Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008's Most Valuable Progressives

The Nation's John Nichols has an intriguing list of the Year's Most Valuable Progressives.

Progressives had more to celebrate in 2008 than in any year since the Supreme Court got into the business of stealing elections. The jubilant mood is dampened, of course, by the fact of a country is stuck in two military quagmires, ravaged by the most fearsome economic downturn in at least a half century and suffering from a serious case of Constitutional degeneration. Perhaps we have not yet reached an ideal champagne moment. But there is still good reason to toast the year's MVPs – Most Valuable Progressives.

A couple of obvious picks, but several surprises, including some I am ashamed to say I never heard of, and one personal favorite (can you guess which?)

Read the whole thing.

What/who are your choices for Most Valuable Progressives of 2008? Tell us in comments, and include some overlooked local valuable progressives.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Welcome the New Year at a Kentucky State Park

If you haven't yet made plans for New Year's Eve, consider celebrating at one of Kentucky's State Resort Parks. If you live in Kentucky, you're less than 100 miles from a State Park New Year's Eve.

You can ring in 2009 at a number of Kentucky State Parks with New Year’s celebrations and parties.

Twelve state resort parks across Kentucky are having parties, dances and dinners on Dec. 31 to say goodbye to 2008 and welcome in a new year. The resorts have lodges, cottages, restaurants and other facilities and all will be offering overnight packages that include meals and a party, dance or show.

Click here for a listing of the parks and the New Year’s celebration details. For more information about these and other parks, visit

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What Bigots Don't Understand About What's Natural

Hilzoy has a great piece on the pope's latest bigotry-based rant about what's "natural."

More to the point: so what? Lots of things that we find immoral are widespread in nature. Spiders eat their mates, for instance, but that doesn't imply that it's OK for us. Lots of things we think are just fine are unknown in animals -- number theory, for instance, or blogging. If you want to argue about what we learn when we "listen to the language of creation", you need to explain how we distinguish it from, say, the language of prejudice. Does the fact that the purpose of eating seems to be nourishment imply that it is immoral to drink diet soda? Does the fact that we 'naturally' get around using our legs imply that we were wrong to invent the bicycle, or, for that matter, the wheelchair? Does the fact that we are born vulnerable to a whole host of diseases mean that we should not develop vaccines and cures?

Personally, I think that the idea of defining what's "natural" for human beings is generally confused. What's natural is often contrasted to what's cultural, but human beings are social animals. If anything is natural for human beings, it is being raised by other human beings, and learning things from them: if we tried to find out what's 'natural' for human beings by dropping an infant into an unpopulated wilderness, we'd have to conclude that what comes naturally to us is starvation.

One sign that someone is not so much as trying to listen to the voice of creation is getting obviously relevant facts about nature wrong, say by asserting that animals do not form homosexual relationships or change sex. Another is making claims about what's natural without any apparent awareness that someone might find his life unnatural -- say, if he had taken a vow of celibacy, and lectured other people about the unnaturalness of their sexual lives without any trace of irony.

Read the whole thing.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Friday, December 26, 2008

Not Too Late To Make A Difference This Year

That's it. I am sick and fucking tired of wingnut freakazoids getting credit for being "charitable" when all they're really doing is paying protection money to their churches, whose clergy use it to buy cocaine and secret abortions.

When a supposed liberal like Nick Kristof falls for the lie, it's gotten out of hand.

We liberals are personally stingy.

Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.

Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, "Who Really Cares," cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals. A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals.

Bullshit. Utter, complete, unadulterated bullshit.

Dig down into those studies and you'll find - oops!, sorry, not so much.

Rich people - conservative and liberal - tend to give money to education (private colleges they want to get their kinds into as legacies), museums/arts (fancy new wings named after the donors) and research (more personalized construction.)

Religious people of all persuasions give to their religious organizations, which spend the vast majority of that money on administrative salaries and building maintenance. Doubt it? Drive past Southland Christian Church in Lexington and tell me you think that fancy ten-building campus looks like a charitable organization.

Non-religious, non-rich conservatives don't give jack shit to anybody. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, bitch, and don't whine that you're barefoot!

Non-religious, non-rich liberals, granted, tend not to give much to charity, either, but here's the difference between them and their conservative counterparts: liberals make their contribution by pushing for pro-labor, pro-worker, pro-job, pro-family, pro-health care government policies that help large numbers of people in ways private charity simply cannot.

George H.W. Bush's ridiculous "Thousand Points of Light" was the perfect example. All the charities in the country together could not replace a single government program to help poor people, like even the minimal Food Stamp Program.

And if you think I'm making excuses for myself, here's my own charitable record: I give to what I consider real charities - those who help those who cannot help themselves. Local food banks, homeless shelters, drug rehab for single mothers, family planning, victims of war and disease. I have gradually increased the amount over the years, until last year I gave three percent of my gross income. This year, with so many in need, I jumped it to four percent. Not much, but finally more than the national average.

Don't get me wrong; I do it out of pure selfishness. My favorite part of the holidays is making the list of charities I will donate to, figuring the total amount I will donate, dividing it up among the charities (making sure everybody gets at least a little more than they got last year), and writing out each check. I like to send a holiday card with it, so the organization can tape the card up on the door to show off their donors.

They always send a letter of thanks. Yes, it's required by the IRS, but the local charities almost always add a little hand-written personal note.

It is absolutely the greatest feeling in the world to know that someone in need is getting a meal, a home, medicine because of you.

There aren't enough church recreation centers in the world to match that.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Celebrate 10 Days of Newton

It's 26 days until we inaugurate a President who genuinely values science, so let's begin the countdown by celebrating the 366th birthday of the scientist upon whose discoveries all our science and technology rest: Sir Isaac Newton.

In the New York Times, Olivia Judson explains the calendrical reasons why Newton needs 10 full days of celebration.

Some years ago, the evolutionist and atheist Richard Dawkins pointed out to me that Sir Isaac Newton, the founder of modern physics and mathematics, and arguably the greatest scientist of all time, was born on Christmas Day, and that therefore Newton's Birthday could be an alternative, if somewhat nerdy, excuse for a winter holiday ...

Yet things are not so simple. It turns out that the date of Newton's birthday is a little contentious. Newton was born in England on Christmas Day 1642 according to the Julian calendar — the calendar in use in England at the time. But by the 1640s, much of the rest of Europe was using the Gregorian calendar (the one in general use today); according to this calendar, Newton was born on Jan. 4, 1643.

Rather than bickering about whether Dec. 25 or Jan. 4 is the better date to observe Newton's Birthday, I think we should embrace the discrepancy and have an extended festival. After all, the festival of Christmas properly continues for a further 12 days, until the feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6. So the festival of Newton could begin on Christmas Day and then continue for an extra 10 days, representing the interval between the calendars.


Newton does not seem to have been a pleasant man. He feuded with several of his professional colleagues, most famously Robert Hooke and Gottfried Willhelm Leibniz; he was reclusive and secretive and seems to have formed few lasting friendships. But he was also a genius, and his work laid the foundations of our modern understanding of the world. He is a man to celebrate.

In honor of Newton's Birthday festival, I therefore propose the following song, to be sung to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." For brevity, I include only the final verse. All together now!

On the tenth day of Newton,
My true love gave to me,
Ten drops of genius,
Nine silver co-oins,
Eight circling planets,
Seven shades of li-ight,
Six counterfeiters,
Four telescopes,
Three Laws of Motion,
Two awful feuds,
And the discovery of gravity!
Happy Newton, everybody!

Merry Newton!

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Number 77

Marine Lance Corporal Thomas Reilly Jr., 19, of London, Kentucky, died in Anbar province, Iraq, four days before Christmas, and the day before he became an uncle.

Reilly is remembered in his hometown paper:

The 19-year-old lance corporal — who had considered entering culinary school after his military service — was killed in combat Sunday while serving in Iraq.

Mary King, Reilly's former teacher and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America advisor, said she kept in contact with her former student after he had been deployed to Iraq over the summer.


King said Reilly's mother, Georgina Bray of London, was given the news of her son's death at the hospital in Harlan, where her daughter Regina had just given birth.


"I had talked to him just a few days ago, and I just had mailed a card on Saturday and I got this news Monday," King said. "He was killed Sunday, 10 p.m. our time."

King said Reilly's mother had signed for him to become a recruit at age 17. Reilly graduated from South Laurel High School in May 2007, and from boot camp last October. He had been stationed in Hawaii and was deployed to Iraq in July.

"That's just what he wanted to do," King said. "He saw that (the Marines) as a place he could excel and be a leader and be someone who could be in charge and move on up in the ranks."

At South Laurel High School, Reilly showed his potential to lead as an office holder in both the local and regional chapters of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, a national organization for students in Family and Consumer Sciences education, formerly known as home economics.

"He took the lead in things like that," King said. "His senior year he was a teacher's aide for me. He was very reliable.

"He was very interested and had a talent in culinary," King added. "He could decorate cakes really well... He was interested in maybe doing a culinary school at some point."

Carol Eicher, a former FCCLA advisor at South Laurel, said Reilly was a wonderful student and that club members had continued to write to him after he was stationed in Iraq. Reilly also came by the high school to say goodbye to teachers and friends before his deployment — something Eicher said he was very proud about.

"He had his dress blues on, and I gave him a big hug and I said 'please be safe,'" Eicher recalled. "...He just looked so handsome."

No, President-Elect Obama; 16 months is not remotely close to fast enough. 16 days is far, far too slow.

"A Season of Giving; A Sense of Common Purpose"

Here's your Holiday Miracle: the President-Elect's Christmas Eve address expresses the true meaning of the season without a single mention of baby jesus, wise men, stars in the east, mangers or even "god."

Take that, Rick Warren!

That is why this season of giving should also be a time to renew a sense of common purpose and shared citizenship. Now, more than ever, we must rededicate ourselves to the notion that we share a common destiny as Americans – that I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper. Now, we must all do our part to serve one another; to seek new ideas and new innovation; and to start a new chapter for our great country.

That is the spirit that will guide my Administration in the New Year. If the American people come together and put their shoulder to the wheel of history, then I know that we can put our people back to work and point our country in a new direction. That is how we will see ourselves through this time of crisis, and reach the promise of a brighter day.

After all, that is what Americans have always done.

Click here for the video and full text.

Harnessing the Power

The Obama campaign is still and again dunning its supporters for donations.

Donations to charity.

This holiday season, the grassroots movement you helped build can make a big difference for those in need.

I hope you will join me in supporting your favorite charity or contributing to causes that are especially meaningful to me and my family.

While many of us will spend the holidays counting our blessings and sharing dinner with loved ones, millions of people around the country won't be so fortunate. Donating to your local food bank will help provide a holiday meal to people in your community who can't afford one.

Talking with the families of deployed troops was one of the most rewarding experiences I had during the campaign. Giving to Operation USO Care Package is a great way to send members of our military stationed around the world a reminder that someone back home is thinking of them.

This is a time to celebrate our blessings, the new year, and a new era for our country. But it's also a time to come together on behalf of those who need our help.

Do what you can to help today by locating your local food bank and giving your support:

Or send a care package to an American in uniform:

Thank you for all that you do and have a very happy holiday season,


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Eco-Devo Plays While Frankfort Burns

The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development has never, to my mind, justified its existence. OK, maybe during boom times it's cool to a have few people to schmooze corporate execs into doing business in and with Kentucky.

But it's a luxury, like steak dinners at expensive restaurants. It's the first thing you cut out of the budget in lean times.

So why is Eco-Devo just now launching what is obviously an extremely expensive glossy magazine aimed at CEOs who these days rather than seeking new opportunites are probably perusing the small print of their life insurance politices for suicide exclusions?

The Kentucky Economic Development Guide will be a vibrant, newsstand-quality magazine that showcases the best of Kentucky through its people, places and progressive business climate. With all new, original photography and editorial features, the 2009 edition will focus on specific areas of business and economic development; education; industrial, commercial and land offerings; sports and recreation; healthcare and quality of life.

The cost of printing slick, full-color publications like this run into the hundreds of dollars per copy. Times the hundreds of copies they'll print, you're looking at a good half-million bucks.

How many social workers' jobs would $500,000 save? How many foster care beds? How many mine safety inspections?

I'm not familiar with the details of Eco-Devo's plan to cut its budget by 4 percent to help the state bridge a $456 million revenue gap, but if this magazine is an example of an essential service that must be saved, I can't imagine what kind of ludicrous, horrifically wasteful crap got cut.

Or didn't.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Celebrate HumanLight Day

Yes, it's arbitrarily assigned to a date in early winter, but why not? So's everything else.

Human beings naturally feel the urge to celebrate the time when the shortening days finally begin to lengthen and life returns with the sun.

So call it HumanLight Day: Celebrating Humanity, Reason and Hope.

HumanLight illuminates Humanism's positive secular vision in late December.

In Western societies, late December is a season of good cheer and a time for gatherings of friends and families ... This tradition of celebrations, however, is grounded in supernatural religious beliefs that many people in modern society cannot accept.

HumanLight presents an alternative reason to celebrate: a Humanist's vision of a good future. It is a future in which all people can identify with each other, behave with the highest moral standards, and work together toward a happy, just and peaceful world.

It is a vision that we not only wish to celebrate, but which we also wish to communicate to our children, families and friends. We want the people important to us to understand the ideals that we hold most dear to our hearts and, in so doing, to have a fuller understanding of who we are as people.

Similarly, the celebration of HumanLight promises to give humanism a larger presence in the public view. It is an event that draws attention, often attracting reporters as well. Through the publicity that HumanLight generates, we can reach people who, because they cannot accept supernatural explanations or religious guidelines for living, feel alone and isolated in our society, unaware of the humanist organizations, events and publications that are available to them.

It is also important to us that people who are not Humanists know that we exist, that their society includes honest, generous, productive people who do not believe in gods or religions.

HumanLight encourages us to have fun enjoying music, art, food, and each other's company. It also gives us an opportunity to convey that although we don't believe in the supernatural, we do believe in the growth and betterment of all people through reason, science, empathy, joy, optimism and moral excellence. It is a message we present in kindness, at a moment when we come together not to engage in debate but to make both emotional and intellectual contact in a positive and constructive atmosphere.

Personally, I'd like to start a tradition of gathering those who have used superstitious religious beliefs to abuse, attack and murder others, and executing them by slow torture. But feel free to celebrate HumanLight Day as you see fit.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Backwards Priorities

Two stories out of Frankfort this weekend perfectly illustrate how state government has its head up its ass on deciding what to preserve and what to destroy.

Franklin County is about to destroy a historic building to satisfy a state program to build giant ugly monuments to our lack of justice.

The church and its adjacent Good Shepherd School sit on Wapping Street in historic downtown Frankfort, just around the corner from the county courthouse that judges and officials say they outgrew long ago. The church, with its distinctive steeple, has been a signature of Frankfort's modest skyline and a keystone building in the historic district near the Kentucky River.

The steeple is depicted in several works of 19th-century artist Paul Sawyier, who lived in Frankfort.

And as Governor Beshear prepares to dismantle state services in the face of a depression, his second-biggest cabinet is proudly maintaining the tradition of creating unnecessary jobs for political cronies.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services created a $63,000 job earlier this year for a woman who had dated a key lawmaker who helps oversee the cabinet.

The political appointment was made in June, at a time when many front-line positions that serve the state’s most vulnerable citizens remained vacant.

It's bad enough that the state's personnel laws and regulations institutionalize seniority, requiring the dismissal of newer staff, no matter how exceptional, to keep staff who have been around longer, no matter how borderline.

But spending a week crying to the press about having to cut services while adding management layers takes arrogant malfeasance to a new level.

And where are all those downtown Frankfort business owners who bitch and whine nonstop about how nobody visits downtown? Do they really think yet another concrete eyesore full of accused criminals and their lawyers is more business-friendly than a historic church that draws tourists?

This budget crisis is an opportunity to examine our priorities and figure out what's really important to save and what's even more important to destroy.

Keep the church; dump the deputy.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"The search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us"

Via Blue Girl, Obama's weekly address.

Read the transcript here.

Person of the Quadrennium

Almost four years ago, on a freezing January night, more than 400 Kentucky Democrats overflowed a meeting room in downtown Lexington to listen to the most infamous losing presidential candidate in a generation.

Howard "The Scream" Dean electrified the crowd that night. With the state and national Democratic parties flat on their backs after the 2004 electoral defeat, the pugnacious ex-governor was rarin' for a fight.

Make me your national chair, he told the crowd, and I'll rebuild the grassroots state parties that made the Democratic Party dominant for 50 years. I'll support candidates who are proud Democrats, and I'll make sure your voice is heard.

It may take a generation, he warned, but we will rebuild a national party. No one, not even Dean himself, would have bet a nickel he'd do it - albeit with the help of a once-in-a-century candidate - in just four years.

Ari Berman in The Nation tells how he did it, and why we owe Howard everything.

It's a week after the election and Howard Dean is speaking at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, giving an unusually full-throated argument for Democratic Party organizing in Oklahoma, the only state where John McCain beat Barack Obama in every single county. "I don't know when we're going to win Oklahoma, but we have a Democratic governor from Oklahoma, we have a Democratic Congressman from Oklahoma and what we need to do is go to Oklahoma, show up and explain ourselves in terms of the values that Oklahomans hold." Those values, Dean argued, aren't so different from those of New York City or anywhere else commonly thought of as Democratic territory. It just so happens that Oklahoma's aforementioned governor, Brad Henry, had given Dean a pair of cowboy boots, which he wore, to somewhat hilarious effect, throughout the Democratic convention in Denver.

The former Vermont governor and chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has become an unlikely advocate for Democrats across the country, particularly in so-called red America. His passion for showing up in unexpected locales is not based on wishful thinking or stubborn naivete but rather political necessity. Dean's favorite quote, which he repeats over and over, is Louis Pasteur's "Chance favors the prepared mind." The way he sees it, you never know when any state, even the Sooner State, might get a jolt of blue. After all, just look at what happened in 2006, when Democrats flipped both houses of Congress. Or this past November, when Barack Obama won Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia, along with three previously red Western states, and the party picked up Congressional seats in places like Alabama, Alaska, Idaho and Mississippi.

It almost feels like ancient history, but "four years ago the Democratic Party was in a very different condition," Doctor Dean says at the beginning of his talk at the Y. Republicans had just retained the White House, gained four seats in the Senate and three in the House, and held twenty-eight governorships. Bill Frist was Senate majority leader, Dennis Hastert was House Speaker, George Bush's approval rating was at a healthy 50 percent and Karl Rove planned a "permanent Republican majority." It was "not a fun time to be a Democrat," Dean cracks.

How quickly things change. Four years later Democrats elected Obama with 67 million votes. They picked up seven seats in the Senate (with Minnesota still pending at press time)and twenty-one in the House, and they hold sixty of ninety-nine state legislative chambers. Obama's extraordinary campaign and Bush's remarkable mishandling of the country's domestic and foreign policies deserve much of the credit for the Democratic Party's resurgence, but so does Howard Dean. Before virtually any major politician, Dean not only sensed that the era of Republican ascendancy could be stopped but also how to do it, first through his trailblazing though unsuccessful presidential campaign of 2004, and then through his forceful stewardship of the party as DNC chair since 2005.

"Dean gave the party a mission and a focus," says Paul Tewes, a top Obama strategist who ran day-to-day operations at the DNC during the general election. "That's a big deal when you're out of power." DNC member Donna Brazile calls Dean "one of the unsung heroes of this moment."

Dean's work is far from done, especially right here in Kentucky, but he's created a foundation on which we can build if we stay true to Democratic values and stop running fake Democrats like David Boswell.

Read the whole thing.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Real Katrina Criminals: Vigilantes

A.C. Thompson and The Nation document yet another ignored post-Katrina outrage.

There was criminal violence in New Orleans after Katrina, all right, but it wasn't perpetrated by gang members, looters or the black underclass blamed by even Mayor Ray Nagin.

No, the worst violence, including cold-blooded murder, was committed by white vigilantes, who used the evacuation of poor blacks from flooded areas as an opportunity for some ethnic cleansing.

Over the course of an eighteen-month investigation, I tracked down figures on all sides of the gunfire, speaking with the shooters of Algiers Point, gunshot survivors and those who witnessed the bloodshed. I interviewed police officers, forensic pathologists, firefighters, historians, medical doctors and private citizens, and studied more than 800 autopsies and piles of state death records. What emerged was a disturbing picture of New Orleans in the days after the storm, when the city fractured along racial fault lines as its government collapsed.

Herrington, Collins and Alexander's experience fits into a broader pattern of violence in which, evidence indicates, at least eleven people were shot. In each case the targets were African-American men, while the shooters, it appears, were all white.

The new information should reframe our understanding of the catastrophe. Immediately after the storm, the media portrayed African-Americans as looters and thugs--Mayor Ray Nagin, for example, told Oprah Winfrey that "hundreds of gang members" were marauding through the Superdome. Now it's clear that some of the most serious crimes committed during that time were the work of gun-toting white males.

So far, their crimes have gone unpunished. No one was ever arrested for shooting Herrington, Alexander and Collins--in fact, there was never an investigation. I found this story repeated over and over during my days in New Orleans. As a reporter who has spent more than a decade covering crime, I was startled to meet so many people with so much detailed information about potentially serious offenses, none of whom had ever been interviewed by police detectives.


Some of the gunmen prowling Algiers Point were out to wage a race war, says one woman whose uncle and two cousins joined the cause. A former New Orleanian, this source spoke to me anonymously because she fears her relatives could be prosecuted for their crimes. "My uncle was very excited that it was a free-for-all--white against black--that he could participate in," says the woman. "For him, the opportunity to hunt black people was a joy."

"They didn't want any of the 'ghetto niggers' coming over" from the east side of the river, she says, adding that her relatives viewed African-Americans who wandered into Algiers Point as "fair game." One of her cousins, a young man in his 20s, sent an e-mail to her and several other family members describing his adventures with the militia. He had attached a photo in which he posed next to an African-American man who'd been fatally shot. The tone of the e-mail, she says, was "gleeful"--her cousin was happy that "they were shooting niggers."

Read the whole thing.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

If You Must Buy Stuff, Buy Kentucky Stuff

The best gift this holiday is a gift to charity, but if you must buy stuff, buy Kentucky.

December is "Give a Gift Made in Kentucky Month." Find a list of stores carrying Kentucky-made gifts here.

You can't go wrong with genuine Kentucky bourbon, but there are other Kentucky-made comestibles under the Kentucky Proud label that make great gifts.

“Kentucky Proud products are made with care in Kentucky by Kentuckians,” Commissioner Farmer said. “When you buy Kentucky Proud for the holidays, your loved ones will find what you already know – nothing else comes close.”

The Kentucky Proud search engine is a free, easy-to-use way to start off your holiday shopping. The search engine enables consumers to search through about 1,300 Kentucky Proud members selling more than 18,000 products.

From the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Web site,, go to the “KY Proud” pull-down menu on the top right side of the home page. Click on “Find KY Proud Producers” and enter any combination of the company name, the county and the city to find Kentucky Proud producers. Or click on “Find KY Proud Products,” select one or more product categories and then select one or more product names. You can narrow your search to a specific county or city, or search for all products in a county or city.

Honor Abraham Lincoln's Bicentennial and save 20 percent on official merchandise fro the Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

Visit the KALBC online store and commemorate the Lincoln Bicentennial in style. Make your purchase before December 31, and receive 20 percent off a wide a wide variety of merchandise, including t-shirts and fleece jackets. Stocking stuffers, like Kentucky Lincoln Bicentennial golf balls, magnets, and coffee mugs, are also available. Visit and click the t-shirt image on the right to make your purchase today!

The two-hundredth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth is February 12, 2009. Don’t miss this opportunity to purchase these items and showcase your pride in the commonwealth’s most celebrated native son, just in time for the Bicentennial. Order your official Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission merchandise today!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What You Should Know About Rick Warren

Whether you think Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inaugural is a stroke of genius or a fatal mistake, it's important to make sure we know who Rick Warren is.

Warren vocally opposes gay marriage, does not believe in evolution, has compared abortion to the Holocaust and backed the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Warren has done a masterful job at marketing himself as a "new" kind of evangelical with a "broader agenda" than just fighting abortion rights and gay marriage. He dispatches members of his congregation to Africa to perform AIDS relief and has positioned himself as a great crusader for bringing his "purpose-driven" pabulum to the world.

Beneath the sheep's clothing lurks a culture warrior wolf. After the Saddleback forum, he told the Wall Street Journal that the only difference between him and James Dobson was that of "tone." After insisting that his agenda was "broad," and holding himself out as an impartial arbiter of the forum, he declared that voting for a "Holocaust denier" (i.e., someone who is pro-choice) is a "deal-breaker" for many evangelicals. Obama was pressured to talk about "abortion reduction," but Warren likens such rhetoric likening it to Schindler's List: an attempt to save some lives but not end a "holocaust."

In the world of the "broader agenda" evangelicals, when liberals advocate for gay marriage, they're stoking the culture wars; when a "broader agenda" evangelical crusades against it, he's merely upholding biblical standards. In that tradition, Warren in October implored his followers to vote for Proposition 8 because "there are about 2 percent of Americans are homosexual, gay, lesbian people. We should not let 2 percent of the population...change a definition of marriage that has been supported by every single culture and every single religion for 5,000 years." Warren called opposition to gay marriage a "humanitarian issue" because "God created marriage for the purpose of family, love and procreation."

Warren, a creationist, believes that homosexuality disproves evolution; he told CNN's Larry King in 2005, "If Darwin was right, which is survival of the fittest then homosexuality would be a recessive gene because it doesn't reproduce and you would think that over thousands of years that homosexuality would work itself out of the gene pool."

Warren protests that he's not a homophobe; it's just that two dudes marrying, in his mind, is indistinguishable from an adult marrying a child, a brother marrying his sister, or polygamy. He thinks his AIDS relief efforts represent an elevated form of Christianity over those non-evangelical do-gooders whom he compares to "Marxists" because they're more interested in good works than salvation. The rejection of the "social justice" gospel in favor of the salvation-focused evangelicalism that has come to dominate the definition of "Christian" lies at the heart of the religious right agenda to marginalize liberalism and harness its political power.

Warren represents the absolute worst of the Democrats' religious outreach, a right-winger masquerading as a do-gooder anointed as the arbiter of what it means to be faithful. Obama's religious outreach was intended, supposedly, to make religious voters more comfortable with him and feel included in the Democratic Party. But that outreach now has come at the expense of other people's comfort and inclusion, at an event meant to mark a turning point away from divisive politics.

Cross-posted at Blue in the Bluegrass.

A Song to Sing Until Inauguration

Before Smirky/Darth and the other war criminals and traitors slink off into the night, let's listen again to the incomparable John Prine's "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Any More."

Budget Desperation is the Mother of Inventive Tax Strategies

Kentucky agencies continue to list the draconian cuts to basic services looming even if the General Assembly approves Governor Beshear's budget "plan," not to mention the catastrophic shutdowns if we don't get any new revenue.

In California, Democratic legislators have figured out a way around republican refusal to raise taxes to resolve a $40 billion budget deficit.

But it takes a two-thirds vote to pass a budget or raise taxes in California, and California Republicans flatly refuse to raise taxes in any way, shape, or form. Result: deadlock.

Today, though, Democrats in Sacramento came up with a plan. It turns out that revenue-neutral tax changes only require a majority vote. And user fees only require a majority vote too. So Dems have proposed a two-step tap dance. First, raise a bunch of taxes and eliminate a bunch of fees in a revenue neutral way. Pass it with a majority vote. Then put all the fees back in place under a different name and kick them up a notch. Pass that with a majority vote too. Voila! A tax increase with only a majority vote. Toss in $7 billion in spending cuts (schools, healthcare, etc. — the usual) and we're halfway down the road to fiscal solvency!

It's probably unconstitutional, and it wouldn't help Kentucky's problem of a repug-majority Senate under David Williams' evil control, but that's not the point.

The point is that in some states, Democratic legislators don't hide under their desks and cry when repugs go "Boo!"

Kentucky used to be one of those states.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And So It Begins

Chrysler is closing every single one of its 30 manufacturing plants until at least January 19.

GM, Toyota and Honda are also cutting production.

Is this how it seemed, those first months after Black Friday in September '29? A roller-coaster of bad-news panic, alleviated by reassurances from Those In Charge, followed by more bad news, followed by promises of a quick fix, followed by more bad news .... each short rise out of each ever-deeper trough accompanied by hope that this time, really, somebody will do something?

If Obama really does sign a massive emergency economic recovery bill at one minute after noon on January 20, will it be too late?

Tax Argument Ammunition

As the repugs gear up to try to shoot down every single Obama administration initiative, including Mother's Day proclamations, it's not too early to start stockpiling defensive ammunition in the form of evidence that everything republicans favor is ugly, fattening, cancer-causing, generally evil and kills puppies.

Let's start with Chart Master Kevin Drum's latest: proof that on taxes, rich people are getting away with murder.

The top 400 taxpayers, a group so rich and elite that I'd need scientific notation to properly represent their proportion of the population, have doubled their share of income in the past decade or two but have decreased their tax burden by nearly half. Nice work! As you can see, Warren Buffett wasn't exaggerating when he said his secretary paid a higher tax rate than he does. If she pays more than 18% — not exactly a tough hurdle when you figure that payroll taxes already account for about 8% of that — she probably does.

Peep the chart, but be prepared to puke.

Don't Look to Dr. Dan to Take Senate Seat for Dems

Let's deconstruct The Hill's reality-avoiding piece on Kentucky's 2010 Senate race.

Four years after coming a whisker away from scoring the upset of the cycle, Kentucky Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo (D) is contemplating a rematch against Sen. Jim Bunning (R).

Mongiardo ran surprisingly close to Bunning in 2004, leading on Election night in a Republican-friendly year in a Republican-heavy state with still-popular President Bush atop the ticket. In the end, Bunning pulled out a narrow 23,000-vote victory for a second term, but the tightness of the contest put a target squarely on the Republican's back.

Given the overwhelming evidence that year of Bunning's dementia, Mongiardo should have won in a landslide. That Dr. Dan actually managed to lose to a senile incompetent who is the laughing-stock of Kentucky politics is proof of Mongiardo's weakness.

"I got involved in politics out of frustration for where healthcare was headed. And that will largely determine what I do and where I go," Mongiardo said. "It's interesting how the stars are lining up right now with [President-elect] Obama and the incoming administration talking about reforming healthcare."

Check a calendar. Obama will be signing healthcare reform by spring - a good 18 months before the 2010 election. Is Mongiardo planning to run against Obama's healthcare reform?

In Mongiardo's view, Bunning's standing in the state has changed little since the last election, largely because the Kentucky Republican has stayed out of the spotlight.

"In the end, people in the state of Kentucky are going to see there are two types of politicians: Those that do no harm, and he's been one of those, and those that do something, whether it's harmful or beneficial," Mongiardo said of Bunning. "Much to his credit, he hasn't done anything to harm the state."

No, Bunning's not doing much - other than vote constantly to support Smirky/Darth-McConnell policies that eliminate Kentucky jobs and foreclose Kentucky homes and deny health care to sick Kentuckians and send Kentucky's young people to Iraq to die. Apparently that doesn't bother Mongiardo much.

After his close call in 2004, Mongiardo won election as lieutenant governor alongside Gov. Steve Beshear (D). Mongiardo said he has discussed the possibility of running for Senate with Beshear, though he has yet to talk with incoming Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.).
Menendez's involvement in the race could be crucial to avoiding a nasty primary. In addition to Mongiardo, Attorney General Jack Conway (D) and Auditor Crit Luallen (D) have been mentioned as possible candidates. All three have won statewide elections, though Mongiardo stresses the eventual nominee will need to concentrate on fundraising.

Oh, yeah, getting the head of the NSCC to force out the best candidate in favor of an establishment DINO worked like a charm this year - we won't soon forget Bruce Lunsford's world-shaking victory over Mitch McConnell.)

"About the only thing I would change [from the 2004 race] is the ability to fundraise. In Kentucky, it's just very difficult to raise the money inside the borders of the state," Mongiardo said. "We're just not a very wealthy state."

Hey, Dan - guess who some of the biggest and richest Democratic fundraisers are? Gays. You know, the same homos you permanently antagonized in 2004 by sponsoring Kentucky's constitutional amendment promoting gay hatred.

Democrat Dan Mongiardo earned the everlasting enmity of thousands of Kentucky Democrats in 2004 when he sponsored the anti-gay marriage amendment to the Kentucky Constitution. Keep in mind he did so months AFTER his fellow Democratic Senator Ernesto Scorsone had come out as gay.

As Page One Kentucky put it:

Known homophobe and gay panicked (beyond Senate Bill 245, pressuring legislators to sign pledges that they would never support gay marriage but that they, themselves, are not gay) Lt. Governor Daniel Mongiardo did an interview with The Hill today.


We’re wondering: If you get into politics in an attempt to save health care, why the heck meddle with gay-hating? And why continually press the issue?

The 2010 Democratic primary for Bunning's Senate seat is going to be crowded. In addition to Mongiardo and Conway (no, Crit Luallen is not going to run), Jimbo's vulnerability is going to draw every bored Democrat in the state. It's even possible that 2009's economic catastrophe will reveal a candidate stronger than Conway.

But Dan Mongiardo isn't it.

Cross-posted at Watching Those We Chose.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Betcha My State is More Corrupt Than Your State

Illinois - feh.

By the New York Times' calculation of corrupt officials per capita, the Lincoln-Wasn't-Born-Here state doesn't even make the top 20.

Kentucky, however, where our Greatest President was born, ranks Number 9, ahead of such big-mouthed pretenders as Florida (14), New Jersey (15), and New York (23).

Top of the list? The District of Columbia, which is not fair because the district must have the highest concentration of government officials as a percentage of the population.

Alaska (5), Louisiana (6) and Mississippi (7) are logical suspects to edge out Kentucky, but what's the deal with North Dakota (4) and neighbor Montana (8)? Long-winter-boredom corruption?

And Nebraska (54)? You're just not trying.

Check out the full list.

h/t Page One Kentucky.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Beshear Goes Begging

Kentucky's only governor has come up with a backup emergency budget plan in case his original plan to wait for $500 billion to fall out of the sky doesn't pan out. Plan B is:

beg the Commonwealth's private foundations to cover his ass.

Recognizing the need to find innovative solutions to Kentucky’s challenges, Gov. Steve Beshear today signed an Executive Order creating the Kentucky Commission on Philanthropy.

The governor is asking private philanthropic foundations to come together to address the funding needs of Kentucky’s public priorities. He has encouraged the group to plan and implement a strategic partnership, aligning public and private resources to collectively focus on the state’s most challenging issues.

Perhaps not unexpectedly for someone who spent the last 20 years working as a private lawyer and lobbyist for banks, legal loan sharks and other creepy-crawlies from the slimy uderbelly of Wall Street, Beshear completely misunderstands the nature of charitable foundations.

The reason there are more than 850 separate foundations in Kentucky is because they have more than 850 separate and incompatible ideas about how and upon whom to bestow charitable funds. Expecting them to agree on a single priority - particularly one dictated by a governor at least half of them think is a dangerous idiot - is criminally delusional.

Beshear, of course, is honoring an ancient political tradition: when in deep shit, form a Commission. This one "as part of its mission, will hold a Summit on Philanthropy in June 2009."

Of course it will. At the most expensive convention center it can find in Kentucky - foundation directors don't do state parks. Hundreds of state employees will attend - eat, drink and get merry, that is - at state expense. Foundation directors don't do rubber chicken dinners, cheese-and-cracker appetizers or cash bars, either.

Back up a sec - "part of its mission?" To throw a convention? And June 2009? Whew - good thing "the state’s most challenging issues" are in such good shape they can wait six months for their savior Commission on Philanthropy to hold its Summit on Philanthropy and start discussing how to begin planning ways they can figure out how to cooperate on developing a schedule to hold meetings on choosing a venue for the 2010 Summit.

Listen: Successful charitable foundations are successful because they have found a charitable niche to fill. They do what the government can't or won't do. To ask them to take on the government's responsibility, too, is not "cooperation;" it's abdication.

It's the responsibility of state government to provide items of general and public good: law enforcement, transportation infrastructure, health care, economic development, and protecting the vulnerable young, elderly and disabled. It's the responsibility of the governor to propose a budget that includes taxes sufficient to support the cost of fulfilling those state government responsibilities.

Stop fucking around, Steve. Tell David Williams and his repug senate minions they either suck it up and pass some real revenue bills or they can write a personal check for the whole nut.

Here's an idea for the rest of us: write your state representatives and senators and suggest they vote in favor of Beshear's cigarette tax - on one condition: that he disband his ridiculous Commission on Philanthropy.

Check out the list of the twenty-eight - more than two dozen - members of the governor's Commission on Philanthropy.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Losing Your Job? Thank Mitch McConnell

(UPDATE, 6:21 a.m.:Countdown has the incriminating memo.)

Let it be carved in stone in a prominent political spot that when the fate of the nation's economy lay in the hands of Senator Mitchell McConnell, he stood before Congress and told Kentucky's 82,000 auto workers and their families to fuck off and die.

Let it be written, also, that he did it not out of principle, not out of a belief that killing the auto industry would help the economy in the long term, not even out of personal animus against Kentuckians who each work harder every day than little mitchie has worked in his entire worthless life.

No, he did it because he'd rather bring on another Great Depression than miss an opportunity to destroy America's unions.

Kevin Drum identifies the idiocy of Senate republicans scuttling an economy-saving bill over a meaningless 18 months.

Apparently Democrats and the UAW had agreed to deep wage cuts and work rule changes, but it still wasn't enough:
The automakers would [] have been required to cut wages and benefits to match the average hourly wage and benefits of Nissan, Toyota and Honda employees based in the United States, and the companies would have to impose equivalent work rules.
It was over this proposal that the talks ultimately deadlocked with Republicans demanding that the automakers meet that goal by a certain date in 2009 and Democrats and the union urging that the deadline wait until 2011 when the U.A.W. contract expires.

This is nuts. If you're just flatly against the bailout, fine. Vote against it. But if the wage cuts, along with the debt-for-equity swap that was also part of the bill, were enough to bring you around, why would you cavil at the cuts happening in 2011 instead of the end of 2009? It's only about an 18 month difference, and cutting wages makes a lot more sense in 2011 than it does in the middle of a massive recession anyway.

Another shining moment in the history of the modern GOP. Ideology uber alles.

Precisely. Repugs don't care about preventing a depression, or improving the U.S. auto industry, or even shrinking big government. They care about three things:

  1. Destroying the only means ordinary Americans have of achieving decent wages and benefits: unions,
  2. Ass-fucking the Democrats every chance they get, and
  3. Making it impossible for President Obama to fix the catastrophe Smirky/Darth and Mitchie created.

Republicans have been trying to eliminate unions from the U.S. economy for more than 70 years, ever since FDR legalized collective bargaining. It's no secret why: unions are the only thing standing between corporations and the feudal economy of slave labor they enjoyed a century ago.

Unions are the only reason we have an 8-hour workday, a five-day workweek, workplace conditions that are slightly less than lethal, bans on child labor, wages that permit workers to put food on the table and benefits that allow a decent family life.

All of those union achievements are anathema to corporations and their republican lackeys. So, as the Nation documents, they are more than willing to sacrifice the heart of American manufacturing on the altar of anti-unionism.

Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University, notes that one of the ugliest aspects of the continued debate over the Big Three has been a virulent, thinly cloaked antiworker narrative.

Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson recently wrote that a GM bankruptcy could serve as a reminder to all of the "social costs of...overpriced unionized labor." He and other finger-wagging pundits, politicians and free-market adherents have blamed unionized workers (with their solid wages and benefits) for their complicity in the crisis GM is facing.

These arguments falsely vilify working people and stem from a superficial understanding of the modern automotive industry. Historically, the auto industry has provided good middle-class jobs that have come with high wages, impressive healthcare and pension benefits packages, disability and overtime pay--the kinds of jobs that are in too short supply in today's economy.

But in recent decades, much of GM's manufacturing has been moved to nonunion parts plants in the South, allowing the company to drive down labor costs by avoiding United Auto Workers strongholds in the industrial Midwest. This, coupled with last year's agreement by the UAW to swallow concessions on a two-tiered pay scale, has dramatically lowered labor costs for GM. The UAW has also agreed to take over retiree health costs in 2010. These concessions--opposed by many union members for creating a divided workforce--have allowed GM to close the labor cost gap significantly with foreign manufacturers like Toyota. Analysts estimate that the 2007 agreement has saved GM $500 million in labor costs since its signing, and the company is set to save $4 billion annually starting in 2010.

The more unions make wage and benefit concessions in an understanding that by helping the companies they are saving themselves, the more republicans attack them for being "anti-business."

And the more frantic they are now to destroy the unions before January 20, because President-elect Obama is the most pro-union president since FDR.

In the Nation, John Nichols explains why:

Before there was talk of a "transformational presidency," Barack Obama needed a transformational moment. It came in February at a sprawling General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, where the Illinois senator--trailed by a press corps skeptical about his ability to appeal to white union members--electrified thousands of autoworkers with a populist promise of infrastructure investment, new trade policies and a future for American manufacturing.

His pre-Wisconsin primary vow to defend auto plants offered a lifeline to workers who knew that their industry--battered by years of bad CEO decisions, shortsighted federal energy policies and dysfunctional trade deals--was teetering on the brink of the disaster that unfolded as the year progressed. Days after Obama spoke to them, the autoworkers of Janesville voted in overwhelming numbers to make him the Democratic presidential nominee. It was a critical moment for the candidate, one that he would refer to repeatedly as the campaign progressed toward the November 4 election. Obama and his aides, taking counsel from Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, had picked the right room in the house of labor in which to make their move.

Seventy-three years earlier, United Auto Workers Federal Labor Union No. 19324 met near the plant where Obama spoke, forming a piece of the quilt of local unions that would become the nation's most powerful industrial organization. Today Janesville's UAW members, like their more than 1 million brothers and sisters nationwide, are members of a union that has for decades pushed the labor movement, the Democratic Party and the government to cross lines of racial and regional division in pursuit of social justice, sound yet humane economic principles and international solidarity

It was the UAW that fought for national healthcare and pensions and, when those policy initiatives were blocked by reactionary Congresses, forced corporate America to create a social safety net for workers and retirees that would form the model for union and nonunion workplaces across the country.

It was the UAW that fought government- and corporate-sanctioned racial discrimination, integrating Southern factories, supporting the 1963 March on Washington and bailing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. out of jail in Alabama.

It was the UAW that withdrew from the AFL-CIO in the 1960s and '70s rather than take labor's big right turn; the UAW that opposed the Vietnam War; set up a research department that studied the cost of bloated military budgets to domestic progress; opposed apartheid in South Africa with such passion that when Nelson Mandela toured the United States after his release from prison, he insisted on celebrating with Dearborn's UAW Local 600.

And it was the UAW that, three decades ago, scored Detroit for failing to design and produce small fuel-efficient vehicles as a response to rising oil prices and mounting foreign competition.

To a far greater extent than the auto companies, parts suppliers and distribution networks it has organized, the UAW has stood on the side of progress--never perfectly, as union dissidents have noted over the years, but invariably with an eye to providing economic security for working families and a future for communities in every region of the country that are threatened by a severe global economic crisis.

Remarkably, however, it is the UAW that is under attack. Despite the union's sweeping, some argue draconian, concessions to keep the auto giants competitive--lowering company costs to such an extent that a vehicle produced in a UAW plant is now competitive with one produced in a nonunion one--a primary argument for delaying a federal bailout of the auto giants is the union.


The strategy of bankrupting the Big Three to break the UAW will not merely destabilize the auto industry. It will tear the heart out of a bulwark of industrial unionism and weaken a labor movement that economic royalists have attacked for decades as part of a broad campaign to weaken social and economic gains in every region of the United States.

Anyone who think that breaking the UAW will only weaken the circumstances of autoworkers is missing the point of the royalist enterprise, which is to weaken the ability of all American workers to demand fair pay and benefits. As such, almost any bailout would be better than bankruptcy, but the best bailout is one that--perhaps by giving the UAW a piece of the action and placing union representatives on corporate boards, perhaps by giving states a stake--strengthens the hand of the one player in the auto industry that is committed to assuring that federal dollars are spent to defend the interests of workers and retirees while modernizing an industry Obama calls "the backbone of American manufacturing."

Tell ya what, Mitchie: If you survive one 40-hour week on the assembly line at the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, and live for one week on the salary of even the highest-paid worker on that line, then you can say whatever you want about unionized workers.

Until and unless you can do that, shut your fucking piehole.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Real Leadership on Real Health Care Reform

In case you missed it among all the idiotic "reporters" Blago-blabbing in today's press conference, President-elect Obama made specific point-blank promises to establish genuine universal, affordable health care in this country in the next year.

"The time has come -- this year, in this new Administration -- to modernize our health care system for the twenty-first century; to reduce costs for families and businesses; and to finally provide affordable, accessible health care for every American."


"Some may ask how, at this moment of economic challenge, we can afford to invest in reforming our health care system. Well, I ask a different question -- I ask how we can afford not to....If we want to overcome our economic challenges, we must also finally address our health care challenge."

And in case you've forgotten how to interpret discussion of the American health care catastrophe in simple English, this is not Clintonian double-talk about "managed care," nor is it Smirky/Darth pious lies about the power of the market. It's not a whiny Clinton excuse about an uncooperative Congress. It's not a trillion-dollar giveaway to insurance companies masquerading as a prescription benefit.

This is something we haven't see in this country in 56 years. Since Harry Truman left office, in fact:

A liberal Democratic president offering in straightforward language a difficult, expensive but essential solution to a clear-and-present danger to the General Welfare.

We are so used to a deep-space vacuum of leadership in Washington, each demonstration of that quality by Barack Obama makes it more, not less, difficult to believe we really did elect him.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Question TIme

The Obama transition web page just gets more and more intriguing.

... the Obama transition team has just rolled out an innovative new feature on its Web site, hoping to carry through on the President-elect's campaign promises of greater government transparency.

It's a page entitled "Open For Questions," in which anyone can submit questions to the transition and, subsequently, to the administration.

The rub, though, is this: The public is able to vote on how much they'd like certain queries to be a priority, and the voting tally is visible -- which means it'll be tougher for the Obama team to not answer questions that participants clearly want answered.

Here's how it works: Users get three options in voting on a question. They can vote in favor of a question being answered; they can vote against it being answered; or they can flag the question as inappropriate.

The Obama team is clearly exposing itself to a bit of a risk here. It could find itself choosing between answering an uncomfortable question and ducking one that the public is clamoring for an answer to. And if the state of the country fails to improve (or gets even worse) over the next few years, the public could also end up registering more and more negative questions.

The new page is here.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Not Another Whitewater

Yes, the wingnut freakazoid remnant of the republican party will try to turn the downfall of Illinois Governor Rod Blagejovich into the new Whitewater, but it won't work.

Down deep, they know that Obama is unlikely to hand them an easy way to defeat him, so their only hope of surviving as a political party is to harass him nonstop with a non-scandal like Whitewater.

They think Blagejovich is the new Whitewater, and I hope they spend every dime and ounce of energy they have into trying to make it so.

For those who have been living in the Rove bubble for the last year: Barack Obama is neither Bill Clinton, who couldn't help but look corrupt even when he was just stupid, nor Hillary Clinton, who couldn't help stonewalling even when she had nothing to hide.

Not only is there nothing about Blagejovich to hurt Obama, but unlike the Clintons, Obama knows how to make it clear and convincing that there's nothing there.

There'll be something to panic about soon, no doubt.

But Blagojevich ain't it.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Don't Hold It Against Us, Rachel

Man, there goes my chance to make a good impression on Rachel.

"You're from Kentucky!? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"


h/t Page One.

The View from Europe

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Where's An Invisible Sky Wizard When You Really Need One?

If you were hoping that Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear might put actual emergency responders and security experts in charge of ensuring the safety of the Commonwealth's citizens in case of disaster, you're shit outta luck.

Gov. Steve Beshear's administration plans to continue supporting a state law requiring the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security to acknowledge "the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth."

I think Stevie boy is failing to take full advantage of Kentucky's legally-mandated reliance on an invisible wizard in the sky.

Kentucky is facing a $457 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that ends in less than seven months. Closing that deficit is going to require one or more of three things:

  • Enormous emergency tax increases that rapidly accelerate the very recession that is causing the deficit.
  • Deep, severe cuts in state services that will close schools, hospitals, prisons and state police posts, thus rapidly accelerating the very recession that is causing the deficit.
  • A huge gift of federal funds the federal government doesn't have from a new president who has every good reason to tell cowardly, racist Kentucky to go fuck itself.

But don't worry! Kentucky's security depends on Almighty God - the invisible sky wizard will fix it! Surely a windfall of $500 million is a snap for a wizard who can handle security for an entire state.

C'mon, Stevie boy: why wait for a disaster before getting that wizard to show his stuff? Make him put out now.

$500 million, your almightyness. By Friday. Or we'll have to start looking somewhere else for solutions to our problems.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Kentucky ACLU is AWOL, but American Atheists Step Up

Betcha when freakazoid legislator Tom Riner unconstitutionally put an invisible sky wizard in charge of Homeland Security, he never imagined that the national legal director of American Atheists lived right here in Kentucky.

And it's a damn good thing, too, since the state ACLU seems to have no interest in defending the civil rights of American Freethinkers.

But Boone County lawyer Edwin Kagin and American Atheists aren't afraid to stand up for the long tradition of American Secularism.

An atheists-rights group is suing the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security because state law requires the agency to stress "dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth."


In the suit, American Atheists argues that Homeland Security should focus on public-safety threats rather than promote religion.

The suit notes that the federal and state homeland security agencies were created as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by Muslim fundamentalists, and it refers to those attacks as "a faith-based initiative."

The plaintiffs ask for the homeland security law to be stripped of its references to God. They also ask for monetary damages, claiming to have suffered sleeping disorders and "mental pain and anguish."

"Plaintiffs also suffer anxiety from the belief that the existence of these unconstitutional laws suggest that their very safety as residents of Kentucky may be in the hands of fanatics, traitors or fools," according to the suit.

Not to mention the extreme trauma of being humiliated in the national media as residents of the most ignorant, superstitious, mouth-breathingly stupid state in the country, if not the world.

Secular blessings be upon you, Edwin Kagin and American Atheists.

And shame on you, Tom Riner, and the "fanatics, traitors and fools" who voted for your idiotic amendment.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Another Victory for Liberal Reality

Media Czech brings us the victory of liberal bloggers and reality-based outrage over freakazoid idiocy.

One day after Media Czech and others exposed a joint holiday promotion between the infamous Creation Museum and the supposedly science-based Cincinnati Zoo, the Zoo cancelled the promotion.

Media Czech has been doing yeoman's work exposing the creationuts and their child abuse of a "museum" for more than a year, so we forgive MC his exuberant use of all caps.




We called for it, we delivered it, and victory is ours!


Smoke 'em if you got 'em boys. Victory is sweet (and hilarious...)

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Save Yourself, Save the Economy, Save Others: Give More

Do you still have a job? A house? Health insurance? Enough to eat every day? Then you are, in this deteriorating economy, among the fortunate. And therefore at risk of karmic correction.

You don't need me or anyone else to tell you that the ranks of the hungry, the sick, the homeless, the unemployed grow daily. You're spending less this Christmas because of fear that you may soon be among their ranks.

But just as the Obama administration will be able to restore the economy only by spending to create jobs rather than slashing the budget, cutting your family spending is also counter-productive.

No, don't run out to Wal-mart to buy more useless plastic crap. Spend to help the economy, help others and help yourself: give more to charity.

I could be laid off soon, but despite that - no, because of that - I am increasing my charitable contributions this year. I also added a local food bank to the homeless shelter, rehab program, low-income housing, family planning and AIDS treatment already on my list.

And if you want to kill three birds with one stone, turn those contributions into holiday gifts. We've all got somebody we exchange gifts with every year, somebody who doesn't need any more crap, but to whom we want to express affection.

Give that person the gift of philanthropy. Most national and international charities have online forms for making contributions in someone else's name, and will send that person an acknowledgement.

But I'm sure if you sent a check to a local charity, with a note asking them to notify your friend that the contribution was made in their name, the charity would be happy to do so.

As you know if you've ever given to charity, not even the joy of getting the one thing you've wanted all year compares with the feeling you get from giving to others.

Besides, you don't want to spend your next life as a cockroach, do you?

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Invisible Sky Wizards Don't Do Homeland Security

The Kentucky General Assembly thinks our best protection from terrorist attacks, industrial accidents and natural disasters is - wait for it - an invisible wizard who lives in the sky.

You may also believe this. If you do, please paint "We put our faith in god" on your front door, back door, roof and car so that the next time you need help from the actual human beings who work emergency rescue, they'll know to pass you by to help people who put their faith in government services.

Under state law, God is Kentucky's first line of defense against terrorism. The 2006 law organizing the state Office of Homeland Security lists its initial duty as "stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth."

(The quote is from John Cheves' original article in the dead-tree version of the Herald on Friday. That version is not online; the link above is to the version by the AP, which threatens eternal damnation and lawsuits against anyone who reprints its sacred words.)

Stressing dependence on god is the department's initial duty? Really? Because when I'm trapped under tornado wreckage, or seeking shelter from a train wreck's poisonous gas cloud, or hoping the security at the neighborhood chemical plant is tighter than it looks, what I really want to see first is the Department of Homeland Security's overpaid executives down on their knees praying to an invisible sky wizard.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Speak Your Mind on Change dot gov

Used to be all you had to do to justify spending the next four years bitching about the government was - vote.

That's not enough any more. President-elect Obama has raised the bar for civic participation at

Submit your email address, and you get daily updates on the issue of the day.

Updates that expect you to respond with your own ideas.

Concerned about the economy? Iraq? Health care? Environment? Immigration? Terrorism? There's a "agenda" page on two dozen different topics, and each one expects you to contribute with your own emailed ideas.

Tell your own story on the "An American Moment" page.

Complain about Obama's latest personnel announcement or make suggestions for tomorrow's press conference by clicking "Join the Discussion" right on the front page.

Yeah, yeah, maybe it's just a way of pacifying the savage mob. But if all it does is give you a feeling of satisfaction from directly participating, that's more participation than any other administration has offered.

And there's some evidence that the Obama campaign really is listening to the liberal blogosphere.

This week, torture supporter John Brennan dropped out of consideration for CIA Director or any other position in intelligence. He did so citing days of furious opposition to his appointment by Glenn Greenwald and others.

As Big Tent Democrat wrote at TalkLeft:

In case people were wondering, THIS is why you do not wait to express your "concern" about issues and personnel.

Whether you're a Blue Dog worried that we dirty fucking hippies are going to force Obama to establish communism, or a progressive worried that Clinton triangulators are going to smother his liberal ideals, go to and give Obama a piece of your mind.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"The Ishtar of Power Generation"

I am not a proponent of nuclear power. I say that as a lifelong environmentalist and a reporter who covered nuclear waste sites and the Yucca Mountain controversy.

I also say that as someone who recognizes that in the short term, the dangers and environmental destructiveness of nuclear power and its waste are less of a concern than the immediate looming catastrophe of not lowering carbon emissions.

It's easy to think of nuclear power as something that is more quickly available than renewable power sources such as solar, wind, geothermal or genuine biomass (that which produces rather than uses energy.) While we're ramping up production to make renewables widely available, we can build more nuclear plants to replace coal-burning plants.

If only that were true. Unfortunately, new nuclear power plants are much further away from reality that even the most pessimistic projections on solar- and wind-generation.

And the reason has nothing to do with safety or the environment.

It has to do with money.

No nuclear power plants have been ordered in this country for three decades. Once touted as "too cheap to meter," nuclear power simply became "too costly to matter," as the Economist put it back in May 2001.


Nuclear power still has so many problems that unless the federal government shovels tens of billions of dollars more in subsidies to the industry, and then shoves it down the throat of U.S. utilities and the public with mandates, it is unlikely to see a significant renaissance in this country. Nor is nuclear power likely to make up even 10 percent of the solution to the climate problem globally.

Why? In a word, cost. Many other technologies can deliver more low-carbon power at far less cost. As a 2003 MIT study, "The Future of Nuclear Energy," concluded: "The prospects for nuclear energy as an option are limited" by many "unresolved problems," of which "high relative cost" is only one. Others include environment, safety and health issues, nuclear proliferation concerns, and the challenge of long-term waste management.

Since new nuclear power now costs more than double what the MIT report assumed -- three times what the Economist called "too costly to matter" -- let me focus solely on the unresolved problem of cost. While safety, proliferation and waste issues get most of the publicity, nuclear plants have become so expensive that cost overwhelms the other problems.

Energy and utility corporation executives are galactically stupid about most things, but they do rise to the level of minimum sentience on the question of profits. If they don't think they can make a profit on it, they're not going to do it.

The danger is that the nuclear industry will get in line behind the banks and auto companies to demand 11-figure subsidies from the federal government. But this time, the players developing renewable energy - solar, wind, geothermal and biomass - are no longer back-yard cranks trying to get off the grid. They're major investors, state governments, even energy giants like BP. They're not going to let nukes suck up federal subsidies without a fight.

When it comes to nuclear energy being a quick, painless solution to global warming, remember what your mother told you about things that sound too good to be true.

Read the whole thing.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Thanking a Martyr

Among the many things for which to give secular thanks today, don't forget the enormous progress of the last thirty years since Nov. 27, 1978, when a gunman assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and openly gay city supervisor Harvey Milk.

It's hard even for those of us who were adults at the time to remember the fear and hatred of gays that led to a jury letting the cold-blooded assassin off with just five years in jail.

Hard for any young person today to imagine that educated, sophisticated people could seriously discuss whether Milk, as the first openly gay elected official in California (and probably the nation) had "asked for it."

Hard for activists to admit that it may have taken a hate crime to open the nation's eyes to the humanity of homosexuals.

At a time when disgusting homophobe Anita Bryant was traveling the country denouncing gays as subhuman perverts, Harvey Milk was standing up in then-conservative San Francisco for himself and for all gay Americans.

I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. For themselves, for their freedom, for their country ... We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets ... We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I'm going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.

If you think you don't know any gay people, you are deeply deluding yourself. Unless you live in a cave and never communicate in any way with human beings, know this:: you work with gay people, you live near gay people, you attend social events with gay people, you are related to gay people, you love gay people.

And for the fact that those gay people you work with and live near and socialize with and are related to and love are alive and thriving instead of bleeding to death in an alley after a beating, you can thank Harvey Milk.

On December 5, the new movie "Milk," opens nationwide. It stars Sean Penn in an Oscar turn, and should not be missed.

Or read Randy Shilts' superb book, The Mayor of Castro Street.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

For This, Let Us Give Thanks

Make your whole Thanksgiving by clicking here.

Be sure to scroll down to the photos and video. Imagining four years of stories like this is more than a beaten-down liberal can stand.

Obama: I Supply the Vision; Staffers Carry It Out

Press Conference on the Economy Number Three This Week.

Obama's prepared remarks here.

Obama Republicans Speak

John Dickerson in Slate has a welcome corrective to all the handwringing over the racist Appalachian Democrats who denied Barack Obama the electoral votes of Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee.

The key to Barack Obama's success may lie with his least enthusiastic supporters. On Saturday, while the rest of America raked leaves and watched college football, 12 of them gathered in a windowless conference room to talk about the election.


Mark Parowski, who described himself as a "hard-core Republican," didn't pick Obama until the moment he was in the election booth. His wife had been to Obama's last rally in Manassas, Va., the night before, along with 90,000 others, and said it sounded as if Obama was talking right to her in her living room. His disgust with Republicans was a big factor in his vote, Parowski said, but he also saw backing Obama as a chance to make a generational change.

These were not low-information voters—nearly all said they used the Internet to research the candidates—and, perhaps unsurprisingly, they were a gloomy bunch.


At the same time, they weren't gloomy about Obama. The word hope cropped up so often that they might have been Obama volunteers rather than late-deciding voters. But they were very patient. Obama has been careful to say change is going to come slowly, and they agree.


Their priorities were predictable—they want the government to help improve the economy and fix the health care system. Iraq did not come up very much at all. They do set a high bar, however, for Obama in one area: tone. They were willing to put up with slow progress on specific reforms, they said, so long as he ran a post-ideological, pragmatic, and honest White House.
They are watching him not just because they want the kind of White House Obama promised. They also think it will give them cues about whether he'll make good on his other promises. "We're expecting him to be a Reagan in a way that makes everyone proud to be an American," said John Bray. "And if he doesn't do that, people will lose faith in him."

The final question Hart asked was what each participant would tell Obama if he called to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. Their thoughts were predictable—keep your promises, etc.—but none of them argued with the premise, which is to say: They all could imagine speaking easily to their new president. And it was clear from their remarks that they are listening to what he says. They think he is one of them, which suggests Obama has a reservoir of trust that might allow him to do the kind of bold things he says he wants to do, including asking Americans to sacrifice, but they don't want him to lose touch with his own past—and, by extension, with people like them.

Read the whole thing.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots ....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"We Have A Mandate"

If you've forgotten over the past eight years what it's like to hear a president speak knowledgably and specifically on the issues of the day, to answer questions directly and in complete English sentences, then I have a real treat for you.

Here are the video clips of President-Elect Barack Obama's second press conference on the economy in two days; the third will be tomorrow.

First half of press conference first, then second half.

For those who can't watch video, here is the text of his opening remarks.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kentucky Home for the Holidays

It's no coincidence that every cultural and religious tradition on the planet marks a holiday in mid-winter. The moment when the sun returns, the days start getting longer, spring is closer than fall was, is always a time for celebration.

Whatever your reason for the season, you can find great holiday events throughout Kentucky this year.

Festival of Trees and Trains, Paramount Arts Center, Ashland
November 22 - 30, 2008
Each year the Paramount Arts Center and hundreds of community members and volunteers transform the historic theater into a magical wonderland filled with sparkling trees, wreaths, gingerbread houses, trains and entertainment.

Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Artists Collaborative Theatre, Elkhorn City

November 24 - December 10, 2008
A wonderful play for the holiday season. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. For ticket information, go to:

A Christmas Carol, Actors Theatre, Louisville
November 26 - December 23, 2008
Louisville's biggest and best holiday tradition - The classic story of Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the "spirits" of Christmas told with warmth and visual splendor. For ticket information, go to:

Christmas in the Park, Freeman Lake Park, Elizabethtown
November 26, 2008 – January 1, 2009
Come and experience the glow of Christmas! This holiday season, treat you and your family to the brilliant display of lights by taking a driving tour of Freeman Lake Park. Free, but a donation box is on site. Download a map at for this driving tour at:

Christmas Village & Skating Rink at Lee's Ford Resort Marina, Nancy
November 28– December 31, 2008
A festival of lights, ice skating, crafts and fun at exciting Lake Cumberland.

Noble Park Holiday Light Display, Paducah
November 28 – December 31, 2008
The region’s premiere lighting display is sponsored by Paducah Power System. Free admission, but monetary donations or canned goods accepted for local charities. Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 6-9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 6-10 p.m.

Christmas in the Valley, Renfro Valley
November 7 – December 21, 2008
Travel back in time to a nostalgic country Christmas. Experience Santa Land, cloggers, twinkling lights, shopping with a country flair. Top off your evening with the original production, Christmas in the Valley. For show times, log on to:

Lighting of the Distillery, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort
December 4 – December 31, 2008
Everyone is invited to the gardens of Buffalo Trace for the annual Christmas Lighting. Don’t miss this magical evening of holiday cheer, festive lights, refreshments and a visit from the man of the hour—Santa Claus! It’s free, and you can come see the lights any night through December 31.

Holiday Lights Spectacular, Beech Bend Park, Bowling Green
December 5, 2008 – January 3, 2009
Over two miles of dazzling animated lights, plus WBKO's Christmas Village, North Pole Express hay ride, ice skating, visits and pictures with Santa. Visit Santa’s Barnyard with live animals, amusement rides including the Kentucky Rumbler, Christmas gift shop, HoHo Golf, bonfires and food and drinks. Hours: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is $15 per car, $35 for a commercial van, $100 for a bus. Rides and ice skating cost extra.
270-781-7634 Page.htm

The Nutcracker, Lexington Ballet Company/Lexington Philharmonic
December 19 - 21, 2008
The Lexington Ballet is collaborating with The Lexington Philharmonic to bring to life the cherished fairytale of The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker is perfect to include in any holiday plans.
For ticket information, visit:

For more details on these and other holiday events and activities around Kentucky, visit This web site of the Kentucky Department of Travel maintains an extensive list of things to do right here in the commonwealth. Listings change frequently.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.