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Monday, February 28, 2011

It Is Time To Re-Think Annual Legislative Sessions For Kentucky.

Joe Gerth | Need for yearly legislative sessions in Kentucky questionable

FRANKFORT, Ky. — It's time to ask a question that you hear on a daily basis as you walk the halls of the Kentucky Capitol: Do we really need yearly legislative sessions that are costly and are producing fewer and fewer results?

We pose this question as the legislature heads into the final full week of the steeped-in-politics 2011 General Assembly — poised to pass fewer bills this year than ever.

Folks who will admit to supporting the 2000 constitutional amendment to allow annual legislative sessions are about as rare as tea partiers who favor tax increases.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, however, defends the annual sessions, saying they help members plan their year since there is less of a risk of being called into special session to approve pressing legislation.

At this point in this session, only one bill has passed both houses of the legislature and been signed by the governor.

That bill is Senate Bill 110, allowing optometrists to perform certain surgeries and procedures, which sailed through the legislature after the optometrists gave political contributions to all but one member of the General Assembly.

Only five other bills — on weighty topics like reclassifying the city of Pikeville — have passed both houses but are not yet signed into law. And only one of those has passed both houses in the same form.

And with time growing short, only 14 other Senate Bills have cleared house committees and 18 House bills have cleared Senate committees.

That's what $1.5 million of your tax dollars has bought so far.

If the House and Senate follow their calendar, Senate Bills that don't clear a House Committee by Tuesday — before the full House recesses for the day — are officially dead.

House bills that haven't yet cleared committee still have a little bit of life left because of the Senate leadership's use of parliamentary maneuvers that get bills their first two floor readings before they pass committees.

Those maneuvers often act to prevent legislators from filing floor amendments to the bills, and they also prevent members from closely scrutinizing the bills before votes — but they also keep bills alive later in the session.

But this year's session could be historic for the amount of work the House and Senate didn't do.

The 2011 session is the sixth regular odd-year session since the constitutional amendment establishing them passed, and never before have fewer than 101 bills passed and become law.

If you determine productivity by the number of bills that pass, the 2005 session, which saw 156 bills become law, was the most productive. But since then, the number has dropped to 120 in 2007 and 101 in 2009.

Some, if not many, would argue that the less the legislature does, the better. They view most legislation as an attack on their liberties, their wallets or both.

It would be very surprising if the legislature even passes half the number of bills it did in 2009 — and only a few of those bills will be considered important pieces of legislation.

Blame it on a lack of money in state coffers, which severely limits what a legislature can do.

And blame it on politics. Senate President David Williams, who is running for governor, started the session trying to pass 13 bills that looked more like a campaign than serious legislation during the first week — which is normally reserved for organizational activities.

Some wag suggested that the first week of the session was so much about gubernatorial politics that Williams ought to pay the $280,000 cost out of his campaign account.

Few of those bills would have had a shot of passing the House in a normal year — but House members were even more unlikely to pass the legislation because they could be seen as giving Williams' gubernatorial aspirations a lift.

And they wouldn't want to do that. So, the question remains: Is the annual session working? Or should we declare it a failed experiment and amend the Kentucky Constitution again to get rid of it?

Joseph Gerth's column appears on Mondays. He can be reached at (502) 582-4702 or at His mailing address is 525 W. Broadway, P.O. Box 740031, Louisville, KY 40201-7431.

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Al Cross: Clear-Eyed Look At [Quid Pro Quo] Law-Making [In Kentucky].

Clear-eyed look at law-making
By Al Cross

FRANKFORT, Ky. — On the Kentucky General Assembly's website are pages for children, including the familiar “How a Bill Becomes Law,” but it only gives the bare procedural steps, such as introduction, referral, committees and so on. (

The “Legislative Facts” page for kids is a little more useful: “Only a state senator or representative can vote on a new idea for a law, but anyone can get involved. … Join forces and work with other people or groups that have the same ideas that you have and tell them all to contact their legislators.” ( facts.htm"> facts.htm)

But that still leaves out some very useful advice, such as:

Make lots of contributions to lawmakers' campaigns, and get your votes secured out of public view, before the legislative session begins.

Work with House and Senate leaders to get your bill referred to friendly committees, and move it quickly.

Hire plenty of lobbyists, overseen by an experienced executive of your trade association.

Sell your bill as a service to the public, not a private benefit for your members.

That was the strategy the Kentucky Optometric Association followed with amazing success this month, in an enterprise that could be a textbook example of how a bill becomes law.

The optometrists won passage of legislation that will let them do more things — including use a laser to fix complications that can arise from cataract surgery, something only ophthalmologists can do, except in Oklahoma. And, perhaps more important, it will let the state optometric board define the practice of optometry, which has been the province of the legislature.

This was no minor turf battle. “This may very well be the most important piece of legislation to affect my profession in my lifetime,” Harrodsburg optometrist Jeffrey Klosterman told the Danville Advocate-Messenger — which reported that Danville ophthalmologist Linda Katz agreed.

The battle in Frankfort was almost over before it began. A friendly Senate committee (Licensing, not Health) approved the bill Feb. 8, the day after it was introduced, and the Senate passed it that week, 33-3. The House was equally hospitable, and its 81-14 vote made the bill the first to pass both chambers this session. Gov. Steve Beshear signed it Thursday.

“It's one of our proudest moments,” said Darlene Eakin, who has been executive director of the Kentucky Optometric Association for 32 years, probably longer than any other executive of a Frankfort-based trade group, and has scored several legislative victories.

Eakin's experience counted, and so did that of her 18 lobbyists, 14 of whom weren't hired until the bill was filed. The stealthy strategy also included not mentioning the issue at any meetings of interim joint committees, where the legislature is supposed to take time to examine complex issues before the hurly-burly of a session.

Eakin said she used that tactic because the ophthalmologists' state organization and the broader physicians' group, the Kentucky Medical Association, wouldn't negotiate on a 2008 proposal by optometrists to let them provide medicated contact lenses. (KMA government-relations chief Marty White told me the lenses weren't federally approved, but that didn't keep the optometrists from attaching the measure to another bill and getting it passed.)

But what about legislators' due diligence and proper scrutiny of a bill that could have serious implications for eye patients?

“The legislators who supported this bill were aware of it, had been informed on these issues months and months in advance,” mainly by their local optometrists, whom they know and trust, Eakin told me.

Optometrists have advantages when it comes to local lobbying. They practice in 106 of Kentucky's 120 counties, while ophthalmologists are based in only 41. The broadest argument for the bill, and the best at least in political terms, was that it would make eye care more accessible and affordable in rural areas.

The legislature hears many arguments, but it can listen more closely when they are amplified by money.

Optometrists greased the legislative machinery with campaign contributions to all but one legislator (a physician), totaling at least $327,650 in the last two years, plus $74,000 to Beshear's re-election campaign. And if employees and spouses of optometrists were added, the total would probably be significantly more.

The optometrists and their political action committee have long been major contributors to legislative campaigns. Eakin said she didn't know if this was the first time the PAC had sent virtually every legislator a check, but “we historically have been a very active group in exercising our democratic rights.”

Such contributions must be reported, but in many cases they are only one part of quiet transactions between contributors and those who get the money — and often grant legislative favors in return. Most people involved in these transactions are probably smart enough to avoid such a quid pro quo, and in any event usually engage in a tacit conspiracy of silence about it.

Thank goodness for legislators like Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington, who pulled back the curtain on this sometimes-sordid system. During the House committee meeting on the bill, she said an optometrist sent her an e-mail reminding her that he had given her a campaign contribution and asking her to vote for the bill.

Westrom said she was “deeply offended” and voted against the measure after unsuccessfully trying to amend it. “The optometrists have done a bang-up job getting it through,” she said.

And those, boys and girls, are the “Legislative Facts.”

Al Cross, former Courier-Journal political writer, is director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky. His e-mail address is His views are his own, not those of the University of Kentucky.

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State Transportation Cabinet Spent $1 Million To Illegally Move Road At Coal Company's Request.

State spent $1 million to move road at coal company's request, report says
By John Cheves

FRANKFORT — The state Transportation Cabinet spent more than $1 million from 2006 to 2008 to close and move a 2-mile section of Ky. 699 in Perry County at the request of a coal company that wanted to strip-mine the land where the highway was located, according to state records.

The cabinet's inspector general concluded in a Dec. 8 report that cabinet officials were not authorized to execute the subsequent land swap with subsidiaries of James River Coal Co. of Richmond, Va., giving up the highway site in exchange for nearby land owned by the coal company. Only the state Finance and Administration Cabinet, with the governor's permission, can give away state assets, Inspector General David Ray wrote.

State Auditor Crit Luallen issued an audit of state government Feb. 17 that mentioned the land deal in passing, with few details, concluding that the Transportation Cabinet could not legally give away state land.

Records show that then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher's transportation secretary, Bill Nighbert, authorized the project in 2006. Joe Prather, Nighbert's successor under Gov. Steve Beshear, approved its completion in 2008. That section of road, near the Leatherwood community, was not in the cabinet's six-year plan of priority projects.

"This happened, or it was authorized, under the previous administration. For what it's worth, the rationale was that the cabinet would get an improved roadway to serve an otherwise isolated community," cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe said Friday.

The rebuilt section of Ky. 699 is open to traffic, although cabinet engineers must examine it before it's accepted into the state highway system, Wolfe said. Also, the land ownership remains in question because "the property was not properly conveyed from one party to the other party," Wolfe said. The cabinet is trying to prepare a "deed of correction" that should solve the problem, he said.

No cabinet employee has been disciplined in connection with the land deal, Wolfe said.

Richard Douthat, vice president at James River Coal's Lexington office, said Friday the company had no comment on the inspector general's and auditor's reports or the land deal.

But several cabinet employees told cabinet investigators in interviews last year that the project troubled them. They questioned the unusual land transfers and the lack of payment to the state for an estimated 418,993 tons of coal mined at the site by Blue Diamond Coal Co., which James River Coal owns.

One cabinet superintendent, James Deaton, told investigators that he "didn't want to have anything to do with the project," investigators for the inspector general wrote in their report.

"In my opinion, there is something not right about the whole deal," Deaton told investigators, according to the report. "Why would the coal company be able to come in and take the highway to mine?"

Cabinet e-mails show that the official at the cabinet's District 10 office in Jackson who put the deal together asked the coal company in 2006 if it had any jobs available for his father. The inspector general forwarded that part of his report, regarding Jason Blackburn, the district's permits engineering supervisor, to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission for further review as a possible conflict-of-interest violation.

Blackburn did not return a call seeking comment Friday, and the ethics commission declined to comment. Speaking to cabinet investigators last year, Blackburn said he did not intend to link his assistance for the coal company to a job for his father. His father did not go to work for the company, he said.

An attorney for Nighbert, Howard Mann of Corbin, said Friday he was not familiar with the contents of the inspector general's report, and Nighbert was outside the state and not easily reachable for comment.

Investigators said Blue Diamond Coal approached Blackburn in 2004 and asked about a land swap involving a section of Ky. 699 with coal underneath it. In 2006, the cabinet's District 10 office presented the project to Nighbert, who approved it, records show.

Linda Justice-Wagner, the district's chief engineer, told Nighbert the coal company would help the cabinet with the construction of a temporary detour road and a permanently relocated road. The new highway would be wider and straighter and therefore safer for motorists, Justice-Wagner wrote in her letter, which is in the investigators' report. The coal company would mine the coal and pay taxes on it, she wrote.

"We feel this project is a win-win situation for everyone involved," Justice-Wagner wrote.

Cabinet officials told investigators that the coal company handled the project's earth-moving and grading while cabinet workers did paving and striping. The cabinet's final cost was $1,039,111. The project required overtime pay for workers called in from across the region, Arch Sebastian, a cabinet program coordinator, told investigators.

Brian Patton, a James River executive, told cabinet investigators that the company made only "a couple hundred thousand" dollars profit on the coal it mined at the site because it was a "high-cost" operation.

Patton told investigators he could not remember speaking directly to Nighbert about the project, although he "vaguely recalled asking if it would help to meet with Nighbert," investigators wrote.

"He added that any contacts he would have had with Nighbert would have either been at a ball game or a political fund-raiser," investigators wrote.

Patton and others at James River Coal have given at least $69,191 in campaign donations since 1997 to state political leaders, including Fletcher's and Beshear's 2007 campaigns opposing each other. Patton gave to both Fletcher and Beshear that year.

In the end, Patton told investigators, the state got a road improvement project worth $4 million to $5 million for a fraction of that cost.

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Words To Live By, And Words To Ponder.

"The ultimate test of a moral society is the world it leaves to its children."

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

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Joel Pett Captures Kentucky's Politics. Laugh If You Want.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Maybe, God Is Using AIDS To Teach Her A Lesson To "Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged"! Watch CNN's Video.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

GOP Does NOT Want To Cut NASCAR Funding. Go Figure!

Something GOP doesn't want to cut: Funding for NASCAR
By Barbara Barrett

WASHINGTON — The Minnesota Democrat who's out to get rid of the Pentagon's sponsorships for NASCAR teams says she won't back away from her efforts and, despite GOP resistance, will broaden her fight to repeal tax breaks for track owners, too.

Rep. Betty McCollum says her work could save American taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. But Defense Department officials and lawmakers from NASCAR country say the sponsorships help military recruitment, and that the tax breaks could save jobs in the struggling economy.

In an interview Friday, McCollum said it doesn't make sense to keep the benefits for NASCAR teams and track owners when other cuts are being made to community health care, programs for homeless veterans and Head Start.

"I started to look what is in this large defense budget to see what's not related to security that we could redirect to critical supplies or mission support," she said. "Or in the case of racetrack owners, what are some of the special tax perks that some of the special interests are getting?"

She plans to file legislation to prohibit Pentagon sponsorships of dragsters, Indy cars, stock cars and motorcycle racing, affecting just about every level of motorsports.

"We should take a critical eye and a critical look and say, 'Is this an appropriate role for the government?'" McCollum said.

McCollum filed an amendment this month to prohibit the Defense Department from spending money to sponsor NASCAR teams, saying it's a poor use of money given the other cuts the House was making. The amendment came as the House, led by Republicans, spent days wrestling with $60 billion in cuts to the current fiscal year's budget.

In the days before the vote, her office logged angry calls from across NASCAR country. "There were some people that were very upset," McCollum said.

She also received a threatening and racist fax, which received widespread media attention and is being investigated by the U.S. Capitol Police. But her chief of staff said the office also received a lot of calls from tea party supporters who backed McCollum's amendment.

Her amendment failed, 281-148.

Meanwhile, racetrack owners received tax breaks worth $45 million in 2010 and 2011, aimed at helping them make improvements to their facilities. A two-year extension of the program was included in the tax cuts compromise that President Barack Obama forged with Congress in December.

McCollum said she'll file legislation to repeal the tax benefit. "It's an earmark," she said.

North Carolina Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry disagrees. His Charlotte-area district is home to half the NASCAR teams. His Twitter avatar last week was the No. 3 logo in memory of legendary driver Dale Earnhardt, who was killed in a crash at the Daytona 500 in 2001.

McHenry spoke against McCollum's amendment a week ago on the House floor and said in an interview this week that her goal didn't seem to be about saving money. He pointed out that her two goals — killing the raceway tax breaks and banning driver sponsorships — are aimed at the same sport.

"She may believe that none of her constituents watch NASCAR, but they do," McHenry said this week. "This shows that she is on the warpath against NASCAR. This is more about her disdain for NASCAR than it really is about saving taxpayers' money."

McCollum insisted, though, that she has nothing against NASCAR.

"This isn't about NASCAR," McCollum said. "I've watched the Indy 500, the Daytona 500. I have friends who are avid fans. . . . This is about making tough choices."

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POTUS Barack Obama FINALLY Issues Order To Freeze Moammar Gadhafi's Assets.

Obama orders freeze on assets of Gadhafi, his family
By Hannah Allam, Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay

WASHINGTON — Citing human rights abuses against peaceful demonstrators in Libya, President Barack Obama late Friday ordered that all the assets of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, his children and their wives be frozen in the United States, or in branches of U.S. banks.

The order comes as Gadhafi is losing his grip on power against massive opposition in his oil-rich nation, which began on Feb. 15. Eyewitnesses reported murders and abductions by Gadhafi's security forces and by hired mercenaries from other African nations.

"I . . . find that there is a serious risk that Libyan state assets will be misappropriated by Gadhafi, members of his government, members of his family, or his close associates if those assets are not protected, " Obama said in the order.

And in a statement, Obama said: "By any measure, Muammar el-Qaddafi's government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable. These sanctions therefore target the Qaddafi government, while protecting the assets that belong to the people of Libya."

Included in the economic sanctions, which are designed thwart the movement of cash and other assets that might enrich the Gadhafi family, the president cited Gadhafi's four children and their spouses and children. Gaddafi's children, including one daughter and three sons, apparently draw personal incomes from Libya's state-owned oil companies.

Obama also vowed to work with the international community and the United Nations to coordinate these and other actions.

"We will stand steadfastly with the Libyan people in their demand for universal rights, and a government that is responsive to their aspirations. Their human dignity cannot be denied," he said.

Earlier Friday, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Libya's capital, Tripoli, in an ever more deadly battle for control of the country, as Gadhafi loyalists killed opponents by the dozens and grabbed hostages off the streets.

The United States shuttered its Embassy in Tripoli after evacuating its diplomats and most U.S. citizens in Libya, and announced it had begun imposing sanctions on Gadhafi's regime.

In a dramatic scene at the United Nations, where officials said more than 1,000 may be dead in Libya, the country's U.N. ambassador broke with Gadhafi and pleaded, "Please United Nations, save Libya."

Gadhafi has told Libyans, "Either I rule over you or I kill you or I destroy you," said the ambassador, Mohamed Shalgham, who was hugged by other diplomats, including his deputy, who was shaking and crying as the session concluded.

In Tripoli, government militiamen opened fire "in front of our face," Zakariya Naas, 38, said in a telephone interview. He said he watched 15, maybe 20, bodies drop.

"The military, they are going in the small streets in between the houses and opened the fire, guns, and (they caught) some live people and took them," Naas said. "I saw by my own eyes, more than seven young guys" taken hostage at gunpoint, he said.

In the absence of ambulance service, protesters were trying to commandeer people's cars to get the injured to hospitals. But with crowds in the streets, roads closed and hospitals overwhelmed, they're largely helpless. As evening fell, he said, "We have to jump from house to house because we cannot walk in the street now."

There also were reports that Gadhafi loyalists were hiding in ambulances to catch protesters off guard.

With his grip over much of Libya crumbling, Gadhafi, his family and his remaining security forces have chosen to make a stand in Tripoli.

Gadhafi staged a new fist-pumping show of defiance Friday evening, appearing on state-run television at a rally of crowds of cheering supporters in Tripoli's central Green Square.

But the Libyan leader faced rising international pressure on several fronts.

Little more than a half hour after a chartered jet took off from Tripoli carrying the last U.S. diplomats out of Libya, the White House announced it had begun imposing sanctions on Gadhafi's regime.

A ferry carrying 300 people, roughly half U.S. citizens, arrived in Malta after an eight-hour voyage from Tripoli. But Joan Polaschik, the chief U.S. diplomat in Tripoli, told CNN from Istanbul, Turkey that about 90 Americans remain in Libya.

U.S. officials — who were careful not to criticize Gadhafi by name before the evacuation — signaled he should go. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that "it's clear that Colonel Gadhafi has lost the confidence of his people" and "his legitimacy has been reduced to zero in the eyes of his people."

Carney said the Treasury Department had begun tracking financial transactions by Libyan regime officials, and that the Pentagon was halting its limited engagement with the Libyan military.

At the U.N., France and Britain circulated a draft resolution that would refer the regime's atrocities to the International Criminal Court; and institute an arms embargo. The U.S. isn't a member of the criminal court, and U.S. and European officials said it's uncertain whether Washington would support that provision.

The longtime Libyan leader remained defiant Friday.

"We are ready to triumph over the enemy," Gadhafi said in a brief address from the ramparts of Red Fort, a medieval fortress overlooking Tripoli's Green Square. "We will fight if they want."

"At the suitable time, we will open the arms depot so all Libyans and tribes become armed, so that Libya becomes red with fire," Gadhafi said. "I am in the middle of the people in the Green Square. . . . This is the people that loves Moammar Gadhafi. If the people of Libya and the Arabs and Africans don't love Moammar Gadhafi, then Moammar Gadhafi does not deserve to live."

He shook his fists in the air and blew kisses to the crowd of men and women, many waving portraits of him, and others jumping and shouting.

There was little doubt that the broadcast was intended to bolster Gadhafi's supporters as new defections shrank his regime, the Middle East's longest lasting. At one point, the camera focused on a clock above the square, which showed 6:50 p.m., to prove that the broadcast was live.

With few foreign journalists in Tripoli and phone lines frequently down, it's difficult to get a clear picture of events in the Libyan capital. Much of the details of the chaos comes from telephone interviews with residents.

But outside Tripoli, there were growing indications that the tide was beginning to turn against Gadhafi, 68, who's ruled Libya with an iron grip since 1969, but now faces a revolt that threatens to add him to the list of regional leaders ousted in a wave of pro-democracy protests.

In Zawiyah, an oil terminal west of Tripoli, protesters had been bracing Friday for renewed attacks by Gadhafi after his forces retreated Thursday. But by Friday evening, the feared retaliation hadn't materialized, and a former diplomat-turned-protester, reached by phone, said that about 300 former Gadhafi forces went to the town square to announce they were defecting and began distributing weapons.

"We are less worried now," said the former diplomat, who asked that his name be withheld for security reasons. "They have some good guns."

But he said he's deeply concerned about the violence in Tripoli, saying he'd heard reports that Gadhafi forces hiding in ambulances were shooting on unsuspecting crowds.

In another diplomatic defection, Libya's envoy to the U.N. Human Rights Council renounced his links to Gadhafi's government. Diplomats in the meeting hall in Geneva erupted in applause, Reuters reported.

The question of how to get humanitarian aid into Libya was becoming increasingly urgent.

A humanitarian crisis appeared to be growing at Libya's Salloum border crossing with Egypt, where thousands of foreign laborers were streaming out of Libya.

People packed minivans with roofs piled high with luggage, air conditioners, mattresses, televisions and even stoves and refrigerators. There was little or no food available and no sanitary facilities, and Egyptian government workers struggled with massive piles of trash.

A tank sat on the Egyptian side, people camping underneath it. About 100 Filipinos and dozens of Africans, many of them from Somalia, sat in the confusion, saying they'd been stranded for several days and didn't know where to go or to whom to turn.

Rows of buses sent by the Egyptian government, however, sat in long rows, their drivers shouting "free ride" and the names of the cities for which they were bound.


Moammar Gadhafi has one daughter and three sons. Here are some details about them, compiled from news reports:

Ayesha — A lieutenant in the Libyan Army and part of a family-based business network that's plugged in to Libya's energy and infrastructure sectors. She was appointed a U.N. "Goodwill Ambassador" in 2009, but news reports Friday said she'd been terminated from that post.

Mutassim — A close adviser to his father and reported to be more resistant to reforms than his brother, Saif al Islam. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with him at the State Department in April 2009, and Mutassim was even given a photo op with Clinton. "We deeply value the relationship between the United States and Libya. We have many opportunities to deepen and broaden our cooperation," Clinton said, with Mutassim standing beside her.

Khamis — Recruited French-speaking Sub-Saharan African mercenaries to shoot live rounds at pro-democracy protestors, reported Al Arabiya, citing sources in the city of Benghazi.

Saif al Islam — Western-educated and smartly dressed, has been the regime's public face and, until recently, regarded as in favor of political and economic reforms. But in recent days, he has made television appearances denouncing the Libyan rebels and making clear that he and his family will fight to the death. He runs a charity called the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation. He has a $16 million house in London, complete with suede-lined indoor cinema, not far from an area known as Billionaire's Row. He's also been a guest at Buckingham Palace.

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Editor's note: read Obama's executive order here.

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Nick Anderson Sees The Price Of Democracy. LOL.


Friday, February 25, 2011

You Can Now Follow Kentucky Court Of Justice On Twitter And Facebook.

Go here to get updates from the court.

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With TRILLION Dollar Debt, Why Do We Keep Spending BILLIONS Of Dollars Exploring Space? Watch Video.

Nick Anderson Provides Today's LOL.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

If You Need Legislation Passed In Kentucky, Hire More Lobbyists &, Like J. G. Wentworth, Tell Lawmakers: It's My Money, And I Need My Bill Passed NOW!

Beshear signs bill letting optometrists perform surgery
By John Cheves

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear on Thursday signed into law a controversial measure that will let optometrists perform some laser eye surgeries.

Ophthalmologists — eye surgeons who graduated from medical school — fought the bill, arguing that optometrists are not qualified to perform surgery. Optometrists do not attend medical school, but they do receive four years of optometry training after graduating from college and are trained to detect vision defects and prescribe corrective lenses.

But Beshear sided with the optometrists, who promoted Senate Bill 110 as offering better access to health care. Many rural areas of the state have optometrists but not ophthalmologists, optometrists told lawmakers.

“Access to quality health care is a critical issue for families across the commonwealth,” Beshear said in a statement. “After careful consideration, along with meetings with many interested parties, today I signed Senate Bill 110 to give Kentuckians greater access to necessary eye care.”

The law will let optometrists remove lumps and bumps and use lasers to treat a few specified conditions, although they cannot perform Lasik corrective surgery, which uses a laser to change the shape of the cornea, or any other procedure requiring general anesthesia.

The legislature passed SB 110 quickly and overwhelmingly following a lobbying blitz and big campaign donations by optometrists to Beshear and legislators. On Thursday, the Legislative Ethics Commission said the Kentucky Optometric Association increased its Frankfort lobbying force from four to 18 lobbyists this session, including 13 lobbyists who started Feb. 1.

Optometrists and their political action committee have upped their donations to state elected leaders over the past year, campaign finance records show. In 2010, optometrists gave $250,000 to all political candidates, compared with just less than $50,000 in 2009, according to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

Meanwhile, one senator who raised objections to SB 110 is quietly attaching amendments to other bills that, if passed, essentially would undo the measure.

Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, referred to a Senate committee as a “kangaroo court” earlier this month when it brushed aside medical concerns and rushed the bill to the Senate floor. Now Denton is filing floor amendments that would require the state to issue a certificate of need for eye surgery using a laser unless a clinic offers such services already — as only ophthalmologists do — or unless they are performed by an ophthalmologist.

The state issues certificates of needs in some instances, such as adding hospital beds or expensive medical equipment, to prevent the costly proliferation of certain items and services.

Denton said Thursday that she isn’t passing judgment on the qualification of optometrists. But the state Medicaid program could lose money if optometrists rush out to purchase expensive laser equipment and then feel pressured to perform many surgeries, billing Medicaid, in order to pay for their new equipment.

“Having a certificate of need required for expensive medical equipment is not out of the ordinary,” Denton said.

As of Thursday, Denton had attached her amendment to at least five House bills and one Senate bill awaiting action in the Senate. The bills’ subjects include insurance payments to chiropractors, elder abuse and a bill to establish every Sept. 11 as “9/11 First Responders Day” in Kentucky.

Legislators sometimes attach floor amendments to otherwise routine bills as a way to force action on a subject, although there are maneuvers Senate and House leaders can use to attempt to scrape off the amendment and avoid any floor action on the subject.

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We Applaud Gatewood Galbraith For Taking A Strong Stance Against Mountaintop Removal Of Coal.

Galbraith comes out against mountaintop removal

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- Independent Gatewood Galbraith differentiated himself Thursday from all other Kentucky gubernatorial candidates by taking a strong stand against mountaintop removal mining.

Galbraith told The Associated Press that the practice has caused "unsurpassed environmental damage" in Appalachia and should not be permitted to continue.

"It is too large a cost for the extraction of coal," he said Thursday. "I'm for coal, but mountaintop removal is the most wasteful, unsustainable method for extracting coal. It destroys an ecological heritage that belongs to all of Kentucky."

The Lexington attorney making his fifth run for governor is the only candidate who has voiced opposition to mountaintop removal.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who is seeking re-election, has called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ease regulations that are hampering the mining method, as have three Republican gubernatorial candidates: state Senate President David Williams, Louisville businessman Phil Moffett and Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw.

Galbraith won an early endorsement from the United Mine Workers of America. He said it shows that Kentucky's working class is unhappy with the state's political leadership. He also said his opposition to mountaintop removal isn't a condemnation of the coal industry and especially not of coal miners.

Mountaintop removal has long been a heated issue in Kentucky politics, especially so in recent weeks with demonstrators rallying at the state Capitol in opposition to the practice. A handful of those demonstrators staged a four-day sit-in at Beshear's office before walking out to the cheers of some 1,200 mountaintop removal opponents gathered on the Capitol lawn.

In mountaintop removal mining, forests are cleared and rock is blasted apart to get to coal buried underneath. The leftover dirt, rock and rubble usually is dumped into nearby valleys. Coal operators say it is the most effective way to get to the coal, while environmentalists say it does irreversible damage.

In a letter to supporters, Galbraith and runningmate Dea Riley said they "stand on the side of mountains."

"Specifically, the practice of mountaintop removal has reduced valuable coal jobs, caused unsurpassed environmental damage and continues to stifle overall economic development efforts," they wrote.

"We cannot undo the injustice and travesties of the past," they said, "but we can promise our dedication to a new future."


Blogging Will Be Non Existent Until Later, As Professional Duties Take Precedence Today.

So come back later in the evening for more.

Stay tuned.



POTUS Barack Obama FINALLY Reacts To Libyan Crisis.

Obama to seek economic sanctions against Gadhafi's regime
By Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, breaking his silence on the mayhem in Libya, said Wednesday that the U.S. will consider "the full range of options" to respond and warned dictator Moammar Gadhafi to halt the slaughter of civilians, saying "the entire world is watching."

Obama denounced the killing of hundreds, and maybe thousands, of Libyan civilians by Gadhafi's regime as "outrageous," and said the perpetrators will be held responsible.

He didn't spell out what steps the U.S. might take, but aides said that Washington, in concert with international partners, will seek to impose new economic sanctions on the regime.

It was unclear what immediate effect Obama's words would have in Libya, where Gadhafi's opponents have seized virtual control of the country's eastern half but have been systematically targeted by regime loyalists and foreign mercenaries. U.S. influence in Libya is limited.

The crisis in Libya and elsewhere across the Middle East is presenting Obama with the biggest foreign policy test of his presidency. Along with the safety of U.S. citizens, his economic and energy policies are at stake.

The price of a barrel of crude oil for April delivery soared above $100 in intraday trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange — the first time since 2008 — before settling up $2.68 to $98.10.

Obama has come under growing pressure to do more to stop in Libya what may be the worst atrocities worldwide since he took office. Opponents of Gadhafi in Libya have told McClatchy that the U.S. and its allies should impose a "no-fly zone" and take other measures to help depose the dictator.

But U.S. officials say he's been wary of speaking out in a way that would endanger American citizens caught in Libya.

Hundreds of U.S. citizens boarded a State Department-chartered ferry Wednesday at a port in Tripoli, the Libyan capital. But the ferry's departure for the islands of Malta was delayed until Thursday morning because of heavy seas.

Other U.S. citizens, working in Libya's oil fields, remain trapped at remote locations.

Obama administration officials said the contest over Libya could continue for some time.

Gadhafi "is still in control of Tripoli. That means something," said a senior U.S. official, who requested anonymity to speak more frankly.

A second senior official said that among the options under consideration are a freeze on Libyan officials' assets and a ban on their travel that could be imposed by the U.S. unilaterally; international economic sanctions; and isolating Libya in international bodies.

Obama, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at his side, said she would travel Monday to Geneva to a high-level meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, a toothless body of which Libya is a member.

The first official said it would be "some days" before an agreement on sanctions be reached with other world powers and tailored to hurt the regime, but not the Libyan people.

Underscoring the shallowness of U.S. influence in Libya, the official said there are steps the U.S. could take on its own "that can make us feel better." But to be effective, he said, "we have to build a consensus within the international community, because there are a lot of countries that have far more developed relationships with Libya than we do."

The 27-nation European Union also appeared ready to support sanctions.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called the violence in Libya "horrifying" and said the EU should consider suspending economic relations with the government.

The U.S. officials said imposing a "no-fly zone" to stop Libyan military aircraft from attacking protesters isn't under consideration in the near-term. "That's the easiest thing to say, but the hardest thing to do," the first official said.

The situation in Libya remained highly opaque Wednesday due to restrictions on international communications, especially with the capital.

It appeared, however, that Gadhafi retained control of much of the western Tripolitania region, although clashes were reported in the capital's suburbs, while virtually all of the eastern Cyranaica region was in opposition hands, said a U.S. official who was closely following the situation.

Gadhafi's forces also were believed to hold Sirte, the main town of the area in which the dictator was born, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the situation's sensitivity.

At the same time, the regime appeared to be struggling to develop a coordinated effort to suppress the insurrection, with some military units remaining in their bases and only parts of others responding to trouble spots, possibly because of continued defections of officers and soldiers to the revolt.

"They are not moving in an organized fashion," the U.S. official said. "The military command structure appears to be rife with confusion."

The U.S. has limited diplomatic and economic leverage that it can use to pressure Gadhafi, experts said.

After decades of tensions and military clashes, the Bush administration re-established formal relations with Libya in 2006 after the Libyan leader accepted responsibility for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, and ended a secret nuclear weapons program.

But improvements in relations "have been very incremental since then," said Fredric Wehrey, an expert at RAND Corp. policy institute who recently returned from Libya.

Ties also have been limited between the U.S. and Libyan militaries, which only re-established formal relations in 2009 after a 35-year break. That contrasts with the extensive ties used by top U.S. commanders to encourage the Egyptian army to remain on the sidelines of the popular revolt that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak.

More important to the U.S. has been preventing al Qaida's North African affiliate, Al Qaida in the Islamic Magreb from establishing a major presence in the vast expanse of Saharan Desert that comprises most of Libya's territory.

The current upheaval could provide al Qaida with the opportunity to do just that, especially if the crisis deteriorates into a civil war pitting the regime stronghold of the western Tripolitania region against the opposition-controlled eastern wing of Cyrenaica, where the uprising erupted.

"The main thing now is the potential fragmentation of the country," Wehrey said. "The way the forces have split certainly would suggest that" could happen. The result could be more "so-called ungoverned space, especially in the south," where there has been an al Qaida presence, he said.

Read more:

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Libya's Strongman Defies Protestors. LMAO At Nick Anderson's Cartoon!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

POTUS Barack Obama Orders Justice Department To Stop Defending The Constitutionality Of The Defense Of Marriage Act, Homos Rejoice. Watch News Video.

SWARTHMORE College Rocks! Watch Video.


Watch R. Gil Kerlikowske, POTUS Barack Obama's Drug "CZAR", On Legalizing Marijuana.

Watch Rand Paul Address Kentucky Senate On Proposed U. S. Constitutional Amendment.

Joel Pett Is Still Funny.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

As I Predicted In An Earlier Post Here, Say "Welcome To New Chicago, Illinois Mayor: Rahm Emmanuel".

Update: watch video below:


The South Lost. Period.

The South lost. Period
By Leonard Pitts

Nathan Bedford Forrest was a cotton planter and a trader in horses, cattle and black people. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Forrest, whose business dealings had made him wealthy, raised a cavalry unit to fight for the Confederacy. He is remembered as an instinctive military genius whose daring and unpredictability gave Union forces fits.

He is also remembered for leading a rebel band that overwhelmed a Union stronghold, Fort Pillow, Tenn., massacring 300 mostly black soldiers and civilians, including children, after the soldiers had dropped their weapons. According to official reports, black soldiers were nailed to logs, buried alive, gunned down where they stood.

Finally, Forrest is remembered as a founder and the first “Grand Wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan, of course, is America's pre-eminent terrorist group; in its various permutations, it has been responsible for countless acts of violence against African Americans and others it deemed inferior, including the notorious 1963 church bombing in which four little black girls were killed.

This is the legacy of Nathan Bedford Forrest. At this writing, the state of Mississippi is considering whether to honor that legacy through the issuance of vanity license plates.

And perhaps an observer might be forgiven for wondering what in the world there is to consider. The request to honor Forrest was made by the Mississippi branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group often found neck deep in attempts to rewrite and sanitize the odious history of the Confederacy. For what it's worth, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has said he doesn't think the state legislature will approve the vanity plate. But he rejected a call by the Mississippi NAACP to denounce the idea. “I don't go around denouncing people,” he said, piously.

Presumably, he would be equally nonjudgmental if his state were to consider similar honors to Osama bin Laden, convicted spy Robert Hanssen or Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Their legacies, after all, are combined in Forrest: terrorist, traitor, mass murderer.

On April 12, it will be 150 years since the Civil War began. That is the distance from telegraph lines to smart phones, from steam engines to space shuttles, from Lincoln to Obama. And yet even after all that time, some of us are still unable to conquer the moral cowardice exemplified by Gov. Barbour and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The South fought in defense of racism and slavery. It was soundly defeated, racism and slavery soundly repudiated. You'd think from that loss the South would have learned signal lessons of human rights and human dignity.

The past exists for one overriding purpose: to prepare us for the future. It is the great and wise teacher, though its lessons are often purchased at monstrous cost. Such was surely the case with the Civil War: 620,000 lives — 2 percent of the population — lost, the South left devastated.

Yet sometimes, you wonder if the South even knows it lost.

Because, instead of learning those costly lessons and moving forward, too much of the South has spent too much of the last century and a half denying them and looking backward. It did so first through the expedient of lynch mob violence and Jim Crow laws. Now it clings to discredited 19th century symbols like driftwood, obsessively reworks history trying to make the facts other than what they are.

But the facts are immutable.

You wish the South would finally accept that and move on. Instead, too many in that storied region are still absorbed in fighting a war that ended in 1865, seeking to vindicate a cause long ago lost. A man who betrayed this country, founded a terrorist group and committed mass murder is a man unworthy of honor.

It is pathetic that that even needs to be said.

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

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I Think I Can Support This Meth Bill Compromise. Read More.

Supporters may compromise on prescriptions for cold medicines
By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — Supporters of a bill that will require prescriptions for cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine hope that excluding some of those medicines will be enough to get the measure through the full Senate.

Meanwhile, the Kentucky State Police are struggling to find money to pay for methamphetamine laboratory cleanups because two key federal grants are about to dry up.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Friday that supporters of the bill are considering excluding cold medicines in gel form from the prescription mandate. It is more difficult to extract pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in the manufacturing of methamphetamine, from the gel or liquid capsule forms of the cold drugs.

Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London, and sponsor of the Senate Bill 45, said he was not sure whether the tweak to the bill would be enough to get the measure through the Republican-controlled Senate.

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month but has not passed the full Senate — in part because of strong and well-financed opposition from the over-the-counter drug companies. Many legislators have heard from constituents who say that they do not want to go to a doctor to get a prescription for about a dozen cold and allergy medications that contain pseudoephedrine

“If that would get it passed, we would certainly do it,” Jensen said of the changes. “I have not talked to enough people yet who have said that would change their minds.”

But Jensen said that the compromise was only floated on Friday. He plans to talk to more legislators Tuesday when the legislature returns for the final two weeks of the session.

Rep. Linda Belcher, D-Shepherdsville, and sponsor of similar legislation in the House, said some of her colleagues have said they would vote for the bill if some over-the-counter drugs that contain psuedoephedrine were still available.

“More of them said that they would support the bill,” Belcher said.

But over-the-counter-drug industry representatives said they would not agree to such a compromise and that it would be unlikely to cut the number of methamphetamine labs in Kentucky.

“According the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, PSE (psuedoephedrine) in gel cap or liquid formulations is ‘readily extractable,’ meaning it can still be used illegally to make meth,” said Elizabeth Funderburk, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

In addition, she said, the extended relief forms of medication used by many consumers are not available in gel caps.

Meth lab numbers grow

The state’s narcotics officers counter that current restrictions on the amount of cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine that consumers can buy aren’t working. Meth cooks are asking addicts and others to buy cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine for them, skirting the current limits. The number of meth labs have sky-rocketed in Kentucky over the past several years. The Kentucky State Police recently reported 1,080 meth labs in 2010.

In states that have passed bills requiring prescriptions for pseudophedrine-containing cold medicines, the number of meth labs has plummeted, supporters of SB 45 said.

Even if the bill is not passed this legislative session, the state’s meth lab problems are not going to go away, Jensen and Belcher said.

“Whether we pass it or not, it is causing a lot of discussion,” Jensen said. “I think it’s inevitable that something like this is going to pass.”

Paying for cleanup

While the bill is being debated, state and federal law enforcement officers are looking for new ways to pay for cleanup of the growing number of meth labs.

Lt. Col. Joe Williams of the Kentucky State Police, said a federal grant of $450,000 that the state has used since 2007 to pay police overtime for meth lab cleanups and to buy some equipment — such as respirators — will be depleted by this summer.

But what could be even more devastating for the state is the loss of a Drug Enforcement Agency-administered grant that pays to dispose of the toxic waste from meth labs. Currently, 15 of the state’s 16 police posts have waste containment boxes that the state police and some local police use for refuse from meth labs. The DEA then pays a contractor to remove that waste.

The DEA has said that the contract to dispose of that waste will expire in April, Williams said.

Officials with the DEA were not available for comment Monday, which was a federal holiday.

It’s not clear whether state police will have to absorb the cost of that contract.

Karen Kelly, director of Operation Unite, a drug task force in Eastern and Central Kentucky, said counties and city police and the task force take their meth lab waste to the Kentucky State Police sites.

“Whose going to pay for it?” Kelly said. “These small jurisdictions can’t pay for it.”

Williams said that state police are trying to find more grant money to replace the $450,000 grant.

“We may have to absorb those costs in our current budget,” Williams said. “We are actively trying to find grant money.”

Editor's comment: Requiring Doctor's prescriptions for the solid pill version of pseudoephedrine and NOT the liquid version seems to me to be an acceptable compromise, provided we never have a shortage of the liquid pills, which will then FORCE people to need the pill version, which will in turn require the Doctor's visit to get such a prescription.

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Corrupt Pennsylvania Juvenile Judge Caught In "Cash For Kids" Scheme. Watch Video.

Part one:

Part two:


Editor's comment: This is awful, but the question has to be asked: how much of this is going on in other parts of the country, including Kentucky? The answer has to be: same is happening everywhere. This judge just happened to have the misfortune of being BRAZEN enough to get caught.
Like I say: the people DESERVE who they elect into office, just like the Isrealis of old deserved AHAB and his wife, Witch J!

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What Elephant? RONTFLMAO!.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Major Lobby Day And Rally To Restore Voting Rights To Former Felons. Read More.

Kentucky political bloggers,

There will be a major lobby day and rally to restore voting rights to former felons who have served their debt to society this Thursday, February 24th in Frankfort. The legislation passed the House 77-21 and now we'll be putting pressure on the senate to do so as well.

We'll send more information closer to time, but hope that this serves as a quick notice to get it on your respective calendars.

Voting Rights Rally.JPG

Voting Rights Lobby Day and Rally

Thursday, February 24th

8:30am to 2pm

8:30am-10am - Meet in Capitol Annex room 125 for rotating lobby trainings and to get assigned to a small lobby team. Please get there early is possible. No experience is necessary! After 10am, our "base" of operations will be downstairs in the cafeteria. We'll break out and talk to legislators between then and 1pm, stopping for lunch along the way.

1pm - 2pm - Rally in the Capitol Rotunda with former felon speakers telling their stories, singing, and more. The echos of the rally will reach legislators as they are walking to their respective chambers.

Background Issue Information -


Women Face Horrors In Congo.

Read more here.

Hopefully, they will all have justice and their tormentors have justice served to them.

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Happy Presidents' Day. Remember Your Favorite President; Mine Is Abraham "Honest Abe" Lincoln.

Is [POTUS Barack] Obama Failing To Lead, Or Leading In A New, Crafty Way?

Is Obama failing to lead, or leading in a new, crafty way?
By Steven Thomma

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's proposed budget this week raised a key question about how he governs: Can he lead without getting out in front?

Obama says the government has to fix Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to avoid fiscal disaster. He just doesn't think he should be the first one to say how.

That, Republicans say, is an abdication of leadership. Obama says it's smart leadership, that if he made a specific proposal now on how to fix those politically charged programs, it would just become a target for critics, feed talk-show shouting and make real negotiations impossible.

He may be right. Where leaders such as FDR and LBJ once could send specific legislation to Congress and see it enacted, things changed in recent decades. Bill Clinton proposed a detailed health care plan in 1993 — and cartoonists had a field day lampooning it, lobbyists ganged up against it and Congress gave up on it. George W. Bush tried to propose major changes in Social Security in 2005, and Democrats ripped his plan to pieces.

Now comes the Obama model. He never sent specific health care legislation to Congress, yet managed to enact sweeping changes in a law that his party had sought since Harry Truman. He proposed only broad principles for financial regulation, and got what's arguably the most ambitious regulation of Wall Street since the 1930s.

Changing entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security will be harder: He faces a Republican-led House of Representatives on this one. And he'll eventually have to offer more specifics to drive the debate, analysts say. But he's clearly trying to forge a new model of presidential leadership adapted to a new age.

"It's a potentially effective strategy for Obama," said Bruce Buchanan, a scholar of the presidency at the University of Texas. "Leadership has always been changeable across presidential history."

"Obama has done pretty well combining the specific and the general," said James MacGregor Burns, a presidential historian. "They have to do both."

In his new budget, Obama avoided specific proposals on Social Security. Instead, he offered some principles of what an agreement with Congress to shore up the system should look like:

He said it shouldn't privatize the system, shouldn't "slash" benefits for future generations or reduce benefits at all for current beneficiaries, and should "strengthen" the system for the poor and most vulnerable.

He didn't mention such commonly discussed options as raising the retirement age or raising the wage tax. He and his aides say they're ready to talk about specific solutions when lawmakers of both parties are, too, and that history shows that's the only way changing such politically charged programs gets done.

"This is not a matter of you go first or I go first," he said in a news conference this week. "This is a matter of everybody having a serious conversation about where we want to go, and then ultimately getting in that boat at the same time so it doesn't tip over."

Some House Republicans aren't ready to get in the boat yet.

"In our nation's most pressing fiscal challenges, the president has abdicated his leadership role," responded House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Yet Ryan's Republican colleague, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, took a similar tack to Obama.

After first publicly endorsing the idea of raising the retirement age as a key fix for Social Security, Boehner pulled back. "I made a mistake when I did that because I think having the conversation about how big the problem is is the first step," Boehner told CNN last month.

"If we lead with our chin, nothing happens. That's what's happened in Washington for the last 25 years. I think that we need to have both parties working together to help explain to the American people the size of the problem and an array of possible solutions, and out of that conversation we'll begin to resolve what is possible," Boehner said.

White House aides said the model for leadership on a thorny issue such as Social Security was Ronald Reagan. They said Reagan learned in the early 1980s that specific proposals from him would draw fire, and that his eventual turn to a bipartisan commission helped produce an agreement with Democrats that saved the system from insolvency for a generation.

Moreover, Obama's White House learned from Clinton and Bush that specific proposals can become lightning rods for attacks and independently financed ads that poison the atmosphere for compromise.

When Clinton unveiled a detailed — and complicated — proposal to overhaul health care in 1993, it was mocked as an unworkable bureaucracy. Worse, it was the target of a massive ad campaign that Clinton later said buried the idea for good.

Though his Democratic Party controlled Congress, it never brought up the idea for a vote.

When Bush proposed overhauling Social Security in 2005, he got the first hint of the difficulty he faced when he met behind closed doors with congressional Republicans.

"If you lead, we'll be behind you," one told him. "But we'll be way behind you."

He decided against making a specific proposal, thinking it better to lay out the principles of any changes. His guideposts: no increase in taxes, no change in benefits for people at or near retirement and an option for younger workers to divert some of their Social Security taxes into privately managed accounts.

Then he proposed a specific plan to change the way benefits are allocated, saying they'd grow faster for poorer Americans and more slowly for wealthier people.

Democrats ripped the idea of private accounts, and Republicans weren't very eager to take up the issue at all. It died without ever coming to a vote.

What Clinton and Bush experienced demonstrated that the politics had changed, that presidents could face instant and unified opposition even before negotiations. In fact, the reaction to their proposals made negotiations impossible.

"The climate has changed. ... People started to say, 'Why not put general things out here and use presidential leverage to pressure individual legislators when the time is right, rather than in the opening round, rather than giving the opposition a big target,' '' Buchanan said.

"It's a potentially effective strategy for Obama. So far, it looks like it does work."

Read more:


Words To Live By, And Words To Ponder.

"The question of whether one generation has the right to bind another by a deficit it imposes is a question of such consequence as to place it among the fundamental principles of our government. We should consider ourselves unauthorized to saddle posterity with our debts and morally bound to pay for them ourselves."

-- Thomas Jefferson.

"Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence; true friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks and adversity before it is entitled to the appellation."

-- George Washington, Letter to Bushrod Washington, 1783

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Joel Pett Reports On The Progress Of The Kentucky Legislature. This Cartoon Will Be Funny If The Subject Matter Wasn't So Serious!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Across The South, The Civil War Is An Enduring Conflict.

Across the South, the Civil War is an enduring conflict
By Rick Hampson,

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — With the firing of a cannon, the raising of the Stars and Bars and the singing of Dixie, people in antebellum finery will come Saturday to re-enact a most divisive moment in U.S. history: Jefferson Davis' inauguration 150 years ago as president of the Confederacy.

There will be a parade to the state Capitol along Davis' 1861 route, a landscape that since has become the Jerusalem of Southern memory — sacred to both the Confederacy and the civil rights movement.

The procession will start near the spot where, in 1955, black seamstress Rosa Parks boarded a public bus and refused to give her seat to a white man, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott. It will go up the avenue where Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers completed the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march in 1965. It will pass the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the first congregation King served as pastor, whose parsonage was firebombed in 1956 while King's wife and baby daughter were there.

And it will come within two blocks of the old Greyhound station where Freedom Riders, trying to desegregate interstate bus travel, were beaten bloody by a white mob in 1961 as police stood by.

"The ironies are rich," says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, "and particularly ugly. This is a racist event, celebrating a government that stood on a foundation of slavery." Bernard Simelton of the Alabama NAACP likens the re-enactment to "celebrating the Holocaust."

The group staging the event, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, says it's merely honoring those who fought what it calls "the War for Southern Independence." Hundreds are expected to attend.

"We're celebrating the only president the Confederate States of America ever had," says Tom Strain, an organizer whose ancestor of the same name was a cavalry soldier in the Confederate Army of Tennessee. "It's not about slavery. It's about remembering our history."

The Civil War still divides Americans, especially at a time when some in the Tea Party movement talk of states' rights and secession; when many states are rebelling against federal initiatives such as the health care overhaul; and when America's changing demographics make some nostalgic for a society in which white Christians were more dominant.

The five-year sesquicentennial of the war promises to be such a political, emotional and historical minefield that Congress has not created a centralized national effort, and only a few states have formed and funded their own commissions to mark the anniversary.

"We're walking on eggshells," says Cameron Freeman Napier, honorary regent for life of the First White Houseof the Confederacy, where Davis lived for several months before the capital moved to Richmond, Va.

The 150th anniversary of the war's first shot at Fort Sumter, S.C., is almost two months off, but controversies already have erupted across the South:

•Revelers in period dress gathered in Charleston in December for a "Secession Ball," described in invitations as a "joyous night of music, dancing, food and drink" to commemorate the 150th anniversary of South Carolina's withdrawal from the Union. More than 100 protesters gathered outside what state NAACP leader Lonnie Randolph called "a celebration of slavery."

Forrest, Potok says, has "dethroned" Gen. Robert E. Lee as the paragon among some hard-line neo-Confederates, because of Lee's conciliatory attitude toward the North after the war: "These groups don't talk about Lee. He's seen as a wimp."

Sesquicentennial observances of the Civil War may reveal as much about the nation's current mindset about that period as who did what to whom at which battle. It coincides with a revival of notions such as secession and nullification, ideas that flourished in the South in the first half of the 19th century and seemed to have been discredited by the Civil War.

Some Alaskans, including former governor Sarah Palin's husband, Todd, have talked seriously about secession. In 2009, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, hinted it was a possibility for his state "if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people."

At least a half-dozen states are considering measures to nullify the Obama administration's overhaul of the nation's health-care system, for example. In Alabama, a bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Scott Beason passed the state Senate last year before dying in a Democrat-led House committee.

He plans to try again. It's time, he said, "for the states to try to flex some sovereignty muscle."
A centennial to forget

In some ways, Americans are more divided by the war on its 150th anniversary than they were on its 100th in 1961. Then, says Yale historian David Blight, slavery and race were swept under the rug to celebrate Blue-Gray reconciliation — albeit a reconciliation of whites, achieved by sacrificing black civil rights after Southern Reconstruction ended in the 1870s.

The federal Civil War Centennial Commission created in 1957 under the leadership of Ulysses S. Grant III, grandson of the Union general and president, tried to show the valor of fighters on both sides and the unified nation born of the struggle.

These were themes the South had been pushing since its defeat. It was a rare occasion, says James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, "where the history of a war was written by the losers." But historian Robert Cook says the rise of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s overran the commission's spin on the war.

This anniversary will be different. S. Waite Rawls III, director of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, promises more attention to slaves, women and children, as well as black Union soldiers. In ads, the museum uses the Union battle cry, "On to Richmond!" — unthinkable at a Southern institution 50 years ago.

The new focus dismays some, including the re-enactor who will read Davis' inaugural speech Saturday here. Tyrone Crowley of Prattville, Ala., declined to be interviewed. But on his Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) chapter's website, he complains that, unlike 50 years ago, "when the Centennial was used to honor the Confederacy and the Lost Cause," now "there is an obvious, deliberate attempt to ignore and suppress all things Confederate ... as seen by the fact that Alabama state agencies use 'Civil War.' "

The neo-Confederate position on the war holds that the South had the constitutional right to secede; the war's cause was not slavery but an economically motivated Northern invasion, and that tens of thousands of Southern blacks, most of them slaves, willingly fought with the Confederate army.

The Davis inauguration is the first in a series of sesquicentennial "heritage rallies" planned around the South.
One city, two traditions

Two of America's most violent internal struggles played out in Montgomery. Today you can still touch Martin Luther King's old pulpit and a few blocks away see Jefferson Davis' Bible, bed and slippers.

Miriam Norris, an African American born shortly after the bus boycott, is a tour guide at Dexter Avenue Baptist. She's standing in the basement, where King helped organize the boycott. She's not eager to discuss the Davis re-enactment but eventually says she finds it "personally insulting. I see it as a black vs. white thing. ... It's silly for them to pay so much attention to a war they lost. They ought to get over it."

Black leaders say they plan no protests.

"That would be counterproductive," says state Rep. Alvin Holmes, a Democrat. "We don't want to give them publicity."

Cameron Napier and her husband, John, are an older white couple with deep roots in the South and contacts with both the black community and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, whose local chapter John helped revive.

Over chicory coffee and beignets at their stately brick home on an old cotton plantation south of the city, they say they have no problem with an accurate re-enactment of a historical event. But they express dismay over the distortion of Civil War history by what John Napier calls "Confederate extremists."

They're particularly vexed by the neo-Confederate claim that the Civil War was not caused by slavery. "Of course the war was about slavery," says John Napier, a retired Army general and amateur historian. "Read the state secession convention documents."

Cameron Napier agrees. "Some people don't even want to say the S word, but I say it — 'slavery.' How can you understand the Civil War without understanding slavery, and how can you understand the civil rights movement without the Civil War?"

Why is the Civil War such a hot potato? There are several explanations:

•The war failed to settle several of the disputes over which it was fought, according to James Robertson, a Virginia Tech historian who worked on the centennial observance in 1961. In 1865, the South accepted defeat and union; it never accepted a new racial order or the demise of states' rights.

•The sesquicentennial coincides with increasing racial, ethnic and religious diversity, symbolized by the election of the nation's first African-American president, notes Potok, who studies hate groups for the Southern Law Poverty Center. He describes the debate over the war's causes and legacy as being more about the present than the past — a proxy for some whites' anxiety about losing majority status.

•Although re-enactments of Civil War battles have been largely uncontroversial, similar commemorations of political events such as the Davis inauguration are more charged, says Robert Sutton, the National Park Service's chief historian.
A week to remember

Fifty years ago this week, the white citizens of Montgomery staged a week-long pageant about the six months leading up to the first battle of the war, the South's capture of Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay.

The 16-act spectacle, which began with an overture entitled A Salute to the Belle of the South, had a professional directing staff of 18,100 primary actors and dancers and a supporting cast of 1,000. There was a stage crew of 100, 3 miles of electric wiring, 1,000 props and 9,000 costume items shipped from New York and Hollywood in 83 trunks.

Tens of thousands attended; no one in Montgomery had ever seen anything like it. "Every dressmaker was busy," recalls Cameron Napier, whose mother got out her old hoop skirt for the occasion.

Festivities concluded Feb. 18 at the Capitol, with the re-enactment of Davis' swearing-in as three Southern governors looked on. "Dexter Avenue was more crowded than on the same day in 1861," The Montgomery Advertiser reported.

In a front-page editorial, the Advertiser defended the celebratory treatment of an event that ended in disaster: "The North and South are commemorating the origin of a tragic but noble heritage. No combative spirit is aroused."

Combat, and change, lay ahead. Three months later, the Freedom Riders would arrive in town. King, who had left his pulpit the prior year, would be back. And that summer, Barack Obama would be born in Hawaii, the newest state that Davis had sought to rend asunder.

Were he to attend Saturday's re-enactment, the old rebel might recall the atmosphere on Feb. 18, 1861, which contrasted sharply with his own mood.

Davis could not see the future — 620,000 dead, slavery abolished, the South in ruins. But later he would write that when he looked at the thousands below, "I saw troubles and thorns innumerable."

Today, 50 steps up from the street, standing on the brass star that marks the spot where Davis spoke, you can see them still.

Editor's note:

•Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, apologized last year after not mentioning slavery while proclaiming April "Confederate History Month." (Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, added to the ruckus by saying the omission "doesn't matter for diddly.") McDonnell later decided the state will commemorate the entire war in Virginia.

•The Virginia Education Department issued a disclaimer last year after a college history professor noticed that her daughter's fourth-grade textbook said that thousands of blacks fought for the Confederacy — a claim most professional historians reject.

•The Sons of Confederate Veterans in Mississippi is seeking approval of a license plate to honor Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate cavalry general who made millions of dollars trading slaves; was accused of massacring hundreds of black Union POWs, and after the war became the first national leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Barbour said Tuesday he won't denounce the proposal but added he doesn't think Mississippi legislators will approve it.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Some In The South Are STILL Fighting The Lost Civil War. Read More.

Alabama ceremony marks anniversary of Davis inauguration
By Matt Okarmus

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — It may be 2011, but it might well have been 1861 in Montgomery on Saturday as hundreds of people marched to the state Capitol to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the swearing-in of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
By Amanda Sowards, Montgomery

A color guard leads a parade Saturday in Montgomery, Ala. The parade marked the inauguration of Jefferson Davis.

Men, women and children dressed in Civil War-era attire flocked to the Capitol to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Davis' inauguration. The event included speeches, the firing of cannons and a re-enactment of the inauguration.

Davis was sworn in Feb. 18, 1861, as president of the Confederate States of America. He was elected to lead the Southern states after secession from the union.

As the people who portrayed Davis and his vice president walked up to the Capitol, a cry of "God bless you, Mr. President!" was heard from the crowd. It would set the tone for the afternoon, as several more loud cries could be heard from those in attendance.

The biggest cheers came after speakers noted that they were there to celebrate the birth of the Confederacy, which they said was based on a government for the people and by the people. One speaker also got the crowd going with a yell of "Long live Dixie!"

"We tried to recreate it as close as we could. We wanted to give people a glimpse into history," said Charles Rand, adjutant in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Rand said his ancestors include Civil War and Revolutionary War veterans, and events like Saturday's are meant to praise them and what they stood for.

"For me, I celebrate the right of our ancestors to have a government of our own choosing," Rand said.

The reasons for the Civil War have been widely debated, and controversy surrounded Saturday's event because of the war's connection to slavery. Kelley Barrow, lieutenant commander in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, seemed to address those who criticized the celebration in his speech.

Barrow mentioned civil rights hero Rosa Parks, stating that while she moved from the back of the bus to the front, the "people of the Confederacy have been forced to the back of the bus."

Chuck McMichael, a past commander in chief, said the celebration of the Confederacy is a personal issue to him. He compared it to the celebrations of Independence Day, Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

McMichael ended his speech by holding up one of the many flags of the Confederacy that were on display.

"As long as there blows a Southern breeze, this flag will fly in it," McMichael said.

Lee Beasley was in town from Tuscaloosa with her husband and son when they saw the people in costume and wanted to know what was going on. After the celebration drew to a close, her son was asked to help fold a flag.

"He was careful not to let it touch the ground," Beasley said with a smile.

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