Tuesday, February 28, 2006

HB 236 & the Kentucky Council of Churches

The Kentucky House has just passed HB 236, a bill that would allow citizens the right to protect themselves in their homes and cars by use of deadly force before being attacked, when such attack is judged to be certain. It also grants significant immunity from civil lawsuits to a citizen who has had to use deadly force in the protection of life, limb, and property. The Senate version of the same bill, SB 52, is in the committee process.

Currently, a citizen is required to “retreat,” as it were, from any attacker(s) rather than initially exert self-protection measures upon recognition of a threat, presumably somehow guaranteeing that such retreat will lead to a safe result, with no bloodshed accruing to either the attacker or the victim. The obvious fault in this approach is that the victim has had no legal standing to protect himself until it most likely would be too late. HB 236 reflects much of the same philosophy that has been spelled out by President Bush with regard to staying the hand of enemies upon their own soils when they have been determined by the appropriate government agency as certain to attack or otherwise commit terrorism against the United States, rather than wait until attacked and then respond. This lesson was learned in the WTC conflagration on 9/11 and put to use in the Iraq invasion.

The bill, of course, is the outgrowth of the simple use of common sense. If a would-be intruder smashes a window on his way into one’s house, one is better served by negating the intruder’s intent before that intent becomes reality. Waiting for the intruder to make a further move by perhaps running to another part of the house makes about as much sense as standing in the middle of a highway at night and waiting until a car traveling at 70 mph is ten feet away and then running.

The sheer common sense of HB 236 demands its passage into law, but the official position of the Kentucky Council of Churches, headed by the Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Kemper, is that the bill should not be passed. This is the Council’s statement: Our policy statement on "Assault Weapons" (1989) begins with this sentence: "As Christians we are called by our Lord to be peacemakers, to settle our personal and interpersonal conflicts by non-violent means. In our statement on "Violence in Society" (1996), we said: "As Christians, we must acknowledge our complicity in the currents of violence which can be found throughout our society, especially if we do not work to counteract these things which initiate or add to the climate of fear and aggression which leads to violece [sic]. ... God calls the churches to intervene in the spiral of fear, violence, and aggression." We see the "shoot first" bill as a way in which violence becomes the way in which citizens will be encouraged to deal with crime, rather than to first seek to retreat from violent situations, and to seek aid from legitimate law officers. We believe that the "shoot first" bill should be opposed on the basis of its propensity to increase violence in our society.

There may be a time and place for initiating dialogue with a non-peacemaker such as a burglar, potential rapist, or drug-crazed thief, not to mention a child molester. That time, however, is not just as an act of violence is about to occur, unless the KCC and Kemper believe that one should negotiate from a position of already being either robbed, badly hurt, dead, or all of the above. There is this crazy notion among many Christians that Jesus Christ was a wimpy sort of person with long flowing locks and patrician features (resembling the most popular picture of him even hanging in some churches), but nothing could be farther from the truth. The Bible documents vividly a time when he fashioned a whip with his own hands and drove people from the temple (today’s church) because they were sullying the sacredness of the place. To be aware of the grit possessed by Christ, one needs to remember that he was forced to fear for his life while he ministered and that he endured throughout all the actions related to the crucifixion a level of torture and pain that is incomprehensible.

But perhaps the most telling thing to remember occurred at the “Last Supper,” when Jesus spoke to his disciples shortly before being murdered. He told them (Luke 22: 35,36) in no uncertain terms to arm themselves, even if it meant selling part of their clothes in order to buy weapons. He explained that there had been a time when such was not the case and he had sent them out unarmed, but that now the time had come for them to defend themselves. He also taught that those who live by the sword (aggressors) would die by the sword, so he meant for them to take up weapons in self-defense. Far from being a wimp or expecting his followers to be wimps, Jesus was a realist who expected his followers to have the good sense not to be trampled.

So…from a strictly biblical standpoint, HB 236 is something that member churches and their leaders, notwithstanding the official stance of the KCC, should consider carefully. Perhaps some of them, instead of petitioning legislators in behalf of opposing self-defense, as urged by the KCC, will do just the opposite and petition the KCC to reconsider its position.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Whither Kentucky Education?

Interestingly, Al Smith, moderator of the KET presentation Comment on Kentucky, mentioned in the program of 24 February that the necessity of inculcating remedial courses in the state’s universities is costly, at least implying that this money could be better spent and that students graduating from Kentucky high schools are not being prepared adequately for further education. He was right. Though it has been largely dismantled in recent legislative activity, the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 needs further examination with respect to some big-time tweaking. Without question, the condition of schools and students is a direct manifestation of that legislation.

According to the state’s testing for 2004-05, only 33% of high school seniors could write at a proficient level; 34% and 37%, respectively, of 11th-graders were proficient in mathematics and science; and 39% of 10th-graders could read at a proficient level. These statistics obtain after KERA has been in effect for 15 years, and may or may not be entirely trustworthy, since the education pooh-bahs in the state have never seemed to figure out exactly how to do their testing, in the first place.

The figures do represent an overall improvement over the past five years in the above-noted areas during the time that the legislature has done a good bit of revamping, although individual schools are suffering. For instance, only 23% of seniors in Lexington’s Bryan Station High School could write proficiently in 2005, a gain of only one percentage point since 2001 and well below the state average. On the other hand, 45% of seniors could write proficiently in 2005 at Lexington’s Dunbar High School, a healthy gain of 15 percentage points since 2001. The goal is that nearly all students will function at proficient/distinguished levels in all subjects by 2014.

The most telling element has to do with the slide in accomplishment as the student moves through the system. For instance, about 60% of fourth-graders read at grade level. By the time they reach the 10th grade, that figure has dipped to 39%. Why? The answer may be at least partly found in the setup of individual schools. As per the requirement of KERA, each school must have a School-based Council made up of the principal, three teachers and two parents. These six people have the final say on everything, even to the hiring of the principal and the curriculum the school will follow. This means that students entering Middle School will come from widely varying elementary-school backgrounds and that students entering High School will come from yet another set of widely varying backgrounds. This is true, at least, in sizeable systems having a number of schools. Another factor undoubtedly has to do with the fact that, after teachers had already begun ignoring it, the legislature did away with the K-3 concept years ago. One can only wonder how badly reading ability would have suffered absent this circumstance.

So, the element of standardization is missing. Strangely, the students are tested in the same way by standardized methods, but come from backgrounds, particularly as impacted by curriculum, that are quite different. Whereas school-boards and superintendents, with input from the experts, once made decisions that impacted the entire system, they now have no such power. In fact, elected school-boards have very little power at all, at least with respect to the academic area, which is the most important of all areas.

This leads back to the matter of remediation. If 33% of seniors can write at a proficient level in Kentucky, as is the case now, 67% could expect to go into a remedial English class in the freshman year at university. The actual mark is probably closer to about 35%. The same is true with respect to math and science. This should not be tolerated. It is no secret that education accomplishment and accountability in this country have been deteriorating for years, especially as compared to the systems in other industrialized nations. This is well documented. While the brightest and best students will continue to excel, in the way that the cream always rises to the top, the vast majority of students, for whatever reasons, are being short-changed. Major changes are still needed in Kentucky, not the least of which is the dissolution of the School-based Councils. Wasting valuable resources on totally unnecessary remediation must stop.

The worse tragedy, of course, is that most students who lag at any stage may never quite catch-up. This is sad, particularly since industrial enterprises in the nation are sliding away from the factory-type mechanical efforts to the more service-oriented kinds demanding people with good educational backgrounds and/or skills. In Kentucky, this is especially and depressingly bothersome.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

How About That 18-year-old?

One wonders if the time will ever arrive that the Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton school of thought will be recognized for the misguided groupthink that it is. Here is a quote from a piece by regular African-American columnist Merlene Davis in the Lexington Herald-Leader of Feb. 21 having to do with the fact that her son has just turned 18: “My greatest worry for him is getting caught in the net of suspicion our society throws out for black males. He thinks life will be fair or should be fair or even can be fair. That can be dangerous. And painful. And so wrong. Someone that innocent shouldn't be sent to fight a war, shouldn't be considered emotionally capable of entering a contract or even voting for the best candidate.”

One can’t know if Ms. Davis’s son has read or will read her words. Hopefully, he hasn’t and won’t. Sadly, he probably has or will. No mature person thinks of life as somehow being automatically “fair,” whatever that’s supposed to mean and no matter the color of skin or the creed or the faith…or lack of it. Was life “fair” to the numerous infants of any color skin who were catalogued in the paper in just the last year as having been first tortured and then killed by some scumbag of a boyfriend or “significant other” or stepfather, perhaps complicit with some whore/mother, with both of them belonging more in the slime of some zoo than among civilized people? Is life “fair” to anyone at any age who is told he/she has an incurable disease and just X number of weeks or months to live? Was life “fair” to any soldier in any war who either lost his life or was left with it maimed? Of course not…unless the individual decided to make it “fair.”

Perhaps the definition, among the many, of “fair” that applies is, “marked by impartiality and honesty: free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.” Though they deny it, law enforcement people DO consider race-profiling in the course of their work, not least because of the statistics that call for that method. Black males are numerically disproportionate in the justice system, ergo, it is expected that black males will be surveilled in numerically disproportionate fashion on the basis of their race. Middle-eastern males (and even women) are even more susceptible to race-profiling now because they are preponderantly Muslim, and Muslims are butchering people all over the world in the name of Allah, their god as manufactured by Mohammed about 1,500 years ago. However, Ms. Davis’s son should not suffer unduly if, as is the case with people of all colors, he keeps his nose clean and gives no reason for suspicion. It won’t hurt, either, if both he and Ms. Davis understand that there is as much profiling within the black community as anywhere else, black individuals suspecting police of malice and deserving of disdain, as well as discriminating against each other on whatever basis they see – color, beliefs, companions, etc.

One wonders why Ms. Davis believes it is dangerous, painful, and wrong to believe that life will, should, or can be “fair.” Does she want her son to live in some sort of paranoid state, wondering if there is any reason to live, in the first place? “Fair” is much like life itself. It’s what one makes of it. It also has to do with just how “fair” an individual makes life for himself and other people. Ms. Davis’s son is the product of the same school system that whites attend in Fayette County, whether public or private. He’s had the chance, hopefully with a lot of help from her, to make his mark. He’s been exposed to the same influences, bad as well as good, to which his white counterparts have been exposed. He’s had the same teachers. He’s had to abide by the same rules. What makes him so different that he must not view any hope for himself? She makes the difference. Rather than damping or damning any enthusiasm he might have, she would do well to encourage him to believe that he can go far, just as other blacks have done.

Unless Ms. Davis has been in a cave for a long time, she surely understands that ONLY 18-year-olds and those just a bit older CAN fight the ground wars that are thrust upon the nation. Thousands of teenagers died in the miserable winter of the Belgium Battle of the Bulge in 1944-45. They died by the thousands in the Pacific, in Korea, in Vietnam, and by the thousands at Chateau Thierry and other hellholes in World War I. Because they died fighting, Ms. Davis has a bully pulpit to spew her depressing thoughts. Notwithstanding all that, she doesn’t have to worry about her 18-year-old being too young to go to war…simply because he doesn’t have to go to war. There’s no draft and no prospects of any sort of draft at any time in the near future as he goes beyond his 18 years. What she may not understand is that a lot of 18-year-old males like the idea of taking their chances in the military and simply do it because they can. It’s an adventure for them, a chance to get away and see if they can take it. In a lot, if not most, cases, the experience does more good than harm.

Do 18-year-olds have the maturity to sign contracts, make decisions, run their lives? Some do…some don’t. It’s just that simple. And a lot of 40-somethings are in the same boat. Some of them lack the good sense to get in out of the rain and also lack the skill to open an umbrella. That’s life. Ms. Davis’s son is probably up to attaining a lot more than she knows. Here’s more power to him. If he himself is “marked by impartiality and honesty: free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism,” he has already begun a journey toward success. If his mother is not – and some of her pieces are about as racist as possible – she might learn some things from an 18-year-old that she might not have imagined.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bird-Shot & Media Bloviating

Perhaps the best-enjoyed smirk of all time has been on Dick Cheney’s face this week. Hated by the “mainstream media,” which is neither mainstream nor much of a news operation (though loaded with pundits and commentators who themselves seem loaded most of the time), Cheney has so disrupted these networks that their front-people have gone ballistic, excoriating the vice president in decibels calculated to damage the normal ear extensively. Hint: watch the evening-news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC for examples of the proverbial hissy fit. Actually, the mainstreamers form the public-relations arm of the Democrat Party, and Cheney has upstaged them methodically and unrelentingly since he took office in 2001, perhaps beginning seriously with his refusal to turn over certain documents regarding “energy meetings” that the court finally ruled he didn’t have to furnish, in the first place.

The real laugher, though, is that Cheney has rubbed the mainstream media’s nose in it, and, no doubt, has had that perpetual smirk on his face the whole time. Imagine…a lowly Corpus Christi (population some 281,000) newspaper getting the scoop of the century, at least so far, while all the big-time, pampered pundits and other Bush/Cheney haters have felt the embarrassment, and actually have tried to make a big deal out of a non-event, not unlike thousands that happen every year. Then, not to say anything from his murderous episode of Saturday until Wednesday…and then to say it to Fox News’ Brit Hume instead of to an important guy on an important network…well, that’s just hilarious. This is all Cheney’s doing and he’s probably saying to everyone, “How sweet it is,” knowing full well that every legal requirement was promptly satisfied concerning the reporting of the accidental shooting.

The duplicity of the mainstreamers is easily seen. This is an Associated Press report from last August 19: “Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., saw a doctor after feeling light-headed Tuesday and learned he'd suffered a mild stroke, aides said Friday.” So…the minority leader of the U.S. Senate, its most important democrat legislator and presumably the democrats’ national head honcho, suffered a light stroke on a Tuesday, and his office got around to reporting it the following Friday. Now, why didn’t the aides report that serious business within at least 30 seconds of the event…okay, at least by the next day…or the next?

Or, flash back to June of 1969. Old Teddy boy, Massachusetts senator then as now, drove the young lady into shallow Poucha Pond…the back tire was sticking out of the water when she was extricated without bruise, blemish, or broken bone many hours later, but she was dead. Meanwhile, Teddy boy tried unsuccessfully to get his lawyer buddy to confirm a cock-and-bull story that the lady was driving; then he swam over to his hotel and went to bed. Somebody else found the young lady many hours later. Lurid…yeah…so lurid that Teddy boy’s been in the Senate ever since. Was it an accident? One hopes so. Did it involve mostly superficial bird-shot wounds…or did it involve death? Should Teddy have made a better effort to rescue the lady…or was he maybe too drunk to function…or was he maybe too scared for his job and figured his lawyer buddy would risk his own career and confirm a lie? The records are readily available still, and a reading of them is overwhelming and damning.

On the basis of the punctuality of these reports, should Cheney be shot at sunrise…no, with night vision available, should he be shot BEFORE sunrise, preferably with a howitzer or maybe with one of those sixteen-inch guns removed from a mothballed battleship? There is a need to make the lesson unmistakable – a hunting accident rises at least to the level of treason/pre-mediated murder/reckless homicide/terroristic threatening/manslaughter/quail-snatching with a deadly weapon! Should one assume that a secret wiretap was involved? Until the sentence is carried out, should Cheney be appropriately tortured at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, or in Dan Rather’s office at CBS…or in all three, with the transcript of his Hume-interview flushed down the toilet? Should justice be served and Cheney be impeached for not having more sense than to try to kill somebody with bird-shot, thus exhibiting such a gross lack of gravitas as to be unfit for any office?

No charges have been filed, of course, thus further aggravating the mainstreamers, who now see potential coverage of legal proceedings as lost, with all the concomitant ranting and raving that would have accompanied a TV-moment like a grand jury proceeding or an inquest, not to mention the absolute bonanza of a trial that could rival – indeed, outdo – the Simpson murder trial in the 90s. The effort will be made, however, to keep the hunting incident on the front burner in perpetuity for the simple purpose of hounding the veep into resigning, with the usual clichés such as his “being an albatross around the president’s neck.” George Bush is probably fighting to keep a smirk off his face regarding the entire affair, since the mainstreamers hate him even more than they hate Cheney. Indeed, Cheney is important only as he can be used to get at Bush.

On Feb. 17, Harry Whittington, the victim of the bird shot, appeared on TV as he was being discharged from the Corpus Christi hospital where he was treated and indicated that he was “lucky,” and that accidents were expected in the world of hunting, where people choose to take certain risks. According to CNN, this is a statement by former president Clinton in March 1997: "I feel great, they did a terrific job," Clinton said, his voice piped into the news conference from his hospital room. "I had just an unlucky break." Clinton had slipped the night before at about 1:40 a.m. at Greg Norman’s house in Florida and injured his knee, necessitating surgery. Have any of the media attack dogs mentioned the time lag between that accident and the time it was reported to the press? Of course not, even though the president was the victim. This is just another example of the froth-at-the-mouth demeanor exhibited by the mainstreamers over the hunting accident, as well as their general approach to the administration.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Rev. Dr. Kemper & the Prayer Breakfast

On the Web site of the Kentucky Council of Churches is a commentary prepared by the KCC executive director, the Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Kemper, and her note that it has been sent to the Lexington Herald-Leader for possible publication. It begins thus: “In recent years the Governor's Annual Prayer Breakfast has become a political minefield that must surely leave governors scratching their heads about how to ‘do it right’.” This sets the tone for the article – a prayer breakfast as a “minefield” – and makes one wonder if the Rev. Dr. Kemper has decided to join the newspaper in the hatchet job the H-L has already carried out rather sanguinarily on the governor’s prayer breakfast. The paper had already ridiculed/crucified Lexington’s Southland Christian Church in December for not having services on Christmas Day, though technically it did, giving front-page treatment and extensive coverage to that matter, just it has in this case, with editorial ridicule thrown in for good measure.

The Rev. Dr. Kemper may be a bit miffed. She has this to say in her essay: “During the Patton administration I was no longer asked to be on the planning committee, probably to the great relief of some of the other members of the committee.” Now, what is that supposed to mean? She explains that the last time the prayer breakfast “managed a modicum of inclusivity” was during the Brereton Jones administration…so had it been determined then that Kemper was more interested in inclusivity than in prayer, the actual purpose of the exercise? Or, should one conclude that Kemper was a thorn in the flesh, as Paul the Apostle might have it, and the powers that were/be should not be bloodied by same?

Ironically and to the paper’s credit, in the H-L of Feb. 13 on the Op-Ed page, Dale S. Ditto of the Christian Businessmen’s Club of the Bluegrass, organizer of the event, explained the actual facts of the matter, the most important of which was that the invitation to the breakfast was universal and that all state legislators and employees had been invited. Legislators read from the Torah and the New Testament, and the paper had already noted that no clergy had a part in the affair, the homily for which was delivered by Pat Day, a legendary and recently retired jockey who has made his faith well known.

Kemper seems most distressed that the effort was Christian, strange since that probably is the way she would classify herself, although, of course, when inclusivity is the prime consideration one might wonder. Obviously, the breakfast was not a civic event, but a religious one, and the Christian context celebrates both the Jewish and Christian concepts, since Christianity evolved from Judaism. Christian and Jew both pray to the same God, so the affair was actually Judeo-Christian. There would be little expectation that prayers would be made to Allah, not the Judeo-Christian deity but the object of worship in a religion (Islam) established by Mohammed some six centuries after the time of Christ. The fact that he hijacked the Jewish Abraham for his purposes, probably to give Islam some validity, does not give Islam that validity. This is especially noticeable now, when in the name of Allah Muslims are butchering defenseless people all over the world, even, or especially, their own.

Fletcher is an ordained minister. Besides that, he is a medical doctor, former USAF fighter pilot, former state legislator, and a former U.S. congressman. He was quoted as saying, "I certainly have utmost respect for different faiths. But I think most people knew when they were voting for me they were voting for somebody who held the Christian faith, and I'm not going to be somebody different than who I am." The governor had no political agenda in mind for the breakfast; he was earnest in his effort to make the affair a time of prayer to God, who is identified on all federal monies, in the Supreme Court building, and remarked in the Declaration of Independence, i.e., the Judeo-Christian God.

This event was for individuals, not for organizations. According to the Herald-Leader, Kemper complained in 2001 during the previous administration for its not inviting her organization and had the gall to accuse that administration of being insensitive to Jews and Muslims because the breakfast menu included pork. Imagine that! No bacon and sausage, the breakfast musts in Kentucky! Why didn’t she include steak, in case some Hindus, to whom the cow is sacred, might be in attendance? Actually, coffee and tea would be out, since Mormons don’t touch either. What does that leave – doughnuts and orange juice? Eggs probably wouldn’t make muster, either, since they might be fried in animal fat. Good grief! Actually, kosher food was available at the breakfast, and no one was required to eat anything.

No…Kemper’s is the rant of someone to whom political correctness currently is god; however, political correctness does not equate to prayer correctness. Kemper says this in her essay: “We have always had a vibrant Jewish presence in our state; and in recent years, we have an increasing population of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Bahais, Unitarians, Sikhs, Jains and other religious adherents. These persons add rich threads to the tapestry of our shared life together in the Commonwealth.” There’s no argument with that, but it has nothing to do with a spiritual exercise shared by people who pray to and worship God, whom adherents of some or all the sects mentioned above do not recognize as God of the creation and the object of prayer. The prayer breakfast was not a love-in for folks to get together and fellowship; it was a time of worship and prayer, nothing more and nothing less.

Kemper is way off base on this one, and she might try understanding how most folks approach their belief as a personal thing that is sometimes shared with others of like mind in a collective effort to accomplish something transcendental, not an exercise in advancing diversity, multiculturalism, or political correctness, all things of this world, but having nothing to do with an approach to God, except as such approach might be answered by God in an individual supplicant’s living on a higher plane. That’s what prayer is all about.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Violation of a Funeral

Regarding the funeral for Coretta Scott King, obviously sad because of its reason for being, but sadder still because it was a seven-hour farce, fiasco, or formidable boot-camp obstacle course, when it should have had the dignity and respect so richly deserved by Mrs. King, a great woman by any account. I checked on it periodically via TV (C-Span). A woman with a marvelous voice sort of set the tone when she decided to give Albert Hay Malotte’s enchantingly beautiful “The Lord’s Prayer” a bit of soul, thus mangling it and holding one note (or screech, in that range) for so long that it was about to be 911 for either her or the people holding their breaths in sympathy and/or dodging her flying tonsils. The presiding pastor was dressed exactly like the Pope of Rome in his flowing white floor-length garment and vestment buttoned to the clerical collar at his neck…leaving no doubt as to the actual center of attention. I heard that there were 39 speakers, but saw none in academic gowns or robes.

I heard/viewed the orations by the Bushes, Clinton, Kennedy, Georgia Governor Perdue, and the Atlanta mayor, as well as other speeches throughout the day…a long day. President Bush XLIII spoke within the context of scripture and emphasized Heaven as the joyful destination. President Bush XLI did much the same and added some humor to the occasion. President Clinton was at his charismatic best, speaking flawlessly without notes and, this time, in obvious sincerity, although his plug for the city of Atlanta to do something about the King Memorial Center probably left the mayor cold. The governor turned the meeting into an old-time revival – great stuff. The mayor turned the thing into the predictably, strident political affair that it became shortly after it started. I didn’t hear President Carter but discovered later that he was at his nastiest, a little man who took the opportunity to castigate someone with the guts he didn’t have in 1979 to face down the bloody Muslims, leaving more than 50 Americans in Iranian captivity for well over a year. If a lesson had been learned at that time, it might not have been too late for the learning on 9/11. Carter even mentioned Katrina, as if Bush had conjured up a hurricane just to plague black folk.

Senator Kennedy was to the King funeral what Senator Harkin was to the Wellstone funeral in 2002, a blustering blathering egocentric who had the self-serving gall to mention brother Robert’s help to Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1960, but not Robert’s permission later as the Attorney General for the FBI to tap King’s office and home phones, the source of much of the info regarding MLK’s philandering. His date of 1960 was, of course, wrong, since Brother Bobby was not even in the Justice Department then, much less the attorney general. While he spoke, I kept seeing the picture of an upside-down Oldsmobile in a shallow pond in 1969, in which Teddy, a 37-year-old sitting U.S. senator at the time, left a young woman not his wife to die alone while he swam to his hotel and went to bed to “sleep it off.”

It wasn’t actually a funeral, of course, but a political rally, whether hijacked by those who could get away with it at a time when the King children were in distress, or actually planned by the children in the ongoing effort to see that WASPs (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Males) are blamed for being the perpetrators of all that’s evil in this world. Seven hours! I had two meals during that time. The truly pathetic figure was Dr. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral, who sat there stoically through it all, though President Bush stayed for three hours and absorbed the venting of the spleens, whether toward him or white folks in general. Schuller gave the benediction. The other main players had been long, long gone by then. Bush retained the dignity he knew he would need, with the certain knowledge he would be viciously attacked. It didn’t matter. No republican could ever hope for more than 10% of the black vote, no matter if he could snap his fingers and triple entitlements, so his motives were pure.

Whenever people spend what amounted probably to nearly an hour altogether in simply applauding a thing, whether speech, song, ballet, or someone, honor/respect is out the window, including any for God, whose name was taken over and over somewhat in vain. It was more of a love-in for those who have as their mantra, “We’ve come a long ways, but we have a long ways to go.” After 50 years of being granted everything conceivable by state and federal legislatures and courts (most all of it justifiable), African Americans might have wondered if maybe they’ve finally arrived. They have arrived, in any case, and should start finally to use everything and every opportunity that has been made available to them, instead of continually caterwauling for more, in the vein of the ways of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Instead of calling people like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Clarence Thomas by the epithet of “Uncle Tom” or its equivalent, they should start emulating these people.

Longtime, legendary activist Joseph Lowery used his time to talk about no WMD in Iraq, but about weapons of “misdirection,” presumably in the South, as if that had anything to do with eulogizing Mrs. King. It might have escaped him that some 360,000 union soldiers (practically all of them white) died of wounds and disease in the Civil War to free the ancestors of blacks in this country, and that American GIs, about 10% of them black (as of last September, about the same as Vietnam), are doing the same thing with respect to the Iraqis. Colorblindness can be very selective, depending upon the person and the privilege.

Actually, it was a funeral within a campaign rally of sorts, the same as that which happened regarding the Wellstone funeral in 2002. One could have expected at any moment to see/HEAR Howard Dean of the SCREAM, but, thankfully, that didn’t happen. The democrat lost in 2002. Perhaps those who attempted to hijack this funeral should take note.

And so it goes…Jim Clark

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Boy Columnist...Disoriented Again?

Boy Columnist, aka Larry Keeling at the Lexington Herald-Leader, may be suffering from too much Bushberry Jam again, or perhaps he’s been tinkering with his lawnmower and thus inhaling fumes he said rendered him…well, strange last year. He somehow has connected the dots, as seen in his latest column, that joins the anti-homosexual group of 2004 to the anti-war group of 2006 by inferring that the legislature can’t tell the difference between them. Oh, the group is the same, of course, but to most reasonable people, the current protest has nothing to do with the previous protest.

Boy Columnist seems terribly miffed that this group he identifies as “a kooky little group from Kansas” was not in Frankfort two years ago to demonstrate in favor of a ban on same–sex marriage, one of its pet projects, but is expected to appear to rail against legislation that would outlaw disruptive behavior at funerals/memorial services. Presumably, Boy Columnist somehow equates same-sex marriage with funerals, the logical conclusion being that protest/approval concerning one should be the same concerning the other, or vice versa. In other words, if Boy Columnist thinks a lawn should not be mowed by a mind-deadening, polluting, gas-powered mower, it should also not be mowed by a push-mower, since Boy Columnist has made a judgment that the two mowers are just alike. Make sense? Of course not.

On Monday, the House passed its version of the legislation banning funeral protests by a vote of 94-0. Later that day, the Senate voted 35-0 to approve an amended version of its bill concerning same, which initially passed on Friday. Boy Columnist quoted the legislature’s resident homosexual, Ernesto Scorsone: "Anyone who was here two years ago ... would be surprised to know the commonwealth is so tolerant and so supportive of gays." So…Boy Columnist takes that to mean that the kooky little group, in order to be for funeral protests, should be for same-sex marriage, since the legislature has upheld the group’s former position but deep-sixed its present crusade. Make sense? Of course not.

The trigger for all this, of course, has been the group’s virulent anti-war protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers who died in the Iraq conflict. Families of the soldiers should not have to go through this miserable business – the awful posters, shouting, etc. One hopes the legislation can stand the rights granted in the First Amendment, but the fact is that the law enforcement people probably will have to find another reason for trucking the protesters off to jail in order to maintain the proper decorum. For instance, a permit to demonstrate might be required but denied account of possible threat to life and limb. Such permits are routinely requested, sometimes denied, sometimes granted.

In any case, Boy Columnist has no business blaming just the legislature for any supposed intolerance of same-sex marriage. The amendment initiative it approved disallowing this kooky arrangement was supported 75% to 25% by the voters in 2004. Boy Columnist is indelibly on the record as supporting same-sex marriage, and perhaps is just venting his spleen, since he surely has enough reasoning ability to see the difference between 2004 and 2006.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Halftime in Jagger's Jungle

I doubt if I’ve ever watched a Super Bowl game all the way through, though I came close on Sunday evening. I also doubt that I’ve ever watched even a large fraction of the Halftime Show, and in recent years, only the one in 2005. I also had never seen a program by Mick Jagger and his outfit before Sunday, but I’d heard of them, of course. Since their baseness is well-known and since the show of 2004 was so obscene that the public outcry had to be remarked, with the show last year reflecting an effort to clean up the halftime mess, I decided to watch the Halftime Show this year to see if any lessons had been learned, as well as to see how it fitted in with what is supposed to be a family-oriented production, especially in light of the hero-worship exhibited by children toward athletes and entertainers.

The current philosophy driving professional football is that anything goes physically (short of murder, unless necessary) and that anything goes entertainment-wise no matter how crude – taunting, teasing, sensual gyrations, celebrating, and other showboating exercises such as jumping into the stands for the proper glorification of an icon who has just scored, not that he isn’t quite well-paid for doing just that. The current philosophy apparently driving the entertainment industry, as a whole (including football, a purely entertainment-oriented enterprise), is that crudity is a veritable god to be worshiped in every possible way (and some that seem impossible). In Halftime 2004 (yes, Halftime is a show within a show and shares top billing with the game), obscenity was featured in the obviously well-orchestrated baring of Janet Jackson’s breast, the level to which the producers seem to aim the matter – roughly that of the high-school sophomore guy – being somehow thought as modern, up-to-date, sophisticated, strictly up with the times.

So…I made myself – and that’s no exaggeration – watch Jagger and crew, the Rolling Stones. Jagger, a 62-year-old juvenile, had the appearance of having been hit by an 18-wheeler on his way to the activity. He and his two guitarists were dressed in black (though Jagger sported a white shirt) and they cavorted around and atop some sort of stage or runway that surrounded a bunch of what seemed to be mostly girls, with perhaps some older women (baby-boomer groupies?) mixed in. All three looked like warmed-over death, with their contortions and facial expressions roughly the male equivalent, one supposes, of the three witches in the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

I didn’t realize it, since I had never paid attention to Jagger, that he doesn’t actually sing. Admittedly, I couldn’t understand the words if he was messing with words, but he actually didn’t speak, either, so that didn’t matter. He is a grunter. Bobbing up and down on spindly toothpick-like legs, in his “concerts” he simply grunts, apparently, and goes through gyrations that are supposed to be sensually exciting, but actually make one wonder if he just needs desperately to go to the bathroom. There were times when it seemed he would throw his crotch out of place, much like the crotch-hopping/duck-walking episodes rendered by linebackers 15 yards past the play and down the field just after they’ve sacked the opposing quarterback. Actually, that part, obviously designed to be sexy, was funny, sort of reminded one of the chimp shows at the local zoo. Periodically, someone would throw what appeared to be an object of clothing – panties, perhaps – up on the stage. Once at least, Jagger tossed it back, and one of the guitarists was waving some kind of cloth or clothing as the Rolling Stones departed the stage. A viewer could not be blamed for feeling dirty when the orgy was over.

This is the statement made by NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue regarding the Super Bowl halftime show: "We were extremely disappointed by the MTV-produced halftime show. It was totally inconsistent with assurances our office was given about the content of the show. The show was offensive, inappropriate and embarrassing to us and our fans. We will change our policy, our people and our processes for managing the halftime entertainment in the future in order to deal far more effectively with the quality of this aspect of the Super Bowl." So much for the NFL, which is not likely to change much of anything, especially since it was another opportunity to make money, too. Sprint paid the NFL a record $12 million to be sponsor of this year's halftime show, and was running a contest to fly the winners to Detroit to see the Stones up close.

The spectacle presented at the half lies directly at the feet of the NFL, but in a larger sense it reflects the slippery slope of immorality down which the nation is sliding. TV shows such as “Wife-Swap” and the “Reality” orgies and “Desperate Housewives” and the “Queer Eye, Straight Guy” stuff, sated as they are with fornication, homosexuality, adultery, nudity, off-color language and sexual innuendo, are the stuff of depravity, unfit for not only young people to see, but any people to see. To have a show at halftime of the Super Bowl, watched by millions of young people and even in parties held at churches (hard to believe, but true) featuring the bestial antics of a Mick Jagger is unconscionable, a glorification of the uncivilized.

And so it goes

Jim Clark

Sunday, February 05, 2006

KEEP: the Magic Bullet - CASINOS

Appearing in the 05 February Op-Ed section of the Lexington Herald-Leader is an advertisement claiming that “Fayette County stands to gain $15,252,082 annually,” and includes a list of things for which that money will be used – education, healthcare, local government and economic development initiatives. The vehicle driving the advertisement is designated as the “Keep It In Kentucky Gaming and Revenue Plan.” The ad’s sponsor is KEEP (Kentucky Equine Education Project), which is pouring money into state campaigns in an effort to help secure legislative seats for candidates who will support legislation ostensibly allowing for a Constitutional amendment(s) initiative to be placed on the ballot in November.

Predictably, the ad doesn’t mention that KEEP is for having gambling – probably casino-type – at ONLY the racetracks, thus shutting out all the other possible venues for this methodology of gaining revenue enhancement, a euphemism for just raising a bit of cash thank you. The IRS calls this simply “taxes.” The term taxes would not strictly describe this new revenue source, of course, since those being fleeced, rather than being held-up by the state, would choose voluntarily to let the “gamers” separate them from their hard-earned cash.

In its survey, KEEP has found out that Kentuckians would be against voting for further gaming (52.5%-46.2%), according to statistics disclosed on its Web site, if the gaming would only be allowed at racetracks. This was no good, so the survey included this further question: How would you vote if it specifically limited casinos to existing horse racetracks, AND guaranteed that a portion of the revenue generated would go to public education, healthcare, local governments and the environment? Voila!!! According to KEEP’s survey, the vote would be 65.2% to 32.9% in favor.

Of course, the only racetracks in Kentucky are for horses, unless someone has installed a dog-racing facility somewhere. Also, there’s no indication as to what percentage of revenue enhancement would go to what portion of the beneficiaries. Presumably, that matter would be settled by the Kentucky Legislature. Those who remember all the hoopla accompanying the passage of the lottery some 15 years ago as a godsend to education may also remember that the lottery proceeds all went into the General Fund as per ordered by the General Assembly, there to be parceled out as the lawmakers saw fit, with none of the proceeds earmarked directly for education. As to the prohibition of casinos anywhere other than at racetracks, the transparency of this question is cause for blindness. In other words, that dastardly term discrimination rears its ugly head, as all the convenience stores, grocery stores, discount stores, and other outlets handling lottery tickets would be constitutionally out of the loop.

Also, there’s no definition for the term casino, so what exactly would be allowed? Probably the whole gamut from slots to roulette tables to black-jack to poker to whatever else can be dreamed up. Of course, accompanying all such establishments as casinos are such things as prostitution, drunkenness, filth, robberies…and, ultimately, an insidious influx of “characters,” who would eventually take over the entire enterprise – mob stuff. They would do this with the help of “bought-off” legislators and bureaucrats, as defined clearly some 12 or 13 years ago in the BopTrot scandals that rocked the legislature and eventuated in a passel of lawbreakers/lawmakers, including the Speaker of the House, and some bureaucrats going off to the Big House. If the administration hadn’t changed in Washington in 1993, with the concomitant changing of federal prosecutors in Kentucky, there probably would have been another passel so dispatched.

KEEP has on its Web site the projected hundreds of millions of dollars it has calculated to flood the state treasury…by county. That’s right. KEEP has arrived at the magic figure each county would receive, but without benefit, apparently, of having a clue as to how the legislature would divvy up anything. Not only that, KEEP has even determined, as seen on its Web site, the amount each county would have for each segment – education, healthcare, etc. Again, this has been done without benefit of any local control.

Well…placing revenue enhancement on the backs of the suckers might seem to the non-suckers not such a bad idea, since, at least supposedly, this would foreclose any tax increases. So, one is faced with the question: “Would it be worth it?” The strange thing is that the racing industry seems to be having banner times lately, even, or perhaps especially, including the trafficking in horses (Keeneland sales, for instance), so one wonders about the actual reasons that KEEP members have for pushing casinos. Anyone with a suspicious mind would have no trouble with that. In any case, a novel by the perpetrator of these words entitled Lucifer’s Hope…the Guv deals with this problem, is noted in the right-hand column, and is recommended to anyone who can abide a bit of a stretch of the imagination. It’s in stock in Lexington at Joseph Beth Booksellers. [Green used purposely – color of MONEY].

And so it goes.

Jim Clark