a change in policy to charge user fees. I always wondered why BEVCOMM was his top contributor and why the telephone industry was at the top of his donors list ( number 2 on the list while not being listed in the top 25 for 2004 election session.) I supposed being the Telecommunications Task Force Co-Chairman may encourage donations. This is not the first time that Congressional action while under the guise of helping the consumers has created opportunities for telephone companies to charge new fees that consumers may not want or need. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 allows a monthly fee of 33 cents for each land based telephone account … a small fee paid by each consumer adds millions of profit to the telephone company for a service that was previously provided (if you want more details, just ask.)
I suppose since Gutknecht voted to allow a “fee”, this is not an example of a tax increase. Incidentially, I understand that Walz supports Net Neutrality while Gutknecht does not.

Finally, since Gutknecht brings up the Estate Tax, it is fair to ask who is affected. The tax, which has been law since 1916, if repealed as Gutknecht advocates, is estimated to cost $1 trillion from 2011-2021. Although usually advertised as affecting the family farm or small business owners, the tax affects few Americans and if repealed, would give some families extraordinary windfalls. The CEO’s of major oil companies would get enormous benefits – for example, Lee Raymond (the former ExxonMobil CEO), alone could receive a tax break worth over $160 million. Remember Gutknecht enthusiastically endorsed H.R. 4761 earlier this summer. The bill concerns itself with allowing drilling for oil on Outer Continental Shelf (oh, and what was the fiscal impact of that bill? on June 29th, the White House issued a statement on that bill. “The Administration strongly opposes the bill’s revenue-sharing provisions because of their adverse long-term consequences on the Federal deficit . The Administration’s preliminary estimate is that the revenue-sharing provisions of H.R. 4761 would reduce Federal Receipts by several hundred billion dollars over 60 years.”).

Judging from Gutknecht’s assertions and performance, Walz’s plans address the majority of voters. But if you’re affluent and make campaign contributions, Gutknecht is there to help you.

The other bonus that Walz gets out Gutknecht’s ad is name acknowledgement. As a challenger, name association is critical – ask someone in July to name their Congressman and many won’t have the correct answer, but by November, the incumbent will be easily identified. Unless the challenger is known outside of politics, he faces a considerable disadvantage, but Gutknecht has repeated Walz’s name and photo a number of times in the ad. Not smart political strategy .. but I’ve been watching Gutknecht implode since Walz announced his candidacy.

Voters, please take a moment and read Walz’s position paper on Middle Tax Cuts.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

VOTER WARNING : Gutknecht eline misleading

Allow me to prefix my commentary with a little background. I worked in the accounting field for over 20 years, being involved with acquisitions, auditing, writing operational manuals, negations of multi-million dollar contracts and I have provided cost analysis to the Department of Defense. But more importantly, I am a citizen who is concerned about the financial future of the country.

Consequently, I pay attention to how my elected representatives act and what they work on. In my January 27th commentary , I wrote in response to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) report that stated U.S. reconstruction efforts have been plagued by problems & fraud, and that projects will not be completed :
Being fiscally conservative myself, Gutknecht advertises that he should be an elected official that I would be pleased with. Sadly, with increases pending in the Federal Debt Limit, and the continuation of budget deficit spending, he has disappointed. When the question "should America liberate Iraq?" was first asked, the other question should have been "who is going to pay for it?" Will we pay or will our grandchildren still be paying? Mismanagement of spending is making the problems worse.
Is it too much to ask a Congressman who sits on the House Reform Committee to look into what happened to Iraq's $37 billion in oil-financed reconstruction funds ? How about looking at Halliburton, the giant oil services firm, which received $1.6 billion in DFI money for fuel and oil field repairs that Pentagon auditors say it overcharged the government by $218 million.

So eight months later, Gutknecht finally issues a response as a Footnote in his eline of 9/29/06 :
NOTE: My Government Reform Committee held its seventh oversight hearing. At the insistence of House conservatives, money was authorized for additional auditors for money spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. Troubling reports are coming out concerning waste and mismanagement. We need to hold people accountable. We intend to hold more hearings in the months to come.

On the surface, Gutknecht’s comment may seem to indicate a Congressman leading the charge to ensure fiscal responsibility and proper Congressional oversight.

At a minimum, his comments are misleading.

This is the first full committee hearing on Iraq Reconstruction during this Congress ... and it essentially occurred during the last week before another "re-election campaign" recess. Iraq is too important of an issue that the full committee has not met to address the reconstruction problems. Based on continued media reporting of problems, discussions at the subcommittee level are not accomplishing anything.

Second, the Democrats have been clamoring for investigations not only of the Iraq Reconstruction, but also of the waste related to Homeland Security Contracting and Hurricane Katrina Relief. Based on Gutknecht’s comment that the additional auditors is a result of the “insistence of House conservatives”, I can only assume that the Republican House Leadership of Dennis Hastert and John Boehner are to blame.

Gutknecht’s one paragraph comment is insufficient to understand the enormity of the problem. But if you read the GAO report and SIGIR reports that are part of the Committee on Government Reform hearing, every taxpayer would be alarmed at the ineptness of this Congress to manage our monies.

The Government Accountability Office identified a record $3.5 billion in questioned and unsupported contractor charges in Iraq. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction comments on the dilapidated facilities at the Baghdad Police College, which the Army and the Parsons Company spent $75 million to build and cannot be used to train recruits because "feces and urine rained from the ceilings" of barracks. [Note : I have previously referenced the Parsons Company’s performance in ]

An example of the waste and mismanagement is to reconstruction of the healthcare system in Iraq. The Basrah Childern’s Hospital Project was authorized for $50 million with a target completion date of March, 2006. It was revised to be completed by July 31, 2007 at a cost of $98 million. The current SIGIR audit report states “the actual turnkey cost for the project will be about $149.5 million to $169 million.” The overall Primary Healthcare Center project began in 2004 with a goal of 150 centers at a cost of $243 million. Despite an expenditure of $186 million, the government has now revised the contract to only 20 centers of which six have already been completed.

In the oil sector, the Bush Administration has spent 2 Billion Dollars and yet the oil production is, at best, meeting pre-war levels.

In the electricity sector, the Bush Administration has spent 4 Billion Dollars and is still only achieving 81 % of the desired output.

These failures do not just impact the reconstruction progress, but also the entire effort in Iraq. How can we change the mindset of the Iraq citizens when we display such incompetence?

I will agree with one comment that Gutknecht makes – “We need to hold people accountable.”

So voters, let’s remember to hold Gutknecht accountable.

Accountability and Oversight are sadly missing from this Congress.

Related Links : FINAL HGR Testimony - 09-28-06.pdf