Saturday, May 28, 2005

Frankfort's Tempest in a Teapot

Sometimes, the best thing to do when observing the antics of politicians is to pay attention to what some of the politically savvy “pros” have to offer. While the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Louisville Courier-Journal are in the process of going ballistic with regard to the “Merit Job” matter obsessing the Frankfort-beltway gang these days, the commentators on KET’s Comment on Kentucky, hosted by longtime pol-watcher and former newspaper editor Al Smith, during the programs of both May 20 and 27 essentially laughed the whole matter to scorn, simply reminding everyone that “that’s the way it’s always been done” in Frankfort.

In the latter program, Frankfort editor Carl West, who’s been around for a long time, joined Smith in ticking off some of the sleazy things, especially including patronage shenanigans, that have happened in various administrations down through the years while each party has been in power, though it was mostly the democrat gang that got the “treatment” because Fletcher is the first republican governor since the 60s. WHAS TV’s Mark Hebert got in on the fun, too, as did astute observer Lowell Reese, editor of the Frankfort-based Kentucky Gazette. Smith ended the program with an anecdote describing how one of the masters of patronage of yesteryear, Emerson “Doc” Beauchamp, operated, the kicker of which was that when it was decided to do something with Doc’s papers, there were no papers…only the telephone was needed to confirm a request made and approved.

A good example of the innocuous nature of the whole brouhaha is seen in a situation in Lincoln County, as reported by the Associated Press. Apparently, Ronnie “Buckwheat” Gilbert, a railroader turned county judge-executive many years ago, has been stumping for democrat James Caudill, a state truck-driver and back-hoe operator for eight-and-a-half years, to get an assistant foreman’s job in the county road system. The job, however, went to Tony Todd, a republican who has nine-years experience on the county-run road crew. Actually, it’s hard to believe that in Lincoln County there could be such a thing as a republican in the county road system, in the first place. Gilbert was quoted as saying, “I think they discriminated against my man. They took a man off the street because he was a republican.” Imagine the gall in such a statement. What street? The guy has loads of experience on the county roads, which is what the job is all about. It was not like Todd, with nine years experience in the county, was a new hire.

Hearkening back to actually serious, criminal activity, such as the so-called “Boptrot Affair” in the early 90s in Kentucky when a passel of lawmakers and bureaucrats were besieged by federal prosecutors and sent to the Big House by the judge for acts of corruption involving stark dishonesty, or the Washington “Watergate Scandals” of the 70s, such terms as hypocrisy-gate and Jobtrot have been the slanderous terms of choice. Op-ed writers have had a field day, probably never realizing that, along with the pros, most Kentuckians simply shrug, give each other a wink and knowing-looks, grin a bit, and wonder how the op-ed gang could possibly be so out of touch. Perhaps they’re not actually out of touch. They simply haven’t quite gotten used to the fact that their man lost the governorship, and thus wrecked their respective agendas.

To see how politics can be the “damnedest” in Kentucky, one has only to look at the senator in the Kentucky Legislature from the Frankfort area, Julian Carroll. Carroll was governor of the state in the late 70s, having stepped up from his lieutenant governor’s post when then-Governor Wendell Ford went to Washington to fill out a Senate term, and then both were elected to terms of their own. During Carroll’s term, the state Democrat Party chairman, also a onetime legislator, was involved in an insurance mess involving workmen’s compensation payments that landed him a prison term of three years. One also remembers the “warehouse deal” in that administration, as well as the fact that Carroll was the object of a federal grand jury investigation while in office. However, Carroll defeated the governor’s brother for the state Senate seat in 2004, never mind the peccadilloes of his administration, both those known and unknown. This is par for the course in Kentucky.

So, the current raging is over mostly nothing. Doug Doerting, a 30-year employee in the Transportation Cabinet and current assistant director of personnel in the Transportation Department and probably mis-categorized as a “whistleblower,” has supposedly “brought down the house on the Fletcher administration.” Poppycock! As the governor has said, there may have been some irregularities, but the democrats have breezed through irregularities for decades only occasionally relieved by a republican takeover of the governor’s seat (but certainly nothing else except the state Senate for the last few years). What was Doerting’s vested interest? Whereas republicans are now appropriating many jobs held by democrats, the democrats, faction-wise, have been doing that to each other since time immemorial. In politics, as in war, to the victor belong the spoils, and, while this may not seem right, it carries the day.

Governor Fletcher marked it all down to politics in his press conference on the 27th, at least inferring that Attorney General Greg Stumbo may be using this non-crisis as a steppingstone to the governor’s seat in 2007. As reported in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Stumbo has said he is not interested in that race at this time (italics mine). This is another way of saying he will be interested, perhaps as early as tomorrow. And so it goes…in Kentucky politics!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"Gang of 14" the New Mugwumps

The “Gang of 14,” representing the 14 most unprincipled, spine-challenged members of the U.S. Senate, have introduced to the nation the first serious third party since the early 1900s, when Teddy Roosevelt’s offshoot Bull Moose Party helped split the Republican Party vote and sweep into power democrat Woodrow Wilson, whose eight years in the presidency comprised the democrats’ only hold on the office between 1897 and 1933. Of the 14 malcontents, the republicans, led by McCain and Warner, came off looking the weakest, willing to sell out a Constitutional principle, the unmitigated guarantee of up-or-down votes on judicial nominees, for what can only be termed personal gain. The most pathetic of the democrats was Byrd (before whom Warner and McCain genuflected), who has completely reversed himself with respect to previous positions he held when democrats were in power. These 14 should organize themselves into a third party, headed by the most unattractive statesperson wannabes since the Dixiecrats of the 40s-60s and the Perot crowd of the 90s, which, if they can be called parties, also did damage, especially the followers of Perot, who gave the presidency to Bill Clinton in 1992.

The democrats dissenting from their leader’s position showed that they didn’t have the stuff to stand and fight to protect the un-Constitutional status insisted upon by Minority Leader Reid. The republicans dissenting from their leader’s position showed either a significantly developed weakness of will or mind…or perhaps, despite Majority Leader Frist’s leadership demanding integrity, they were just electioneering in behalf of the next voting exercises (perish the thought of such self-serving). In any case, neither Reid nor Frist was a part of the process instigated by the “Gang of 14,” who admitted to themselves and to one and all in their press conference that they were the conscience of the Senate, perhaps of the nation. Was it Byrd who said the republic was saved? What balderdash! Of all the people who should never sit in judgment upon a judge, Byrd is the most qualified for that non-privilege, having once been a leader in the Ku Klux Klan, as well as a long-winded filibusterer in June of 1964, when he pulled an all-night speech of 14 hours and 13 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of that year.

After making that despicable speech, Senator Byrd had the gall to say in February 1975: “This Congress is not obliged to be bound by the dead hand of the past. . . . . The first Senate, which met & in 1789, approved 19 rules by a majority vote. Those rules have been changed from time to time . . . . So the Members of the Senate who met in 1789 and approved that first body of rules did not for one moment think, or believe, or pretend, that all succeeding Senates would be bound by that Senate. . . . It would be just as reasonable to say that one Congress can pass a law providing that all future laws have to be passed by two-thirds vote. Any Member of this body knows that the next Congress would not heed that law and would proceed to change it and would vote repeal of it by majority vote (italics mine).

The 14 senators give themselves far too much credit…or, put another way, they are infatuated by egos that would serve well to surpass that of the collective egos of Kerry and Edwards, who were the presumptive saviors of the nation in 2004. Given their high degree of self-esteem, however, they should simply form a third party, perhaps called the New Mugwump Party, a reincarnation of the old Mugwump Party of 1884. Indeed, the definition of a mugwump, according to the M-W Collegiate, 11th Edition, is: “a bolter from the Republican party in 1884.” The definition fits perfectly, since the 14 have bolted from their respective parties.

The new mugwumpers need to form a platform, of course, in readiness for the next presidential convention in 2008. Their presumptive candidate would probably be McCain, since he is actually a democrat dressed in republican clothes, necessary attire in which to be elected from the Goldwater State. Since he is a democrat in philosophy and a republican in name he comprises the perfect combination for being a candidate. Perhaps he should hearken back to Teddy Roosevelt, who, though the most popular republican in the land then, could not get the republican nomination in the Taft-controlled party in 1912, formed the Bull Moosers, and lost. McCain knows he cannot get the republican nomination in 2008 and probably will not be asked to run with the democrat, but needs to understand that neither TR, nor any Dixiecrat, nor Ross Perot was successful in presidential politics. If the margin of republican majority were thinner in the Senate, he could pull a “Jeffords Maneuver,” simply changing his registration to Democrat and robbing republicans of control, but that ploy would be of no use now.

The main energizer regarding the new platform would be the philosophy that party loyalty is intolerable, unsophisticated, and bespeaks personal sacrifice, something that no self-respecting politician should ever be expected to make. This means that positions on every issue would be debated and that no position would ever be taken. The substance is in the debate, but not in the platform, lest it be construed as somehow unduly binding, never mind that platforms in both parties are never binding now. With the mugwumps, however, this position would become official.

Since McCain, a mugwumped republican, would head the ticket, it is reasonable to expect that the second spot would belong to a mugwumped democrat, preferably one who would bring gravitas to the ticket. That would have to be someone wise enough to overcome a horrific past and stay in the Senate, and someone who is a wise master at speaking from both sides of the mouth, a crude way of remarking tact, the prime tool of a diplomat and often a euphemism for the terms liar or hypocrite…and, of course, staying in the Senate. This spot would have to go to Byrd, who, despite his KKK and non-civil-rights past is still in the Senate (imagine the fate of a republican saddled with those things), and remains there despite his duplicity, mentioned above with respect to the sanctity (or non-sanctity, as he would have it back then but not now), and before whom 13 of the “Gang of 14” bowed and scraped as before a god on Mt. Olympus…or, make that the Oracle at Delphi.

So…there’s the new third party, with the details to be further ironed out, of course. The location for the 2008 convention is already a pressing consideration. In order to enhance its legitimacy, the New Mugwump Party should choose a city that either already has established its independence or is located in a state that is known for same. Since the most amazing judicial decisions of late have been those made in San Francisco and Boston (or in their states) with regard to allowing men to marry each other, one of these cities is the likely choice. Perhaps it would be preferable to have the convention on the night before the election in November, thereby using the element of surprise for leverage, the republicans and democrats having already worn out the public with their years-long campaign battering-rams. 1

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Pitts, Pharmacists, and the Pill-Perfidy

Here is a direct quote from a recent essay by Knight-Ridder columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. and published in the local daily: Though no one seems to have hard numbers, published reports suggest a widespread pattern of fundamentalist Christian pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions with which they disagree [note: How does one disagree with a prescription…a doctor maybe, but a prescription?]. And a chilling [chilling?…mercy!] report last month in the Washington Post suggests that some have gone even further. It told of pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth-control pills to unmarried women [horrors!], of those who will not sell contraceptive pills or devices to anybody and of those who not only won’t fill morning-after prescriptions, but who hold the prescriptions hostage [Ever heard of kidnapping/rescuing a prescription?], refusing to return them to customers, knowing time is of the essence because the pill is less effective if taken too long after intercourse [How can one take a pill too long…or too short…or too wide…or too high…or too low, maybe? Aren’t pills just sorta gulped down, regardless of after anything?].

Well now…this is serious business, although there’s no corroboration (hard numbers) by even the iconic Washington Post of any of this stuff, nor is there anything but suggestions (published where?…Pitts didn’t say) regarding some sort of widespread pattern. Isn’t this sort of vagueness simply exhilarating? However, suppose that these terrible, earth-shaking constrictions upon the very life of the nation are taking place? The notion that a retailer can decide what he/she will and will not vend is certainly not the American way, is it? Isn’t capitalism supposed to precisely equate with communism, the system wherein vendors sell only what the state allows and demands?

Hypothetical: Mr. Pitts owns a book-store, but refuses to sell “sex toys.” What right does he have to make that determination in light of the fact that a few million citizens enjoy these titillating trifles and should not be traumatized because of repressed hormonal desires caused by Mr. Pitts’ refusal to sell them their toys? Shouldn’t they be able to sue Mr. Pitts, perhaps engaging the services of John Edwards, a distinguished malpractice (in this case mal-vending) lawyer of some renown and recent vice presidential hopeful? The very idea that Mr. Pitts can conduct his business as he sees fit is too passé, too arcane, too unrealistic, too politically incorrect, far too unsophisticated in this enlightened post-modern age to be given credence. So, according to the tenor of his rant against the pharmacists (fundamental Christians, therefore, loony-tunes, anyway), Mr. Pitts would not refuse to sell the little sex enhancers, ergo, the unraveling of the hypothetical. More’s the pity, but Pitts would be politically correct, socially aware, operating via the herd instinct, and therefore dumb as a gourd.

More delicious in all of this is the fact that Pitts has introduced a whole new segment of the population ensnared in victim-hood, the very keystone of current politically correct society. Anyone doubting this should simply ask Jesse Jackson, a main inventor of the concept. Pharmacists are not responsible for the behavior of people that might lead to pregnancy, so why should they be responsible for whatever the behavior incurs? Could Pitts actually conceive of the fact that people, instead of condemning pharmacists for not nullifying their mistakes, should just not make the mistakes? Probably not. After all, the anchor of present society is strongly grounded in victim-hood, according to his take, the victims in this case being those who can’t keep their panties on and must rely on the good services of the pharmacists to correct their deficiency, known as Post-Intercourse-Trauma-Syndrome, or by its acronym, PITS, ironically.

Transfer Pitts-speak to the medical profession. Should all doctors be required, whether they like it or not or if they conceive of abortion as murder, to perform abortions, a relatively simple procedure? Both the pharmacist and the doctor, either by oath or intent, see as their responsibility the maintaining of the health of their clients. Neither is responsible for cleaning up the non-medical mess brought upon individuals by themselves because their GQ (genital-quotient) is greater than their IQ. The pharmacist who considers the morning-after pill a form of murder has as much right as a doctor who feels the same, regarding abortion, to follow his/her convictions, at least until the state steps in and makes laws governing the whole matter, as is the case (at least with regard to interpreting the law by the Supreme Court) with Roe vs. Wade.

This is no brief against either birth preventives or abortion. In this corner, the only thing worse than an abortion is the bearing of an unwanted child, often to be unloved and abused/killed by live-in boy friends or hateful stepfathers. The cases of such abuse in this country are accounted on practically a daily basis in all forms of media. The offspring conceived in the throes of lust within the framework of fornication/adultery/carelessness are at risk and often wind up as wards of the state, either in foster homes, institutions, or prisons. So…Roe/Wade serves its purpose, not least because a woman who will kill the life inside her is not fit to be a mother, and the stud who is complicit in the matter is not fit to be a father.

Pitts concludes that the maddening thing (also more galling) is that laws have been passed in four states and are under consideration in 12 others that legitimize the rights (noted as “lunacy” by Pitts) of pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions, on the basis of their moral convictions, dealing with contraception. One wonders how Pitts would react to laws forcing him never to adversely mention racism in his essays in order to protect the rights (lunacy?) of racists not to suffer discrimination in newspapers. Would he object to those laws on the basis of his convictions, not to mention that of freedom of speech? If not, why should he think pharmacists should be made to violate their convictions, particularly if they are breaking no laws? 1

Friday, May 20, 2005


In a column May 18 lamenting the fact that in the latest list by NEWSWEEK magazine of the best 100 high schools in the nation Kentucky did not have a representative, while SPORTS ILLUSTRATED listed St. Xavier in Louisville as 14th in the nation among the best “sports high schools,” Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Larry Dale Keeling offered this statement: “Most everyone wants better schools, but not everyone wants to pay for them. And whether we follow the course laid out by the Prichard Committee or some other route, raising the bar for our high schools comes with a hefty price tag.” This is the liberal concept that is usually remarked as the key to improving anything and everything…just raise taxes and the problem is fixed. Following is an article I submitted to Al Smith, convener of KET’s Comment on Kentucky on 19 September 2003. Some updating information set off in brackets has been added. There was a state budget crisis at the time – or at least an alleged one. Not much, if anything, has changed academically in the last year and a half, so this piece is relevant.

Kentucky spends 23 percent more in state funds (61.5%) on elementary and secondary education than the national average (50.1%), according to National Education Association statistics for 2001-2002. Governor Patton claims the figure to be higher, and it appears that close to 70% of Gen. Funds goes to the total education effort. According to the U.S. Dept. of Education, Utah spent $4,692 per pupil in 2000, while Kentucky spent $6,784, or 45 percent more, and was in the top half of the states in spending. Yet, the cumulative percentage of students scoring at or above basic level in national tests vis-a-vis math scores for grade four in 1996 and 2000 and reading in 1998 in Kentucky was 61, compared to 67 in Utah. The cumulative percentage for eighth-grade math and science in 1996 and 2000 and reading in 1998 in Kentucky was 62.6. In Utah, 70.6. The average teacher salary in Utah was $36,049; in Kentucky, $37,234. The national figures: 65, 64.2, and $42,898, respectively. The pupil-teacher ratio in Kentucky was 16.8:1; in Utah, 21.9:1; nationally, 16:1. Utah spent by far the least per student of any state in 2000, and made a point. While demographics might play a role here, it is a minor one. [Note: Kentucky was 90.1% white, while Utah was 89.2% white in 2000, demographics thus playing no role.] In the District of Columbia, probably the worst system in the country, annual per pupil spending was $11,935 and the average teacher’s salary was $48,651, so throwing more and more money at the system is not the answer. Question: Which is needed - more money or better stewardship?

A key provision of KERA [Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990] is the stipulation that education be “substantially uniform throughout the state.” The responsibility set by the legislature for the School-based (or site-based) Council: “The council is to adopt policies relating to instructional materials, student support services, personnel assignments, curriculum, extracurricular programs, and other aspects of school management.” In other words, the S-B Council provision essentially nullifies any possibility of uniformity or standardization even within a local district, much less throughout the state. Students arrive in middle school from widely varying backgrounds and then in high school with the same circumstance vis-a-vis the middle school. This being the case as a practical matter, effective curricula and tests actually cannot be devised for use throughout the state, since the state sets no overall curriculum or standards in any area, nor does the local school board. This glaring inconsistency is never noted in the media or used as an explanation for the poor test grades developed each spring, although the tests do reveal actual conditions of a sort. The only way for the tests to be effective is in teachers simply “teaching the test,” which, though probably largely done now, only indicates how well the student learned how to pass the test. It is vital that the S-B-C concept be nullified. Local superintendents have just been notified via the Court that the S-B-C (principal, three teachers, two parents) is not required to engage a principal recommended/mandated by the superintendent or the school board, but may choose its own, subject, presumably, to certification requirements. It’s little wonder that citizens, at least qualified ones, do not run for school board seats. They have virtually no power, but take constant heat, as is the case locally. Question: Isn't it time to admit that the school-based-council concept is both terribly inefficient, expensive, and defeats any attempt at cohesion or any kind of standardization?

You probably remember that in Elliott [County], for instance, tax bills were not even sent out before the passing of KERA. That’s what brought about KERA, negligence on the part of PVAs, coupled with citizens who would not stand for paying enough in taxes, to have good schools. Topnotch systems, like the Danville system then, got virtually nothing out of KERA, but systems like the [adjacent] Boyle and Lincoln County systems and other systems all over the state got windfalls of huge proportions. KERA was totally unfair and penalized good systems as it bankrolled terribly poor systems that have remained poor. Question: Before any tax money is spent on education, shouldn't every district be investigated to see if local PVAs are in compliance with re-valuation laws that specifically mandate methods and times for guaranteeing that equity is enforced?

Under KERA, there are 393 family resource centers, 231 youth service centers and 150 combinations of the two – total centers: 774. These installations provide social and/or referral services, some, if not most, obviously duplicated by agencies such as county health departments or comprehensive care centers, deliver services such as pre-school and day-care (summers included), have little or nothing to do with academics, and can be judged only marginally successful educationally, if at all. In FY 2002, they slurped up $50,094,330, according to state education-department statistics, and $278.7 million between 1991 and 2000. Conservatively allowing $45 million for 2001, the total outlay for social services has been some $373 million, enough to totally wipe out the budget shortfall and pay teachers a respectable wage. Another $45 million or so for 2003 will expand that number to $418 million. [The figure now should easily exceed $500 million.] These centers are still in existence and appear to be little more than social-service agencies, whose loss would have no bearing on education. They should be ended. It boggles the mind to contemplate how much more could have been poured into salaries, new construction, renovations, etc. The same could be said for programs for four-year-olds. School systems are neither designed nor responsible for child-care/baby-sitting services. It was acknowledged some years ago, for instance, that students who did not attend Head-Start were on the same reading level with students who did by the end of the third grade. Head-Start’s greatest value perhaps lies in nutritional aid rather than educational. After an unconscionable outlay of $127 million in the now-rescinded rewards system and another at least 7 million per year spent in the terminated regional service centers, lawmakers began to get the picture. Question: Should the family resource centers and the youth service centers be terminated, since they have nothing to do with academics, and duplicate services already available, thus saving at least $50 million a year?

Some statewide statistics are instructive. In Reading Trend Data last year (figures rounded to nearest whole number), testing indicated that 60 percent of 4th-graders read at a proficient level (thanks to the dissolution of K-3, probably); 56 percent of 7th-graders; but only 29 percent of 10th-graders. According to Total Writing Trend data, 25 percent of 4th-graders were at least proficient, but only 14 percent of 7th-graders. Twelfth-graders got the figure back up to 25 percent, meaning that only a fourth of graduates were actually literate with respect to writing. With respect to Mathematics Trend data, 36 percent of 5th-graders were proficient, but only 26 percent of 8th-graders and 30 percent of 11th-graders. The trend is obvious. As the students progress, the achievement levels diminish, making one wonder if much of the reason has to do with the School-based Councils, the students entering middle school from varying backgrounds and curricula and then entering high school from more varying backgrounds, since the school councils set their own curricula. There should be standardization at least within a local system. Another index is the National Norm Referenced Test Index, in which I believe the state is compared nationally. The national figures for elementary, middle, and high schools were 87, 79, and 75, respectively. For Kentucky, the figures were 73, 69, and 68, respectively, significant decreases. This is a part of the accountability matter. All this material is available online at the Ky. Dept. of Education Web site, and is there for your perusal and interpretation, as well as for others in the media. [At least it was and probably still is for anyone wanting to spend huge amounts of time searching.] Nationally, education is in a state of decline, as has been pointed out continuously for years, and especially as compared with other industrialized nations, and even some third-world countries. Question: Since Kentucky was ranked 22nd nationally in expenditures per year per pupil in 2000 (Dept. of Education figures), but compares unfavorably academically, shouldn't more attention be paid to performance than to dollars?

Much of the waste in funds accrues to a computer mentality. Nationally, there were five students per computer in 2001, most of the buildup occurring in the 90s when computers were relatively expensive. Kentucky is probably close to that figure, even though academic improvement has been negligible. Question: Should computers be in classrooms in which students have not learned the use of the keyboard (touch system), such as those in elementary schools and probably most middle schools? Should more emphasis be placed on fundamentals and less on technology, especially since reading and verbal scores are so low, two things computers cannot address adequately?

In 1967, the Kentucky ACT test score average was 19.9. In 2002, it was 20.0. Between 1996 and 2001, it ranged between 18.6 and 19.5 (KERA era). Between 1994 and the present, Kentucky has lagged behind the national average every year, sometimes by nearly a point and a half (1996 and 2000). It is the best measure of achievement, since most of the Kentucky graduates (72 percent in 2002) [75% in 2003-04; average score - 20.3; U.S.-average -20.9] take this test, rather than the SAT. Kentuckians beat the national average substantially on the SAT, but only 12 percent of students (best and brightest) took the test in 2002. [12% in 2004] Question: Is it reasonable, especially after the huge legislative outlay in 1990 that launched an obviously flawed KERA [based on “outcomes-based concepts,” with self-esteem a priority component], to believe more money will solve this academic problem? Should the legislature have mandated pedagogy, as it did, for instance, in the K-3 debacle, which has been rescinded, that adjustment probably being the main reason that at least 60 percent of fourth-graders can read? Is it now time to place education back in the hands of educators, and begin a standardization process that will keep all students on the same page as they progress through the system?

Questions: (1) Should there be the expensive alternative schools or “Saturday Schools” for the purpose of parking the incorrigibles somewhere to both keep them out of trouble and ease the strain on teachers, as well as enhance the safety of others? Should students be allowed to leave at age 16 (as they are now), and should failing students or students under age 18 be disallowed their driver licenses (as they are now), since the dropout rate due to loss of licenses hasn’t changed in the last few years, as noted in the H-L recently? (2) Should superintendents and administrators be paid inordinately out-of-line salaries, compared to those of other certified personnel? In many ways, they are just glorified clerks under KERA. In Fayette, supers/administrators managed to lose millions in state funds by simply not getting reports to Frankfort on time. (3) Should there be startups of programs for 4-year-olds? Elementary schools already have after-school programs in which the kids, often tired and probably depressed, stay until six o’clock. There is a charge for this. (4) Should $3 million be spent on a new football stadium at the on-the-draft-board new Bryan Station High School when there are already at least four stadiums (probably five, counting Bryan Station), as well as Commonwealth, none of which are used more than a handful of times for football, though they (or at least some) are used for soccer and/or a handful of band competitions? (5) Should a hard look be taken at the need for school counselors, as well as other administrative personnel, both at the highest end of the salary range? (6) With respect to the so-called “learning gap” that exists between African-American children and those of other races (the Asians do best), will the proper attention be brought to the fact that the problem is more social than educational? Seventy percent of African-American babies are illegitimate, usually have no father around, and are raised by mothers and grandmothers, many, if not most, on some kind of welfare and poorly educated themselves. Translated: little chance of success (lack of stable, supportive environment), no matter how much time and money is spent on them. (7) Should an institution like Kentucky State University be allowed to continue an education department in light of the fact that some 40-50 percent of its wannabe teachers flunk the test for qualifying, and are clearly incapable of teaching, no matter how many times they take the test? How much could be saved if KSU were perhaps made into a community college, and many of its buildings turned over to government for use, instead of building new facilities? (8) Should the state test scores be factored into the student’s grades? Elementary kids will instinctively try on tests, whether they matter or not. Many high-school students couldn’t care less about the tests, since they don’t matter at all. You probably remember the lengths to which some systems have gone to entice the test-takers to do well in the interest of gaining the rewards. If this were to happen, the state board would be forced to set standards, curricula, etc. (9) Kentucky is about 33rd nationally in teacher salaries (2000). Shouldn't there be more attention given to improving the system through guaranteeing the best teachers by paying them adequately?

Perhaps you will challenge your experts to do analysis rather than simply accept the department's propaganda? The papers and TV outlets, with few if any exceptions, are pro-KERA, even in the face of its dismal showing. At the end of the 1960 school year, when the USA topped the world in just about everything, the average yearly amount spent nationally per pupil in public schools was $375. At the end of the 2000 school-year, it was $7,392. Allowing for inflation, that figure on the basis of the 1960 number would have been about $2,100. In other words, spending on education is more than three times what it should have been for a system that now is in tatters. Throwing money at it in unreasonable amounts is not the answer. Yes, there has been some need for "extra" things, but this kind of waste is far beyond the envelope.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005



Propagandians riot nationwide

WASHINGTON [Afternoon Extra]: A cadre of approximately 500 students armed with AK-47s stormed the main entrance of the Pentagon at 1:00 a.m. today rattling many windows by executing the DEAN SCREAM® and shouting that their secular/sacred scripture, NEWSWEEK, had been reliably reported by a highly placed Pentagon janitor to have been flushed down a commode in the personal toilet of Defense Chief Donald Rumsfeld, and that Rumsfeld himself had depressed the flush-box handle before a number of witnesses. The badly outnumbered sentries on duty responded according to top-secret protocols for the defense of the building and perhaps would have annihilated the students after the first shots were fired but found it unnecessary because the group’s leaders had apparently forgotten to allocate any ammunition to the would-be killers, who were arrested and gave as their collective address the location of the WASHINGTON POST CO., the owner of NEWSWEEK, claimed by those arrested to be the “record of the Creator of Heaven and Earth and Paradise and Nirvana and Moonie World .”

At the same time, a car was reported by Pentagon sentries to be entering the southern parking lot and traveling at a high rate of speed toward the south entrance. Two men wearing facemasks and one woman wearing a complete burka-like disguise with “make words, not sewage” in luminous letters stenciled on it left the parked the car as close to the entrance as possible and fled on foot. Moments later, it was discovered by a bomb-defusing team searching the car that the fuse on a shoe filled with what appeared to be plastic explosive had burnt out, although later it was discovered that the material in the shoe was mere pizza dough inscribed with the name of the food item – PastaBlaster, and probably mistaken by the attackers as the real thing.

In what appeared to be a well-planned national attack on government/military installations throughout the country at about the same hour local-time, other groups apparently connected with such organizations as NOW, RAINBOW/PUSH, ACLU, DNC, PLAYBOY, LOS ANGELES TIMES, and HUSTLER and also using the DEAN SCREAM® and yelling epithets/slogans such as “just the weak would kill Newsweek,” “give me liberty or give me Newsweek,” “paradise seek at only Newsweek,” “never the meek shall inherit Newsweek” broke windows and set up picket lines, threatening bodily harm to anyone attempting to enter or exit the properties. After being arrested in San Francisco, they claimed that on orders from the Washington planners, who headed the only group charged with exerting lethal force, they were only to disrupt the daily routine and effect property damage in the name of NEWSWEEK, “the record of the divine reincarnation of the IMMACULATE PROTOZOA, father/mother of all life.” Crazed by the flushing of NEWSWEEK, some forty demonstrators threatened self-immolation until a policeman offered them a box of matches. As a result, the policeman was also jailed and charged with attempted murder, with a conviction guaranteed by the San Francisco chief prosecutor, also a NEWSWEEK adherent but obviously not among the demonstrators.

In NEWSWEEK congregations – whose members are called Propagandians – throughout the nation, prayer vigils have been established for those labeled as “the brave defenders of the gospel of propaganda.” Leaders of the National Council of Churches convened in New York at four a.m. and quickly released this statement: It is with regret that we condemn the leaders of the U.S. military establishment for this insensitive trampling of the sacred book NEWSWEEK, and it is our hope that a comprehensive and immediate apology to all those who worship the IMMACULATE PROTOZOA is forthcoming. We call upon the president and the Congress to seriously consider reparations to those who have been perhaps irredeemably traumatized by this attempted flushing of their faith.

As word has traveled to other countries regarding the highly-placed janitor’s startling disclosure, there have been riots in areas with heavy concentrations of Propagandians, who have, for instance, climbed the Eiffel Tower in Paris and peppered Muslims and Christians with overripe wine-grapes, and at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, where Propagandians have blocked the streets and are carrying posters of Rumsfeld sporting a Hitlerian moustache, with the wording Leave Rumsfeld to the mighty netherworld of Protozoan Revenge. Leaders of the Muslim community in London have praised Rumsfeld for his action in flushing what they termed “the writings of the American infidel-press,” and have called for the lifting of the fatwa (contract) on Rumsfeld’s life and inculcating a new fatwa on the editor of NEWSWEEK.

Russian President Putin has called on President Bush to denounce Rumsfeld publicly, strip him of his position, and has offered to allow the current Russian police establishment to interrogate the secretary at the Lubyanka Prison in Moscow, known for its huge number of confessions. He has also vowed to convince the Parliament to administer twenty rubles to every Propagandian in Russia as a show of good faith, in the albeit unlikely event any can be found. As a further show of “solidarity with the religiously oppressed peoples of the world,” Putin has confirmed that at noon tomorrow, Russian time, he will publicly flush down his own toilet-commode a copy of the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice, thereby exhibiting no fear of rioting American GIs in Moscow, all three of them.

Meanwhile in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has issued a statement condemning President Bush for nominating “ultra-right-religious-bigot-racist-fundamentalist judges to the Appellate Courts, thus encouraging fascist acts such as desecrating the sacred NEWSWEEK, and vowed to close down the Senate, the Boy Scouts, the Marine Band, and all the ships at sea if Majority Leader Frist even “breathes the term nuclear option.”

NOTE: Since publishing the above but too late to stop the presses and its distribution, the highly-placed janitor, under heavy questioning by the FBI, CIA, SPCA, PTA, FOE, FOP, and Fox News, has admitted that he might have been mistaken and that he now believes Rumsfeld could have flushed a copy of a speech by John Kerry in which he claimed the Navy forced him into an illegal Cambodian rendezvous with Propagandian missionaries during Christmas 1968, violating the separation-of-church-and-state concept and breaking International Law.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Nuking the Filibuster?

The hypocrisy of politicians (okay, they’re only human, eh?) is never more remarked than in the stances they take at various times in their public “service,” rarely if ever as the result of the maturing process constantly increasing wisdom but practically always purely for reasons of expediency. Take the interesting cases of Democrat Senators Tom Harkin, Joe Lieberman, Ted Kennedy, and John Kerry, pretender to the presidency and probably future contender for same (if he can figure out precisely why he couldn’t remember where he was on Christmas Day 1968, whether in Cambodia or maybe in Shangri-La). These four worthies, along with 15 other democrat senators responding to a bill introduced by Harkin and Lieberman, voted in 1995 to end ALL filibusters, not just the ones endemic to judicial appointments, which is the approach reasonably requested by Majority Leader Frist currently. Indeed, in the Congressional Record of 20 February 1975 may be noted comprehensive statements by Kennedy and Senator Bobby Byrd relative to the Senate never being bound by rules of a previous Senate, one such being the cloture rule, which was changed at that time by a simple majority.

Now, the collective nose of the Senate democrats, including those mentioned above, is out of joint because they fear this Senate will do just what the Senates of 1917 and 1975 did, namely, introduce and revise the cloture rule, respectively, by a simple majority vote. Go figure. Naw, don’t bother to figure – just mark it down to a hypocrisy so blatantly thick that it can be cut with a knife. It’s all about possible, more likely, probable, nominees that President Bush will hand up with regard to the Supreme Court, such nominees possibly, or again, probably, being culled from nominees the president has already handed up for Appellate Court slots and which Senate democrats are denying a vote through the “cloture rule,” never mind that the Constitution provides for an up-or-down vote, notwithstanding any “rule” the Senate has. In fairness, both parties have engaged in collective hypocrisy over the years but have had the good sense not to apply the “cloture rule” to judicial nominees. The temper tantrums thrown by the democrat incumbents are an indication of their fundamental distrust of constitutional government of, by, and for the people. In other words, special interests are their game.

There are at least two schools of thought on the matter with regard to democrat intransigence: (1) Bush nominees to the Supreme Court may alter the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973 giving federal approval to abortion on demand, or (2) Their intransigence emanates solely from the fact that Bush won the election last year and is fueled primarily by disappointment/hatred. Probably a bit of both is operative, the last being particularly noticeable in their hateful treatment in advise-and-consent hearings of both Attorney General Gonzales and UN-Ambassador nominee John Bolton. The 1973 Roe/Wade matter was handled by only two of the current Supremes, Chief Justice Rehnquist, who opposed the ruling, and Justice Stevens, who approved it. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor, 7-2. Bolton, a tough, no-nonsense, legendarily blunt longtime public servant is probably a victim of the hate component, although there can be little doubt that UN honchos tremble at the thought of someone actually demanding that they get their house in order.

The whole matter is reminiscent of the shenanigans of President Roosevelt in his attempt to pack the court in 1937. Being handed 5-4 defeats by the SC on some of his programs on a regular basis, he decided on a legislative ploy almost sure to be enacted by a Congress boasting a democrat majority of 75-17 (filibuster-proof) in the Senate and a laughable 333-89 in the House. FDR’s remedy: There would have to be a justice-in-tandem appointed for every sitting justice age 70 or over, an immediate pickup of six justices to be nominated and presented to a Senate boasting far more than the 64 votes necessary for cloture to shut down a filibuster at that time, if any republican senator had even thought of filibustering a judicial nominee. The plan stank so badly that even FDR’s own party turned on the president, never mind that it included far more votes than necessary in Congress to pass anything he wanted.

Many current SC decisions are of the 5-4 variety, just as was the case in 1937. FDR complained that the majority of justices had been appointed by republican presidents and that he hadn’t appointed even one justice since taking office in 1933. Apparently, his beef was not that judges were not active enough, but that they were not “with it” with regard to the “modern” times. By contrast, judges all over the nation today are attempting to make law (get with it) by judicial fiat, notwithstanding their clear-cut violations of existing law. Unless this is changed, and if not while things are being sorted out, the judicial machinery will be sabotaged, since judges are to interpret but not make law. So, strict constructionists are needed at least at the top in order to see that judges in the Appellate Courts who make idiotic decisions are reversed. For example, the Ninth Circuit (lunatic fringe?) in the western end of the nation is reversed 75 % of the time when its cases go before the Supreme Court.

Ironically perhaps, seven of the nine sitting judges were appointed by republican presidents – Souter (1990) and Thomas (1991) by President George H.W. Bush; Stevens (1970) and Rehnquist (1972) by President Nixon; Scalia (1982), O’Connor (1981), and Kennedy (1988) by President Reagan. Ginsberg (1993) and Breyer (1994) were appointed by President Clinton. Rehnquist was appointed Chief Justice in 1986 by President Reagan. All of the appointing presidents were elected to two terms. Therein lies an anomaly if there are those who insist that judges are predictable ideologically in making their decisions; otherwise, it would be expected that there would be far more 7-2 decisions on particularly significant matters than those approved or disapproved by 5-4 votes. Perhaps the most surprising of the justices with respect to his unpredictability is Justice Souter.

Four of the justices – Ginsberg, Stevens, Rehnquist, and O’Connor – are well over 70 years of age, and Stevens and Rehnquist are 85 and 80, respectively. Four are in their late 60s – Souter, Breyer, Scalia, Kennedy. Justice Thomas is 56, by far the youngest. It is not unreasonable to suspect that President Bush will have the opportunity to appoint at least two constructionist judges (if this can be determined) to the Supreme Court. Without question, he has 10 appointees to Appellate Courts ready now for action in the Senate. It seems apparent that democrats would much rather have judges decide critical matters than be forced to sometimes make unpopular but necessary laws, such as those regarding same-sex marriage, for instance, or abortion.

In any case, it will be interesting in the next few days to see if the democrats understand the thinness of the ice upon which they are treading in denying a president the right to have his appointees given a fair hearing and a vote of approval or disapproval. They have already broken a precedent of long standing in filibustering judicial nominees. It will be in their best interests to realize that they some day will be in the majority and have the same privilege they are now denying the majority party, which seems not to be afraid of nuking the cloture/filibuster man-made “rule of the Senate” and taking their chances in the future.