Friday, December 28, 2007

2007 Reflections : Best of What Was

As we prepare to sing "Auld Lang Syne", I take my look back at 2007. Last year’s, Reflections commentary included the Best and Worst; but this year, I will permit the reader to decide whether the winner should be recognized for Best or Worst performance. As such, much like Time’s Man of the Year recognition being the Best does not mean that good work was performed. Also, this year’s commentary will follow an Oscar’s format … supporting performance awards, technical awards building to the finish for Best Picture.

Supporting Actress : Sonia Morphew Pitt who was terminated as director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management at Mn/DOT. Just like a bridge gets its support from the footings, Morphew Pitt provided her best support to Mn/DOT and the Pawlenty Administration. And if that was her best , I guess we know we she was terminated.

Supporting Actor : Senator Larry Craig (R-ID). No bathroom humor jokes here – this is serious recognition of the Senator’s performance. Although Senator Coburn (aka Dr. Death) has been given proper recognition , Senator Craig’s efforts have been just as effective. As the former Chairman and Ranking Member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senator Craig, objected to both unanimous consent agreements to move forward for final voting on S. 1233, the proposed "Veterans' Traumatic Brain Injury and Other Health Programs Improvement Act of 2007" and S. 1315, the proposed "Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007." Thank’s Larry for Supporting the Troops !

Song : Although Bruce Springsteen‘s Last To Die and John Fogerty’s Long Dark Night were worthy of consideration, my choice is Pink’s Dear Mr. President . It addressed a variety of issues - homelessness, schools, gays, working wages … or essentially problems that people face everyday – in a way that even a Compassionate Conservative can see.

Honorary Award : "Missed it by that much" : With due respect to Don Adams (aka Maxwell Smart), some may think that it should go to Tim Brewster’s 1-11
Gopher football team , but they won a game. So, I will go out of state to select another Men’s University Athletic Department for it’s unique 3-peat. It is very rare for a school to send a team to two NCAA championship games in a year … but The Ohio State University did that one better … in 2007, the Buckeyes lost the Men’s Championship Football, Basketball and Soccer. A remarkable achievement and since they will be playing in 2008 BCS Championship game, I hope they break the streak.

Fresh Face Award : On the political side, there were major changes in 2007, so there are a number of recognizable achievers.

Let’s start out with the Honorable Mention.

The Minnesota State Legislature : Larry Pogemiller, Dave Senjem, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Tony Sertich, and Marty Seifert deserve credit for getting a session done on time. The results could have been better, but their performance was much better than the days under from Dean Johnson / Steve Sviggum / Dick Day leadership.

Amy Klobuchar : as number 98 in the Senate’s seniority rankings, we should not expect a lot but she has exhibited abilities to move consumer issues to the forefront. To get the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act enacted she had to overcome Dr. Death’s hold . She has also been quite visible on toy safety .

Third Place : Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-06)

The Congresswoman hasn’t initiated a lot of new legislation, but she is the author of Make It Count Act (HR 4119). This act should be studied by grade school children on how NOT to write a bill. In short, the bill moves the due date from March 31st to December 15th for the date of submission to Congress of audited financial statement. As any competent federal tax attorney should be able to tell you, the calendar year is not necessarily the fiscal year. The Federal Government fiscal year ends on September 30th, so the poor grade school students might think that the Congresswoman’s legislation would move the due date OUT from March to December … but that was not the intent .. it was to move it IN. The legislation should have been written such as the “audited financial statements should be submitted by the 15th of the third month after the fiscal year is complete.” On the surface, this legislation may seem to be an effort by the Congresswoman to get needed data in a more timely fashion … but in reality, this is already happening. As departments and agencies are scheduled to submit their financial reports by November 15 (45 days after the end of the fiscal year), and Treasury has already issued the Financial Report for 2007 . In business, the term would be “Continuous Improvement” where the existing performance is challenged to improve … Congresswoman Bachmann’s bill is moving the bar to current level … not exactly innovative.

Second Place : Congressman Tim Walz (D-01)

Legislative assignments and natural disasters have challenged Congressman Walz to limits that most of us could not comprehend … yet, he has embraced these as opportunities. As a resident of the First District, I have not always agreed with all of Walz’s votes, but he is a vast improvement over our previous representative.

Farm Bill + Transportation Bill + Veterans Concerns + August Flooding = one outstanding effort.

First Place : Congressman Keith Ellison (D-05)

Congressman Ellison was welcomed to Congress with an attack on his religion and at the close of the session was again presented with another slap at his religion. Despite these efforts, Congressman Ellison traveled to to Syria with a House delegation and to Iraq at the request of Secretary of State Rice – promoting America’s agenda. Besides the foreign involvement, Ellison had a front row seat as the Bush Administration politicizing the Justice Department.

Book Victor Gold’s Invasion of the party-snatchers : how the holy-rollers and neo-cons destroyed the GOP. Written by a Republican speechwriter, this book will tell you why so many independent voters like me have turned away from Republican candidates.

Actress Lt. Governor Carol Molnau : During Governor Pawlenty’s first term, Molnau acted as Transportation Commissioner until she was confirmed by the Senate on May 16, 2004 even though a March 30 Senate’s Transportation Finance Committee voted to not support her confirmation. Apparently, Molnau must have thought that she could keep acting instead of actually running the department in a competent manner.

Actor Senator Norm Coleman : For the first four years of his term, Coleman was a RoveRobot – voting for tax cuts and deficit spending as programmed while speaking forcefully to rally confirmation support for John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations over the objection of many of his fellow Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee. Now, with the lessons of 2006 mid-term elections, Coleman is acting as a moderate … and it works due to the Senate’s filibuster rules that allow him to know that those votes are meaningless … except for being able to tell the voters that he supported moderate solutions and even lead to resolve the Farm Bill impasse.

Director : Tim Pawlenty – Patricia Lopez had a great article on our Big Ideas Governor. And its’ good that he is an idea man, because the performance has been poor. But he looks and sound good on camera … so the result is that next summer, our Governor will start his 2012 Presidential campaign by accepting the Vice Presidential nomination. Maybe a job in the White House is best for Pawlenty as he exhibits the same loyalty for his Department of Health Commissioner and Transportation Commissioner just the way that Bush was loyal to Rumsfeld and Gonzales.

Picture : Although No End in Sight and Sicko are noteworthy, my pick is Amazing Grace . The reason is simple … that film not only had a happy ending but it also is a lesson for today’s politicians that the need to be passionate and committed to their personal ideals … not being servants for special interests.

As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.

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