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Setting Kerry's legislative record straight

Last week, President Bush took on Sen. John Kerry's legislative record in an attempt to define his opponent as soft on national security. As reported in the national press, Bush accused Kerry of "gutting the intelligence services." He was referring to a 1995 proposal by Kerry to reduce the intelligence budget by $1.5 billion over five years ($300 million a year).

Some in the media have responded to Bush's accusation with actual fact digging and reporting. Their conclusion? Bush's statement is a clear mischaracterization of Kerry's voting record. For example:

1. The $300 million represented a reduction of about 1 percent of the intelligence budget. Repeat, 1 percent. Hardly a "gutting effect" that the president is claiming.

2. Kerry's bill had nothing to do with eliminating a single intelligence program. Not a single program.

3. Further, the 1 percent trimming was an effort to rid the intelligence agencies of money squirreled away in "unspent, secret funds," which these agencies could not justify keeping.

4. At the same time, Sen. Arlen Specter (Republican from Pennsylvania.), then chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also wanted to cut about the same amount from the intelligence spending bill, again, to reclaim unspent funds. This bill -- calling for the same intelligence cut that Bush is attacking John Kerry for proposing -- was passed with a majority of bipartisan support.

5. Kerry's bill died on the Senate floor, not due to any inherent problem, not because it was unpatriotic, but because at the time, Congress was aplenty with bills to reduce the deficit and balance the budget. Kerry's bill ended up being on the mark, but was just redundant.

6. Kerry's action was responsible, prudent attention to the bottom line. He was merely trying to return unspent money to the taxpayers.

President Bush grabbed the national headlines in an attempt to work our nerves by trying to label John Kerry as guilty of "gutting intelligence services." President Bush should feel ashamed for twisting a simple bookkeeping adjustment into an act of treachery.

-- Joe Sciallo

Colorado Springs

Guys in white hats respond

We read with disappointment the article titled "Command Performance" [cover story, Feb. 26] detailing District 11's decision to approve a Life Skills Center in Colorado Springs. While we appreciate attention to school choice and District 11 initiatives, we believe that the article failed to mention key facts that would give your readers a more thorough understanding of the situation:

1. While District 11 does have some schools that target at-risk children, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of children who have dropped out of District 11 and are not being served by the existing programs. The Colorado Department of Education gives Colorado Springs a graduation rate of only 67 percent and says more than 4,000 students have dropped out over just the past 4 years.

2. The members of the charter school board, a police chief, newspaper publisher, economic development officer, community college president, and local library director are interested in finding a way to help those at-risk children not being served and help them find a path toward success and gainful employment.

3. The Life Skills Center program has proven to be the most successful dropout program in the country, graduating approximately 3,500 students in four years and being on pace to graduate 1,000 more students every six months, having met all state requirements. All of these graduates were once dropouts who were on a path to failure but who now have diplomas and a job.

4) It is this success that has led the Ohio Board of Education to renew the contract of each and every Life Skills Center that has come up for renewal and has led several other states to approve the Life Skills Center model.

We applaud the charter board and District 11 for taking additional measures to help these young people who need it the most and continue to make a difference and we invite you to the Life Skills Center of Denver to experience firsthand the difference such a program can make in the lives of young people.

-- Mark F. Thimmig, President and CEO

White Hat Ventures, LLC

Akron, Ohio

Editor's note: Regarding Thimmig's first point, the Independent's article about Life Skills charter school did in fact quote Thimmig pointing out that, despite existing dropout programs, District 11 continues to suffer from a high dropout rate. The article went on to cite an estimated graduation rate of only 61 percent for the district. Regarding Thimmig's second point, the article did also, in fact, identify the many prominent community leaders involved with Life Skills and cited their desire to help dropouts.

Grave dangers to heterosexual marriage -- not!

The argument from Jerry Falwell, Marilyn Musgrave, James Dobson, President Bush and other cultural conservatives is that if marriage is allowed between same-sex couples, it will somehow hurt heterosexual marriages.

More than 4,000 gays and lesbians have been married in the last 30 days; I wondered about the fallout.

I called my heterosexual, staunchly Baptist family in California. "Is everything all right there?" I asked. All was well, considering two sons were going through divorce proceedings and custody battles. But that was in process before gay marriage was on the news. Whew!

I thought, "Maybe liberal Californians are immune to the dreaded evil of same-sex marriages." So I called a heterosexual friend in New York. The answer was the same. No one was ending their marriage or fighting more, or less for that matter, or contemplating changing their sexual orientation since gay marriages have taken place.

How about polygamy? I called a friend in Utah. Nope, the religious sect of Mormons who are polygamists are not lining up to get marriage licenses.

I called my veterinarian -- no one was asking her to perform weddings for dogs and cats.

I was becoming very skeptical of the arguments from the extreme right at this point. I played a "Concerned Women For America" tape backward to see if there was an encrypted message. I vaguely remember all the uproar about Beatles records played backwards -- wait a minute! This came from the same people who are now in an uproar about same-sex marriages!

Sheesh -- another cry of "the sky is falling" from some outrageous people.

-- Carolyn Cathey

Colorado Springs

A horse is a horse, of course, of course

Mr. Frazier, your letter, "Sad, helpless twit" [Letters, March 11], was truly a piece of work. With a dizzying collage of propagandized buzz words, run-on sentences, and outright falsities, you took over 30 lines to show everyone in town that you are the biggest horse's a** not pulling a wagon full of beer. Salute!

I'm only going to touch on one point, however. Why would you take to making fun of the way John Kerry looks? What are you, 5 years old? I suppose when you can't win an honest debate on the facts alone you have to resort to name calling and making fun. If this is what passes for political discourse in the Frazier home, I am very sorry.

-- Brent Koleno

Colorado Springs

Another "preferred" letter

In response to Burns' letter ["Warmongering wimps," Letters, March 4]: Kerry did serve credibly in Vietnam for a brief period, OK? However, to return and lobby against an existing conflict of arms, throw his medals at the White House and play into the Viet Cong strategy of prolonging the war and American casualties along with Ms. Fonda is clearly un-American, despicable and politically reprehensible. He owes penance and apology to those who served in that war and did their best to end it despite the political limitations imposed upon them by Washington's bureaucrats.

Whatever criticism one may lay on Bush, we should be thankful we don't have Gore in office during these troubled times.

As for Gordon's diatribe on "Lies and liars" [Letters, March 4] (he refers to "the Iraq debacle") he should talk to returning soldiers rather than absorb the liberal press' reports depicting every alarming and sensational incident they can inflate for public consumption. Ultimately, Iraq may become a truly noble and valuable act of liberation and salvation of a society. Give it a chance.

P.S. After reading your editorials and "preferred letters," perhaps your masthead should read: Colorado Springs Independent, locally-owned official organ of the Democratic Party."

-- C.R. Jensen

Colorado Springs

A soldier's way

While John Kerry may have done heroic deeds during his tour in Vietnam, it is quite obvious that his insight into the mindset of American veterans is lacking. Among veterans, the idea of flaunting your medals and deeds (real or imagined) is looked down upon. I don't think that John Kerry understands this, and from what I have been hearing from veterans, I know they too are uncomfortable with his use of his service as a backdrop for his political ambitions.

-- Steven Alvarado

Cañon City

A substantial list of grievances

I agree with those who argue that President Bush's military nonservice is being blown out of proportion. This issue is trivial because it ranks near the bottom of a substantial list of grievances. This administration has presided over the gutting of environmental safeguards, underfunding its own initiatives (veterans affairs, education), attacking civil liberties and increasing governmental surveillance authority (PATRIOT Act, new airline "safety" measures profiling passengers), and turning Americans against each other by fostering fear of terrorism.

This administration cooked the books on Iraq to justify an invasion, then shrugged when its suppositions proved unfounded. Meanwhile, corporations (that Bush & Co. are beholden to) get richer off lucrative Iraqi reconstruction contracts. The list continues to grow, with campaign ads against a backdrop of the 9/11 carnage being the latest addition. I strongly believe there is nothing the Bush administration has done to sway voters that previously voted for Gore in their favor. President Bush has done much, however, to land former third-party voters firmly in his opponents' camp.

-- Dan Wiencek

Colorado Springs

Seeds of sanity

If this letter were handwritten, you'd see the smudges from my tears as I read "The flowers will outlast us all" [Domestic Bliss, March 11]. What little shreds of sanity I have are largely due to my garden. The seasons of our lives are demonstrated in the natural world -- so complex that our greatest minds must specialize in order to almost understand it, but so simple and sweet that a tot can take in by osmosis all the understanding that elders overcomplicate. It's probably an oversimplification to say that the cure for all that ails us can be found while hanging out with earthworms, Tohees, tomatoes and even crabgrass. Thanks to Kathryn Eastburn for her sweet column.

-- Barb Vickroy

Escondido, Calif.

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