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'...