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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Breaking News: Sad To Report That Legendary Radio Man, Paul Harvey, Is Dead At 90. May His Soul Rest In Peace.

I, like million others, enjoyed Paul Harvey for years, and he will be sorely missed.
You can YOUTUBE Paul Harvey here.

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"Obama: The CliffsNotes."

Obama: The CliffsNotes
Decoding the president.

Any high-school kid with a set of CliffsNotes knows Moby Dick is so much more than just a whale. Any American watching the new administration might wish for a similar study guide.

Thirty-nine days, one press conference, one congressional address, and one budget into this presidency, Barack Obama is finding his groove. Out of the early chaos has emerged an administration with a set of talking points. The president is now honing these explanations of what went wrong, and how he will make it right.

Yet, as with any complex character, what Mr. Obama says isn't always what he means. (Even Melville would've found Washington a bit deep.) So here's a handy guide to the larger meaning beneath Mr. Obama's more frequent lines. Hang it on the fridge for easy reference.

- "We are not going to get relief by turning back to the very same policies that for the last eight years doubled the national debt and threw our economy into a tailspin." Translation: Blame Republicans, and tax cuts.

Mr. Obama inherited a deficit, though it wasn't caused by letting Americans keep more of their paychecks. It was caused by a need to rebuild the military to fight two wars (at least one of which he supported), and by that worn-out old idea known as spending, which lost the GOP its majority, and which Mr. Obama is now touting as economic elixir.

He also inherited a recession, though no economist with an IQ above 60 would suggest tax cuts caused the housing bubble. That came courtesy of easy money and loose lending standards, the latter of which Congress encouraged. Presumably, if tax cuts were responsible for the deficit and the recession, Mr. Obama wouldn't be constantly boasting that he wants tax cuts for 95% of Americans.

The wider goal is to vaguely link everything conservative with everything gone wrong, the better to present liberal ideas as a cure. Besides, it's useful to have a GOP to keep blaming, if the cure doesn't work.

- It's time to "make hard choices to bring our deficit down." Translation: Hello, higher taxes.

The thing about cutting deficits is that there are only two choices, one hard for politicians, the other hard for Americans. Government can reduce spending, or government can raise taxes. Mr. Obama made clear with yesterday's budget he has no intention of cutting back. So the hard part now falls to Americans, who are being told they have a patriotic duty to their children to pay more, and cover Washington's costs.

- "The only way to fully restore America's economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world." Translation: Big government. President Obama loves the word "invest." (He used a form of it 11 times in his congressional address on Tuesday.) It sounds so modern and free market, and, most important, not like what it really is -- "spending." The administration is aware that the deficit is now the story. Thus Mr. Obama's suggestion that blowing out hundreds of billions for health care, energy and education somehow isn't Washington as usual -- but will instead yield American riches down the road.

Of course, no country has ever made good on such a promise. Washington, D.C.'s return on investment for investing $14,000 a year per student is a 40% high-school dropout rate. Government can create industries, though only those, like corn ethanol, that can't cut it without perpetual government aid. We're still waiting for Medicare to turn a profit. Nevertheless, investment is a catchy term. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently described her giant $410 billion 2009 omnibus spending bill as a similar "investment." Never mind that it contains 8,500 earmarks and the largest increase in discretionary spending since Jimmy Carter.

- "We need to make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy." Translation: Your utility bills are going up.

Electricity from solar power costs, about, 15 cents per kilowatt hour. Electricity from natural gas costs, about, four cents. The only way to make solar power "profitable" is to further subsidize it down to the price of natural gas, or to make natural gas as expensive as solar. Mr. Obama's cap-and-trade plan does the latter, placing a tax on fossil fuels, which companies pass along to consumers. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.) reminded Congress on Wednesday that its most recent climate bill, Lieberman-Warner, would have cost Americans $6.7 trillion. Fortunately for the president, he will not have to include that sum in his new, more transparent, budget.

- "If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime." Translation: For now.

The president's budget proves he intends to tax the top 2% of earners at effective rates much higher than under Bill Clinton. Still, even if he taxed 100% of this group's income, it wouldn't come close to covering his budget costs. Nor will winding down Iraq. If Mr. Obama is committed to his agenda, much less his deficit reduction, the middle class will have to give it up.

At least he didn't say "read my lips."

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Breaking News: Kansas Governor, Kathleen Sebelius, Has Accepted POTUS Barack Obama's Offer To Be Health And Human Services Secretary.

Read more here, and here.

I have always figured POTUS Barack Obama would reward the Governor with a high level job, but HHS Secretary?

What does she know about HHS?

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PEGGY NOONAN: Obama Dons The Presidential Cloak.

Obama Dons the Presidential Cloak
On Tuesday, he seemed fully in command.


A mysterious thing happened in that speech Tuesday night. By the end of it Barack Obama had become president. Every president has a moment when suddenly he becomes what he meant to be, or knows what he is, and those moments aren't always public. Bill Safire thought he saw it with Richard Nixon one day in the new president's private study. Nixon always put a hand towel on the hassock where he put his feet, to protect the fabric, but this time he didn't use the towel, he just put up his feet. As if it were his hassock. And his house.

So with Mr. Obama, about four-fifths of the way through the speech. He was looking from the prompters to the congressmen and senators, and suddenly he was engaging on what seemed a deeper level. His voice took on inflection. He wasn't detached, as if he was wondering how he was doing. He seemed equal to the moment and then, in some new way, in command of it. It happened around here:

"The eyes of all people in all nations are once again upon us—watching to see what we do with this moment; waiting for us to lead. Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to govern in extraordinary times."

"Called to govern" is one of those phrases that lift you out of the grimy proceedings of government and into something loftier. Is that how he sees it? Such a call is "a tremendous burden, but also a great privilege," one entrusted to few. He quoted a letter from a 14-year-old girl named Ty'Sheoma Bethea of Dillon, S.C., whose beat-up school needs help. We've seen this sort of thing done before—the reading of the letter from the child, or the mother who needs health care—and more often than not, it is gratingly corny. But this wasn't. Miss Bethea wrote, "We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change. . . . We are not quitters." She borrowed money for the stamp, and sent it to Washington.

"We are not quitters," Mr. Obama repeated. Then, to Congress, "I know that we haven't agreed on every issue thus far. . . . But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done."

Anyway, it was in there somewhere that he became the president. And it wasn't just bearing or dignity, which he has by nature, it was more mysterious. He put on the cloak.

The speech was a success in terms of optics, as journalists, political operatives and dreadful people who are once again calling Washington "this town" now say when they mean "what normal humans see on TV." Michelle Obama was inspirationally beautiful, and if you had arms like that, you'd go bare-sleeved in February too.

In terms of policy, the jury not only is out but will be for some time. Years ago I wrote of an Italian woman in my neighborhood who made spaghetti every day. When I asked how you tell it's done, she showed me: You take a strand and fling it against the wall. If it's done, it sticks. If it's not done, it falls off the wall down the side of the stove. You keep flinging till one sticks. At the end of the day that is Obama's recovery plan. Cash infusions for the banks, fling. Tax increases, thwack. Pork—excuse me, public investment—splat. When we look back years from now, we'll see what stuck.

And who got stuck. And how that helped or hurt.

But the larger point that Mr. Obama had to communicate, and it's something forgotten or overlooked by political sophisticates, is this: Someone's in the kitchen. Someone's cooking. In a time of crisis, someone's in charge. That's what he had to demonstrate Tuesday night. And he did. This will do him good.

At a White House backgrounder the day of the address, an Obama aide said the speech was deliberately meant not to be Clintonian—it would not consist of 167 initiatives cobbled together. The president has been reading FDR and his fireside chats. Mr. Obama's advisers believed they'd reached the right balance between candor about the crisis and optimism about our ability to meet it. (Close, but no unfiltered Lucky Strike in a tar-stained ivory cigarette holder. Mr. Obama doesn't do jaunty. Something in his demeanor defeats joy; his default mode is mild indignation when his job is inspiration. He did not leave people thinking, Now I know we will defeat this calamity. But he did leave them feeling, Now I know someone's in charge, finally someone's taken ownership of the mess.)

Internal polling shows people are angry not only at bankers and CEOs, who were casually destructive of the economy and now have the gall to ask for money, but neighbors who were imprudent and got mortgages they couldn't afford. The budget deficit is important structurally but can't be a focus now, jolting the system is, stabilizing the situation is. As for the stimulus package, if they'd followed opinion polls, it would have been bigger, not smaller. Republicans made gains by opposing the stimulus, but only among their base. Independent and unaligned voters have been marginally more supportive of Mr. Obama since the stimulus battle and do not see the lack of GOP votes as a rebuke to the president.

How will we know when the Obama plan is working? When we see building projects underway. The White House is hoping for a future full of ribbon-cutting ceremonies—more optics. The public will judge the success of Mr. Obama's plan by the answer to this question: Are we adding jobs and arresting bad trends? The White House believes the public will give them time, that people don't expect a turnaround for two years or so.

The White House no longer uses the phrase "stimulus package." They always say "recovery plan." Stimulus is yesterday. When you say it, they give you a wonderfully blank-eyed look and two sentences later weave in the phrase "recovery program."

I think the president, politically, has three big things going for him as he faces this crisis.

First, legitimacy. Our last two presidents were haunted by the circumstances of their election, and significant swathes of the country never fully accepted them. George W. Bush had the cloud of the 2000 recount, and his loss that year of the popular vote; Bill Clinton won in 1992 with only 43% , in a three-man race in which the other two were, essentially, Republican. But no one doubts Mr. Obama's legitimacy. He won by seven points, with 53%. He's the first president without the illegitimacy cloud since Bush I.

Second, we're in the middle of an emergency. In times like this, Americans want their president to succeed. Politically the crisis works for Mr. Obama.

Third is an unspoken public sense that we cannot afford another failed presidency, that we just got through one and a second would be terrible. Americans know how much good a successful presidency does for us in the world, in the public mind. The last unalloyed, inarguable success was Reagan. We need another. Liberal? Conservative? That, to the great middle of America, would, at the moment, be secondary. They want successful. They want "That worked." They want the foreign visitor to say, "I like your president." They want to respond, "So do I."


"The Democratic Party Could Face an Internal Civil War".

The Democratic Party Could Face an Internal Civil War
'Gentry' and 'populist' factions square off on energy and the environment.

This is the Democratic Party's moment, its power now greater than any time since the mid-1960s. But do not expect smooth sailing. The party is a fractious group divided by competing interests, factions and constituencies that could explode into a civil war, especially when it comes to energy and the environment.

Broadly speaking, there is a long-standing conflict inside the Democratic Party between gentry liberals and populists. This division is not the same as in the 1960s, when the major conflicts revolved around culture and race as well as on foreign policy. Today the emerging fault-lines follow mostly regional, geographical and, most importantly, class differences.

Gentry liberals cluster largely in cities, wealthy suburbs and college towns. They include disproportionately those with graduate educations and people living on the coasts. Populists tend to be located more in middle- and working-class suburbs, the Great Plains and industrial Midwest. They include a wider spectrum of Americans, including many whose political views are somewhat changeable and less subject to ideological rigor.

In the post-World War II era, the gentry's model candidate was a man such as Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic presidential nominee who lost twice to Dwight D. Eisenhower. Stevenson was a svelte intellectual who, like Barack Obama, was backed by the brute power of the Chicago machine. After Stevenson, the gentry supported candidates such as John Kennedy -- who did appeal to Catholic working class voters -- but also men with limited appeal outside the gentry class, including Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Gary Hart, Bill Bradley, Paul Tsongas and John Kerry.

Hubert Humphrey, a populist heir to the lunch-pail liberalism of Harry Truman (and who was despised by gentry intellectuals) missed the presidency by a hair in 1968. But populists in the party later backed lackluster candidates such as Walter Mondale and Dick Gephardt.

Bill Clinton revived the lunch-pail Democratic tradition; and the final stages of last year's presidential primaries represented yet another classic gentry versus populist conflict. Hillary Clinton could not match Barack Obama's appeal to the gentry. Driven to desperation, she ended up running a spirited populist campaign.

Although peace now reigns between the Clintons and the new president, the broader gentry-populist split seems certain to fester at both the congressional and local levels -- and President Obama will be hard-pressed to negotiate this divide. Gentry liberals are very "progressive" when it comes to issues such as affirmative action, gay rights, the environment and energy policy, but are not generally well disposed to protectionism or auto-industry bailouts, which appeal to populists. Populists, meanwhile, hated the initial bailout of Wall Street -- despite its endorsement by Mr. Obama and the congressional leadership.

Geography is clearly a determining factor here. Standout antifinancial bailout senators included Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and Jon Tester of Montana. On the House side, the antibailout faction came largely from places like the Great Plains and Appalachia, as well as from the suburbs and exurbs, including places like Arizona and interior California.

Gentry liberals, despite occasional tut-tutting, fell lockstep for the bailout. Not one Northeastern or California Democratic senator opposed it. In the House, "progressives" such as Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank who supported the financial bailout represent districts with a large concentration of affluent liberals, venture capitalists and other financial interests for whom the bailout was very much a matter of preserving accumulated (and often inherited) wealth.

Energy and the environment are potentially even more explosive issues. Gentry politicians tend to favor developing only alternative fuels and oppose expanding coal, oil or nuclear energy. Populists represent areas, such as the Great Lakes region, where manufacturing still plays a critical role and remains heavily dependent on coal-based electricity. They also tend to have ties to economies, such as in the Great Plains, Appalachia and the Intermountain West, where smacking down all new fossil-fuel production threatens lots of jobs -- and where a single-minded focus on alternative fuels may drive up total energy costs on the farm, make life miserable again for truckers, and put American industrial firms at even greater disadvantage against foreign competitors.

In the coming years, Mr. Obama's "green agenda" may be a key fault line. Unlike his notably mainstream appointments in foreign policy and economics, he's tilted fairly far afield on the environment with individuals such as John Holdren, a longtime acolyte of the discredited neo-Malthusian Paul Ehrlich, and Carol Browner, who was Bill Clinton's hard-line EPA administrator.

These appointments could presage an environmental jihad throughout the regulatory apparat. Early examples could mean such things as strict restrictions on greenhouse gases, including bans on new drilling and higher prices through carbon taxes or a cap-and-trade regime.

Another critical front, not well understood by the public, could develop on land use -- with the adoption of policies that favor dense cities over suburbs and small towns. This trend can be observed most obviously in California, but also in states such as Oregon where suburban growth has long been frowned upon. Emboldened greens in government could use their new power to drive infrastructure spending away from badly needed projects such as new roads, bridges and port facilities, and toward projects such as light rail lines. These lines are sometimes useful, but largely impractical outside a few heavily traveled urban corridors. Essentially it means a transfer of subsidies from those who must drive cars to the relative handful for whom mass transit remains a viable alternative.

Priorities such as these may win plaudits in urban enclaves in New York, Boston and San Francisco -- bastions of the gentry class and of under-35, childless professionals -- but they might not be so widely appreciated in the car- and truck-driving Great Plains and the vast suburban archipelago, where half the nation's population lives.

If he wishes to enhance his power and keep the Democrats together, Mr. Obama will have to figure out how to placate both his gentry base and those Democrats who still see their party's mission in terms that Harry Truman would have understood.

Mr. Kotkin is a presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University and executive editor of He is finishing a book on the American future.


"Was George W. Bush The Worst [U. S.] President?"

Was George W. Bush the Worst President?
A historian urges us to take a deep breath before we answer.

Several polls of historians have named George W. Bush the worst president in American history. This baffles me. I've been writing about presidents for a long time. What I know, and what I presume these gentleman know, doesn't connect.

Is Mr. Bush worse than John Adams? When a shooting war at sea started between the United States and revolutionary France in 1798, Honest John wrote a letter to George Washington, offering to resign so that George could resume the job. How's that for presidential leadership? Meanwhile, Adams had kept Washington's cabinet officers on the job, although he loathed them. He finally fired them in a fit of hysteria, which made them wonder if he had lost his mind.

Is Mr. Bush worse than Thomas Jefferson in his second term? Rather than build a decent navy to deal with the British -- who had a habit of boarding American ships on the high seas and forcing kidnapped sailors into semislavery -- Jefferson declared an embargo on all trade with England and the rest of Europe. The American economy came to a horrific standstill; smuggling became New England's chief industry. Someone described the embargo as "cutting a man's throat to cure a nosebleed." Nonplussed, Jefferson quit, telling only James Madison, his secretary of state, who was de facto acting president for the last year of Tom's term.

James Madison, who officially succeeded Jefferson in 1808, made presidential passivity into an art form. "Little Jemmy," as they called him in New England, watched while 4,500 British troops disembarked from their ships, marched to Washington, D.C., and burned the White House, the Capitol and almost everything else worth torching. You can't do much worse as a war leader than that performance.

Woodrow Wilson? When World War I exploded, Irish-Americans objected to his pro-British tilt. Wilson responded that ethnics like these loudmouthed micks were "pouring poison into the veins of our national life," alienating the largest voting bloc in the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, as a Southern-born pol to his wingtips, he segregated almost all employees of the federal government.

Next, Wilson talked Congress into declaring war on Germany on the assumption that we would not have to send a single soldier to France. Before the war ended, we had 2,000,000 troops overseas, and in three months of fighting lost 144,000 men.

Elected by seven million votes thanks to the electorate's loathing for Wilson, Warren G. Harding confessed to reporters that he was not up to the job. He told one newsman that he wanted to make the U.S. tariff higher than the Rocky Mountains to help Europe's industries recover from World War I. The appalled reporter realized the president had one of the biggest issues of the era exactly backward.

Harding had a concealed box at the Gayety Burlesque Theater where he spent many afternoons and nights. In the leftover hours he concentrated on poker and trysts with a blonde named Nan Britton -- reputedly in a closet off the Oval Office -- while his appointees looted the federal government.

Is Mr. Bush worse than Roosevelt in his second term? Re-elected by a massive majority, FDR wanted to pack the Supreme Court with Democrats. Congress, dominated by members of his own party, wasted a year wrangling over the bill and ultimately rejected it. Meanwhile, FDR's intemperate remarks about greedy businessmen wrecked confidence and triggered a semireplay of the Great Depression in 1937. The Republicans made massive gains in the 1938 midterm elections. FDR was rescued from an exit even more humiliating than Jefferson's by World War II, which he used as an excuse to run for a third term.

Worse than Jimmy Carter, the self- proclaimed Washington "outsider" who presided over the most horrendous stagflation in our history? As his poll numbers sank, Mr. Carter had the temerity to lecture citizens on their "crisis of spirit." His approval rating had plummeted to 22% when Ronald Reagan defeated him. Let us skip Bill Clinton. He and Bush are too contiguous; proximity makes comparisons inevitably rancorous.

My purpose is not to denigrate these men. John Adams had great political courage. He often espoused unpopular views, warning us, among other things, that a majority can be as tyrannical as a king or dictator -- something that we may need to remember in the next few years.

Thomas Jefferson displayed good judgment in his first term when he put aside his ideological scruples and purchased the Louisiana Territory. James Madison deserves admiration for the way he gave his remarkable wife, Dolley, a chance to create the role of First Lady and establish women as important political players. Woodrow Wilson's idealism was flawed, but his vision of America's role as a world power was profound. FDR's masterful confrontation with the fear created by the Great Depression made his first term an unforgettable achievement.

In this light, however wavering, maybe it's time to suspend the rush to judgment on George W. Bush for 10 or 20 years. I suspect we will decide Mr. Bush's first term, with his decisive response to 9/11, deserves some praise, and that his second term succumbed to an awesome amount of bad luck, from his generals' disagreements on how to fight the war in Iraq to the Wall Street collapse of 2008.

Many presidents have run out of luck in their second terms, but Mr. Bush's record in this department will be hard to match. Beyond the popularity polls there may be a dimension we should remember in judging every president: sympathy.

Mr. Fleming is a former president of the Society of American Historians. His most recent book, "The Perils of Peace, America's Struggle to Survive After Yorktown," (Smithsonian) has just been issued in paperback.


Africa's WORST Ruler?

Read more here, and here.



This Is Not A Good Shirt To Wear For Police Mug Shot.

Notice the "home grown" part (Click on the picture to enlarge it).

I would expect the Police to seek a search warrant, wouldn't you?

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Senator Jim Bunning Denies Flipping The Finger At The GOP. Whatever.

Read more here.

All I can say is that I would take Jim Bunning's threat SERIOUSLY, if I were the GOP -- whether the threat is denied as having occurred or not.

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Joel Pett Keeps Insisting We Keep Laughing.


Friday, February 27, 2009

I Can't Say The Lexington Herald Leader Doesn't Have A Very Good Idea About AOC Audit. Read More.

Scrutiny overdue on courthouses

Chief Justice John Minton Jr. should ask state Auditor Crit Luallen to conduct a thorough review of the courthouse construction program.

Nothing less will do in light of the latest revelations about how $800 million of taxpayers' money has been spent with almost no accountability or transparency by contractors and court officials who appear to have been just a little too cozy.

The program's chief architect, Garlan VanHook, resigned Tuesday after questions arose about his failure to require general contractors to fully insure courthouse construction projects. County governments did not realize that this unconventional, and possibly illegal, practice was going on and exposing them to financial risk.

It also recently came to light that one of the companies that benefitted from the lax bonding requirements, Codell Construction, hired VanHook's brother, Willie VanHook, in November. Codell has been awarded more than half of the 65 courthouse projects overseen by Garlan VanHook since 2000.

In response, the chief justice yesterday announced that he plans to hire legal counsel with expertise in construction law to carry out an "intensive review."

Minton's on the right track. But unless he imports legal counsel from far away, such an investigation will fail to satisfy public concerns.

The perception will always be that a Kentucky law firm can't risk offending the Administrative Office of the Courts, which oversees the courthouse construction program, or give a chief justice news he might not want to hear.

Further compromising appearances, the courthouse construction program was the creation of former Chief Justice Joseph Lambert, who Minton has put in charge of the senior judges program. Lambert's duties include assigning senior judges to hear legal cases.

Lambert's capacity to influence the appointment of judges to court cases is something a Kentucky law firm might be suspected of considering as it reviews the program that Lambert has said is his greatest legacy.

VanHook was Lambert's personal architect, designing his Rockcastle County home, before being tapped to oversee a massive public spending program that has forever altered the historic architectural fabric of some Kentucky county seats.

Because of the separation of powers, Luallen's office lacks the authority to launch an audit of the judicial branch without an invitation from the chief justice.

But what needs to be audited isn't the judicial work of the courts. It's a massive public works program managed by court administrators. The constitutional framers could not have foreseen the judiciary taking on an executive function such as a major capital construction program — and they probably would not have favored such an idea.

The courthouse building boom raises not just legal questions but also questions of policy and management.

Minton should get the auditor's office on the job as soon as possible.

Editor's comment: See my caption.

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Senator Jim Bunning Flips The Finger At The GOP (Republicans), Promises "I Would Get The Last Laugh." Republicans MUST Take His Threat SERIOUSLY.

Read more.

One thing you can bet on from Jim Bunning is this: he says what he means and he means what he says -- and he does NOT give a flying flip; HONEST.

Republicans should NOT take his threats lying down -- or standing up for that matter.

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"Obama Needs A 'Not To Do' List"

Obama Needs a 'Not To Do' List
The global economic crisis is exposing the president's preoccupations as the soppy indulgences they always were.

Put away childish things, President Obama said during his inauguration. He couldn't have found a theme more suited to the moment. The preoccupations that he and most politicians are used to running on, and that still characterize too many of his administration's utterances, are being exposed in the global economic disaster as the soppy indulgences they always were.

Put away the global warming panic. Mankind's contribution to rising CO2 levels raises serious questions, but the tens of billions poured into climate science have, by now, added up only to a negative finding. We don't really have the slightest idea how an increase in the atmosphere's component of CO2 is impacting our climate, though the most plausible indication is that the impact is too small to untangle from natural variability.

In any case, has Mr. Obama taken a gander at collapsing industrial production numbers around the world? He's going to get a big reduction in CO2 output whether he wants it or not. Nor will the public be moved to make costly, material changes in its energy habits, especially if the recent global cooling trend continues. What we'll get instead is already depressingly clear: climate pork, or lucrative favors for lobbying interests in the name of global warming that have no impact on global warming.

Put away the "energy independence" conceit. This notion, a favorite of Tojo and Hitler, was debunked by Churchill, who reasoned that true energy security came from a diversity of suppliers, not the foolish pursuit of self-sufficiency.

We only hurt our own cause by blocking development of our own resources and closing our markets to biofuel producers in the Southern Hemisphere. Let's grow up. Through all the ups and downs of oil prices, the U.S. has been able to buy all it wants, even from countries that wish us dead. We are a bigger buyer of oil than any country is a supplier of it. We've had the whip hand all along.

Put away Ponzi welfarism. The day is gone when politicians could have hoped to have begun and ended their careers before the public ever faced the implosion of redistribution programs that depend on the workforce growing faster than the retired population.

Put away the idea that more government control is the cure for health care. We already bribe, through supremely asinine tax policy, the most affluent, capable consumers on the planet not to use their smarts to make sure the system returns value for money.

Let's fix this -- by eliminating the tax subsidy for employer-provided health insurance. Then it might actually become economically feasible to subsidize health care for the needy.

Put away class warfare tax politics: Only a flatter, less distorting tax code is compatible with the kind of growth needed to get us out of the debt mess without inflation.

We already levy punitive tax rates on bank deposits, at a time when households need to build up savings and banks need deposits. Now Mr. Obama wants to raise taxes on small business, on investment, and on the incomes of the most productive job creators. Is he crazy?

Like a subprime borrower who hasn't gotten the news yet, now is not the time to go deeper into debt to build a third Jacuzzi. Our politicians need to address an accumulation of past excesses before sponsoring new ones.

Mr. Obama came to office without a conspicuous vision other than "bipartisanship" and a belief in the beneficent influence on America and the world of seeing a black man exercising the powers of the presidency. He wields his party's shibboleths like one who sees them mainly as levers for delivering the goods. His ideas about the exercise of politics, in fact, may be accurately reflected in the recent stimulus bill -- in office you supply the wish lists of those who put you there.

His will be a fascinating presidency to watch, not least because of his inexperience, his intellectual agility, and the crisis in which he finds himself. But his presidency will get really interesting in a year or two, or six months -- whenever he finally realizes that everything he thought he wanted to do is irrelevant. He'll then have to adapt an agenda for the world as it is, in which many childish things no longer have a place.

And, by the way, he kids himself if he believes he will be allowed, like FDR, to preside over a depression without being politically blamed for it. The public is different now -- the world is different -- and he will own the "Obama depression" sooner than he thinks.



Read more from the Politico guys.


One Representative For You: One Representative For Me. Now Is That A Deal?

Taxation with representation? DC moves closer to gaining vote
William Douglas and David Lightman

WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia moved a step closer Thursday to gaining full membership in the House of Representatives, as the Senate voted 61-37 to give the nation's capital and Utah each a House seat.

Thursday's historic vote will be followed by a vote next week in the House, where a similar bill is expected to pass easily. President Barack Obama has expressed support for Washington voting rights and is expected to sign the bill once it reaches his desk.

Residents and officials of the District of Columbia — a 61-square-mile area with a population of almost 600,000, about 55 percent of it black — have engaged in a long, slow fight for representation in Congress.

"This is a great victory," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a independent Democrat from Connecticut and a co-sponsor of the bill. "More directly, it's a victory for the 600,000 people of the District of Columbia."

Granting Washington a vote could heal a wound that has social, racial and political overtones.

However, the action still faces obstacles. It almost surely will face a court challenge from opponents who believe that the Constitution restricts voting representation to states, which the District of Columbia is not.

Still, proponents of voting rights for Washington rejoiced at being on the cusp of victory.

"Next week, we will be voting to keep a promise that is nearly two and a quarter centuries overdue," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. "It was a promise of our founders, a promise put into words by the father of the Constitution, James Madison, when he wrote that the people of the federal city 'will have their voice in the election of the government which is to exercise authority over them.' "

Washington residents long have chafed under what they view as Congress' paternalistic role in the city's affairs without representation there, despite residents being federal taxpayers. That sentiment is summed up frankly by the motto on the district's license plates: "Taxation Without Representation."

"It's a big deal because D.C. has been treated as a colony of the United States," said Jane Freundel Levey, a historian for Cultural Tourism DC, a nonprofit group. "It's a big deal because D.C.'s budget is subject to the approval of Congress; no other city has that. It's a big deal because Congress controls our judiciary and courts."

Proponents say that it's past time for Washington dwellers to have a voice — and a vote — in the national government. Lieberman argued that Washington is the only capital in the democratic world in which residents can't vote for a representative.

"They're not only taxed without representation . . . as our founders reminded us is a form of tyranny . . . they're taxed very heavily. They pay the second-highest rate of federal taxation per capita," Lieberman said. "This is a moment to end this. It's an antiquity, but it's a profoundly unjust and, frankly, un-American antiquity."

That may be, but opponents say that a District of Columbia representative is unconstitutional.

"I have said previously my quarrel is not with the intent of the legislation, but with the vehicle with which Congress is seeking to effect or bring about this change," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who thinks that Washington voting rights should be sought through a constitutional amendment. "Simply passing a law that grants voting rights to an entity that is not a state . . . is plainly circumventing the Constitution."

A House committee oversees Washington, which has been a source of irritation at times for residents. They complain that Congress — particularly during Republican control — has used Washington as a test laboratory for issues ranging from school vouchers to pushing the courts to roll back local gun-control laws.

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POTUS Barack Obama Makes Bush, Cheney And Rumsfeld Weep, Announces Iraq Troop Withdrawal By August 2010; John McCain Approves.

Watch Potus Barack Obama below:

And watch John McCain's "optimistic" speech:

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Nancy Pelosi Getting Ready To Start Butting Heads With POTUS Barack Obama.

Read more from the Politico guys.

This is NOT good news for the POTUS.

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Talking About Sick, Doesn't This "Obscenity" Make you Sick?

Isn't there some law against this obscenity?

OK, I am just jealous.

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This Is One Wierd SICKO. Read More Below.

Read all about it here, and check out the indictment.
SICKO, I say.

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Our Government Aims To Nationalize Some Banks. Here's How Nick Anderson Sees It. So True!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

OH, Oh. Bush, Cheney And Rumsfeld Are Going To Be Pissed. Watch News Video.


Letter To Courier Journal Editor: Bunning's Pandering.

Bunning's pandering

Sen. Jim Bunning's apology for his prediction of the death of Justice Ginsburg will not suffice. Any legitimate apology has to be 100 percent honest. It should have been stated as follows:

"I am sorry that I am forced to pander to local gatherings of the Republican constituency of Real America -- Real America being rural, white and Christian. They get all excited about things like speculating on the death of opponents. This is the result of instigators of belligerence like right-wing talk radio. However, I will have to continue catering to our base. That's all we got left in the Grand Old Party in the Year of our Lord 2009. I will do my best to refrain from rooting for death in the future. Maybe stick to bashing gays and the like. I sincerely apologize for all of this."


Lexington, Ky. 40503

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"... Staying On Point ... ."

. . . Staying on point
By Doyle McManus

Speechmaking always has been good for Barack Obama.

In 2004, as a 42-year-old state legislator, he vaulted to national stature with a brilliant speech to the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

In 2007, he won the hearts of Iowa Democrats with a rip-roaring Jefferson-Jackson Day talk.

In 2008, after losing the New Hampshire primary, he rallied his flagging presidential campaign with one of the greatest concession statements ever made.

And he saved his candidacy later that spring with his Philadelphia address on race relations.

This is a man who knows the power of oratory. And it's a good thing he does: We needed some.

The new President had three goals in his first address to both houses of Congress on Tuesday night.

He needed to spell out and defend his plan for stimulating the economy, which his administration sometimes has stumbled in explaining.

He wanted to rally support for the rest of his ambitious domestic program, including expensive investments in health care, energy and education.

And he sought to lift the mood of the nation by promising that better times lie ahead.

The least concrete of those goals, lifting the nation's mood, was actually the most important -- because it will be difficult for Obama to implement any of his plans if Americans lose hope.

That's why the first lines from the speech that the White House released in advance Tuesday were these: "While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before."

The obvious comparison is to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who rallied Americans during the Great Depression with his fireside chats, broadcast on the still-new medium of radio.

"There is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people," Roosevelt said in his first radio speech to the nation in 1933.

But FDR enjoyed a massive, obedient majority in Congress that passed his banking bill in a single day with a minimum of dissent. (As Will Rogers quipped at the time, "Congress doesn't pass legislation any more. They just wave at the bills as they go by.")

With that kind of support, Roosevelt had an easier job and could aim his speech mostly at persuading citizens to be patient and avoid the urge to withdraw their money from the banks.

Obama, in contrast, is asking the public for help in putting pressure on his opponents in Congress.

That's why the best analogy may not be to Roosevelt but to Ronald Reagan, who turned his presidency into a permanent campaign to rally public support to his side, even when Congress was skeptical.

On Thursday, Obama will deliver his first budget, and his proposals for health care, energy and education will require spending above and beyond the $787-billion stimulus bill. He said in his speech that he is likely to seek more funds to bail out the nation's banks.

"I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now," Obama said. "I get it." But, he added, "we cannot afford to govern out of anger. ... our job is to solve the problem."

In effect, Obama was appealing to his majority, the roughly 60 percent of voters who support him, to back him in his coming battles with Congress -- even when he asks for more money for the banks.

He'll need the help. In the stimulus battle, Republicans once again cast themselves as the anti-spending party, and they show no sign of abandoning that stance. They already have served notice that they plan to fight Obama's health-care proposals just as they fought Bill Clinton's in 1993.

As Reagan did before him, Obama understands the importance of dramatizing his message in a television-friendly way. He has taken his ideas on the road, visiting a highway construction site in Virginia, a Caterpillar factory in Illinois and a high school gymnasium in Arizona.

And in case there was anyone who still hadn't gotten the point, he capped off his road show with a four-hour "fiscal summit" in the White House.

There was no "news" in Tuesday night's speech; it was essentially an hour-long elaboration of the themes Obama introduced in his campaign and returned to in his inaugural address.

But consistency can be a virtue, especially during uncertain times. And as both candidate and president, Obama has delivered a clear and consistent message.

Any president whose speeches summon comparisons to Roosevelt and Reagan isn't doing too badly.

Doyle McManus is a Los Angeles Times columnist. He frequently is a panelist on PBS' "Washington Week in Review." His e-mail address is

Editor's comment: "Any president whose speeches summon comparisons to Roosevelt and Reagan isn't doing too badly."

That may be, but I prefer my hero, Abraham Lincoln.

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The Era Of BIG Government Is ... Here. Visualize And Read Below.

Read the MASSIVE spending (and taxing) budget here, or read more about it here and here.

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"Obama: the visionary and the gambler . . .".

Obama: the visionary and the gambler . . .
By David S. Broder

WASHINGTON -- The size of the gamble that President Obama is taking every day is simply staggering. What came through in his speech to a joint session of Congress and a national television audience Tuesday night was a dramatic reminder of the unbelievable stakes he has placed on the table in his first month in office, putting at risk the future well-being of the country and the Democratic Party's control of Washington.

It was also, and even more significantly, a measure of the degree to which he has taken personal responsibility for delivering on one of the most ambitious agendas any newly inaugurated president has ever announced.

Most politicians, facing an economic crisis as deep as this one -- the threatened collapse of the job market and manufacturing, retail and credit systems here at home, along with the staggering, unprecedented costs of the attempted rescue efforts -- would happily postpone tackling anything else.

But not Obama.

Instead, no sooner had he finished describing his plans for spurring economic recovery and shoring up the crippled automotive and banking industries, he was off to the races, outlining his ambitions for overhauling energy, health care and education.

The House chamber was filled with veteran legislators who have spent decades wrestling with each of those issues. They know how maddeningly difficult it has been to cobble together a coalition large enough to pass a significant education, health care or energy bill.

And here stood Obama, challenging them to do all three, at a time when trillions of borrowed dollars already have been committed to short-term economic rescue schemes and when new taxes risk stunting any recovery.

Is he naïve? Does he not understand the political challenge he is inviting?

His response to the doubters on both sides of the aisle who think (at least to themselves) that Obama is trying to do too much was to assert that passivity is not an option. "And I refuse to let that happen."

The White House had signaled before the speech that Obama planned to strike a more upbeat note than he had in his recent campaigning for the stimulus bill. He did that at the top of the speech, saying, "We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before."

That is presidential boilerplate, the kind of thing White House speechwriters can deliver whenever things look bleak and you have to rally the troops.

But Obama was not content to leave it at that. Buoyed for now by his victories over Hillary Clinton and John McCain, by his soaring approval scores and by a Republican opposition whose incoherence was demonstrated by the reply from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Obama is clearly of a mind to strike while the iron is hot.

His mindset is somewhat reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's in 1981, recognizing that the Democrats' self-confidence had been shattered by his victory and the door was therefore open for him to enact more of the conservative agenda than any Republican in 50 years.

Reagan could do that in part because he was unchallenged on the Republican side of the aisle and he had the only program that counted.

The risk to Obama's ambitions is likely to arise less from the defeated Republicans than from the victorious Democrats, who have all too many ideas of their own about what should be done in energy, health care and education.

And the other risk is in what he barely mentioned on Tuesday: the rest of the world. Obama has just ordered 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan, a country with a staggering government and a shaky neighbor in Pakistan, where the United States is still searching for a plausible strategy.

The world provides no respite for an American president, especially one already as burdened as this one.

When we elected Obama, we didn't know what a gambler we were getting.

David S. Broder is a columnist with The Washington Post. His e-mail address is

Editor's comment: It was time for CHANGE, period.

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Update To My Earlier Post "... Chuck One Up For Chief Justice John Minton ...". Read More Below.

Read about my earlier post, then read more from Lexington Herald Leader here, or below:

Ky. chief justice calls for audit of courthouse construction program
By John Cheves -

Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton Jr. ordered an audit of the state's massive courthouse construction program Thursday, after questions were raised about inadequate insurance of courthouse construction and the abrupt resignation of the courts official overseeing the program.

"The Administrative Office of the Courts will be retaining counsel with expertise in construction law to carry out this intensive review," Minton said in a prepared statement. "This audit will begin immediately and its findings will be made public upon completion."

The AOC's chief architect, Garlan VanHook, resigned this week after questions were raised about a job that his brother received last year at Codell Construction of Winchester, which has built the majority of new courthouses in recent years.

Also, in a letter to the AOC this week, national experts raised questions about VanHook's failure to make sure that courthouse projects are fully insured.

In a recent interview, VanHook defended the practice of allowing general contractors to be bonded for only 5 percent of the value of their work, instead of the 100 percent required by state law.

Kentucky law and the contracts signed by construction managers require 100 percent payment and performance bonds. But Codell and Alliance Construction of Glasgow bond many of the state's new courthouse projects at roughly 5 percent of the projects' costs, which equals their fee.

In some cases, there was no construction-management bond at all when courthouses were begun. The contract for Washington County's $12 million judicial center, which is about to open, was signed on March 13, 2006, but the pay and performance bond was not acquired until Jan. 8, 2009.

In the past decade, Kentucky has allocated $880 million for courthouse construction across the state.

Editor's comment: Wanna read more?

Go here.

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The CHINESE Are Coming!


Lexington Herald Leader Editorial: Good Council Call On Airport Audit.

Good council call on airport audit

Anyone who cares knows already the grimy, salacious details of misdeeds at Blue Grass Airport that have been reported in this paper and were confirmed and amplified yesterday by the 200-plus page report of the findings by State Auditor Crit Luallen.

It confirmed years of "excessive, inappropriate and arrogant," spending by a group of five top executives, in addition to outrageous pay increases, a culture of dishonesty and a board and outside auditors who seemed less-than-eager to discover or confront the problems.

As Luallen told the Urban County Council yesterday, there's plenty of blame to go around.

Former Blue Grass Airport executive director Michael A. Gobb and his team went on a number of team-building excursions, including a Richard Petty Driving Experience in June of 2005 that cost more than $7,400. Attendees were (back row, left to right) Gobb, director of administration and finance John Rhodes and director of operations John Coon; (front row, left to right) Debbie Kelly, manager of administration, and John Sloan, director or planning and development.

But there's also some praise to distribute. Most of it goes to the members of the council who voted to ask Luallen's office to examine the airport's financial records after reporter Jennifer Hewlett first detailed excesses in a story in November.

While it seems like an obvious move now, it wasn't a slam dunk at the time. Four council members (Jay McChord and Ed Lane as well as now-former councilmen Dick DeCamp and David Stephens; DeCamp had served on the airport board, Stephens is still on it and Lane recently joined the board) voted against the motion to request the audit, and Mayor Jim Newberry opposed the action, saying the airport board should handle the matter.

What we've learned since is that the board wasn't handling it.

The board was aware Hewlett was looking into airport operations as early as last spring; former board chair Bernie Lovely said yesterday that from February to November of last year the airport "spent an extraordinary amount of money" reviewing former executive director Mike Gobb's expenses. But where was the action?

Even after the first, meticulously reported stories appeared detailing the outlandish spending and compensation, the board circled the wagons and defended Gobb rather than pursue a comprehensive, independent audit.

Newberry argued that the council and mayor should stay out of it "until such time as the board proves that it is unable to effectively manage the airport."

It's not clear how long Newberry would have waited, but it was clear yesterday that any further delay would have been too long.

New airport board chair Robert Owens told the council yesterday that the construction schedule on projects at the airport to get ready for the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games is so tight "we cannot miss a day."

He said the airport has work to do repairing relations with with the Federal Aviation Administration and the airlines that do business there. Airlines, he noted, "don't want issues," and if they are looking for service to cut in hard economic times they could look to problem airports first.

Asked if the management problems could endanger federal or other funding, Luallen said the critical issue in restoring confidence is to act quickly to address problems that arise.

That's just what a majority of the council did when it was presented with credible questions about activity at a public institution.

Good for them.

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Good News: "Investigators Weighing Criminal Charges Tied To Airport Spending."

Read more here, or excerpts below:

Investigators weighing criminal charges tied to airport spending
By Ryan Alessi and Jennifer Hewlett

Federal and state law enforcement agencies are sifting through state Auditor Crit Luallen's detail-rich report of wild spending at Blue Grass Airport to figure out whether former or current managers committed crimes.

Missing documents and instances of outrageous spending and employees double-dipping on reimbursements laid out in Luallen's report could lead to charges such as credit card fraud and theft, depending on what additional proof investigators find, several former prosecutors said Wednesday.

State Attorney General Jack Conway said in a statement that his investigators are working with their federal counterparts to determine "whether or not any criminal charges should be filed."

Former Blue Grass Airport executive director Michael A. Gobb and his team went on a number of team-building excursions, including a Richard Petty Driving Experience in June of 2005 that cost more than $7,400. Attendees were (back row, left to right) Gobb, director of administration and finance John Rhodes and director of operations John Coon; (front row, left to right) Debbie Kelly, manager of administration, and John Sloan, director or planning and development.

Spending by the numbers

Over three years, airport employees in seven key positions spent the following amounts on credit cards and through cash advances. The seven were Michael A. Gobb, former executive director; John Coon, former director of operations; John Rhodes, former director of administration and finance; John Slone, former director of planning and development; Brian Ellestad, director of marketing and community relations; Debbie Kelly, manager of administration; and Amy Caudill, manager of marketing.
o $677,571: Charged on airport credit cards.
o $88,505: Paid through cash advances or reimbursed to employees
o $46,962: Charged on store credit cards from Sam's Club, Avis, Sears, Lowe's, Home Depot and Office Max.
o $813,039: Total expenses
o $503,292: Total of questionable or unsupported expenses
FLASH GRAPHIC: Individuals' airport expenses

"For some time, our office has been meeting with the auditor's staff to understand the findings of this troubling audit," Conway said. "We can't comment on the specifics of any investigation, but the findings of this audit speak for themselves."

If former and current managers who used airport-issued credit cards and accounts to make personal purchases haven't been reporting that on their income taxes, they also could have problems with the IRS.

"I certainly think they could look at that and consider that income to those folks," said Mike Kalinyak, a Lexington tax attorney and former general counsel for the state Finance Cabinet and the Revenue Department. "You don't have a tax problem even if you're doing something wrong, as long as you report it."

Already, Luallen has dispatched her audit to the FBI, U.S. Attorney's office and the state attorney general.

Joe Whittle, a former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, said the examples laid out in Luallen's report and previously reported by the Herald-Leader could point to "a major" probe.

"That sounds like a massive case of fraud and something the U.S. Attorney and the FBI would pursue," Whittle said. "This is the type of case I would really go after if I were U.S. Attorney."

If investigators find instances of improper spending across state lines, prosecutors could pursue federal mail fraud or wire fraud charges, especially considering that Blue Grass Airport receives some federal funding, he said.

But some financial cases can be tricky and are often handled through civil suits, said Jane Graham, a Lexington lawyer and former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Investigators can build the strongest criminal cases by proving that someone deliberately deceived their employer, she said.

In some finance-related criminal cases, prosecutors can charge someone with theft if they can show that an employee was reimbursed for an item the company already paid for, Graham said.

The audit noted several instances in which airport employees were reimbursed more than once for the same purchase. The audit also noted widespread problems with the airport's reimbursement policies.

In the last few months, former airport officials have been rushing to reimburse the airport for purchases they made that ended up in their homes, and to return other items purchased on airport cards.

Former executive director Michael A. Gobb, for instance, wrote a $1,000 check earlier this month to finish paying off a $2,000 piece of exercise equipment he bought with airport funds in March 2007.

"How does he justify that? I've seen people prosecuted for a lot less," said Chris Gorman, a former Kentucky attorney general.

Investigators will probably trace back many of the other $500,000 worth of questionable purchases over three years that Luallen's audit found. Those include $700 bottles of champagne, a $5,000 strip club jaunt and thousands of dollars of gasoline and meal charges around Lexington.

Other years' spending couldn't be examined because of missing documents, Luallen said.

Gobb was recorded on airport surveillance cameras removing accounting department documents from the airport in December, confirmed Luallen and Brian Lykins, who headed up the audit for Luallen's office.

Other airport employees also told state auditors they saw Gobb removing documents. But, said Luallen, the papers Gobb removed were copies of existing records and not the six years' worth of Gobb's expense reimbursements that are missing.

Editor's comment: Like I said before, I cannot wait to see these guys in prison garb SOON.

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Betty Winston Baye': Get Real About Domestic Violence And Guns.

Get real about domestic violence and guns
By Betty Winston Baye'

She's baaaack! U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that is.

She's back, and just in time for release this week of her majority opinion reinforcing the federal law that prevents those convicted of domestic violence from legally owning guns.

Justice Ginsburg had pancreatic surgery three weeks ago, and, to his discredit, Kentucky's junior senator, Jim Bunning, publicly predicted that she'll probably be dead in nine months.

Fortunately, most Republicans and Democrats have more class. They were long and strong in applauding the return of the only woman on the U.S. Supreme Court when she walked among her black-robed colleagues into President Obama's economic address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday evening.

Earlier in the day, Justice Ginsburg's majority opinion in United States v. Hayes was released. In it she said, "Firearms and domestic strife are a potentially deadly combination nationwide." Therefore, even if a state's law against battery doesn't specifically cite domestic battery, a convicted perpetrator is prohibited from gun ownership under the 1996 Lautenberg Amendment.

Many states, unfortunately, still treat domestic battery as a misdemeanor.

In fact, Justice Antonin Scalia, who dissented from the 7-2 majority in Hayes, said that a misdemeanor assault and battery charge implies "not that serious an offense."

"That's why we call it a misdemeanor," he insisted.

A misdemeanor indeed.

The 1994 document setting out charges said that Hayes "hit his wife all around the face until it swelled out, kicked her all around her body and kicked her in the ribs."

Not that serious?

Nevertheless, Randy Hayes is a National Rifle Association poster boy.

And Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum asked, "Why are men with clean histories except for one domestic violence dispute punished like hardened criminals who mug strangers on the street?"

Because, Schlafly speculated, "the feminist agenda calls for domestic violence laws to punish husbands and fathers above and beyond what can be proven in court under due-process procedures."

So, as the NRA fights to arm as many Americans as possible, and as Schlafly continues to attack feminists, real people out in the real world are being battered. Real children are being terrorized by that violence.

And police, who hate answering domestic violence calls, are at risk of being shot by some crazed individual who runs amok because his dinner was cold.

Hayes, it seems, didn't learn to keep his hands to himself after serving a year's probation on the 1994 domestic violence charge. In 2004, when police responded to a 911 domestic call involving Hayes and a girlfriend, they found a rifle under his bed. The battery charge was subsequently dropped, but Hayes was indicted under the so-called Lautenberg Amendment for possessing a firearm. That statute prohibits those convicted of domestic violence from owning guns.

The 4th U.S. Court of Appeals sided with Hayes on grounds that the West Virginia battery law under which he pleaded guilty in 1994 did not specifically cite battery in a domestic relationship between the perpetrator and the victim.

But Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling puts Hayes back on the hook for the illegal gun charge.

Meanwhile, down here on the ground in the real world, the abiding question is why so many states still insist on treating domestic battery as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Domestic violence is an international scourge, and whatever the numbers put out by governments and advocacy groups, we can be sure that the numbers of actual incidents are much, much higher. Many victims suffer in silence; they're too terrified or embarrassed to come out of their closets.

Many of us in recent days have seen the photo of a gorgeous young R&B singer, Rihanna, with face bruised and eyes swollen shut. She was allegedly beaten by her boyfriend, the also gorgeous and talented young singer Chris Brown. The 19-year-old Brown will have his day in court, but we are haunted by an earlier interview in which he talked about witnessing, as a youngster, the abuse of his own mother.

Ultimately, the horror of domestic violence is that even if you're someone who can't work up much sympathy for victims who remain in abusive relationships, children who regularly witness such violence often themselves grow up to become abusers.

Betty Winston Bayé's columns appear Thursdays in the Community Forum. E-mail her at

Editor's comment: I applaud the Supreme Court's opinion, because the ruling makes perfect sense, since it is one of those situations where there is a LOGICAL link connecting the means of commiting a crime (the possession of a DEADLY WEAPON to commit VIOLENCE) and the crime itself (domestic VIOLENCE).

Some other laws, like baring ALL former felons from voting, do NOT provide such a logical link, and therefore make NO legal sense, unless unnecessary VINDICTIVENESS counts for legal sense -- and it SHOULDN'T!

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POTUS Barack Obama Feels "Wonder"ful. Watch Video.

Is General Motors (GM) Racing To Bankruptcy? It Looks Like It, As The Company Bleeds $9.6 Billion This Quarter!

Read more, or excerpts below:

The automaker General Motors said Thursday that its cash reserves were down to $14 billion at the end of 2008, a year when the industry’s worst sales slump in decades nearly forced the company into bankruptcy before the federal government gave it a lifeline.

G.M. lost $30.9 billion, or $53.32 a share, in 2008 and spent $19.2 billion of its cash reserves.

For the fourth quarter, it lost $9.6 billion, or $15.71 a share, as its global sales fell 26 percent. It spent $6.2 billion of its reserves in the fourth quarter alone. The company has said in the past that it needed a minimum of $11 billion to $14 billion in reserves to finance operations.

In 2007, the company lost $43.3 billion, a record, mostly the result of a noncash accounting charge; it adjusted the figure higher by $4.6 billion on Thursday.

The losses, though, are unlikely to shake investors, who have already realized the automaker’s perilous state. G.M., which has borrowed $13.4 billion from the government since December, said last week that it might need as much as $30 billion to complete the restructuring plan that it has submitted to the Treasury Department.

The $14 billion that G.M. had on hand in December included the $4 billion of federal assistance that it had received at that time, meaning that the company would have been below its minimum level without the cash. An additional $9.6 billion was disbursed to G.M. in January and February.

Executives have repeatedly insisted that the company’s best option is to restructure outside of bankruptcy. G.M. estimated last week that it would need nearly $100 billion to finance a bankruptcy reorganization.

G.M.’s reported 2008 revenue of $149 billion was 17 percent lower than the previous year’s revenue of $180 billion. Global sales fell 11 percent in 2008, its centennial year, making Toyota of Japan the world’s largest automaker and ending G.M.’s 77-year reign at the industry’s pinnacle.

Excluding one-time charges, G.M. lost $16.8 billion last year, or $29 a share. Its fourth-quarter operating loss was $5.9 billion, or $9.65 a share, worse than the per-share loss of $7.40 that analysts were expecting, on average.

Its revenue in the fourth quarter fell 34 percent to $30.8 billion.

G.M.’s global automotive operations lost $10.4 billion last year, compared with a $553 million profit in 2007.

It lost $2.1 billion in the quarter in North America, the most troubled market, compared with $1.1 billion in the final months of 2007. It reported losses in all of its other geographical regions, as well.

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"Throw At His Head"? I Say: There May NOT Be Anything In It! Laugh With Joel Pett.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"I'm Going To Run."

Bunning's statements, feuding create concerns in GOP
By Halimah Abdullah

WASHINGTON -- Republican insiders are hedging their bets on the fate of Sen. Jim Bunning's 2010 re-election bid as the rift between Kentucky's junior senator and GOP leaders widens.

For the better part of a month, Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher, has thrown Republican leaders curveballs by feuding with his fellow Kentuckian, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee's chairman, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, over support for his re-election efforts. Bunning also made a headline-grabbing blunder by predicting that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be dead by year's end.

Bunning apologized Monday for the Ginsburg statement. However, some Republican analysts want Bunning benched.

"The Republican Party and the leadership in the Republican Party needs to be more vigilant in holding up leaders who stray off the reservation in actions and words," said Phil Musser, a GOP political consultant who advised Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and Matt Blunt and Bobby Jindal's gubernatorial campaigns. "Bunning has been increasingly an erratic and inconsistent voice."

On Tuesday, Bunning threatened to sue the National Republican Senatorial Committee if it tries to recruit a GOP candidate to challenge him. He then went on to accuse state Senate President David Williams of owing him $30,000 and questioned Cornyn's honesty.

On Friday, Williams met with NRSC officials in Washington about a possible run for the U.S. Senate, a move that infuriated Bunning.

"With the stakes so high in respect to the balance of power in 2010, a lot of Republicans wonder if senators who are making these kinds of statements aren't just providing cannon fodder to Democrats," Musser said.

This isn't Bunning's first brush with verbal faux pas.

During the 2004 campaign, Bunning said Democratic challenger Daniel Mongiardo, then a state senator from Eastern Kentucky and now the state's lieutenant governor, looked "like one of Saddam Hussein's sons." Mongiardo is an Italian-American.

Bunning later apologized for the statement, and the two may face off again in 2010.

Mongiardo issued a statement Wednesday calling on Bunning to withdraw from the Senate contest because Bunning is an "embarrassment to Kentuckians."

"By his outrageous and inaccurate comments about the health of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Senator Bunning has once again engaged in conduct unbecoming of a United States senator," Mongiardo said in the statement. "By attacking fellow Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn and by his threat to sue the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, Senator Bunning has lost any sense how to get things done in the Senate. If Senator Bunning is going to constantly fight with his fellow Republican senators, how can he possibly deliver for Kentucky? It's time for Senator Bunning to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race. It's time for him to go."

Bunning did not respond.

In the 2004 election cycle, Mongiardo lost to Bunning by a 1.4 percentage point margin.

Other Democrats considering the race include state Attorney General Jack Conway and state Auditor Crit Luallen. U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, has not ruled out a run.

In the meantime, the state's Republicans are hoping to avoid a replay of the 2007 Kentucky governor's race, when GOP Gov. Ernie Fletcher refused to step aside and lost in a landslide to Democrat and current Gov. Steve Beshear.

Ultimately, the true test of Bunning's ability to mount a viable bid for a third term will depend on whether he is able to raise funds and fortify support, said Jennifer Duffy, a senior analyst with the Cook Political Report.

"It's up to him. He promised to raise $2 million and they'll hold him to it," Duffy said.

So far, Bunning has banked only $150,000 in what could be a race that demands $10 million or more per candidate.

In a telephone press conference with reporters on Tuesday, Bunning had just four words for naysayers:

"I'm going to run."

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In Kentucky, Chuck one up for Chief Justice John Minton As The Man Responsible For Overseeing MASSIVE Courthouse Construction Program Is Out.

Read more here, or the excerpts below:

Director of courthouse program resigns
By Linda B. Blackford -

The chief architect of the Kentucky court system, who has overseen more than $800 million in new courthouse construction, has stepped down after the Herald-Leader and national experts raised questions about the failure of his office to make sure courthouse projects are fully insured.

Garlan VanHook is returning to private practice, effective immediately, Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr, announced in a statement Wednesday. He could not be reached for further comment.

In a recent interview about the bonding of new courthouse construction, VanHook defended the practice of the Administrative Office of the Courts that allows general contractors to bond only 5 percent of the value of their work, instead of the 100 percent required by state law.

asset icon Letter from two surety bond experts condemning AOC's insurance practices
External Link Herald-Leader's Law and Mortar series: Inside Kentucky's courthouse building boom

On Wednesday, two national surety bond organizations sent a letter to 35 county judge-executives, saying that "questionable practices" are being used to insure the projects.

"Obtaining bonds from the construction manager at risk for 100 percent of the contract price is vital to protect the financial interests of taxpayers," the letter said.

In addition, VanHook confirmed last week that his brother, Willie VanHook, works for Codell Construction, which has built or is building 38 of the 65 new courthouses since 2000.

VanHook said he did not think his brother's job was a conflict. Codell confirmed that VanHook had been hired in November but did not work on courthouses.

The Feb. 25 letter questioning the bonding practice, said the AOC's practice of allowing contractors to underinsure their work constitutes "statutory and regulatory violations" of the courthouse contracts.

"That's not normal at all," said Edward Gallagher, general counsel for The Surety & Fidelity Association of America and co-author of the letter.

Kentucky law and the contracts signed by construction managers require 100 percent payment and performance bonds. But Codell and Alliance Construction of Glasgow bond many of the state's new courthouse projects at roughly 5 percent of the projects' costs, which also equals their fee.

In some cases, there was no construction management bond at all when courthouses were begun. Washington County is about to open its new $12 million judicial center. The contract for the project was signed on March 13, 2006. The pay and performance bond was not acquired until Jan. 8, 2009.

"This is disturbing," said Washington Judge Executive John Settles. He said he didn't know the work hadn't been bonded by Codell until last month and thought the AOC would have made sure the project was properly insured.

Five percent bonds were also issued in the past two months for projects already underway in Boyd, Grant, Laurel and Logan Counties. That occurred shortly after bond expert Todd Leohnert and construction attorney Bruce Stigger sent out a raft of open records requests to counties regarding bonds on judicial projects.

"It's a sham," said Leohnert, a senior vice-president and bond manager for Wells Fargo Insurance in Louisville. "The bonds are there to protect taxpayers' dollars. This is black and white, and it's wrong."

Codell officials said they had merely been following the accepted practice at AOC.

Tommy Gumm, president of Alliance, said that as the construction manager on four projects, his company doesn't need to be insured at 100 percent because all the subcontractors are bonded separately. In total, he says, there is bonding on 100 percent of the projects' costs.

However, experts say that the law is there for a reason.

A 100 percent performance bond protects the owner, in this case the county, if a construction manager defaults. Under the AOC's practice, the owner could only recoup 5 percent of the costs.

Other state agencies, including Kentucky's Finance and Administration Cabinet and the University of Kentucky, always require construction managers to put up a pay and performance bond worth 100 percent of construction costs.

"We get 100 percent...because that's what the law says," said Bill Harris, UK director of purchasing.

Using 5 percent pay and performance bonds allows them to secure more state construction jobs because it doesn't use up as much of their bonding capacity.

In an interview last week, VanHook said he saw nothing wrong with the practice.

"I've never had a debate over whether it's an appropriate or inappropriate way to do the bonding," he said.

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Message From POTUS Barack Obama. Note: I Have Already Posted The Video.

Osi --

Last night, I addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time.

To confront the serious economic challenges our nation faces, I called for a new era of responsibility and cooperation. We need to look beyond short term political calculations and make vital investments in health care, energy, and education that will make America stronger and more prosperous well into the future.

Watch a few highlights from my address and share it with your friends now:

A little more than a month into my administration, we've already taken bold steps to address our urgent economic problems.

Through the Recovery Act, the Stability Plan, and the Housing Plan, we're taking the immediate necessary measures to halt our economic downturn and provide much-needed assistance to working people and their families.

But to set our country on a new course of stability and prosperity, we must reject the old ways of doing business in Washington. We can no longer tolerate fiscal deficits and runaway spending while deferring the consequences to future generations.

That's why I pledged last night to cut our deficit in half by the end of my term. Achieving that goal will require making sacrifices and hard decisions, as well as an honest budgeting process that is straight with taxpayers about where their dollars are going.

Watch some key moments from my address now:

Central to this plan will be a renewed commitment to honesty and transparency in government. Restoring our country's economic health will only happen when ordinary citizens are given the opportunity to hold their representatives fully accountable for the decisions they make.

I look forward to continuing to work with you as we bring about the change you made possible.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama


Is California Going To Pot? Should Kentucky Follow? Watch Video.

"Octomom", Nadya Suleman, Gets A "Vivid" Offer That Reveals Another Sign Of The Times.

Read letter.

Another sad sign of the times.


POTUS Barack Obama Appears To Have A "Locke" On Commerce Secretary. Watch Video.

A Sign Of The Times -- Again: Child Killers.

Below Is Bobby Jindal, Louisiana Governor, Responding To POTUS Barack Obama's Congressional Speech. Watch.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: A Report Of Unbridled Thievery At Lexington, Kentucky, Airport.

Normally, I would refer you to read the entire report at its source, and I urge to still do that (go here), but the report is so shameful that I am posting most of the report below:

Audit: Airport fostered culture of "shameful" spending
By Jennifer Hewlett and Ryan Alessi -

State Auditor Crit Luallen said Wednesday that Blue Grass Airport officials fostered a culture of "shameful" spending that led to more than $500,000 worth of questionable expenses over three years. She has referred her audit to criminal investigators.

"I don't think we have ever seen an audit where so many different individuals in the management of a public agency abused the trust with such arrogance and a lack of ethical standards," Luallen said.

The 256-page report details rampant spending by airport executives at bars, restaurants, golf courses, liquor and retail stores and online Web sites. The spending encompasses extravagant items, such as two $700 bottles of champagne, hundreds of dollars worth of cigars and $1,606 for tickets to six plays, including Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It also covers more mundane bills like dozens of DVDs that are not at the airport and $40 in cornhole bean bags. For holiday gifts, managers bought more than $14,000 in hams and $400 in train sets for airport employees and board members.

Mike Gobb, executive director of Blue Grass Airport, spoke at the Bluegrass Hospitality Association 2006 Tourism Forum and Trade Show at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Lexington.

Spending by the numbers

Over three years, airport employees in seven key positions spent the following amounts on credit cards and through cash advances. The seven were Michael A. Gobb, former executive director; John Coon, former director of operations; John Rhodes, former director of administration and finance; John Slone, former director of planning and development; Brian Ellestad, director of marketing and community relations; Debbie Kelly, manager of administration; and Amy Caudill, manager of marketing.
o $677,571: Charged on airport credit cards.
o $88,505: Paid through cash advances or reimbursed to employees
o $46,962: Charged on store credit cards from Sam's Club, Avis, Sears, Lowe's, Home Depot and Office Max.
o $813,039: Total expenses
o $503,292: Total of questionable or unsupported expenses

In all, seven airport officials spent $813,039 using their credit cards or cash, for which they were reimbursed.

During that period the audit says the managers, led by former executive director Michael A. Gobb, padded their pockets by double-billing the airport for reimbursements. They also cashed out un-used vacation days—a perk not available to other airport workers—and bought tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts for themselves and others.

Luallen said that she was "appalled" at the spending and highlighted $7,400 spent for five employees to go "on a Nascar drive that they called a team-building exercise."

She said instead it appeared that the trip was "just as a lark – as a fun outing."

The audit points to a lack of checks and balances by the airport's board— saying that in some cases oversight was non-existent.

There was no hint that board members were complicit in the managers' improper spending but it was clear that they didn't put procedures in place and trusted Gobb unquestionably, she said.

During the period Luallen covered, from January 2006 through December 2008, the board was led by Bernard Lovely, a Lexington lawyer. Lovely was responsible for approving Gobb's expenses. However, just three of Gobb's monthly reports included Lovely's initials, according to the audit.

The airport board, in a 57-page response to the audit, pins much of the blame on Gobb, who "disregarded many of the board's policies." And it points out that Gobb and three of his lieutenants have resigned and that the board has revoked airport credit cards since a series of Herald-Leader articles raised questions about the managers' travel and spending starting in November.

J. Robert Owens, who recently became the new airport board chairman, wrote in the response to Luallen's report that he expects to act on her other recommendations as early as Wednesday morning at a board meeting.

The audit, which was requested by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council in December, has been referred to the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, Luallen said.

Gobb set the tone

Gobb, who resigned in January, remains at the center of the spending controversy. The audit shows that 96.5 percent of his $158,384 in airport credit-card purchases were questionable or unsupported; that he signed off on $23,000 in bonuses and nearly $83,000 in payouts for vacation days—none of which were approved by the board. In addition, he had the airport pay $36,500 for his association and club memberships in 2008 alone.

"The former executive director established a culture of wasteful and excessive spending that provided personal benefits for himself and others through inappropriate expenditures and arbitrary personnel actions," the audit says. "Blue Grass Airport management staff lost sight of their responsibility as stewards of a public agency to be accountable to the community they served."

After an inventory of financial records, the auditor found that six years of Gobb's expense reimbursement forms and about three years of his airport credit-card statements were missing.

Luallen told reporters that the review found "no specific evidence" that those records were destroyed or purposely removed. "But it certainly was suspicious."

Luallen's audit urges the airport board, made up of Lexington community leaders appointed by the mayor, to revamp many of its oversight policies, which the report said were either regularly "circumvented" or inadequate to begin with. She makes more than 100 recommendations for tightening financial controls.

She said internal and external auditing of the airport must be ramped up. "Frankly the outside auditor should have said red flags long before this."

Managers approved their own credit-card purchases and Gobb often charged expenses to the cards of his lieutenants, as previously reported by the Herald-Leader.

Luallen, through interviews with Gobb's former directors and through other airport documents, found the practice was widespread.

Former director of operations John Coon, for instance, told auditors that Gobb would ask for his airport credit-card number and expiration date each time Coon was issued a new card. John Rhodes, the former director of administration and finance, told auditors that, while traveling, Gobb would often ask the other managers for their room numbers to charge meals and entertainment to their rooms instead of his.

Gobb directed the airport's manager of administration, Debbie Kelly, to charge $110 for a conference fee for his young daughter and more than $720 for U.S. Equestrian Federation holiday cards.

Other charges directed by Gobb include a $700 tuxedo, a $127 formal dress from Dillard's, $3,315 worth of Nintendo Wii consoles and $700 in DVDs, as previously reported by the Herald-Leader.

Pattern of behavior

The audit reveals a series of incidents involving Gobb that went unreported.

Members of the auditor's staff were told about an accident that Gobb had on July 17, 2008, just two days before he left town for medical treatment.

Gobb was driving an airport vehicle that was towing a trailer loaded with old fence posts to be used on a farm, according to the report. The next day, the airport learned that two mailboxes had been damaged in an accident. The cost of materials and labor to repair the damage was about $132.

Airport officials violated policies, according to the audit, by not reporting the accident and not requiring the driver to give blood and urine samples and pay for any damages.

Airport public safety chief Scott Lanter told airport operations director John Coon that an accident report needed to be completed, but Lanter was told not to fill out a report, the audit says. It does not say who told him that.

Just three months earlier, Gobb had purchased three Breathalyzer kits for $320, which the auditor's office learned were for Gobb's personal use.

The auditor also questions the airport board's habit of not publicly discussing or including in its minutes many decisions, including its approval of $10,000 paid on Gobb's behalf to Cottonwood de Tucson, a treatment facility in Arizona where Gobb stayed in July 2008.

Many of Luallen's recommendations are aimed at better record keeping and auditing, which could prevent future abuses.

Auditors found that some financial records, including credit-card statements and expense reimbursements, had been removed from the airport accounting office in the fall of 2005.

The airport recently installed a card reader on the door leading to the accounting office to restricts access to that office during non-business hours. The auditor's office recommended that the airport retain scanned electronic images of financial records.

Rush to reimburse

Several former managers have scrambled to pay the airport back for personal purchases since the Herald-Leader began detailing questionable spending last fall.

For example, Rhodes wrote 15 personal checks totaling more than $5,000 in December 2008 for charges he made on the airport's tab dating back to 2002, according to the audit.

And earlier this month, Gobb paid $1,000 he owed for the March 2007 purchase of exercise equipment.

Even the board's former chairman, Lovely, recently paid back $1,324 that was charged to the airport for a ticket to Hawaii for his wife Sylvia. She attended a 2007 conference for airport executives with her husband. Lovely didn't reimburse the airport for that amount until this month.

Editor's comment: I hope to see many of these folks wearing prison garbs SOON!

Update: Below's how Joel Pett sees it. Laugh if you can:

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