Kentucky Blog

Because Kentucky Is Not Called the "REDgrass State"

Friday, May 27, 2005

See No Evil, Hear No Evil (Part Deux)

Hmmmm, the Inspector General (an independent officer by statute) of the Department of Transportation has been ordered to keep his pie hole shut about the JOBTROT investigation. The last person holding the office of Inspector General in the Dept. (a Democrat) was fired after he prepared a report critical of millions of dollars in change orders authorized for politically connected construction companies under the Fletcher administration.

Bill Nighbert, acting Transportation Secretary, the guy that ordered David Ray, the current Inspector General, to clam up and discontinue any internal investigation, is the same one that fired Bobby Russell after he prepared the offensive report. Doesn't Russell know that as an "independent watchdog" his job is to speak no evil of the Dept. of Transportation? I'm assuming Russell was not sufficiently schooled in this, although that seems odd since he was a Patton holdover.

And even though his report was withheld from the public for 7 months on orders of the Fletcher administration, those friendly Transportation workers gave their political chronies copies of the report, no doubt for "information purposes."

Sure sounds like waste, fraud, and abuse to me:

Yesterday, asked whether his office remained independent, Ray said he was not allowed to comment. Just hours earlier, Ray said, Nighbert ordered him to clear all of his future public remarks through the cabinet's Office of Public Affairs, which answers to Nighbert.

"I'd better not address this," said Ray, a retired U.S. Secret Service agent. "Much as I'd like to, I've got a -- I work for the cabinet at this point, and I've got to go with what they say."

Asked whether he planned to quit, Ray replied: "That's a great question. ... But I can't get into it. It's heavier than that at this point, I think."


And then there's this veiled warning to Ray:

Ray reports directly to him, Nighbert said -- "I pay his salary," he added -- but Ray could, like his predecessor under Gov. Paul Patton's administration, go straight to the top of state government if he truly feels stymied.

"If he can get an audience with the governor, and the governor wants to talk to him, I think he's perfectly welcome in the governor's office," Nighbert said.


Sure, go the governor's office...if you can get the "audience" (like Fletcher is the Pope or something). But if you can't get the audience, then you'll probably get canned for "not following the chain of command" much as your deputy, Mike Duncan.

And you don't pay his salary, I do. As does the other citizens of this Commonwealth that hand over our tax dollars on the presumption they will be used to pay people to do their jobs and not engage in petty chronyism. Neighbert should be fired for pure hubris alone.

This thing is a ticking time bomb.

Kelly Downard - A Man of the People

The Louisville Metro Council requested a 50% increase in discretionary spending and 1/3 increase for public development and construction projects in each member's district, and got them from Mayor for Life Jerry Abramson.

For the life of me I can't understand why each council member, who represents their constituents and understands the needs of their particular community, shouldn't have the discretion to fund projects unique to their district. That's why I don't understand Kelly Downard:
But Republican Caucus Leader Kelly Downard, who is challenging Abramson for mayor in 2006, said it was "irresponsible" for Abramson to put the money in the
budget and said he would fight the increases.

I understand partisan politics, even though it's really pointless to have partisanship in local politics (I suppose being a part of the "club" makes some people feel the need to affiliate with one party and therefore oppose everything the other "club" is doing). But Kelly Downard is just foolish to object to this, and it's apparent he's doing it for the sole purpose of "distinguishing" himself from Abramson in preparation for what will be a losing run for the mayor's office.

Why does Kelly Downard think the taxpayers' money shouldn't go to projects that help the taxpayers? And what would he do with the money if it wasn't used for the taxpayers? Why does Kelly Downard hate Louisville?

It Should Go Without Saying

It seems rather silly that any politician should ever argue with a straight face that taxpayers should have to pay for their defense attorney when they are accused of criminal conduct, whether in their official capacity or otherwise. Cloaking the groundwork for a meritorious criminal defense under some other auspices ("compliance with subpoenas and search warrants") doesn't change what it is, which is clearly what is going on here.

And it should be common sense that we wouldn't really need a law to that effect.

I also think it's rather assinine that any state agency should be able to hire an outside attorney to "respond to subpoenas" since every major government agency has their own "in-house" counsel that could presumably do those things. Unless of course said agency is acknowledging their in-house attorney's incompetence. The attorney represents the agency employing him or her, and their job is to protect the agency. In that case there's no problem with the in-house attorney asserting executive privilege (which I happen to think Fletcher has some entitlement to - although it's a judge's decision as to what is "privileged" and not Sheryl Snyder's).

That being said, when a government agency is sued by an outside third party for something (like defamation or abuse of power) there may be a justification for hiring outside counsel that may specialize in civil litigation. An in-house lawyer can certainly handle subpoenas from intra-governmental departments but there's no doubt an in-house lawyer wouldn't have the ability to defend a civil suit from purely a time management perspective, if not due to professional specialization. Contrary to public perception, and in spite of the Kentucky Bar Association's prohibitions against marketing a lawyer's specialization, no one lawyer is an expert in all facets of the law. If they tell you otherwise you better keep shopping for one.

The distinction is simple - a judgment against a state agency for conduct in their official capacity or by virtue of conduct in the course of the agency's official duties by a citizen or outside entity affects the public coffers, and thus the taxpayer. Defense in a civil suit of this nature is a defense of the taxpayers' money in essence. But defending a public official for alleged criminal conduct, which is in itself an affront to the taxpayer, constitutes nothing more than waste, fraud, and abuse in defense of...well, waste, fraud, and abuse.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Every Once in a While...

Like people that come to this little blog, I read a lot of crap on the internets. By "crap" I mostly mean "stuff" although some of it is in fact "crap." A lot of great bloggers exist, and in a small amount of space on your computer screen they can capture the essence of a moment, make you laugh, piss you off, make you wish you hadn't booted up the damned computer at all, or teach you something you didn't already know. Of course on the other side of the spectrum a blogger can make you ask yourself "how in the blue blazes does this stupid ass even remember to breathe" right before you remember they get a little help from the fact that breathing is largely involuntary.

Then every now and then a blogger writes something that is read as if the author is actually talking to you, and is not merely representing his thoughts through the miracle of light refraction behind the glass on your monitor.

And so it is with The Poor Man's latest. It's a thing of beauty.

Either The Poor Man is a genius, or he has gotten his hands on some of the finest Amsterdam has to offer. Or perhaps both.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Hate Mail

In an earlier post I made mention of Wyatt, Tarrant, & Combs and their representation of the Department of Transportation in Stumbo's case involving JOBTROT. I noted (with citation mind you) prior alleged misconduct and the fact that they charge a hell of a lot of money.

Both those facts are true. They were alleged to have engaged in misconduct and they do charge a hell of a lot of money. Perhaps what should be clarified (so as to address the scathing emails) is that I was not implying that each of Wyatt's hundreds of lawyers were unethical or did anything unethical. But someone in the firm was alleged to have, and you know what they say about "a few bad apples"....Anyway, if anyone at Wyatt was offended then I suppose they can launch a thousand ships, sue me, and make utter asses of themselves. I'm guessing they won't do any of that because quite frankly I don't think if someone accused them of eating babies they would really care. That's the benefit of having more money than everyone else - some people might call it "f---- you money." You know the kind...the kind where you can bite the head off a bat in front of screaming lunatic fans, and when someone says you're a nutbag, you say "f--- you cause I got mo' money than you...Bitch." If they have hurt feelings I'm sure they'll get over it. No attorney there makes less than $90K to start (based on info from U of L law school which is not on the internets) and partners can make in excess of $350,000, so a few hurt feelings can be assuaged with that shiny new BMW in front of the nice big house.

I happen to have known some Wyatt attorneys in a previous life, and thought they were good peeps. Even drank beer with them I think once or twice. And I stand behind my comment that they charge a hell of a lot because it's true. They don't give away all those fancy suits you know. If the Dept. of Transportation got a deal then great - get it out in the open and disclose it.

As for the joker that said I was slamming Grant Helman and Jack Smith, I'm not sure what post you were reading (or what substances you were under the influence of when reading it), but just so we're clear - I've had occassion to meet both individuals and will state unequivocally that Jack Smith is a top notch lawyer. Thus my suggestion that Fletcher call him for counsel (my understanding is that since Sheryl Snyder is under state contract he can't represent Fletcher in criminal matters - see the Rule in Clinton's Case for the basis for my assumption). Helman's rep is the same as Smith's, but I don't know him well enough to vouch for him.

No cites in this post because quite frankly the complaints didn't merit the attention I've already paid to them. Rich lawyers with hurt feelings get no sympathy - no one gets into the legal profession under any pretense that they'll be loved by the public at large. Yet so many still vote Republican despite being castigated as bottom feeding scum suckers in the great American pond by them. Now that's something they ought to be thinking about.

Friday, May 20, 2005

See No Evil, Hear No Evil

Updated: Took out unrelated commentary to shorten post

In his best "3 Monkeys" posture, Lt. Gov. Steve Pence accused Attorney General Greg Stumbo of investigating potential illegal conduct because of partisanship, then Pence turns around and says he knew about the allegations the whole time -- but he didn't get the memo that as the Justice Cabinet secretary, Pence may want to pursue those things.

Lt. Gov. Steve Pence said yesterday he learned earlier this month about allegations state workers were being hired on the basis of politics but didn't ask state police to investigate because no one asked him to do so.

Pence said he had heard about the allegations after a state employee spoke with a
Transportation Cabinet lawyer, and the cabinet began an inquiry May 2.


Honestly, isn't a witness' allegation enough to merit more than a cursory glance? Especially from an administration that ran its campaign on eliminating "waste, fraud, and abuse"? Stumbo starts his investigation and within a week he has 80 people come forward. Presumably had Pence done the same there would have been similar results - but the difference is that you have to make the effort first.

I've supported Pence on many of his law enforcement policy positions, and will continue to. But he's playing politics with this and it's painfully obvious that this inexperienced crew can't play the allegation game as well as their federal government counterparts.

And in a stroke of utter genious, the Transportation Cabinet has hired Louisville law firm Wyatt, Tarrant, & Combs to investigate. WTC ain't cheap, and they were hip deep in tobacco litigation - on the side of tobacco. During the whole tobacco litigation fest of the 90's, this purportedly went on at Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs:

Williams says that in his work for B&W's law firm, he discovered that the company was avoiding legal discovery proceedings by funneling the most damaging material in its files to its legal departments, where company lawyers claimed the material was protected from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege and as attorney work product. That is fraud--and "that's never protected by attorney-client work privilege or work product," DeMoisey says.
But if you want a thorough gouging of the Kentucky taxpayer, that's one of the firms you'd want to call - they got an army of lawyers and a first rate billling system. When the public coffers are bottomless, there's no incentive to keep the price under control.

Los Angeles Not American?

So says John Ziegler, disgraced conservative radio show host formerly of WHAS radio in Louisville and now with 640 KFI in Los Angeles:
"I hate where I live. I don't feel like L.A. is American," Ziegler said.

John Ziegler must be feeling the heat in his defamation trial, in which Ziegler, ever the good conservative (hypocrite) is alleged to have:
....Ziegler had talked about how Divita kept her pubic hair groomed. "It made me cringe."

Ziegler referred to her as a "pathological" liar and told listeners that Divita had the "best fake breasts" that "deserved some sort of Nobel prize." When a listener asked why Divita always wore slacks during her morning show, Ziegler responded that she did not wear underwear.

And what kind of "character" does this jackass have? Let's see...

Ziegler continued to "trash" Divita even after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Clay told jurors. "He won't shut up," the attorney said.
What a conservative asshole. And he looks like a real douchebag too.

And he was under oath, so presumably Ziegler really hates living and working in the second largest city in America. I wonder how his LA audience would react if they knew John Ziegler hates LA. Why do you hate LA John? Is it the heat? The "Hollywood elite"? Or do you just hate all those minorities running around out there?

Come on John, what makes LA "not American"?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Having Fun at Others' Expense

WAVE3 has been sued by a schmuck for having the audacity to point out that he sold a house fit for condemnation to a blind lady. [Before he sues me, I'll qualify that "schmuck" is merely my opinion of him based on the evidence.] Representing said schmuck is the law firm of Smith & Helman, a Louisville firm formed by the partnership of Jack Smith and Grant Helman.

Grant Helman was appointed to the Board of Trustees for the University of Louisville by Paul Patton. He's regarded as a top notch, although cantankerous, lawyer in the Louisville area despite having lost his bid for a judgeship.

Jack Smith is a long time Democratic player (and former US Attorney) - mostly a behind the scenes guy. He's better known for helping form Lt. Gov. Steve Henry out of a pinch for a wee bit of alleged Medicare fraud. He has become known for keeping a low profile in high profile criminal defense cases (as opposed to the flashier Bart Adams, who is also a go-to guy if you're caught confessing to holding a pound of coke in one hand and the beheaded corpse of your ex-spouse in the other), and is also regarded as one of the best attorneys in the city.

Why are the professional abilities of these two lawyers (who aren't the actual attorneys from the firm who actually filed the lawsuit) relevant to the douchebag suing WAVE3? It's not.

But Jack Smith was a player on the defense team for the BOPTROT defendants, and has routinely defended people accused of government-related criminal scandals.

The point is that given the life this JOBTROT scandal is taking on its own, a meeting between Fletcher and Smith/Helman may be the best move of bipartisanship this administration has made. The doucebag part at the beginning was just for kicks and giggles, and to feed the right wing's incessant incantations that the judicial system is broken.

What Are Gov. Fletcher's Initials?

From the Courier Journal editorial page comes a simple, yet difficult question to answer - assuming the respondent is not pleading the Fifth:

Of the many questions swirling around JOBTROT, the Fletcher administration's apparent trashing of Kentucky's merit system, one stands out as being both crucial and easy for the administration to answer: Who is "EF"? EF is mentioned in one of the incriminating e-mails about Transportation Cabinet hiring, and is a figure consequential enough to receive briefings by other top officials.

The e-mail was sent by Cory Meadows, then the deputy director of the Governor's office of Local Initiatives for a New Kentucky (LINK), to Dick Murgatroyd, then a deputy Transportation secretary and now Gov. Ernie Fletcher's deputy chief of staff. It said, "Have we found out anything about the jobs Brock requested.… EF is being updated tomorrow. Please advise."

It would make sense if Mr. Meadows had been preparing to update Ellen Williams; she's the commissioner of local development (and ex-head of the state Republican Party) who oversees the LINK operation.

But she's an EW, not an EF. Likewise, none of the Governor's staff members, as listed on his Web site, has those initials. And the prominent political names implicated so far -- D(ave)D(isponett), R(alph)H(acker), S(teve)B(ranscum) -- don't even come close.

There is one obvious possibility, of course. But, surely, it can't be true, considering that Attorney General Greg Stumbo is alleging illegal -- and prosecutable -- conduct.

The Governor needs to allay any fear, clear up the mystery and tell his staff to answer, quickly: Who is EF?


Ruh roh. Here's a handy reference that perhaps may of use to the Guv-nuh.

Kentucky Terror

Today Kentucky is at "elevated" status for terror alerts. Setting aside the ridiculousness, and crying wolf posturing, of an "elevated" status, let's look at what we are supposed to be doing:
Yellow - Elevated Condition
Complete recommended steps at levels green and blue.
Ensure disaster supply kit is stocked and ready.
Check telephone numbers in family emergency plan and update as necessary.
Develop alternate routes to/from work or school and practice them.
Continue to be alert for suspicious activity and report it to authorities.

That's your tax dollars at work - coming up with that. We know now that federal terror alerts were politically manipulated (from Tom Ridge himself, no less), so what's the f-ing point of paying attention to this crap?

Get my "disaster supply kit" ready? Develop alternative routes to work or school?! Listen you stupid assholes, assuming there is a terror attack - and that's a big fat lobotomized "if" to even be considering any time of year in Kentucky outside of Derby time - who the hell is going to go to work? And do you think my kid is going to school?

Our tax dollars are being wasted to scare the hell out of us so we will keep voting for these sorry jackasses that are allegedly "better equipped" to protect us - because nothing is going to save my life like a homemade "disaster supply kit" and I can dodge bombs by taking my "alternate" route to work. The fact is that politicians and government can't do a thing to stop terrorists from attacking, and telling us to have a "disaster supply kit" is just further proof that they don't know what the hell to do, and will just make stuff up to justify their existence.

You want to prevent terrorism? Then take a look at why terrorists attack for God's sake. Can't we all just get along?

What a scam.

Blogging Hiatus

After an unexpected blogging hiatus - which coincided with, and in fact was caused by, unforseen travel out of the state - I return to find the Fletcher administration embroiled in a scandal involving their bane of existence: waste, fraud, and abuse. No doubt everyone's heard the basics - Fletcher's crew apparently hired folks in the Transportation Cabinet cause they were Republicans.

It also appears they may have hired them cause they were white as the driven snow (and here's the editorial to ice the cake and make the case). And now the state stands to lose $600 million in transportation development funds.

Awesome.

Now it looks like A.G. Stumbo may be expanding the investigation to other cabinets.

And the tit for tat between two prospective gubenatorial candidates - is there any genuine belief Mitch McConnell will let Fletcher run again? - heats up:

"We've hired or promoted thousands of people. One or two does not mean there is a pattern," said Pence, who is also Justice Cabinet secretary and oversees the Kentucky State Police.

"If someone has done something wrong, and they may have, then we need to take responsibility for that and correct the action if we can and hold those responsible accountable," he said.

Stumbo said the attorney general is responsible for protecting the merit system and doesn't need to wait for the Personnel Board to act. "You could turn that around and ask: Lieutenant Governor, you took the same oath I did to uphold the law. You're in charge of a 1,000-person police force. Why didn't you launch a criminal investigation?" Stumbo said.


Partisanship aside, Pence is grasping at straws - but it's the popular M.O. for Republicans - do whatever the hell you want until you get caught, deny it happened until there's proof, then excuse it because "everyone did it" until it becomes an overwhelming P.R. nightmare, then blame the Democrats for trumping up charges and state unequivocally that your administration will be vindicated....just as soon as these three dozen committees consisting of appointees get done examining the evidence.

Despite my glee that reality has rudely invaded the utopian world of perpetual blue skies that loyal devotees to the Republican party inhabit, this scandal should cause us to address a larger problem. And that is that the merit system, while noble in concept, is a farce - unless of course you have a member of the opposite party in a position to enforce it (such as Stumbo) [note that the Last Sane Man talks briefly about the merit system and takes a less harsh view - he's got all the links so you can decide for yourself]. Of course the same people that say it works will also testify verily that Keith Hall was the best candidate to head Homeland Security.

And the funniest part is that unpaid "volunteer" Dave Disponett - who has an office and staff access paid for by the Kentucky taxpayers, despite not being ethically accountable to them - apparently got his brother a job, and that's what let to one of the original complaints.

Word around Frankfort - at the outdoor smoking stations outside government buildings - is that it's the tip of the iceberg. Rumor (unsubstantiated at this point, and I want to make that clear) is that there may have been "lists" of permissible job applicants for various Cabinet heads.

If you want to know more, just take up smoking and stand outside government buildings. It's amazing the stuff you hear.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Fighting Tyranny (Well, Maybe Tomorrow)

Digby reminds us that for all Bush's tough talk about fighting tyranny, politically expedient relationships with human rights abusers earn them a free pass. I'll go one step further, and point to this article about the dictatorial rule in Equatorial Guinea, where one of the largest modern oil strikes was found in the 90's (to the tune of about $5.5 billion per year). Despite despotic rule, Bush has extended special privileges to the regime. [Some may remember this as the location of the failed coup attempt purportedly planned by Margaret Thatcher's son.]:

Per capita, it is one of the richest countries on the continent; rated by how much money ends up in the pockets of people not related to the president, it remains one of the poorest. Oil is the reason the desperate-looking cafés and shops in Ebebiyin use ExxonMobil signs as decorations. It is why, although his regime once sent death threats to the U.S. ambassador, Obiang now meets with senior administration officials and even with President Bush. And it’s why no one spoke out as Obiang treated his nation’s treasury as his own private bank account.

...Yet it has emerged as an all-too-real example of how a dictator, awash in petrodollars, enriches himself and his family while starving his people. His conduct has been aided by American companies: As detailed in Senate and Treasury Department documents, Riggs Bank helped Obiang shuttle millions into offshore accounts. Oil companies, meanwhile, made payments to his regime that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is now scrutinizing under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

...Human rights abuses continue unchecked. An oil company employee was recently beaten unconscious by gendarmes when he refused to pay a bribe. In 2002, more than a dozen security officials at the airport in Bata, the country’s commercial center, were arrested after they allowed an opposition leader to board a plane for Gabon. If you happen to be a member of the opposition, or even a suspected member of the opposition, you live precariously.

Read on for details on how big oil is propping Obiang up and keeping him in power while his people scrape by on $2 a day. Read on for the way Riggs Bank (who has a highly placed executive related to Bush) helped launder money for the dictator. Read on to see how big oil is running, and ruining, the world - in ways more than environmental. For goodness sake, even the Chinese find Obiang's treatment of his people to be abhorrent!

America, and the world, needs to face the fact that our reliance on oil destroys more than the environment - it is fostering dictatorial rule in more places than the Middle East, where entire populations are oppressed, murdered, and live in squalor. Until we can wean ourselves off this crap it is the world's addiction to cheap oil that will keep causing this.

On a side note, Digby's blog is a hell of a good blog to read - its one worth reading regularly, and his original post, which I jumped on with my own two cents, aptly made the same point.

Updated: Fixed stupid typos.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Rape in the Congo - Rwanda Revisited

Go read this. There is evil in the world, and if something can't be done to protect these women then humanity is lost. Until we humanize these victims and force our representatives to focus on these gross violations of human rights, this wholesale rape of Congolese women will continue unabated.

This really is not a partisan issue. I have not heard anyone from either party call our government to action.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Rethinking the War on Drugs

Surprise, surprise. A study shows marijuana use accounts for a majority of drug related arrests. Use of hard core drugs (cocaine, heroin) appear to be decreasing, but pot use is up.
The study of FBI data by a Washington-based think tank, the Sentencing Project, found that the proportion of heroin and cocaine cases plummeted from 55 percent
of all drug arrests in 1992 to less than 30 percent 10 years later. During the same period, marijuana arrests rose from 28 percent of the total to 45 percent.
This sounds good, because without a doubt heroin and cocaine are bad drugs - just ask Rick James.

However:
Bush administration officials attribute the rise in marijuana arrests to a variety of factors: increased use among teenagers during parts of the 1990s; efforts by local police departments to focus more on street-level offenses; and growing concerns over the danger posed by modern, more potent versions of marijuana. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy released a study yesterday showing that youth who use marijuana are more likely to develop serious mental health problems, including depression and schizophrenia.
Ha! What a flipping joke. The "more potent versions" are grown right here in Kentucky. Some may argue it's the best in world, although I bet these people may disagree. And it's grown right there in Daniel Boone National Forest (ideal growing conditions, yet free from RICO property seizure laws since growers' property is not used in the process). Yet Bush and Company have cut funding for efforts to fight it.
Then we have Alberto "terrorism is my number one priority" Gonzalez:
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, for example, has formed a national ommittee to oversee prosecution of violent drug gangs and has vowed to focus more resources on the fight against methamphetamine manufacturers and other drug traffickers.
Even from the American Enterprise Institute, who apparently "hates America" despite its conservative ideological leanings, we have these traitorous statements:
The conservative American Enterprise Institute published a report in March titled "Are We Losing the War on Drugs?" Its authors argue that, among other things, "criminal punishment of marijuana use does not appear to be justified."
The cost to society? $35 billion a year for the "war on drugs" and "[t]he report also found that one in four people in state prisons for marijuana offenses can be classified as a "low-level offender," and it estimated that $4 billion a year is spent on arresting and prosecuting marijuana crimes."
So what does the study really say?
"There's been a major change in what's going on in drug enforcement, but it clearly isn't something that someone set out to do," said Jonathan Caulkins, a criminology professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "It's not like anyone said, 'We don't care about cocaine and heroin anymore.' . . . The simple answer may be that police are now taking opportunities to make more marijuana arrests than they were when they were focused on crack cocaine in the 1980s."
That's right folks. We spend billions of dollars a year fighting a non-addictive, non-fatal drug (remember, not one incident of death by overdose has ever been reported - and that's from the government boys and girls), while other, more addictive and deadly drugs, imported from terrorist affiliated nations (like Afghanistan) are relegated to second tier status.
I'm just saying, if you want to fight violent drug gangs that sell marijuana, then make them irrelevant. If a hippy can buy a doobie at Starbucks, why would they drive to Compton? They wouldn't, and everyone knows it. Alcohol kills more people than pot ever thought of (assuming pot has the capacity to think), yet alcohol is sold on every corner in every major city in America with few exceptions.
Drugs are a problem, but marijuana is not - it's only a "drug" for legality purposes because statute designates it as such. And it's simply assinine and narrow minded to suggest that it is a problem that is more important than crack, heroine, meth, or cocaine. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that marijuana is naturally grown - from Mother Nature - whereas meth is naturally cooked - in any trailer park in the state. Whatever.
But pot is not the problem. It's a billion dollar industry that would make tons of people rich and provide a tax base unparalleled by any other industry in Kentucky. It's quite silly not to discuss this reasonably and rationally than resorting to the whole "gateway drug" nonsense. Alcohol lowers inhibitions much more so than pot, and the worst thing that ever happened to a pot head was they went on a carb loaded diet or hurt their finger dialing out for pizza.

Obsession With Sexual Intimidation

From Digby:
I missed this one. Apparently, two female schoolteachers in their 50's who had the nerve to attend a public Bush rally without the proper Republican approvals were arrested and strip-searched. ...

Obviously, strip searching these women was an intimidation tactic, the same kind of tactic used to such great effect at Abu Ghraib. Sexual humiliation seems to be quite the rage among the macho these days. It was probably done by some cops who worship the phony Codpiece and think that American citizens who don't are traitors. ...

Get ready to be strip-searched America. Rush Limbaugh and all his little sick clones are training ever more people to believe that you deserve it. And worse.

I'm depressed today. Don't expect any inspiring words from me. The worst elements of our culture are on the rise. We have delivered massive government police power into the hands of authoritarian freaks whose followers are being told every day that liberals are a greater danger than terrorists are. Middle aged schoolteachers are being strip searched for protesting at a political rally.

This must be what that freedom they hate us for looks like.

Indeed. A police state in the making.

Drinking Liberally

Drinking Liberally has a Louisville chapter now that meets Thursdays at the Bluegrass Brewing Company. The BBC happens to be a favorite haunt, as it's a short walk home (St. Matthews cops, like most law enforcement and reasonably minded people, frown on drinking and driving). Join their Wort Hog Club and enjoy some of their microbrews while meeting with like-minded liberals.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Tom DeLay Needs your Help

Contributions to his legal fund are slowing down. Here's the report of DeLay's legal fund from its inception in 2000 through first quarter 2005 (via Public Citizen's Congress Watch). Lot's of Kentucky names there, and we have the dubious distinction of being the third highest contributing state to defend the corruption.

Yeehaw.

Why Does Richard Myers Hate America?

From the great land of Washington DC (free subscription required), where citizens have no representation in the federal government but pay taxes anyway:

The concentration of American troops and weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan limits the Pentagon's ability to deal with other potential armed conflicts, the military's highest ranking officer reported to Congress on Monday.

The officer, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed
Congress in a classified report that major combat operations elsewhere in the world, should they be necessary, would probably be more protracted and produce higher American and foreign civilian casualties because of the commitment of Pentagon resources in Iraq and Afghanistan. ...

In the report, General Myers wrote, the military faces "moderate" risk in its mission to protect the United States, and he assessed the risk for preventing conflict - including surprise attack - as "moderate, but trending toward significant."


Cue Anne Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of the Get Along Gang, altogether now, saying "Why does our military always blame America first?"

Any minute now the Joint Cheifs of Staff will be branded a traitor and his resignation will be demanded by the Republican regime. Any minute now...

Of course, I seem to remember someone raising this issue in a presidential campaign last year....

Meanwhile, the Genocide Continues

[Update: Blogger ate half the post when originally published. Here's the original full version.]

I love hearing or reading Bush apologists blame everyone else but the guy in charge, and its no different with Darfur. While thousands of innocent men, women, and children are being rounded up and brutally raped and murdered, the world turns its head. The Darfur Accountability Act was intended to speed up US involvement and stop the slaughter:

Last week, the Senate unanimously passed the Darfur Accountability Act as part of the Iraq-Afghanistan emergency supplemental appropriations bill. Led by Republican Sam Brownback of Kansas and Democrat John Corzine of New Jersey, the act appropriates $90 million in U.S. aid for Darfur and establishes targeted U.S. sanctions against the Sudanese regime, accelerates assistance to expand the size and mandate of the African Union mission in Darfur, expands the United Nations Mission in Sudan to include the protection of civilians in Darfur, establishes a no-fly zone over Darfur, and calls for a presidential envoy to Sudan.

The Darfur Accountability Act is now with the House, and Republican leaders there...are similarly joining with Democrats to push for a more robust humanitarian response to the unfolding genocide in Western Sudan.....

Yet in an April 25 letter from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis obtained by the Prospect, the administration signaled its desire to strike the Darfur Accountability Act from the supplemental.


[Nevermind they didn't lift a finger when Republican Senators voted against a supplement of $213 million for body armor for troops in Iraq. Voted against by none other than Kentucky's finest - Mitch McConnell and loyal foot soldier Jim Bunning. Priorities are a bitch I suppose.]

The UN cannot move without the US' approval, and now we know why Darfur burns and innocent people are being slaughtered in what Colin Powell aptly described as a genocide:

The Bush administration has forged a close intelligence partnership with the Islamic regime that once welcomed Osama bin Laden here, even though Sudan continues to come under harsh U.S. and international criticism for human rights violations.The Sudanese government, an unlikely ally in the U.S. fight against terror, remains on the most recent U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. At the same time, however, it has been providing access to terrorism suspects and sharing intelligence data with the United States. Last week, the CIA sent an executive jet here to ferry the chief of Sudan's intelligence agency to Washington for secret meetings sealing Khartoum's sensitive and previously veiled partnership with the administration, U.S. government officials confirmed.

A decade ago Bin Laden and his fledgling Al Qaeda network were based in Khartoum. After they left for Afghanistan, the regime of Sudanese strongman Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir retained ties with other groups the U.S. accuses of terrorism. As recently as September, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell accused Sudan of committing genocide in putting down an armed rebellion in the western province of Darfur. And the administration warned that the African country's conduct posed "an extraordinary threat to the national security" of the United States.

At what cost this cooperation? Do we really find it in our national interests to befriend mass murderers and state sponsors of terror (Khartoum is still listed as a state sponsor of terror under trade sanctions)? Are these the governments we want to be mentioned as affiliating with? Is the moral depravation of such action worth cooperation from a group that aided and abetted bin Laden in the 90's - presumably when he was plotting the USS Cole attack?

Is it worth the implicit sanctioning of genocide?

Does our country not stand for anything any longer?

Monday, May 02, 2005

A Note on Patriotism

I have a very close friend (who is also a business associate) that hangs out on the right side of the political spectrum. Ideologically she couldn't be more liberal in terms of privacy (and in the sense of "liberal" I'm talking about the right to privacy positions long abandoned by the current Republican party which is now embraced by liberals - as in "keep government out of our lives"), but she's scared to death terrorists are going to strike her.

And I do mean her specifically. This fear is not borne out of a particular threat to her or her home city. She lives a rural community with one exit off the highway, and having been there on occasion I can honestly say short of a mandatory town meeting a terrorist strike wouldn't yield near the fatality rate of the World Trade Center. Even the mandatory town meeting might not make those numbers. Rather the fear is developed from the ridiculous notion perpetuated that "terrorists can kill us all."

Short of al Qaeda obtaining a large number of nuclear weapons, and the ability to deliver them to our shores (as in they take over an entire nuclear nation, obtain their launch codes, and thus possess the necessary delivery system to launch precision strikes), there is little to no likelihood that they could ever "kill us all." Despite her concerns about the economy (she lives in a union household) and the state of the nation's standing in the world, all this is swept aside because, after all, what good is a sound economy if they "kill us all."

I'm not belittling the threat posed by terrorists, but I do find it important to keep the threat in perspective in relation to other, more pressing threats. Like a nuclear North Korea as one example. Recognizing the threat, and living in a large city, albeit one with nominal terror targets, I, as so many others, have simply learned that the threat exists but life most go on.

This notion that they will "kill us all" is a dangerous mindset to carry. For one it is the foundation for the excuse to curtail civil rights and the rights of privacy. I am cast back to the history of the American Revolution wherein our patriots were willing to die for the preservation, or rather the procurement, of those rights and freedoms we so callously cast aside today. Sure, some may characterize as "brave" the willingness to dedicate our military to fight our battles, but in the Revolution we fought on all fronts and everyone was a part of the larger war - a war to protect our ideals. Men, women, and children, in reckless abandon of their own self-preservation, felt they were a part of something larger than their own self interests.

Contrast that the present. Today patriotism is defined by how quickly we are willing to castigate some of those foundational ideals for fear that they "will kill us all." Patriotism is no longer defined by adherence to our freedoms, but rather how ideocratic we are to abandon them. The dichotomy is confounding, but I have no doubt the absence of genuine tyranny over our citizenry has made us complacent in upholding the standards we once built a nation upon.

In other words, over 200 years ago patriots gave their lives to attain the freedoms that we disregard today to (ostensibly) save our own. Some of this is attributable to the mad grab for power of the current Republican regime, but I fear that as much can be attributed to the ideological complacency of Americans as a whole, or perhaps a subconscious belief that once won our rights will always exist without effort to maintain them.

This is not a call for human sacrifice - to throw one's self on the grenade so to speak - in dereliction of common sense. But some parts of our heritage were won by blood, and we dishonor that courage and sacrifice if we do not strive to preserve it.

Now, Having Missed the Obvious

Chris Bowers at MyDD makes what should be an obvious point, but one which has been largely missed in the debate on the judicial filibuster. [Calling it a "debate" debases the word I think, but calling it "the nutbag Dobson and his feeble fundies' attack on democracy" is just too long to write all the time.]

Anway, Bowers is quite persuasive in arguing that you can't on the one hand cry about religious bigotry yet on the other advocate religious bigotry. It really cuts against the whole contention that they're not trying to create a theocracy.

More alarming is what is not being done about such insane crap in our "free press." It is really quite stunning that a leader of a religious sect can get on tv and advocate stripping American citizens of their inalienable rights because they don't donate to the Hour of Power every Sunday and still get asked to come back.

Living History

This is an incredible contribution to the holes in the annals of history surrounding Hitler's final days. Those into history, specifically the largest war the world has ever known, will appreciate the closure this may bring to certain untold aspects of the end of Hitler's reign.