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'...