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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Peggy Noonan: Republican Squabbling Inspires New Confidence In The President's Supporters.

Obama, Above the Fray for Now
Republican squabbling inspires new confidence in the president's supporters.

Obama supporters are beginning to feel more confident, or at least less embarrassed. A year ago, even three months ago, they were thinking: What a confounding, confusing loser this man is. They didn’t bother defending him never mind advancing him. But now they’re starting to get friskier. They believe there’s a new lay to the land: The economy is coming back, at least for now and at least a little; the Republican nominee will emerge so bloodied his victory will hardly be worth having; the Republicans are delving into areas so extreme and off point that by the end Mr. Obama will look like the moderate.

Here is a local Democratic political figure in conversation in New York: When you look at where we were after the crash in 2008-09, you look back and realize that whatever mistakes Mr. Obama made, “He got us through it.” He looked to me for agreement. That’s not really how I see it, I said. “But he got us through it!” Well, I said, in the sense that we’re here and not all dead, yes, but that would be an unusual standard by which to judge a president’s success.

We started to laugh, and he pressed on into foreign affairs. “He got Osama,” he said, “He kept us safe.” I’m not sure if he was knowingly mimicking what Republicans used to say in defense of George W. Bush: There was no second 9/11, “he kept us safe.” That grated badly on Democrats: “Are you kidding? He created catastrophes that will haunt us for decades!” One suspects it’s about to grate badly on Republicans.

Anyway, I heard two memes emerging, subliminal messages of the Obama campaign: “He got us through it” and “He kept us safe.” Or maybe they’re liminal.

It is true the Republican candidates are making the president look better, and part of it has to do with circumstances. They’re locked in battle, full of argument and attack. He gets to be serene, above it all. They’re accusing each other, he’s ignoring them. He pounds away on his issues, they have a thousand issues, a jumble of questions and answers and stands. There is no nominee and so no prioritizing of concerns, and therefore no central meaning. It’s all an acrimonious blur.

Good news: This may be the Republicans’ low point. Bad news: The low point may last until the convention, and through it. It’s all getting a little exhausting. Thus the relatively lackluster debate this week. Everyone looked a little tired, out of gas, each playing a role: Mitt as Fred McMurray in “My Three Sons” in the episode where he’s tired and the kids keep interrupting his nap, Rick as the soulful seminarian who’s sort of defensive. Newt morphed into Grandpa, holding his wrist and smiling.

For almost a year Rick Santorum was made of Teflon. No one bothered to attack him, he’s a nothingburger at 4%, just be nice in preparation for the inevitable moment when he takes the stage and endorses you with an awkward man-hug. Now he’s Velcro, and trapped in a web laid by the administration’s claim that the furor over the ObamaCare mandate isn’t about religious freedom and abortion drugs, it’s about crazy people trying to take away your contraceptives. This is as big a lie as you can tell in politics, and a deeply mischievous one: It not only muddies the waters but adds a new layer of meaningless alarm to the political landscape.

But big lies can do damage unless deftly dealt with. And the mainstream media will help this particular lie along, not only because they’re carrying water and not only because they really do think Republicans are crazy on these issues and like to sit around having secret talks on ways to get CVS not to sell condoms, but because contraceptive use is an issue they can understand. What an abortifacient is and why it is unconstitutional to force the Catholic Church to ensure their provision is not something they really want to delve into. They don’t only have biases, they are, some of them, quite stupid.

But has Mr. Santorum learned anything from his 2006 loss in Pennsylvania? Since then he has gotten used to talking in venues where there was nothing to lose and little at stake (Fox News contributor) or the audience was fully versed in the reasoning behind his beliefs and supportive of them (Ave Maria University). Now he’s struggling with the fact that he’s in the leagues, and the leagues play by Miranda rules: Everything you’ve said can and will be used against you.

Since there’s no hiding from past statements, Mr. Santorum would be well advised to address it all thoughtfully and at length. He should sit down and pour out his thoughts on the extent to which one’s religious beliefs should and do inform one’s political views. Mitt Romney had his 2008 Mormon speech, and JFK his Catholic speech. Time for another. Mr. Santorum might keep this picture in mind as he writes. There’s a guy watching him in an interview, and he likes what he’s hearing. Then he thinks, “Wait—if the economy tanks in 2013 and I put on the news to hear the president’s statement, am I going to hear this guy saying, ‘And another thing that is societally destructive about how America conducts its sexual life is . . .’?” We’re talking about the presidency. No one’s going to hire that guy for the presidency.


John David Dyche Sees Governor Steve Beshear "Lapsing Into Irrelevance ... After Casino Vote".

After casino vote, Gov. Beshear lapsing into irrelevance
Written by John David Dyche

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s second term effectively ended last Thursday, 74 days after it began, when the state Senate rejected a constitutional amendment permitting casino gambling. The measure did not muster a majority, much less the two-thirds approval needed to put it on November’s ballot.

By losing his top priority right after winning landslide re-election, Beshear prematurely begins a long, lame duck descent. He will lose power with each passing day, becoming exponentially less influential until lapsing into total irrelevance except for dispensing patronage to friends and financial backers.

How did it this happen? Beshear’s biggest mistake was not campaigning on a particular gambling plan. If he had offered voters something specific he could have claimed a mandate for it. But that would have required boldness and imagination, qualities present only in the rhetoric of this timid administration.

At his most powerful just after inauguration, Beshear presented an “inadequate” budget. Kentuckians wondered why a governor would do that. A strong leader would have offered an adequate budget and fought for it. This one meekly settled for still more mediocrity.

Beshear then proffered a tepid tax reform initiative, put his loquacious lieutenant Jerry Abramson in charge of it, and appointed a task force on which expertise is conspicuously absent. Meanwhile, turmoil engulfs Beshear’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Its promises to produce child abuse death records go unfulfilled, implementation of statewide Medicaid managed care is disastrous, and there is no secretary.

Despite having had five years to develop an expanded gambling plan Beshear was amazingly still without one. Months that could have been used to build support passed with only promises and delays. When Beshear’s belated plan finally emerged it was ill-conceived and had little buy-in from legislators and stakeholders.

Some whined that the outcome would have been different if state Sen. Gerald Neal had been present to vote. Neal, last seen losing a lucrative minority set-aside contract from the Metropolitan Sewer District, was inexplicably away from Frankfort when the roll was called. Yet no one has explained how his presence would have meant victory or identified the senators whose votes would have changed.

Beshear reflexively, and ridiculously, blamed Republican Senate President David Williams for the amendment’s death. On Friday, the Capitol’s corridors were full of chatter that Beshear was also angry at fellow Democrat Greg Stumbo, the House speaker. Observers say the “no” vote of Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, a Stumbo ally, signaled the speaker’s reluctance to add gambling to a fall ballot already featuring unpopular Democratic President Barack Obama (whom Beshear recently embraced).

Stumbo’s concerns about conservative turnout this fall are exacerbated by the Supreme Court’s ruling Friday that state House elections cannot be held in the unconstitutional Democrat-friendly districts he drew. (This columnist is an attorney for the Republican plaintiffs in that lawsuit.) The GOP should now reduce, if not eliminate, the Democratic House majority.

Beshear’s ineptitude has accelerated speculation about the 2015 gubernatorial race. His efforts to install Abramson as his successor will meet the same fate as the gambling bill. That leaves former Auditor Crit Luallen, who has excluded a U.S. Senate bid, jockeying with Stumbo for inside position.

Republicans are regrouping. Rumors abound that Williams believes he can rehabilitate his image, fashion a “New Nixon” of sorts, and run again. Williams may indeed be vindicated as a better choice than Beshear last year, but the GOP will not bet on him again. The party desperately needs a fresh face and likable personality.

Names most often heard include Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Congressman Brett Guthrie, House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, and Louisville businessman and tea party favorite Phil Moffett, who lost to Williams in the 2011 primary. Former Louisville councilman and mayoral candidate Hal Heiner, now touting charter schools, also merits mention.

Kentucky’s governors were once strong, especially compared to the General Assembly. But since gubernatorial succession, which was supposed to counterbalance annual legislative sessions, the last three — Paul Patton, Ernie Fletcher and now Steve Beshear — have lapsed into weakness for different reasons.

An impotent chief executive is not good for the commonwealth, especially in tough economic times. But that is what we have, now and for the next nearly four years.

John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney who writes a political column on alternating Tuesdays in Forum His views are his own, not those of the law firm in which he practices. Read him online at; email:


I Guess Rick Santorum Asked For This Nick Anderson Cartoon. I'm Laughing My Arse Off!


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Here We Go Again: Revised Meth Bill To Limit Purchases Of Cold Medicines Introduced.

Revised anti-meth bill would limit purchases of some cold medicines
By Jack Brammer and Bill Estep

FRANKFORT — Kentuckians could buy far less of most cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine without a prescription under a revised anti-methamphetamine bill introduced Tuesday in the state Senate.

Under Senate Bill 3, someone could buy as much as 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine a month, or 15 grams a year. A generic box of pseudoephedrine with 48 pills that each have a 30 milligram dosage contains 1.44 grams of the medicine.

Anything above those limits would require a prescription for the drug, which is a key ingredient in meth. Gel caps would be excluded from the limit, since it is much more difficult to convert that form of the medicine to meth.

Also, people with a drug-related conviction could not buy cold medicines for five years.

The sponsor of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the legislation is an alternative to a measure he withdrew last week. Senate Bill 50 would have required a prescription for most cold medicines.

Stivers said electronic monitoring already is in place to keep track of cold medicine purchases.

The revised bill met immediate opposition from the makers of remedies containing pseudoephedrine.

Elizabeth Funderburk, senior director of communications for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, said in an email that her group "continues to oppose burdensome restrictions to over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines that thousands of law-abiding Kentuckians rely upon for relief."

"For many families who suffer from colds and allergies, the restrictions proposed would significantly impact those who need the medication most," Funderburk said.

The industry also strongly opposed requiring a prescription for the products, which reportedly generate billions of dollars in sales annually in the United States. It argued that there are less intrusive ways to attack the problem.

For most of this year's law-making session, the industry has waged a statewide radio and Internet ad campaign against the legislation, urging the public to tell legislators to vote against SB 50.

Stivers said he did not intentionally renumber his anti-meth bill to SB 3 to frustrate the industry's advertising effort.

The association reported spending $194,957 in January on its lobbying effort, which included a phone bank and Web site. That was far more than any other group spent to lobby lawmakers.

The Senate Judiciary Committee may consider the new bill on Thursday and the entire Senate may vote on it this week, Stivers said.

He said the measure is modeled on legislation being considered in West Virginia.

Stivers said his revised bill "will do one of two things. It will either shut down the quantity and amount of product needed or you will see a surge in individual purchases, which would be easily tracked."

Tommy Loving, executive director of the Kentucky Narcotic Officers' Association, said the proposal for a lower limit on the amount of pseudoephedrine people can buy is a step in the right direction.

The measure won't be as effective at cutting the number of dangerous homemade meth labs in Kentucky as requiring a prescription, but the political reality is that Stivers' new proposal has a better chance of winning passage, Loving said.

Loving said he thinks the bill initially will drive down the number of meth labs in the state because it will take meth cooks some time to respond to the lower limit on pseudoephedrine sales, he said.

The concern, however, is that the cooks will eventually regroup and recruit additional people to buy their limit of allergy pills and turn them over to be made into meth, authorities said.

The same scenario played out after a 2005 change in state law to restrict access to pseudoephedrine.

The number of meth-lab incidents in Kentucky dropped significantly from 2006 to 2007, but then started back up and has risen every year since, according to state police.

Loving said another concern is that people will be use false identification to buy pseudoephedrine.

Jackie Steele, commonwealth's attorney for Laurel and Knox counties, agreed that the lower limits on pseudoephedrine sales will likely drive down the number of meth labs in the short term, but doesn't think that would last.

The new limits could drive up the black-market price of a box of cold medicine, tempting more people to get involved in buying it to sell to meth producers, Steele said.

"I hope this cures it," Steele said of the meth-lab problem. "I don't think it will."

Read more here:


These Cartoonists Are Killing Rick Santorum, But I'll Laugh Anyway!


Former Assistant State Auditor, Cindy James, Hired To Replace David Ray As Acting Inspector General For Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Acting inspector general named for Transportation
Written by The Courier-Journal

FRANKFORT, KY. — State Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock on Tuesday hired former Assistant State Auditor Cindy James as an assistant whose initial duties will include serving as the Transportation Cabinet’s acting inspector general.

A news release from the cabinet said James “will coordinate audits, investigations and related actions, as well as oversee the cabinet’s compliance with a broad spectrum of federal programs.”

James is a certified public accountant whose career includes 22 years in the state auditor’s office and eight years as director of administrative services in the attorney general’s office.

She was assistant state auditor under Auditor Crit Luallen from 2004 to 2011, directing a staff of 135 employees, the news release said.

In an interview, Luallen described James as “one of the most competent and committed professionals I’ve ever worked with.”

Last week Hancock fired David Ray as the cabinet’s inspector general without giving any reason. Ray, who had previously worked 31 years with the U.S. Secret Service, oversaw many reports critical of cabinet activities under former Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Gov. Steve Beshear during more than seven years as inspector general.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Maureen Dowd Tags The Republican Party "The Ghastly Outdated Party" GOP. OUCH!

Ghastly Outdated Party

IT’S finally sinking in.

Republicans are getting queasy at the gruesome sight of their party eating itself alive, savaging the brand in ways that will long resonate.

“Republicans being against sex is not good,” the G.O.P. strategist Alex Castellanos told me mournfully. “Sex is popular.”

He said his party is “coming to grips with a weaker field than we’d all want” and going through the five stages of grief. “We’re at No. 4,” he said. (Depression.) “We’ve still got one to go.” (Acceptance.)

The contenders in the Hester Prynne primaries are tripping over one another trying to be the most radical, unreasonable and insane candidate they can be. They pounce on any traces of sanity in the other candidates — be it humanity toward women, compassion toward immigrants or the willingness to make the rich pay a nickel more in taxes — and try to destroy them with it.

President Obama has deranged conservatives just as W. deranged liberals. The right’s image of Obama, though, is more a figment of its imagination than the left’s image of W. was.

Newt Gingrich, a war wimp in Vietnam who supported W.’s trumped-up invasion of Iraq, had the gall to tell a crowd at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., that defeating Obama — “the most dangerous president in modern American history” — was “a duty of national security” because “he is incapable of defending the United States” and because he “wants to unilaterally weaken the United States.” Who killed Osama again?

How can the warm, nurturing Catholic Church of my youth now be represented in the public arena by uncharitable nasties like Gingrich and Rick Santorum?

“It makes the party look like it isn’t a modern party,” Rudy Giuliani told CNN’s Erin Burnett, fretting about the candidates’ Cotton Mather attitude about women and gays. “It doesn’t understand the modern world that we live in.”

After a speech in Dallas on Thursday, Jeb Bush also recoiled: “I used to be a conservative, and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective.”

Alan Simpson, the former Republican senator from Wyoming, recently called Santorum “rigid and homophobic.” Arlen Specter, who quit the Republicans to become a Democrat three years ago before Pennsylvania voters sent him home from the Senate, told MSNBC: “Where you have Senator Santorum’s views, so far to the right, with his attitude on women in the workplace and gays and the bestiality comments and birth control, I do not think it is realistic for Rick Santorum to represent America.” That from the man who accused Anita Hill of perjury.

Republicans have a growing panic at the thought of going down the drain with a loser, missing their chance at capturing the Senate and giving back all those House seats won in 2010. More and more, they openly yearn for a fresh candidate, including Jeb Bush, who does, after all, have experience at shoplifting presidential victories at the last minute.

Their jitters increased exponentially as they watched Mitt belly-flop in his hometown on Friday, giving a dreadful rehash of his economic ideas in a virtually empty Ford Field in Detroit, babbling again about the “right height” of Michigan trees and blurting out that Ann “drives a couple of Cadillacs.”

Romney’s Richie Rich slips underscore what Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist, told the Ripon Forum: “If we are only the party of Wall Street and country clubbers, we will quickly become irrelevant.”

Santorum, whose name aptly comes from the same Latin root as sanctimonious, went on Glenn Beck’s Web-based show with his family and offered this lunacy: “I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college,” because colleges are “indoctrination mills” that “harm” the country. He evidently wants home university schooling, which will cut down on keggers.

His wife, Karen, suggested that her husband’s success is “God’s will” and that he wants “to make the culture a better culture, more pleasing to God.”

The barking-mad Republicans of Virginia are helping to make the party look foolish and creepy. A video went viral on Friday in which Delegate Dave Albo comically regaled his fellow lawmakers on the floor of the Statehouse with his own Old Dominion version of “Lysistrata”: he suggested that he was denied sex with his wife because of a Republican-sponsored bill that would have made ultrasounds, often with a vaginal probe, mandatory for women seeking abortions.

With music, red wine and a big-screen TV, he made a move on his wife, Rita, while she was watching a news report about the bill. “And she looks at me and goes, ‘I’ve got to go to bed,’ ” Albo said as his colleagues guffawed.

The Republicans, with their crazed Reagan fixation, are a last-gasp party, living posthumously, fighting battles on sex, race, immigration and public education long ago won by the other side.

They’re trying to roll back the clock, but time is passing them by.


Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's Inspector General David Ray Fired.

Transportation Cabinet's inspector general fired
Written by Tom Loftus

FRANKFORT, KY. — In a move criticized by advocates for ethics in state government, the Beshear administration has fired David Ray as inspector general of the Transportation Cabinet.

Ray, a former agent for the U.S. Secret Service, was hired as inspector general 7½ years ago under Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

He said in a telephone interview Monday that he was surprised when he was told Friday afternoon by Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock that he was fired.

“I asked for an explanation, but I was not given one because I was a non-merit employee,” Ray said.

Non-merit employees can be fired without cause.

Chuck Wolfe, spokesman for the cabinet, confirmed that Ray had been fired but added that the cabinet does not comment on such personnel decisions. He said no one has been named to take Ray’s place.

Ray declined to say why he believed he was fired.

“I’d rather not say at this point because we’ve got some active investigations going on, and I don’t want to jeopardize those investigations,” he said.

John Steffen, executive director of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, said he was “very disappointed” to learn that Ray had been fired.

“His services will be missed by state government and by the state at large,” Steffen said.

He said the ethics commission worked closely with Ray’s office.

“He had referred matters to us that we investigated, and we sometimes referred matters to him,” Steffen said. “He was 100 percent nonpartisan. ... I was impressed by his professionalism, and I just can’t think of a reason why he would have been fired.”

Richard Beliles, chairman of Common Cause of Kentucky, said that considering the need “to have an inspector general who is qualified and an advocate for the public, it’s disturbing that this action can be taken without explanation.”

“This doesn’t encourage public confidence in a cabinet that has had such a hisotry of problems,” he said.

Under Ray the inspector general’s office has conducted many high-profile investigations on topics ranging from change orders on construction contracts to cabinet employees who get paid-time on election days to vote but do not do so.

It cooperated in the investigation of Fletcher administration hiring abuses conducted by then-Attorney General Greg Stumbo, now the House speaker.

And work by its investigators helped lead to the federal investigation of Fletcher’s transportation secretary, Bill Nighbert, and highway contractor Leonard Lawson. That investigation led to indictments on bribery and other charges against Nighbert and Lawson, but both were acquitted on all counts at trial.

During the Beshear adinistration, Ray’s office investigated Chuck Geveden, the executive director of the cabinet’s Office of Highway Safety, in 2010 for filing a false time sheet for hours he worked the day before the Fancy Farm political picnic in August 2010. Geveden resigned from the cabinet amid that investigation.

Ray made the maximum $1,000 contribution to both Beshear’s primary and general election committees.

“I thought he was the best candidate. I had confidence in him,” Ray said. “I didn’t do it because of my job. I wasn’t asked to contribute.”

Asked if he still had confidence in Beshear, Ray said, “It is somewhat dimmed at this point naturally. I’m disappointed, but I wish the governor well.”


Unlike WKU Mens' Basketball Team, All We Hear From The Athletic Director Ross Bjork When It Comes To The Womens' Team Is Blah, Blah, Blah!

Bjork speaks on state of the Lady Tops

For the first time this season, Western Kentucky athletic director Ross Bjork addressed the state of the Lady Topper basketball program Sunday after WKU’s 77-62 loss to Middle Tennessee.

Bjork stopped short of commenting on coach Mary Taylor Cowles’ job security, saying the program will be fully evaluated shortly after the season ends.

“We completely understand that the expectations of this program are to compete for and win championships,” Bjork said. “That’s what Diddle Arena stands for with all the banners, going to Final Fours. The expectations are very high. Anytime that you have a record like we have, people are asking questions about the program. Our job is to restore confidence back in the program, and we have to find a way to do that.”

The Lady Toppers have lost 20 games in a season for the first time in program history, and their 6-7 record at E.A. Diddle Arena is the first losing home record in 32 years.

WKU opens play Saturday in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Hot Springs, Ark.

“My hope is that we go into Hot Springs and we play with confidence, we play with inspiration,” Bjork said. “We have one choice, and that’s to win the tournament and advance. From there, we’ve got to have confidence back in the program. The parallels are very similar to the men, in terms of energy back in the program. We have to find a way to do that heading into the future.”

The plan was never to make a coaching change with the Lady Toppers during the season.

“You have a full body of work, and obviously we didn’t make a change on the women’s side,” he said. “That wasn’t the plan, nor did we need to. We needed to let the season play out, and we still have season left to play. The decision we made on the men’s side was very unusual, with the dynamics much different.”

WKU must return to the top of the Sun Belt to compete for championships, Bjork said, because the conference has proven that it can draw multiple NCAA tournament bids.

Attendance is also an issue. The Lady Toppers averaged 1,152 fans over 13 home games this season, representing a 42 percent decrease from 2008-09.

Sunday’s senior day against the Lady Raiders drew 1,234 fans, a large portion of them clad in MTSU blue.

“That is a concern, and again, that’s the confidence level back in the program,” Bjork said. “I think our fans love our young ladies. There’s always been a deep connection with our team beyond the games, where they get to know our players beyond the games.

“We’ve got to get back to fans coming out to support this team.”

Lady Tops draw Monroe in SBC tourney

WKU’s “third season” begins Saturday at the Sun Belt Tournament.

The Lady Toppers, the No. 5 seed from the East Division, will play Louisiana-Monroe, the West Division’s No. 4 seed, in the first round at 12:15 p.m. at Convention Center Court in Hot Springs.

“We’re not going to look back, I can promise you that,” Cowles said. “We’re looking forward, and we’re going to Hot Springs like everyone else for our third season with a 0-0 record. We know who we’re going to play in the first game, and that’s what we’ve got to concentrate on.”

WKU lost 53-49 at Louisiana-Monroe on Dec. 29 in the teams’ only meeting this season. If the Lady Toppers advance, they’ll meet top-seeded Middle Tennessee at noon Sunday in the quarterfinals.

MTSU coach Rick Insell believes nine of the conference’s 12 teams are capable of winning the tournament, he said after Sunday’s game.

WKU made an improbable run to last year’s championship game before falling to Arkansas-Little Rock.

“Nine of them, including Western Kentucky, have a legitimate chance to win the Sun Belt Conference Tournament,” Insell said. “Maybe a lot of you don’t believe that, but that’s what I’m preaching.”

Insell comes clean

Insell let reporters in on a secret Sunday – he actually does spend money in Bowling Green.

For years, the MTSU coach has told the story that he won’t allow the Lady Raiders to spend any money in Kentucky during trips to WKU.

He told reporters in Murfreesboro, Tenn., last week that the rule stemmed from a confrontation with Cowles years ago when MTSU hosted the Sun Belt Tournament. The Lady Toppers opted to stay in a Nashville hotel that year instead of in Murfreesboro, drawing Insell’s ire.

But the coach cleared the air Sunday after his team’s decisive win.

“The first thing that I want to get clear is that I don’t dislike Western Kentucky fans, and I don’t dislike Western Kentucky,” Insell said. “I just don’t like the color red. Write that down, because I do respect your fans because of the tradition here, and it’s a basketball school. I try to stir Western up a bit, but I enjoy playing here because they appreciate the game.

“And secretly, I will tell you this, I have spent money in Bowling Green. I’ve got a Corvette, and I go over to the museum a lot and buy things.”


Words To Live By And Words To Ponder.

"Strangers are welcome because there is room enough for them all, and therefore the old inhabitants are not jealous of them; the laws protect them sufficiently so that they have no need of the patronage of great men; and every one will enjoy securely the profits of his industry. But if he does not bring a fortune with him, he must work and be industrious to live."

-- Benjamin Franklin, Those Who Would Remove to America, 1784

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Al Cross Meant To Say: Senate President David Williams Handed Governor Steve Beshear An Embarrassing Defeat On Casino Gambling Amendment. I Have Said It For Him!

Gov. Beshear stumbled on casino measure
Written by Al Cross

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Steve Beshear’s victory over David Williams lasted just a few hours short of 107 days.

The Republican president of the state Senate, who lost badly to the Democratic governor in the Nov. 8 election, outmaneuvered him last week to administer an embarrassing defeat to Beshear’s central cause, a bill to allow casinos at Kentucky racetracks.

The bill’s defeat proved that Williams remains the master of space and time in the Senate, and suggested that Beshear lacks the ability to push anything big through the legislature despite his 20-point re-election victory. And that does not bode well for him or the state during the three years and 9½ months left in his term.

A cogent observer on the second floor of the state Capitol might have heard a distinct sucking sound Thursday afternoon, as a good dose of power evaporated from the governor’s office on the first floor to the legislative chambers on the third floor — and not just to Williams, but to House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who helped kill the bill too.

Beyond the pure politics of it all, the episode also shows that legislators are willing to ignore the wishes of their constituents, who clearly wanted to vote on the question of expanded gambling and probably would have passed some form of it, according to polls taken before the legislative session.

And it also shows that a skilled legislative leader can stop a bill that could have passed with a change or two. Williams himself said before the session that the idea might have enough votes in the Senate.

Williams’ key maneuver was scheduling a vote on the bill when he knew at least one Democrat, Louisville’s Gerald Neal, would be absent, leaving it at least one vote short of the 23 needed to approve a constitutional amendment. Once some senators knew it would lose, they didn’t feel obliged to vote for it. And the racetrack interests didn’t have time to sell a compromise, such as removing their proposed regional monopolies on casinos. In the end they got only 16 votes.

Even masters of space and time need willing instrumentalities, and Williams had some. Sen. Carroll Gibson, R-Leitchfield, who had appeared with Beshear at the governor’s only news conference to tout the bill, didn’t show up for a meeting of the Rules Committee, which scheduled the bill for a vote. That and another move eliminated the tracks’ chance to stall for time.

Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, another Rules Committee member, voted against the bill though its backers had counted him as a likely vote. Turner is a Democrat from Prestonsburg, and so is Stumbo. That may be instructive.

Stumbo has favored allowing casinos by a statute, not a constitutional change, and was decidedly cool to this year’s version of an amendment. He cited what he said were House members’ “concerns about giving these constitutional guaranteed licenses to private businesses.”

That rang a bit hollow, since Stumbo has long been a proponent of expanded gambling, and supported a 2009 bill to let the racetracks have slot machines. One of the major mysteries in Frankfort last week was just how much Stumbo was doing behind the scenes, and why.

The simplest theory was zero-sum: that whatever hurts Beshear hurts Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, a potential rival of Stumbo in the Democratic primary for governor in 2015. And casinos would generate money for Beshear to do things in his second term, with Abramson holding the golden shovels at the groundbreakings.

Abramson may have figured in the clumsy, ill-timed effort to oust Harold Workman as president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky State Fair Board, a big player in Louisville, where Abramson was mayor. The Workman flap cost Beshear the vote of Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, who probably would have voted for an amendment without guaranteed regional monopolies.

That also figured in the “no” vote of Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, who voted for the 2009 slots bill as a House member. The tracks’ proposed 60-mile buffer zone would have made her Ashland-area district a prime target for a non-track casino. And the fact that she was not harmed by the Senate redistricting plan didn’t hurt the opponents’ cause, either.

The opponents, largely on the religious right, ran a strong, focused campaign. They emphasized the fact that a vote for the amendment was not just to put it on the ballot for voters to decide, as some supporters contended, but an agreement to the amendment itself.

The opponents showed a passion that the other side did not. The state has been cutting its budget for five years now, and education and other programs are suffering. We need more money, but Beshear never really emphasized that argument in his re-election campaign or his casino campaign (if you can call it that) or mobilized the interests that want more revenue.

The tracks’ December poll asked registered Kentucky voters to name positive things about the casino amendment; 32 percent said it would provide revenue for the state or help the economy, 10 percent said it would help education, and 11 percent said it would keep in the state money that is gambled at casinos in bordering states. Only 3 percent volunteered that it would help horse racing.

Beshear’s failure to mobilize potential allies left the casino idea looking too much like a favor for the tracks, not a measure to protect the state’s signature industry — horse breeding, not racing — or a step toward restoring the public services that Kentuckians need for their future.

Al Cross, former Courier-Journal political writer, is director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky. His opinions are his own, not those of the university.

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The Committee To Re-Elect POTUS Barack Obama Is Relentlessly At Work. LMAO!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

We Congratulate BOTH Kentucky's Mens' (45th) And Womens' (First In 30 Years) Basketball Teams For Winning South East Conference Championships. Go WILDCATS!

This is the mens' 45th SEC title:

This is the womens' first in 30 years:

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Paul Prather: Religious Apathy Adds To Growing Ranks Of White Underclass.

Religious apathy adds to growing ranks of white underclass
By Paul Prather

Recently in The New York Times, columnist Nicholas D. Kristof explained that what used to be the white working class now statistically constitutes a big chunk of the educational and economic underclass.

Talk of the "underclass" once was code for race, he wrote, but that idea is becoming obsolete. Increasingly, white people are joining its ranks.

Several other opinion columns and news stories have highlighted this same trend, in publications and on Web sites across the ideological spectrum.

Academic research demonstrates, for instance, that even as black Americans have closed the educational and financial gap with whites overall (which is happy news), whites without college educations keep falling ever further behind.

I've witnessed this sea change among working-class white families for years, with my own eyes, in my overwhelmingly white, rural county.

I've watched a downward spiral among the folks my congregation helps with its benevolence fund and among the potential tenants I encounter in my business leasing apartments. Literally, I see this almost every day.

As an eyewitness, I'll tell you how I think it started and why it's progressing.

First, several decades ago, small farms and union factory jobs began folding. Comparatively unskilled, marginally educated men once could make decent livings. As the farms shut down and the factories moved overseas, a lot of these men found it difficult, or nigh unto impossible, to earn meaningful wages.

Second, shifting cultural mores made divorce socially acceptable.

As blue-collar men became hard-pressed to make a living, family tensions rose. And troubled couples no longer faced a stigma if they split up. So they did.

Move forward. The farming and union factory jobs never came back.

You had, then, a generation of kids — the children of that previous group — who grew up in shattered and newly poor families, without the benefit of physically present fathers who went to work every day, who served as role models of self-respect and diligence.

Sometimes the divorced mothers had to hold down two "pink-collar" jobs to keep food on the table because the dads couldn't or wouldn't pay child support. These kids were raised by extended family or neighbors. Or nobody.

I personally know many exceptions, but too often the children grew up scarred by neglect. They turned angry, irresponsible, insecure and skeptical.

Who can blame them?

They're now 20 or 30 or 40 years old.

They don't trust anybody who's in authority.

They don't trust God much. A statistical detail of the new underclass is that the vast majority has no religious affiliation.

One study, by University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox and others, found that 46 percent of college-educated whites regularly attend church. Among the least educated, it's 23 percent, down dramatically since the 1970s.

They don't have the money, familial encouragement, self-confidence or learned perseverance to pursue formal education. They're unemployed or, at best, hold part-time service jobs or low-end, temporary, manufacturing jobs.

They tend not to get married, because they can't afford to and don't trust marriage. Instead, they cohabit in brief, fragile relationships.

Then they have a child.

Among white women with less than 12th-grade educations, 65.4 percent of births now are to single women, syndicated columnist Clarence Page observed a couple of weeks ago, citing numbers from Charles Murray's book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.

When difficulties strike, this young mother and father soon break up and move on to their next partners, who have no vested interest in the baby's well-being. Maybe those subsequent pairings produce additional children. Then those couples, too, break up. This continues ad infinitum.

The young man or young woman — or both — turns to prescription pills or methamphetamine for relief from this never-ending turmoil. Drug addiction and jail sentences make their troubles even darker and more intractable.

The children of this generation are on the way to becoming at least the third generation of adults in this decline. They will begin from even further behind.

I'm not condemning anyone. There but by the grace of God. I'm mainly reporting what I've seen with my own eyes, in my own back yard. I could tell you specific stories with names attached, but I have no desire to embarrass anybody.

The saddest thing is that there's no sure fix.

Traditionally, across various nations, races and cultures, two dependable paths out of poverty have been education and religion.

People escaped by working nights and going to trade school or college during the days. They became skilled workers or small-business owners or accountants. Barring that, they set aside dimes until they could send their kids to college.

Religious adherence provided a well-documented benefit called social uplift. That is, religious tenets encouraged the poor to stay married, stay sober, work hard and save money — behaviors that led to family stability and economic improvement. Religion also offered optimism and meaning in the face of despair.

Over time, families often were lifted out of poverty through their faith.

But the new underclass is heading in the opposite direction, not up and out, but further and further down.

Many appear disinclined to pursue education even when government aid is available. That's particularly true of the men, for some reason.

And, as I mentioned, a trait of the new underclass is its rejection of, or at least apathy toward, the church.

As one researcher told New York Times reporter Sabrina Tavernise about reversing this descent: "No one has the slightest idea what will work. The cupboard is bare."

Paul Prather is pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. Email him at

Read more here:

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Who Won The Republican Debate? LOL.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Telling Us What Many Of Us Already Knew Except Most Lawmakers, Kentucky Supreme Court Affirms That The General ASSembly's Redistricting Plan Violates Section 33 Of The State Constitution; Legislators Must Run In Old (Previous) Districts.

Read the short opinion here. The court will issue comprehensive opinion later.

Click here to read Judge Shephard's opinion on appeal.

ANYONE who thought the Supreme Court will do away with Fisher 11's constitutional requirement of a population variance of -5% to 5% was sadly mistaken. The court, with this opinion, CLEARLY reaffirmed Fisher 11.

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We Join Almost EVERYONE In Saying: Open Kentucky's "Kangaroo" Family Courts.

Editorial | Open family courts

Proponents of a pilot project to open family courts in some Kentucky counties offer strong arguments on the proposal’s behalf.

As Jefferson Family Court Judge Patricia Walker FitzGerald said, public confidence in the judicial system is particularly low “in cases involving abuse and neglect of children.” She explained that she and other judges who attended a legislative hearing Wednesday believe greater transparency and less secrecy about what takes place in family courts will be in the best interests of the public and of families involved in abuse and neglect cases.

The vehicle for opening up some courts is House Bill 239, which would allow judges approved by the state’s chief justice to open hearings to reporters and to the public. Judges would have the discretion to close hearings. A House committee unanimously approved the bill after several judges spoke in favor of it at Wednesday’s hearing.

The bill should be passed by both houses of the General Assembly and signed by the Governor. Shocking reports of fatal child abuse cases in Kentucky and the ongoing resistance of the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services to obey a circuit judge’s orders to open records indicate the need to bring child welfare issues into the sunlight.

Along its legislative journey, however, HB 239 needs clarification and tightening.

For starters, the bill should specify — or the chief justice should make clear in authorizing judges to open courts — that there are only very narrow grounds for closing proceedings. One of the things that a pilot project should demonstrate is that there are many benefits and few drawbacks to open courts — and that has indeed been the experience in other states that have taken similar steps. That lesson will be blurred if judges shut their doors too often and too quickly.

Moreover, as Jon Fleischaker, an attorney for The Courier-Journal, points out, there are problematic provisions in HB 239 that will create unnecessary difficulties for the public and news media. These include bars to identifying witnesses in cases, even though anyone who attends the proceedings will learn their names. Another clause would allow judges to inspect reporters’ notes, something few reputable journalists would allow.

Such measures should be changed. If Kentucky is going to give open family courts a try, then allow truly open courts.

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Mathew Conway, Jack Conway's Brother And Subject Of A "Wink And Nod" Drug Using And Selling Investigation, Arrested For "Aggravated" DUI.

Former prosecutor Matt Conway arrested on DUI charge
Written by Jason Riley

Former Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Matt Conway was arrested Thursday night on a charge of driving while intoxicated.

Conway, the younger brother of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, was released on his own recognizance Friday and will be arraigned in Jefferson District Court on Tuesday.

According to the police report, a police officer pulled Conway over after observing him run a red light at Breckenridge Lane and Willis Avenue, alleging he smelled of alcohol and failed a field sobriety test.

Conway, who now works in private practice, refused to take an alcohol breath test but admitted he had a few drinks, according to the report. He was also charged with running a red light.

Conway did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

In May, Conway resigned from the Jefferson County commonwealth's attorney's office for undisclosed reasons. He was the subject of drug investigations in 2008 and 2009 but was not charged either time.

In 2010, Conway was disciplined for lying to Louisville Metro Police officers — who were questioning him in connection with an internal police investigation — by telling them that he had not been alerted by a detective that he was under investigation for possible drug use and trafficking.

Several days later, Conway admitted to investigators that Detective Ronald Russ had tipped him off. Conway was placed on probation and told that his job performance needed to improve and that he must submit to “random or unannounced drug tests.”

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Kentucky Cabinet For Health And Family Service's "Utter Failure" To Comply With Open Records Law On Child Abuse Deaths, Forces Judge To Order 2 Years Worth Of More Records Released In 90 Days! Thank You, Judge. Next? BIG Sanctions.

Judge critical of state officials in ordering release of child abuse records
Written by Deborah Yetter

FRANKFORT, KY. — Citing the “utter failure” of state officials to comply with fundamental requirements of the state open records law, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd has ordered the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to release two years worth of child abuse records within 90 days.

The order, issued Thursday, involves thousands of pages of documents from about 180 cases of children who died or were seriously injured from abuse or neglect.

It is the latest development in the ongoing legal battle over access to the records between the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services and two state newspapers, The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald Leader.

It replaces a prior order from Shepherd that the cabinet must release 1,000 pages of records a week — which the cabinet began doing Jan. 27.

Jon Fleischaker, a lawyer for The Courier-Journal, said the ruling represents a victory for the newspapers — if the state complies and provides records the newspapers have been seeking for more than a year.

“There’s no telling what the cabinet will do,” he said.

Jill Midkiff, a cabinet spokeswoman, said officials with her agency are reviewing the order while continuing to release records.

Shepherd has already ruled such records must be released — and Gov. Steve Beshear announced in November the state intended to cooperate, citing concern over several high-profile child abuse deaths, including that of Amy Dye, a 9-year-old girl fatally bludgeoned last year in her adoptive home.

“Transparency will be the new rule,” Beshear said at a Nov. 29 news conference.

But legal wrangling has continued over the cabinet’s insistence it has the right to delete information from the files beyond what Shepherd said the law allows.

The cabinet last month appealed the dispute to the state Court of Appeals.

Meanwhile, under a previous order from Shepherd, the cabinet has been releasing heavily redacted files at the rate of about 1,000 pages a week for the past four weeks. That represents 15 files.

Shepherd, in Thursday’s order, said a better system is needed.

“It is apparent that the court’s prior ruling on the mechanism for obtaining these documents is not working,” the order said.

Despite being told it could redact only limited information from records it releases — and cite specific reasons for any redactions — the cabinet has failed to do so, his order said.

“The court notes once again the cabinet’s utter failure to comply with the fundamental requirement of the Open Records Act to provide a specific claim of privilege for any material withheld,” the order said.

The cabinet argued in court it is not obligated to release any records while the case is on appeal, but Shepherd rejected that argument. He ruled that the cabinet may appeal the question of whether the records are subject to the open records law if it chooses to do so despite “the governor’s public directive.”

But in the meantime, the cabinet must release all records sought by the newspapers, Shepherd said.

“Such an appeal should not further delay the production of the 180 case files which were originally requested over 15 months ago,” Shepherd’s order said.

Further, it said, the cabinet must cite the reasons for redactions and be prepared to defend them in court after releasing the files.

“The court will conduct a hearing on the dispute and the cabinet will bear the burden of proof to establish an exception under the Open Records Act to support any redaction,” Shepherd’s order said.


Kentucky House Panel Approves Bill To Require Degrees, Licenses For State Social Workers. Thank Representative Susan Westrom For House Bill 237, And Urge Your Representative To Vote For It.

Panel approves bill to require degrees, licenses for state social workers
By Bill Estep

FRANKFORT — State workers assigned to protect vulnerable children and adults would have to earn social-work degrees and be licensed under a bill approved Thursday by a House committee.

House Bill 237 would up the level of education and professionalism among frontline caseworkers and supervisors who deal with child abuse and neglect and other types of cases, said the sponsor, Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington.

Westrom said being licensed would increase accountability among caseworkers, because the state social-work board could impose sanctions on the license of a worker who did something wrong.

It also would protect workers from supervisors who tell them to do something illegal or improper, allowing them to refuse for fear of running afoul of the Kentucky Board of Social Work, Westrom told members of the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Westrom said she has heard from state caseworkers who are often asked to do things that are wrong, such as falsifying records, not providing complete answers to judges and not fully complying with a judge's order.

Five former frontline workers from one county — which she didn't name — signed statements saying they left the job because they were asked to do things that were wrong, Westrom said.

"We also have to make sure that illegal actions are not taking place in our trenches," Westrom told the committee.

A spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services was not immediately available to respond to Westrom's allegations.

The committee voted 12 to 0 to approve the bill.

Under the measure, frontline workers — such as people who investigate reports of child abuse and neglect — and many supervisors would have to become licensed by July 2014 if they already have a degree in social work, or by July 2019 if they don't.

Of the 1,500 frontline workers at the cabinet, half have degrees in social work and half have degrees in other fields, such as psychology, said Westrom, who has a master's degree in social work.

If the measure passes, those 750 workers who don't have a degree in social work would have to get either a bachelor's or master's degree in the field if they wanted to stay with the cabinet. That degree is required to be licensed as a social worker.

Westrom told the committee only 90 of the cabinet employees with social-work degrees are licensed.

New frontline workers hired after the bill took effect would have to be licensed as well. The provisions would apply to workers who provide child- and adult-protective services and foster-care and juvenile services.

Shawnte West, a cabinet employee who is pursuing a master's in social work, told the committee she supports the bill.

"It would professionalize the work that we do," West said.

However, she said caseworkers already are overworked because of high caseloads, and raised a concern that the requirement for current employees to get a new degree would add to their strain, and be costly as well.

West said she benefits from a stipend to help pay for her education, but that budget cuts mean only one cabinet employee per county can get the stipend.

HB 237 directs the cabinet to find a way to make the most of federal funds available to help current employees get master's degrees.

The Kentucky chapter of the National Association of Social Workers supports HB 237 because it would create a "standard of professionalism," said Jordan Wildermuth, the executive director.

Rep. Brent Housman, R-Paducah, voted for the bill but asked beforehand if it could ultimately mean fewer state social workers in the field, in part because they could get higher pay elsewhere.

Westrom said that will depend on how serious the legislature is about funding protection for vulnerable people.

It's wonderful to want children to get a good education and achieve all they can, but there is a more basic consideration, Westrom said.

"We want to make sure they live."

Read more here:


OK, These Rick Santorum Cartoons Are Funny! LOL.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Breaking News: Kentucky Senate "Deep Sixes" Proposed Gambling Constitutional Amendment, Giving Oponents The "Quick Death" They Wanted.

Kentucky Senate defeats casino gambling bill
By Janet Patton

(Senator Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, right, the bill's sponsor, spoke before his "yes" vote during a session of the Kentucky senate to vote on the expanded gambling amendment bill on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 in Frankfort, Ky. Seated left is Senate President David Williams. Girls in background are Rachel Hicks, 12, left, Anna Collopy, 10, and Rebecca Collopy, 13, all of Ft. Thomas. They were pages for a day.)

FRANKFORT — The Republican-controlled Senate rejected casino gambling in Kentucky on Thursday, defeating a constitutional amendment that would have allowed voters to decide the issue in November.

The bill died on a 16-to-21 vote, with one Senator absent.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's proposal, introduced by Republican Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown, would have allowed up to seven casinos around the state. Provisions to limit five of the casinos to racetrack locations were stripped from the bill in committee on Wednesday.

"I want to congratulate Senate President Williams," Thayer said after the vote. "He has orchestrated the defeat of this amendment and he deserves credit for doing that."

Williams did not speak on the Senate floor but he opposed the bill.

Thayer and Senate Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, pressed to have the vote delayed because Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, was out of town.

Without that pro-gambling vote, Palmer said before the Senate came into session, the bill could not garner the necessary 23 votes to pass a constitutional amendment.

Williams, R-Burkesville, said earlier in the day that if supporters could get 22 votes for the bill he would delay final action until Friday, but it fell well shy of that mark.

"It's over," Williams said afterward.

The governor, who defeated Williams to win re-election, also blamed the senate president.

"Obviously, I am disappointed that several of the senators who had publicly said they would support letting the people decide did not follow through on their commitment to our citizens," Beshear said in a statement afterward. "I am also disappointed that Senator Williams chose to sabotage the chance for our citizens to decide by scheduling the vote for today, when he knew that a senator who planned to vote 'yes' would not be in town."

The Senate debated the issue for more than two hours, with several senators, including Sen. Alice Forgy-Kerr, R-Lexington; Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville; and Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, making impassioned personal pleas against the legislation, which they said would hurt Kentucky families.

But Thayer and Palmer argued the bill was necessary for the horse industry, which Thayer said is under attack from other states like New York that have casino-fueled purses and breeders incentives.

Patrick Neely, spokesman for the Kentucky Equine Education Project, also expressed disappointment on behalf of horsemen.

"Kentucky's horse industry has undoubtedly reached a critical juncture," Neely said in a statement. "We therefore challenge those elected officials who professed support for Kentucky's signature horse industry, but voted against the bill, to help us find solutions to our industry's significant competitive disadvantage."

Read more here:

Editor's note: 21 no – 16 yes (Bill needed 23 yes votes to pass Senate)

Who voted (a yes vote is for the proposed amendment to be placed on a ballot)?

Buford (R-Nicholasville), Gibson (R-Leitchfield), Harris (R-Crestwood), Higdon (R-Lebanon), Schickel (R-Union), Thayer (R-Georgetown), Blevins (D-Morehead), Clark (D-Louisville) Harper Angel (D-Louisville) Palmer (D-Winchester), Parrett (D-Elizabethtown), Pendleton (D-Hopkinsville), Rhoads (D-Madisonville), Ridley (D-Henderson), Shaughnessy (D-Louisville). Stein (D-Lexington).

NO: Bowen (R-Owensboro), Carpenter (R-Berea), Denton (R-Louisville). Givens (R-Greensburg), Hornback (R-Shelbyville), Jensen (R-London), Kerr (R-Lexington), McGaha (R-Russell Springs), Seum (R-Louisville), Smith (R-Hazard), Stine (R-Southgate), Stivers (R-Manchester), Westwood (R-Erlanger), Williams (R-Burkesville), Wilson (R-Bowling Green), Winters (R-Murray), Carroll (D-Frankfort), Jones (D-Pikeville), Turner (D-Prestonsburg), Webb (D-Grayson), Leeper (I-Paducah).

DID NOT VOTE: Neal (D-Louisville).


Increase In Meth Busts Mostly Tied To Mexican Suppliers Of Meth, "Shake And Bake" An Emerging Problem Too.

AP Exclusive: National meth lab busts up in 2011

ST. LOUIS — Methamphetamine lab seizures rose nationally again in 2011, further evidence the powerfully addictive and dangerous drug is maintaining a tight grip on the nation's heartland, according to an Associated Press survey of the nation's top meth-producing states.

Missouri regained the top national spot for lab seizures in 2011 with 2,096, the AP confirmed through the survey that also found Tennessee was second with 1,687, followed by Indiana with 1,437, Kentucky with 1,188 and Oklahoma with 902.

The total for Missouri lines up with preliminary numbers AP obtained this week from the Drug Enforcement Administration, whose data appeared to show meth lab seizures remained about even during the past two years. But the totals for each of the other states surveyed by AP reveal the numbers are higher than the federal data.

Combined, the numbers indicate nationwide meth lab seizures rose at least 8.3 percent in 2011 compared with 2010.

Experts blame the continued increase on the drug's addictiveness and the growing popularity of the meth-making shortcut known as "shake-and-bake," in which the drug is concocted quickly in a soda bottle. The method results in smaller labs, but more of them.

Clandestine meth labs are most common in the Midwest and South. U.S. users who don't make the drug themselves get it from Mexico, but experts say the drug made in homemade labs is more addictive than the often-diluted product that crosses the border.

"When they're manufacturing it locally they're making the purest form and the strongest form they can make," said Sgt. Niki Crawford of the Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Team.

Missouri had been the nation's No. 1 meth-producing state every year from 2003 to 2009 until falling behind Tennessee for one year. In 2011, a single Missouri county had more busts than Texas, Florida and California combined. Jefferson County, which is near St. Louis, tallied 253 seizures; the three states had 219.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Tim Hull attributed the state's consistently high seizure rate to law enforcement agencies' focus on addressing the meth problem.

Police in many Missouri counties stake out pharmacies and watch for "pill shoppers" who go from store to store to purchase decongestants containing pseudoephedrine, a vital meth ingredient, now that tighter state restrictions have limited how much of the product they can buy in one place at one time. Many Missouri agencies also have officers focused solely on meth.

"Is Missouri that much worse or does Missouri just take a more aggressive approach? I think Missouri law enforcement just aggressively deals with the issue," Hull said.

Indeed, Missouri and Kentucky are among a handful of high-meth states that developed their own programs to train local police to better handle meth cleanup and take the hazardous waste to container sites placed around the state.

The programs helped those states continue with busts after millions of dollars in federal funding set aside for cleanup suddenly was cut in February 2011. Many local police agencies in states without their own programs all but stopped seeking out meth labs because the local governments couldn't afford cleanup costs.

An AP analysis in August found the number of labs seized plummeted by at least a third in several key meth-producing states within six months. The federal money then was restored late last year.

"When we lost the funding Feb. 22 lab seizures fell approximately 75 percent," said Tommy Farmer, director of the Tennessee Meth Task Force. "They stayed down for the next four months."

Tennessee adopted a state container program similar to Missouri's and Kentucky's, which took effect July 1. "Then lab seizures rose 73 percent," Farmer said.

Farmer projected that if not for the loss of cleanup funds, Tennessee would have had more than 2,300 seizures last year. The state already had 200 seizures this year through Feb. 7.

At least three-quarters of meth made in the U.S. is now believed to come in small "shake-and-bake" batches due to the pseudoephedrine sales crackdowns. In some states, the figure is even higher.

"I would comfortably say 99 percent," said Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.

The AP's tally of the top meth states is unofficial because while the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) compiles meth lab seizure data, some states are slow to report complete figures and final data for 2011 won't be made public until mid-year, said DEA spokesman Rusty Payne.

However, the Missouri State Highway Patrol has access to the preliminary EPIC lab seizure data and provided it to AP this week.

That EPIC data showed Illinois sixth in lab seizures with 584. The remainder of the top 10 were: Iowa (382), Michigan (352), North Carolina (340) and South Carolina (265).

Read more here:

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Once Again, Speculators Behind Sharply Rising Oil And Gasoline Prices.

Once again, speculators behind sharply rising oil and gasoline prices
By Kevin G. Hall

WASHINGTON — U.S. demand for oil and refined products — including gasoline — is down sharply from last year, so much that United States has actually become a net exporter of gasoline, unable to consume all that it makes.

Yet oil and gasoline prices are surging.

On Tuesday, oil rose past $106 a barrel and gasoline averaged $3.57 a gallon — thanks again in no small part to rampant financial speculation on top of fears of supply disruptions.

The ostensible reason for the climb of crude prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange, where contracts for future delivery of oil are traded, is growing fear of a military confrontation with Iran in the Persian Gulf's Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world's oil passes.

Other factors driving up prices include last month's bankruptcy of Petroplus, a big European refiner, and a recent BP refinery fire in Washington state that's temporarily crimped gasoline supply along the West Coast; gas now costs an average of $4.04 a gallon in California.

While tension over Iran has ratcheted up over the last few months, the price of oil and gasoline has leaped far beyond conventional supply and demand variables. Financial speculators are piling into the market, torquing the Iranian fear factor into ever-higher prices.

"Speculation is now part of the DNA of oil prices. You cannot separate the two anymore. There is no demarcation," said Fadel Gheit, a 30-year veteran of energy markets and an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. "I still remain convinced oil prices are inflated."

Consider that light, sweet crude trading on the NYMEX changed hands at $79.20 a barrel just four months ago, but soared past $106 a barrel Tuesday afternoon, partly on news that Iran would halt shipment of oil to Britain and France. But those countries already had stopped buying Iranian oil. And Didier Houssin, the International Energy Agency's director for energy markets and security, said that "there are alternative supplies that can make up for any loss of Iranian exports," The Wall Street Journal reported.

Still, oil's price shot up because it trades in financial markets, where Wall Street firms and other big financial players dominate the trading of oil, even though they have no intention of ever taking possession of the oil whose contracts they are trading.

Since oil prices are the biggest component in the price of gasoline, pump prices are soaring. AAA said Tuesday that the nationwide average price for a gallon of gasoline stood at $3.57, compared with $3.38 a month ago and $3.17 a year ago. It takes about $6 more to fill up the tank than it did this time last year — and last year's gasoline-price surge helped take the steam out of the economic recovery.

Defining what percentage of today's high oil and gasoline prices is due to excessive speculation, driven by Iran fears, is something of a guessing game.

"I put the Iran security premium at about $8 to $10 (a barrel) at this point, which still puts crude at about $90 or $95," said John Kilduff, a veteran energy analyst at AgainCapital in New York.

The fear premium is the froth above what prices would be absent fears of a supply disruption_ somewhere in the $80 to $85 range for a barrel of crude oil. It means that even with the extra cost put on oil from Iran fears, prices are at least another $10 higher than what demand fundamentals would dictate.

Why? Financial speculators.

What should the price of oil be if left to conventional supply and demand market fundamentals? Canada's the largest supplier of imported oil to the United States, which now actually produces more than half of the oil it consumes. Production and delivery costs for a barrel of oil from Canada are about $75 a barrel. The market-fundamentals cost for a barrel of oil is in that ballpark; above that, speculation sets the prices.

"It's as simple as that," said Gheit, who has testified before Congress and called for regulatory limits on speculation in commodities markets.

Historically, financial speculators accounted for about 30 percent of oil trading in commodity markets, while producers and end users made up about 70 percent. Today it's almost the reverse.

A McClatchy review of the latest Commitment of Traders report from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates oil trading, shows that producers and merchants made up just 36 percent of all contracts traded in the week ending Feb. 14.

That same week, open interest, or the total outstanding oil contracts for next-month delivery of 1,000 barrels of oil (about 42,000 gallons), stood near an all-time high above 1.486 million. Speculators who'll never take delivery of oil made up 64 percent of the market.

Not surprisingly, big Wall Street traders on Tuesday projected oil will rise above $112 a barrel; some such as Swiss giant Vitol even suggested $150-a-barrel oil is coming soon. When they dominate the market, as they do, speculators' bids can make their prophecies self-fulfilling.

"These people are not there to be heroes. They are there to make money. It's our fault because we are allowing them to do that," said Gheit. "Obviously these people are very strong, and the financial lobby is the strongest of any single lobby. I've been in this business 30 years, and I can tell you I think this is smoke and mirrors."

What's indisputable is that oil and gasoline are not in short supply, and that demand remains weak. That was crystal clear in the latest weekly energy market update by the U.S. Energy Information Administration_ published last week for the week ending Feb. 10.

"Total products supplied over the last four-week period have averaged 18.3 million barrels per day, down by 4.6 percent compared to the similar period last year. Over the last four weeks, motor gasoline product supplied has averaged nearly 8.1 million barrels per day, down by 6.4 percent from the same period last year," said the EIA, the statistical arm of the Energy Department.

Inventories of stored oil are also unusually high, the EIA said.

"At 339.1 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are in the upper limit of the average range for this time of year," the agency said. "Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 0.4 million barrels last week and are in the upper limit of the average range."

Hence, no shortage to explain soaring prices.

In fact, U.S. demand and consumption patterns are so abnormal compared to recent decades that oil and gasoline are both now being exported to Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Exports of U.S. refined product averaged 2.928 million barrels per day over the four weeks ending on Feb. 10, compared to 2.190 million bpd for the four weeks ending Feb. 11, 2011, the EIA said. This category is primarily gasoline, but it includes unfinished oils, fuel additives, ethanol and other blending components.

Similarly, the United States did not export any oil in the four weeks ending Feb. 11, 2011, but in the four-week period ending this Feb. 10, we exported 37,000 barrels.

The export picture suggests that when domestic demand rises, American motorists might be competing with drivers elsewhere for U.S.-made gasoline, which fetches a higher price as an export.

"To the extent that there is this export market that wasn't there before, it is certainly ... keeping prices higher than they otherwise would be," said Kilduff. "Exports were not material. Now they are becoming material."

The White House sought to deflect criticism about rising oil and gasoline prices. Spokesman Jay Carney blamed the prices on "a variety of factors on the global price of oil. They include unrest in certain regions of the world, they include growth in areas like China and India."

Another popular explanation for rising oil prices Tuesday was trader relief that Greece received another bailout payment from Europe. That heightened hopes of a boost in oil demand in Europe as its economy recovers, given that a crisis has been avoided for now.

That explanation doesn't add up.

Last year, when oil and gasoline prices rose and slowed the U.S. economy, the surging prices were explained away by traders who said that oil and other commodities moved inverse to slumping stock prices. Today, oil prices and stock prices seem to be moving in tandem — upward — contradicting last year's justification.

East Coast refiners have seen their profit margins squeezed because they import Brent crude oil from Europe, which has traded at least $10 above crude coming out of the U.S. Gulf region.

Consolidation in the refining sector is another new wrinkle weighing on the oil and gasoline markets. The EIA, in a separate publication called This Week in Petroleum, warned last week that refinery closures in the U.S. Northeast and in some Caribbean countries could crimp supplies along the U.S. East Coast. Refinery closures and strained distribution could drive up gasoline prices on the East Coast until industry players make necessary infrastructure adjustments.

"On paper, refining capacity in the more competitive Gulf Coast and Midwest hubs appears more than adequate to make up for lost East Coast refining capacity. But the Colonial pipeline, which connects Gulf Coast refineries to the Central Atlantic, is already running near capacity levels, so bringing incremental Gulf Coast product volumes to East Coast markets could be a challenge," the EIA said.

(Lesley Clark of the Washington Bureau contributed.)

Read more here:


Gas Prices. LOL.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

U. S. Supreme Court Hears "Stolen Valor" Case Of False Military Heroism.

Supreme Court hears 'stolen valor' case of false military heroism
By Michael Doyle

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court justices on Wednesday sounded cautiously sympathetic to a federal law that punishes fake military heroes.

While not marching in lockstep, the justices seemed to agree that lying about medals does damage to the military's honor. Their questions hinted that they might uphold the law used to prosecute a California man who falsely claimed to have been awarded the Medal of Honor.

"It's a matter of common sense, that it seems to me it demeans the medal," said Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is often a swing vote on close cases.

Kennedy and his colleagues were confronting the Stolen Valor Act, which imposes prison sentences of up to six months on those who "falsely represent" that they have received a military medal. For high-ranking medals, the potential penalty increases to a year in prison.

(A separate law, which is not being challenged, makes the unauthorized wearing of uniforms and associated medals a criminal violation.)

Several justices made clear during the hour-long oral argument Wednesday morning that they doubted the First Amendment protects the kind of self-serving lie propounded by Xavier Alvarez, the Southern California resident who falsely claimed to have been both a Marine and a Medal of Honor recipient.

"I believe that there is no First Amendment value in falsehood," Justice Antonin Scalia declared, though he added that "this doesn't mean that every falsehood can be punished."

Justice Samuel Alito likewise pressed Alvarez's attorney on whether "you really think there's a First Amendment value in a bald-faced lie," while Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. demanded to know why a "pure lie" deserved protection.

"There can be a number of values," attorney Jonathan Libby responded. "There is the value of personal autonomy."

"The value of what?" Roberts responded, sounding skeptical. "What does that mean?"

Roberts noted that the Constitution already has been interpreted to permit regulation of various kinds of unworthy speech, including defamation, perjury and trademark violations.

At the same time, the give and take Wednesday sounded as though the justices were looking for a way to protect the military's medals without opening the door to further government intrusions on speech.

"If I'm right that there are very good First Amendment reasons sometimes for protecting false information, and if this (lie) also would cause serious harm ... are there less restrictive ways of going about it?" asked Justice Stephen Breyer.

One less-restrictive method, currently being proposed before Congress, would specify that lies about military heroism are illegal if done "with intent to obtain anything of value."

The original Stolen Valor Act, quickly and unanimously approved by the Senate in 2006, lacked this intent requirement. The House likewise approved the original legislation without a hearing, following about 20 minutes of one-sided floor discussion.

"The military applies exacting criteria in awarding honors," Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. argued Wednesday, "and Congress has a long tradition of legislating to protect the integrity of the honor system."

Appellate courts have reached differing conclusions about the law.

In Colorado, a federal judge dismissed charges against Rick G. Strandlof, who had raised funds while falsely claiming to be a wounded Marine. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the judge and deemed the law constitutional.

In California, though, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the case against Alvarez. Formerly an elected member of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District, in the Pomona Valley, Alvarez was caught lying about his supposedly heroic military record.

"The Stolen Valor Act criminalizes pure speech in the form of bare falsity, a mere telling of a lie," said Libby, a Los Angeles-based federal public defender. "It doesn't matter whether the lie was told in a public meeting or in a private conversation with a friend or family member."

But in a potentially significant concession, quickly seized upon both by Verrilli and several justices, Libby acknowledged the law apparently does not chill truthful speech. This concession could make it easier for a court majority to uphold the law.

Read more here:


Senate Panel Approves Proposed Gambling Amendment, Sends Measure To Full Senate.

Senate panel approves casino gambling bill

FRANKFORT — A constitutional amendment that would allow casino gambling in Kentucky won approval Wednesday from the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

On a vote of 7-4, the committee sent Senate Bill 151 to the full Senate for its consideration.

For nearly two hours, the committee heard testimony for and against the bill.

Speaking for the bill was Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who said it is way past time to allow Kentuckians to decide the issue at the polls.

Opponents testifying included Martin Cothran of The Family Foundation and the Rev. Hershael York, pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort.

Senators voting for the bill were Walter Blevins, D-Morehead; Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon; Gerald Neal, D-Louisville; R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester; Johnny Ray Turner, D-Prestonsburg; John Schickel, R-Union; and Senate Chairman Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown. Thayer sponsored the bill.

Voting no were Sens. Tom Jensen, R-London; Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington; Dan Seum, R-Louisville; and Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.

Read more here:


The Myth Of Oregon And Mississippi Strict Meth Laws Requiring Prescriptions For The Cold Remedy Pseudoephredine.

Strict Meth Laws Hurt Consumers, Have Little Effect on Meth Supply
By maureen

Since 2006, the state of Oregon has had the strictest pseudoephedrine laws in the country. The popular decongestant, a common additive to over-the-counter cold and allergy medications, is also used to make black market methamphetamine. As meth use soared and volatile homemade meth laboratories proliferated in the early 2000s, many states began to put restrictions on the sale of the drug. The most common such restriction was to move the medications behind the counter, and require customers to show identification before purchasing them. But Oregon was the first state to require a doctor’s prescription to purchase cold and allergy medication. After a drop in meth lab seizures across the state in the years after the law was enacted, several other states have considered the prescription requirement, although so far, only Mississippi has passed one.

According to a new report (wanna read the press report instead? Click here) published by the Cascade Policy Institute in Portland, the law hasn’t been nearly as successful as its proponents claim. The report was funded by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a trade group that represents the manufacturers of over-the-counter medications. But the data are compelling.

For example, while it’s true that methamphetamine “lab incidents” have dropped by 90 percent in Oregon since 2004, the report points out that the bulk of that decline took place before the state’s prescription requirement took effect in 2006. Moreover, the report points out that six other states near Oregon showed similar declines in meth lab incidents over the same period, despite not having a prescription requirement. The report also notes that while Oregon did experience a 23 percent drop in methamphetamine-related admissions to substance abuse treatment centers from 2006 to 2009, that figure mirrors a similar drop across the entire country.

The prescription requirement also has some significant costs. A trip to the doctor requires a fee for an office visit, transportation costs and missed time from work, all of which can be especially burdensome on parents. The Cascade report points out that the hassles associated with visiting a doctor likely cause many patients to seek less effective treatment or no treatment at all, resulting in a longer recovery and lost productivity. One 1992 study published in the Journal of Law and Economics found that the increasing availability of over-the-counter cold and allergy remedies prevented 1.6 million annual doctor visits. That number would likely be much higher today if all states had Oregon’s law, resulting in higher health care costs, lost productivity, and lost time for doctors who would be spending time with sneezy patients that they could be spending with those suffering more serious illnesses.

Meth is also still readily available in Oregon, which suggests the decline in overall abuse may have more to do with general trends in drug use or better awareness of meth’s particularly nasty effects than with supply-side policies. According to a 2011 report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, there remains a “sustained high level of methamphetamine availability” in Oregon. But instead of coming from makeshift labs in basements and backyard sheds, like much of the country the state now imports its meth from “superlabs” in Mexico by way of international drug smuggling syndicates, the report says. That shift also could bring the ancillary effects of organized crime.

The aftermath from the Oregon law — its heralded success, followed by a sober reassessment finding that the problem has merely taken a new form — is nothing new. In 2006, Congress passed a provision, tacked on to the Patriot Act renewal, that imposes daily and monthly limits on the amount of pseudoephedrine — the decongestant — that one person can purchase, requires customers to show identification before making a purchase, and puts various restrictions and requirements on manufacturers and retailers. It was similar to the law already in effect in many states.

The national results have been similar to what has happened in Oregon: a steep drop in meth lab incidents and seizures, but no real decline in the drug’s availability. The laws largely put an end to homemade meth labs, but opened market space for the superlabs and international cartels. It also may have created new black markets and a new class of criminals. The Associated Press reported last year that the law has dramatically increased the black market value of cold medication. College students, homeless people and others interested in quick and easy money have become “pill brokers,” selling medication that retails for six or seven dollars per box to the meth cooks for $40 or $50.

The laws restricting the decongestant have had some other unintended effects. They’ve given rise to a new way of making meth that requires less pseudoephedrine, called the “shake and bake” method, and it has taken off. The AP reported in 2010 that the new method, which involves shaking a cocktail of volatile chemicals in a two-liter bottle, only makes enough of the drug for one or two people. But if done wrong, the resulting chemical burns can be worse than those from exploding backyard and basement labs.

Overeager enforcement of the meth laws has also ensnared some innocent people, including several incidents in which parents and grandparents (especially families with multiple children with severe allergies) have been arrested for inadvertently exceeding their legal allotment of cold medication. In fact, when the federal government made its very first arrest under the new meth law, the Drug Enforcement Adminstration celebrated with a press release. William Fousse of Ontario, New York, the release explained, had purchased nearly three times the amount of cold medication he was allotted under the new law. But even federal prosecutors would later admit they had no evidence Fousse was manufacturing meth. He says he was unaware of the new law, and was stocking up on cold medication because it helped him recover from hangovers. He was still convicted and sentenced to a year of probation.

In 2005, 49 convenience store clerks in Georgia were arrested by federal law enforcement officials for selling the ingredients to make meth to undercover officers. Of the 49, 44 were Indian immigrants who didn’t speak English as their primary language, yet they were expected to understand the meth-maker lingo the agents used in their stores. (Defense attorneys would later point out that the agents were in fact using terms used more in TV and movies than by actual meth cooks.) In Mississippi, which like Oregon requires a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine products, a woman was pulled over, searched and arrested this month for driving to Alabama to buy cold medication. Mississippi law also bars state residents from crossing the state border to purchase the medication.

Policy makers have consistently taken a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach to pseudoephedrine policy. Back in the early 2000s, politicians lambasted manufacturers of over-the-counter cold medications for their alleged complicity in the meth trade because they were marketing drugs containing pseudoephedrine when they could have been using phenylephrine, which has no value to meth cooks. The problem, as cold sufferers would soon learn, is that phenylephrine also happens to be useless as a decongestant. This inspired Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to call for an investigation of one manufacturer (Pfizer) for marketing a useless drug.

Proponents of laws restricting consumer access to pseudoephedrine argue that the dramatic drop in the number of meth labs across the country alone justifies the policy. The volatile labs are dangerous not only to the meth cooks, but to neighbors and to the police officers who attempt to shut the labs down.

But drug war opponents argue that such labs can be the result of the government’s broader prohibition on amphetamines. Opponents such as the late economist Milton Friedman have long highlighted the similarities between particularly noxious illicit drugs like homemade meth and crack cocaine and toxic, prohibition-era concoctions like wood alcohol or bathtub-distilled gin. Legalizing alcohol all but eliminated them.

For now, lawmakers seem committed to ratcheting down access to pseudoephedrine. Over the last few years, at least a half dozen states and several local governments have considered following Oregon’s lead in requiring a doctor’s prescription for cold medication. The evidence suggests these laws may well put the few makeshift domestic meth labs out of business for good. But they’re likely to have little effect on the overall supply of the drug. It will also likely mean more business for international cartels. And more hassle and possible legal trouble for cold and allergy sufferers who need effective cold medicine.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

MAUREEN DOWD: Rick Santorum ... Is More Like A Small-town Mullah. OUCH!

Rick’s Religious Fanaticism

Rick Santorum has been called a latter-day Savonarola.

That’s far too grand. He’s more like a small-town mullah.

“Satan has his sights on the United States of America,” the conservative presidential candidate warned in 2008. “Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition.”

When, in heaven’s name, did sensuality become a vice? Next he’ll be banning Barry White.

Santorum is not merely engaged in a culture war, but “a spiritual war,” as he called it four years ago. “The Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country — the United States of America,” he told students at Ave Maria University in Florida. He added that mainline Protestantism in this country “is in shambles. It is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.”

Satan strikes, a Catholic exorcist told me, when there are “soul wounds.” Santorum, who is considered “too Catholic” even by my über-Catholic brothers, clearly believes that America’s soul wounds include men and women having sex for reasons other than procreation, people involved in same-sex relationships, women using contraception or having prenatal testing, environmentalists who elevate “the Earth above man,” women working outside the home, “anachronistic” public schools, Mormonism (which he said is considered “a dangerous cult” by some Christians), and President Obama (whom he obliquely and oddly compared to Hitler and accused of having “some phony theology.”)

Santorum didn’t go as far as evangelist Franklin Graham, who heinously doubted the president’s Christianity on “Morning Joe.”

Mullah Rick, who has turned prayer into a career move, told ABC News’s Jake Tapper that he disagreed with the 1965 Supreme Court decision striking down a ban on contraception. And, in October, he insisted that contraception is “not O.K. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Senator Sanitarium, as he was once dubbed on “The Sopranos,” sometimes tries to temper his retrogressive sermons so as not to drive away independent and Republican women who like to work, see their kids taught by professionals and wear Victoria’s Secret.

He told The Washington Post on Friday that, while he doesn’t want to fund contraception through Planned Parenthood, he wouldn’t ban it: “The idea that I’m coming after your birth control is absurd. I was making a statement about my moral beliefs, but I won’t impose them on anyone else in this case.”

That doesn’t comfort me much. I’ve spent a career watching candidates deny they would do things that they went on to do as president, and watching presidents let their personal beliefs, desires and insecurities shape policy decisions.

Mullah Rick is casting doubt on issues of women’s health and safety that were settled a long time ago. We’re supposed to believe that if he got more power he’d drop his crusade?

The Huffington Post reports that Santorum told Philadelphia Magazine in 1995 that he “was basically pro-choice all my life, until I ran for Congress.” Then, he said, he read the “scientific literature.”

He seems to have decided that electoral gold lies in the ruthless exploitation of social and cultural wedge issues. Unlike the Bushes, he has no middle man to pander to prejudices; he turns the knife himself.

Why is it that Republicans don’t want government involved when it comes to the economy (opposing the auto bailouts) but do want government involved when it comes to telling people how to live their lives?

In a party always misty for bygone times bristling with ugly inequities, Santorum is successful because he’s not ashamed to admit that he wants to take the country backward.

Virginia’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, touted as a vice presidential prospect, also wants to drag women back into a cave.

This week, public outrage forced the Virginia Legislature to pause on its way to passing a creepy bill forcing women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound, which, for early procedures, would require a wand being inserted into the vagina — an invasion that anti-abortion groups hope would shame some women into changing their minds once they saw or heard about traits of the fetus.

Democratic Delegate Lionell Spruill hotly argued that the bill would force “legal rape.” “I cannot believe that you would disrespect women and mothers in such a way,” he chided colleagues. “This legislation is simply mean-spirited, and it is bullying, bullying women simply because you can.”

While the Democratic-controlled Maryland House of Delegates just passed a bill that would allow same-sex marriage, the Republican-controlled Virginia Legislature passed a bill allowing private adoption agencies to discriminate against gays who want to be parents.

The Potomac River dividing those states seems to be getting wider by the day.