Monday, June 30, 2008

State Pension "Fix" Not Worth a Tinker's Dam*

Ralph Long exposes the empty, crossed-finger promises in the state employee retirement bill.

You know, the one that General Assembly members are breaking their arms patting themselves on the back over. The one that allows Governor Steve Beshear to claim that his first legislative session was not the complete catastrophe it actually was.

The one that kicks a $42 billion - that's Billion, boys and girls - pension deficit down the budget road for our children to pay out of their hides.

The bill was loaded with weasel words that allow the legislature to back out of any commitment.

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, was the lone lawmaker to oppose the bill. He warned that the legislation is a mediocre first step that doesn't do enough to keep the retirement system from draining the state government's coffers in the future.

”If our goal is to achieve mediocrity in the pension plan, we have succeeded,“ Buford said.

The net result of the bill was to screw the workers and retirees a little bit while the Legislature doesn’t bite the bullet and do the right thing.

For the record, I think cutting the cost of living raise for retirees by 70 percent and increasing the minimum number of working years required for retirement for new employees by 12 full years to be more than a little screwing. Don't get me started on what a real labor leader like Walter Reuther would have gotten.

Long notes that the gnat of a bill the General Assembly strained to produce was at least not as bad as Senate President David Williams' plan to scrap defined benefit pensions in favor of the 401k plans on which millions of private-sector retirees are starving.

The third approach would be for the General Assembly to pass comprehensive tax reform and generate enough revenue to meet the obligations to state employees.

But the odds of the General Assembly summoning up the collective backbone to do such a thing is doubtful. These folks couldn’t pass a cigarette tax increase when it was not only the right thing to do but was supported by most of the voters.

And don't think people who don't work for state government are off the hook: State governments are constitutionally required to honor their pension commitments. The General Assembly has to come up with the money to pay state employee pensions even if it has to raise taxes 100, 200, 500 percent.

Every single day that the General Assembly and the governor postpone the inevitable tax increase the state pension deficit requires right now, the higher and more painful that tax increase gets.

* Tinker's Dam.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Want a More Progressive Obama? Then Make It Happen


Author David Sirota, on tour promoting his new book The Uprising, gave an intriguing take on Barack Obama as an "empty vessel."

He didn't mean that as an insult. Nor did he mean it in the sense that Democrats tend to project their own hopes and dreams onto Obama.

He meant that Obama will be the candidate and potentially president that we - progressives - make him.

Just as Ronald Reagan, though an idealogue, was molded by determined fanatics into the star of their wingnut fantasies, so, too will Obama move in the direction progessives push him.

If we sit around moping over his FISA capitulation, pitying ourselves over being fooled into supporting a centrist once again and muttering about third-party candidates, then we'll get exactly what we're complaining about: a nominee and possible president who's a centrist because the centrists are the only ones pushing him their way.

Make your voice heard. One individual voice has a bigger impact this year for two reasons: 1) Obama knows better than anyone that individual small donors got him the nomination and he needs them to get the nomination. Five bucks gets you ,entree by email. And 2) Because of the Internet, each of us can magnify our voices exponentially - tell all your friends, comment on every blog, make it viral.

And while you're at it, give John Yarmuth and Ben Chandler an earful, too. As someone who has been condemning Chandler for years as a worthless DINO, I'd like to believe that his pre-primary endorsement of Obama had at least a little something to do with the relentless pounding he'd been getting from progressives.

On Glenn Greenwald's Salon blog, cherished commenter William Timberman makes an eloquent case for dealing with a candidate's bad votes:

In my opinion, candidate worship is just another symptom of a neutered population. The problem isn't the people's impotence, which is an illusion fostered in every way possible by politicians who stand to benefit by it, and by a media dominated by commercial interests which do it as a matter of course, whether to sell a candidate or to sell soap. No, the problem isn't impotence, it's inactivity. As long as we expect to be saved by some external force, and can only rouse ourselves to petulance when this or that candidate disappoints us, we more or less deserve what we get.

If we're to be saved, we'll have to do it ourselves. In tactical and strategic terms, what we do matters, but doing anything is better than doing nothing. Once you get in the habit, you can adjust what you do according to what works. Then it is just a matter of strategy and tactics, and not an insurmountable existential paralysis.

Don't mourn, in other words -- organize.

And The Nation knows where to start.

After the Patriot Act became law, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) began a national campaign to get cities, counties and states to stand up for the Constitution.

Thanks to the determined efforts of this small but remarkably effective group, more than 400 communities and eight states have passed resolutions declaring their support for restoring protections guaranteed under the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution.

The BORDC is still fighting the good fight. This week, the Massachusetts-based group is sounding the alarm against congressional moves to undermine 4th amendment privacy rights.

But the BORDC is not satisfied to simply play defense.

"At BORDC, we know many of our subscribers are outraged at the number of times their legislators have given in to fear mongering and supported freedom-robbing legislation because they believe voters are willing to give up their freedoms for a promise (a hollow promise!) of greater security," BORDC director Nancy Talanian and her colleagues explain.

"Responding to Congress's ongoing unconstitutional actions can often feel tiring and ineffective. Join the People's Campaign for the Constitution so that together the grassroots can set our government's agenda and hold our government accountable to the constitutional principles upon which it was founded."

The People's Campaign for the Constitution seeks to bring together all groups and individuals -- right and left, Republican and Democrat, Libertarian and Green, independent and partisan -- who are concerned about renewing the rule of law to a country where it has been severely threatened by executive arrogance and legislative lethargy. "Fighting against one violation at a time fragments our movement," the BORDC says. "It is time to unite to face the common source of these problems."

Something of a national debut will come July 4, when Bill of Rights Defense Committee plans to purchase a half-page advertisement in the New York Times to sound the call for Constitutional renewal. I've signed on and I hope that readers of The Nation will join in this essential effort to raise the profile of our struggle to renew civil liberties in a time of warrantless wiretapping, torture, signing statements and all the other evidences of kingly arrogance in the executive branch of what is supposed to be a republic.

To learn more about how you can support this new declaration of faith in America's founding principles, visit the committee's Web site and sign on for the Constitution.

One of the themes of Sirota's The Uprising is that we are at a historical turning point, when progressives can turn the country around the way they did in 1900 and 1930 and 1960.

Can, but not necessarily will. At the last such turning point, in 1980, it was conservatives who grabbed the uprising opportunity and succeeded.

Don't let them do it again.

UPDATE, 6:52 p.m.: Obama supporters have formed a networking group specifically to pressure Obama on FISA. Get the details at TPM here, and join the group here.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Feingold Gets One-Week Reprieve for Constitution

Take heart, American patriots: the battle to save the Fourth Amendment is not yet lost.

Objections by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) will push back an overhaul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) until after lawmakers return in July, Democratic leaders said Thursday. Feingold is strongly opposed to language that would likely give telephone companies that participated in warrantless surveillance retroactive immunity from lawsuits.

For Barack Obama and everybody else who thinks this FISA abomination is no big deal (Yarmuth and Chandler, you putzes), Patrick Radden Keefe at Slate has a slap in the face:

Here, then, is the bitter joke of the new legislation:
From 2001 to 2007, the NSA engaged in a secret program that was a straightforward violation of America's wiretapping laws. Since the program was revealed, the administration has succeeded in preventing the judiciary from making a definitive declaration that the wiretapping was a crime. Suits against the government get dismissed on state-secrets grounds, because while the program may have been illegal, it was also so highly classified that its legality can never be litigated in open court. And now suits against the telecoms will by dismissed en masse as well. Meanwhile, the new law moves the goal posts, taking illegal things the administration was doing and making them legal.

Whatever Hoyer and Pelosi—and even Obama—say, this amounts to a retroactive blessing of the illegal program, and historically it means that the country will probably be deprived of any rigorous assessment of what precisely the administration did between 2001 and 2007. No judge will have an opportunity to call the president's willful violation of a federal statute a crime, and no landmark ruling by the courts can serve as a warning for future generations about government excesses in dangerous times.

What's more, because the proposal so completely plays into the Bush conception of executive power, it renders meaningless any of its own provisions. After all, if the main lesson of the wiretapping scandal is that we need more surveillance power for the government, what is to stop President Bush—or President Obama or President McCain—from one day choosing to set this new law aside, too? "How will we be judged?" Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., asked in a stirring speech deploring the legislation yesterday. "The technical argument obscures the defining question: the rule of law, or the rule of men?"

Read the whole thing, but if that's not enough, Glenn Greenwald has more:

In American Prospect, Julian Sanchez exposes the myth being peddled by Nancy Pelosi and others that the FISA bill doesn't legalize warrantless eavesdropping on Americans:

The award for the most bald-faced lie on the House floor Friday, however, goes to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who insisted that the bill "does not allow warrantless surveillance of Americans." She is wrong. It does.

The broader spying powers given to the executive branch by the compromise bill require intelligence agencies to "target" foreigners. But if those foreign "targets" happen to call or e-mail Americans, those communications are fair game. And since the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is only permitted to review the broad targeting procedures government eavesdroppers use to determine that a target is abroad, and not the substantive basis for authorizing surveillance of any target, anyone is a potential target.

The bill, in other words, allows the government to conduct "vacuum cleaner" surveillance -- sweeping up international traffic willy-nilly -- then filter it for anything that looks interesting. Indeed, many believe that licensing such surveillance is precisely the point of this legislation. If so, "warrantless surveillance of Americans" could well become routine, whether or not they are the formal "targets" of eavesdropping.

Whatever else is true, if Democrats and Barack Obama vote this bill into law, they will be (a) legalizing warrantless spying on Americans and (b) embracing the core premise of Bush radicalism: that as long as the President says something is legal (as he told telecoms that warrantless spying was legal), then it ought to be treated as such.

So rev up those phone calls and emails yet again, starting tonight and continuing through the Fourth of July weekend - to Obama, to the Senate leadership, to your own Senators, to your local paper, to your favorite bloggers.

The capitulators and appeasers are counting on us giving up. They're going to be disappointed.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Who's Afraid of the Fourth Amendment?

The determination of Democrats in Congress to hand dictatorial powers to Smirky-Darth and amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms who spied on innocent Americans is far more complicated that it appears, as Glenn Greenwald makes clear.

But in addition to cowardice, corruption, political calculation, plain stupidity and old-fashioned bribery and blackmail, the FISA debate was for a moment or two distinguished by the rarest kind of passionate rhetoric in defense of American Democracy and the Constitution.

Chris Dodd went to the Senate floor last night to speak against the FISA bill and delivered one of the most compelling and inspired speeches by a prominent politician that I've heard in quite some time. He tied the core corruption of the FISA bill's telecom amnesty and warranltess eavesdropping provisions into the whole litany of the Bush administration's lawless and destructive behavior over the last seven years -- from torture and rendition to the abuse of secrecy instruments and Guantanamo mock trials -- with a focus on the way in which telecom amnesty further demolishes the rule of law among our political class.

That speech signals that the small minority in the Senate devoted to stopping this bill have made this a priority. Small, vocal, passionate minorities in the Senate -- backed up by vocal, passionate and engaged citizens -- can do much to prevent a bill's quick and painless passage. Dodd's speech can be seen and/or read here.

As salon commenter Wabanatta put it:

"Damn, a speech like that reminds me of when actual patriots roamed the halls of congress."

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mitch Picks Up Third-Party Challenger

Looks like Libertarians are really out to get the republicans this year: one of them has issued a third-party challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

And not just any Libertarian either; but a famous Hollywood actor!

No, not that one.

Sonny Landham, perhaps best known for his role as "Billy" in 1987's Predator movie, has called a press conference in Frankfort for 1:45 p.m. Wednesday in which he will announce that he is running for U.S. Senate as a Libertarian Party candidate.

Landham, who lives in Ashland, flirted with Kentucky politics in 2003 by announcing for governor as a Republican before dropping out before that year's May primary.

What a coincidence! Bruce Lunsford, the Democratic nominee in the 2008 Senate race, also ran for governor in 2003 but dropped out before the primary.

To get on the November ballot as a Libertarian candidate, Landham must pay the state's $500 filing fee and collect at least 5,000 signatures by Aug. 12.

Even though Landham is a former Republican, state GOP chairman Steve Robertson said he didn't think Landham would divert votes from McConnell.

Landham has appeared in 53 movies, according to the International Movie Database. Most recently he played "Boone Cagle" in a 2007 movie called Disintegration. He also has acted in a number of adult films in the 1970s, including ones called Slippery When Wet, The Trouble with Young Stuff and Steam Heat.

Media Czech is all over it.

Far be it from me to disturb MC's fun - and he is having way too much fun - but I wonder just which party's voters Sonny is going to draw.

Yes, repugs are disgusted with their national party, but here in Kentucky they worship Mitch. Kentucky Democrats, on the other hand, are deeply divided and disgusted by Bruce Lunsford.

Sonny may not attract Democrats under ordinary circumstances, but for those seeking an anti-Bruce vote, a Libertarian alternative has got to look good compared to Mitch.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Beware DCCC Bearing Gifts

Democratic Congressional candidate David Boswell has made the DCCC's potential funding list, which probably dooms him to a double-digit loss.

Boswell, a state senator from Owensboro, is a classic DINO mouthing progressive platitudes just long enough to fool real Democrats desperate to take back a republican seat into voting for him.

Actually, he doesn't even bother to pretend to be progressive. His website, which lacks an issues page, mentions tax credits - the perennial repug favorite non-solution to everything - and threatens criminal sanctions against illegal aliens.

But it's in his senate voting record where his real political beliefs shine through.

This year, he supported Senate Bill 40 to require doctors performing abortions to first take an ultrasound image of the fetus and then - wait for it - show the image to the patient.

Otherwise known as the "Look Upon Your Sins and Repent, You Evil Whore!" Bill.

Similar votes by Boswell in 2007 and 2006 prove he is a charter member of the Justice Anthony Kennedy "We have to protect these poor weak females from themselves" school of health care law.

Boswell is running for an open seat in the Second District, since seven-term repug Ron Lewis is stepping down. His opponent is Bowling Green state senator Brent Guthrie, who as a genuine republican is going to clean fake republican Boswell's clock, no matter how much money the DCCC pours into the race.

Meanwhile, in far Western Kentucky's First District, Mitch McConnell Nemesis Heather Ryan, a genuine proud-and-loud Liberal Democrat who is firing up progressives across the state, struggles against incumbent Waste of Oxygen Ed Whitfield without a dime of support from the DCCC.

The fact that the DCCC is considering supporting Boswell and ignoring Heather Ryan is yet more proof that the DCCC has its head up its ass.

Remember, this is the organization which in 2006 refused to give the Third District's John Yarmuth a dime, but showered Second District challenger Mike Weaver with bad advice to run as a Bush-supporter.

Anybody remember how that one came out? Yep, the DCCC-ignored Proud Liberal Yarmuth won, and the DCCC-helped Bush-lover Weaver lost.

Even if the coming Democratic tsunami passes Kentucky by this year, I'll bet right now that Real Democrat Ryan does better than DINO Boswell.

Cross-posted at Watching Those We Chose.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Number 71

Kentucky's 71st casualty in Smirky/Darth's spreading Middle East clusterfuck is Eric Terhune of Lexington.

The 34-year old was a captain in the Marine Corps and also a helicopter pilot. Terhune was on his third tour. He spent the first two in Iraq before heading to Afghanistan, where he'd been since April.

According to the Department of Defense, Terhune "died June 19 while conducting combat operations in Farah Province, Afghanistan. (He was) assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif."

The Herald-Leader reports today that family members of Terhune declined to comment Friday.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Friday, June 20, 2008

National Day of Protest Against Health Insurance Corporations

How much do we hate health insurance corporations? More than credit card companies. More than the DMV. More than the phone - well, maybe not.

Yesterday, people around the country got the chance to vent their frustration, disgust and hatred, including demonstrators at the national headquarters of health insurance giant Humana in Louisville.

Indispensable Kentucky videographer Jim Pence of Hillbilly Report caught it on tape.

It's sad that John McCain and Senator Mitch McConnell are so out of touch with the needs of the people they are supposed to be representing. It seems that John McCain and Senator Mitch McConnell find it easer to represent the overpaid healthcare CEO's than the folks who were out on the streets protesting today.

Cross-posted at Watching Those We Chose.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Poll Intoxication in Kentucky

SUSA's got new Kentucky election polls, and everybody's freaking out.

One shows McCain leading Obama in Bush-loving Kentucky by an anemic 12 points.

The other shows Democrat Bruce Lunsford trailing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell by a surprising four points.

Surprising, that is, only to everyone who has forgotten the Rasmussen poll in May that showed Lunsford ahead of McConnell. Everybody freaked out over that one, too.

It's JUNE, people; polls four-and-a-half months out are worse than useless.

I think Obama's going to do much better in Kentucky than anyone is predicting - IF he actually shows up to campaign. If he doesn't show up, McCain will bury him here by at least 20 points. But it's going to be either a McCain landslide or Obama in a squeaker - McCain by 12 is ridiculous.

As for Lunsford, four points down before Mitch even starts attacking is bad news for Bruce.

I believe that 2008 is going to be a historic, watershed, paradigm-creating, tradition-breaking, change-life-as-we-know-it election.

But if we start going berserk over every poll months before people even start paying attention, we won't make it to Labor Day.

Cross-posted at Watching Those We Chose.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jesse Jackson Won Over Appalachia; Obama Can, Too

Twenty years ago, a black man running for president won the hearts and votes of white people in Appalachia. How did he do it?

By speaking his heart, by getting his suit dirty, but mostly, just by showing up.

Jesse Jackson came to Appalachia in 1988 — and he kept coming back. In Hazard, Kentucky, he filled the high school gym with people who just wanted to touch him.

Former Lexington Herald-Leader editor Bill Bishop remembers Jesse in the mountains:

In 1988, the Rev. Jesse Jackson came to Appalachia and it changed his life.

Jackson was running for president and he brought his campaign to Hazard, Kentucky, a small town deep in the state’s mountain coalfields. When he ate cornbread at Bailey’s, like every place he went in Eastern Kentucky, Jackson attracted a crowd. One young woman there at the roadside eatery pushed her newborn into Rev Jackson’s arms. The child’s grandmother blurted, “Don’t nobody dare tell him what this baby’s named,” and then gave up the secret. The child’s name was Reagan.

Jackson promptly put his palm on the youngster’s forehead and commanded, “Heal!” His old time preacher style “drew whoops from the restaurant regulars in this Eastern Kentucky hardscrabble hill country,” the Washington Post reported.

More than whoops, however, Jesse Jackson drew respect and a following. A reported 4,000 people crammed the high school gym in Hazard to listen to Rev. Jackson speak.

Sen. Barack Obama might have been able to pull 4,000 people to the Hazard high school gym in 2008, but he never came to Eastern Kentucky. He held rallies in Louisville, Kentucky, and Charleston, West Virginia, the two largest cities in the states. But he never ventured into the coalfields. He never ate cornbread at Baileys and never went to Hazard.

Bishop debunks the myth that exit polls prove Appalachian whites are hateful racists who will never vote for a black man:

It’s assumed these days that Sen. Barack Obama has an “Appalachian problem” because he won only 38 percent of the vote in mountain counties. There was a quick answer for these results. The exit polls showed that two out of ten voters in West Virginia said race was an “important” factor in their decision and these voters voted overwhelmingly for Sen. Clinton. This led to the assumption that Appalachian voters were unique in using race as a guide to their vote. Columnist Leonard Pitts said he felt “sorry” for West Virginia because of the “bigotry in Appalachia so vividly in display.” Funny, but two out of ten voters in New York said race was important in their decision — split between Clinton and Obama — but nobody felt “sorry” for them.

It turns out that West Virginians were entirely average in the percentage of voters who considered race an important consideration in their vote. In Alabama and Mississippi, three out of ten voters said race was important, and 62 percent of those voted for Obama. Two out of ten voters in Georgia said race was important, and 72 percent of those folks voted for Sen. Obama. In Illinois, 23 percent of the Democratic voters said race was important — a higher percentage than West Virginia — and 73 percent of those voted for Obama. In America, there’s a lot of sorry to go around.

The point is that Appalachian voters won't vote for anybody - black or white - who fails to show up in person, shake their coal-stained hands, look them straight in the eye and ask, humbly, for their vote.

Surely there is “bigotry in Appalachia,” but then what are we to make of reporter Scot Lehigh’s description of Jesse Jackson’s visit to Hazard in 1988:

Inside the dimly lit high-school gymnasium, a capacity crowd of 1000, dotted with only an occasional black face, erupts into cheers as Jackson enters. "Jesse, Jesse, Jesse," comes the familiar chant. "Jesse, Jesse, Jesse." Jackson strides to a small restraining wall that separates the basketball court from the bleachers, and the crowd surges forward. Kids vault the wall, and surround him, and soon the grownups, too, are spilling out onto the musty canvas that covers the basketball floor. Jackson moves along the wall, pressing the flesh, hoisting and hugging kids, a presidential pied piper leading a mesmerized line of children. But this crowd is not content to follow; they want to touch. As he moves by, the group behind him splits like a drop of quicksilver and rolls around him to reach out again. "Jesse, Jesse, Jesse."

That year, in a seven-person Democratic primary field, Jackson won 16 percent of the vote in Perry County (Hazard). Obama, running against Hillary Clinton, won eight percent of Perry County's vote.

I think his trip to Hazard changed Jackson’s life because he kept showing up in Appalachia. He was there on the 30th anniversary of the Farmington mine disaster in West Virginia. He brought Rev. Jerry Falwell to southeastern Ohio for a march aimed at attracting attention and investment to Appalachian communities. In 1998 he proposed a test for presidential candidates: “Do you matter to Mud Creek, Kentucky? Do you have anything to say that is relevant to the people of Eastern Kentucky and central West Virginia and Appalachian Ohio?”

In 2001, Jackson brought President Bill Clinton to a gathering of CEOs from Bell Atlantic, Frito Lay, TCI, Citigroup and the New York Stock Exchange to talk about poverty in the mountains. Jackson told the business elite that this was the time to make a commitment to Appalachia. It would take work to invigorate the region’s economy, he said, and the job would be messy. Then he turned to Clinton and reminded him that those who wore “clean uniforms” never got in the game. “Those who play have stains on their uniforms,” Jackson said.

If you eat an early breakfast in the mountains, there’s a good chance you’ll sit next to some miners fresh off the hoot owl shift. Their uniforms and their faces will be smudged from their jobs underground. They showed up for work and they expect their politicians to show up, too. John Kennedy showed up in West Virginia in 1960 and Jesse Jackson got his clothes dirty in 1988. Lyndon Johnson came to Eastern Kentucky to announce a War on Poverty more than 40 years ago and John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and John McCain came this season to say they remembered.

And Barack Obama? Does his candidacy matter to Mud Creek? It’s hard to tell because his uniform is still clean.

Kentucky's political graveyards are littered with candidates for governor, senator, attorney general, secretary of state and president who failed to grasp the importance of showing up personally to ask for Appalachian votes. Every last one of them is white.

Come to Hazard, Barack. Come to Ashland and Pikeville and Fleming-Neon. There are tens of thousands of votes here for a candidate - a black man - who delivers personally a sincere message of genuine hope.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Broadway Too Far? Try Kentucky's Summer Theaters

Theater is Life. Film is Art. Television is Furniture.
(Seen on a T-Shirt)

There's nothing like live theater. And nothing as thrilling as discovering a professional production of a classic or great new play right around the corner.

Kentucky Tourism has the details.

From Prestonsburg to Bardstown to Gilbertsville, Kentucky is home to an exciting variety of summer theaters. A few have been producing shows for more than a half-century and have achieved renown throughout the state and beyond its borders. Several newer additions to the Kentucky Summer Theater Trail are attracting attention and theater-lovers by presenting unique stages, settings and productions throughout the commonwealth.

From mid-June through August, these purveyors of dramatic entertainment provide a bit of Broadway in your backyard. Depending on your theatrical taste, you can take in a comedy, musical or drama. Theaters near or far can enliven a summer evening and provide memories for years to come. Among the venues are Jenny Wiley Theatre in Prestonsburg, Kincaid Regional Theatre in Falmouth, Louisville’s Broadway at Iroquois, Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Stephen Foster Productions in Bardstown, Kentucky Repertory Theatre in Horse Cave, Pine Knob Theatre in Caneyville and Twilight Cabaret Theatre Productions in Gilbertsville.

Check the press release for details.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Obama at Fancy Farm?

On Comment on Kentucky Friday night, Bill Bartleman, editor of the Paducah Sun, said Barack Obama might show up at Fancy Farm this year.

If he does, McBush can pack it in - election's over.

Held on the first Saturday in August when the misery index in that Mississippi River lowland hits equatorial jungle levels, Fancy Farm is the Ultimate Test for political candidates.

If you are tough enough to stand unshaded in the unspeakable heat and humidity - typically 95 degrees and 98 percent humidity - for hours, eating barbecue and potato salad and mingling with thousands of sweat-soaked voters without even a single cold beer for relief, then get up at the end of the day to make the political speech of your life in the face of hundreds of semi-pro hecklers trained from birth to out-scream any microphone ...

Well, then, Kentucky voters figure you're serious and worth a look.

At Fancy Farm, you triumph or you die. In 1998, Scotty Baesler, Sixth District Congressman and candidate for Wendell Ford's open Senate seat, went from Leading Democratic Light to Political Dead Man in the course of one over-the-top, foaming-at-the-mouth speech at Fancy Farm.

This year, Fancy Farm is probably going to be the place where Democratic Congressional Challenger Heather Ryan shows her speechifyin' chops to the national press and delivers a knockout blow to First District incumbent Waste of Oxygen Ed Whitfield.

As Bartleman pointed out, Fancy Farm - literally an overgrown church picnic in a hay field - would present logistical and security problems for Obama, but even though it is in the middle of nowhere, it's spitting distance from Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee and Arkansas. It would probably draw press from Memphis, St. Louis, Nashville and Little Rock to a single event.

Fancy Farm typically draws thousands in non-presidential-election years; Obama might possibly draw enough to challenge the 75,000 he addressed in Oregon May 18.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Civil War in Kentucky Blogosphere

I love a good fight.

I'm hoping Hillary changes her mind and unleashes her hysterical hilbots at the convention in a futile attack that not only fails spectacularly but destroys her political career and burns the Democratic Leadership Conference to the ground with it.

That, however, would overshadow the BlogWar we've got raging in Kentucky's own liberal blogosphere (fight starts in comments.)

For the record:

- Ben Carter is Kentucky's BlogFather, starting BlueGrassRoots way back in 2004. The name alone deserves a prize: Blue Grassroots, Bluegrass Roots - it says it all.

- But when Mark Nickolas set the Kentucky Blogosphere on fire in 2005 with his blanket coverage of Ernie in Bluegrass Report, BlueGrassRoots did not have the sources or resources to compete.

- Nickolas' departure left a gap, and Joe Sonka filled it superbly as the main blogger on the rejuvenated BlueGrassRoots. PageOne has the financial backing and the snark and the connections, but Joe's BlueGrassRoots had flair. I was honored to be asked to participate a year ago.

- I admit I find Ben unbearably sanctimonious at times, and his eagerness to kowtow to the powers that be indicates worrisome authoritarian tendencies.

- My own sarcastic sense of humor makes me a more natural ally of Joe, who shares my anti-authority, fuck-em-if-they-can't-take-a-joke attitude.

- I don't know exactly what happened before Joe left BlueGrassRoots in March, but I know this: BlueGrassRoots is a less scoop-filled, less sharp, less entertaining, less funny blog since Joe left. Though that's as much my fault as anyone's.

- I am extremely upset that Joe is not going to the Democratic National Convention as one of BlueGrassRoots' representatives. Joe was the heart, soul and guts of BlueGrassRoots in 2007, and if Joe didn't earn that convention credential, nobody did.

- I admire SarahG., BenRay and RDemocrat, and am looking forward to their convention coverage. It's not their fault Joe's not going.

- I'm old enough to be a (very young) parent to both Ben and Joe, and the temptation to beat them both with a willow switch and send them to their rooms without dinner is overpowering.

- Forget the accusations, forget the money (seriously, I'll pay Joe the fucking $250 myself if that's the obstacle here), drop the fucking tape measures and tuck yourselves back in, boys.

- The blog Ben created and Joe perfected is going to the Democratic National Convention, y'all, and it behooves all of us that it show the world that the big boys in New York and California and D.C. have nothing on Kentucky's take-no-prisoners Left Blogsylvania.

Whatever it takes, Joe needs to go to Denver.

Make it happen, guys.

Whatever. It. Takes.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Zeus' Meddling Never Worked, Either

Rev. Wright. "Disbelief" in evolution. Mormons. Rev. Parsley. Muslims. Rev. Hagee.

The unConstitutional influence of religion - and religion's most ludicrous content - on the 2008 Presidential campaign leads me to suggest that we add one more requirement to the list of minimum qualifications for President:

Only atheists need apply.

As a review in The Nation reveals, two new books on religion and government fail to shed light on the issue because they fail to acknowledge, much less address, the central obstacle to any solution: the extreme political power wielded by, and the accompanying refusal to compromise on the part of, the Xian dominionists.

More worrisome are those liberal defenders of religious equality such as Nussbaum and Waldman, who actually do know better and yet strengthen the hand of the theocons by underestimating and even minimalizing the scope of the Christian nationalist challenge. "At this point," Nussbaum writes, "school authorities know that they have to permit an exception for any child who conscientiously objects to participating" in the pledge. That's unlikely in a nation where explicitly religious--and often scientifically inaccurate--ideas about a matter as personal as sex are taught to millions of public school children.

But it's actually far worse. The "religious equality" propounded by "liberal defenders" of religion is not any form of equality that would be recognized by the authors of the Constitution. It is nothing less than permanent primacy for religion at the expense of secularism.

Those well-intended liberal christians, jews, muslims and others working so hard to find a middle ground with the freakazoids remind me a lot of the leftists and socialists of the 1930s. They were so sure of the essential good embodied in communist philosophy that they deliberately ignored the horrific crimes against humanity committed in communism's name.

Christian apologists in particular drive me crazy with their insistence that real Christians are liberals and pacifists. They endlessly quote New Testament passages about Jesus' compassion for the poor, the sick, the condemned.

True, but irrelevant. If the Xians who have the political power and influence in this country are the Xians who effectively reject Jesus and the New Testament in favor of the murderous, racist, misogynist, vicious, hateful, war-mongering god of the Old Testament, then that is the "Christian" view that prevails.

If you think this is all a debate among religious types about angels dancing on pinheads with no effect on your life, read Chris Hedges on American Fascists and their quite serious and well-advanced plans for theocracy.

Cross-posted at Watching Those We Chose.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Kentucky's Undecided Supers Still Dithering


As Democratic Super Delegates continue to fall into line behind presumptive nominee Barack Obama, three cling desperately to their false image of neutrality, even as the sands run out on the deadline imposed by national party leaders.

The three are Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Kentucky Democratic Party Chair and Vice-Chair Jennifer Moore and Nathan Smith.

Their first excuse was that as party leaders, they had to stay neutral until after the Kentucky primary on May 20.

On May 21, even after Clinton beat Obama by 36 points, still they dithered and delayed. Their new excuse was that they were waiting for the final primaries in Montana and South Dakota June 3.

Now, 60 hours after the polls closed in the final primary state, 48 hours after national party leaders acknowledged Senator Obama as the presumptive nominee, 24 hours after Senator Clinton told her supporters that she will suspend her campaign and endorse Obama, Beshear/Moore/Smith have made their choice clear:

We can't decide!

This is no longer political expediency, no longer delusional Hillary hope, no longer even backroom maneuvering for special favors.

As Page One puts it:

Please! Just grow some damn balls.

UPDATE, Saturday, 7:30 a.m.: At the last possible minute and far, far too late to do the state he "leads" any good at all, last night Governor Steve Beshear endorsed Senator Obama. Meanwhile, Page One has the low-down on the underhanded manipulations of the state party convention by Beshear and his minions at the Kentucky Democratic Party.

Cross-posted at Watching Those We Chose.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Triumph of Howard Dean

From an early Deaniac who gave money I could not afford to Howard's campaign back in May 2003, to all the DLC cowards who swore Howard Dean would destroy the Democratic Party, let me just say this:

Nyah, nyah, nyah, NYAH, nyah. Toljaso, toljaso, toljaso. Howard was RIGHT! Deaniacs RULE! PHHTHHBBBTTT!

Of course Obama is letting Howard Dean stay on as chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Obama knows perfectly well that it was the DNC's human sacrifice of Howard Dean in Iowa in 2004 which -

led directly to Dean's election by grass-roots supporters to the chairmanship, which -

led directly to the establishment nationwide of Dean's 50-state strategy, which -

led directly to the Democrats' 2006 takeover of Congress, which -

led directly millions of new Democratic voters giving the presidential nomination to Howard Dean's metaphorical, if not actual, protege: Barack Obama.

Back in February 2004, after Howard Dean dropped out of the presidential race, the only thing that prevented mass suicide among Deaniacs was the hope of turning our passion and our anger and our determination to the long-term project of taking over the un-progressive, anti-liberal, Dean-hating Democratic Party.

After all, it took the neocons only 16 years from Goldwater's defeat to Reagan's election to wrest control of the Republican Party from its well-behaved Eisenhower-ites.

Who could have imagined it would take Howard Dean less than five?

Cross-posted at Watching Those We Chose.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bigger Issues in South Dakota Than Presidential Primary

Even if you're fed up with the presidential primaries, or realize that today's contests in Montana and South Dakota are irrelevant to the Democratic nomination, pay attention to South Dakota.

There's a battle brewing out on the empty plains and in the Black Hills, and on the front lines are the women of the Lakota.

In a jujitsu move that could teach a lot to progressives of every stripe in red states throughout the country, South Dakota's women are using an anti-woman ballot issue to rally and organize the very women the issue targets, to both defeat the issue and elect progressive women to state office.

South Dakotans, I heard again and again, don't like the government telling people what to do. But does that include women who have abortions--alternately depicted as tramps who waltz to the clinic after a night on the town and as naïve weaklings pushed into decisions they will later regret? Of the prochoice activists I spoke with, only Charon Asetoyer, a Native American community activist and health advocate running for State Senate, talked directly about organizing voters around the classic feminist theme of faith in women to make good decisions, to do what's best for their families.

If "faith in women" sounds old-fashioned, maybe that's the problem. In this fight, the antichoicers have the vision, the grassroots energy and the political momentum (as well as the Catholic and evangelical churches and key legislators in both parties), while the prochoicers are left with abstract arguments and the fall-back position that the ban, if passed, will be enjoined by the courts and eventually found unconstitutional. "This could be a galvanizing moment," said one out-of-state activist. "It's outrageous that a state could even be considering a ban! Instead of thinking about the Supreme Court, the national organizations--Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the ACLU--should be mobilizing women. I don't hear anything creative coming from them." Indeed, as of this writing I haven't received so much as an e-mail about South Dakota from a national reproductive-rights or feminist organization.


But come on, South Dakota, we can't keep meeting like this! If enough progressive prochoicers could get elected to state offices, the political culture would start to change--and not just on abortion rights. A group called WomenRun! South Dakota is promoting a terrific group of Native American women candidates: Charon Asetoyer and Theresa Spry are running for the State Senate; Senator Theresa Two Bulls, the first Native American woman to serve in the Legislature, is facing a primary challenge; Diane Kastner, Lisa Cook and Caitlin Collier are running for House seats. While nationally the Democratic Party is welcoming antichoice conservative candidates, these women are committed to a broad progressive agenda on reproductive rights, education, healthcare, racial equality, economic development and local democracy. Read about them at Women Run! South Dakota, and make good use of the Donate button (checks can be mailed to WomenRun! SD, PO Box 2983, Minneapolis, MN 55402).

Yeah, yeah, we're all bored shitless with the abortion issue. And progressive boredom is precisely why women can't get abortions in 95 percent of U.S. counties. Right here in Kentucky, that percentage is 98 percent, where if you don't live in Lexington or Louisville you can find wire hangers at your local dry cleaners.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.