Monday, December 26, 2011

Lessons To Be Learned

Hats off to new UK Prsident Dr. Eli Capilouto! He gets it. Yes, this is a basketball crazy state, but the state of education is, properly, his first concern; and should also be ours.

So while many cities try to one-up the competition with fancier and fancier arenas (read: luxury suites for the well-heeled), our President has brought the discussion down to earth. UK needs its scarce funds for faculty salaries, student aid, and maintenance of buildings UK already has.

If Rupp is to be renovated, and thank goodness that seems to be the approach, (not building a new arena), UK has no funds to spare. Lexington will have to go it alone here; and that's not bad. It will clarify the funding picture, as well as the revenue picture, if any.

That said, I suspect some renovation of Rupp, and the entire Civic Center, is needed. That proposed sketch of what Rupp might look like is just excellent! That kind of bold architecture will bring people and conventions here, and upgrade the city's cultural status.

Hopefully, some type of bonding approach will allow us to proceed toward that goal. Using bonds would also negate UK's opposition to Lexington acquiring state funds which they might see as money that might otherwise have gone there.

Couple of caveats: (1) If UK had not slighted its maintenance and repair budgets so drastically over the years, it wouldn't need so much money now for repairs; and some seed money might, just might be available to help with renovating Rupp. (2) This really isn't just about Rupp but the larger issue of a possible upgrade to the Civic Center to attract more conventions. Rupp is a big part of that but not the whole cookie. (3) while I support the arts wholeheartedly I am a bit concerned by suggestions that some type of expanded downtown arts district should be part of all this, and have a place at the table, (or is it the trough?) for funds. Most of the art district proposals seem to be more "night life" than basic "cultural" expansion. Maybe we need to concentrate on getting Rupp and LCC renovated; that's a pretty big project by itself. (4) To get the entire county to support a $100 million plus project means selling it on county-wide benefits, and not just to hotels, bars, and the "hospitality industry" as primary beneficiaries.

The renovation approach works for me. That bold looking new Rupp is great. And a Cat Walk from campus to downtown is a logical next step after S. Limestone's face lift. Let's hope we can accomplish this in the next few years, without draining vital funds from our Flagship University.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Few Words About Numbers

The National Transportation Safety Board said it loud and clear last week: ban all cell phones from cars (except in emergencies) or risk killing a lot more people; and I mean a lot. Not just texting while driving, but all cellphone activity. Among major cases cited for this recommendation was the texting trucker who wiped out a large Mennonite family on a Kentucky highway by his inattention.

CBS News researched this situation and came up with some startling statistics. Last year, 2010, there were 900,000 accidents in the US caused by driver inattention. These resulted in 3,100 deaths; in one year that's 78% of our almost 4500 combat deaths in 9 years in Iraq.

Now, not all deaths by inattention come from using various electronic devices, but our daily experience tells us many of them do. Kentucky, and the nation, needs to heed the NTSB's proposal and adopt it into law. Whatever your views here, 2012 is an election year in our Commonwealth and a lot of our state officials have indicated in the past little interest in this. These new figures and the NTSB proposal hopefully will help change their minds.

I mentioned our combat deaths in Iraq, almost 4500. Hopefully that won't grow as this week all our combat troops were reported out of Iraq. (Not forgetting 33,000 plus injuries including many major disabilities, and an estimated 100 to 150,000 Iraqi deaths.) As they come home, let's not make the mistake many of us did after Vietnam. Let's thank our troops. This totally avoidable war was made by politicians, not troops. Most of our men and women served with honor, valor and courage. They deserve the thanks of all of us; as we resolve not to engage in a similar misguided war again.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Clean Coal, Dirty Hands

The news came this week that the disgraced head man at Massey Coal, Don Blankenship, is a top executive of a recently chartered Kentucky coal company. Most Kentuckians know him from running the disastrous Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, where 29 miners died in what a recent report called a "preventable" event.

Every probe so far, public or private, has shown that this mine, and Massey Coal in general, under his leadership, were accidents waiting to happen; and they operated in a culture of ignoring safety regulations, and much, much more. Blankenship later resigned, received an $86 million dollar "golden parachute", while the families of the dead miners got a pittance, Massey went out of business, was bought by Arch Coal--which has pledged to run things better.

That's what most Kentuckians know about this man. Dig deeper, Google, and you will find that a dozen years ago Mr. Blankenship spent three million dollars to get his candidate elected to the W. Va. Supreme Court. His guy won. When a major lawsuit involving Massey Coal (and Blankenship), which had been pending, finally came before the court, his man refused to recuse himself, and voted in favor of Massey. (Judges can not be forced to recuse themselves for a conflict of interest, something our judicial code probably needs to address.)

Even in the rough-and-tumble politics of the Mountain State this rubbed people the wrong way and a case went to the U.S. Supreme Court which said, mirabile dictu, this was a classic case and the bought judge could not vote because of his conflict of interest.

Somewhere I hear the voice of a famous Boston lawyer saying, "Have you no shame, no sense of decency?" The short answer is no.

Be it noted, neither Mr. Blankenship nor Massey Coal have yet been charged with any state or federal crimes. (One mine foreman has been found guilty.) But a lot of us who follow coal believe it is just a matter of time until such charges are filed.

Now Mr, Blankenship wants back into coal mining. His new firm has not yet applied for a mining permit. If it does it should be rejected, on any grounds legal and possible; and maybe then some. I hope the Kentucky Coal Association, which has been running all those ads about the importance of coal (true), and that coal can be made "clean" (I believe it can; I just want to see some substantial efforts here.) will urge the state not to issue such a permit. It would be a public relations disaster for Kentucky coal to have him involved in any of our mines; and a distinct possibility, given his record, of a real "disaster" down the pike.

If no grounds can be found, if moral turpitude isn't one or past performance (surely to goodness that's admissible), I hope the state will keep stalling until charges are filed in the West Virginia tragedy--and that ought to do it.

There should be no place for this man, or a firm like Massey, in the coal industry in Kentucky,or anywhere else.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, December 5, 2011


I'm a veteran and I like to think that I keep up with war matters and how they affect my country. But I was somewhat surprised when I read the story on how our current wars have impacted London, Ky. to note that the war on terrorism at almost ten years is as long as WW1, WW2, and the Korean War---combined.

That sobering thought comes from a report Sunday in our two major papers. It was done by the McClatchy Newspapers, owners of the Herald-Leader, and the fact that it also appeared in its arch rival the Louisville Courier-Journal, attests to its importance.

Two things stand out in this report: (1) the patriotism of people of the London area--- who sent their sons and daughters away to various wars in a much greater percentage than might have been expected based on the size of the area. (Almost everyone there knows someone or some family with people in service. The report notes, however, "There are large swaths of the American public that don't directly know soldiers serving overseas". One of those "swaths", incidentally, is our Congress.)

(2) Unfortunately this also means a high incidence of disability and medical problems for returning veterans and their families. "The area has one of the highest rates in the country of veterans collecting disability payments for post traumatic stress disorder; one of the costliest and most prevalent ailments to emerge from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts."

And it's not just the veterans. The report mentions problems of alcohol, stress, etc. with families and friends of those who died and also who survived.

This is but part of the cost of war that Presidents and Congresses..and the people..seldom take into account in the fervor of starting a new war...but it is very, very real.

Now that we have "won" in Iraq--at a horrible and tragic cost for a war we entered based on misinformation at the best--and lies from our top officials at the worse--maybe it's time to rethink our Afghan role---especially in light of Pres. Karzai's recent statement that in any future conflict Afghanistan would side with Pakistan, not the US; of the drone raids across the border that keep on killing innocent civilians, or even Pakistan soldiers, despite repeated attempts by our military to limit these deaths; or the fruit of the poppy that shows up on American streets because our GIs are told to look the other way when finding them in their world center--Afghanistan.

Want to save $110 Billions a year? That's Billions, the yearly cost of our war in Afghanistan, so maybe we don't have to cut funds for education, or social security, or health? Get out of Afghanistan now, not in 2014, or even partially in 2012...Now.

And then, hopefully, no more stories about sacrifice and death in London, Ky., or Wilkes-Barre, or Keokuk, or all the 16 Lexingtons spread across this great nation.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, November 28, 2011


Looks as if the "fix" is in, and even though we don't yet have a consultant's recommendations, the odds favor we will soon get a report backing the mayor and certain businesses that what Lexington truly, truly needs is to end one way streets downtown.

Meadow muffins.

Businesses say two way streets make it easier for customers to get to them. May I demonstrate: I'm on Rose street heading towards Main to go to Barney Millers. I turn west on Main and stay left to turn down the side street that leads to the BM parking lot behind the store. (Had I wanted to go to Alfalfa, I would have stayed right).

Now then, if we convert to two way streets, when I turn off Rose I must work right and go down to the traffic light by Miller's. If there is traffic behind me, I must wait, backing up cars. Since Lexington has a dearth of overhead lights with left turn arrows I may have to wait a while...and even if there is an arrow, oncoming traffic may not stop; since no one in Lexington has ever been known to run a red light--or fail to stop--or "yield" (whatever that means?) there is an increased potential for accidents.

If 2 way streets come, and the Water Company decides to repair an underground line, totally blocking one side, then what? With our present one way streets, another lane is available.

Oh, and don't you remember how Main and Vine were tied in knots for months by the construction of the "streetscape", and what similar work did to South Lime? Does anyone think we are, or should be, through with construction downtown; whether major or just "tweaking"?

Two lanes each way provide room for changes, for fire and police, for hauling the city's Hanukkah bush to Triangle Park for decoration, etc. etc. etc.

Contrary to opponents, there is little illogical about "this street runs east -west" and "this street runs west-east". What's been illogical are changes on 3rd & 4th over the years, especially around Transylvania University, where it was one way one week, two ways the next, and a combination in some blocks the following; changes I vividly remember if no one else in city hall does, and, oh yes, the North Broadway stutter, as the lanes change it seems as fast as new paint can be found north of Transy to Loudon.

Our downtown street system has worked fairly well since the '70s. We need neither spend one red cent, in these times, on consultants, or make changes, with resulting costs in new signs, new lane painting, new public information and enforcement costs, etc.

If we have any money, where are those "internally lighted signs" at major intersections, and larger, more visible signs in our neighborhoods we were promised by the last administration?

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Redistricting: The Ultimate "Good Ole Boys Game"

The most important decision for the next ten years is on track to be made..and you have not only not been consulted, you probably won't be.

Both the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council and the Kentucky General Assembly are required by law to draw new districts for their elected members every ten years. The districts are supposed to be compact geographically and as nearly equal in population as possible, based on the new census.

Public officials you elect from these new districts will vote on life and death decisions for you for the next decade: war, taxes, auto licenses, fines, smoking, gun laws, and so on.

Yet not one special public hearing has been held on these proposed new districts, and none, so far, is planned by either the Lexington council or the state legislature. The same thing happened ten years ago.

My city councilman says two public hearings were held at regular committee meetings by the committee charged with redistricting. He thinks that's enough. I disagree. Such an unusually important topic should be handled differently. Louisville held six public hearings on its proposed new council districts throughout River City, and some citizens asked for more. Lexington should do no less.

The Frankfort situation is even worse. Lawmakers not only redraw state House and Senate districts, but also Congressional districts. The Herald-Leader rightly calls this an exercise in "incumbent protection." Redistricting is the ultimate "good ole boys" game--but it doesn't and shouldn't be that way.

A dozen states use various methods to keep politics out as much as possible. Many use special commissions of non-legislators to issue new maps, and then the legislature votes it up or down, similar to the base-closing plan which was worked in Congress. If it takes a Constitutional amendment to do this, so be it. In the meantime, the legislature could form such a commission and be guided by its work, even if not required to hold an up-or-down vote.

And it should hold public hearings, certainly on the Congressional districts if not on local districts. But don't hold your breath! That would involve citizens too much in our democracy; and make representative government more responsive to, if not more representative of, the people.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, November 14, 2011


How would UK students, fans, trustees respond?

Not as their Penn State counterparts, I hope.

I mean..trashing the home of the chief suspect? Rioting in the streets (and destroying a news van that was trying to cover student indignation?) Firing people (The president and JoePa) who haven't yet been charged with any crime, let alone convicted?

We need to go back to Duke and the infamous lacrosse case...have we forgotten so soon? And boy were there lessons to be learned from that incident: reputations ruined, a venerable school that forgot its traditions, the most elemental belief in fair play, a rush to judgment that did almost no one any good.

Yes, I am the last man in America who still believes in the presumption of innocence--a belief reaffirmed by what happened at Duke. It took time but eventually the accusations of a local "dancer" cum prostitute against the team were found to be false, pursued by an overzealous prosecutor, who warped the law in his attempt to ride the sensational case into a new term.

OK, child abuse is much worse. Failure to report suspicions of it is a major ethical and moral lapse. Both the grad student and Coach Paterno should have, could have done more; and so should almost everyone who has touched this case---including state and local officials, some of whom knew about, or suspected what was going on. There is more than enough "guilt" here to go around.

None of that justifies the rioting, the threats against the grad stduent (threats for reporting what he saw! Those people are apparently justifying child abuse!), the premature firing of the coach and president..all because the trustees saw an "image" problem for the school.

Image! What about fairness? Justice? Following the law? (weak though it appears to be in Pennsylvania), learning from Duke, or just plain old common sense.

There appears to be a mimimum of eight boys involved in this sordid business. Over ten years why did none of them, or their families, or their friends (do you really think they kept it to themselves?)--or the family or friends of the "witnesses" not come forward?

Yes, there is the even more sordid history of the Catholic Church's unconscionable behavior recently in the background here..but let us not yet equate Penn State football with that older religion.

Let the law take its course. Some or all of these allegations may be proved or disproved, but acting the way many at Penn State have done so far is not the American way.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, November 7, 2011


I have a great deal of objections to these, and Herman Cain has nothing to do with that.

Americans have a right to free speech, which to me means the right to speak freely. If you sign such an agreement, you give up that right; and here's the rub: I don't feel any American can legally do that. It comes with citizenship.

People fought and died for that right, and you feel you can give it up, just like that? Nonsense. The blood of patriots argues against it. Why can't current legal opinions see it the same way?

When governments or businesses want you to say nothing, something's wrong. The pressure they bring is but the modern day equivalent of the rack and the Iron Maiden; of being drawn and quartered. So why are we putting up with it?

I agree there are military secrets and proprietary business items, but you don't, or shouldn't protect them by trampling on traditional freedoms. Charge people with aiding and abetting a rival nation or firm, by showing how that entity profited, not by abrogating the First Amendment.

Remember those "inalienable rights?" "Inalienable" means incapable of being surrendered or transferred. You got it, or you don't.

But, some argue, you gave it up voluntarily. NO you didn't. Somewhere there was a threat or a promise; sign this and we'll pay you or sign this or you'll go to jail. Hardly voluntary.

In my view, as long as you are an American citizen these rights are yours and you can not surrender them. Giving up your American citizenship would be the only way.

Is this an absolutist view? Darn right, and about time we got back to putting freedom and liberty above what passes for security these days, which is often nothing but a chimera.

Don't like my absolutist views? Fine, that's your right..until you sign it away these days.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Term Limits For Politicians: The Good & The Bad


I do not support term limits on elected officials.

Two basic reasons:

1--it is not a limit on the office holder, but on my right to vote for someone. If it's a good person, I want to be able to vote to keep them in office--more to follow. And if it's a bad person, I want them to know I voted against them. Does that mean I run the risk a majority may not agree with me and vote to keep a "bad person" in office? Yup, and isn't that what choice and freedom is all about. If I have no choice, I have no freedom.

2--as I look at places with term limits, there never has been a problem with finding a second bad candidate to follow the first. It's finding good candidates that's the problem, and when we do find them, we need to keep them in office, not subject them to some arbitrary limit. Case in point: Crit Luallen. She has been a great auditor watching over taxpayers' money; finding graft and corruption from Frankfort to very small counties (where local officials and the media either couldn't or wouldn't find it themselves). The next auditor may be splendid, but is an unknown quantity now. Crit's great record we do know, and she's being forced out of office.

That's why I dislike term limits.

OK, voting. You will seldom, if ever, hear me say citizens should be FORCED to do something, but I do think people should be forced to vote! There is no guarantee a 99% turnout would make better decisions than a 20% turnout--which we had in one recent governor's race, but the odds definitely favor a better decision with more voting.

And I would give incentives to vote; maybe a discount on taxes, half price car licenses, more precincts, easier rules for absentee voting (but not too long a time or lax rules easily subject to manipulation), and some negative incentives too; a fine if you don't, gotta take your license over again each year if you don't, (grab people by their car keys and their minds will follow!), 2% added to property taxes, etc.

For all of you who shout.."that's undemocratic!", it may be..but so is electing people to run our democratic government units..from constable to president..on a steadily diminishing voter turnout.

If you don't like my plan, come up with your own to get more people to vote.

Nothing but the future of our country depends on it.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, October 24, 2011


In the euphoria over the President's announcement that our troops, including many Kentuckians, will soon be home from Iraq, comes the carping opposition of many GOP candidates; who seem to forget the original deadline was set by President Bush.

We forget so much about foreign affairs and it often comes back to haunt us.

Take the recent announcement by the US of the arrest of an American in a scheme to kill the Saudi ambassador, a scheme we claim was sponsored by Iran. Assuming the U-S is right, this time, and that's a big assumption, let's pause and consider a few details. This is a bizarre plot in which the U-S alleges a Texas used car salesman asked a woman he hardly knew to find him a Mexican drug cartel hit-man to carry out the plot. As we wait for more "facts", let's not forget our own recent history.

Take what Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, the GOP chair of the House Intelligence committee told CBS upon the plot's being made public..."Do you want a nation (Iran) that is actively involved in assassination in a foreign land, for political purposes, possessing nuclear weapons. I think no one, no rational person, will come to the conclusion that that's a good idea."

Let me see..."a nation with nuclear weapons", such as the U-S??.."actively involved in assassination in a foreign land, for political purposes", such as the U-S?? Have we forgotten Chile in the 1970's; where the U-S did everything but send troops to overthrow the democratically elected Pres. Allende because he was a Socialist--and as all good conservatives such as Henry Kissinger knew, "a Socialist is but a Communist on the installment plan."

The U-S conspired to bring General Pinochet to power, Allende was killed, and thousands more died in Chilean prisons (some were even tossed alive from military planes into the Pacific from ten thousand feet). Pinochet ruled for years as a cruel dictator until even Chile had had enough and tossed him out.

But not before Pinochet not only tried, but actually assassinated a former Allende official by exploding a bomb under his car in downtown Washington! That blast also killed at least one American riding with him. (To this day there is considerable suspicion, but no definite proof, the U-S government was deeply involved in at least the Allende overthrow if not also the Lettelier assassination.)

Et tu, Congressman Rogers?

All of this history, even if known, didn't stop one of the GOP's top hawks, Rep. Peter King and even Vice-President Biden from telling Iran "all options are on the table." That's Washington-speak for "we are considering war against you" and is designed to scare Iran.

I doubt that Iran will be scared, but it scares the hell out of me.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Puzzle For Today

What do Beattyville, Ky. and October 17, 1940 have to do with what you're listening to today?

(And I do hope you are listening--as well as reading this blog and this website.)

Little known fact: WUKY-FM began its life in Beattyville on this date, October 17, 1940, as WBKY radio...Beattyville, KY..WBKY, get it?

It was a 100 watt station, owned by UK and the Lee County Board of Education; an experiment in bringing non commercial radio to a rural area, and the first of its kind in the country. As with many pioneers, there were many problems, and the station lasted less than a year, signing off in the summer of 1941. (To read more about this station's challenging start, Google WBKY, click on the Beattyville entry....because the call letters were reassigned by the FCC later to a station in Wisconsin.)

And that's because in 1941, UK moved the station to the Lexington campus, changed the call letters in 1989, and voila!...the station you are listening to today.

As a non-commercial, education station, WUKY-FM serves a different function than the commercial stations on Lexington's dial. That's good; there's room for all and for all different types on programming. There are strengths to commercial radio (and downsides, too!--and I got my start there) as there are to non-commercial stations such as WUKY. I'm glad they're both around, we need them both.

Glad you're broadcasting WUKY---and Happy Birthday!

Monday, October 10, 2011


"They say" the one constant in the universe is change.

That applies to knowledge, too. The things we know as fact, the things we have always grown up with, they just may not be true. The function of a university is to teach; but what? And to teach is to question.

For years nothing was faster than light. Now, not only do new experiments suggest some "things" (I don't understand what "things" I admit) may be faster..but that light itself is not a constant, and its speed may change. OMG! Physics teachers may have strokes, but old Albert is probably chuckling.

And that guy who just won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, when he first proposed his "theory", his fellow chemists hooted, even exiled him from their research group. He's laughing all the way to the bank with his $1.5 million award now.

Years ago a teacher told me "it takes the longest time to get an idea thru about 1/4" of a skull into a brain!" Once again a "new" federal study says women who took the drug DES years ago have put themselves and their daughters at higher risk of cancers. But I first heard that possibility in the late 1940s, and this "new" study is but the latest in a long list of such studies. Better questioning by doctors and universities in the '40s could have saved some lives here.

And old maxim in journalism puts it this way; "If your mother says she loves you, check it out!"

Not a bad approach for students, or universities, too.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Your Credit Card And Mine

I changed banks awhile back, and I'm about to change credit cards because I am unhappy with the bank that issued it--for reasons of its greed and social policy.

You don't know what a wrench this is for me. I hate change in many ways, and am happy in my regular routine, but...

About a decade ago, my employer changed the bank my payroll checks were deposited in, and I inherited a new bank. Good people there, but I also kept my previous employee account in the original bank.

Last spring both banks informed me they would be adding new fees, some of which I felt were exorbitant; especially given bank profits, high executive salaries, and--as a taxpayer--I had already contributed considerable "fees" in bailing them out. I consulted with both staffs, both very helpful, and ended by not just picking the bank with the smaller fees, but also a "local" bank--my newer bank having been sold since I inherited it to an even larger, far away bank.

Now I am reviewing one of my bank issued credit cards. Since I started with it over a decade ago, it has been sold several times and is now part of Bank of America. Its service has been good; I have no problem with that. But recently BA announced it would lay off 30,000 workers...30,000! In these times that is not what a responsible bank should do, exacerbate the economy. Nor am I persuaded, with bank industry profits and those top executive salaries and bonuses, that this is what it should do.

Now BA is going to charge for purchases with its debit card. Hey, first you give them your money, which they invest and make a profit, and now they're going to charge you to give you your money back? Come on! (Another reason among many I have never used and would not recommend you use a debit card.)

So I am determined to change. I have a new bank all but picked out, with better features for the same credit card. And if they screw up, as BA has, I may change again.

This is my personal role in letting Wall Street know I, and I suspect a lot of Americans, have had it up to here (well above my wallet) with their brazen ways. I may not physically "Occupy Wall Street", but my heart is with those protestors..and now my meager bank account is also.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, September 26, 2011


Last week I was driving a friend to an important appointment with her doctor at the UK hospital. As we drove down Rose street just after ten a.m., I knew we would be delayed by UK students crossing the street, and had made allowance for that.

What I hadn't made allowance for were the bikers and their flagrant disregard for the law; and the safety of their fellow students.

We car drivers observed the many signs about yielding to those crossing at the designed, painted crosswalks..and waited for the long lines to end. (Made longer by the fact that some students just sauntered across, others broke thru the line of cars in mid-block where there were no painted crosswalks.)

But the biggest problem were the bikers. I saw five, one after the other on the short block south of Columbia ride down the bike lane and THRU the lines of other students crossing. Not only was this unsafe, it's illegal.

State law, and Lexington ordinances basically define bicycles as vehicles, subject to the same laws. As cars must stop at stop signs, and red lights, and for pedestrians at crosswalks, so must cyclists.

There would have been a small town-gown protest if the 5 of us in waiting cars tried to break thru the line, which might have caused injuries. Granted being hit by a bike is not the same, but it can still cause hurts, and it's still wrong.

There are groups which educate in bike safety and the city government has brochures outlining the law. To keep UK students from being injured, needlessly, perhaps student government might like to take on bike safety and the law as a project.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, September 19, 2011


America needs jobs. People need to work; for themselves, their families, their future, as well as the nation's future.

Creating jobs has long been a responsibility of government, shared with private business. One of the main areas where governments need to create jobs is what we call "infrastructure": roads, sewers, water lines, etc., but especially the highway system, which has major security connotations as well.

For years, government at all levels has been sloughing off major repairs to roads and water lines, and the chickens, (actually vultures), are coming home to roost. Committees of engineers, economists, private and public agencies and officials have been telling us that for decades, yes, decades. And now it is going to cost us more.

But it needs to be done. It must be done.

Not just the Sherman Minton bridge, or the Brent Spence bridge but the roads that connect them; and a modern rail system for America---way overdue..and new schools and new waterlines and so on.

The estimate just to repair all "structurally deficient" bridges alone is not that much more than the estimate for the next year of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Guess where we ought to get the money..not to mention saving a lot of lives? (No tax hike involved here!)

Putting people to work is good politics...the best of politics and is, or should be, nonpartisan politics.

If Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and the House and Senate leadership can't see this "no brainer" then let's hope they will be the ones called home in 2012.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, September 12, 2011


One of the news documentaries last week profiled two men who worked for United and American airlines, and who were responsible for allowing some of the 9/11 hijackers to board planes that later crashed. I do not blame them, but I do blame those firms for their lax security procedures prior to 2001.

I remember repeated stories on the evening news as the news media tested airport boarding procedures...and found them lax. Weapons got thru easily. Each time the airlines (and the FAA) had excuses and promised they would do better in the future. They seldom did and 9/11 was one catastrophic result.

"Those who will not learn from the lessons of history are condemned to relive it."

After 9/11, boarding security was taken away from the airlines and given to a new, public agency, the TSA.

Have we forgotten the first 9/11 attempt? In the early 90s, a truck bomb was placed in the basement of a major NYC building, near the World Trade Center. 6 people died, but the building didn't come part due to the ineptitude of the bombers. (Lucky us.) First responders found they couldn't talk to each other inside high rise buildings and a major local recommendation was made to fix this frequency problem.

Almost a decade later, when 2001 happened, NYC fire and police still couldn't talk to each other. The federal 9/11 commission's report, as one of its most important recommendations, urged a solution to these incompatible frequencies.

Today, NYC police and fire still can NOT talk to each other. This problem is now (surprise!) Congress's..where there are two conflicting approaches. One, let private firms have the (very valuable) radio frequencies and work out sharing; Two, set up a public agency, give it the frequencies and hold it responsible for co-ordination.

The airlines did a lousy job of airport security and the TSA had to be created. Why should we think private business would do a better job of coordinating these frequencies, which after all, belong to the public?

"Those who will not learn from the lessons of history are condemned to relive it."

Remember WMD? We went to war because Bush wanted to believed our intelligence that Iraq had these. The UN kept telling us we were wrong, but...we plowed ahead. Thousands of good, young Americans died; even as the US finally admitted: no WMDs.

And we went to war in Afghanistan because we believed the Taliban was linked to 9/11 and the World Trade Center disaster. We have good reasons to dislike the Taliban, but there is no evidence of their involvement in 9/11. Wrong, again. More good young Americans are dying for this mistake still.

"Those who will not learn from the lessons of history are condemned to relive it."

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lexington To Vegas? Well La De Dah!

It was announced last week that Lexington is to get nonstop service to Las Vegas.

This is progress?

Well, maybe so. Additional air service is a good thing, even to Vegas..and the carrier is bringing in the biggest plane yet regularly scheduled for Blue Grass field. That's good. No more puddle jumpers.

But, where's the additional service non stop to, say, Washington, or to a couple of other places we need a lot more than Vegas? I'm sure our business community could suggest several places of greater importance than Sin City in the Desert.

I'm an aviation buff. Took my first flight in an open cockpit biplane; took my first commercial flight in a DC-3 which was forced down one airport short of my destination with ice on the wings! (Ended up getting there on the bus.) I want to see Lexington's air service improved.

So let me state as emphatically as I can; the single most important improvement, the single most important economic development for Central Kentucky, including Frankfort, is this: get Southwest Airlines to commit to staying here after its merger with AirTran is complete.

There are problems. SWA is already in Louisville and that may be too close. But there are arguments to keep the carrier here...and if I were Mayor Jim Gray (and Governor Steve Beshear), I would be putting those arguments forth every way I can. I've heard zip from either of them.

Mayor Jim, let's get your new regional partner, Mayor Greg Fischer from Louisville to agree to help, not to block Lexington because of the closeness to the Derby City. And governor, we need your help, and that of the state tourism and economic development agencies also.

We'll also need chamber of commerce-type groups, and the airport authority...even the Kentucky bourbon industry, because I hear that the founder of SWA is a fan of Wild Turkey and that's much closer to Lexington than Louisville. He's a sharp businessman; get Wild Turkey to offer him a place on its board!

We've got to fight for Southwest anyway we can. You have no idea how important being a SWA city is...and a helluva lot more important than a nonstop flight to Vegas. Besides, you can get there on SWA, if you're willing to fool around a bit; and I mean take some flights that aren't nonstop.

Let's pull out all the stops to get Southwest here!

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Unfinished Business

As we share the grief of families and friends of the victims of Comair flight 5191, there is an even better way to memorialize them than the beautiful monument in the UK Arboretum.

That is: to try to make sure those errors which caused the tragedy, most of which should never have happened, don't happen again and plunge another community into grief.

The National Transportation Safety Board's probe into the disaster, headed by a lady with Kentucky ties, Deborah Hersman, did its job. It recommended ten changes to improve aviation safety to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA.) That is the way the law works...unfortunately. The NTSB investigates, finds, and recommends to the FAA. But only the FAA can put those safety recommendations into place, and its record of doing so over many, many years is truly dismal. (So far it has only approved half of those recommendations in five years).

I've never understood why the NTSB can't force such safety changes, but it can't. For a lot of reasons, many are grounded in inefficiency and operating as an adjunct to the aviation industry, rather than as an advocate for passengers, the FAA stands at the very top of federal agencies I would abolish.

That's probably not going to happen--more's the pity--but in the meantime there are things that can be done. For one, Congress could pass a law saying that if the FAA doesn't put the NTSB's safety recommendations into effect within six months or so, without some compelling reasons not to, they go into effect anyhow. Better still, Congress could allow them to become law unless overruled by Congress within a similar period of approach which has been used with considerable value in military base closing issues.

The FAA already has too much to do, and this part, safety, it does badly.

If Senators McConnell and Paul, and Congressman Chandler want to make sure an event such as Comair 5191 doesn't happen again, those are two ways they can truly memorialize those we have lost.

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Silly Season Has Begun

The Silly Season Has Begun!

And by that I mean the political commercials are upon us.

What's a poor voter to do with all these claims, some directly contradicting each other? Thank goodness for the newspapers, (Courier Journal and Herald Leader), for their analysis of many of them. That really helps. (I am really unhappy that my broadcast brethren who rake in so much of the campaign coin almost never do such an analytical job; they really should).

Am I the only one who sees the irony in a spot a GOP surrogate is running against Governor Beshear? The sponsor is the Bluegrass Prosperity Association, or some such, with an address in Washington, DC!

And there's a spot run by "Kentucky Family Values" (ho boy!) running down David Williams as a "big spender!" David Williams is many things I don't like, but big spender he is not.

And this spot makes an unfortunate reference in running down Williams. It says in recent years Kentucky has run up a six-billion dollar debt. I am not sure what this refers to, as I think the law requires a balanced state budget, but whatever the reference, that sounds like GOP propaganda in a supposedly Democratic commercial. That's a mistake.

(And speaking of mistakes..I wrote last week in praise of the Olli program at UK, saying Mr. Osher, who funds the program, was a Scandinavian millionaire. Nope, he's an American millionaire with a Scandinavian wife.)

As for the silly season..suck it up. We've many more weeks..and then the national silly season will soon follow.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Almost Senior Citizens Listen Up!

There is a great, almost free program at UK starting soon you need to know about.

The excellent Donovan Scholars program is for those older people who want to take UK classes, including homework, papers, tests, etc..and get course credit--maybe toward a degree, or whatever. It is taught by UK staff.

The "OLLI" program is for those 50 and older who just enjoy learning; no homework or tests, just attend a class on a topic you like. Courses are taught by people who may, or may not, have degrees in that field, but who have studied it and are interested in it--as you are,

OLLI stands for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UK, one of a hundred colleges and universities throughout the U-S with the program. (Osher is the Scandanavian millionaire who donated funds to administer and start the program.) UK administers and co-ordinates the program. There is an annual fee of $25 covering the fall, spring, and summer courses, plus $10 per course.

Courses are held off-campus (fewer parking problems) in places such as schools, churches, and so on...generally in two hour sessions, weekly for 4 to 6 weeks.

Topics run from guitar and genealogy, Spanish and line dancing, yoga and the American Revolution, painting and acting, etc. (No course on that King of Siam this fall, though!)

Full info: call the Olli office at UK.. 257- 2656 or come to the Open House Wednesday, Aug. 17th at the Tates Creek Christian Church, 3150 Tates Creek from 1-3:30 p.m. to find out more, meet the instructors, have refreshments. Warning: some classes fill up fast-fast-fast. But, there's always next semester.

If you just like to learn, OLLI is the easiest way to do so in Lexington I know of...and the people are pretty nice, too.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 8, 2011


Recently a good Kentucky boy was laid to rest following his service in Afghanistan; the latest, but I fear, not the last to die there...and this is before we know if any of the 30 who died in the tragic chopper crash are from Kentucky.

People who didn't even know Sgt. Jeremy Summers joined family, friends, and neighbors to say goodbye, and the Patriot Guard, a biker group, added their salute to we all should.

But the best salute we can make is to work to end this war; now America's longest war ever, with 1680 casualties and counting.

Why are we there? Why do we keep supporting a corrupt regime that probably lacks the support of its own people? Its so-called popular elections were filled with fraud and deceit. Why is official U-S policy to look the other way as Afghan farmers, and local warlords, raise heroin and ship it off to kill more and more on the streets of Louisville and Louisa?

Have we learned nothing from our experiences in Vietnam?

Do we not realize the history of Afghanistan over the centuries is that no invader has ever conquered and lasted? (And we invaded in 2001 on assumptions that have since been disproved). These are wildly independent hill people...can Kentuckians not understand that? They are more than Eastern Kentuckians with turbans and AK47s, but they burn with the same zeal to be free that has kept that mountain land out of the hands of Khans and Kmers, Russians and Brits...and will eventually from Americans, too. If we leave right away, and we should-not in 2014, they will most likely continue their own tribal and clan wars until THEY decide how THEIR country is to be run. Clans? The Afghan equivalent of Hatfields and McCoys; can Kentuckians not understand that, too?

We may not like the Taliban, but it is not Al-Qaida. If we are to go to war with people we don't like, why didn't we go to war with Russia? Or now with Iran or Syria? Why Afghanistan now?

The yearly cost of that war? 100 billion, (with a B). Boy could that provide jobs, repair roads, build new schools, provide safe water, and keep Americans healthier. Even if you want to use that money only to cut government spending, it's a good start...and it ends a war and insures more Kentuckians will not die.

If we want to honor Sgt. Jeremy Summers' memory and all the others from the Commonwealth who have served so valiantly, that's the way to do it.

Monday, August 1, 2011


I have NOT had a chance to check all members of the Kentucky Congressional delegation, but I strongly suspect all of them, but John Yarmuth, have taken the pledge; Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge.

The simple pledge that each signer will "oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes."

Every member of the Indiana delegation has, except its most senior member, Sen Richard Lugar. That Republican won't sign any pledges, because he says, correctly, they tie lawmakers' hands. Who knows what a future situation might bring that changes things drastically? (Did you know last year at this time what a stranglehold on our nation the debt ceiling issue was going to be? I didn't.)

And Norquist has had major problems with his own simple statement. First he said you could vote for Obama's plan to close tax "loopholes" and end tax "credits" without violating the pledge. He had to take most of that back pretty quickly.

Kentucky Republicans and conservative Democrats (and that seems to be about 87.2134% of our commonwealth) in legislative debates in Frankfort over the years have often taken a "revenue neutral" approach. That is, in a major bill if you raise some taxes, but lower others so that the net effect keeps revenue the same, it's okay.

Not that this will stop their opponents in the next election from criticizing them, but something had to be proposed to try to get that elusive goal of "tax reform."

Even Norquist seems to agree. The AP quoted him that if there were no net increase in tax revenues, it was safe to vote for a tax bill. (Give the man time, he'll probably backtrack here, too).

Meantime, "loopholes" have always meant to me some mistakes in the original bill that ought to be corrected. Are we not to be smart enough to correct things when we have new facts, or will the pledge continue to demand..."don't confuse me with facts, my mind's made up?"

Such as the fact that an ER nurse and a NYC fireman pay twice the tax rate as the hedge fund manager on Wall Street. Loophole? Or stupidity? It doesn't seem to matter to Mr. N...or to the House GOP majority who have consistently refused to make a change here..citing his pledge. I hope our Kentucky delegation may be smarter than that.

For we need to remember: "taxes are the rent we pay to live in our society." That's not an excuse to pass or raise taxes. It is a reminder that when taxes are pledged to do good things, they ought to be considered on those merits..and not on the basis of a pledge adopted a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's Not Your Father's Passport

Passport is the name of a NON-profit agency, set up in the '90s by a group of Louisville hospitals and doctors, to manage the state's medicaid program in 16 counties centered on Louisville.

It has been much in the news recently, and I suspect will be in the weeks ahead. First, state auditor Crit Luallen issued a scathing report last year over the agency's lavish use of funds for trips, gifts, salaries, and more. 3 top officials resigned. Passport was even using public funds to lobby the state for more and higher rates--to be paid for by public funds--strictly a No-No.

These were not the only problems her report indicated, and this week one other shoe dropped. This non profit made so much money from its state contract that it paid "dividends" to its founders. One reason for those payments was so it could plead "poor mouth" to the state for additional fees from public funds! As reported by the Courier-Journal, Attorney General Jack Conway ruled such "dividends" illegal for a NON-profit to make and negotiated a deal for over $26 millions to be repaid.

One hospital repaid at once, the rest have been given up to four years to do so--Conway said it might work a financial hardship--but in my book that just gives them more time to hang on to money they shouldn't have had in the first place..and you KNOW they will earn interest on it!

The U of L hospital said they had seen no reason why the original "seed money" they put into Passport should not have been returned to them. If the law on non-profits does not permit this, the law should be changed; but anything in excess of the original infusion should not be. Atty. Gen. Conway is right on this.

Conway also said this ended his "civil" probe of Passport, but he wouldn't comment on whether a "criminal" probe might go on. Let's hope so.

And let's hope Gov. Beshear revokes his recent decision to give Passport even more public funds, and a new contract, to carry out even more management of the medicaid program. Surely after the auditor's report, and the attorney-general's findings, Passport has forfeited all rights to continuing to hold state business.

Two other points need to be made..(1) Thank God for Crit Luallen; she has been a great state auditor..and needs to be retained. But, term limits forbid more reason why I do not favor term limits, on any office.

This position of state auditor doesn't get the attention of the media or voters during the campaign; which is going on now. I hope this year will be different, and hope our two major papers will be especially vigilant in covering the campaigns of the candidates--and who they endorse.

(2) If Passport made so much money, did they scrimp on serving better those who truly need the services of medicaid? Why do we think a state agency couldn't have done as well, if not better? An in-house agency would have been audited sooner, and the abuses found at Passport would likely not have happened within a state agency.

Or did some money or political favors get exchanged back when Passport was formed, or over the years? There really should be a criminal probe.

And, governor, you really ought to take back that contract you just gave this faulty group and find a new, even a state agency to handle medicaid around Louisville.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Media Musings

It's not been a good week for a lot of the media.

And I don't mean just in the Murdoch scandal in Britain. BTW, (1) Murdoch is an Australian by birth but; (2) his world headquarters is in the U-S; (3) his most profitable businesses, such as the various Fox channels, the Wall Street Journal, etc. are also here.

We had problems right here in Kain-tuck-ee:

My fave Louisville morning paper identified the British Prime Minister as James Cameron, a "Titanic" mistake, and took 3 days to make a "timely" correction to David.

A local furniture store went on Lexington TV announcing "the greatest thing which has ever happened in this area!" What? Better than the end of WW2? It was just a sale. OK, you mean the greatest business event. What? Better than Toyota coming?

I'm told courts have held that this is "harmless puffery." I disagree; words have meaning..and consequences. And as long as local TV stations allow such inaccuracies on their--pardon, the peoples air!..just so long they will continue to run down the importance of that medium.

Even the great summer film classics series at the Kentucky Theater had problems. At "Fantasia" the host appears in the orchestra saying.."Hello, I'm Deems Taylor." He wasn't. Disney apparently couldn't bring itself to tell us they had lost the original commentary by Taylor and was substituting an actor in the new version. That's a lie, an unnecessary lie.

My fave Lexington morning paper ran an important story from its McClatchy Washington bureau (an excellent and under-rated news service we are lucky to have) on Sen. McConnell's new plan for a debt ceiling compromise. First paragraph..McConnell has a new plan. Fine; what is it? Eight or so paragraphs later we finally get details. Why not right away in the story? (Keep your eyes on this; Shields & Brooks on PBS both had kind things to say about it.)

PBS's fine "History Detectives" has recently had two errors ...mispronouncing FDR's last name (first syllable rhymes with "rose" not "ruse") and getting the wrong person who "canned" Sen. Sumner in a major incident before the Civil War.

Yes, I know.."to err is human." (I certainly make my share) But recent weeks remind us the "media" run by people, such as you and me, are very "human."

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Kate Dunn Vs. Nancy Grace

Fayette County in general, and Glen Doneghy in particular, can be proud of Kate Dunn who led the Legal Aid defense team in the current case involving the death of Lexington Police Officer Bryan Durman.

Doneghy was convicted of manslaughter, in a case where he might easily have been convicted of murder had it not been for the excellent and capable representation he got from Dunn and her colleagues. And they are not through defending him, having filed a motion suggesting the jury's decision was not free of procedural violations. We all benefit when the law is followed and justice is served; especially in such an emotional case as this one, where a young, promising policeman died tragically,and where our community had its own rush to judgment--convicting Doneghy before hearing his side of the case.

But when the jury did hear it, reason prevailed over emotion and the verdict was fair.

(One has to wonder if the same can be said for some members of the local media who used the phrase "alleged cop killer" instead of something less pejorative!)

Meanwhile, in Florida another woman did her best to convict in another highly charged case. Nancy Grace kept telling us Casey Anthony was guilty of the murder of her daughter Cayley...long before she knew all the facts or had even heard the defense's side. (There are a number of Kentucky angles to this case, among one of the more bizarre ones being the suspicion that the dead baby's father might be from this state.)

The jury in Florida also listed to reason, not emotion, in its finding...which was very difficult for them. There was NO physical evidence linking Casey Anthony to the death of her child. That she and her family behaved abominably, and in violation of the law, did not make her guilty of murder...though the prosecutor, Nancy Grace did her best to make that case.

What you say, Grace wasn't the prosecutor? Might as well have been. She got more air time and print time than the real prosecutors--making the case against Anthony from the very start....and could possibly have poisoned the jury pool before selection.

Grace is an attorney, a member of the bar, and an officer of the court. There is no excuse for her outrageous conduct. Her rush to judgment should be investigated by her home state bar association, and disbarment proceedings considered.

Fortunately Lexington had Kate Dunn.

DS Kahn, Casey Anthony..why it's almost enough to make you believe in the presumption of innocence.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thank You Carl Wedekind

I'm writing this over the 4th of July weekend, thinking about our freedoms..and our rights..including what many nations lack--the right to protest what we feel are unfair laws and decisions.

I'm reminded of the recent death of a little known Kentuckian, Carl Wedekind of Louisville. He was a long time civil libertarian and advocate to abolish the death penalty..though he started his professional career as a corporate lawyer for a conservative firm.

The death penalty in Kentucky has been much in the news of late..especially when the courts banned our use of certain chemicals to kill people (and the state's attempt to get around that ruling.) But there's more..including the case of a man who has been on death row for a murder 32 years ago who won the right for a DNA test in his case..a test not available when he was convicted.

Is he innocent? That's to be determined, but in another case a man on death row elsewhere was freed after 29 years when DNA testing found him innocent.

Those who favor the death penalty decry the years it takes for cases finally to be settled..and their costs. That's understandable, but who's at fault..the person in the case or our courts and how they operate under the law? There's been a movement to limit all appeals to 10 or 15 years..which makes sense to some...until you learn of those cases, as above, where justice miscarried well beyond 10 or 15 years ago.

I won't here recite all the argument, including the religious ones, that compel me to oppose capital punishment..but I will use this holiday to say "Thank you Carl Wedekind" and all those who went before for a nation that honors "LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Monday, June 27, 2011

What I did on my vacation

Visited two states, Maine & New Hampshire, where I had never been, at the invitation of old friends. In NH, I was able to hook up with Tom Griffith, who worked for me at Channel 27 News 30 years ago, as a good reporter and weekend anchor. Tom is now the prime anchor for WMUR-TV, literally the only TV station in NH.

His station, the local paper, and CNN sponsored the recent GOP presidential candidates debate, and he got me tickets for that event. I've covered 14 national party conventions, but had never sat in on this type of debate, which was just about heaven for a political junkie.

(I don't know who won but I sure can tell you who lost; Tim Pawlenty waffled on his previous charge that Romney's healthcare program was similar to Obama's, and Ron Paul lectured the audience on arcane fiscal policy, becoming the Ross Perot of the 2011 campaign.)

CNN's set was dazzlingly over-the-top, probably costing the annual budget of Tunisia, and Tom tells me will only be used one more time.

Tom's station is magnificent, not just in its physical plant (a converted Service Merchandise and discount shoe store) but in its owners' dedication to local news and public affairs. They run many more such programs than do the Lexington stations, and not just every four years.

This was heady stuff for me, and charged me up to come back and flay a little hide locally. Maybe I will, but in the meantime, I am totally saddened and puzzled by some major mistakes on the part of the national news media broadcast here recently:

CBS misidentified the state senator brother of James "Whitey" Bulger as the suspected Boston hit man; ABC told us twice that fires in Texas had burned over a billion (with a B) acres when it was actually a million acres involved...and one of my fave PBS Shows, History Detectives, twice mispronounced the last name of President FDR. The first syllable rhymes with the flower rose, not with "ruse." So much for their vaunted research staff and journalism fact checking in general.

I'm just sayin'....

Sunday, June 19, 2011


State police reported earlier this year that Kentucky had set a new record in 2010 for the most meth labs founded by police; 1080, up from 741 in 2009.

That's a huge jump, and no one believes this is more than a fraction of the illegal labs that abound. Technology is, unfortunately, on the side of the lawbreakers because making the illegal drug has gotten easier and easier.

Things I don't understand, but police do, support this. A one bottle lab to make meth (literally one of those 2 liter pop bottles will do)...meth labs have been found in backseats of cars, the cops have seen meth being made as the car rolls down the road, even while stopped at a traffic light. Recently, a gas station clerk became suspicious because people were in his restroom too long. On investigating he found they had stopped in to make meth, out of sight, during a short restroom break. It's apparently that simple.

Yet the legislature did not take the steps police urged upon them: to require prescriptions or some more record keeping of the simple ingredients need to make it. Store owners, some doctors, business groups opposed this "inconvenience."

Hey, I get colds and sniffles too. I occasionally need those ingredients. I am willing to put up with the proposed "inconveniences" if it will help law enforcement do a better job of shutting down the "cookers." Surely we can figure out some way to inconvenience the meth makers a lot, and those of us with stuffy noses the least; surely.

If not, wait til you see the KSP meth lab figures next year.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Now comes the studies, and great research.

Count on it. The Midwest and South's trials by horrendous weather so far this year will provide scientists with great and important research projects for years to come; hopefully leading to a better understanding of why, how, and when such destructive weather forms.

But some things we suspect already.

Severe weather warnings have gotten better and faster. We get more lead time to take cover, but are we doing so? Some people believe we have so many warnings, and so many voices warning us, that the net effect is to dull our senses and lead us to fatal indecision. I doubt this, but that too will be studied.

Already, as the Associated Press has reported, we know this: the people most at risk for injury or death are those who live in mobile homes, or houses without basements. Storm cellars work, but fewer are being built. I have always lived in a home with a basement and I feel even better about it now.

And yes, I saw a mobile home on the news that had been strapped down and was just kindling. What I don't know is whether the kindling would have been smaller with no straps; I suspect so,and I know, short of an EF4, which is rare, that straps can't hurt and may help. I continue to believe our state should require mobile homes to be sold with straps and a legal requirement they be installed.

Also, we already know that families who have a plan in place before bad weather strikes have a greater chance of living. As if such family plans haven't been drummed into our heads for years. They work, folks. They work. And

Compared to many other states, so far this year we in Kentucky have been fortunate. If it takes straps, and cellars, and advance plans to continue to keep us so fortunate, that seems a very little price to pay to make our families safe.

I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Rat On" Senator Paul!

Our new Senator was correct, and our Senior Senator wrong last week on one of this session's most important votes, extending the so-called Patriot Act; a law passed with too little debate (and insufficient public hearings) in the emotional times after the 9/11 attack.

In late December, Congress passed a temporary extension, promising time for debate and amendments before considering the full four year extension. Didn't happen; no hearings, little debate, almost no amendments, even from such a senior senator as Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy, who joined with Paul in an amendment to provide more oversight of this controversial law. It failed.

A top intelligent official said even a brief lapse would mean "the nation would be less secure." Errant nonsense, and quickly countered by another top official who admitted the nation would survive if the extension weren't approved by midnight on the appointed day. But taking no chances, when both chambers rushed through approval, the White House used an "auto pen" device to allow the President to sign it from his French conference.

Paul had complained, correctly, the law gives the government too much power; allowing the feds to rifle thru our library cards, Facebook postings, bank transactions, etc., and letting the FBI and others tap phones; not just of foreigners, but also native born citizens, sometimes without a court order. Sen. Paul was finally able to work out a deal, under midnight deadline pressure, to get a little debate and a few amendments. Too little debate and too few amendments.

In the aftermath of 9/11, security triumphed over freedom; many of our traditional civil liberties got trampled. (The government pressured major phone companies, illegally, to allow broad ranging wire taps in many cases, for example.) The Act's major provisions have not yet received a full court test. Our junior senator was "rat on" in his general approach that this important acts needs much more thorough study and debate.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, May 23, 2011


The first of several reports on last year's coal mine explosion at Upper Big Branch in West Virginia, the worst in 40 years, is out. This one is probably the most important for it was made by a group of independent safety experts.

As news reports indicated this disaster--which killed 29 miners--was "man made" and could have been prevented.

Could there be a more damning conclusion?

While the mine owners, Massey Coal, receive the lion's share of blame, Congress and the government are also severely criticized. Take this from an Associated Press report on how that mine practiced safety..."..the safety inspector who was supposed to file pre-shift reports on air and methane readings did so weeks before the blast without ever turning on his gas detector."

But the report also said much of the blame fell to MSHA..the federal Mine Safety & Health Administration..calling the blast.."proof positive the agency failed in its duty as the watchdog for coal miners."

While there is guilt enough to spread around, if Coal..the industry itself--does not accept some measure of responsibility...a great opportunity will be lost...and more miners will die.

Coal has those lovely national TV ads airing about how important coal is to America, especially for electricity generation..true. It also claims Coal is clean. I have yet to see any industry projects in this area. What has the industry done in the way of research projects to make coal clean?

Some of my 110% environmental friends think coal can never be clean. I disagree; it can be clean-er..and it desperately needs to be. We depend too much on it. Massey and its ilk, it is not alone in stressing production over human safety, give the lie to those rosy industry ads.

Coal, as an industry, needs to tell the world that operating as Massey has done for years is no longer acceptable..that people rank higher than production..that safety will be stressed..and together with Congress Coal will support stronger safety rules (not oppose them as it has done for years),and seek the necessary funds, both private and public, for projects that will make coal cleaner...but above all, safer.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Let's hear it for all those purple stained fingers!

For several years now, in various parts of this globe, people have risked real danger in order to vote; something too many of us take for granted, and ignore.

America proclaims itself the #1 democracy of the world, yet this week, it is estimated, only 9% of us may vote in Kentucky's primary. The U-S habitually has among the lowest voter turnout of the "western democracies." And the historical trend is down.

Our basic two party system (as if America's vision could be contained within a mere two parties!) is partly to blame; governments--at all levels--are partly to blame; the media are partly to blame; the lack of any systematic "get-out-the-vote" program is partly to blame, but we are primarily to blame. Americans shouldn't need such incentives; not if we truly understand and appreciate our history, and the men and women from Valley Forge to the Somme to Iwo Jima to Abbottabad who sacrificed to make and keep us free.

Voting, which takes about an hour twice a year most years, compared to their sacrifices, and yet we complain,or worse, ignore that civic duty. Yes, I said duty!

In Iraq and Afghanistan ordinary men and women, especially the young and students, stood in long lines,in unhealthy conditions, braved bomb attacks, and corruption to vote, and get a cherished symbol: purple ink on a finger, signifying they had voted!

Then they went home, and maybe fell victim to violence that cut off that finger, or maybe an entire hand...or a head, because they voted.

Freedom is not free. It requires...requires....only a few is: that you vote.

If you don't, spare me your excuses. Tell them to Team Six and ask if they understand.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Random Thoughts About Time and Travel

I've believed for years if the world would just let me schedule its events, this would be a happier, more logical, and more efficient place.

For example: who scheduled the Derby, Mothers Day, and all those school graduations for the same weekend? OK, The Derby is set--first Saturday in May, Mothers Day shifts around, but surely schools could have looked ahead and put commencement elsewhere. Did anyone plan ahead?

Coming back from Lou-ah-vul Sunday, without warning, downtown Lexington traffic was in knots. Either a rock star or..uh, oh..graduation at Rupp I thought. I tried side streets..West Main to Jefferson to Merino to Maxwell..ah but, those minds in LPD traffic were letting cars out the back Rupp lot, and narrowing Maxwell traffic from two lanes to one with insufficient advance warning. Suddenly, we could see flashing lights blocking the street; too late(!), courteous drivers let us in the wrong lane move over, thankfully.

Coming back On I-64, I saw one or more of those electronic overhead signs..blank. The one nearest Lexington could have warned us about the downtown traffic mess..but no. (The state could also have used them to thank our Derby visitors, tout other state attractions, but no...great opportunity lost.)

What other traffic signs did say was in several sections of I-64 there was construction work going on,slow down, stay in lane, etc. This is Mothers Day and Sunday. There was NO such work. Why were the signs not turned off..or moved away..or, as in the old days, covered with burlap?

I firmly believe that when examples like these happen, drivers mentally believe the next time there won't be any construction either..and speed or ignore the safety rules. KYDOT is working against itself, and safety, when it lets such inaccurate signs be used.

Lexington wants to spend mucho dinero on a traffic system overhaul to speed traffic up. Let's start with this simple idea that won't cost anything..cut the 2 minute wait time at major intersections down to one minute or 90 seconds at the most. Watch traffic speed up.

If the world would just listen!

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Dr. Capilouto is NOT the man to be UK's next president.

Permit me to dissent.

Dr. Capilouto is NOT the man to be UK's next president.

One, he is 61 and, as Dr Todd did, might decide in four years to retire. He could, and then this entire flawed selection process would have to begin again: in secret, using a national consulting firm at a high fee. We don't need this, ever, but especially not so soon.

Two, while as provost he oversaw UAB's academic section, his background is mainly medical. That could give rise to a feeling that, once again, the medical tail is wagging the entire UK dog; (after sports, of course.) Too often it seems UK's medical facilities can find money when the rest of the campus can not...and important basic academic things...classes, salaries, new programs, even maintenance, suffer. Someone whose background was primarily academic is needed. This may not be that person.

The best thing Dr. Capilouto has done so far was to come to the campus incognito and see for himself. (I am divided on whether eating at the Keeneland track kitchen was a stroke of genius or bad advice. Where does he stand on poke sallet?)

I don't know him; few do. Maybe his campus appearances this week will reassure others, but for the reasons cited I dissent from the board's decision.

Let's try again...and in the open as befits a public university.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, April 25, 2011


Even after 150 years, many Americans don't have a handle on the "defining moment" in our history--The Civil War.

I've been asked why Kentucky joined the secession? It didn't, though as one of our astute historians observed.."Kentucky waited til the war was over to join the losers!"

But starting this year we are observing the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States, and that's an unparalleled opportunity for most of us to learn what truly happened. Many agencies will help us: NPR & Kentucky Public Radio, PBS & KET, the Kentucky Historical Society (with many exhibits) libraries, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and local re-enactment groups.

Here in Central Kentucky we have major Civil War sites..Perryville, Richmond, White Hall, Nancy, even Henry Clay's Ashland, site of a "skirmish" well as Lexington and Frankfort which changed hands many times.

I hope you will take time during the next four years to learn about the War, about the role of our state in it...Lincoln said "I must have Kentucky" (as a Union state)..for such a grand opportunity will not happen again in the lifetime of most of us.

So, to kick the discussion off.."let me make one thing perfectly clear", as another president said..the war was caused by...slavery. The states' rights argument was but a rationale to let those states who wanted to keep slavery, that "peculiar institution", do so.

It was slavery, neither pure nor simple...and we should never forget that.

So..commemorate, observe, memorialize, or whatever you want..but let's take this great opportunity to learn about the most important...and certainly the darkest our fascinating history.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, April 18, 2011

This time, we were spared.

This time, we were spared.

But this spring's burst of tornadoes has to remind many Kentuckians of the tragic spring of '74 when it was our turn... as part of what still is, I think, the worst one or two day concentration of tornadoes ever..throughout the Midwest, with the greatest loss of life and heaviest property damage.

I reflect on that because, unlike some other states, Kentucky does not require mobile homes to be strapped down. All homes can suffer when high winds come through; mobile homes suffer the worst. Why not strap them down, using heavy metal straps into the ground? It can not hurt and it may do some good. Yet year after year, even when introduced, such bills go nowhere in the legislature. I have to believe it's because they are opposed by the "manufactured housing" industry, which apparently feels the extra expense would hurt sales..and of course, the "down economy" is just the latest excuse.

Bottom line: it's still profit over safety.

The other thing which bothers me is watching all that corrugated metal, roof sections, siding et al, flying thru the air. If someone hasn't been beheaded, it is just a matter of time.

We need stronger rules to "nail" down roofs and other such metal sections from injuring people. Yes, if the wind gets strong enough, nothing will hold them down. But again, it can't hurt and in many storms it would help.

California requires new buildings to meet earthquake standards. Old buildings are given a period, ten years I think, to retrofit and upgrade. If its laws can require this, so can Kentucky's.

After all, we were lucky...this April. But it is only a matter of time until those deadly winds visit us again.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, April 11, 2011

For shame!

Did you see the story from that Kentucky airport in Hebron..(sometimes erroneously referred to as the Cincinnati airport)?

It seems that the board of trustees search committee interviewing candidates for UK president shielded them with a large black cloth as they got to the finals. The same kind of cloth coroner's use to give the dead deserved privacy.

(Boy, what analogies I could draw here, but...)

The shielding, from reporters of course, also meant they were being shielded from the public, from the very Kentuckians who pay for the search expenses, and the salary, etc. of the next UK president.

As I have written earlier, I am sorry to see Dr. Todd go. I am sorry board members feel they need a national seach firm to find suitable candidates...I think knowing such candidates is part of Dr. Todd's job; and the board's. I am also sorry they hired (at our expense, of course, one way or the other) a salary consultant who said the next prez must be paid more...much more. Maybe, but isn't that in comparison with some overpaid CEOs we know (whether CEO of colleges or business firms)? All are paid more than the President of the United States. Something is wrong here, no matter who the President is.

But I am the sorriest, as a journalist and a Kentuckian, that the search committee feels the need to shield us from the finalists. Yes, I know the candidates' rationale: protect our IDs or we won't be candidates for your job. (If they are so stable in their current job maybe, just maybe, they aren't the one for us.)

To mark this revolting development properly, I have a we will always remember how much faith the trustees have in us: when the time comes for the official portrait of the person selected, let it be a lovely frame, bordering nothing but a piece of black cloth.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The First Cassius Clay

The First Cassius Clay:

Was a least his newspaper office was here, though his farm was in Madison County across the Kentucky River.

I am reminded of this by a number of events:

1--KET has begun rebroadcasting "The Civil War", most of this week at 8, and I urge you to see it, or re-see it.

2--The 150th anniversary of the start of that war is next week, Tuesday the 12th, and there will be many events observing it in the next few years. Time for all of us to immerse ourselves in our own history, especially that "defining moment" which was the Civil War.

3--The Society of Professional Journalists will dedicate Clay's home, White Hall, as a national historic journalism site that day. Clay's anti-slavery paper "The True American" so incensed the dominant pro-slave sentiments of this area that his press was seized in an attempt to shut him down. Didn't work. For more, Google him.

4--Slavery lives among us. ABC reported over the weekend of charges placed after a raid on a quiet Georgia neighborhood where many women were being held in slavery. (Sexual in this case, but there have been a number of national reports recently of people being held in economic slavery as well). Kentucky was listed as among a dozen states by the ABC report where similar cases have been charged.

"All men are created equal" we would like to think is our contribution to the world. It is, but so was our contribution to that "peculiar institution", slavery, which still is a blot upon the world...and America.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Random Thoughts About the Next President

UK's, that is, not America's.

While the UK selection committee is meeting in secret (which they can legally do but don't have to), spending taxpayers' money on a search firm (which they can legally do but don't have to), may I suggest some questions for their be asked of the candidates (which they don't have to, but could legally.)

If UK truly believes in the "student-athlete", what can be done to raise the graduation rates for UK athletes, now one of the lowest in our conference and in the current NCAA tourney?

How do you plan to make the athletics program more responsible to you, as head of all the university?

How do you plan to convince the legislature that its failure to fund higher education properly actually means shifting the tuition burden to students and their families?

How many more good teachers must leave before the UK faculty gets a long overdue raise?

Will you truly promote a town-gown program of cooperation among equals, and not thumb your nose at Lexington, and especially neighborhoods surrounding UK, when it suits your convenience?

Do you plan to continue the drive to make UK "a top twenty public research university" (or whatever the current phrase is)--and if so will you tell Kentuckians just what strings come with research grants, whether from the government or private businesses?

Will you end the practice of the buying "naming rights", whether on small buildings or large ones--even when it is called a "donation?"

What is your vision, and how difficult will it be for a small, relatively poor state to achieve it, in compeititon with other states around us?

Perhaps, if the selection committee won't ask these questions, students and faculty will when one, or hopefully more, of the finalists reach campus. By the way, how about a session with the finalists and the Urban County Council --or even the general public--before the next President is selected?

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, March 21, 2011


3 Fables for our Times:

One. Turns out Senate President David Williams was right. Gov. Beshear called the special session too soon. In the past, he and other governors have not called such sessions unless an agreement was ready. The House had given indications such might be ready..but it wasn't. Result: a wasted week, at $64,000 a day cost to you and me. Let the leaders meet, pay them per diem in the future, but not call the full house into session (at all that cost) until both parties, and both chambers agree. And the Senate is still to be heard from.

Two. If you think the medicaid issue is contentious, wait til the legislature starts on remap, or redistricting the state into new congressional, state house and senate districts, required every ten years. The figures are in, and the secret games and jockeying have begun. The last time the Herald-Leader did a great map showing how compact districts could be achieved within federal court guidelines. Was it adopted? Do pigs fly?

One of our present Congressional districts looks like the historic salamander which gave rise to the term "gerrymandering" (for a Congressman named Gerry who drew his district like a salamander for his personal election benefit)..and there is a precinct in Lincoln County, near Lexington, which was placed in a far Western Kentucky district to provide a population balance. (How that survived a court test I don't know?) And much was done in secret last time, including changes in my own statehouse district.

All of us should insist the negotiations over new districts be done in public so we can comment on them to our representatives.

Even better, as many states do, a nonpartisan commission of academic specialists should draw up the districts, subject to an up-or-down vote in Frankfort..much the way military base closings are done in Congress.

Three. Nuclear power's time has NOT come to return in Kentucky. It's not just Japan; it's not just the huge cost; it's not just the challenge to coal; it's not just how badly the state handled our one and only state nuke site, Maxey Flats (low-level disposal only) or how badly the feds handled our nuke fuel plant in Paducah (and we are still learning how badly that was and how much contamination and cancer it spread to Kentuckians who were deliberately (!) kept in the dark), it's also that after more than 60 years we still do not have a method , or a place, to dispose of the waste.

Why would we add to that waste without knowing how and where to put it?

Don't we ever learn?

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thank you President Williams.

Senator David Williams, leader of the Kentucky senate, Republican, fiscal conservative, and oh by the way, candidate for governor, has just inflicted the special legislative session on state taxpayers at a cost estimated at $60,000 per day, perhaps needlessly.

He did this alone. By tradition and agreement between the chambers and parties, at least one day of the 30 day session is reserved to take up veto messages from the governor. But Williams used up the last day by calling the Senate into session. No more meetings could then be held to vote on anything, including trying to resolve major budget issues, especially how to meet the Medicaid deficit.

What were the odds such agreement could have been found if the final day had not been used up? Slim. Very slim. But not zero. Williams' precipitous action ended whatever hope remained, and the governor was forced to call a special session to try to get a new agreement to solve the budget deficit.

Promptly a state agency notified hospitals and medicaid providers of cuts in their payments which might become necessay in June without such an agreement. It is claimed some rural hospitals might be forced to close. Let us hope that proves wrong. This ratcheted up the political pressure, but was also probably accurate and a needed notification.

It isn't that there aren't good points on both sides here...Senate Republicans have some honest worries about the governor's solutions; House Democrats have honest differences with the governor and with the approach Senate Republicans want to take. But a solution is still needed before the fiscal year runs out in June. The victims, otherwise, will be innocent and needy citizens of Kentucky.

Williams will certainly be reminded of this during the campaign, and not just by Democrats. He has two opponents within his own party, one of whom claims the Tea Party mantel Williams also seeks.

$60,000 on Monday; $60,000 on Tuesday, $60,000 on Wednesday, $60,000 on...soon it adds up to real money.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, March 7, 2011

I do not like the Supreme Court.

I do not like the Supreme Court.

I think it's an elitist, arrogant, undemocratic organization, where one vote of UNelected people can overturn all that has been done through the democratic processes of the peoples' elected representatives.

Its self-assumed power to declare laws unconstitutional is not in the Constitution, nor am I aware of any definitive discussion of such a grant in the Federalists Papers. Why would the Founding Fathers overlook something so important?

Why did it take so many years for the Court to declare it had such a right..and even more years after that first assertion before it used that power again? Something smelleth here. Can you spell p-o-l-i-t-i-c-s?

It's a situation that allowed the court to issue the Dred Scott decision, which declared certain people--black people--weren't people at all, but property. And the separate but equal school decision. And that it was OK to take native born American citizens, and intern them without trial, seizing their property in the World War Two version of "enemy combatants!"

Yes, there is a logic behind the idea that some agency should be able to say if new laws square with our fundamental law...but that doesn't just mean the unelected Supreme Court should have the final say. What about an extraordinary vote of Congress? And that's just one idea.

All of this said---the system we have now lets the Supreme Court have the final say and last week, in an unusual 8-1 vote, it came down hard in a painful case. It upheld the right of some UNChristian people, who masquerade as a church in Topeka, to picket and interrupt a family at the saddest of times...when it was burying a son or daughter killed in war. And to loudly proclaim the most illogical of claims that God hated that person, wished him dead...all because parts of America disagreed with the church's tenets on major social matters.

I wasn't sure the court would be that smart, but it was. It reaffirmed what the First Amendment is all about, and we needed to be reminded that yes, this "church's" stupid, illogical, hateful, unGodly speech" is so protected. That's one of the great things about our Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights.

So, though I don't like the institution of the Supreme Court, my hat's off to those eight members for their gutsy, important, and truly American decision.

(By the way, if we weren't involved in a war in Iraq...and shouldn't be involved in a second, propping up one more corrupt government in Afghanistan, we wouldn't have to bury our youth and give these people the opportunity to seek publicity for their unrighteous cause.)

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Unfinished Business for Kentucky & America

Sometime this spring Kevin Bales will speak in Louisville, and receive U of L's Grawemeyer award for Ideas Improving World Order...and $100,000.

His revolutionary idea?? End slavery. A sociologist, Bales started looking into this when he heard there were a million slaves in our world. He didn't believe that was true, but his research led him to believe the number is closer to 27 million!

These include people forced to work on farms without pay, and in mines and brothels. Every now and then such "slaves" turn up in the US, usually immigrants..and not all illegals. And occasionally American citizens are found to be working for far less than the minimum wage under intolerable conditions-- usually in agriculture--and long before our economy tanked. (We journalists date our modern social awareness of this situation from CBS's "Harvest of Shame" documentary by Ed Murrow, over 50 years ago. Periodic checks find many of the conditions he found then still exist.)

This year begins the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. As Kentucky "observes" (not "commemorates") various events in connection with the War of the Rebellion, I'm sure we will hear many arguments the war was not about slavery; it was about States Rights. Do not be misled. States Rights was merely a code phrase for.."y'all can't tell us what to do with our slaves!"

Bales talk hopefully may dwell on that. In the meantime you may wish to check out his 2007 book which led to the award.."Ending Slavery."

Because slavery is still with us.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, February 21, 2011

S-E-X beats Presidents' Day

If this truly were our Presidents' Day (and week) I would probably comment on them. But it's another of those artificial holidays created by Congress, not truly to honor anyone but to provide a 3 day weekend for everyone--including Congress ---so SEX wins.

Besides, I've been wanting to comment on Karen Sypher and now that she has been sentenced, I can.

Ah, Karen--our very own Kentucky sex symbol...those golden tresses, tight clothing, ruby red Cupid's bow lips, and heaving bosom with that "come hither" look...for her age, a true knock-out of a gal.

And, oh yes, a very checkered past.

All probably unknown to the married Coach Rick when he threw "family values" to the winds and engaged in sex, consensual or otherwise, on that famous restaurant bench after hours. For 15 seconds, as one of them said.

She was charged, not with any sexual offense, but with conspiracy to extort money from him for that act, and the evidence indicates clearly she was guilty. He was charged with nothing (though there are some old laws under which he could have been charged I'm sure) and he was guilty of the sexual encounter; he said so.

Charge the UL coach in Lou-ah-vul? Shirley you jest! Did UL even slap his wrist? Nope; that was too much to ask..and probably mirrors what UT did to Bruce Pearl (not much in my view) months later for very different but also serious offenses. (Hey, winning coaches are in short supply.)

Extortion in her case being a federal offense, our sex symbol was charged in federal court..and the feds piled on. Time after time they made sure Ms. Sypher knew she was playing in a man's game. The feds ought to have been charged with unnecessary roughness, but then she might have done worse in a state court, given the ire of Cardinal fans.

So, justice, as charged, triumphs. The guilty Ms. Sypher gets the minimum sentence--87 months, probably so the judge can avoid being accused of being too harsh in her appeal. And our hero coach goes free.

As I figure it, she got 6 months in prison for every second of her intercourse with Pitino. No other Division One coach can make that claim.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Will CentrePointe be our Tahrir Square?

Both are the hearts of their respective cities; both have seen tremendous changes recently. And protests. Especially protests. Now what?

The last update on the official CentrePointe website is this 2009. Surely we deserve better than this?

Will the Webb Companies ever tell us who the shadowy financier of this downtown project is? Or admit there never was one? (Our real problems might come if they ever do come up with the money.)

Will we learn from this experience to get our zoning laws improved? Will we stop bending over when developers say.."Stoop!" Will we insist on more information BEFORE the city gives approval? Will we listen more to preservationists? (but also realize that not every crumbling facade needs to be saved just because it is old!)?

Will we ever learn that "change" does not mean "progress!" Progress is good change; there is a value judgment to be made.

And what will we citizens insist be made of our Tahrir Square?

How about a new central park, with art..maybe even a BIG public art item, such as Chicago's Picasso sculpture? Or Seattle's gnome that eats a VW? Or a huge horse such as Lou-ah-vul's Pegasus? And a place to hold an annual Spotlight festival? A bandshell, picnic tables, and so on. Maybe even underground parking.

Or will this be the site of the UNneeded new Rupp Arena, as some wags have suggested is the REAL motive behind the Webb Companies' proposal?

Or the new city hall?

Will our Tahrir Square ever amount to anything?

At the very least Mayor Jim Gray should call for a public contest for ideas.

(We can get that IdeaFestival back.) The winner gets: naming rights. Ok, maybe nothing, but let's get going on some ideas here. Almost anything would be better than the status quo.

In the meantime, let's protest. How about a FlashMob at the Square, instead of Al's or Busters! Let's take our example from the truly inspired, brave, young protesters of Tahrir Square. They risked all.

All we risk is the status quo...the muddy, soggy, empty, ugly status quo.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, February 7, 2011

The "Baddy" awards---Lexington's worst commercials

The Super Bowl often airs tv's most creative, unusual, and, yes, best commercials. But this week, 2010 being over, I want to observe our town's worst commercials for last year, for whatever shame they may take from that award.

I never thought that nasal sing-song "where price sells cars" would be less than #1 on my list, but it dropped into 5th place last year. American Freight soars to the top of my list with its totally unnecessary, ear-shattering spots. These people obviously think we are hicks and rubes if we fall for these..and since the store is still in business, maybe we are. Lexington tv managers do NOT have to air these spots; they could insist the volume be turned down for failure to meet advertising standards..but nope, short term greed outweighs long term standards and the tv medium has been debased by accepting these spots..debased for all the other more legitimate sponsors. They should object.

Then there's the furniture store whose spots feature the owner's kids jumping on beds, and lolling on couches, etc.etc.etc...I think I know why they are featured, but I have seldom liked such "family" spots on tv, and I think these exploit those children. Besides, why should we expect good advice on buying furniture from kids?

And the rug store that tells us not once, not twice, but three times (or more, seems like it) that such-and-such is "FREE"..and it isn't. You have to buy something before you get all these "FREE" things..and that is not my definition or Webster's ("without charge") of "free."

And the home security service whose spot is deliberately designed to appear as if is a legitimate interview on a noon show or early morning newscast. The guy even says to the lady interviewer "thanks for having me." Thanks?? He's paying for the spot, she better have him on. Once again, our tv stations are misleading viewers by airing commercials that appear to be real program interviews; they aren't. (Short term greed again, versus long term respect for the medium.)

Which brings us to the year-in, year-out Baddy Award.."where price sells cars." I guess it works, because one of the better dealer's commercials tells us it isn't price that sells cars at his place...but it's annoying as hell and has long since worn out its welcome on my screen. I won't be buying my Toyota at this dealer, lowest price or not.

Those are my 5 Baddy Awards for 2010. I'd be pleased to receive your nominations in case I missed some really terrible ones. And keep your eyes and ears alert during 2011. Unfortunately, bad taste never seems to go out of style.

I'm just sayin'...