Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dear Jim Bunning: Please quit whining!

We've been watching with bemusement this developing feud between Kentucky's U.S. Senators, Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning.

McConnell won re-election in his toughest battle yet last fall; Bunning is up for re-election next year. Concerns about Bunning's vulnerability as an incumbent have apparently prompted McConnell to turn on his former friend and colleague.

Bunning hasn't been silent about what's happening at all; to the contrary he's been increasingly outspoken at what he sees as a bid from McConnell to sabotage his re-election bid.

The junior senator won't get a sympathetic ear here. Of all people, Bunning should know full well what McConnell is capable of. After all, Bunning sat and watched as McConnell recruited Anne Northup to run against incumbent Ernie Fletcher in the 2007 Republican gubernatorial primary, then endorsed Northup over Fletcher. Why should Bunning be aghast at this behavior when he was part and parcel of something similar two years ago?

Although Bunning has been a staunch fiscal conservative, standing against bailouts and stimulus packages and tax increases, we lump him and McConnell in the same category because they fail a basic test of conservatism: loyalty. They showed no loyalty to Ernie Fletcher, now McConnell is giving Bunning the "Fletcher treatment" and Bunning seems surprised.

You reap what you sow. Bunning is getting the same thing that he and McConnell visited upon Fletcher two years ago.

Instead of working to find an opponent for Bunning, perhaps McConnell should instead be working to help shore up his colleague's perceived weaknesses.

Don't get us wrong: we'd be more than happy to see Bunning shot down in flames, precisely because of what he did to Fletcher. But should Bunning be shocked that McConnell is doing this? We aren't.

Grassroots Republicans are becoming increasingly frustrated with McConnell for his failure to support his party's candidates, and Bunning has a grassroots fandom because of his fiscal conservatism. It will be interesting to see how that turns out in terms of popular support for McConnell and his position as titular leader of the state Republican Party.

Still, what goes around comes around, karma is a wonderful thing, and all that. Bunning is now on the receiving end of what he helped dish out not all that long ago. Ernie Fletcher didn't whine and cry about it when Bunning did it to him. Bunning ought not be crying about it now that Mitch has targeted him.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Election fraud indictments: Is Perry County next?

Even though all the media attention is being given to this week's election fraud indictments in Clay County, that may be just the tip of the iceberg.

We're hearing of a joint federal-state investigation into vote buying in Perry County, just 45 minutes up the Hal Rogers Parkway from Clay County. This investigation involves payments made by local Democrat party officials to local residents prior to the 2008 general election. While investigators are giving the standard "neither confirm nor deny" non-answer when asked about the matter, folks in and around Hazard are coming forth to say they have been subpoenaed to testify in front of a grand jury.

Although the local party chair says nothing was done wrong, we'll just have to wait and see. The Democrat chair in Perry County is also on the county school board, which is awash in controversy over the closing of an elementary school, the looming possibility of a state takeover, and fallout from allegations that the school superintendent possessed child pornography on his district-owned computer.

Don't forget that Perry County is home of Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, who so far is the only Democrat who's announced that he wants to take on Jim Bunning in next year's U.S. Senate race.

We note two things from this investigation. First is that every time allegations of election fraud are made, Democrats are quick to say that there is no such thing and that the real problem is vote suppression by Republicans. Funny, though, that this investigation is being undertaken by officials from the federal government (President B. Hussein Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are staunch Dems) and by the state government (Gov. Steve Beshear and Attorney General Little Jackie Conway are which party, folks?) so in this instance, it's Democrats investigating Democrats. And we also find it odd that most of the election fraud investigations and subsequent convictions usually come from Democrat counties.

The second thing we note is this: The fraud allegedly occurred in the 2008 general election. Even with cheating, B. Hussein Obama couldn't carry Perry County, which has one of the largest black populations in the mountains. Doesn't speak well of the Messiah's popularity in the Bluegrass, does it?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bluegrass Embarrassment: Helen Thomas

It's been awhile since we spotlighted anyone in our "Bluegrass Embarrassment" series, but it's past time to throw the name of Helen Thomas into the mix.

For years, this Winchester native was the dean of the Capitol press corps. After she retired from news reporting and became an opinion columnist, her liberal bias really became known.

Ms. Thomas, you are an idiot. You bring shame upon the Commonwealth of Kentucky. You are washed up and quite probably going senile. You should do us all a favor and retire from the public eye, apologize for spewing your stupidity all these years, and mercifully disappear from the face of the earth.

It pains us to know that you are from the same state as we are, and it further pains us that your hometown was for years the residence of two of our collaborators.

We have no respect for you and we wish you'd just fade away. The sooner the better.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Two thumbs down, one thumb up on election reform proposals

Three election reform proposals are under consideration as the Kentucky General Assembly winds down its "off-year" session.

We support one of these initiatives and heartily oppose the other two.

The bill we support would allow gubernatorial candidates to wait until after the primary election to choose a lieutenant governor running mate.

We were not necessarily fans of the legislation requiring a gubernatorial slate back when was passed in the 1990s, although we understood the reasoning behind it. Most of us here at K-Pac are old enough to remember when Republican Gov. Nickel Louie had Democrat Wendell Ford as his lieutenant governor. And we remember the strife between Gov. Wallace Wilkinson and Lt. Gov. Brereton Jones, and then between Gov. Jones and Lt. Gov. Paul Patton.

Even the slate didn't end the strife. Patton and Lt. Gov. Steve Henry had a falling-out, and of course the rift between Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Lt. Gov. Judas Iscariot Pence still resonates. And Gov. Steve Beshear and Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo have had a parting of the ways in recent months.

The proposed system would mirror the federal presidential election process, where the nominee get to pick a running mate and then have that choice ratified at the party convention. This would allow more candidates to run for governor, including some who may have hesitated because of difficulty of finding a running mate. It would also allow a winning candidate to possibly choose a vanquished primary opponent to offer the strongest and best possible ticket.

This law would also benefit Beshear. Since Mongiardo has announced a run for the Senate, conventional wisdom is that Beshear will have to find a new running mate for 2011 since candidates raise money as a slate. (Money raised for the Fletcher-Pence re-election bid had to be refunded after Pence opted off the ticket in 2007 and Fletcher had to choose a new running mate). This new law would allow Beshear to go ahead and raise money and not be hamstrung by the decision of the voters in the 2010 U.S. Senate race.

The two proposals we hate with a passion are the ones for early voting and for allowing independents to vote in party primaries.

There's a reason they call it "Election DAY." Transportation is faster and easier than ever before. If a 12-hour Election Day was good enough in the days of horseback riders and covered wagons, it's good enough when people have cars and can usually get to their polling place in a matter of minutes.

In addition, absentee voting is rife with opportunities, and is the primary source, for vote fraud in Kentucky. And early voting is just another name for absentee voting, without the requirement to prove you'll be unable to cast a ballot on Election Day.

We think the election process, with a 12-hour voting day with provisions to keep the polls open as long as voters are waiting in line to vote, is perfectly appropriate and acceptable, and is just fine as it is. There are too many opportunities for abuse and fraud with an elongated early voting system. We hope this one gets shot down.

And we also don't support allowing independents to corrupt the primary voting process. Primary elections are designed to allow political parties and their members to select their party's nominees for the general election. Independents would be interlopers in the party selection process and should not be tolerated. Besides, any number of independents can file for office for the general election, bypassing the primary system altogether, so independent voters aren't left without a choice during the election process.

We also fear that allowing independents to vote in party primaries could be the first step on the way to open primaries, which is a complete bastardization of the nomination process. Why should Democrats get to help select the Republican nominee, and vice versa? For that matter, why should those without a party affiliation be allowed to choose a party's nominee?

We saw what can go wrong with open primaries during the 2000 presidential election. Since Vice President Al Gore was already assured of the Democrat nomination despite some opposition in the primary, in states with open primaries, the Democrats flocked to the polls and voted in the Republican primary to try to get the weakest Republican candidate (Sen. John McCain) the nomination over the candidate perceived as the strongest contender (Gov. George W. Bush).

Democrats though (and rightly so, as 2008 proved) that McCain would be easier to beat than Bush, which is why they supported him in open primaries.

Primaries are nomination processes for party candidates, and should remain so. It's embarrassing that a Republican (Rep. Jimmy Higdon) is pushing this legislation.

The General Assembly should say "yes" to allowing gubernatorial nominees to pick their running mates after the primary, and say "not only no, but HELL NO to early voting and opening party primaries to independents.

Standing up to the anti-coal bullies

Coal is the lifeblood of southeastern Kentucky. We hesitate to think what Pikeville, Hazard and Harlan -- already economically beleaguered as it is -- would look like without the monetary shot in the arm "Black Diamonds" provide. And we shudder to think how much we'd have to pay for electricity without coal.

Yet there is no shortage of individuals and groups who want to, in essence, shut down the coal mining industry. They use every claim from "destruction of our irreplaceable mountains" to "global warming" to criticize coal. They have no concept of the economic damage they'd inflict on coal country if their efforts were ever successful. Whole communities in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania would no doubt collapse or become ghost towns.

That's why we want to toss kudos in the direction of the management of Camp Blanton in Harlan County, who recently told two anti-coal groups that they are not welcome to meet at the camp.

Coal country needs more individuals and groups to stand up to the anti-coal bullies and thugs who will stop at nothing to rip the economic heart out of an already-impoverished area.

Go cry your crocodile tears somewhere else, Mountain Justice and Kentucky Heartwood. The damage you do to our way of life is far worse than the damage you claim coal mining (and logging) does to the environment.

We salute Camp Blanton for this courageous stand in defense of the mountain economy.

Missed opportunities

We're no big fans of the federal stimulus bill, which promises to do more for field mice in California or commuters between the Vegas casinos and Disneyland than for the federal economy, but we do subscribe to the theory that roads are one of the key things for which governments should be responsible. The Constitution even gives federal authority to building and maintaining them. Does the phrase "post offices and post roads" mean anything?

So we're not going to complain about the inclusion of transportation projects in the stimulus package, especially since declining gas consumption back when gas was ridiculously overpriced caused cuts in state road fund budgets.

But we do lament Kentucky's many missed opportunities to make use of the stimulus money, due to some short-sighted manipulation of the Six-Year Road Plan last year by the General Assembly and Joe Prather's Transportation Cabinet.

Half of the stimulus money earmarked for road projects must be spent within 120 days on projects that are, to use the popular vernacular, "shovel-ready." This means projects for which design has been completed, right-of-way purchased, and utilities moved out of the way. All those tasks must be included in, and funded through, the Six-Year Plan prior to being let for bids and real dirt-moving work commencing.

The trouble is, the Beshear administration removed many projects from the Six-Year Plan last year, saying the state had no money for them. This included design, right-of-way purchase and utility relocation on many projects that had been pushed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher and his Democrat predecessors for several years. In addition, several other projects were scaled back under what a couple of now-departed Beshear administration Transportation engineers touted as "practical design."

Without their inclusion in the road plan, preliminary work stopped on many of these long-promised projects. That left them begging when stimulus money was allocated and assigned to "shovel-ready" projects. Had those projects been included in the road plan as they had been in previous years, more of them could have been "shovel-ready" or even closer.

It's been a political reality for years that the road plan is, in large part, a "wish list." Politicians could point to a project's inclusion and advancement in the Six-Year Plan as proof that progress was being made, whether or not any work was actually being done. Just getting some of these projects included in the plan, even if actual construction was a decade or two in the future, was an accomplishment to be pointed at with pride. But a project's inclusion in the plan meant that a commitment had been made to move it forward.

Beshear and Prather point to the current incarnation of the plan, which ran into some legal challenges last year over the timeliness of its passage and whether projects could be funded outside the normal budgetary process, as being a more realistic overview of what roads can and will be built, instead of the wish list they claim the plan had become. But what's really realistic is that their gutting of the plan last year probably cost some communities projects that could have gotten done with stimulus money.

Some of the road projects are no-brainers, such as finishing a road in Floyd County where most of the grade work and bridges had been completed, but was dropped during the Fletcher administration because of a supposed lack of funding.

But we still lament what could have been, had Beshear and Prather not been so short-sighted. Perhaps those communities with projects that were cut or reduced in scope should remember that when 2011 rolls around.