Monday, March 22, 2021



It is true about Al Smith, who died last week at 94.


If you asked him what time it was he would tell you, and also how to build a clock. Al was that way; helpful, friendly, knowledgeable, and loquacious.


He was also everything nice people have been saying about him in stories since his death; a Lion of Kentucky journalism, a mentor to many, a strong supporter of small town and community journalism, and of many of us who knew him individually.


That he died of kidney failure seems ironic for a man who drank himself out of key jobs in one of the most colorful cities for journalism in our country--New Orleans. But he did, and never tried to hide it, or how much he owe AA to his recovery, and to Kentucky and to his wife Martha Helen, too.


You and I, as Kentuckians, helped redeem Al Smith, as he helped redeem us, from decades of Old South conservatism (which now seems rampant again - where is our new Al Smith?) of bourbon and backwater when what we needed, Al was convinced, was more of his (and FDR's) New Deal liberalism.


If journalism was his first love, education was next and he and Martha Helen supported so many projects in both fields it would be hard to list them all, or how much they improved Kentucky in his lifetime. Maybe the arts were next, and ditto.


For those who knew him mainly as the host of KET's "Comment on Kentucky," that alone should commend him to you; another project to help Kentuckians understand life's issues and what might be done about them to improve our Commonwealth.


An UN-Common Man has passed our way, for so many years, and we are now both richer for his having lived among us, and poorer for his passing.


I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

A Sad Anniversary


No, not the virus, sad as that is, but one year since Breonna Taylor was shot, and she still has no Justice.


She is dead, killed by a cop. Her boyfriend, who fired at a cop has had charges dismissed, thankfully. But she is still dead, and no one has been charged.


One Louisville cop has been charged for firing into the WRONG (!) apartment that infamous night, but Breonna is still dead and no one has been charged.


The attorney general gave lousy information to the grand jury, which several jurors have since repudiated, as have lots of lawyers, but Breonna is still dead, and no one has been charged.


Waiting for the Jefferson County state's attorney to get off his butt and file charges have so far meant a wasted year, and Breonna is still dead through a cop's mistaken bullet, and no one has been charged.


There is still a federal probe going on and that may be our best hope.


The GOP controlled legislature has done far less to reform warrants and the police situation that several other states---incensed by what happened in Kentucky, than has our Commonwealth, which says a lot about us.


And one year later Breonna Taylor is still dead, through no fault of her own, and justice awaits...and waits...and waits.




Another anniversary of sorts, spring floods. They come in  many years and this year they came with a vengeance. No federal emergency declaration yet, which does not speak well of the Biden administration, and the Republicans in the legislature are trying to make sure they get to spend what COVID relief funds we get not the Democratic governor. I am not hopeful. It took years for Hal Rogers, then our most powerful Congressman to get funds for a flood wall in Middlesboro. Lee, Estill, Breahitt counties, and more, need some type of protection, and soon. So does Stoner Creek in Bourbon county, a public eyesore there.

And if the state gets funds, even finds them in strange places (such as the Fish & Wildlife agency) will they be spent rightly? Can we help the families flooded out for the umpteenth time to get on their feet, while making certain they do NOT rebuild on those misnamed 100-year and 500 year flood plains! The entire federal flood insurance program, once again, needs an overhaul; and some way to get the commercial insurance industry involved. After all, that's what they are supposed to handle, and they have refused to do so.  Fine public service from them, (Is there a Hammer for Big Floods as there is for Big Trucks?)


Remember, the Floods WILL be back.




Lexington has always had its colorful people; characters if you like. I wish to pay my respects to one of my favorites, who recently passed on. Nicholas Pitanis was a pillar of his Greek church, ran the Lexington shop on Romany Road for years and taught many of us, including me, the joys and pleasures of good food and good wine. When my wife and I were in his store, he would always flirt outrageously with her (showing his good taste.) He founded the local chapter of les Amis du Vin, which failed (and is IMHO, still needed here.) He wore colorful sweaters, told colorful stories of being a smuggler in his early years and welcomed all into his life. RIP Nikko,. Hail & farewell.


Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Things We Don't Know


Admit it. Just like me, you had no idea that your cell phone service, your smart phone texting were out of order because of that strange explosion in Nashville.


Nashville! Why would 911 service in Lexington, and my texting depend on a building in Nashville?


Why indeed?


But they did, and do, and you and Mayor Gorton and LPD, the city council and Gov. Beshear need answers.


Flights out of Nashville were cancelled, library services in Louisville failed, those essential 911 calls in 3 states and dozens of cities failed because the blast took place in front of and heavily damaged an AT&T data and switching center. 

But, who knew?


AT&T for one, and if you want to blame them, and I do, blame them; but what about all of our emergency services officials? They SHOULD have known. Maybe city councils, maybe state officials, maybe the FCC & FEMA - maybe, maybe. But they do NOW!

So, what are THEY going to do about it?


What are YOU going to do about it? Maybe start with complaints, questions to your council member to install a system that does NOT depend on a fire, accident, storm, terrorism, or whatever, in a building hundreds of miles away. We do pay for these services whether to text, or play FreeCell, or depend upon 911 being there when WE call with OUR emergency.


And, oh yes, complain to your ISP. And not just you AT&T customers, T-Mobile was also affected, and I suspect more as officials delve into this strange blast in coming days. It isn't just AT&T's problem, though they need to be held to account, it's OUR problem, and just one more indication that global inter-connectivity, such as COVID-19 and climate problems, and Brexit, and terrorism, and modern life brings many unwanted, unsuspected problems along with benefits.


What "we don't know we don't know" has just bitten us in the butt, and it's long past time to do something about it.


Can ya hear me now?

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

First, Take No Bribe


450,000 Americans DEAD!

NO, that is NOT a VIRUS report; (though it may be if we don't behave ourselves.)

It's the number who have died from legal and illegal use of opioid drugs in recent years.

The figures came out of a federal court settlement this week against one of the main makers of such drugs, Purdue Pharma. The firm finally admitted to various criminal charges against it. One of which was bribing doctors, through "speakers fees" into prescribing more oxy than needed for more illnesses than needed.

But, just as it is against the law to offer a bribe, so is it against the law to solicit or accept one. Let's hope the US authorities will (1) go after the doctors who accepted these bribes, and (2) publish a list of who they are so all may know.

And local news media, especially in Kentucky so hard hit by opioid problems, should keep after the US until it does, filing FOI (Freedom of Information ) requests until they get this data. And doing lots of stories based on it.

450,00 victims, many Kentuckians, deserve no less.

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Such A Simple Thing


So, why has it taken our democracy so long, and yet, we have NOT achieved it?


Your vote is just as good as mine, no more, no less.


To make mine just as good as yours (no more, no less) I have to grant you the very same right.


One Tennessee vote equals one Kentucky vote.


One New York or California vote equals one Kentucky vote (no more, no less.)


One Louisville vote equals one Lexington vote, and so on.


But, that's not the way it is, and all because of the Electoral College.


Why is Kentucky a "flyover" state?


Because we only have 8 EC votes.


But if the President were elected by popular vote, as he or she should be, Kentucky's 3 million votes would mean something very different from our eight EC votes. And BOTH parties should realize this as a matter of practical politics.


Even if it weren't true that my vote and yours should be equal, as today they are not. The next legislature should start the ball rolling towards ending the EC, no matter who wins the election, for in 4 years it could be the "other" party who wins the popular vote, but loses the EC.


There is also an interstate compact around, which Kentucky should ratify, allowing for popular votes to be used, instead of EC votes in determining who is President. It's a new thought, maybe of dubious legality, but worth looking into, and far, far better than the present system where your vote means so much more than mine.


It isn't fair.


It isn't Democracy.


It isn't America.


I'm just sayin...

Tuesday, October 13, 2020



Years ago, when I was covering the West Virginia legislature (the 3rd of 6 I have covered,) I remember a debate on putting a constitutional amendment to the peoples' vote. What to call it on the printed ballot? The "Good Law Enforcement Amendment" its proponents said, and it may well have appeared that way. I remember much guffawing on the House floor over that because the real purpose was to lengthen the terms of county sheriffs, whose state association was behind it.


I cite this because the Ky. Supreme Court saw thru the last attempt to pull something like this in Kentucky with "Marsy's Law." Voters approved it in 2018 when it appeared on ballots as something that would have given guarantees of victim's rights in court proceedings. That was an emotional phrase, and clearly designed as such. It passed, but objections were raised and in a unanimous decision our state's high court overturned the vote; something courts very rarely do, saying the state constitution required not a "terse phrase' describing the amendment to be put on the ballot but the entire wording. If you read the involved, complex legalese the legislature adopted--and I did--you would have had second thoughts.  


Even more so, perhaps, when you realized, as the Herald-Leader pointed out recently, this was the result of a California billionaire, who lost a family member to crime, bank rolling the amendment in many states. That is his right, and it may not take away from its purpose if I point out, as the H-L did not, that the California backer is also a convicted felon himself---stock fraud, later dropped, and serious drug charges, where his money got him out of prison time in return for community service and $1M donated to treatment programs.


Be that as it may, my objection to the old 536 word amendment, now grown to 614 words, which I don't plan to read, is that this subject is NOT one to be in our constitution, the fundamental law of the commonwealth, but should be handled as are other justice system issues by regular statutory law, and as a matter of fact, Kentucky already has such a victims' rights law, passed in 1986. More should be done for victims, but this is not the way to do it.


Now to the "Good Law Enforcement" amendment...okay, Amendment 2, it seeks to require district judges, our lowest courts, to get more experience before they can run for the post. Good idea. But the carrot for this is that their four year term would be expanded to eight years. Same for county prosecutors. Backers say high court judges have eight year terms, and this would make matters uniform. Opponents, myself included, think eight years is too long before the people get a chance to vote on how the judge is doing. If you want to make them uniform, drop the higher courts to four, or maybe even six, but not 8.


So, may I recommend to you all, vote early, by mail  and vote "NO" on the amendments.


BTW, the legislature has decided to put just two amendments at a time before the voters. Here are the two they missed:


PRIMO---allowing the legislature to call itself into session. it will never be an equal partner to the Executive branch until ti has this power, as only the governor does now. Illogical.


SECUNDO--Eliminating the archaic anti-dueling oath from the constitution, the one that makes Ky. a laughing stock every four years. If we pull down some Civil War monument, why not end this provision which goes way, way, way back to before the Revolution! It has no place in a 21st century constitution. Neither do the new, verbose Marsy's law, or an attempt to give county politicians a free ride at our expense.


I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, September 16, 2020





What Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima were to my generation, 9/11 is to several current generations. But there needs to be context.


What bugs me  is first, the almost total lack of news reporting about the 75th anniversary of The Bomb and the end of WW2. OK, then what bugs me about 9/11 is the way Congress reacted--passing a law saying those airlines that carried the baddies could NOT be sued. This after both government agencies and many news reports showed how bad airline security was. Once again, Congress acted on behalf of Big Biz not individual citizens. Surprise!


Even today TSA and news reports still show such security is not what it should be. If The legacy airlines go under, good riddance. New, hopefully better ones, will arise.




As to the conventions and the campaign it seems to boil down to this: Trump wants to reopen the country, saying the need to get the economy rolling again takes precedence over virus fighting. Biden feels the nation must first tackle the virus before the economy can rise on a firm foundation and reopening things will make matters worse.


Logic and common sense favor Biden here.  Every time we reopen  cases spike, and people die...people who are customers as well as workers. We need to make customers and workers safe before anything else. That Maine wedding was a major case in point. Over one hundred people caught the virus from attending in, and seven died. But, NONE of the seven had attended the wedding!


In this connection I will say again that we asked much of the Greatest Generation; their lives among other things, and all we are asking of college students today is to wear masks and stay apart. They have NOT responded, at UK as elsewhere, and I am bitterly disappointed. I thought better of my fellow Kentuckians; I was wrong.


Parents, teachers, administrators, bar & restaurant owners,'s a tough world out there. But dying is a lot tougher than 30% capacity, or an early last call or virtual learning, or no fans in the stands. It's LIFE we are talking about. Gender reveal (another idiotic practice which caused one of the major California fires) and LIFE trumps (no pun intended) dying. Most of what our gov asks can be done without dying. Inconvenience, yes. Dying, No.


Let's get our priorities straight.


I'm just sayin'...