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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Louisville Courier Journal Editorial Urges CONgressional Democrats To "Use Reconciliation" To Pass Healthcare Reform. Read More Below.

Use reconciliation

Thursday's health care summit in Washington served some useful purposes.

Democratic and Republican leaders engaged in a generally civil discussion about public policy, something that happens far too infrequently in the capital these days. Americans who tuned in actually hoping to learn something were offered a rich stew of information and arguments that they should find helpful. It left, at long last, no doubt about where President Obama stands.

What the meeting did not do, however, is move the nation closer to desperately needed health care reform. Indeed, it underscored the unbridgeable differences between Democratic and Republican ideas, and made clear that it is virtually inconceivable that the two parties can arrive at a compromise reform bill that will attract substantial votes in Congress from both parties.

The Democrats' agenda was familiar: extend coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans, end insurance companies' practices of denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, create a federal authority to limit premium increases, create exchanges and government subsidies to help Americans obtain insurance, and start the process of slowing the spiraling costs of health care.

Republican proposals seem to start from a wrong-headed assumption that the problems aren't severe. (After all, for six years in the past decade the GOP controlled both the White House and Congress and didn't tackle comprehensive health care reform.) Their small-scale proposals would extend coverage to only a fraction of what the Democrats have in mind, and would do little to help sick people get affordable rates — if they can purchase insurance at all.

The Republicans can, however, prevent the Democrats from getting the 60 votes they would need to halt a filibuster, and the summit again made clear they would do just that. That leaves the Democrats one option — a parliamentary tactic known as reconciliation that allows bills to be passed with a simple Senate majority of 51 votes if each provision has an impact on the federal budget. They should use it.

Reconciliation reflects majority rule — in this instance by a party that has won the last two national elections decisively. It would not shut off meaningful debate; GOP demands for further debate are aimed only at obstruction. There is precedent regarding health insurance — the popular COBRA provision that allows workers to continue their employer-provided insurance after termination stands for the Consolidated Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, and was signed by President Ronald Reagan.

Republicans and reform opponents will be enraged, but politically that doesn't matter. The GOP will run this fall on their opposition to reform anyway. The Democrats will be better off if they can say that they at least did something. More important, the nation will benefit.


Leonard Pitts: How Much Is The Tea Party Movement About Race?

How much is the tea party movement about race?
By Leonard Pitts

A few words on the meaning of tea.

They are occasioned by a recent commentary from Keith Olbermann of MSNBC. The commentary — you can find it on YouTube — scores the tea party movement as the outcry of people who haven't yet made peace with the fact that their President is black.

Everything else, said Olbermann, is euphemism. Taxes? Socialism? Budget deficit? No, he argued, when you strip away the pretenses and rationalizations, “it's still racism,” and they hate the President only because he is black.

One is reminded of the 2008 campaign in which many of Barack Obama's opponents insisted people only “supported” him because he was black.

It was an offensive claim, in that it assumed black was black was black and that people were so imbecilic that skin color — alone and of itself — was sufficient to win their votes. As if you could sub in rapper Flavor Flav and they would not care.

The truth, it always seemed to me, was more nuanced. People liked Obama's policies, his eloquence, and his fierce intelligence and the fact that he was black, that his election would turn history on its ear, was a desirable bonus, but only that — icing on the cake, but not the cake itself.

I submit that a rough inverse of that dynamic now helps define the tea party movement.

Ask yourself: would we even be having this discussion if Condoleezza Rice were president? If Rice, Republican stalwart, conservative icon, and black woman were chief executive, would the first pot of tea ever have been brewed?

One suspects the average tea party participant would tell you emphatically, “no,” and that this “no” serves as his personal shield against charges of racism. How can I be racist, he would demand, when I know in my heart that I would've supported Condi to the max?

If you concede him that, then you have to ask yourself what it does to Olbermann's contention that racism is the whole raison d'être of the movement.

The answer leads us back again to nuance, albeit in mirror image. The tea party people distrust Obama's policies, his eloquence, his fierce intelligence and the fact that he is black then becomes the final straw, the difference maker and deal breaker. To put that another way: I doubt most of the tea partiers hate Obama strictly because he is black, but it sure doesn't help.

My point is not that Olbermann's argument is wrong but, rather, that it is incomplete.

Yes, race is obviously a component, and a major component at that, of the reaction against the President. The recurring use of racist imagery and language, the attendance at tea party events of a racist group like the so-called Council of Conservative Citizens, settles that definitively.

But ultimately, people seem moved by something even bigger than race. This is race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, “culture,” and the fact that those who have always been on the right side, the “power-wielding” side, of one or more of those equations, now face the realization that their days of dominance are numbered.

There is a poignancy to their responsive fury because one senses that the nether side of it is a choking fear. We are witness to the birth cries of a new America and for every one of us who embraces and celebrates that, who looks forward to the opportunity and inclusiveness it promises, there is another who grapples with a crippling sense of dislocation and loss, who wonders who and what she will be in the nation now being born.

One hopes they will find answers that satisfy them because the change they fear will not be turned back. No one ever volunteers to return to the rear of the bus.

So for all the frustration the tea party movement engenders among the rest of us, one also feels a certain pity for people like the woman last year who cried, plaintively, that she wanted her country back.

As if she didn't realize that it is already, irrevocably, gone.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald. His e-mail address is


"Incesteous" Relationships Between Lawyers And Doctors.

Law firm, medical clinic accused of trading clients
By Andrew Wolfson

Injured when another car struck hers in June 2008, Sharon Langford of Louisville went to see the law firm of Winters Yonker & Rousselle.

She said the firm told her that her health insurance wouldn't cover injuries suffered in car wrecks and that she should get all medical care at 1st Physician Rehabilitation Inc., a clinic on Crums Lane.

When Langford needed surgery, the firm flew her to another clinic in Florida.

She only discovered later, she said, that both clinics are owned by Gary Kompothecras, a chiropractor who also owns the heavily advertised referral service 1-800-ASK-GARY, which refers clients to Winters & Yonker, as the firm is now known, in Louisville and Florida.

In a suit filed last month against the law firm and Kompothecras' Louisville clinic, Langford said the relationship between the two — and their alleged deception — deprived her of the right to treatment by her doctors and cost her money.

Sam Carl, one of her lawyers, said Winters & Yonker settled her accident case for $200,000, then paid itself $70,000 and the medical providers $64,518, leaving her the smallest share, $62,738. (The balance covered medical expenses before she hired the firm.)

“I felt they weren't honest with me,” Langford, a former state corrections officer, said in an interview.

The law firm and medical clinic call the suit frivolous and say they will prevail.

Marc Yonker, a partner in Tampa-based Winters & Yonker, declined to answer questions about his firm's relationship with Kompothecras' companies, and Kompothecras also had no comment, said Gregory Zitani, one of his lawyers.

Lawyers who defend auto wreck cases say Winters & Yonker isn't the only firm that seems to routinely refer clients to the same medical clinics.

But Langford and her lawyers say the case reveals an interconnected network that is rife with potential conflicts of interest.

Carl said the relationship between Winters & Yonker and the Kompothecras clinics raises “disturbing questions” about whether clients are getting the best medical care.

Other lawyers say the arrangement creates an incentive for the clinics to say injuries are accident-related and to run up medical bills.

And ethics experts say that the reciprocal referrals violate ethics rules in Kentucky and Florida, which bar lawyers from giving anything of value in exchange for referrals.

“A lawyer has the obligation to send the client to the best place, not the place from which the lawyer is getting business,” explained Northwestern University law professor Steven Lubet.

There are no publicly available complaints pending against the firm's lawyers at the Kentucky Bar Association, said Linda Gosnell, chief bar counsel, but the suit has been brought to the bar's attention.
Firm's use of clinic

The Courier-Journal's review of Jefferson Circuit Court records found more than a dozen other auto accident and slip-and-fall cases in which Winters & Yonker clients were treated at 1st Physician, including several in which clients said they were sent there by the law firm.

Louisville trial lawyer Chris Meinhart, who has challenged Winters & Yonker's relationship with another Florida medical clinic, said other personal-injury attorneys occasionally recommend doctors to clients — in part because many family doctors don't want to get involved in the legal system.

But Meinhart said Winters & Yonker “systemically” refers clients to a few providers.

In her lawsuit, Langford said that she was examined at the Crums Lane clinic by Dr. Francisco Gomes, who is licensed in Kentucky but is listed as an “inactive physician” by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure.

Gomes, who is licensed in Florida and works in one of Kompothecras' clinics there, said Langford needed surgery, and she was flown to Florida, where in September 2008 he removed a disc from her neck and fused two vertebrae, according to her lawsuit.

Lloyd Vest, general counsel for the Kentucky Medical Licensure Board, said it is investigating Gomes, but he couldn't elaborate.

Gomes didn't respond to calls and e-mails.

Kompothecras' clinics don't accept health insurance, according to their Web sites.

Instead, they first bill their patients' auto-insurance carriers to recover from the personal-injury protection all drivers must carry. The mandatory coverage — which must be at least $10,000 — pays for medical bills and lost wages without suing the at-fault driver.

The clinics also obtain a “letter of protection” from Winters & Yonker, in which the law firm promises to cover medical expenses from any settlement or verdict the patient wins in the legal case.

Langford alleges that neither the law firm nor Kompothecras' clinics disclosed that they give each other business “in consideration for receiving client referrals.”

In the suit, she seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as the forfeiture of the law firm's fee, claiming the medical costs deducted from her settlement would have been far less if they had been covered by her Humana policy.

Langford is the only former client who has sued Winters & Yonker, according to Jefferson Circuit Court records. But auto-insurance companies and their lawyers have, in other cases, attempted to alert juries to what they say is a cozy relationship between the firm and medical providers.

For example, after another Winters & Yonker client, Elsia Clay of Louisville, sued over injuries she claimed she suffered in a rear-end accident on Feb. 5, 2008, attorneys for the other driver and Allstate Insurance Co. questioned Dr. Gregory Bronner, the medical director at 1st Physician, where Clay was treated.

Bonner acknowledged that the clinic is paid in part based on how much Winters & Yonker recovers for its clients.

A jury awarded Clay only $10,320 of the $120,000 in damages that lawyers at Winters & Yonker sought for her. That included bills from 1st Physician and from an MRI clinic in Jeffersonville, Ind., that is owned by one of Kompothecras' employees, according to state records.

800 referral line

That link is further demonstrated by the “1-800-ASK-GARY” referral line.

According to its Web site, the line promises to connect auto-accident victims with injury attorneys and doctors “who are uniquely suited to your situation.”

Stephanie Portman of Louisville said that when she called the referral line last month, the operator put an intake specialist from Winters & Yonker on the line, who recommended that she seek treatment at clinics owned by Kompothecras.

Kompothecras owns a chain of 40 clinics in Florida and Minnesota, as well 1st Physician, and has spent as much as $4million a year in advertising and marketing expenses for 1-800-ASK-GARY, according to a suit he filed in Florida a few years ago against some of his competitors.

His company is private and doesn't disclose its profits.

Winters & Yonker clients do see other medical providers, according to court records.

But former employees, including Brian Clear, who worked for the firm for about a year signing up clients, said in interviews that there was an expectation clients would be sent to 1st Physicians Rehab or a few other clinics that referred business to the law firm.

He said the firm kept records on where clients were referred.

In a Jefferson Circuit Court case settled in December, a Tampa-based clinic that has treated Winters & Yonker clients, Laser Spine Institute, was forced to accept only $10,000 of its $124,850 bill after attorneys challenged the clinic's relationship with the law firm.

Debbie Lynch initially hired Winters & Yonker to represent her in her car-accident suit. But after she fired the firm and hired other lawyers, she claimed in court papers that the law firm set up surgery for Lynch at the Florida clinic while she was still being treated by her doctors in Louisville.

One of her new lawyers, Meinhart, said Lynch's accident was a “fender bender,” but the clinic and the law firm allowed her medical bills to escalate so high that “there is no way the case could have been settled or tried to a verdict” in an amount sufficient to pay them.

Meinhart said Lynch was never told about the clinic and firm's “outstanding relationship.”

Winters & Yonker and Lynch declined to discuss the case.

Dotty Bollinger, an attorney for Laser Spine Institute, said that the company has “acknowledged and addressed Lynch's concerns” and that her case was settled “in a fair manner.”


Toyota Motor Company Aims To Fix Its American Problem.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

PAUL KRUGMAN Is Watching "Afflicting The Afflicted".

Afflicting the Afflicted

If we’re lucky, Thursday’s summit will turn out to have been the last act in the great health reform debate, the prologue to passage of an imperfect but nonetheless history-making bill. If so, the debate will have ended as it began: with Democrats offering moderate plans that draw heavily on past Republican ideas, and Republicans responding with slander and misdirection.

Nobody really expected anything different. But what was nonetheless revealing about the meeting was the fact that Republicans — who had weeks to prepare for this particular event, and have been campaigning against reform for a year — didn’t bother making a case that could withstand even minimal fact-checking.

It was obvious how things would go as soon as the first Republican speaker, Senator Lamar Alexander, delivered his remarks. He was presumably chosen because he’s folksy and likable and could make his party’s position sound reasonable. But right off the bat he delivered a whopper, asserting that under the Democratic plan, “for millions of Americans, premiums will go up.”

Wow. I guess you could say that he wasn’t technically lying, since the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate Democrats’ plan does say that average payments for insurance would go up. But it also makes it clear that this would happen only because people would buy more and better coverage. The “price of a given amount of insurance coverage” would fall, not rise — and the actual cost to many Americans would fall sharply thanks to federal aid.

His fib on premiums was quickly followed by a fib on process. Democrats, having already passed a health bill with 60 votes in the Senate, now plan to use a simple majority vote to modify some of the numbers, a process known as reconciliation. Mr. Alexander declared that reconciliation has “never been used for something like this.” Well, I don’t know what “like this” means, but reconciliation has, in fact, been used for previous health reforms — and was used to push through both of the Bush tax cuts at a budget cost of $1.8 trillion, twice the bill for health reform.

What really struck me about the meeting, however, was the inability of Republicans to explain how they propose dealing with the issue that, rightly, is at the emotional center of much health care debate: the plight of Americans who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions. In other advanced countries, everyone gets essential care whatever their medical history. But in America, a bout of cancer, an inherited genetic disorder, or even, in some states, having been a victim of domestic violence can make you uninsurable, and thus make adequate health care unaffordable.

One of the great virtues of the Democratic plan is that it would finally put an end to this unacceptable case of American exceptionalism. But what’s the Republican answer? Mr. Alexander was strangely inarticulate on the matter, saying only that “House Republicans have some ideas about how my friend in Tullahoma can continue to afford insurance for his wife who has had breast cancer.” He offered no clue about what those ideas might be.

In reality, House Republicans don’t have anything to offer to Americans with troubled medical histories. On the contrary, their big idea — allowing unrestricted competition across state lines — would lead to a race to the bottom. The states with the weakest regulations — for example, those that allow insurance companies to deny coverage to victims of domestic violence — would set the standards for the nation as a whole. The result would be to afflict the afflicted, to make the lives of Americans with pre-existing conditions even harder.

Don’t take my word for it. Look at the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the House G.O.P. plan. That analysis is discreetly worded, with the budget office declaring somewhat obscurely that while the number of uninsured Americans wouldn’t change much, “the pool of people without health insurance would end up being less healthy, on average, than under current law.” But here’s the translation: While some people would gain insurance, the people losing insurance would be those who need it most. Under the Republican plan, the American health care system would become even more brutal than it is now.

So what did we learn from the summit? What I took away was the arrogance that the success of things like the death-panel smear has obviously engendered in Republican politicians. At this point they obviously believe that they can blandly make utterly misleading assertions, saying things that can be easily refuted, and pay no price. And they may well be right.

But Democrats can have the last laugh. All they have to do — and they have the power to do it — is finish the job, and enact health reform.


The New York Times Reviews "[New York] Governor David Paterson's Next Steps".

Gov. Paterson’s Next Steps

Gov. David Paterson of New York served up one of the great political understatements on Friday when he talked about the “accumulation of obstacles” to his campaign for election. He did the right thing — the only thing — by dropping out of the race, but that is not going to make his troubles go away.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating the intervention by Mr. Paterson’s administration in a domestic altercation involving one of the governor’s aides. And there are many other things Mr. Paterson should be doing instead of running a quixotic campaign.

Mr. Paterson has 308 more days at the helm of a big state in the midst of disruptive and tough times. There is an $8 billion hole in the state budget, which must be balanced by March 31. And the abysmal ethical culture in Albany is still desperately in need of reforming — from a freewheeling Legislature that lives by its own twisted rules, to a State Police force that clearly needs a housecleaning, to, apparently, the governor’s office itself.

Mr. Paterson’s highest priority must be the budget. It has to be cut carefully, sensibly and fairly to make sure that those who can least afford it do not bear an unequal burden. Now, at least, Mr. Paterson does not have to worry about union television ads or special-interest lobbying. He should make certain that Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch is his top adviser on the budget and a participant in every important budget meeting. Mr. Ravitch is a seasoned public official who helped New York City through its rough patch in the 1970s. He has the knowledge and gravitas to deal with these times.

The governor is losing clout by the day, but he still has a chance to use the political levers available to any New York governor. He can threaten to pluck lawmakers’ favorite items out of the budget, for example, and he still has the power of the veto. Those powers, plus the freedom from political blocs and their agendas that dropping out of the race provides, could help him push through a real ethics reform package.

Mr. Paterson is not the only elected leader in New York who should be worrying about something other than the election. Sheldon Silver, a leading Democrat and the Assembly speaker, and the leading Republican in Albany, Dean Skelos, the Senate minority leader, both need to recognize that the state is in a real emergency. John Sampson, the Democratic conference leader in the Senate, and others should not use this time for more of the mischief they got up to last year. New Yorkers are watching as never before.

Another thing that needs watching is the State Police. Mr. Paterson’s withdrawal from the campaign came after news of his involvement in the handling of accusations of domestic violence against David Johnson, who once was the governor’s closest aide. It was inappropriate enough that Mr. Paterson spoke to the victim, but there are even more disturbing questions about the involvement of the State Police, and especially the unit protecting the governor.

Members of the governor’s security detail acknowledged meeting with the woman after the altercation. They said they wanted to offer counseling and talk about her “options.” If that’s true, it’s impossible to imagine how it could have been appropriate. But the woman testified in court that state troopers were “hounding” and “harassing” her to drop the charges.

Mr. Cuomo investigated the State Police last September and found political interference at the highest levels going back to George Pataki’s administration. The job of the governor’s security detail is security, not public relations or, worse, cover-ups.

With all these challenges, it’s hard to see how Mr. Paterson can redeem himself, but at least he has time to show political courage, instead of weakness, or worse.

Update: Saturday Night Live weighs in, too:


In New York, Governor David Paterson "Deep Sixes" Election Campaign, And Ethics Entangles CONgressman Charlie "Rangler" Rangle. Watch Video.

New York Times Tags Senator Jim Bunning As Being "Clueless In Kentucky".

Clueless in Kentucky

Kentucky has lost about 60,000 jobs since the end of 2008. In December, its unemployment rate stood at 10.7 percent, the highest since 1983. So what exactly is going on in the minds of Kentucky’s two Republican senators, Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning?

This week, Mr. Bunning single-handedly shot down a one-month extension of unemployment benefits, along with a federal subsidy for the unemployed to maintain health coverage. Two weeks earlier, Mr. McConnell, the minority leader, objected to a one-week extension to give senators time to draft a longer-term package.

It should be a no-brainer to extend unemployment insurance when around 1 out of every 10 workers is unemployed. Standard unemployment benefits end at 26 weeks, yet 6.3 million workers have been out of work for more than 27 weeks. Congress has provided a series of extensions, and without another one, 400,000 people will lose their benefits in a matter of weeks.

Senator Bunning once cared about the unemployed. When the benefit was due to expire in November, he joined a unanimous vote to extend it until the end of February. “Kentucky has been hit hard by the current economic downturn,” he said at the time. It still is, but Mr. Bunning refused to consider the extension unless it was paid for with funds from the fiscal stimulus plan. For years, Mr. Bunning didn’t seem to have a problem with blowing up the deficit for the Iraq war and tax cuts. Now he’s a deficit hawk when it comes to average Americans.

Maybe he’s preoccupied. At one point during a debate on the issue Thursday night, he complained about missing the Kentucky-South Carolina basketball game.

Democrats must now defeat Republican attempts to lace the benefits extension with things like protecting the rich from the estate tax. To avoid a repeat of this nonsense every few weeks, unemployment benefits should be extended until the end of the year. Perhaps by Monday somebody can educate Senators Bunning and McConnell about Kentucky’s unemployment rate.

Update: Watch the video below:


In Bowling Green, Kentucky, Murderer Lawrence Robert Stinnett Proves That One Has A FOOL For His/Her Lawyer. Now His DEATH Comes! Read More Below.

Stinnett guilty on both counts
Decision on whether he will get death penalty upcoming


Lawrence Robert Stinnett was found guilty Thursday of intentional murder and kidnapping in Warren Circuit Court, and he will learn next week whether he will be sentenced to die for his crimes.

A jury of six women and six men deliberated for five hours before convicting Stinnett, 50, on both charges, which stemmed from the Feb. 3, 2006, death of Stinnett’s girlfriend, Christina Renshaw.

Jurors heard testimony over nearly four weeks that Stinnett beat Renshaw to death on that night at the 1712A Highland Way apartment the couple had shared.

At one point during the attack, Renshaw was “hog-tied” with electrical cords, resulting in ligature marks around her neck, wrists and one ankle.

Stinnett sat at his table facing forward and flanked by his defense team, showing no emotion as Warren Circuit Judge John Grise read the verdict.

Afterward, Stinnett was led from the courtroom in handcuffs, followed closely by his attorneys, Vince Yustas, of the Department of Public Advocacy, and Jonathan Hieneman, a Campbellsville attorney contracted through the DPA.

“Lawrence was very stoic about the decision. He has turned over the control of the case back to his lawyers,” Yustas said in an e-mail Thursday night.

“We must now present the evidence about his life to show the jury that Lawrence, particularly with his mental problems, is not evil, not a person who should be eliminated from the human race.”

Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron received hugs from many of Renshaw’s relatives, including her father, Claude Lovan, who testified earlier in the trial that he received a call on his cell phone from Renshaw’s cell phone and listened to the beating for nine minutes.

The penalty phase of the trial began this morning with jurors hearing evidence in an effort to determine Stinnett’s sentence. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Claude Lovan, Renshaw’s father, delivered a tearful statement this morning during the penalty phase of the trial.

Lovan spoke of how Renshaw’s oldest son, Sean, 15, now lives with Lovan and his wife, Cheryl.

“Sean is getting to where he cannot remember his mother’s voice and he is afraid he’s forgetting her,” Lovan said, reading from a written statement while struggling not to cry.

Lovan described the impact of Renshaw’s murder on her family, including her three children.

Reading part of the note written by Sean, Lovan said that the effects of Renshaw’s death on her family may never be fully felt.

“She will not see me graduate, she will not see me get married ... I hate you and will never forgive you for this,” said Lovan, quoting his grandson.

Lovan said that Renshaw’s birthday was a “very slow crawl” each year, but the family goes out to a park each year to release balloons with messages to Renshaw inside.

Lovan described the four-year process of waiting for the case to go to trial as a “roller coaster ride,” with each delay making the family feel as though Renshaw’s death were happening again.

“I really know of no way to express to you the full magnitude of the loss to our family of Christina,” Lovan said.

Martin Scott, detective for the Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, testified that Stinnett developed a lengthy felony record in Oklahoma during the 1990s.

In 1992, Stinnett was convicted of possession of a controlled dangerous substance (cocaine) and possession of drug paraphernalia and in a separate case that year he was convicted of grand larceny.

The following year, Stinnett was convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and in a separate case in 1993 he was convicted of false declaration to a pawn broker and receiving stolen property. He was given a 20-year prison sentence on each count because of his prior convictions.

In 1998, Stinnett was convicted of two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. One count was for crack cocaine possession and the other was for marijuana, Scott said. He was also convicted in the same case of possession of drug paraphernalia.

In 2000, all of Stinnett’s convictions were combined into one 20-year sentence, and Stinnett was paroled on Oct. 3, 2002, Scott said.

Jurors will hear additional evidence on Wednesday.

Closing arguments delivered

Cohron’s closing argument to jurors Thursday urged them to consider Stinnett’s words and deeds before, during and after Renshaw’s death.

Stinnett left five hostile voice mails on Renshaw’s cell phone on the morning of Feb. 3, 2006, the profanity-laced messages containing a number of death threats.

After his arrest, Stinnett called a former girlfriend, Wanda Jermigan, from Warren County Regional Jail on Feb. 5 or 6, 2006. In the conversation that was recorded and played for the jury during the trial, Stinnett acknowledged his role in Renshaw’s death, saying “I’d never killed anybody before.”

“He said what he was going to do, he did it and he admitted he did it,” Cohron told jurors at several points during his argument.

Stinnett acted as lead counsel in his own defense during the trial, having requested the responsibility after conflicts developed with his attorneys over trial strategy.

On Thursday, Stinnett and Yustas both delivered closing arguments before the jury, Stinnett pleading his case for nearly two hours after telling jurors he would respect whatever result the jury delivered.

Stinnett reminded jurors of his history of mental problems, bringing up testimony from medical experts about his past struggles with depression and drug and alcohol abuse.

He also brought up his earlier claim of having overheard Renshaw engage in sexual intercourse with multiple partners over the course of a three-hour cell phone call shortly after midnight on Feb. 3, 2006, arguing that this was the triggering event that led him to “embark on a lifetime date with doom.”

Soon after that phone call, he and a co-defendant, Alanda Lewis, left Oklahoma City, where Stinnett was living in a hotel, for Bowling Green, ending up in Renshaw’s apartment that night.

Testimony from Bowling Green Police Department Detective Brett Kreilein, the lead investigator in the case, indicated that there was a 176-minute cell phone call between Stinnett and Renshaw during that time period.

Kreilein and Stinnett’s former attorney, Bette Niemi, both testified that interviews of witnesses turned up nobody who had had sex with Renshaw during her relationship with Stinnett.

Stinnett ultimately attempted to persuade the jury that Lewis deserved more of the blame for Renshaw’s death, and accused her of lying on the witness stand when she was called by prosecutors.

Stinnett denied Lewis’ claim that the two had sex while they roomed together at an Oklahoma City hotel and said that she was staying with Stinnett because she had nowhere else to go.

“You’ll find that Alanda Lewis was ultimately and unwittingly being the instigator and the key factor in the terrible outcome of this tragedy,” Stinnett said. “Alanda Lewis somehow weaseled her way into sticking with the defendant like she did.”

Stinnett brought up Lewis’ prior testimony that, during the attack on Renshaw, Stinnett offered Lewis $500 if she would cut Renshaw’s throat.

Lewis, who testified that Stinnett showed her how to do it, did not take the knife Stinnett was offering.

“The fact that Christina’s neck was not cut only supports the lack of intent to kill Christina,” Stinnett said.

In his closing argument, Yustas told jurors that Lewis’ testimony was motivated by a desire to get a better deal for herself, and that the testimony of Nakesha Jenkins should hold more weight.

Jenkins, a former cellmate of Lewis, told jurors that she overheard Lewis recount how she and Stinnett beat Renshaw with objects wrapped inside towels.

Yustas also addressed the possibility that Stinnett was acting under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance, which argues that a defendant’s actions can be excused if they were triggered by an event that pushed the defendant into a temporary state of emotional disturbance.

The argument, which has been used in other murder cases, asserts that the defendant’s actions were reasonable from the standpoint of a person in the defendant’s situation.

Yustas argued that Stinnett’s actions were reasonable under the circumstances as Stinnett perceived them.

“Lawrence went on at length at the trial about what he saw as a conspiracy theory, you can tell from his thinking that he honestly believes in his conspiracy theory,” Yustas said, alluding to Stinnett’s belief that evidence was lost, misplaced or destroyed and Renshaw was unfaithful, despite testimony to the contrary. “If you don’t think there’s any merit to it at all ... don’t let it undermine the rest of his case, don’t let it dilute the defendant’s case.”

Yustas argued the kidnapping charge against Stinnett was without merit. He recalled testimony from Lewis, who said that she was the one who tied the electrical cords around Renshaw’s arms, ankles and neck and that it was Stinnett who released her.

Yustas also said Renshaw’s brief restraint inside her own home did not sufficiently terrorize her to merit a kidnapping charge against Stinnett.

“She was moved from her kitchen a few feet to her living room, she wasn’t confined anywhere,” Yustas said of Renshaw. “She was in her own house, it wasn’t like they took her and tied her up and locked her in a building somewhere.”

If Stinnett had not been convicted on the kidnapping charge, the jury would not have been able to recommend a death sentence.

Cohron argued that the extreme emotional disturbance defense was without merit, saying that the three-hour phone call that the defense claimed acted as a triggering event happened more than 12 hours before the attack.

In the interim, Stinnett traveled more than 700 miles, stopped at a bank, a pawn shop, two fast-food restaurants, made phone calls to his supervisor and former girlfriends and drove with Lewis as his passenger.

Cohron also argued that Renshaw was unlawfully restrained by Stinnett.

“He’s stomping her, she’s on her knees, she’s begging for her life, the attack continues, that is being restrained,” Cohron said. “She was hog-tied, she wasn’t going to be allowed to move, that is restraint.”

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Nick Anderson Gives Us Today's Laughter From The Healthcare Summit. I'm LMAO.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Read This Email From My Congressman And Friend, Brett Guthrie, Regarding Removing Antitrust Protection For Health Insurance Companies.

From Brett's Desk...

Dear Friend,

It was clear from watching President Obama’s Health Care Summit on Thursday that while the American people strongly oppose the comprehensive plans the president and Congressional leadership have proposed, there are numerous areas where nearly every member of Congress can agree when it comes to health care reform.

Working step-by-step on these common sense reforms that will lower health care costs is a plan the American people can support.

A big government take-over of the system and spending trillions of dollars is clearly not the answer. We should stop forcing 2,000 paged bills upon the American people and start working together on those solutions we all agree on.

On Wednesday, I joined over 90 percent of my colleagues in the House of Representatives in a vote to remove the anti-trust exemption the health insurance industry now receives. This measure, which was contained in the House’s version of the health care bill, is just one example of a solution, that when pulled out on its own, can receive near unanimous support and have a positive impact on health care costs.

Jobs and the economy is still the number one issue facing our nation. Any reform to our health care system should have a positive effect on the economy and on job creators. I have serious concerns with the impact the House, Senate, and President’s health care bills will have on job creation.

Businesses that are struggling in this economic climate are facing so many unknowns with not only these health care bills, but with the job killing agenda that the leadership in the House has pursued including capital gains taxes, health care taxes, and energy taxes.

Across the commonwealth and throughout the country people want us to promote policies that will help create jobs and lower the costs of health care.

I support proposals that would allow individuals to purchase health care across state lines, enact meaningful medical malpractice reform, and prohibit discrimination against patients with pre-existing conditions. While just a starting point, these are solutions that will lower costs and increase access for all Americans without launching a government takeover of health care.


Member of Congress


Rand Paul Continues To Play "Me Too" In Political Ad Wars With Trey Grayson. *SIGH*. Watch Video.


Betty Winston Bayé's "A Christian Perspective On Teaching The Bible In Schools" That I Disagree With.

A Christian perspective on teaching the Bible in schools
By Betty Winston Bayé

All my life men and women of faith have awed me with their wisdom, their compassion and their heroism, and I've been blessed when they've prayed for me. Before journalism, I spent more than two decades working for national denominations and faith-based civil rights and community organizations. I've been fortunate to have worked with, worked for and to have been befriended by theologians, seminarians, preachers and denominational and lay leaders in churches. When I was child, I had the faith of a child. But I've lived long enough now to have experienced God's grace and mercy in my life and to have witnessed the same in the lives of others.

I am, simply put, unabashedly and unashamedly Christian.

But for all this, I still don't believe that the Bible should be taught in taxpayer-funded schools.

The United States is not a theocracy, and though some keeping saying that schools are problematic because God has been taken out, a very basic premise of Christian faith is that God is never absent and, in fact, God does some of his best work in places where angels and many pious Christians, with their judgmental selves, fear to tread.

Christians who support Bible-teaching in America's public high schools should be worried that some are so eager to build momentum for such classes that they suggest all the faith can be sucked out of the Bible so that it can be taught merely as literature, social studies, geography or history, not really much different than any other textbook. Though the Bible certainly has all those elements, it is first, last and always a sacred book of faith — though some have said it would be OK to teach it in the public schools on the condition that it be treated only as mythology.

I'm writing this because there's a bill making its way through the Kentucky Senate that would mandate the state Board of Education to establish guidelines for an elective course in Bible literacy. According to the proposal, the course “shall follow applicable law and all federal and state guidelines in maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating the diverse religious views, traditions and perspectives of students in the school. A course under this section shall not endorse, favor, or promote, or disfavor or show hostility toward any particular religion or nonreligious faith or religious perspective.”

But the Bible is not religiously neutral. Moreover, here in Kentucky, religious neutrality and tolerance for diverse religious views are often viewed as controversial, weak-minded, “liberal,” even un-American. Think about this. If grown folks argue, fuss and have started wars over scriptural interpretations, it's unrealistic to expect some state-divined guidelines for Bible-teaching to keep conflict and tensions from arising in public schools. Young people are not only highly susceptible to being proselytized, but may lack the tools to react to a teacher who teaches the Bible from a perspective that hardly can be considered neutral.

The bill's primary sponsor, Sen. David Boswell, D-Owensboro, said that he filed it “at the request of a group of people”' in his district. And so you wonder what that group's agenda is.

There were good reasons why America's founders, after fleeing religious persecution, pointedly sought a separation between church and state. Mixing the two, history shows, is a potion for disaster and conflict.

Brian Wells, the vice president for academic affairs at Simmons College of Kentucky, has a master's degree in systematic theology and focused his doctorial studies on church and society. If the purpose of the bill, he said, “is to educate students from a social science perspective on biblical texts, then the five major world religions' sacred writings (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam) should be incorporated into the curriculum.” Wells' broader view, however, is that “religious communities and private faith-based institutions are better equipped to teach courses like these without violating religious freedom rights. … The interpretation of sacred writings should be left to those communities that treasure those writings as sacred.”

I agree. Meanwhile, on a practical level, when so many Kentucky public schools are performing poorly in the basics and are being beaten down by the state's budget crisis, it doesn't make sense to spend time and money developing guidelines for “elective” Bible literacy courses. These are readily available in private institutions — churches, mosques, temples and schools of theology — that have the history, the experts, the expertise and the desire to teach a knowledge-thirsty public.

I'll end this by saying I do not impugn the good intent of the legislators who have signed on to this bill for Bible literacy classes, but if you're like me, you're a Christian who doesn't want just any old body praying for you. Neither should you risk any old body teaching children the Bible in public schools.

Betty Winston Bayé is a Courier-Journal editorial writer and columnist. Her columns appear Thursdays on the editorial page.


Kathleen Parker: Massachusetts Senator Scot Brown "Finds Hunting RINOs Is Still In Fashion".

Brown finds hunting RINOs is still in fashion
By Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON — The RINO hunt is back on and the coveted trophy is Scott Brown.

Inevitably and predictably, the new senator from Massachusetts — Mr. 41, Mr. I-Drive-A-Truck, tea party poster dude — has disappointed his base by, alas, representing his constituents.

It's the purity test all over again; only this time, the stakes are high and the weird are turning seriously pro.

Not that the tea partiers are weird, not most of them, anyway. But some are at risk of flying off into the blood-red zone of wing-nuttery. One of the sessions at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) questioned whether Abraham Lincoln was “friend or foe.”

Lincoln foes can't be said to define CPAC conferees — and certainly not the GOP — but the growing libertarian strain within the party (see Ron Paul's straw poll victory) combined with an anti-RINO (Republicans In Name Only) attitude is making life increasingly difficult for moderates such as Brown.

Brown came under fire from social conservatives barely a week into his new job, even though his pro-choice position was well-known, at least to readers of this column.

Now he's caught the attention of fiscal conservatives and tea partiers who, though they favored Brown for his anti-health reform and anti-stimulus positions, now call him a traitor for supporting a cloture motion on the Democrats' $15 billion jobs bill.

Thousands posted angry comments on Brown's Facebook page, including the ever-popular “YOU LIED!” Brown said that though the bill was imperfect, it would put Americans back to work. He also said he hoped his vote would be a “strong step toward restoring bipartisanship in Washington.”

Guess again, Scottie. “True conservatives” want to beam you up.

Zero cooperation with Democrats apparently is the preferred MO for the noisiest sector of the GOP. Although some tea partiers are independents and even Democrats, the majority lean toward the GOP and they are, above all, fiscally conservative. And though there's no centralized organization and no leader, some segments find nullification and, apparently, secession reasonable alternatives to failed politics and a gorging government.

These true conservatives and RINO-hunters are, to put it mildly, a problem for any candidate or incumbent who tries to speak bipartisan, which translated means “treason.”

The hunt for RINOs isn't new. Ask John McCain. Or John Avlon, author of the new book “Wingnuts,” who traces the mainstreaming of the hyperpartisan hunt for heretics to the George W. Bush administration.

He cites, for example, Monica Goodling, the Justice Department White House liaison who imposed social conservative litmus tests on prospective employees. The hunts escalated during the 2008 presidential campaign when certain individuals who need not be named were “outed” as apostates for not walking lockstep with the McCain-Palin ticket.

Writes Avlon: “Hunting for heretics pretends to be a principled fight for ideological purity, but behind that mask is an uglier impulse, an attempt to intimidate and insist on conformity … a reminder of what the Czech dissident-turned-president Vaclav Havel once wrote: ‘Ideology offers human beings the illusion of dignity and morals while making it easier to part with them.'”

Who emerges pure enough from this fray of fraying parts will be interesting to watch, but things could get messy as the tea party movement gains momentum and old alliances show signs of weakening. The other day, The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol made a remark on “Fox News Sunday” that may predict fissures to come:

“The tea parties are the best thing that has happened to the Republican Party in recent times.”


Less than 10 years ago, Kristol's father Irving Kristol, the founder of the neoconservative movement, concluded that neocons couldn't align themselves with libertarians because they have no values. Neocons' natural allies, said the elder Kristol, were religious conservatives. From that alliance came what Bill Kristol's magazine designated as “Big Government Conservatism” and Bush 43-era policies unbeloved by most Americans these days.

And now? Tea partiers don't much favor endless wars or care about social issues dear to evangelicals. Another CPAC panel that drew a packed crowd despite scheduling opposite Newt Gingrich was titled: “You've Been Lied To: Why Real Conservatives Are Against the War on Terror.”

Are neocons abandoning the old party base and following the new wave of power created by the tea party movement? As one tea drinker put it to me: “How the neocons square limited government at home with big government nation-building abroad will be interesting to watch.”

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist who lives in South Carolina. Her e-mail address is


More On Payday Lending In Kentucky.

Payday lending not on agenda

The best thing that can be said of payday lenders is that their practices are no more predatory than some by banks, credit unions and credit card companies.

In fact, avoiding big fees on small overdrafts is one of the reasons that people turn to payday lenders.

Kentucky's legislature can't do anything about banks or credit cards. They're controlled by the federal government.

Congress and the Federal Reserve have acted in recent months to strengthen protections against surprise overdraft fees and deceptive credit card charges. They should do still more to protect consumers, especially since banks and credit card companies are already inventing new scams.

The legislature can do something about payday lending which, the Kentucky Coalition for Responsible Lending says, collected an estimated $158 million in predatory fees from Kentuckians in 2008. (Predatory is defined as payments from borrowers who have five or more loans a year.)

The coalition found that the average cost of a $350 payday loan in Kentucky is $822.50. This includes $472.50 in interest and equates to annual interest of around 400 percent.

Payday loans, also known as deferred deposit loans, would be capped at 36 percent interest under House Bill 381, sponsored by Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, and 21 other House members.

The bill has broad support, ranging from AARP and Frontier Housing to the Urban Leagues of Lexington and Louisville and a group of Northern Kentucky churches that help the homeless.

The Kentuckians who make up this coalition are not even getting a hearing in this session.

Although Gov. Steve Beshear and House Speaker Greg Stumbo have said they support a 36 percent cap, the chairman of the House Banking and Insurance Committee, Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, has refused to hear the bill.

Greer did hear testimony this week about a database that the state will bring on line later this year that will make it possible to enforce the state law limiting payday borrowers to no more than two loans at a time. Payday loan volume is expected to decline by about 20 percent once the data base is available.

But that does nothing to solve the larger problem of repeat loans that bury borrowers under debt.

People taking out payday loans borrow against their next paycheck by writing a postdated check. The loans usually last two weeks. Not surprisingly, many low-income borrowers can't afford to repay the loan and still cover their other expenses.

Kentucky law prohibits renewing the loans. So borrowers take out new ones. The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that 76 percent of all payday loan volume is attributable to repeat borrowing.

Nine out of 10 payday loans are to repeat borrowers who take out five or more loans a year, says a brief by the coalition that used numbers from states that have better data than Kentucky (

"On average, borrowers have nine or more payday loans in a year," says the brief. "In fact, the product depends upon the consumer's failure to repay and the resulting repeat borrowing, which generates $24 billion of the $27 billion annual loan volume for the industry (nationally)."

Payday lenders reinvest part of their profits in political candidates. The Kentucky Deferred Deposit Association has given $49,000 to candidates for state office in Kentucky since 1998. Cash Express CEO Garry McNabb of Crossville, Tn. has given $17,000 since 2007.

Not surprisingly, Greer, who has the power to kill laws the industry dislikes, has gotten $1,000 from the Kentucky Deferred Deposit Association for his upcoming re-election, $500 from McNabb and $250 from Laura Babbage of Lexington whose husband, Bob, lobbies for Cash Express.

Payday lenders can roll out their own arguments against the criticisms. Greer's refusal deprives lawmakers and the public of the benefits of that debate.

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Democrats Are Supposed To Be For "The Little Guy". In Kentucky, That CHARADE ENDS When It Comes To Payday Lending. Read More Below.

Payday retreat

State Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, chairman of the House Banking and Industry Committee, has decided to put off until next year a full hearing on a bill that would cap at 36 percent the annual interest rate that payday lenders can charge their non-military customers in Kentucky.

This is an unfortunate development. It means that for at least another year, and likely longer, payday lenders can persist in gouging their typical clients: low-income individuals, usually with poor credit and desperate for cash.

Payday lenders boast that they perform a valuable service. They ask who else will lend to those people. Since they do, they argue, they're entitled to realize a profit. Point taken, but House Bill 381, sponsored by Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, doesn't propose to strip them of their profits, only to limit their allowable interest on loans to 36 percent annually. Payday lenders' critics contend that charges for the short-term cash loans can amount to annual interest rates of as much as 400 percent.

But Rep. Greer said he will put off further consideration of HB 381 until next year in order, he said, to give the state's new, yet-to-be installed electronic system to monitor the payday lending industry time to work. “We don't want to go into this blind,” Rep. Greer said.

That smacks much more strongly of delay than real study. As consumer advocate Rich Seckel correctly said, “The database doesn't lower the cost of the loans and the frequency of the loans.”

So rather than confront its sometimes predatory ways, the payday lending lobby, with Rep Greer's assistance, has succeeded in changing the subject. The database, as payday lenders gushed, will give Kentucky “the tool it needs to enforce existing state law.”

The whole point of HB 381, however, is tochange the law — so that Kentuckians who rely on payday loans cannot be as ruthlessly exploited as they are now.

Editor's comment: Speaker Greg Stumbo needs to use his power to override Rep. Greer's stupid move and bring this bill up for a House vote.

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PEGGY NOONAN: The summit persuaded nobody. It Probably Wasn't Meant To.

More Boor Than Cure
The summit persuaded nobody. It probably wasn't meant to.

Boy, that didn't work.

Nothing in the health-care summit promised greater progress or movement. Positions started out hardened, and likely ended so. Good faith and generosity did not flourish. Some people said some smart things. The Republicans seemed fortified not with Ovaltine but, in some cases, Espresso. No normal human watching the debate could determine with complete confidence who was being forthcoming about the meaning of this facet of the Senate bill or that subclause in Section D. And so the viewers probably judged things along party lines. "You can't trust politicians." "At least Democrats care."

It's already de rigueur ...


Joel Pett Is On A Roll, Y'all. This Cartoon Is Right On The Money, So To Speak.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Trey Grayson Comes Out With "National Defense" Ad In Senate Race Against Rand Paul. Watch It Below.


Watch The Healthcare Summit Live Here.

And If You Own A Toyota -- Or Like Me You Own Many Toyotas -- Watch The Video And Be Concerned.

And If You Were One Of Those Who Felt Like You Needed To Drive One Of Those Houses On Wheels Called The Hummer, General Motors Confirms That You Have

For Those Of You Who Keep Wild Animals As Pets, Check Out What You Can Look Forward To Below. Watch Videos.


Joel Pett Is On A Roll, Hits The Nail On The head With This Cartoon Too.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pollster, Maggella Data And Mapping Strategies, Reveals What We Always Knew About Its Poll Regarding Rand Paul And Trey Grayson: Poll Is Bogus!

Read the Pollster's apology here.

Like I said: wait for SURVEYUSA to do its polling.


New Poll By Magellan Data And Mapping Strategies Shows Rand Paul Leading Trey Grayson By Nearly 20 Points. I'm Waiting For SURVEYUSA Poll Instead.

Check out the poll here.

If you ask me, the poll seems to be wanting to legitimize the Tea Party movement.

And like I said, I'm a believer in the SURVEYUSA poll, so I'll wait to see/read what that poll says!


Kentucky Needs To Rein In Payday Loan Sharking NOW.

Payday loans neared $1 billion in Ky., study finds
By Deborah Yetter

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Payday lenders in Kentucky lent nearly $1 billion in 2008, collecting roughly $158 million in “predatory’’ fees, according to a report a Kentucky public interest group released Tuesday.

“These fees drain assets from low-income and working-class families,” said Melissa Fry Konty, a research and policy associate with the Berea-based Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.

Konty, the report’s author, outlined its findings at a rally in the Capitol Rotunda involving supporters of House Bill 381. The measure would limit to 36 percent the annual interest payday lenders could charge — the rate Congress imposed in 2007 on payday loans to military families.

Konty said she defined “predatory loans’’ as those to individuals who take out five or more of the short-term cash loans per year. She said national research shows that nine out of every 10 payday loans are taken out by such repeat borrowers.

The industry has flourished in Kentucky since the legislature legalized it in 1998, and the state now has 782 payday lenders in 95 of the 120 counties, Konty’s report said. The businesses tend to cluster in low-income urban and rural areas, it said.

In Kentucky, the law allows people to take out up to two loans every two weeks that total $500 — at cost of $15 per $100. But critics say many borrowers take out repeated loans, trapping them in a cycle of debt and rising fees that can amount to an annual interest rate of 400 percent or more.

Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville and the sponsor of HB 381, called on lawmakers to approve the bill. He noted that 16 states either ban payday lending or limit interest — including Ohio, which has imposed a 28 percent cap.

Several representatives of Kentucky’s payday loan industry attended the rally and said afterwards that lawmakers should first allow the state to establish a database, authorized by last year’s legislature, that’s meant to better track the industry in Kentucky and make sure people are getting no more than the two loans allowed by law.

The industry has argued that the loans are an important service to people in a financial emergency.

“Let’s let the database work,’’ said Pat Crowley, a spokesman for the Kentucky Deferred Deposit Association. The database, to be administered by the state, is supposed to be operating by April.

But members of the Kentucky Coalition for Responsible Lending, a group of religious and public advocacy leaders who held Tuesday’s rally, dismissed that suggestion.

“Some of our legislators are hiding behind the database, saying we need research,’’ said the Rev. J. Richard Sullivan, a Roman Catholic priest from Louisville. “We need to act now.”

Several speakers called on Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, the chairman of the House Banking and Insurance Committee, to get the bill out of his committee.

Greer said his committee will hear testimony Wednesday from the commissioner of the Department of Financial Institutions about the status of the database.

“However, I am inclined right now to not hear that bill until we are able to ... get a system in place that we can collect data on this industry,” he said. “If we need to regulate it, we can move forward with better direction.”


Joel Pett Hits The Nail On The Head With This Cartoon And I Can't Stop Laughing. Thanks, Joel.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Think This Is A First: J. D. Hayworth Announces Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's Endorsement Of His Opponent John McCain. Read More Below.

Hayworth V. McCain

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Endorses Senator John McCain in Senate Race against Conservative J.D. Hayworth

PHOENIX, ARIZONA. FEBRUARY 23, 2010. Republican Governor Jan Brewer has endorsed 24-year incumbent Senator John McCain as his race against conservative Republican J.D. Hayworth gains momentum.

The statement came during Governor Brewer’s comments in Tucson late last week.

Governor Brewer is currently the driving force behind what would be the largest tax increase in Arizona history. Besides taxes, McCain is vulnerable to the more conservative Hayworth on pro-life and pro-family issues as well as illegal immigration. McCain opposed the Bush Tax Cuts in 2001 and 2003. Hayworth also has a better lifetime rating from Citizens Against Government Waste than the 28-year member of Congress.

McCain voted for the $850 billion bailout of the big banks which included $150 billion in pork, proposed a $300 billion bailout for mortgage lenders and, according to the Heritage Foundation, sponsored an amnesty bill that would have cost taxpayers $2.6 trillion over the long-term.

For more information about the campaign or to make a donation please go to


Paid for by JD HAYWORTH 2010


"[America], The Land Of The Free, Has Become A Legal Minefield", Says Philip K. Howard. I AGREE.

Eugene Robinson: Advice To The Democrats: Just Pass Health Bill.

Advice to the Democrats: Just pass health bill
By Eugene Robinson

WASHINGTON — Better late than never. Now that President Obama has finally put a health care proposal on the table, the Democratic leadership in Congress has only one rational course of action: Pass the thing, and quickly, or risk becoming the loyal minority.

Should the President have done this a year ago? Yes, it would have been nice to know where his bottom line was — indeed, that he had a bottom line — given that health care reform was his top legislative priority. At least some of the pointless drama could have been avoided.

House Democrats might not have dug in their heels over the need for a public option if they knew that, in the end, Obama wouldn't call for one. There might have been less angst over taxing “Cadillac” health plan benefits if everyone knew that Obama, despite his campaign pledge, would ultimately support the idea.

And there might have been less nervousness among Democrats in both the House and Senate if they knew that Obama's plan would include a novel component that sounds like a political winner: giving federal officials the power to curb abusive and unjustified premium hikes by insurance companies. This gives incumbents a much better story to tell when they face the voters this fall.

The President's proposal, essentially a reworking of the bill passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve, establishes a framework for the bipartisan “summit” on health care reform scheduled for Thursday. If Republicans are serious about wanting to engage in this debate, Obama has provided a starting point. Of course, I don't believe for one minute that the Republican leadership really wants to join any process that leads to meaningful health care legislation, because the party's political strategy to this point — say no to everything — has worked quite well.

House Minority Leader John Boehner promptly complained that Obama has “crippled” the summit's credibility by proposing a plan based on the Senate bill. The Republican position is that the thing to do is start over with a clean sheet of paper, tossing out a year's worth of work. That's rhetoric, not leadership. If the summit consists of one side debating concrete proposals and the other chanting “start over,” observers will be able to draw conclusions about who is being constructive and who isn't.

But we already know who isn't interested in health care reform. If Republicans are really committed to bipartisanship, they can jump in. If not, Democrats need to pass Obama's reform bill — if necessary, by using the filibuster-proof “budget reconciliation” procedure that requires only a simple 51-vote majority in the Senate.

Republicans will howl to wake the dead. But what's the alternative?

Democrats have already paid a political price for tackling health reform at a time when voters are hurting from the recession, anxious about the economy and wary of new government initiatives. There is no way they can avoid facing this line of attack in the fall. The question, at this point, is whether Republicans will be able to toss in allegations of gutlessness and incompetence: The Democrats controlled the White House and all of Congress, and still couldn't get it done.

And how will Democrats answer? “Um, we worked really hard on health care reform, and we're still convinced that it's vitally necessary, but we got scared by the polls and so we backed off. Vote for us!”

If the party is going to take a political hit anyway, it might as well get the benefits — which are considerable. When Republicans scream about “big government” and “socialism” and all that, Democrats need to be able to tell voters that this whole exercise brought real change: No refusals of insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions. No arbitrary increases in insurance premiums. Coverage for 31 million Americans who are now uninsured. A major step toward limiting the unsustainable long-term rise in health care costs.

House Democrats, who passed a more progressive reform bill, may have to hold their noses to accept Obama's proposal. Senate Democrats may need their spines stiffened to go through with the reconciliation maneuver; perhaps it will give them courage to imagine how they would look if they reject a bill that is all but identical to one they passed a couple of months ago.

The hour is late. The time is now. Just do it.

Eugene Robinson is a Washington Post columnist. His e-mail address is


Rand Paul Responds To Trey Grayson's "Coal" Ad, Claims "Grayson's No Friend Of Coal". If This Continues I May Stay Home This May Primary Day. *SIGH*.

Unless both parties aim to open coal firing plants all over America, they won't be able to do shit about coal.

Enough already.


Cal Thomas: Was Tiger Woods Sincere? I Say: NO.

Was Tiger Woods sincere?
By Cal Thomas

“I'm sorry for the things I've done.

I know that I'm the foolish one.

Now that I see who's to blame.

I'm so ashamed, I'm sorry.”

— The Platters, 1957

If Tiger Woods confesses to private acts after they became public — and takes three months to do so — should the public accept his confession and forgive him?

Some media critics think last Friday's staged event with a friendly audience that included Woods' mother, his friends and selected journalists was too perfect, too scripted and too much. Others want to wait and see if he can put his family back together and get his golf game back on track.

No one can fully know the human heart, but to be believable Woods must lead a new and consistent life in which he demonstrates he has acquired the character and integrity he confessed he failed to embrace. Woods noted that his wife, Elin, “pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words; it will come from my behavior over time.”

Was this a public relations gimmick, or the real deal? We know of crooks that have gone straight and we admire them for it. Some have given testimonies in churches or at old Billy Graham crusades. Adulterers should have the same opportunity for redemption.

The problem in our culture is that standards have been exchanged for feelings and a nonjudgmental attitude. All choices are to be treated as equally valid so long as the person making the choice “feels good” about it. “It can't be wrong, if it feels so right,” goes the song, when in fact it very often can be wrong if it “feels” right. Woods said he “felt” he was entitled to all of those women.

So, was he sincere? A better question might be: was he demonstrating remorse, or repentance? Remorse is regret for getting caught at something one should not have done. Repentance is an acknowledgement that one's behavior has offended an authority higher than one's self and a commitment to turn from that behavior with the intention of never engaging in it again.

King David understood repentance when he wrote Psalm 51. After committing adultery with Bathsheba and getting her pregnant, David ordered her husband, Uriah the Hittite, home from the battlefield, hoping he would sleep with Bathsheba so David might deny paternity. When Uriah refused for the sake of his troops, David ordered he be placed in the front lines where he was killed. Nathan the Prophet exposed David. King David repents (“against thee and thee only have I sinned” he tells God) and while God forgives him, he still takes the life of David's son born from the adulterous affair.

It is a startling account many learn in Sunday school and the lesson is that God does not regard sin lightly, as modern culture does.

“I have a lot to atone for,” said Woods, which is an impossibility. One cannot atone for one's self. But there is One who can and while Woods says he wants to again claim the Buddhist faith of his youth, it isn't Buddha who does the atoning.

What used to be called sin and shamefulness is now on parade. One of Woods' alleged mistresses complained she gave up her porn movie career for him and she wants an apology. Another is “shocked” because she thought she was the only one with whom Woods cheated. She, too, wants an apology. Apparently these women feel no shame about having an affair with a married man. It is Woods' wife who is due the apology.

There once was a time when people who committed adultery and were found out went into hiding. Now they hire lawyers and agents and go on TV. The reason we see such low behavior is because we promote it and some secretly envy it.

For Woods, another song lyric offers hope: “It's not where you start, it's where you finish.”

Cal Thomas is a columnist with Tribune Media Services. His e-mail address is

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Nick Anderson Sees America In The Winter Olympics. LOL.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Update: Toyota Receives Grand Jury Subpoena For Documents.

Toyota receives grand jury subpoena for documents

Toyota said Monday it received a subpoena from a U.S. federal grand jury seeking documents related to unintended acceleration in its vehicles and the braking system of its Prius hybrid, indicating a criminal investigation of its safety problems has begun.

The Japanese automaker also said it and its U.S. sales affiliate received the subpoena and a document request from the Los Angeles office of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC is seeking documents related to unintended acceleration and Toyota's disclosure policies and practices, Toyota said.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York declined to comment, saying it does not confirm or deny its investigations as a matter of policy. But the subpoena means a criminal investigation is under way, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and a former Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer.

Henning said the government could be looking into product safety law violations or whether Toyota made false statements to a federal safety agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, involving unintended acceleration or the Prius braking system, Henning said.

“In their prior submissions, if there were false statements made in there, that could be the basis” for the investigation, Henning said.

In addition, the SEC likely is looking into whether Toyota disclosed all of its problems in required regulatory filings, Henning said. Both agencies could be working together as well, he said.

The subpoenas are the latest demand for documentation from Toyota Motor Corp. Over the weekend, Toyota turned over documents to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, with some indicating it saved money by obtaining a limited recall from regulators in 2007.

Two House committees are holding hearings this week on the Japanese automaker's recall of 8.5 million vehicles since last fall to deal with safety problems involving gas pedals, floor mats and brakes.

Toyota said it received the grand jury request from the Southern District of New York on Feb. 8. It received the requests from the SEC on Friday. It disclosed both requests in a filing with the SEC on Monday and said it intends to comply with the requests.

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Toyota Motor Company Boasted In Internal Documents Of Saving $100 Million By Limiting Recalls. Say It Ain't So, Toyota!

Documents: Toyota boasted saving $100M on recall

TOKYO — Claims by Toyota in internal documents that it saved money by obtaining a limited recall from regulators in 2007 create an even bigger challenge for the automaker's president when he testifies before U.S. lawmakers this week over quality and safety lapses.

Toyota officials said they saved $100 million by successfully negotiating with the U.S. government on a limited recall of floor mats in some Toyota and Lexus vehicles, according to new documents shared with congressional investigators.

Toyota, in an internal presentation in July 2009 at its Washington office, said it saved $100 million or more by negotiating an "equipment recall" of floor mats involving 55,000 Toyota Camry and Lexus ES350 vehicles in September 2007.

The savings are listed under the title, "Wins for Toyota — Safety Group." The document cites millions of dollars in other savings by delaying safety regulations, avoiding defect investigations and slowing down other industry requirements.

The documents could set off alarms in Congress over whether Toyota put profits ahead of customer safety and pushed regulators to narrow the scope of recalls. Two House committees are holding hearings this week on the Japanese automaker's recall of 8.5 million vehicles in recent months to deal with safety problems involving gas pedals, floor mats and brakes.

"You can feel that the staff were thinking more about company profits than customers," Mamoru Kato, an analyst at Tokai-Tokyo Securities, said in an e-mail after viewing the documents. "It's unfavorable for Toyota ahead of the hearings."

The world's largest automaker has been criticized for responding too slowly to complaints of sudden acceleration in its vehicles, threatening to undermine its reputation for quality and safety.

The documents were turned over to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — which is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday — and obtained by The Associated Press on Sunday. The presentation was first reported by The Detroit News.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda is scheduled to testify at a separate House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday.

"This is any executive's worst nightmare — a damning document comes out and exposes your company as having basically gone slow and tried to delay addressing significant safety problems with their product," said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University Japan.

Toyota said in a statement: "Our first priority is the safety of our customers and to conclude otherwise on the basis of one internal presentation is wrong. Our values have always been to put the customer first and ensure the highest levels of safety and quality."

Company spokesman Paul Nolasco in Tokyo had no further comment, saying only that the company handed over some documents to the committee.

Transportation Department spokeswoman Olivia Alair called the document "very telling. And that's why Secretary (Ray) LaHood has been saying we're going to hold Toyota's feet to the fire and make sure they do what's necessary to make their cars safe for the driving public."

The new documents show the financial benefit of delay. In the presentation, Toyota said a phase-in to new safety regulations for side air bags saved the company $124 million and 50,000 man hours. Delaying a rule for tougher door locks saved $11 million.

On defect regulations, the document boasts that Toyota "avoided investigation" on rusting Tacoma pickup trucks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigated the case in 2008 but closed it without finding a safety defect. Toyota agreed to buy back certain rusty pickups, inspect other and extend warranties.

The document lists seven "Wins for Toyota & Industry," including "favorable recall outcomes," ''secured safety rulemaking favorable to Toyota" and "vehicles not in climate legislation." Another page lists "key safety issues," including "Sudden acceleration on ES/Camry, Tacoma, LS etc."

In one passage, the document says Toyota "negotiated 'equipment' recall on Camry/ES re SA; saved $100M+, w/ no defect found."

NHTSA had launched an investigation in March 2007 over allegations that floor mats were interfering with accelerator pedals. Toyota told the government a month later that there was "no possibility of the pedal interference with the all-weather floor mat if it's placed properly and secured."

By that August, the government had connected the problem to a dozen deaths and a survey of 600 Lexus owners discovered 10 percent reported sudden or unexpected acceleration. But the recall in September 2007 was limited to 55,000 Camry and ES350 vehicles to replace the floor mats.

The 10-page internal presentation was dated July 6, 2009, less than two months before a high-speed crash near San Diego killed a California highway patrol officer and his family and reignited concerns over sudden acceleration in Toyotas.

In October 2009, Toyota issued its largest-ever U.S. recall, involving about 4 million vehicles, over concerns of pedals getting stuck in floor mats.

The presentation lists Yoshi Inaba, Toyota's chief executive in North America, on its cover. Inaba is scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday, along with Toyoda and Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA. The committee is also expected to hear from LaHood, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland and safety advocates.

The Oversight Committee is holding a hearing Tuesday with Lentz, LaHood and Strickland. A Senate committee is planning a March 2 hearing.

Toyoda arrived in the United States on Saturday and appeared to be preparing for the hearing, the Yomiuri newspaper, Japan's largest, reported Monday. Nolasco, the Toyota spokesman, said the company does not comment on the moves of individual executives, citing security reasons and company policy.

Toyota has said it will create an outside review of company operations, do a better job of responding to customer complaints and improve communication with federal officials.

Toshiro Yoshinaga, an analyst at Aizawa Securities in Tokyo, said that Toyota's actions as seen in the documents shows the company believed the problems with its vehicles were unlikely to become a major issue and illustrate the company's weakness in crisis management.

"Toyota's perception was extremely optimistic," he said. "It's sense of crisis has been lacking."

Yoshinaga also said the documents put the company in a futher bind ahead of Toyoda's testimony.

"But a pinch can also be a chance," he said. "If Toyoda can offer a proper explanation then the issue can settle down. If not, then it won't."

Temple Universty's Kingston said Toyoda must make clear that the company has learned a lesson from growing too quickly and losing track of quality control, though even that will be unlikely to stave off harsh criticism from lawmakers.

"He's going to be taking an awful pummeling, I think," Kingston said.

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Trey Grayson Takes On Rand Paul In His First "Coal" Ad. Watch Video.

Editor's comment: why coal you ask?

Search me, as I posed the same question to Trey.


Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Claims It Learned Lessons From Bid Rigging Trial. I Suppose It Learned How To BETTER Cover Its Tracks. I'm LMAO.

Cabinet learns lessons from trial

By John Cheves

FRANKFORT — Last month's bid-rigging trial of road contractor Leonard Lawson and former Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert was another in a long line of public relations disasters for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

The jury acquitted Lawson and Nighbert. But cabinet officials said they were embarrassed by testimony about cozy relations between the cabinet and politically influential road contractors, expensive single-bid contract awards and change orders that needlessly inflate project costs.

The cabinet is trying to address some of the problems raised in the trial, acting Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said this month.

Hancock, an engineer, served as Nighbert's chief of staff under Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher and remains at the cabinet under Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear. Hancock declined to criticize Nighbert directly, but he said the cabinet clearly needed reform.

"There are many things we learned throughout the course of the trial, and many opportunities for improvements," Hancock said.

Since the criminal case began in 2008, the cabinet has enacted formal and informal ethics rules to create a professional distance between its officials and the contractors who want a piece of the multi-billion-dollar Road Fund, Hancock said.

The cabinet is adding more controls on change orders and experimenting with different approaches to encourage competitive bidding, he said.

On 15 projects, for instance, the cabinet asked concrete companies to challenge asphalt companies, which tend to hold monopolies in specific regions. One of those projects ultimately went to a concrete company that offered lower prices.

The decision to invite concrete companies to bid against asphalt companies resulted in part from a 2008 analysis done by software that analyzes bidding patterns and can detect possible signs of collusion or bid-rigging, such as a constant lack of competition or unusually high or low material prices being quoted, said Alice Wilson of the cabinet's Office of Audits.

The analysis determined that in most of Kentucky — everywhere except Louisville and Northern Kentucky — asphalt companies do not compete against each other, she said.

On 16 other projects, the cabinet has tried something else, said Ryan Griffith, director of contract procurement.

It packaged several pieces of work together across the traditional territorial lines of various contractors to lure them into competing against each other, Griffith said. In most cases, this resulted in competitive bids, as the cabinet wanted, he said.

A Herald-Leader review of bids on about 150 road projects that were awarded in May 2009 and last month found that competition noticeably was more aggressive when projects crossed county lines.

On average, the projects reviewed by the newspaper drew 2.8 bids each. But multi-county projects drew 3.4 bids on average. All of the multi-county projects drew more than one bid.

The bad economy has helped, cabinet officials acknowledge. Contractors are hungry for work, and with road spending down from $1.6 billion in 2007 to $780 million last year, they are more willing to battle for every job they can get, Griffith said.

"We're seeing some really good prices right now," he said.

Last year, 38 percent of all projects were awarded on single bids, which is down about 3 percent from recent years, Griffith said. The number of single-bid awards is far higher — 63 percent — for asphalt resurfacing projects, the least competitive type of project, and that hasn't changed much.

The winning bids for many road projects over the last year often were lower than the cabinet's own engineers estimated they should cost, potentially saving the state millions of dollars, according to the Herald-Leader's review.

Before the cabinet opened the roughly 150 bids examined by the newspaper, the cabinet estimated the projects would cost a total of $167 million, including a profit for the contractors. Instead, because the bids so often came in below the cabinet's estimates, they cost a total of $142 million, or 15 percent less.

Single bids on average came in 1 percent above the cabinet's estimates. In most cases, the cabinet rejected single bids if they were greater than 6 percent above its estimates. With competitive bids, the winning bids on average were 17 percent lower than the cabinet's estimates.

Keeping distance

On a more basic level, Hancock said, his policy as transportation secretary is not to socialize with road contractors or meet alone with them at work. If a contractor asks to see him, he arranges for other cabinet employees to be present, Hancock said.

During the bid-rigging trial, defense lawyers explained frequent phone calls between Lawson and Nighbert by saying that the millionaire contractor and the cabinet secretary became close friends who chatted day and night and whose families socialized at home and on foreign trips. Nighbert was hired by a company Lawson co-owned after he left the cabinet.

Cabinet engineers should communicate with contractors about projects they're working on, Hancock said, but cabinet leaders ought to keep contractors at arm's length to avoid the appearance of favoritism.

"It's best to maintain some modicum of distance," Hancock said.

In August, a year after Lawson and Nighbert were indicted, the cabinet issued a memo prohibiting its employees from asking contractors for donations, including for the cabinet's United Way drive.

Lawyers did not discuss it during the trial, but in a March 26, 2008, phone call the FBI recorded, Lawson acknowledged giving money to key prosecution witness Jim Rummage, a former deputy state highway engineer who testified that Lawson bribed him with $20,000.

In the call, which was played for the jury, Lawson described the money as "for charity and some stuff like that."

However worthy the cause might be, money should not pass between road contractors and cabinet employees, Hancock said.

Revolving door

Hancock said a thornier problem is the revolving door between the cabinet and road contractors, especially for highly sought engineers.

During the trial, the jury heard about engineers who moved back and forth, sometimes using their cabinet posts to help road builders who had employed them or might employ them again.

Defense lawyers repeatedly invoked former state Highway Commissioner Sam Beverage, whom the Fletcher administration hired after he worked for Lawson. Beverage later lost his state job over ethics violations related to bid-fixing. He then joined Hinkle Contracting Corp., one of Kentucky's dominant road builders.

Beverage did not return a call seeking comment last week.

State ethics laws don't address the revolving door as fully as they should, said John Steffen, executive director of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

People are entitled to join a state agency from a company the agency does business with, Steffen said. After they leave, they may return to their previous professions, but for six months they must avoid projects they directly handled in their last three years of state employment, Steffen said.

"This is an area we've looked at," Steffen said. "You shouldn't do favors for someone you used to work for. But at the same time, there is no rule saying you can't have contact with your former employer once you're in state government and in a position to help them."

Pushing competition

During the trial, cabinet engineers testified that the state sometimes pays too much for road projects because of the lack of competition in parts of Kentucky, and because unnecessary change orders add work, material and costs after projects start.

In particular, they complained that political appointees running the cabinet overrule rank-and-file engineers when influential contractors call Frankfort.

"I have some coziness concerns about a few contractors out of the 600 we deal with," Deputy State Highway Engineer Chuck Knowles testified.

The cabinet is trying to address these complaints, officials said.

Early in the Beshear administration, the cabinet strengthened the change-order process by requiring approval signatures from the local project engineer, the chief district engineer and the state highway engineer in Frankfort, said cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe.

"There were instances in the past of contractors doing an end run around field staff to get change orders OK'd directly from Frankfort," Wolfe acknowledged.

A Herald-Leader review of all 883 change orders from January 2009 to last month showed that, overall, they resulted in the cabinet spending $12.3 million less than planned, because many changes removed costs rather than adding them. The average change order in this group lowered costs by $14,055.

By contrast, a 2003 legislative study of the Transportation Cabinet criticized it for authorizing some change orders without proper explanation. The cabinet spent nearly $57 million on change orders in 2002 and 2003, or 3 percent of all project costs, according to the study.

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