Thursday, November 30, 2006

Greg Stumbo: Lying scumbag

As if Kentuckians in general, Republicans in particular and Gov. Fletcher specifically needed any reminders as to Greg Stumbo's lack of character, they got a jolting reminder earlier this week when one of Stumbo's lackeys told the press that the attorney general's office is considering referring the merit system investigation to federal prosecutors.

Nevermind that Stumbo had previously ruled out passing his "evidence" along to the feds. Apparently he's changed his mind.

Early in the course of the merit system persecution, Stumbo hinted that he might turn over his office's files to the feds. That became problematic, though, when Fletcher issued pardons to protect his staffers from Stumbo's politically-motivated witch hunt. Many of those staffers had rightly refused to cooperate with the grand jury, asserting their Fifth Amendment rights when subpoenaed to testify.

As the prosecutors continued with Fletcher in their sights, the question came up about forcing those who had taken the Fifth to testify against the governor since they themselves were in no danger of being prosecuted in state courts.

That is where Stumbo's previous statements about the feds came back to bite him. Those who had refused to cooperate in his persecution of the Fletcher administration pointed to his statements and said they would continue to take the Fifth, so any statements they made to the grand jury or in a trial of Fletcher could not be held against them in federal court.

Continuing his single-minded pursuit designed to bring down Fletcher and his administration, Stumbo then made public statements that he had no plans to turn the investigation over to the feds. That declaration, plus indications made by the feds that they would not use anything said in state court in a federal trial, seemingly paved the way for Fletcher staffers to be forced to testify against their governor before the grand jury or in a sham trial.

The decision by Stumbo not to pursue the state case and to dismiss the misdemeanor indictments with prejudice seemed to put the issue to rest.

But as Gomer Pyle would say, "Surprise, surprise, surprise!"

Now the attorney general's office is making noise about turning its files over to the feds, and used such a possibility as the basis to deny an open records request from the Lexington Herald-Leader for all the records relating to the investigation. (We suppose that if you cut the size of the paper, eliminate the daily TV listings and reduce the amount of news coverage you provide, you can save the money that will be needed to pay for copies of all that paperwork). Deputy AG Pierce Whites was the one who made the statement earlier this week.

The fact that the AG's office is even considering referring the case to the feds is again proof that Greg Stumbo has not one ounce of honesty or integrity in his body. He's certainly proven that in his personal life, through forcing the mother of his illegitimate child to sue for child support and then using the courts to harass her. Now, by entertaining the idea of a referral to the feds after pledging not to, he puts his lack of character and inegrity in an official capacity on display for the whole state to see.

This whole episode leads us to two damning conclusions about Stumbo. The first is the aforementioned lack of character and integrity. He proves that time and time again, which is why we refer to him as a lying scumbag. He has put his hypocrisy out for public view by prosecuting the governor and members of his administration for the exact same thing he did while a legislator during the Patton administration. Remember that Stumbo wrote to Gov. Paul Patton on House of Representatives letterhead, trying to use his political power to influence several merit system personnel actions. This is precisely the same thing that Stumbo prosecuted and persecuted Fletcher loyalists. He even indicted people not even on Fletcher's staff for making personnel recommendations. Funny that it was illegal if the Republicans did it, but not illegal if Democrats did.

But the second conclusion is probably more troubling from a professional perspective. It's becoming clear that Stumbo doesn't have control of his office.

Remember the news stories that resulted from a July 2005 meeting between Stumbo and Jim Deckard, Fletcher's general counsel, about the case? The general consensus was that Stumbo was seeking to bring the investigation to an end only a few months after it started, and in fact reached an agreement to that end with Deckard. But Whites and Scott Crawford-Sutherland (the prosecutor who has been accused of strong-arming a Scott County grand jury to return an indictment before it heard from all the witnesses it wanted testimony from) dissuaded Stumbo from stopping the investigation.

If Stumbo indeed had no plans to refer the merit system case to the feds, but if Whites and/or Crawford-Sutherland talked him into it -- or worse yet, if Whites was talking to the press of his own volition and without Stumbo's blessing -- then Stumbo is a weak leader. He needs to get control of his rogue employees now before they do further damage to his reputation.

Either way, the merit system persecution, which had been taken out of the headlines with the dismissal of the indictments against Fletcher, suddenly ended up back in the news cycles. With the 2007 governor's race now in full swing, and speculation running rampant that Stumbo may get in the race now that the state investigation's conclusion frees him of ethics constraints from running (not that Stumbo had any ethics to begin with), this would allow Stumbo to continue his pursuit of Fletcher without having to do it himself. (Remember that Stumbo said he would not run against Fletcher unless Fletcher became "wildly unpopular," then Stumbo embarked on his mission to ruin the governor's popularity).

At any rate, this whole turn of events is disgusting and it gives us even more of a window into the type of person Greg Stumbo really is. And the view isn't pretty at all.

The Great Newspaper Caper

One of the most intriguing stories that came out of this month's local elections was what we're calling "The Great Newspaper Caper" in Letcher County.

In that southeastern Kentucky mountain locale, a number of the races were hotly, heavily and nastily contested; none more so than the county judge-executive's race between incumbent Republican Carroll Smith and his Democrat challenger, magistrate Jim Ward.

Yes, you read that right. "Incumbent Republican." And it seems odd to type that phrase when talking about Letcher County, but Smith had indeed managed to get himself elected multiple times in that predominantly-Democrat county.

Smith wasn't a typical Republican, though. He's more of a RINO. For instance, he supported a county minimum wage and never gave a thought as to what mandating a minimum wage in one of Kentucky's smallest, poorest and most rural and distant counties would do to the local business climate. And in many ways, Ward is a DINO. He is certainly an advocate for business, which is something that any local administrator needs to be in a county with high unemployment where jobs are scarce.

The race seemed to also pit three newspapers against each other. The Mountain Eagle is Whitesburg's established journal and is operated by the uber-liberal Gish family. The Community Press is a smaller publication that is based in Cromona (a small community near Fleming and Neon, between Jenkins and Whitesburg). The third paper is the new East Kentucky Freedom Press, published in Vicco in Perry County but purporting to serve Letcher and Knott counties as well.

Prior to the election, The Mountain Eagle published a news story that refuted claims that candidate Ward had made against Smith's administration. And then that edition of the paper disappeared.

Through some as-yet-unknown combination of mass purchases and vendor hide-and-seek, the pre-election issue of The Mountain Eagle vanished from the newsstands. The caper made headlines across the state and in journalism circles. The Democrats in Letcher County were blamed for trying to keep information damaging to their candidate from making it to the public.

The Mountain Eagle threw up its stories and electronic versions of the paper's pages themselves on the Center for Rural Strategy's Web site. But the damage had been done, and the Gishes railed against the caper in the next issue of the paper.

If businesses did indeed hide the paper until after the election, then that's a despicable act. But if someone went to the outlets and bought up dozens of copies at a time -- well, how's that any different than someone buying up lots of copies of the paper if their wedding photo is in it? If those people have more money than brains and want to take the paper off the market in that manner; well, that's good for the Gishes' bottom line. (And taking papers from coin boxes while paying for only one is theft). The proof will be in the pudding, when the newspaper delivery receipts for that week's edition are totaled. Perhaps the Gishes will see fit to report on their single-copy sales figures for the week before the election in the near future.

As blatantly pro-Smith as The Eagle was, the new East Kentucky Freedom Press was blatantly anti-Smith. That paper has an obvious vendetta against Smith and the Republican judge of Knott County, Randy Thompson, who was appointed by Gov. Fletcher and then in a shocker, won a four-year term of his own. But lest you think the paper hates Republicans in general, it appears to have aligned itself with Republican State Rep. Brandon Smith from Hazard, who's pursuing a vendetta against the Perry County school superintendent. There have been allegations that the superintendent had pornographic images on his school-issued laptops, but prosecutors have looked into the matter and have declined to file charges. That hasn't stopped Smith and the East Kentucky Freedom Press from continuing to press the matter.

And The Community Press has managed to tick off just about everyone with its coverage of the whole affair, it seems.

As students of both politics and the media, we found this whole incident amusing. Quite frankly, we think anyone who'd orchestrate a mass purchase of newspapers containing stories or editorials they didn't like to be a bit silly. Like we said, more money than brains. We've heard of people taking stacks of free papers away because they didn't like what was in them. (This happened recently to the Kentucky Kernel newspaper at UK and last year to The Trail Blazer, Morehead State's student newspaper. That's a crime and has been pursued as such by the authorities in Lexington and Morehead respectively). But to buy dozens or hundreds of papers at 75 cents a pop? That's carrying things just a little too far.

We'd like to hear more about this incident. We'll be keeping an eye on the Eagle's newly-minted Web site and trade publications (including the Kentucky Press Association and Al Cross's Institute for Rural Journalism at UK) for more information.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Investigative reporting: Dead and buried in Kentucky

Where have all the real journalists gone?

They're sure not in Kentucky, we can tell you that.

The ongoing story that has dominated the headlines in this state for the last 18 months or so has been the merit system probe and the subsequent persecution of Gov. Fletcher. Until that plane crashed in Lexington, the persecution, indictment and subsequent dismissal of charges agains the governor was going to be the state's biggest news story of 2006.

But the media has done very little true reporting on this story. They've dutifully taken every statement and press release that Greg Stumbo's office has churned out and turned it into front-page news. In fact, we think Vicki Glass, Stumbo's PR flak, probably practically wrote every story about the investigation that carried a byline with the names Loftis, Brammer, Beardsley or Alessi on it.

(At least Glass is eye candy; that's one redeeming quality about her. Her choice of employers certainly leads one to question her professionalism).

At any rate, the press in this state has certainly shown its anti-Fletcher bias in the way the grand jury investigation was reported and written. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find any good, hard-hitting original reporting anywhere in the state on this matter, and investigative reporting was practically nonexistent.

When Transportation Cabinet employee Doug Doerting originally went to the attorney general's office with his complaint, for example, it was not widely reported (if at all) in the mainstream media that he had shopped his allegations around to several agencies, or that he went to Stumbo before he went to the Personnel Board -- where, by protocol and past practice, such complaints had always gone.

The ensuing media stories about and interviews with Doerting were puff pieces. No one delved into what may have motivated his actions. No one asked if he had legally and properly obtained his "evidence." Never was the theory explored that he may have acted because he was a high school classmate of Fletcher's, but Fletcher didn't recognize him at a state function and thus Doerting felt snubbed and acted out of spite. The fact that Doerting had caused legal problems for the state previously was never mentioned in the statewide press. And it certainly wasn't reported that Doerting was disliked -- hated, even-- by many of his fellow Transportation Cabinet employees; no one asked those co-workers why.

The only news outlet that really delved into Doerting's issues was The Big Sandy News, a regional semi-weekly serving several counties along the US 23 corridor in eastern Kentucky (including Floyd, home of the attorney general). Because of Stumbo's involvement in the investigation and the fact that residents of Magoffin County (one of the BSN's counties of focus) were connected to the probe, the BSN reported on several aspects of it. And because Doerting was the whistleblower, the BSN made note of the fact that Doerting was the focus of a lawsuit filed against the Paul Patton-era Transportation Cabinet by former UK basketball player Dan Hall. Hall, a resident of Floyd County, had named Doerting in a lawsuit he filed while he worked in Transportation's Pikeville district office.

The Big Sandy News played up Doerting's involvement in the Hall case, and the obvious implication was that Doerting's hands were not clean, but that conclusion escaped those so-called superior journalists at the daily papers in Kentucky's population centers.

As the unprecedented grand jury inquisition continued, culminating in an indictment of the governor and a scathing final report that read like a bill of particulars filed by the prosecution, our state's beacons of journalistic integrity again fell asleep at the switch. The reporters ignored several basic questions that should have been answered about the composition of the grand jury; all the while the editorialists and columnists praised the sacrifices the grand jurors made and spouted platitudes about how everyone in the state in general, and merit system employees in particular, should be eternally grateful to them.

Not once -- never -- did the press look into the backgrounds of the grand jurors to see what biases and outside influences those Frankin County residents may have brought to their deliberations. The only reference to their possible prejudices against Fletcher came in a New York Times story back in June, when Stan Cave was quoted as saying all the jurors were Democrats. Obviously, Fletcher and his advisers would have had the names and personal information about the jurors, but they haven't made this information public yet. They have too much class to do so, and besides, why should they do the press' job?

The validity and legitimacy of the indictments and report issued by the grand jury will always be in doubt until some fundamental questions are answered. Who sat on the grand jury? What political party do they belong do? Did any of them contribute to Greg Stumbo's campaign, or Ben Chandler's? Are any of them merit system state employees, or do they have relatives who work for the state? Did any of them or their families get turned down for a state job or a promotion during this administration?

These questions must be answered, yet we don't see the press rushing to ask or find answers to them. The daily papers can run glowing tributes to a cross-dressing gay teen who commits suicide, lament the lack of retail stores in Lexington on one page while complaining about the development of Hamburg Farm on another, or publish toxicology reports for dead college students who drowned in a freak flood, but they can't see fit to ask simple questions or obtain information readily available under the state's Open Records Act to dissect a costly, unprecedented investigation that resulted in the indictment of a sitting governor on misdemeanor charges and possibly brought his political career to a premature halt.

Oh, wait, we forgot ... the press does do investigative work. The Herald-Leader ran a bought-and-paid-for hatchet job on Mitch McConnell recently. So we can only conclude that they don't do investigative work when said work interferes with their anti-Republican, anti-conservative agenda.

And newspapers and broadcast networks wonder why their circulations and audiences are down, and why cable news channels, talk radio and Internet sites such as blogs are on the rise.

Unbridled sign replacement

While we generally support Gov. Fletcher and his agenda for Kentucky, we don't agree with everything his administration has done. After all, no one's perfect.

Case in point is the proliferation of the Kentucky Unbridled Spirit "brand" for the state.

While we admit that the logo is eye-catching and it generally seems to be popular and successful, we weren't that crazy about it from the start. When the four choices for Kentucky's "brand" were presented to the voting public, three of them had horse-related themes, so it's a foregone conclusion that something with a horse was going to win. However, we believe that there's far more to Kentucky than horses.

The whole concept of a state "brand" is to create something enduring and endearing, like "Virginia Is for Lovers" or "Wild, Wonderful West Virginia" or "Famous Potatoes." And after the omnipresence of the absolutely hideous "Education Pays" signs and logos that sprouted everywhere during the Patton administration, Kentucky needed something new to put on letterhead and state welcome signs.

In general, Unbridled Spirit has caught on across the state. Local governments have put the logo on their publications and their water towers. The Ashland refinery at the eastern entrance to the state has the logo prominently displayed to greet visitors. It gets high marks for creativity and recognizeability.

But the state has taken it a bit too far.

If you've driven on one of Kentucky's parkways lately, you've probably seen new signage with the Unbridled Spirit logo at the bottom. These signs have replaced other text-based signs, many of which were recently redesigned to reflect the new monikers for these highways because Paul Patton went on an executive order spree and renamed most of them after Democrat governors. The Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway is a notable exception; not to mention the whole Hal Rogers Parkway fiasco. What's next; renaming the Audubon Parkway for Happy Chandler, a native of the area?

At any rate, the new Unbridled Spirit signs aren't that drastic of a change from what was previously erected. But there's one notable exception -- the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway.

The Mountain Parkway is Kentucky's second-oldest former toll road and the oldest one not incorporated into the interstate system (the Kentucky Turnpike, which ran from Louisville to Elizabethtown, became part of I-65). It was also the first toll road named after a former governor, Bert Combs, in whose administration the road was conceived and built.

Its classic, distinctive signage, lets you know know beyond a shadow of a doubt what road you are on. The "path beside a tree" is genius in its simplicity, elegant in its understatement, and a perfect graphic logo of a road leading into the mountains.

In case you've never seen the signage, a photo is below:

If you've never seen one of these beauties in person, you'd better get to eastern Kentucky fast because those signs are rapidly disappearing, to be replaced with the new-style sign show below:

The new sign has none of the artistic uniqueness of the old one. The color schemes and patterns for the new signs for all nine former toll roads are the same. A Wendell H. Ford Western Kentucky Parkway sign will look the same as an Edward T. Breathitt Pennyrile Parkway sign, instead of the WK Parkway sign being blue and white and the Pennyrile Parkway sign being green and white. And nothing about that new sign denotes the one-of-a-kind importance of the Mountain Parkway, which opened up a forlorn and forgotten area of the Bluegrass State to economic development, tourism, and access to education, employment and health care opportunities.

If the Transportation Cabinet was dead-set on posting the Unbridled Spirit logo on the parkway system, it could have erected stand-alone Unbridled Spirit logo panels below the existing signs, in the same manner that they originally added the politicians' names to the signage. However, it's a foregone conclusion that the next Democratic governor will probably remove all traces of Unbridled Spirit out of spite, and perhaps they viewed this change as making it harder for Fletcher's successors to obliterate the successful brand. It'd be far easier to remove individual panels than it will be to change all the signage, particularly after it's just been changed to add the logo.

What the state really should have done was to give the state's route markers a makeover. The bland "circle or oval in a black box" design is used by several other states, such as New Jersey, Delaware, Mississippi and Iowa. Maybe the state could have come up with a new state numerical marker design that used the brand, and left the parkway signage alone. Oklahoma, which previously used the same style of state route marker as Kentucky, recently redesigned its signs to incorporate a silhouette of the state's outline. If you see one of those signs, you know you're in Oklahoma.

At any rate, we lament the passing of the old, distinctive Mountain Parkway signs. They were truly unique and no doubt a comfortable, familiar sight to those who moved from the area but come home from time to time. That's one place where the unbridled spread of Kentucky's new brand needed to be reined in.

(We should note that these images shown above were lifted from another site and used with permission of the photographer).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

First Amendment issues? Hardly...

We can't help but notice the furor over the now-cancelled O.J. Simpson book and interview.

While reading a story on the decision by News Corp. to cancel the television special and the publication of the book If I Did It, we noticed the following quote from Mark Jurkowitz, identified as the associate director for the Project for Excellence In Journalism, a Washington-based research institute affiliated with Columbia University's journalism school:

"I haven't heard anyone yet make the First Amendment argumetn that, hey, this is egregious censorship."

Well, Mr. Jurkowitz, that's because it's NOT censorship.

The First Amendment prohibits the government telling news outlets what they can or cannot publish. No government decision was involved when Rupert Murdoch pulled the plug on the Simpson book and TV special.

What was involved was good taste, and a public outcry.

People always seem to cry "censorship" and "First Amendment" whenever things like this happen, but people are wrong when they do.

Mark Nickolas over at was astounded why the conservative blog network in Kentucky didn't take his side when state government banned access to blogs on the state computer network. Nickolas thinks it's a First Amendment issue; a classic case of government censorship. He even filed a lawsuit making the same claim.

The reason the conservative blogs are on the opposite side of Nickolas' position is because they realize no censorship is involved. State employees are as free as they ever were to read, Kentucky Progress, Conservative Edge and any number of other blogs. However, they must do it on their own time and with their own Internet connections and computers.

Those are matters of government controlling access to its computer network and employee productivity and conduct, not censorship. Since conservatives generally expect government workers to actually work on the government's time, not read and post to blogs, why would they join Nickolas' crusade?

The "censorship" argument is made much too often and most of the time, incorrectly. To hear a supposed expert in the field of journalism make it just confirms the sorry state of that once-noble profession that spends more time coddling the liberals and going for the sensational news story, instead of reporting the facts and letting readers/viewers/listeners make up their own minds.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Grand jury report: No new revelations, just same tired old falsehoods

As expected, no new ground was broken in the special grand jury report on the merit system investigation, but you wouldn't know that by the way the media pounced on it.

There was nothing new presented, no blockbuster disclosures that hadn't previously been included in prosecution filings -- indeed, the whole report looks as if it could have been written by Greg Stumbo or one of his lackeys in the attorney general's office.

But the news media treated the report as if it was some sort of previously unknown revelation. The Lexington Herald-Leader used a front-page headline of the type normally reserved for presidential assassinations or Kentucky basketball national championships.

And what was in the report? Gov. Fletcher probably stated it best when he called it "a savvy litany of political sound bites." The report was chock-full of baseless accusations with no supporting evidence.

For example, the report made reference to all those poor merit system employees who had been fired, demoted or transferred illegally. Yet it made no reference whatsoever to any specific instances, and none of the quashed indictments, save one, ever pointed out one personnel decision that negatively impacted an existing employee.

(That act, the dismissal of Mike Duncan, really doesn't count because Duncan was a probationary employee and according to state law, he could be dismissed at any time during that probationary period without cause).

The state's two leading newspapers and that Democratic circle jerk of a blog,, all posted PDF copies of the grand jury's final report. Yet one thing was conspicuously absent from their postings -- the names of the grand jurors.

The state's dominant media have given this anonymous bunch of prosecutorial tools a complete pass. They have been allowed to malign the reputations and ruin the careers of good people without question and behind a cloud of anonymity. No one has held the members of the grand jury accountable for their acts. We already know the biases of the prosecutors. Stumbo's designs on the governor's office are well-known. Prosecutor Scott Crawford-Sutherland's political biases have been documented through his contributions. But no one has seen fit to look into what biases the grand jurors brought to the table. The only inkling of such came when in an interview with an out-of-state media outlet, Stan Cave made the comment that all the grand jurors are registered Democrats. We don't know how many of them may have relatives employed in state government, or may be state employees themselves. We don't know if any of them contributed to the campaigns of Greg Stumbo or Ben Chandler. We don't know any of this because the media, in its anti-Fletcher frenzy, has not seen fit to hold them accountable. They have been used as the prosecutor's tools -- ham sandwiches, anyone? -- and have allowed themselves to be used as such without any scrutiny whatsoever.

Their use of Fletcher's campaign materials and their use of his campaign slogan to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in such a derisive manner in their report is a good indicator of their prejudices and their true intent, however.

What makes matters worse, though, is the way in which they allowed themselves to be used in an unprecedented criminal prosecution. Never before had personnel matters come under such legal scrutiny, despite widespread and ample evidence of Democratic misuse of the merit system for decades.

In fact, this grand jury stuck its collective head in the sand and refused to even see why a Governor's Personnel Initiative was necessary. They failed to note that Democrat merit system personnel officers were still doling out jobs to Democrats despite the change in administrations. They saw that the total number of Democrats in state merit jobs had decreased by a measly 2 percent -- but still far above the statewide percentage of registered Democrats -- and felt it was the biggest crime in this state since Honest Dick Tate absconded with the state treasury.

In the days to come we can expect the obligatory editorials from the state's dominant dailies, the sanctimonious columns from the likes of Larry Dale Keeling and Don McNay, and the uninformed blog posts of Mark Nickolas and his band of groupies.

But two things we can't expect are truth and accountability. The truth was not to be found in the grand jury report, and the grand jurors will never be held accountable for the unwarranted damage they've caused the reputation of the finest, most principled man ever to be elected governor in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and those whose careers they destroyed in their zeal to bring Ernie Fletcher down.

Election postmortem

Nationally, Election Day wasn't pretty for Republicans, but in Kentucky things could have been worse.

True, the GOP lost a seat in Congress in a close vote -- what WERE you idiots in Louisville thinking, anyway? -- and the party lost five seats in the state House of Representatives, but there were a number of bright spots.

First and foremost was the continued growth of the party's influence in areas previously dominated by Democrats. Several counties reported, for the first time, electing a Republican to a county office.

One very pleasant surprise was the election of Randy Thompson, the Republican county judge candidate in Knott County. Knott, of course, is one of the most heavily Democratic counties in the state. It's the home to the Hindman Mafia, a powerful group of Democratic politicos such as Benny Ray Bailey, Grady Stumbo and Bill Weinberg. But when the previously elected Democrat judge got into some legal trouble and resigned, Gov. Ernie Fletcher appointed a Republican -- Thompson -- to fill the unexpired term, and Thompson shocked the world by winning a four-year term of his own.

Voters in two heavily Democratic counties, Fleming and Morgan, re-elected Republican county judges. The victory in Morgan County by incumbent Tim Conley was especially sweet, given the dirty tricks that Democrats had pulled in an effort to defeat him. Those dirty tricks were documented here in previous weeks. Conley overcame a politically-motivated legal investigation instigated by Greg Stumbo and one of his cronies, and a contrived financial crisis dreamed up by his Democrat opponent who was at the time a magistrate on the fiscal court.

The GOP's ability to keep control of the state Senate was rewarding, as well. Beating back two determined challengers for the Congressional seats held by Ron Lewis and Geoff Davis was a coup, as well, given how voter registration numbers in this state favor Democratic Party candidates.

There were rough spots. The loss by John Roach, Gov. Fletcher's appointee to the Supreme Court, is being seen by some as a rebuke of Fletcher himself. But again, party identification played a large role in that race. Roach is well-known as a Republican, and his opponent was labeled by a supporter as "a yellow-dog Democrat" and that played well in a predominantly-Democratic district.

Yes, things could have been better, but they could have been much worse as well. And the infighting among prominent Democrats in the state can do nothing but help the GOP cause.

For instance, many Democrats are unhappy with their party chairman, Jerry Lundergan, and want him out. They point to the Democrats' national success, wonder why it wasn't duplicated in Kentucky, and hold up DNC chair Howard Dean as a model. Yet some prominent national Democrats, most notably James Carville, want Dean out because they think he didn't do well enough.

And as some of the Democrats most frequently mentioned as gubernatorial candidates bow out one by one, the party will probably fracture further. Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and state Auditor Crit Luallen are out. Conventional wisdom has Congressman Ben Chandler out as well.

Former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, he of the medical billing problems, is in. Former Gov. Brereton Jones, with the National Guard scandal that helped do in Mike Weaver's Congress campaign in his background, is said to be looking. Greg Stumbo, a proven deadbeat dad, will also likely join the fray. There is not a lot to get excited about in that lineup.

Plus, Republicans are already planning to make John Yarmuth a one-termer.

Yes, it could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse as well. There's lots to take heart in when Kentucky Republicans evaluate last week's elections.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Target: John Yarmuth

Congressman-elect John Yarmuth ought not get too comfortable with his new digs in D.C. For he now wears a huge target on his back and if Kentucky's Republicans and conservatives have any fight left in them, they'll point their political weapons on that big liberal bullseye Yarmuth now sports.

Our state's Republicans screwed up mightily when they allowed Ben Chandler to gain a toehold on his congressional seat, and now it'll be difficult to dislodge him. Had they handled the situation properly after Chandler won the special election, they could have ensured that he didn't last past the 2004 election. But they botched the aftermath of Chandler's win in the special election, and now Kentucky's apparently stuck with him for awhile.

But we're not here to look backward. We're looking forward. And our goal is to make Yarmuth a one-termer.

Even given the advantages incumbents supposedly enjoy, it won't be impossible to get rid of Yarmuth. His margin of victory over Anne Northup was not very large, despite the huge advantage Democrats have in Jefferson County in terms of voter registration. But it'll take a huge effort, and that effort needs to begin now, before he is even sworn in for his first term. It's time for a scorched earth policy.

How does it get done?

First, the Jefferson County Republican Party and its leaders need to be out in front in their criticisms of Yarmuth. They must loudly and publicly denounce every action he takes and every vote he casts. If Jack Richardson will expend half as much energy criticizing Yarmuth as he has his party's own governor, that'll be plenty. Jefferson County Republicans must see to it that Yarmuth doesn't get one minute's peace. They need to be on him like files on crap. Every vote, every public statement, every deed of his must be put under intense scrutiny. When he screws up, the voters and the public need to be told about it, loudly, quickly and repeatedly.

Second, voters in Jefferson County must have it made clear to them that there are consequences for the way they voted. Yarmuth's first year in office will coincide with the final year Gov. Fletcher's first term. Yarmuth's support for the Louisville bridges project, particularly the new bridge on the east end of the county that would link I-265 in Kentucky with I-265 in Indiana and complete the highway, is already suspect. That project is vital and needs to continue, but the Fletcher administration should start dropping other Jefferson County projects, highways and otherwise, and make it known that this is because the new congressman from Louisville is not on the same page as the state government. Fletcher's team made a strategic error in not using this same tactic in Floyd County against Greg Stumbo when the merit system persecution began. It's time to play political hardball and tell the voters in Jefferson County that if they want their state projects restored, they'll cut Yarmuth loose after one term.

Third, the party very quickly needs to find a short list of candidates to oppose Yarmuth in two years. One of those on that list should NOT be Northup. Even though she had a very distinguisted tenure as the U.S. Representative from Louisville, and she only lost re-election by around 4,000 votes, the public gets tired of former officeholders trying to get their old jobs back. If Northup wants to run for another office (besides governor) that would be fine. Her service to the state would be greatly appreciated. But voters would probably feel more comfortable choosing a new representative than voting for someone who's running against her past opponent to get her old job back.

Two or three people need to be identified as potential candidates, and those people need to be on the front line of Yarmuth critics and be evaluated in terms of public support. Then the local and state party organizations should tacitly ask all but the clear front-runner not to file for office in '08, leaving the tallest-standing Yarmuth critic as the candidate. By then Yarmuth'll have a liberal voting record to go along with all those out-of-touch-with-Kentucky columns he wrote for the Louisville Eccentric Observer and he can be pilloried on that record.

Fourth, the rank-and-file conservatives and Republicans need to become engaged. They need to watch Yarmuth's performance very closely, and speak out when he makes missteps. They need to write letters to the Courier-Journal and post on blogs and do everything possible to spread the seeds of dissent.

The battle starts now. Are Jefferson County and Kentucky Republicans ready?

Friday, November 10, 2006

We honor our veterans

On the occasion of Veterans Day, we salute all those who have bravely served our country. We give thanks to those who lost limbs or otherwise sacrificed their good health for the defense of our nation. And we pay the ultimate honor to those who gave their lives in support of the United States and its ideals. You are important to us and we will not forget nor take lightly what you have done for all of us.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

An early Christmas gift idea

With Christmas fast approaching, you might wonder what will be first on President Bush's letter to Santa.

I suggest that the president ask for pens.

He will certainly get much use out of them, vetoing bad legislation the next two years.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Black helicopters disappear, Democrats complain about the lack of noise

As gas prices began a slow decline from their yearly maximum during the heart of summer driving season, Democrats saw conspiracies behind every oil derrick. Depending on which stark raving lunatic you asked, (1) the Bush administration was manipulating oil prices to influence this year's midterm elections, or (2) oil companies were playing tricks with the price per gallon to gain favor for the Republican incumbents.

Funny how reality intrudes on the wackiest of conspiracy theories, isn't it?

If the Democrats were to be believed -- which should NEVER, EVER be the case -- gas prices would have slid down past the $2 mark and would have leveled out somewhere around a buck and a half as we drew closer to Nov. 7.

Instead, prices briefly dropped below $2 before rising slightly last week.

Another goofy conspiracy theory shot down. We suppose that the black helicopters are taking advantage of the low petroleum prices to refuel, only to re-emerge over Democrats' homes and offices sometime before Christmas while pulling off another dastardly conspiracy.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ramsey Clark: Traitor

Any American who would defend Saddam Hussein is a traitor to his country.

May Saddam hang by the neck until dead very soon.

And it's shameful to think that there are Americans who support this piece of human debris and prefer that he still be in power. Dusgusting.

Remember that when you go vote Tuesday. Weaver, Yarmuth and Lucas were against the removal of this butcher from power.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Doug Doerting: Liar

In the weeks following the commencement of the merit system investigation last year, a fawning media made a folk hero out of Doug Doerting, the Transportation Cabinet employee who started the whole thing by turning over "evidence" of alleged wrongdoing in hiring to the attorney general's office. Nevermind that Doerting was one of the most hated employees ever to disgrace the halls of the old State Office Building or the new Trans Mahal on Mero Street, and that he has his own rap sheet of alleged improper conduct. The mainstream press deified him and fell all over themselves to publish glowing puff pieces on The Man Who Would Bring Down The Evil Ernie Fletcher.

In those arse-kissing profiles, Doerting continually asserted that he was not politically minded in the least. But now comes the revelation that Doerting has endorsed Franklin Circuit Judge candidate Phil Shepherd in a Frankfort newspaper ad.

Not politically minded, eh? You, Mr. Doerting, are a liar, plain and simple. And we thought you planned to stay out of the spotlight once this merit system investgation died down. So much for that pledge.

And as if there weren't enough reasons not to vote for Phil Shepherd for Franklin circuit judge? If the fact that he was a Cabinet secretary under the failed Brereton Jones administration isn't enough, Doerting's endorsement ought to be the kiss of death. Frankly, we'd have a hard time voting for Jesus Christ as the incumbent Savior if Doerting endorsed him.

Sudden thought: Has anyone thought to check to see if the e-mails Doerting turned over to the attorney general's office were legitimate?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

You Ain't From Around Here, Are You?

The lead post on as this is written is about an allegation that the state Transportation Cabinet is withholding approval of a highway project in Hopkins County, waiting to see if a Republican challenger can knock off an incumbent Democrat state senator. Mark Nickolas calls it "another scummy Kentucky Republican tactic" and he feigns outrage.

By doing so, Nickolas only reaffirms his status as an outsider who has no comprehension of how Democrats have played politics with transportation projects for years in Kentucky. Time after time, Nickolas proves repeatedly that he's not from around here.

If the California Carpetbagger had any clue about Kentucky history, he'd know how roads and other infrastructure were neglected in Kentucky's Republican counties for years, primarily in the "Old 5th" counties of Hal Rogers and Tim Lee Carter.

Prior to the election of Louie Nunn, many of the state roads in southeastern and south-central Kentucky's GOP counties were gravel. After 1968, Nunn's administration paved many of these highways, but after that initial coat of asphalt, malignant neglect set in. The Democratic administrations of Ford, Carroll, Brown and Collins ignored maintenance on many of these routes and a large number of them became so riddled with potholes that they, for all intents and purposes, went back to gravel. You have to give Wallace Wilkinson, a rural conservative Democrat, credit for realizing what his predecessors had allowed to happen and getting Kentucky's rural state roads back on a sensible resurfacing schedule.

It's no coincidence that the last remaining gravel road linking Kentucky county seats ran between two Republican counties. That road was Highway 89, linking Irvine and McKee. The last portion, from the Estill-Jackson county line extending south, stayed gravel until the Nunn administration paved it.

It's also no coincidence that the parkway-building craze fostered by governors Combs and Breathitt ignored Republican counties. Again, it took a Republican (Nunn) to build the Cumberland and Daniel Boone parkways, giving staunchly GOP counties access to the rest of the world.

So those of us with long memories and keen awareness of how the Democrats have played keep-away with the Republican towns and counties for lo these many years can only chuckle with a hint of sadness at just how stupid Mark Nickolas is. If he doesn't realize that Kentucky Democrats are finally reaping the rewards of their years of arrogant control over the state's road building budget, then he's more clueless than he appears.

If the conversation the Madisonville writer reports on truly took place, then it's only fitting that the Democrats are getting a nice big dish of karma, served up with fries and a frosty dessert on the side. The Democrats are finally reaping their just rewards, and the Fletcher administration is only right to reward communities that exhibit good sense at the polling place with projects, and to punish communities that show poor sense by taking projects away and giving them to those long-neglected areas of Kentucky that could really use them.

For years, the transportation needs of rural, mostly Republican counties to the south and east of Frankfort have been ignored, while I-264 gets another lane added to it. It's nice to see that shoe on the other foot for a change.

But go ahead, Mark Nickolas, keep proving that you really don't know as much about Kentucky politics as you pretend you do. After all, we don't have a "Governor Chandler" or "Governor Richards" these days, do we?

Fayette County Voters: Just Say "No" To Condemnation

One of the most important elections in Kentucky next week takes place in only one county.

It's not a choice between candidates, however. It's the vote on whether to allow the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government to pursue condemnation of Kentucky American Water Co.

The water company condemnation issue has been ongoing for several years now, and it's now on the ballot for Fayette County voters.

Those voters should vote against condemnation -- and thus vote "no" on the ballot issue -- for several reasons.

While it is true that most Kentucky municipalities or other public agencies own their own water companies, for some reason Lexington made the decision years ago to place the water works in the hands of private enterprise. That private enterprise has done an excellent, consistent job of supplying clean water to Lexington residents as well as some inhabitants of nearby towns and counties. The state's eminent domain statute was written to allow the public to take over such a corporate-owned utility if said utility's service was ever called into question.

Such has not been the case with Kentucky American. There has been no drop in the level of service that would require a public takeover.

No question, there's been a bit of xenophobia involved with this issue. "German-owned" is a phrase that's been uttered way too often during this whole controversy. Who can forget the crazy woman who called into Dave Baker's talk show, claiming that the Germans were draining Lake Cumberland? Those who are decrying "foreign ownership of water" need to be forcefully reminded that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Commonwealth of Kentucky still own the water.

Condeming the water company sets a bad precedent. What's next? Should the voters of Fayette County take over Kentucky Utilities? After all, the local power company is also owned by a European conglomerate (E.On/Powergen). What about Columbia Gas? Alltel (or whatever the phone company calls itself these days)? Insight Cable? If the local government involuntarily takes over the water company, why not the rest of the public utilities?

Plus, there's the issue of Kentucky American's service area. Even though only Fayette County voters get to decide, what about the customers in the other nearby communities served by Kentucky American? At least now under the current setup, they have recourse through the Kentucky Public Service Commission, which regulates Kentucky American. If the Fayette County government takes over ownership, PSC oversight will disappear.

In Owen County, the local government and water districts actually sold their water systems to Kentucky American because they realized the private company could maintain the water distribution system better than the government could. Are those people going to enjoy having Lexington control their water company? And will the Lexington bureaucrats even care if a water main breaks somewhere out on Route 227 near Wheatley or New Liberty?

This is not to say that Kentucky American has done things perfectly. You frequently read about a "water supply deficit" in the Bluegrass, especially after a dry summer. The truth is that there is not a water supply deficit. There is, always has been and always will be plenty of water in the Kentucky River and tributaries to supply the needs of Central Kentucky. What does exist is a water treatment capacity issue. Kentucky American has been reluctant to spend the money required to ensure adequate treatment capacity for periods of high demand. Instead they go running to the Urban County Council for lawn-watering restrictions or to the state's Kentucky River Authority for water withdrawal fees to raise the heights of the dams, instead of building another treatment plant in another pool of the river. And when the company has made an attempt to address treatment capacity issues, such as when it proposed building a pipeline to bring treated water from the Ohio River to the Bluegrass region, the NIMBYs (people who proclaim "Not In My Back Yard" to any proposed public project) squealed like stuck pigs.
Kentucky American needs to make a serious effort to upgrade its treatment infrastructure to deal with peak capacities, instead of seeking refuge in the arms of the government (read: taxpayers) at nearly every opportunity. When we are dry from summer solstice to autumnal equinox, yet every lawn in Lexington is green and glistening with droplets from sprinklers without restrictions, then we'll know the company has acted appropriately to solve the problem.

But the main issue with this proposed condemnation, besides the legitimate question of how well the Lexington-Fayette government could run the hijacked company, is the bad precedent it sets, both for the other utilities and for the water customers in other counties.

That's why a "no" vote on condemnation is the best possible vote for all concerned.

If you live in Fayette County, be sure to vote "no" on the ballot question. Preserve the institution of private enterprise and just say "no" to unnecessary condemnation.

The Joke's on Kerry...

It's been four days since John Kerry made his ill-advised comments about the education and intelligence of the members of the United States armed forces, and the furor shows no signs of dying down. Indeed, it's taken on a life of its own, which can't be good news to the Democrats who were waiting with bated breath until next Tuesday's elections, when they felt sure they were going to reclaim at least one and maybe both chambers of Congress.

But with one dumb comment, the 2004 Democrat presidential nominee may have wiped all that out. He inadvertently showed his party's disdain for this country's military and our national security in one brief, illuminating moment.

The spin the Democrats are trying to put on Kerry's gaffe is nothing short of hilarious. "It was a joke gone bad," they say; "an attempt to poke fun at President Bush for getting us stuck in the Iraq quagmire."

The only problem is that Bush and Kerry have similar educational backgrounds, and Bush's academic record is a lot better than Kerry's. This fact seems to be a thorn in Kerry's side; one he cannot comprehend. Remember Kerry's infamous "I can't believe I'm losing to that bleeping idiot" remark during the 2004 campaign? Despite Bush's Texas dialect and his penchant for malapropisms and mispronunciations, the president is a lot more intelligent than the haughty Massachusetts senator and Mr. Teresa Heinz just can't seem to accept that.

So the "I was trying to crack wise about President Bush" argument falls flat in the face of the facts. What's left?

Well, really, nothing. We've since learned since Kerry opened mouth and inserted foot that the Army only accepts 30 percent of the candidates who try to enlist. We've learned that the average educational attainment for service personnel is higher than the country's average. And we've learned that the educational level for our all-volunteer service has risen since Sept. 11, 2001.

Kerry has made great efforts to point out that he served in Vietnam. The only problem with that is that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth discredited much of Kerry's self-proclaimed record, and even called the validity of his service medals into reasonable question. It has become apparent that Kerry's entire time in the military was based on building a leftist political platform on which to hoist his quest for elected positions. His outlandish statements shortly after his discharge and ever since show him to not be supportive of the military at all.

Indeed, his comments this week are another reflection of the disdain which the American left holds for our service personnel and for our country's security and defense. Kerry and other liberals have repeatedly claimed that rich white Republicans are sending poor minorities off to die, particularly to enrich the oil companies. This is just another example of the class and race warfare and envy the Democrats openly promote. You can always count on a liberal to play the race or class card.

No matter how Kerry, his fellow travelers in the Democratic Party or their soulmates in the mainstream media try to spin it, they can't disguise the truth. If you are in the military, John Kerry thinks you are stupid. And his explanations for his disgusting remarks make it clear that he thinks the American people are stupid, too.

And perhaps some of them are. Anyone who accepts Kerry's explanation or says that it's clear that he was talking about Bush is showing a rather high level of ignorance. Don't believe it? Go to Daily Kos, Kentucky Edition and read the comments from the usual suspects. You'll get a first class education in Kentucky stupid, right there!