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'...