Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Education or Social Engineering?

With all the current uproar occasioned by the proponents of more money for higher education hovering over Frankfort in the face of the cuts already promised by Governor Beshear, one would expect some good-faith belt-tightening on the part of the universities as some sort of recognition that they don't consider themselves too elitist to face what all other governmental departments face – a shortfall in funds necessitating cuts across the board. Indeed, the governor has already robbed Peter to pay Paul by snatching funds designated for state-park improvements to pour into a budget providing for a $30 million-stadium at the Horse Park. Not pretty!

So…in the face of this financial predicament, the University of Kentucky will install a vice president for institutional diversity next summer at a beginning salary of $210,000 per year. This person, of course, will need a staff, probably some highly educated folks, as well as office personnel and all the accoutrements pertaining thereto. Its budget will have to include a huge allowance for expenses, since its responsibilities will require its pooh-bahs to travel hither and yon to be conversant with the latest in diversity, defined as "the inclusion of diverse people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization." In other words, this new vice president will operate a recruiting agency of sorts, with its focus on African Americans.

This is nothing new, especially in light of the fact that UK President Todd has been scored for not working hard enough at diversity. According to its Web-site, however, UK already has 11 recruiters in its admissions department, at least three of whom are African Americans. The Admissions Department is headed by another African American whose title is Director of Recruitment for Diversity Initiatives, indication that the matter of diversity is already front-and-center at UK. The replication/overlap of the new diversity vice president's office (obviously simply created at a time when money is in short supply) is obvious and represents yet another expensive unneeded administrative layer.

If the new diversity office could operate on…say…just a couple million dollars, and with UK tuition at $6,510 for a year, the tuition for 307 deserving students could be fully covered, instead of financing another layer of diversity. This would be a far better use of the funds and would indicate to taxpayers that the university is interested in all of its students, not political correctness or an attempt to mitigate an "unwelcoming atmosphere for blacks" that never existed in the first place except in the media, especially the Lexington Herald-Leader, a monopoly newspaper which manages to keep race constantly in the public's eye, thus aiding in fomenting racial problems…perhaps an agenda thing. Maybe this is what sells newspapers.

A previous column dealt with the diversity office at Eastern, headed by an African American and staffed by eight employees. The admissions department at Eastern, however, is comprised of 11 admissions counselors/specialists/coordinators and an administrator. The waste in this overlapping of responsibilities is obvious. The recruiters and counselors at all the state institutions travel to high schools throughout the state and even have responsibilities for areas in other states.

To duplicate the work of recruitment is to waste money and indicate to the lawmakers that the institutions either cannot or will not cooperate by placing the emphasis on academics instead of social engineering, thus cutting waste and rearranging priorities so that the financial problem is eased. Indeed, for two million a year, 28 associate professors or even more assistant professors and instructors could be employed to bring down the student-professor ratio and thus enhance education…or the social engineering could just be avoided, with the obvious savings.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Baptists & the Clinton/Obama Conundrum

As the race tightens between Senators Clinton and Obama, the New Baptist Covenant celebration, a concoction of former presidents Carter and Clinton to be held in the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta Jan. 30-Feb. 1, takes on added significance, not least because it happens less than a week before "tsunami Tuesday," of which the Georgia open-primary is a part of that 20-state primary-extravaganza.

The NBC is planned as a gathering of Baptists (predominantly "liberal" by persuasion) from some 30 denominational groups with some 20 million members, but pointedly excludes the evangelical, conservative16-million member Southern Baptist Convention, which Carter has indicated presents a "negative" image, never mind its support of 10,000 missionaries, half of them at work in North America and the other half everywhere else. Carter split with the SBC a number of years ago ostensibly over doctrinal differences, though his liberalism does not conform to the conservative bent of the SBC anyway.

This can justifiably be called a democrat/liberal convocation, its main speakers including Carter, Clinton, Al Gore, and until recently, Bill Moyers, who was replaced by highly acclaimed author John Grisham, an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton, last fall appearing with her in an event that garnered $200,000 for her campaign and sitting with hubby Bill during one of the debates. Since 1996, he has averaged almost $30,000 per year in contributions to democrat office-seekers.

On the NBC Web-site's main page, however, are the pictures of republican senators Grassley and Graham, Baptists who will also speak, perhaps as tokens of "religious diversity." Coincidentally, Graham is running for reelection this year in South Carolina. Republican prez-wannabe Mike Huckaby was also scheduled to speak, but demurred after Carter had made a trip to his state and said some unflattering things about President Bush, not surprising, of course, since he has done the same thing in various parts of the world for years. Huckaby said, “I feel it would be best for me to decline the invitation and to not appear to be giving approval to what could be a political, rather than spiritual agenda." That might be the understatement of the year.

Coincidentally (?), the Joint Midwinter Board Meeting of the four high-profile African-American Baptist denominations will be held Jan. 28-30 in the same venue, closing its meeting on the day the NBC convenes, and with the invitation to join their brothers/sisters of the NBC. Though Carter, Clinton and the Democrat Party have always taken the black vote for granted, this presents a dilemma, especially for Clinton, who has stumped with fervor and quite a few "sparks" in behalf of his wife's candidacy. The race-card now bolts front-and-center.

This is all the more interesting in that Senator Clinton attempted to put the "big smear" on Senator Obama during the debate in South Carolina, accusing him of being tied to a Chicago "slum-lord," who will soon go on trial for criminal misdeeds. Obama was nice enough not to mention Hillary's connections to Whitewater, Travelgate, the Rose law firm, the "futures" financial bonanza, among other things, and the foreign trips on the USA dime while hubby Bill was in office (or somewhere). One still remembers her roughing it in the North African desert, complete with secret service and all the rest of the amenities of home and hearth. Obama may get around to this.

So…there's an added dilemma, this one for the black brothers and sisters, if any, who stick around. Obama is African-American, though, being half-white, he could just as easily be American-American…or he would fit the latter description no matter any consideration of ethnicity, as would any citizen. Without question, the black vote is being significantly split between Clinton and Obama, so the black Baptists in Atlanta will be wondering how to jump. In any case, the ongoing catfight between the two hurts their credibility. Clinton's obvious mudslinging hardball tactics, though not surprising, may well backfire. It apparently did in South Carolina, where Obama buried her.

The credibility of the NBC is no less hurt by the presence of Gore, who will be honored at a luncheon, despite the fact that his book and film, An Inconvenient Truth, have been found to be full of errors and can be fairly tagged as "alarmist" stuff, creating fear and heat, but not much light. As "peer-review" experts continue to take the climate-change-theory apart, especially with respect to its being a manmade phenomenon, Gore loses traction.

The Baptists at the NBC will, for the most part, attend for the right reasons, availing themselves of the many apparently well-planned activities vital to church life, but the political cloud hanging over the meeting, which could have been held as easily later in the primary season when total attention would have been given to church matters, is simply too obvious to ignore. As it stands, the NBC looks like a gathering of the Religious Left to counteract that evil Religious Right, part of that "vast right-wing conspiracy" concocted by Hillary in 1998 during the "Lewinski affair" that led to impeachment.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Electile Dysfunction

Fairy-tales and for-before-against-modes are the stuff of campaigns these days with the democrats, while the republicans can get exercised over whether or not a candidate should believe that wives should submit to their husbands or if moral turpitude (translated, anything to get elected) explains the motives for changing one's mind. As the bard would have it…"To abort or not to abort, that is the question."

As a result, the spin-doctors in all camps are manufacturing cures for "electile dysfunction," defined as either total apathy or unusual arousal sometimes necessitating, respectively, 50 cups of coffee per day or a couple of OxyContins, depending on the duration of hyper-aggravation/cogitation. The claim is that overdosing either way might drive one to total distraction or hospital-traction, depending upon the severity of the inevitable crash.

The most delicious action on CNN on the 23rd was Bill Clinton's "chewing out" out in South Carolina of the CNN gang and all the other media folks and paparazzi, blasting them for pushing an anti-Hillary agenda and invoking the names of Congressman John Lewis and former UN Representative and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, who had already paid Wild Bill the quintessential compliment the other day when he reckoned that Slick Willie had "known" more black gals than Obama, described by former prexy opponent Senator Joe Biden as both clean and articulate and thus, presumably, above that sort of perverseness.

This is what Bill Clinton said the other day to Obama: "You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war, and you took that speech you're now running on off your Web site in 2004. There's no difference in your voting record and Hillary's ever since. Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen." This is what republican candidate Congressman Ron Paul said last March regarding the war-funding bill: "Surely we can do better than this supplemental authorization. I plan to vote no." That was no fairy tale, but one wonders if the candidates should not switch parties. Obama, of course, voted to keep the funding intact. Egad…electile dysfunction in spades!

Senators Clinton, who was for the war and illegal-immigrant-driver-licenses before she was against them, and Obama agree on one thing, to wit, that the only place fit to be caught dead or alive on any Sunday during an election year is in an African American Church, never mind their Sunday activities during the other three years of the election cycle. Hillary was doing an encore sermon at Abyssinian Baptist Church on the 20th (shades of Adam Clayton Powell and Charlie Rangel), while Obama was bringing the word in Ebenezer Baptist Church (formerly the co-pastorate of Martin Luther King, Jr.) in Atlanta. Both churches are tax-exempt institutions, thus making the activities unlawful, but what's a little thing like the law among friends? Just a fairy-tale, one supposes.

Electile dysfunction has conflicted especially the middle class because of John Edwards' insistence that there are two classes in the country, the rich and the poor, while he's making the fight for the middle class, making that segment wonder if one + one actually = two…or three, and, if so, how such an anomaly might influence a president's thinking. For instance, since Israelis (one) and Arabs (one) occupy Palestine (2), should the U.S support Egypt (3) to make everything fair and square? Of course, since Edwards' house is right at two-thirds of an acre under roof, something like 26,000 square feet, maybe he's been in the shade too long counting his money and allowed his cognitive resources to atrophy.

Electile dysfunction is triggered by the republicans, too. No one knows if McCain actually wants the southern border closed, or if Huckabee thinks that Southern Baptists treat women (or even pet iguanas) fairly, or if Romney got rich in a pyramid scheme. Giuliani keeps plugging his performance as potentially the "nation's mayor," a turnoff to most folks, who don't like New York anyway. There's much less electile dysfunction (some say an actual cure) created by Ron Paul because of his statement that he would ax the IRS during his first week in office, as well as get out of Iraq about that fast, in the bargain.

Electile dysfunction may be worse for African Americans and women this year than for anyone else because of the first serious candidacies in history of a black and a woman. The democrats have always taken the black vote for granted, but while it's still taken for granted it's being fought for by the black (built-in advantage) and the woman, whose husband was tagged by famous writer Toni Morrison as the first black president, even though he's white. But, like Obama asked, "Can he dance?"

Women have to make the choice between voting socially or sensibly since militant feminism has been extant for decades. Should a strong man, especially one like McCain, with extensive military- and decades of government-experience, be the commander-in-chief, or a woman who spoke of 35 years of experience while in New Hampshire, changed it to 16 years in South Carolina, and actually has held office for only seven years? Then, there's the vital question…who would actually do the job, Hillary or hubby Bill?

Electile dysfunction…quite a problem this election year!

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Salvation at Hand - Casinos

The apparatchiks in the Kentucky House are hard at work on the new "gaming" amendment that the governor is pushing with all the powers of his office, and to whose interests the racing entities have dedicated tens of thousands of dollars. This is the initial wording of the enabling act:

HB 601 establishes KRS Chapter 230A, authorizing casino gambling at seven Kentucky horse racing tracks. It renames the Kentucky Lottery Corporation the Kentucky Gaming and Lottery Corporation, and sets forth its powers and duties related to gaming in Kentucky. The bill creates a Casino Gaming Advisory Committee, and sets out the committee's members, terms, and purpose. It requires the corporation to take all actions necessary to facilitate casino gaming at the earliest feasible time, and sets out the requirements for gaming license applications.

It's obvious that the private gaming entrepreneur, unlike the lottery participants regarding locations and privileges, has the inside track on the financial boom expected in the casino traffic. In fact, there won't be many such "gaming" gurus, only those with the pull and the financial resources to buy the industry fair and square. This translates to the big boys who have shelled out the manifold bank-bags of shekels to the governor's gang. The race-track gang rides again.

Only seven locations for casinos are allowed in HB 601, all at racetracks. This is strange, since the risk-takers might rather be suckered in the halls of lights and cards and dice and roulette wheels than at the betting windows. But, then, that's why the casinos are to be only at the tracks. What's lost on the horse-betting can be recouped in the world of slot machines and games of chance…a definite win-win operation for the friends of the governor…maybe the governor himself. Only the Shadow knows. In the world of the sharks and the suckers, anything goes.

The locations: Churchill Downs, Louisville; Ellis Park, Henderson; Keeneland/Red Mile, Lexington; Kentucky Downs, Franklin; Players Bluegrass Downs, Paducah; Thunder Ridge, Prestonsburg; and Turfway Park, Florence. Louisville, Henderson and Paducah can go head-to-head with the riverboats on the Indiana/Illinois side of the Ohio River. Lexington/Florence will satisfy the "golden triangle" gamers. Franklin will take care of the just-across-the-border Tennessee crowd, and Prestonsburg will cover the golden lode in Pikeville and environs…Virginia and Tennessee.

It remains to be seen if the non-race-track crowd will set up such a howl for a piece of the action that this well-laid plan will have to be changed in order to accommodate them. If they can operate the lottery, then why not be allowed to operate some slot machines? Or, if they can do the lottery business, why can't they do "big" business by setting up casinos or mini-casinos in downtown (or out in the county) in Lexington at new places of sucker-satisfaction or in the many bars and grills already doing lively business…or even in restaurants?

Why not have operations throughout eastern-Kentucky so the miners can lose their stash at roulette instead of every three years in a strike? The big deal in Las Vegas now is to make all the gambling emporiums "family-friendly" so the kids can be entertained while their parents lose their hard-earned cash, with the added benefit that the youngsters get hooked early-on. There's no honor among thieves…in the Kentucky case a new version of horse-thieves.

HB 601 stinks. Those who see gazillions of gobs of greenbacks gathered in for education and other worthy causes, according to the horsy crowd, are in for a rude awakening if the gambling bonanza goes through in most any form. The money so collected will go right into the general fund, a la the lottery windfall back in the 90s, where the solons will put it to good elective use. There's no way they will stipulate in the potential amendment exactly how the proceeds will be handled. They will never tie their hands like that.

According to the Legislative research Commission, the windfall for the state is estimated to be $289 million (35% of gross) per annum, while the windfall to local governments (22.5%) is estimated at $65 million. So…if passed by the legislature and passed by referendum in November, the state will set things straight financially on the backs of the suckers, just like it probably will to a lesser extent on the backs of the smokers. It remains to be seen how far apart HB 601 and its counterpart in the Senate (SB 20) are, but getting them reconciled in this session is a "long shot" – sorry about that.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Democrats Claw Each Other

The South Carolina debate 21 January among the three “presidential” democrats left standing (roughing it in Myrtle Beach) and sponsored by CNN and the congressional black caucus was a bit more like a catfight than a debate. The fight was mostly between Senators Clinton and Obama, while John Edwards sort of became a spectator much of the time. It was also a commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, whose name must have been invoked dozens of times, just as the republicans in their debates have practically worn out the name, Ronald Reagan.

A strange thing has happened on the way to the nomination. Whereas democrats, even though taking them for granted, have pandered to blacks for decades, blatantly used them and their churches as grossly illegal (tax-exempt) campaign venues and played upon racism as peculiarly republican, now are embroiled in a mutual battle to determine who among them is the blackest and therefore the most viable in furthering African-American causes. Instead of playing the “race card” on the republicans, the democrat candidates are playing it on each other. Hilarious!

Even though some polls have indicated that Edwards would have the best shot nationally (rurally) against John McCain (though not in the biggest cities and their states), Clinton and Obama obviously conceive of themselves as the only viable candidates – and they’re probably right. So…their fight is mostly with each other, and their spin on both the issues and their competence – particularly, as always, in light of their previous records – is amusing to watch. The funniest statement in this regard was consistently from Clinton, who insisted upon her sixteen years of political activity (obviously dating from 1992 when hubby Bill won all the marbles), though she didn’t hold any elective office until 2001. At least she’s discarded her 35-year claim of tenure (in use before now) as…well, whatever she managed (nothing, actually).

Obama strangely continues to claim his official opposition to the Iraq action as a campaign tool (both Clinton and Edwards voted for it), but doesn’t mention that he didn’t make it to the Senate to vote on anything until 2005. He doesn’t know how he would have voted, of course, since he would not have been availed of the information that the other senators had. His weirdest statement came near the end of the shooting-match when he alluded to the “fear-mongering,” ostensibly among the republicans but also directed at his adversaries, since 9/11. Since 9/11? He hasn’t been in a cave, so, charitably, maybe he should be given some slack as simply committing a “slip of the tongue.”

Things began with the domestic scene, the possible (actually hoped-for) recession in the offing, but the candidates did what they always do, notwithstanding the schoolteacher-ish admonitions of the conveners (in this case the bewhiskered Wolf Blitzer), by turning the question/answer format into mini-campaign speeches or “did not, did so” stuff…childish arguing. With the members of the black caucus seated on the front row, they did manage to extol the ways they would give money to eligible citizens to spend the economy into robustness, nay-saying the same proposition by the administration as being too selective and non-inclusive of the “right” folks. Inclusiveness is, of course, the politically-correct term in any conversation these days, no matter the subject. It’s almost as important as “diversity” and “multiculturalism,” practically intoned now as sacramental language.

The three gave “diverse” ways of getting out of Iraq, but made it plain that getting out is virtually first on their agendas, though getting all the way out was obviously problematical for them, except for Edwards, who made it plain that his presidency would completely wash its hands of Iraq, come hell or high water. One suspects he’s forgotten the American GIs (now some 30,500 of them) in South Korea for 57 years and counting, as well as those in Germany for well over 60 years. This writer was called to the phone for some 30 minutes or so and thus missed some of the contretemps, but probably only the different shades of wrangling and therefore not much substance.

The mudslinging will intensify. Clinton mentioned Obama’s “lawyer-work” for a Chicago slum-lord and his inconsistency on the Iraq action, as well as his reference to Reagan (a wild “spin”) in a recent speech. Much has already been made of her charge (true) that MLK’s success in gaining civil rights was engineered through Congress by Lyndon Johnson. Bill Clinton’s “fairy-tale” accusation regarding Obama was re-spun by Hillary, so the waters remain murky with that.

The notion that any of the three could be president is scary. Each made it plain, especially with the black caucus in the front row, that the objective is to make this country into the most humongous and wimpy welfare-state on the planet. The fear-mongering they whipped up with regard to the economic situation stood in bold relief against the fear-mongering Obama mistakenly claimed in his debate swan-song.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Friday, January 18, 2008

Kentucky-Education Wastefulness

Much is being made of the bad (at least alleged) state of financial affairs in Kentucky, with Governor Beshear threatening to cut deeply into the state’s education budgets on all levels while insisting that only casinos are the answer to the problem, thus permitting the suckers to save the education system, but probably not before 2009, when a possible constitutional amendment might allow their acquiescence in being so noble.

Failing passage of that amendment this year, which Senate President Williams has said will not fly in this biennial main-session (though only the Shadow knows), it might be well to see if education dollars are wisely spent, in the first place. Take, for instance, the tax-supported endeavors in a state institution such as Eastern Kentucky University, which has a department of women’s studies, a university-diversity office, and a unit for African-American studies. In the Fall of 2004, EKU approved the formation of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, and Questioning (GLBTQ) Faculty and Staff Mentoring Program and affiliated it with the Diversity Office.

Okay…none of these compares to English, chemistry, physics, languages, history or many other fields that have long held a place in university curricula. All of them have come on line within the past three decades or so, which can be labeled the “politically correct” period that affects all areas of endeavor throughout the nation, especially that of the university, in which one must be careful about what he says or even how he says it.

Other fields such as computer science and communication-technologies have also come on line during this period, so why make an issue of the ones noted above? The answer: MONEY. Are these facets of the university valuable enough to warrant their existence, or do they exist as social-engineering projects masquerading as academic elements of importance…and costing millions each year, taking into consideration that all six state universities probably have circumstances similar to that at EKU, some even more extensive.

According to the EKU Web-site, the University Diversity Office is a campus wide resource that facilitates the diversity initiatives of the University to promote a climate and culture that respects and celebrates diversity. A significant responsibility of the office is for the recruitment and retention of a diverse student, faculty and staff population.” The head of this unit is a special assistant to the provost and oversees three graduate-student employees and five student-employees.

To celebrate diversity is to give the lie to the “melting-pot” aura traditionally accorded American society. The university should celebrate togetherness, i.e., encouraging its students to be Americans, not some sort of hyphenated ethnics or special-case humans (that GLBTQ) thing. The actual reason for this unit is recruitment, and it’s doubtful that an entire separate department is needed for that purpose. In other words: waste.

According to the EKU Web-site, Women's Studies is a rapidly growing academic field. Women's Studies has the dual purpose of recognizing the experiences and contributions of women in society and of bringing women more fully into college curriculum.” One wonders, especially since men make up only 44% of university enrolments nationwide, why there aren’t departments of men’s studies. The reason, of course, is that men generally don’t give a hang about political correctness and certainly don’t want to be subjects of it.

The women’s studies department is rather extensive, including a number of courses, one such being “Historical Costume and the Social Order (3),” described as, “History of dress from ancient Egypt through the 20th century. Emphasizes how socioeconomic status and sex roles are expressed through dress and how this expression reflects the influence of religion, politics, and economics.” Egad! Ever since the feminist movement (women’s lib) took hold a few decades ago, women have wanted to be treated as the equals of men but insist on their own academic departments to explain why they’re equal…instead of just being equal.

According to EKU: “African/African-American Studies broadens understanding of global affairs and equips students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in a multicultural workplace.” There’s no argument with African Americans studying Africa, just as other students study China or the Eskimos as a main objective, but their understanding of Africa and global affairs can better be acquired in the usual history/geography/political-science classes, not in a separated, obviously ethnically-warped atmosphere.

African-American history (notably slavery) and important African Americans have been in public school and college history books for scores of years, at least in Kentucky. This is the same as for the Irish, Italians, Chinese, and east-Europeans who suffered through their entries into this country but whose progeny do not clamor for special university departments to be dedicated to them and their important forbears. To demand special treatment is to enhance diversity, which in turn points to differences, which in turn causes social problems.

No university would suffer if these entities were either drastically curtailed or cut out altogether. In most cases, their activities can easily be accommodated in other departments, thus saving money without doing any harm.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Educational Fat

In his state-of-the-state address Monday evening, Governor Beshear made much of the fact that the state is broke in the worst sense of that word – financial kaput! Senate President Williams insists that the problem is manageable but the governor apparently believes drastic measures are in order and, indeed, campaigned on that notion, with his priority for fixing the brokenness being the inculcation of (gasp) gaming, not the horserace or bingo types, but serious gambling a la casinos – the “big boy” stuff.

Mentioned already by the state’s education gurus of both high and low esteem is the fact that budget cuts will simply gut educational programs on every level. Every Kentuckian is supposed to suffer both shock and awe at such a revelation, but the predictable response is probably the usual yawn…business as usual. In 1990, citizens were told that public education was broke and that only the greatest tax increase in the state’s history, not withstanding the huge pork connected to it, would suffice to fix it. The result of the reform act: If anything, education is in worse shape today than it was then.

Notwithstanding all the good intentions of honorable people, government enterprise is consistently damned by both incompetence and corruption, honorable people often outnumbered by the dishonorable and/or the incompetent. The Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 featured corruption on a huge scale with its “earmarks,” as well as incompetence on an even larger scale with its legislative mandates regarding pedagogy, something totally outside the abilities of the legislators even to comprehend, much less enact. Thankfully, much of the act has been rescinded and much more should also be cut out of it.

Instead of just acceding to the education gurus in their demands for more money, perhaps it would be wise to determine how well they use the funds already available. In a help-wanted advertisement in the Lexington Herald-Leader of last fall, there was this job description advanced by the Kentucky Community and Technical College System: System Director, Office of Cultural Diversity. Job description: Provides leadership and support for new and existing initiatives relating to diversity and cultural matters. Collaborates with colleges and others in the evaluation and implementation of diversity related initiatives.

The person filling this job was required to have a Master’s degree plus five years related leadership and administrative experience or equivalent. In other words, this was a relatively high-paying job, complete with office staff, myriad machines and all the rest.

What is an office of cultural diversity, especially in a two-year, junior-college/industrial-trades milieu, which has to do with academic or skill-related achievement? Since this office was concerned with diversity-related initiatives (whatever they are), there was no indication that it had anything to do with either academics or skills. The point: Tens of thousands of dollars are soaked up by this enterprise described as involving diversity and culture, both of which are quite well defined in the dictionary and seem hardly worthy of treatment on the college level.

If cultural diversity is accounted as an academic matter, it reminds of the craze some two-three decades ago to establish college/university departments of women’s studies and African-American studies, with graduates in those fields empowered to do little more than become teachers in those fields, thus continuing the craze…and possibly knowing a good thing when they see it. As a practical matter, how do experts in either field impact the society other than with pronouncements?

In short, until the education establishment on all levels gets its house in order – especially by cutting unnecessary, even silly programs – citizens have a right to scream, “Just eat cake.” This is true all down the line. Do most public schools actually need assistant principals? As a cost-cutting measure, can they get along without a multiplicity of counselors? Does a high school need an athletic director? Should administrative offices be overstaffed with people owning a lot of titles but doing little or overlapping work? Should a superintendent make a quarter-million while a beginning teacher might pull in $30,000?

Shouldn’t intercollegiate athletic programs that lose gobs of money be trimmed? Should a girls’ basketball team or a men’s soccer team fly all over the country at great expense (airlines/hotels are expensive)? Why can’t they compete in a small area where (gasp) a bus and no overnights will do? Should the head of KCTCS make well over $600,000 a year while students struggle with tuition?

Should there even be a Council on Post-Secondary Education, with all the highly paid professionals involved? KERA has done nothing for the state in 18 years and it appears that little has changed in comparison with the rest of the country since the Council was brought on line some nine or so years ago. Check the statistics…the ones the politicians quote unceasingly as they run for office, the ones indicating how bad the state is educationally.

Admittedly, there are no answers here, but there are some questions/suggestions that the governor and legislators might address as they figure how to budget for the next biennium. The education departments are full of fat across the board, and they should have to wring it out instead of constantly adding to it with new pie-in-the-sky programs that cost millions.

As for the office of cultural diversity mentioned above, it likely is an enterprise whose sole purpose is recruiting African-American teachers and students. If so, the honest thing would be to call it what it is instead of something cultural keying on diversity, defined as “differing from one another: UNLIKE; composed of distinct or unlike elements or qualities.” Choosing anyone on the basis of diversity is demeaning to African Americans, women, and everyone else. Competence should be the test.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Politics as Usual

The cat-dog fight between Senators Clinton and Obama, with a side-scrap by hubby Bill thrown in, has furnished the best entertainment of the weekend. Funny…but also quite sad, especially as the combatants throw whatever they consider the best “spin” on the contretemps, thus covering up the facts that actually accrue to the dustup.

Senator Clinton made a remark that actually emphasized the importance of what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did in behalf of African Americans, i.e., that he absolutely demanded that the nation take notice of the need for civil rights legislation and enforcement. She elaborated by also correctly stating that Lyndon Johnson provided the presidential leadership in the mid-1960s that made the civil rights corrections possible. She could even have added that those rights were generated/guaranteed almost exclusively by the white men who ran the Congress.

This was a simple history lesson, though the senator could have reached back into the middle 1950s for an even more startling example by noting that President Eisenhower sent armed troops (some 2,000 of them) into Little Rock to see that Governor Faubus understood where the power lay with respect to civil rights. What she didn’t say, understandably, was that the African Americans’ worst civil enemy at that time was the Democrat Party in the South.

Naturally, her words were twisted into a racial issue, as is always the case when civil-rights is the subject. This is from MSNBC on13 January: "Well this is fascinating to me," Obama began [in a conference call] of Clinton's remarks on Meet the Press, in which she accused the Obama campaign of stirring the pot among African-American leaders about her remarks that it "took a president" to pass civil rights legislation. "She made an unfortunate remark about Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson,” he said. “I haven't remarked on it. And she offended some folks who thought she diminished the role about King and the civil rights movement. The notion that this is our doing is ludicrous.”

It doesn’t matter whose “doing” it was, though Obama must still be on his knees giving thanks for this marvelous opportunity to play the ever-ready race-card, especially just prior to the South Carolina primary, in which blacks (especially black women) vote in huge numbers. People with even a cursory sense of history and/or ninth-grade civics-mentality know that Clinton was right and was simply pointing out the tremendous leverage a president has regarding any matter.

Bill Clinton’s help in this campaign should give Senator Clinton second thoughts about his role. When he used the term fairy tale to describe anything about Obama, whether his stance on the war or his entire campaign, he was treading in deep do-do. Fairy tale is defined as “a made-up story usually designed to mislead.” He couldn’t have used a worse description for Obama’s efforts, especially as belonging to a proven winner in both state and national elections.

It doesn’t help that the dictionary also defines the term “fairy” as a male homosexual. Clinton, while not being homosexual, is a well-documented purveyor of perverseness when it comes to sexual shenanigans. The decade of the 1990s was replete with allusions in the media to his peccadilloes, which were both “unusual” and numerous. When one thinks of his tenure in office, the term “Monica” comes to mind immediately, not to mention the impeachment matter.

This election cycle is dominated in the democrat camp by both the racial and gender considerations. In the seemingly never-ending cataloging of “firsts,” the democrats have the chance to trumpet both the first female and/or the first African American as their claim to arriving at some sort of landmark accomplishment, as if either consideration actually serves as a qualifier or disqualifier for the highest office.

The supreme irony lies in the fact that there’s virtually no difference between what Clinton and Obama think is the role of government, to wit, that government exists to structure the cradle-to-grave framework for every citizen (those outside the womb, that is), and that laws should be engaged to establish that guaranteed Camelot. This is what Clinton means when she insists that it takes a village to raise a child. Clearly, it doesn’t, but both candidates think it does.

As evidenced in their recent debates, where issues were actually discussed, the republicans have widely varying ideas about governance, but the government as nanny they all agree is intolerable. Likewise, except for libertarian Ron Paul, they agree on Bush’s foreign policy regarding Iraq. They also take shots at each other, but not in the “catty” vein exhibited by Senators Clinton and Obama, and John Edwards, who also has offered his anti-Hillary two-cents-worth to his adversaries’ little side-entertainment, perhaps angling for another shot at the veep spot if Obama should be the nominee.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

State of the State

The best thing about Governor Beshear’s first state-of-the-state address on Monday evening was that it was brief and did not require thinking on the part of the listener, only patience. Predictably, he began by deploring the sorry state of affairs and troubling times in old Kentucky, particularly hammering the revenue outlook, which he described as grim.

Assuming the martyr-attitude, he moaned that he inherited this situation (budgetary shortfall) but that he will have to fix it…with raising taxes as only a last resort. Sound familiar? Translated, this means that the election is over and that he assumes carte blanche for doing anything he can get away with, including raising taxes, such raise already being screamed for with regard to the cigarette-smokers, on whose backs everything from education to bridges must be financed. The guv has said “no” to that, but what does he know? He didn’t mention it.

He proceeded to remarking the lack of trust in government, an obvious slap at former governor Fletcher, and that such trust must be restored. He knows, of course, that there is no greater lack of trust in government now than there ever was, and probably should just read the newspaper clippings from the 1970s (Carroll era) to make his comparisons…or most any other era, for that matter. He mentioned a Constitutional amendment in the works to limit the governor’s power to pardon but knows that such an amendment will not be put forth by the legislature any time soon, especially as it would clutter any November election cycle featuring an amendment dealing with casinos.

Beshear spoke of re-engineering Kentucky’s economy, guaranteeing more of everything, and that imagination would have to be used, as well as innovations, citing those in Europe. He said the financial problem is unprecedented, a patently untrue statement, but a good one for such speeches. He declared that his administration will not tolerate the status quo…so what else is new? Has any governor ever espoused maintaining the status quo? Speech-writers must be in short supply these days.

Beshear gave no specifics, which is just as well, since he will unload his budget-program on the 29th. In the interview following the address, Senate President Williams said outright that the casino issue is not going anywhere during this session. House Speaker Richards mentioned that Beshear ran on the issue and will make his thoughts known on the 29th. Stay tuned.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Friday, January 11, 2008

Kerry's Kiss of Death?

Barack Obama has been endorsed by none other than Senator John Kerry, who but for a colossal blunder in November of 2006 in California might have been running against Obama for the democrat nomination instead of appearing with him in South Carolina (and cadging a bit of media exposure for himself). This is what Kerry said in California, “You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

This was Kerry’s backhanded way of calling the troops ignoramuses, but the subject of Iraq also reminds of Kerry’s famous remark during his 2004 unsuccessful presidential campaign that he “was for the war (funding it with $87 billion) before he was against it”…or something like that. For that matter, his running mate – whom he deserted in his endorsement of Obama – also voted for the Iraq action, as did Senator Clinton. Of course, they both are now against it, putting them in the same silly category as Kerry, who picked South Carolina, Edwards’ birth-state, as the place to administer his attempt at a coup de grace to his former running mate…something known as loyalty?

In a CBS Face the Nation appearance in December 2005, Kerry said, “And there is no reason, Bob [Schieffer], that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the – of – the historical customs, religious customs. Whether you like it or not ... Iraqis should be doing that.” Does Obama actually believe an endorsement by this man can help him? Not only did Kerry accuse American GIs of crimes, but he actually said that Iraqis ought to be carrying out those crimes, as if that would make them okay. Egad!

This is from the Boston Globe of March 25, 2004, “In a question-and-answer session before a Senate committee in 1971, John F. Kerry, who was a leading antiwar activist at the time, asserted that 200,000 Vietnamese per year were being ‘murdered by the United States of America’ and said he had gone to Paris and ‘talked with both delegations at the peace talks’ and met with communist representatives.” At the time, Kerry was a U.S. Naval Reserve officer committing an act of treason (defined as “the betrayal of a trust: TREACHERY”) with the enemy while Senator McCain and others were caged like dogs and tortured in the Hanoi Hilton.

This means that by the time he made that statement (his exact words, “So what I am saying is that yes, there will be some recrimination but far, far less than the 200,000 a year who are murdered by the United States of America …”), Kerry’s comrades/nation had murdered [his word] 1.6 million Vietnamese 1964-71 (or almost 4 percent of the population for 1970), mostly civilians – women, children, and old men. He’s never offered a scintilla of proof for that wacky accusation. Regarding morality, he betrayed his country in 1970 in France and lied to Congress in 1971.

In an Op-Ed piece for the New Hampshire Union Leader, Kerry said, “Iraq has made America less safe. The terrorists are not on the run. Terrorist acts tripled between 2004 and 2005. Al-Qaida has spawned a decentralized network operating in 65 countries, most of them joining since 9/11.” According to Kerry, terrorists in significant numbers apparently had just started crawling out from under the rocks, but they’ve been crawling all over the world for decades, especially during the 1990s, when his democratic administration seemed totally unable or unwilling, or both, to significantly try to stay their hand. Witness the WTC, 1993; Somalia, 1993; Riyadh, 1995; Dhahran Khobar Towers, 1996; U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (at least 257 dead), 1998; USS Cole, 2000, and, finally, 9/11. Did Kerry believe the Girl Scouts were at work in those catastrophes while Bill Clinton was the commander-in-chief?

Of course, if Kerry hadn’t made that stupid remark in 2006 he might have been well-advised to dodge the current quadrennial circus anyway since the “Swift-boaters” would have marshaled humongous forces against him, now that they’ve had time to make adequate preparations. In only a few months in 2004, they effectively helped blow Kerry completely out of the water on the basis of both his Vietnam-induced conduct (remember tossing the medals over the fence) and his refusal to release the bulk of his military records, including a number of purple-hearts awarded for unbelievably dubious “actions.”

Obama makes much of the fact that he was against the Iraq action, but the fact is that he didn’t make it to the U.S. Senate until 2005 and so had no vote on the matter in 2002-03. He was well on his way to the current run in 2006, so he hasn’t had much Senate experience, much less any other experience on a national and, certainly, on an international scale. Kerry’s endorsement may prove to be an albatross around Obama’s neck, especially when a lot of men begin thinking about what it means. People are sometimes judged on the basis of their friends…the company they keep. It might have been better if Kerry had been an opponent, after all.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ponderous Detritus Rates

The cynicism to which people are entitled with respect to government can be seen in the latest news in Lexington concerning the almost doubling of the sewerage rates by the summer of next year. Lexington residents have been saddled with the problem of sanitary sewers overflowing into or beyond storm sewers for many years, so what happened in 2000? The council slapped the taxpayers with PDR (Purchase of Development Rights), through which landowners outside the service area are PAID (actually bribed) not to “develop” their land for commercial purposes, even though the Planning/Zoning Commission and the urban-county government already controlled (and still do) that “development.”

The city gets nothing out of PDR, not the title to one square-inch of land, but the landowners – the wealthy – take the loot, laugh all the way to the bank, sit back and take their ease. Since 2000, Fayette County taxpayers have coughed up $21.6 million to these landowners and the feds have added another $26.9 million (the old “earmark” thing), meaning that local taxpayers pay the leeches twice. So…the takers collect an average of $2,467 per acre while the citizens inside the service area can just “eat cake.” The last payment was made last fall in the amount of some $710,000 to some folks so they can look at their rolling fields and see dollar marks growing as the contraband (defined as: “illegal or prohibited traffic in goods”) is invested. Make no mistake…PDR stands for THEFT, pure and simple.

One wonders what $3 million per year since 2001 (just UFCG money) would have done for the sewer problem. Add the fed money and the total comes to nearly $7 million per year that could have been spent to solve the sewer problems instead of paying horse owning-millionaires in some cases for NOTHING. This is local government at its worst. The PDR program, to which Mayor Newberry has dedicated another $2 million this year, is reprehensible, and it’s noteworthy that only a handful of protected lands are adjacent to the service area, in the first place. The folks who should be receiving the money logically for doing the “right thing” are not dumb enough to sacrifice the privilege now of developing their invaluable assets abutting the service area later, when the time is right for “big money.”

So…why should taxpayers worry about dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s” when tax-time comes? Would they be any guiltier if they falsify their returns than the local government is in confiscating their money and GIVING it to someone else…and not to the homeless, either, but to people already living “high on the hog?” The whole thing is disgusting, and one is forced to wonder at the motives of those who sit on the council and cast their votes. Just why would such an unfair program be inculcated? Yeah…one wonders, alright. What’s it worth…and to whom?

In the meantime, the rains come down and the sewers overflow…so the council gets busy and doubles everybody’s water bill so the fat cats can enjoy agricultural paradise. Perhaps PDR should stand for PONDEROUS DETRITUS RATES! Nuts!

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

DNC Memorandum #28

From the Office in Transit of Dr. Howard Dean, DNC chair

***A thousand apologies for missing the regular memo-schedule in December. Some have suggested that the heavy snowfalls that negated travel arrangements for this office are to blame. This is not true and reflects poorly on the importance of the Iowa caucuses, whose participants are known for motives as pure as the driven snow. Those staffers who are rumored to have credited the faith of Republican Reverend Huckabee for this weather-sign of righteousness vis-à-vis his winning campaign will face the DNC Ethics Committee as soon as one is formed. It is to be noted in every meeting – repeat, every meeting – that Huckabee is a Southern Baptist and therefore considered to be the Anti-Christ or the False Prophet (book of Revelation) by Jimmy Carter, known theologically as a Sane Baptist, who will expose Huckabee at the New Baptist Covenant Celebration in Atlanta later this month, at which time he, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore will make presentations regarding the final days of the Republican Congress, 2005 until now, and compare it biblically and eschatologically to the Great Tribulation. Note: Until Huckabee announced, Carter had considered President Bush as the Anti-Christ and Karl Rove as the False Prophet, but has recently proclaimed that all bets are off on that matter, since he had a new revelation while on the road to Plains when he was blinded by a mysterious light, though some have claimed it was just a pair of headlights on a Chinese-made car that had lead in their filaments.

***It has come to my attention that some staffers have snickered concerning Senator Clinton’s teary eyes in that women’s gathering just before the New Hampshire vote. While it’s true that Senator Muskie did appear to weep during a campaign speech on a flat-bed truck in front of a newspaper office on a snowy day in Manchester in 1972 and then went on to win the New Hampshire primary, Senator Clinton has insisted that her tears were not meant as a desperate effort to replicate Muskie and salvage the victory through showing emotion. The rumor that she has accused Senator Obama of being too dry-eyed and calculating to be president is untrue, and she has made it clear that she will not say that again. The rumor that Obama is taking lessons from premier movie-producer Michael Moore on how to act like he’s crying are also untrue and Obama has said he will take no more acting-lessons. In any case, standing on a truck and making a speech during a snowstorm anywhere is enough to make anybody cry and wish to be campaigning in Hawaii (little joke there).

***There have been nasty rumors by staffers who are recent college graduates (and therefore perhaps excusable) that Senator Obama is not actually a citizen since he was born in Hawaii. Hawaii had been a state for two years when Obama was born there in 1961. It’s okay and helpful, however, to refer to him as a second-generation American, since his father, a native of Kenya, was a resident alien first in Hawaii, when Obama was born, and then in Boston later while attending Harvard. The fact that Obama spent his childhood in Indonesia did not change his status. This is important when working with college students and immigrants who can vote, whether illegal or not, as well as Muslims and Catholics, since Obama attended both Muslim and Catholic schools in Indonesia. The rumor that Obama has connected Senator Clinton and her husband philosophically to George Bush since they all attended Yale, compared to his superior background of attending Harvard, is untrue, and he has promised not to do it again. Also, former president Bill Clinton has suggested that his birthplace of Hope, Arkansas, not be mentioned, since Huckabee was also born there, and the Baptists in Hope are known to frown on grown men dallying with girl interns on government property. Also, dallying in pickups, even with four-wheel-drive drive, is frowned on in Hope, so just don’t bring up the subject of man’s best friend – his pickup truck – in the Arkansas campaign.

***Don’t get bogged down in religious matters in this campaign. Obama’s father and step-father furnish him his Muslim side (good especially in Michigan and California), but he tempered that with his membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ, which has this in its description, “We are an African people, and remain ‘true to our native land,’ the mother continent, the cradle of civilization.” That helps him with the black voters everywhere, especially in South Carolina, where they figure the cradle to be in Columbia. Both the other front-runners, Clinton and Edwards, are Methodists, but the Methodists can’t figure out what to do about homosexual behavior, so the upshot is that religion should be avoided at all costs in discussions, no matter if the candidates manipulate it to fit whatever area in which they’re operating. Let them defend their own faith. At every chance, knock Huckabee and McCain for being Baptists, but only of the strain of which Jimmy Carter and Al Gore disapprove. Baptists are squirrelly at best and there are all kinds of them. Some even do snake-handling, which is what campaign managers do, too (little levity there…explain it to recent grads).

***Be on the lookout for Michael Moore’s new movie sensation, tentatively titled “Cinderhilla and the Bama Gang.” Ostensibly, it’s all about a cheerleader and the Alabama football team…or a singer and a rock group…or a waitress and wild motorcyclists…or a maid and the Budweiser Clydesdales/coach (hasn’t been decided yet), but Moore claims it has subliminal messages that will guarantee victory in November and even set up the top and second spots on the winning ticket. The rumor that Obama and Clinton are arguing over who wins in the movie are not true, and both have said they will not do it again.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Hampshire Debate

The debate in New Hampshire on 05 January sponsored by ABC-News and hosted by its prime-time anchor, Charlie Gibson, provided the best possible opportunity through both format and personnel to gain a feel for what the candidates think and stand for. Not only did the candidates within each party delineate themselves recognizably from each other, though there is little intra-party disagreement, but the vast difference between the collective mindsets driving each group was remarkably well drawn.

Physically, the democrats, except for Richardson, showed the extreme strain of having fought the weather and the schedules in Iowa for weeks on end, especially the last week. Clinton, Edwards, and Obama were “beat,” and this might account for their stumbling, sometimes bumbling performances. Their voices were sub-par and their testiness might have accrued to simple fatigue. The fact that they followed the republicans placed them at a later starting hour of 9:00 p.m., so by 11:00 p.m. they were more than ready for bed and would have been better off there.

By contrast, the republicans, who went at each other at 7:00 p.m., appeared for the most part to be fresh. This may be due to the fact that only Huckabee and Romney had sort of “left it all on the field of battle” in Iowa, while Thompson, Paul, McCain, and Giuliani had not particularly made that fight. Both Huckabee and Romney showed more fatigue, though each acquitted himself well. Huckabee is particularly articulate and adept at thinking on his feet.

Democrat Kucinich was not invited to the big show by ABC News, though Republican Paul was, and one wonders about this. The polls show that neither man has the proverbial Chinaman’s chance, so it may be that Paul was included on the basis of the multiple millions of dollars that flowed into his campaign just during the last month or so. Democrats Dodd and Biden had already taken themselves out of the fight for the golden ring, but, on the basis of the Kucinich rebuff, would not have been invited anyway. This is sad because either man is as good – if not superior – a candidate as any of the other democrats. Money talks but had no conversation for them, terribly poor fundraisers.

The magic word for the democrats was “change,” repeated by all four over and over, as if that isn’t the mantra in every election cycle. The democrats drove it into the ground this time around, however, almost seeming to repeat it because they had little else to say. The pollsters have sort of broken the “change-freaks” into two camps, those below age 50 and those above age 50, with the younger folks supporting Obama and the older gang, Clinton. Edwards practically made his prime knock-out pitch as a promise that he would attack corporate interests with a “take no prisoners” attitude and break them (another quadrennial mantra), though he did not mention that the corporations, for good or ill, provide the jobs that permit people to put food on the table and send their kids to college.

The democrats hammered on health-care, demanding a system that would take care of everyone in the nation without using the term “socialized medicine,” of course. They had less to say about Iraq than one would have supposed, though the reason seems quite definable, to wit, that things seem to be improving there. Clinton had already called General Petraeus a liar to his face in that infamous statement in the Senate hearing room last fall, had voted for the war in the first place, and was hammered again by Obama, who insisted that he was against it but did not mention that he had no vote on it and was reminded by Clinton that he voted consistently to fund it, thus thereby supporting it.

The republicans argued about the same things but, with the exception of libertarian Paul, were united in backing the Iraq action and staying the course, Giuliani and McCain, to their credit, citing the president as worthy of praise for his attempt for both beginning and then continuing to set things right with respect to national security. All the candidates argued their case on immigration and the war, with the democrats united in the matter of getting out of Iraq as soon as yesterday if possible. In the matter of health-care, the dems seem to want to soak the rich to pay for it and everything else, while both sides collectively seem at a loss as to actually what to do.

On balance, there’s no comparison between the democrats and republicans, collectively. Any republican (actually all but Paul) would be far better than any democrat. As a group, they showed a much firmer grasp of the issues and a much firmer stance in tackling them.

Though perhaps unfair to mention, none of the democrats “looks” presidential, while most of the republicans do. Obama looks and sounds like a college cheerleader; Edwards, complete with $400-haircut, is the glib lawyer bleeding for the middle-class and poor while living in a house that’s nearly two-thirds of an acre under roof; Richardson may be smart (though hopelessly out of his depth in international affairs) but relatively inarticulate; Clinton…the country simply isn’t ready.

John McCain has the military experience and age-structured savvy to put him ahead of the pack. Paul was a military doctor, but none of the rest of the candidates in either party have had any military experience. The rest look presidential enough, with Huckabee the best speaker. Giuliani, Thompson, and Romney make sense and look the part of smart men able to lead, with Romney the most articulate of that trio.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Grisham & the Baptists

The politicization of the New Baptist Covenant, brainchild of former presidents Carter and Clinton and actually described as a celebration to be held in Atlanta January 30 – February 1, is already abundantly obvious since nearly half of its main speakers are now or have been connected to politics at the highest level. They include Carter, Clinton, Al Gore, senators Graham and Grassley, and until recently, Bill Moyers – all good Baptists, though personal details are off-limits.

The timing of this affair at the outset of the primary wars and the onset of deadly serious campaign shenanigans couldn’t be better for the democrats, whose top actors are initiators of the convocation, and one of whose spouse is running to be top banana. The politicization has been deepened – as if that’s possible – with the recent announcement of Moyers’ replacement as a featured speaker (schedule conflict given as the reason), top-selling author and Baptist, John Grisham, whose novels are also turned into movies.

There can be little doubt that this organization is the new Religious Left, the answer to the much-maligned-in-the-mainstream-media Religious Right, though its Baptist orientation seems a bit exclusive, notwithstanding the fact that most of the so-called Religious Rightists are considered Baptists/evangelicals. The denominational mainliners, bogged down in internal internecine arguments over such things as what to do about homosexuality, may get on board unless their divisive doctrines are too important to sacrifice to wooly Baptists, even the most moderate being against such things as same-sex marriage (at least nominally), though it must be mentioned that Carter is a same-sex-union guy.

One may justifiably wonder about the influence of Grisham in the NBC celebration, since it demonstrably works to the advantage of Hillary Clinton, who could be in trouble vis-à-vis the black vote, always taken for granted by the democrats in general and the Clintons in particular. Why the trouble? In a word, Obama, huge winner over Clinton in the Iowa caucuses.

The NBC will take place in Atlanta just as conventions of the three largest African-American Baptist denominations end their conclaves there, and their attendees have already been invited to participate in the NBC – probably desperately invited in order to make the whole affair appear “inclusive,” the magic term for the politically correct these days. With a black guy running against Queen Hillary, the black Baptists own far more importance than ever, since they might desert the Clintons, already considered co-presidents, as was the case in 1993, albeit mistakenly, as it turned out.

Grisham will speak Jan. 31 during the second evening session of the Baptist meeting on the topic of “Respecting Diversity.” What a coincidence, though he apparently was scheduled before the Iowa caucus-charades! Grisham has aided Hillary Clinton’s fundraising efforts, sending an e-mail to potential supporters urging them to contribute to her presidential campaign, according to of October 01.

Grisham and Hillary Clinton appeared before a crowd of about 1,000 people at a restored Charlottesville movie theater in September. Grisham said in an interview after the event that it raised $200,000 for Clinton’s presidential campaign and that his role as host was “beyond an endorsement.” According to Fox News, Grisham had this to say to the Des Moines Register in September concerning the president and his administration: "I've always thought that they were bad people with evil intent... I can't stand those people and their incompetence is astounding."

That’s not very charitable, especially as applied to a meeting of Christians…sounds more like Carter’s remarks about Bush in Arkansas last spring to which Mike Huckabee took exception and consequently exempted himself from the NBC clambake, at which he had previously agreed to speak. This is what Carter said: "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history." This is what Huckabee said at the time: “I feel it would be best for me to decline the invitation and to not appear to be giving approval to what could be a political, rather than spiritual agenda." Also considering his slurs at Bush while on overseas trips, Carter may be the most mean-spirited Baptist at the celebration, but Grisham will run a close second.

As reported by Ethics Daily, According to Virginia Public Access Project, Grisham and his wife have contributed $357,000 to Democratic candidates since 1996. This makes Grisham, who sat with Bill Clinton during one of the debates, among the heavy hitters, with both money and name recognition. This makes the popular and gifted writer’s appearance at the NBC celebration a virtual slam-dunk as a political ploy, regardless of the NBC’s stated objectives – high-sounding as they are.

It doesn’t hurt that the protagonist in Grisham’s first book, A Time To Kill, was a lowly lawyer who successfully defended an African American in a murder case. Ironically, some of Grisham’s sleaziest characters, millionaire ambulance-chasers appearing in his King of Torts, are personified in Clinton-opponent John Edwards. Whether any of this signifies with respect to helping Clinton is hard to gauge, since the vast majority of the NBC attendees will be there for the proper reasons, but one wonders since the mainstream media will be out in force to spread the word.

Adding to the transparent politicization of the convocation is the fact that Nobel Prize winner Al Gore will deliver his presentation on global warming (a religious matter?) during a luncheon in his honor on Feb. 21, according to Associated Baptist Press of December 21. This may not help the NBC effort much since the notion that global-warming is essentially manmade is being methodically disproved now. Indeed, Gore’s award-winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth, may not be shown in English public schools unless the teacher informs the students that it is a political feature, not a scientific one, and points out at least nine glaring errors in it. Since this is common knowledge, Carter and crew would do well to dispense with the film, at least, and just let Gore do Baptist-talk. Actually, his presence detracts from credibility.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Sport Trivialized

With the onslaught of the mostly trivial college football bowl-games and the rearing of the Super-Bowl’s ugly, TV-driven head in the offing, one wonders at how much the whole notion of sport in this country has lost nearly all semblance of class. The idea that a team that has won all of six games during the season (with a couple of pushovers thrown into the mix) is worthy of post-season aggrandizement blows the mind…but does make a lot of jobs available to TV/radio commentators who flood the airwaves with inanities so laughable as to make Leno and Letterman look like pikers.

Within the game itself – especially football – the cult of bush-league is noted for the extent of its boorishness. The taunting, trash-talking, celebratory antics roughly similar to those seen in most zoos or heard in most bathrooms incite nausea ad infinitim. Though politically incorrect to mention, this sad state of sophomoric sounds and histrionic aberrations has been introduced by black athletes in the past 35 or so years and, to their eternal shame, has been adopted by white players and coaches as absolutely normal, though they once considered modesty and gentlemanliness in either winning or losing as a requirement for exhibiting class.

The duck-walking, crotch-hopping, chest-banging, hip-mashing, high-fiving, dancing-prancing, skipping-skating, goalpost-hanging and other similar gyrations of “me-better-than-you” turns the gridiron into a type of jungle featuring Tarzan’s famous “Me Tarzan, you Jane” mentality and missing only the Tarzan scream, roughly similar to that of candidate Howard Dean in Iowa in 2004 when he lost the caucus and, indeed, the whole ballgame. One expects any day to hear a scream of agony from a player who celebrates his superiority too strongly and throws out his crotch.

Where once a player just calmly flipped the ball to the referee when he crossed the goal line, now he may spike the ball, do a chest-banger and hip-smasher with the nearest colleague, jump into the arms of two players, do a fast shuffle, leer at the ref, call an opposing player a deleted name, imitate a hula-dancer, lift his hand high and point down at his helmet, and spit at the feet of an opposing player while skipping his way to the bench, there to receive a genuflection from his coach or an assistant. He will then mug to the nearest camera and give the “Number 1” sign, since the TV guys consider him part of the master-race and will have him cued-in. Ironically, guys his age, who understand self-discipline and have learned to say “sir” and “ma’am,” face bullets and bombs every day in Afghanistan and Iraq, but don’t do the crotch-hop and sneer at the crowd.

There’s always been an entertainment factor connected to sports, but the advent of TV enhanced it exponentially. Coaches and athletic directors have conspired – even if unconsciously – with the TV folks to make the game-angle secondary to the entertainment-angle. Money talks, and the TV folks have it. This is why coaches and athletic directors make millions off the backs of young athletes while genius-professors eat cake. Sensationalism is what sells – a terribly sad commentary on the public – and the trashiness to which sports has devolved is the result. Old codgers remember the day when respect was the name of the game. That day has long since passed, and now anything goes.

This also explains the use of steroids (bulk-up and beat-up) among athletes from middle-school onward. Even in a “non-contact” sport like basketball, the ability to “hurt” the opponent, thereby intimidating him and entertaining the crowd as a boxer does, is considered a prime requisite, and skinny teenagers operating under the basket are loaded with extra weight they aren’t built to carry just so they can throw that weight around to great advantage. It’s no wonder they suffer all kinds of stress fractures and muscle-mangling induced by their coaches, who are more interested in the bottom-line than in the line-score.

The pro-football crowd installed scantily-clad cheerleaders decades ago for entertainment purposes. They offer nothing to the game, but plenty of navel and other things to the gaping crowds. The Super-Bowl is generally considered more of an orgy than a sporting event, and bars all over the country make it an absolute must to go along with getting drunk.

Mick Jagger and crew, the Rolling Stones, did the Super-Bowl halftime show in 2006…advertised as a “family affair” and celebrated in multitudes of churches. 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 writhed atop some sort of stage or runway that surrounded a bunch of what seemed to be lunatic-groupies of all ages, with some apparently divesting themselves of their panties to throw at the contortionists. All three looked like warmed-over death, with their body-language and facial expressions roughly the male equivalent, one supposes, of the three witches in the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Two years before, Janet Jackson…well…

Yeah. Sports needs a good cleaning, but one must not cease breathing until that happens. Crudity sells, and the pros and universities have bought into it big-time.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark