Tuesday, February 27, 2007

51. Some Answers - and a correction

Some answers to some trivia questions from previous posts.

Columbus, Kentucky is the city in Kentucky briefly considered as a possible new federal capital city, more centrally located in the expanding west. President Thomas Jefferson considered this move after a fire damaged the White House during the course of his term.

The city is located in Hickman County in the Purchase, where KY 80 empties into the Mississippi River and is home to the Columbus-Belmont State Park, which is where one can view in person the large anchor I pictured in the right column. That anchor, and the chain attached to it, played a role in the Confederate Army's execution of the Civil War. The opposing generals in the conflict which took place on November 7, 1861 were CSA Brigadier General Gideon Pillow and USA General Ulysses Grant. Grant went on to become the War's winning general, and later served, although not very well, as President of the United States.

I mentioned one day that Kentucky had a Lincoln County, but it wasn't named for the Commonwealth's only contribution to the list of people elected as President. Our Lincoln County was formed in 1780 (when Kentucky was still a part of the Commonwealth of Virginia) and named for a general from the American War of Independence (The Revolutionary War), Benjamin Lincoln, a native of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was one of three counties created by the splitting up of Kentucky County, Virginia in the summer of 1780, the others being Jefferson and Fayette.

General Lincoln played a variety of roles throughout the War including at one point as a prisoner of the British. His last role was that of surrogate for his Commanding General George Washington, at Yorktown. When British General Lord Cornwallis refused to personally surrender his sword after the defeat, he sent a surrogate to do so. General Washington responded in kind, sending General Lincoln to accept.

Jeptha Knob, or Jeptha's Knob, in eastern Shelby County, lies between US 60 and I-64 south of the village of Clay Village (sometimes written as one word, Clayvillage) and north of Hemp Ridge (also sometimes written as the one word Hempridge). The "knob" rises to a the height of 1188 feet above sea level. For comparison, the highest point here in Jefferson County is South Park Hill at 902 feet above sea level, located just southwest of the intersection of South Park Road and the Gene Snyder Freeway. The Freeway, west of I-65 over to the L&N overpass, runs along the foot of South Park Hill.

I used "knob" in quotation marks because the hill isn't a knob, as are the other hills surrounding Louisville as well as those speading across central Kentucky seem to be. It is now thought by geologists to be an asteroid which impacted the earth some 425 million or so years ago. It's nearest higher neighbor would be the Parksville Knob, a true knob, some 42 or so miles to the south-southeast, in the community of the same name in Boyle County, about one/third of a mile south of the intersection of KY 34 and KY 300. The Parksville Knob rises 1364 feet above sea level.

There is an old tradition about which very little has been written that George Washington, as a very young man, was sent to this area to survey lands on behalf of Thomas Fairfax, the sixth Lord Fairfax. The sixteen year old future president was a distant cousin of the British noble. It is documented that Washington surveyed lands well into what is now West Virginia. But the tradition is that a letter Washington wrote at the age of 22 mentions the high point "west of the river and east of the Falls of the Ohio" which he visited on one of the surveys. The unnamed river would be the Kentucky and the "Falls of the Ohio" became Louisville in the late 1770s. That high point would be Jeptha Knob.

In my post written for Saint Valentine's Day, but posted a day later, I included a picture of some Cuban ex-pats at a Mass celebrated at Saint Helen's Church in Shively. The purpose of that celebration was the installation of a statue of Jose Marti, a leading figure in Cuban history from the 19th century. The international airport in Havana is named in his honor. Marti was also a poet and one of his poems was set to music in the 1960s in the popular song Guantanamera. The Mass took place in September, 1963. The statue was erected in the Shively City Park behind City Hall. It was dedicated to those Jefferson Countians who fought in Cuba in the the Battle of Cardenas (the Filibusters) on May 19, 1850. Sometime in 2003 or 2004, the City of Shively tore down the monument and its present whereabouts are not clear.

As I had in the past pointed the statue out to Cuban refugeess who have made their American home here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River at Milepost 606, I've been curious for some time as to the purpose of removing the monument, but have not made any serious inquiries. Why would you tear down a monument dedicated to Jefferson Countians? I need to ask this question of either my friend Jim Jenkins, the former mayor of Shively, or his successor, Sherry Connor, whom I met during last fall's Shively festival when she and her mother visited the campaign booth of John Yarmuth, at the time a candidate for Congress. There is a little known movement led by Antonio de la Cova to restore the monument.

I wrote more than one entry of the idea of naming something in our community for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Council quickly wandered into this discussion, and finding the oil in the frying pan much too hot for their usual level of comfort and safety, just as quickly retreated, leaving the decision to the Commonwealth's legislature, currently in general assembly (hence the name) in Frankfort for one of the so-called "short sessions" approved by the voters through a referendum vote several years ago, one of many of the constitutional referenda offered to voters in my lifetime of voting, almost all of which I cast a "no" vote upon, including this one. This week the General Assembly approved naming Interstate 65 in Jefferson County the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Expressway and directed the Transportation Cabinet to erect appropriate signage at intervals along the path. I-65 wasn't my first choice, but it will suffice. It is the successor route to the old L & N Railroad between the old North and the old South, and as such may be an appropriate road to carry the 20th century leader's name.

Finally, I made a mistake. I make a lot, truthfully. When I named this blog, I calculated my location along the Ohio River to be at Milepoint 606. Milepoint 606 is actually just a little further downriver from me. I am much closer to milepoint 604. Milepoint 606 is in reality almost directly in front of the bluff where George Rogers Clark's cabin sat in what would become the Town of Clarksville. It is nearly the exact point where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (George's little brother) shoved off, for the first time together, as the Corps of Discovery in what has come to be known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I'm not going ot change the name of my blog - it will remain at Milepoint 606, and given that much of what has been written about in the blog has been of an historic nature, that point and that name are still, in spirit at least, correct.

Monday, February 26, 2007

50. Procrastination and Delayed Gratification

Do you ever think about your car (or truck's) license plate number? For the record, mine is 0699. It is a special issue plate, carrying, in addition to that number, a decal with my college alma mater's symbol on it. With special issue plates it is possible to get the plate number you want, or the plate type (as I have) you want. As I've written before, numbers are a curious things for me, whether they be precinct numbers, vote counts, birthdays, or - in this case - license plate numbers.

Today's license plate numbering system (in Kentucky) isn't fair to nosey geographers like me who want to be able to tell from the plate number in which county the car is licensed. Short of reading the small decal with the county's name, there is no way to do this, with the singular exception of those cars registered in Adair County (Columbia). Being Kentucky's first county alphabetically, they will always have the letters "AAA" as part of their plates. If you see a plate with three numbers followed by AAA, or probably AAB and AAC as well, they are from Adair. Beyond that, the plates are sent to the counties as needed. Since the counties' names are attached with a decal and not stamped into the plate as before, there is no need for an absolute system of successive letters and numbers specifically assigned to a given county.

This wasn't always the case. In the 1950s and 1960s, Kentucky licenses began with the number 0-000 (issued in Adair County) and ran through the counties to Woodford numerically. I do not know if there was ever a plate numbered 999-999. Beginning in 1960 (and maybe before), the larger counties' plates, as well as all truck plates, began with a letter. Here in Jefferson County, the letters J and K were originally assigned. Before that system was abandoned, L, M, and N were added. Fayette County had B plates, maybe A as well; Kenton had C; Campbell had G; and McCracken had P. All truck plates began with the letter T. At the time, Kentucky's automobile license plates were only good for one year. Every year, every car got a new plate. One year they were blue numbers on a white plate, then the next year the pattern was reversed. Back then, all the license plates expired on December 31st of each year, but drivers had until the last day of February to get them renewed. Ideally, people would come in at various times, thus avoiding long lines on the last day. Again, that was ideally. In practice that wasn't the case.

At that time, the license plate office was located in what is now the Stock Yards Bank building at 214 S. Fifth Street. (This building was originally built as a bank and housed the National Bank of Kentucky, later the First National Bank of Louisville, prior to its relocation to what is now the National City Tower at 101 S. 5th Street). The license office itself was the first floor and basement of an L-shaped building, actually two buildings, wrapping around from 5th Street to the yellow brick building located on Market Street. The Market Street entrance is now closed. License plates were kept in an old vault located on the first floor. That vault had some writings on the wall, graffiti left by teenagers who were held there when that office served as a holding cell for the old Juvenile Courts, also formerly housed in the building. I remember being in the vault in 1979, but can not locate it now when nosing around the Stock Yards office, although I am confident it is still there.

About this time each year, the Courier-Journal felt obliged to publish a picture taken of the lines that formed on the 26th, 27th and 28th of February (and the 29th no doubt every fourth year), of folks who did not do the ideal thing and come in during the preceding eight weeks to get a new plate. Like many of us still, they procrastinated. And so the line would come out of the front door onto Fifth and wrap into the Courthouse Alley, properly Court Place, then form on down the alley to 6th, north on 6th to Market, and east on Market back to 5th. The entire half-block would be surrounded in a serpentine chain of humanity, procrastinators all.

In the current process, any one who visits any of the license plate offices on the final day of a given month will find the successors to those who waited in the half-block queues of the past. To be sure, today's system is a great deal better. Branches have been opened throughout the county and hours have been extended at least one day of the week at each of these branches. The current County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw, and her predecessor, Rebecca Jackson, both Republicans, made great advances in the system of renewal. Part of it would have happened anyway when the State changed the expiration date from the last day of the year to the last day of each of the twelve months. But a great deal of it is their work, work that has made the process easier and the lines nearly non-existant. Such lines have become rare given the new system of renewing regsitration, now done in accordance with your month of birth, meaning that there are now twelve groups of procrastinators, as opposed to one.

But lines of folks do occur from time-to-time. Concerts at the Palace Theatre or the Gardens (formerly Louisville Gardens, formerly the Convention Center, and most formerly the Armory) will sometimes find folks waiting, but nothing of the proportions of the old license plate days. I can not recall seeing anything like it the last twenty-five years until last night. Last night, a serpentine line of humanity wound around the block bounded by 2nd, Jefferson, 3rd, and Liberty streets (that block in reality a half-block, as Liberty is only a half-block, not a full block, south of Jefferson. Sometime I will discuss the original southern edge of the city, the alley south of Jefferson, once called Green Street, but that will be in another post). The reason? Barack Obama.

United States Senator Barack Obama made his second visit to Louisville in six months. The first time he came as a phenom of the Democratic Party, ushered into Louisville with the help of Carolyn Tandy, wife of Councilman David Tandy, and the State Democratic Party, to campaign for then-candidate John Yarmuth, who went on to win his race for Congress, defeating the five-term incumbent Anne Northup. It was no secret then that Obama was in reality campaigning for himself. Earlier this month, phenom Obama became candidate Obama with his official entry into the race for President of the United States, an election to be decided in about 21 months, with the victor taking office January 20, 2009 and ending the Junta currently controlling the occupancy of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in the capital city of our Republic. Obama spoke last time at Slugger Field, on one of the most beautiful late summer evenings ever experienced here on the Left Bank of the Ohio River at Milepost 606. That speech was electrifying.

I was warned earlier in the day by a reader about yesterday's speech, specifically not to be swept off my feet by the able, affable, and attractive senator from Illinois. Since that already happened the last time, I was able last night to withstand his energizing presence. Obama's speech last night, in the second floor ballroom of the Downtown Marriott, repeated some of the same themes, and also followed up on the changes undertaken in Washington since the electorate sent its message back in November. The press reported "at least 3000" were in attendance. The senator arrived late and some ticket holders had departed early, but most, if not all, of the 3000 were still there when he delivered his twenty-five minutes of verbal electricity. It was enthusiastic and powerful, especially when he made references to the accident of a war the current administration is administering. He referred a few times to a "first term" indicating there will likely be a second term, all to loud and approving cheers.

I've said before I am supporting Hillary Clinton for president. I am supportive of Senator Obama's effort as I am hopeful that she will be nominated and choose him as her running mate. I can envision sixteen years of uninterrupted Democratic administrations in the District, something which has never happened in my lifetime, and in fact has not happened since FDR's first re-election in 1936, the year my maternal grandparents were married in the pastor's parlor on Conway Street in Frankfort, something mentioned in a previous post.

But, what was most impressive last night wasn't the senator or his speech. It was the crowd, the crowd that had waited in line circling the block around the hotel. They were very young, young, middle-aged, old, and very old. They were business folks, laborers, retirees, and lots and lots of students. They were liberal, moderate, and conservative. There were at the very least four Republicans there, friends of mine, and I am sure more adherants to the Dark Side were also in attendance. It was an incredible sight for someone running for president with so little experience in Washington DC. And, in retrospect, that may be the reason. Lots of people are simply fed up with those who inhabit the environs within the Beltway and Obama, with his youthful appearance and short amount of service so far (just a few weeks over two years) in the United States Senate, may be an elixir for what ails the usually unresponsive and uninterested voters out in the hinterlands. As I said, the stars last night were the people. After waiting for an hour and a half in a line around a city block in weather which went from cold and dry to wet and windy, they got their satisfaction, their delayed gratification. Some say watching laws being made is a lot like watching sausage being made - not pretty. But watching democracy itself (demos, from the Greek for common people) is really quite an encouraging sight.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

49. Early Saturday thoughts

I am only writing because I'd like to try and have an entry each day. I've been thinking of different subjects to muse upon, but the Muses themselves are being of little help. I know I want to write about the conflicts between private property ownership and zoning, two ideas of great interest to me but I know of little interest to most other people.

I believe that the ownership of private property, and the taking of such property by the government, and the control of the property through planning and zoning laws, are topics which need continually to be addressed as more and more land is divided up into smaller and smaller spaces and owned by more and more people. Where once we spoke of 1000 acres land and military grants, metes and bounds, the Northwest Ordinance, we then moved onto the smaller parcels of 100 acre farms, then of the Lower 40 acres; we're now in the process of not only dividing up our land into parcels which actually touch the earth, but due to high rises and condominiums, we have to deal with horizontal property law, involving property that only exists in space, not on the earth.

I've also found myself weaving a pattern of support and non-support on how political districts and boundaries are drawn. There is a movement for this to be done in some neutral way when the time comes; the time for doing such drawing used to come around every ten years, but since the 1990s, it seems everytime a state legislature switched majorities, the lines for state house and senate, and federal house seats were redrawn to the then-current majority's benefit. Here in Kentucky, the one person who could tell you the most about that is Democratic-turned-Republican State Senator Danny Seum, currently serving in the 38th Senate District, which currently runs along the southern perimeter of the county. But Danny's district has been all over the place, including for a time all of Bullitt County. The Barack Obama book I've been reading the last few days touches briefly on this matter as well as that of public financing, which I have tended to not support and have sided with Mitch McConnell on the matter as it relates to the question "Is Money Speech?" and to the merits of the lawsuit which McConnell won titled McConnell v. FEC which came before the United States Supreme Court in 2003 and which revisited all the arguments of the earlier case on a very closely related matter, Buckley v. Valeo, itself before the same Court in 1976.

All of these topics can be very dry reading for those for whom they hold no interest. They are some of my few conservative leanings and I have spent a few minutes here and there arguing their merits with my more liberal friends from time to time. Neither me nor those with whom I am engaged in a discussion seem to me moved by such discussions. But in arguing the same matters alone, a battle of wits to be sure, I do find some movement to the left.

Once, when my brother and I were helping our very conservative Republican uncle with his fence gate, which was lodged and seemingly immovable; I gave it an extra heavy heave-ho, and indeed it became unlodged, and bolted strongly to the left, indeed so strongly that it jumped off track. My uncle's half-joking response was "you always go too far to the left." Truthfully, when in doubt, it is probably the best course to take - to the left. I will note, in defense of my uncle, that he would note here that he is not a latter-day Republican who believes in uncontrolled spending and church controlled politics, but one of small government, small spending (and no borrowing), TR-like conservation, and, as he would say about the so-called Christian Right - well, I won't print that here. He thinks as highly of them as I do.

But, in all of this, the Muses wont speak clearly, so for the moment, I'll leave off. Enjoy the weekend. By the way, just before I began this I checked my visitor and pages-read count. Whenever the next page is read, that page will be the 1000th page visited. There have been right at 600 visitors, of course 100 of those are me. Thanks to all of you. And, while I make no promises to respond to comments, I do invite you to leave one.

Friday, February 23, 2007

48. The Halls of Congress

Maybe it is a celebration of Washington's birthday, which was yesterday. Maybe not. In any event, we are having a political weekend here on the Left Bank of the Ohio River at Milepost 606. This afternoon our Congressman, John Yarmuth, the one who defeated Anne Northup just a few months ago, is having an open house at his rather cramped offices on the second floor of the Romano L. Mazzoli Federal Building. The event is to run from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm and wraps up the "In-District Work Week" which has all 435 members of America's lower house of congress back in their states visiting with the home folk. It brought to Louisville not only our congressman, but his press person as well. I've written about Stuart Perelmuter herein before and had the chance to see him today at lunch. I wasn't expecting him, as I had scheduled lunch with another of Congressman Yarmuth's local office workers, Marty Meyer, who brought Stuart along as a surprise. I am always pleased to see and speak with Stuart.

Tomorrow afternoon at the State Democratic Party Headquarters just a few miles up the road, Democratic Party Chairs from each of our Commonwealth's 120 counties are invited to a work session at which the seven slates for governor are expected to make an appearance. A few weeks ago, the Party Chair had all seven slates in to agree to a documents which says that each set of the six losers is committed to supporting the Democratic nominee, whoever he might be, whenever our Primary process is completed. That's a pretty tall order, since it something we could not accomplish four years ago when one of our Primary candidates went over to the Dark Side of the Aisle with his support in November. The Party Chair is to be commended for this effort and we should all pray is holds, as we must retake the Executive Mansion this fall.

Later in the evening, the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee is having its annual Wendell Ford Dinner at the Clarion Hotel off Hurstbourne Lane at I-64. This is a semi-formal affair which usually draws several hundred folks for a meal that is typically well-presented, but honestly sub-par in taste. As a non-cooking bachelor, I am hopeful the meal is worthwhile. Even if it isn't the conversation promises to be as the candidates for statewide office should all be in attendance, seeking support from the four corners of the room. Most everyone is already decided on their gubernatiorial candidate. The only other real race is for State Treasurer. Four Democrats are running including Louisville attorney Todd Hollenbach, IV and retired State Representative Mike Weaver of Radcliff, who last year lost his race for Congress against Ron Lewis, also of Hardin County. The event serves as both a fundraiser and homecoming for the Party faithful.

Sunday afternoon United States Senator Barack Obama, of Illinois, will be at the Downtown Marriott for a fundraiser. He is making a sweep through the area, indeed through the South, where one of the real questions is how many African-Americans will support him instead of United States Senator Hillary Clinton, wife of the sometimes-called "first black president." He has picked up some heavy-weight endorsements along the way and the two of them seem destined to slug it all for the next twelve months. Both Obama and Clinton, actually both Mr. and Mrs. Clinton, have given speeches in Louisville in the last few years, and all three seem to have a devoted following. Obama started his swing in South Carolina last weekend, a state where nearly 50% of the Primary voters are African-Americans. Earlier this week he picked up the endorsement of Virginia governor Tim Kaine and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. He also raised well over a million dollars at a fundraiser in Hollywood, usually the turf of the Clintons. It's going to be a long year.

Switching gears to religion, like political passions, another opiate of the people, this week for Christians marks the beginning of Lent, a period of forty days of preparation, leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the defining events of the various religions surrounding Jesus Christ. Ash Wednesday is a day where Christians of many faiths make their way to a service where ashes are marked on their foreheads or in their palms to remind them we are all human, and as such, are subject to being returned to dust. Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust. It is the same message which transpires in the conversation between Hamlet and his friend Horatio in the graveyard where two clowns are digging a grave, that each of us ends up a dirt, that we are all mortal. He used the examples of Alexander and Caesar.

"Alexander died, Alexander was buried,
Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth;
ofearth we make loam; and why of that loam,
whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel?
Imperious Caesar, dead and turn'd to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away:
O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
Should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw!"

Later in that same discussion are his comments on Man himself.
“What a piece of work is Man!
How noble in reason!
How infinite in faculty.
In form, in moving how express and Admirable.
In action how like an angel,
In apprehension how like a god;
The beauty of the world,
the paragon of Animals”

Shakespeare was quite a writer. I always find it odd that we have very few schools named for him. We often name buildings (and roads and interstate highways) for folks who have made a lasting impression on ourselves and our society. Have you ever come across Shakespeare Elementary or Shakespeare Middle School. I know I have not. I do find that odd.

We began this entry speaking of Congressman Yarmuth and his open-house in cramped quarters at the Federal Building in downtown Louisville. Congressman Yarmuth's Washington office is on the third floor of the Cannon Office Building, built in the Beaux Arts style in 1908. It was named for former House Speaker Joseph Cannon in 1962. "Uncle Joe" Cannon was Speaker of the House from 1903 to 1911 and had a reputation for control of the House similar to the one LBJ had when he was in control of the Senate. He was a critic of fellow Republican Theodore Roosevelt, whom he often criticised for operating outside of the confines of the United States Constitution. Cannon was the first person to appear on the cover of Time magazine and was also the first person to have a congressional office building named for him, where Congressman Yarmuth's office is located. Three years after the House named a building for Cannon, work work completed on the newest House office building, the Rayburn Building, named for House Speaker Sam Raybrun of Texas, a close friend of Lyndon Johnson's, and said to be the most effective Speaker in the history of our Republic. Rayburn served as Speaker during the presidencies of FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, although his service was interrupted twice when his party, the Democrats, were in the Minority. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1913, the year after my grandfather Dan was born, until 1961, the year after I was born. The House office building bearing his name was dedicated 42 years ago today, February 23, 1965.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

47. Washington's Birthday

Today, of course, is President Washington's birthday, the Father of our Republic, for whom our Federal City is named. In Kentucky we have both a county and a town named for the president. Washington, the town, is one of the oldest towns in Kentucky, incorporated by the Virginia legislature in 1786, six years before Kentucky joined the Federal union. The town's history claims it to be the first place in the United States named for the president. The town runs along the old US 68, (a block or two east of the new four-lane 62/68 that weaves up the hill and out of Maysville), and a few miles south of Maysville, of which technically it is a part due to being incorporated thereto in 1990. Old US 68, or Old Main Street, is a narrow two lane road, with small ditches along either side of it. The road widens at the main cross intersection which is with KY 1236, which becomes US 62 a few blocks to the west. There are shops, stores, and old log cabins, including one housing the Post Office.

The town of Washington played a part in the establishment of postal service to the expanding United States, first as a route into what was then called the Northwest Territory (or Expansion) into Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and points west. Later, President Andrew Jackson, who travelled through the town on his trips between his home and the District of Columbia, made it part of the route for mail distribution along the Limestone Pike and Buffalo Trace, which ran from Zionsville, Ohio, south to Maysville, onto Lexington, Nashville, and eventually New Orleans, all territory very familiar to the president. Another bit of trivia about this town is the idea that some thought it might become the nation's capital, long before Washington DC actually did so after being named for the exact same person. Here is a trivia question for you. What Kentucky town was seriously considered as the nation's capital city? I'll give you two hints - one is its very name which is similar to a part of the name of the actual national capital, and the other is it played a role in our nation's history in the War of Secession, variously also known as the War Between the States, the War of Northern Aggression, or its most popular name, the Civil War.

Also located in Kentucky is Washington County, the most common name for a county in the Republic, there being 31 Washington counties. The county was formed in 1792, the first county formed after Kentucky was granted statehood, and was the tenth formed from the original territory of Kentucky County, Virginia. Many of Kentucky's counties are, like Washington, among the most common names for a county. In fact, of the top sixteen most common names for a county, Kentucky has all sixteen. The second most common is Jefferson, and tied for third are Franklin, Jackson, and Lincoln. But, oddly, Kentucky's Lincoln County is not named for the only president born in the Commonwealth. We do have a county named for the only president buried in the Commonwealth, that of Taylor County, formed in 1848 and named for Zachary Taylor, whose remains lay buried in the Taylor family tomb, located at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery on Brownboro Road in Louisville, a place several generations of the Taylor family called home. And our Green County, the 13th most common name and named for Nathanael Greene, drops the terminal "e" that is found in the other Greene counties across the country. But, I digress.

The county seat of Washington County is Springfield. Some lists offer than Springfield is the most common place name in the country, according to the United State Census Bureau. It is not the most common community name, however. A distinction of our commonly named city of Springfield in our commonly named county of Washington is that it is the only Springfield city in a Washington county in the country. Springfield is one of those places I will trek to on one of my Saturday pleasure drives. Like going to Frankfort, there are several ways to get there, but my most common one is to drive out I-65 to the Bernheim Forest exit at KY 245. This road takes you through the knobs of southern Bullitt and northwestern Nelson counties, passing along the way the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, there producing one of the products which has made Kentucky famous worldwide. The road leads into Bardstown. (A side note: we have a Shepherdsville Road, sometimes called the Old Shepherdsville Road in Jefferson County, but no road called New Shepherdsville Road. Nelson has a New Shepherdsville Road, sometimes called Shepherdsville Road, but no Old Shepherdsville Road).

You can follow KY 245 around Bardstown on the new eastside By-Pass through the old rock quarry, but I usually follow the old road into town, then turn left onto Stephen Foster, the main east-west corridor. Following through town and around the old Court House, you join on the east side US 150, which is the road to Springfield. Not too far out on the right, you will pass Federal Hill, the estate made famous as the setting for Stephen Collins Foster's song My Old Kentucky Home. Just past there is a McDonald's, also on the right, at the corner where you can turn south onto KY 49 and visit the Maker's Mark Distillery. That McDonald's is my usual "convenience" stop, both for personal duties and to get anther cup of coffee. Opposite the McDonald's is Guthrie Drive, the street on which a few weeks ago Bardstown and Kentucky suffered the loss of ten lives in a devastating fire.

After crossing the county line into Washington County is the village of Fredericktown, actually off to the right on the "old" road, where one can worship at the Old Holy Trinity Church. Fredericktown is set up against a hill in a broad plain easily prone to flood waters rising out of the Beech Fork of the Rolling Fork of Salt River, upon which it is directly located. There is a little market along through there where one can buy freshly processed meats, by the pound, or by the side. Continuing southeastwardly along US 150 about six miles, the large buildings of Saint Catherine's College arise on the right. The huge Dominican Motherhouse of the facility was built in 1904, but the college's history marks its founding as a college to 1931. The first school of any type was founded by the Catholic Sisters of Saint Dominic (the Dominicans) in 1823. They began grating degrees in 1839. It is a beautiful place, once set well in the countryside, but the city of Springfield is slowly making its expansion out to the college. Shortly after the college, Springfield proper comes into sight. My cousin, Bill Lewis, Jr., lived for several years in Springfield. He is known around this area as a jazz musician, playing the coronet and other such instruments. He currently lives in Lebanon, Kentucky. A friend, Aaron Horner, who played a key role in the Yarmuth campaign, serving as the Interim Chair between the departure of Dan Borsch, who ran the Primary part of the campaign, and the arrival of Jason Burke, who ran the Fall campaign, is also a native to this area.

One of the rules about the pleasure trips is this - you must return to Louisville along a route substantially different, as much as possible, from the journey there. Returning from Springfield, you can go north along KY 555 (parts of which used to be KY 53) toward Willisburg Lake, then through to Chaplin, Bloomfield, and Fairfield, passing along the way a few branches of Metro Councilman Jim King's King Southern Bank. Another way would be to follow KY 55 up to Taylorsville Lake and re-enter Jefferson County along Taylorsville Lake Road out past Jeffersontown. There are several more but I will leave their discovery up to you.

There is a tradition that the furthest west George Washington ever travelled in his lifetime is to a high point between Louisville and Lexington, while he was a young man working as a surveyor. Do you know where this is? A number of you have probably passed this point many times. Happy Birthday, Mr. President.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

46. Catching Up

Back on April 18 and 19, 1775, Paul Revere made his famous horse ride through what was then the Boston countryside, and attributed to him are the words "The British are coming!" This morning, the Commander-In-Chief of our Republic, the one widely heralded now as the worst president in the 231 year history of the Republic, woke up to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's words "The British are leaving." Iraq that is. At least some of them. Several hundred of the original group had already left. The British contingent is down to 7100 and the Prime Minister announced this morning that the number would be reduced to 5000 in the next year. One Brit who is apparently headed the other way, that is to Iraq, is His Royal Highness Prince Harry of Wales, third in line to the British Throne behind his father His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and his older brother His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales. The young princes [how often do you hear that phrase outside of a reference to the nephews of Richard III allegedly killed in the Tower of London?] are members of the British cavalry unit called the Blues and Royals. Their uncle Prince Andrew also served, following in the footsteps of their grandfather Prince Philip, who had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy during World War Two.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, Big Dick Cheney, the Second-in-Command of the current junta holding power at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in our Federal City, announced to troops aboard the USS Kitty Hawk in Japan that America would not support a policy of retreat. (I suppose one reason he was in Japan was to get as far away as he could from Scooter Libbey). Cheney may be right in his assessment of Americans not supporting a retreat. A recent Bluegrass Poll, conducted by the Courier-Journal, bears that out somewhat, at least here in Kentucky. According to the poll, being released in a piecemeal fashion all this week, despite the fact that a majority doesn't like the way Bush has handled the war, 54 percent of poll said they support the presence of U.S. military personnel in Iraq. On the other hand, 61 percent say they oppose the president's plan to increase by 21,500 the number of troops there. Cheney's words were well chosen. That doesn't make him and his boss popular here in the Commonwealth. Fifty-five percent disapprove of the job Bush is doing. Sixty percent say they don't like the way Commander-In-Chief has handled the war in Iraq.

Given how well receieved the president is here in Kentucky (typed with tongue planted firmly-in-cheek), the obvious next-move for the United States Senate Minority Leader to take would be to invite the President here for a little fundraiser. How delightful. On March 2nd the President will be here to raise funds for his friend and leader, Senator Addison Mitchell McConnell, Jr., Republican of Louisville. The event is scheduled for the Seelbach Hotel at Fourth Street and Ali Boulevard. I've not yet figured out why, as I know McConnell to be a first-rate calculator and strategist. Few are better at the game of politics than the former Jefferson County Judge Executive, a native of Tuscumbia, Alabama, a graduate of duPont Manual High School, the University of Louisville, and the University of Kentucky Law School. We should all pay close attention. On too many occassions, I've listened as McConnell drug people into a speech at Fancy Farm, Kentucky on the first Saturday in August, only to make fools of them (I've been there and been one) when he gets to the punch line. Who can forget the stand-up cut-out he brought of President Clinton one time, asking the Democrats on the stage to "stand with Clinton" for a photo-op. He is good. Again, let's pay attention.

Finally, along the lines of paying attention, attention is being presently paid to Louisville Metro Police Officer Ronald Fey, Jr., who wasn't paying attention when the police cruiser he was driving struck and killed Montrell Mucker, an 18 year old black male who was running from the police, on foot, after abandoning the car he was driving which had nearly caused an accident with Officer Fey. No one will ever know why Mucker was fleeing the police, other than he was being chased - by a car while he was on foot. But in his illegal evasion, he was driven over by Fey's police vehicle. In my post on this matter the other day, I closed with the thought that the grandmother of the deceased had a right to be asking questions. The police report released on the chase raises more questions. The report blames two factors, distraction and not being under control, as contributors to the crash. It also lists the street's slippery surface as a factor. It had snowed earlier in the day. It places no blame on Officer Fey or the policy of chasing young men on foot with a police cruiser. Neither does it place any blame on the training officer, Christopher Turner, also present in the car, present because Officer Fey is still on probation from his original hiring. The only blame it does place is on Officer Fey for failing to control his vehicle while it was in a tailspin, apparently from the snow which had fallen earlier in the day. As I said before, Montrell Mucker's grandmother should be asking questions.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

45. Obama, Louisville, and The Audacity of Hope

Last night I began reading Barack Obama's second book called The Audacity of Hope, which references a line he spoke during his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention at the Fleet Center in Boston, Massachusetts. The book is just under 400 pages long, although the print is big and the book isn't, and I got through the first 100 before succombing to the need to sleep, about 11:00 pm.

While Obama's message (thus far) is impressive and inspiring, his writing style (thus far) is not, but it is not bad enough to take away from the message. I am enjoying the book. As I have said, if I were voting with my heart, Barack Obama would get my vote on the first ballot. But, my mind says we need someone with more experience, and that someone for me is Hillary Clinton. I am hopeful her running mate is Mr. Obama.

Reading his book thus far, I can identify with many thoughts, especially given that he is just one year younger than me. It is a sign you really are finally getting old when you are considering supporting someone for vice president who is younger than you are. He is and I am.

Obama mentions my home town here on the Left Bank of the Ohio River at Milepost 606 on page 49, which was halfway through last night's reading. Other than the towns identifying politicians, places within his home state of Illinois, and the large metropolises of New York and Los Angeles, Louisville, along with Little Rock, are the first two cities he mentions by name. He describes the southern part of the state of Illinois as being more in tune with Little Rock or Louisville than with urban areas such as Chicago, his home. He has mentioned that he likes to travel the southern part of his state for town-hall type meetings, held in high schools, city halls, or college facilities. That he has some liking for Louisville was evident upon his visit here back on September 14 at Slugger Field. He said that Louisville was a regular stop for him on his trips back and forth between Illinois and Washington, DC. That night an estimated 5000 to 6000 people heard him give a speech entitled "Had Enough?" Later in the evening, a private DSCC fundraiser [originally written as DCCC, but corrected after being told of my mistake by an anonymous commenter] was also held. Listening to him speak is a pleasure. He has a style of run-on sentences, an style which sounds as if one thought is leading to another with little segue, but the whole seems to all be very naturally connected.

In reading the book last night, I experienced something I do not recall ever having experienced before. I've read hundreds, maybe thousands, of books. Very rarely have I known or been close enough to the writer, to know and hear their voice when reading their words. This is not the case with Obama. I have been close enough to hear him, having met him that night in September, hearing him speak, that now I could hear him speak the words I was reading from his book. So, not only was I reading his words, I was hearing them as well. Just in the last few days had I ever even heard of this concept. Over the weekend, I was speaking with a friend from the northern part of the Commonwealth who told me she had been reading this blog and one of the things she said to me was that she could hear my voice when reading my words. Since none of us really hears ourselves as others do, it was interesting for me to know that some of those reading can actually hear me saying these words. That's how I felt reading Obama's book.

There are other comforting things I am taking from the reading. He speaks of his meeting early in his senatorial career with the Dean of the Senate, Robert Byrd, now the longest serving senator in the history of the Republic. Byrd carries a copy of the Constitution in his pocket. He cites from it in many speeches and often refers to it as the rule book for the governance of America. Most of my friends know that I, too, am a student of the Constitution, though not of the caliper of the Senior Senator from West Virginia, indeed the Senior Senator from the United States of America. Obama, on the other hand, cites from the Declaration of Independence in the book, just as he did when giving the speech in Boston in 2004.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The idea that "all men", and hopefully by now, 231 years later, we all accept that by the words "all men" we mean "everyone," has certain inalienable rights, is a central theme for anyone who believes in civil and human rights as a bedrock of their political creed. I am one of those. So, apparently, is Senator Obama. That word, inalienable, is a rather unusual one, and in all my years of reading those hundreds or thousands of books mentioned above, the only place I've ever read it is in the United States Declaration of Independence. Breaking it down etymologically, you get to its Latin root alius meaning other. We have words such as alien, alias, and alibi, all related to this word. By adding the Latin prefix in or un, meaning not or opposite, you get to the idea that an inalienable right is one which, belonging to one, cannot be moved to another; that is, an inalienable right cannot be taken away - they are yours, now and forever, world without end, Amen. And among these, according to the document, are "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." It is important to note that the founders did not limit these inalienable rights to just those three ideas, but rather that those three are among others not ennumerated in the document.

I'm looking forward to reading more of Obama's book tonight and the next few nights. He will be here in Louisville, again, this Sunday for what is known as a small-dollar fundraiser, meaning the tickets are in the $25.00 range. I intend to go and listen and hear him speak in the voice that I know, and probably the words I'll be reading during the next few days. In my profile attached to this blog, one of the words I use to describe myself is optimistic. Optimism implies hopefulness. There is a daring to be bold and brave in expecting, as an optimist does, that hope does spring eternal. In the Bible, in Paul's Letter to the Romans, at Chapter 12, Verses 11 and 12, he writes "Be thoroughly warm-hearted, the Lord's own servants, full of joyful hope, patient under persecution, earnest and persistent in prayer." That takes some work - being hopeful and patient, especially under persecution, as I believe our Republic and its Constitution are under the junta of George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Obama calls us to be bold, to have the audacity which hope entails. It is a worthy goal.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Weather Changes, Politics remains

I wrote Friday about having some time over the weekend to do some pleasure driving. I did, but it was only "some" and not enough. My drivetime was cut short due to the snowfall in central Kentucky, where my driving had taken me on Saturday. The first stop was a meeting of the Kentucky Democratic Party State Central Executive Committee, on which I serve as a committeeman representing the Democrats of the Third Congressional District of Kentucky. The meeting lasted about two hours but was not as well attended as usual, probably due to the promise of snow and ice in the forecast. There are about 50 or so voting members from all parts of the Commonwealth - and from all points along the spectrum of political views. A similar meeting, of the Party Chairs of the 120 counties, will be held next Saturday at the same location. Several of this year's statewide candidates are expected to attend, and I will probably drop in as well.

After the meeting, I progressed over to the Bluegrass area around Richmond, then returned somewhat north to the southeast corner of Fayette County, where Man-O-War Boulevard intersects with I-75 and met a friend (and others) for supper (or, as my friend called it, dinner. I explained to her that dinner what the meal one ate with either family or church-folk on Sunday afternoon or evening, and that otherwise, the meal consumed after 5 o' clock any other time is supper. She didn't seem to agree). During our meal, the snow falling outside began to accumulate, adding to the inch or so that was already upon the lawns there in that part of Fayette County. We left the location of the "dinner" and picked up her son from his job at Meijer's, where because of the heavy snow resulting in lighter shopping, workers were being told to go home early. By the time I left Lexington, the snow was beginning to be deep and the roads were beginning to be covered. It was, in a word, beautiful. I paused here and there on my return trip to Louisville, stopping at a restaurant on the west side of Frankfort for a cup of coffee with a friend.

On that west side of Frankfort, the snow was noticeably lighter and the roads were noticeably clearer. That phenomenon increased as one got closer to our Republic's 26th largest city, Louisville-Jefferson County Metro. Of course, had I been riding with Mayor Abramson, I would have to say our Republic's 16th largest city. The Mayor uses funny math in arriving at that accolade for his and my hometown.

And, what a difference a few hours and days can make. Having lunch today in Jarfi's, a Mediterranean restaurant located in the Kentucky Center for the Arts, I interrupted my friend Hazel when, in the distance through the window behind her, I could see the electronic thermometer display in front of the American Home Life Building, the "Rust" building I wrote of several posts back. The thermometer had, at 12:13 p.m. today, turned over from 49 degrees to 50 degrees and I felt that was worthy of an interruption. I did not interrupt a second time, however, when at 12:51 p.m. it notched up yet again to 51 degrees. While winter is not officially over until March 22 or so, today's weather is a far cry from the very cold temperatures we've endured here in the Ohio Valley for several weeks, and all without any great demonstrance of winter's ability to create a deep snowfall. My brother offered a theory that because of nature's desire for balance, and the fact that he has already seen birds flying north - I'm not making this up - our spring will be short, and a hot and dry summer is forthcoming in response to the very wet fall and very cold winter we've had during the last six months or so.

My brother has several theories on any number of ideas and is willing to share them at any notice, or more often without any notice whatsoever. He can talk for hours at a time about rather obscure subjects, citing along the way books and magazines, and more often than not, either the Discovery Channel or the History Channel, or both, as the sources of his knowledge. As I am not a subscriber to the local cable service, given that my possession of a television set is limited to a 13" screen TV which presently has a home in the closet of the front bedroom of my home, I cannot attest to his theories as based on shows watched on either of these networks. His theories usually have some relation to nature, the Bible, or military history. While he and I are different in many ways, we both share a very strong interest in our origins and those of the creatures big and small with whom we share planet Earth. It is mostly in how we access this information, and how we relay our interests to others where the differences between us are notably apparent.

The one thing Kevin is not terribly interested in is politics. Unlike Tip O' Neill's "all politics is local," Kevin believes "all politics are corrupt, and all politicians corrupted." As a result, we tend not to discuss such matters. Knowing what I do know about Kevin, I would say he is a left-leaning libertarian if he is anything. But that is a reach. He is almost apolitical, which is a state of mind I of which I cannnot conceive. And, it must be wearing off. When his oldest daughter registered to vote, she chose to be an Independent. Later this year in August, my oldest nephew will come of age and as such can participate in this year's election. When informed of this at a family Christmas gathering, he responded he wasn't interested. He did allow that he might register in time to vote for president in 2008, but that he hadn't yet made that decision. Again, I can't conceive of such non-interest.

But then I am a politician, and under my brother's understanding of such, I have already been corrupted by politics and so my unbelief in such non-interest is entirely expected. Lord, help me in my unbelief.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

43. Gene Snyder and Tommie Hockensmith

A few days ago, Tuesday the 13th, among the items I wrote about was the naming of the United States Federal Court House and the former Jefferson Freeway (KY 841) for former Congressman Gene Snyder. My feelings are Snyder deserved the latter but not the former. Without question, because of his political abilities and connections, he secured the funds to finish the circle around Jefferson County which now bears his name.

Congressman Snyder died very late Friday night at his home in Naples, Florida. He was 79 and had suffered pains associated with recent back and heart surgeries.

One of the hallmarks of Congressman Snyder's service to his constituents was just that - service. He was always conbative and controversial and was no doubt somewhat more conservative than most of the voters in his district. But, he had going for him a reputation of constituent services next to none. In my end of the county, which was close to the western terminus of his district, which for 10 of the twelve years he served, stretched from the urban and rural counties around Covington and Newport, southwest along to the Ohio River to Oldham County, then a string along the perimeter of Jefferson County, from Prospect in the northeast to Valley Station and Kosmosdale in the southwest. From time to time, a sign would be placed along W. Manslick Road in downtown Fairdale, in front of Gene Younger's Barber Shop, announcing that the Congressman would be holding a session of talks with the locals, usually at 10am on a Saturday morning. Lots of federal problems were solved in these small meetings at barber shops, service stations, and other interesting locations throughout the Fourth Congressional District. And, despite someone politics, Snyder's office provided quick and effecient responses for those who sought his help.

I was among those seeking the congressman's help as a young voter; in fact, it was in the first year I could cast a ballot in a November election. I was a freshman at the University of Kentucky in the fall of 1978, turning 18 on the first day of fall of that year. I had been a member of my maternal grandfather's household since my parents' divorce in the early 1960s. All of my financial information in applying for loans and grants for college was based on that fact, and that fact became a problem for the university's bursar's office when it came time to release my grant money. The fall term started August 28 that year, and I was assigned housing in Kirwan II, then a freshman boys dorm in South Campus, a part of the Blanding-Kirwan complex. Kirwan II is now the dorm assigned for "health conscious" students, whatever that means. The Blanding part of that complex was named for Sarah Blanding, a Dean of Women at UK in the 1920s. Albert Kirwan had been UK's head football coach, Dean of Men, and, briefly, at the time the complex was being built (and named) Interim President. But, I digress.

As stated, my financial information was based on the being in the household of Daniel T. Hockensmith, and for whatever reason, my grant money was assigned to Jeff Hockensmith, and not Jeff Noble, which was my name, although a tale about name changes hangs thereby, but it will have to wait for another day. For several weeks, I was either in the office or on the phone with the bursar's office about my grant, and my need of it, but to no avail. They were awaiting instruction from the Federal Grant Program folks in Washington, DC and until and unless the Grant program folks made a change, the money assigned to Jeff Hockensmith was not going to be distributed to Jeff Noble.

The weekend of my 18th birthday, about four weeks into the school year, was an eventful one. Three things happened. First, I had gone home on Friday night for a high school football game, knowing I would have to return to Lexington on Saturday, which was in fact my 18th birthday, as well as the UK football team's homecoming game. The Homecoming Queen was sponsored by my dorm, the aformentioned Kirwan II, of which I had been elected Dorm President, having defeated Owensboro Catholic grad Jim Orton by two votes a few weeks earlier. As the president of the dorm sponsoring the Homecoming Queen, I had certain duties during the game, one of which was presenting the Queen to the President of the University, at the time Dr. Otis A. Singletary. On the return trip to Lexington, I was involved in my first real automobile accident. A long line of cars, of which I was 12th and last, were travelling along the Versailles Road a few hundred feet before the then-turnoff to Bluegrass Field when the lead car decided they were going to turn into the farm located at that point, and with no notice, did in fact, turn in, leaving twelve cars to sort of pile up, one against the next, back to car number twelve, me, driving my 1967 Nova Chevy II. The first few cars in the front were damaged heavily. Neither my car, nor the car I hit were damaged, and the two of us were dismissed after an agreement between the third car-up and the guy I hit, all overseen by a Lexington Metro cop who was doing his best to minimize whatever paperwork he might have to complete in making the report of a twelve car accident. He condensed those involved to ten, and I made my way on into Lexington and Commonwealth Stadium. So the accident was event number one.

Event number two was, of course, my coming of age on Saturday evening. After the football game I returned home to participate in the Fairdale Fair, an annual event held on the grounds of the Fairdale Playtorium, a local government owned building which serves as a community center of sorts, located in front of the new Fairdale Elementary School, although it was originally behind the old Fairdale Elementary, which had been torn down in the 1970s. I had complained to my local state representative Dottie Priddy, a friend who was one of those who first interested me in politics, about my money situation at UK. She suggested that I corner Congressman Snyder, who always attended the Fair both nights and usually had a booth, and see if he could be of help. She said he would have known my grandmother, who had died a couple of years earlier, as the Democratic precinct captain, one of his detractors, but also someone he liked.

At the Fair, I did as directed, which leads me to event number three. I introduced myself to my congressman and used my grandmother's name, Tommie Hockensmith, as an entree to the conversation. Snyder said he had indeed known my grandmother and lamented her passing, despite the fact that she had work assidulously for his defeat in several election cycles. He directed an aide to take all my information and assured me his office would work to correct the problem. He also said they would be in touch with the university about the matter. That was Saturday night.

Late the following Tuesday afternoon, I returned to my dorm room, Number 222, which had also been the dorm room of my fraternity big-brother Mark Metcalf, a Republican who later served as UK Student Government president, Garrard County Attorney, and is now a federal judge in Florida. My roommate that freshman semester was a guy named Peter Matthews Wright, also a Republican, although like Mark, Peter was a Rockefeller Republican, not a Goldwater one. Peter was a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a wealthy scion somehow related to the Westinghouse fortune, although I never quite understood how. Peter informed me that the bursar's office was trying to reach me and in fact, as far they knew had reached me. That they were trying to reach me wasn't news as they had been calling me regularly since my tuition had not been paid in full due to my grant money had not been released. Peter informed me that the lady in the bursar's office had informed him (thinking he was I) that my money had in fact been released and that my signature was necessary to effect such a release. I gladly ran across campus to apply my signature to whatever form required it. I will add that I called the congressman's office to thank him, and thanked him in another way as well a few weeks later.

Upon the election of my friend John Yarmuth to the office of Congressman from Kentucky's Third District, a seat held for two years by Snyder, I mentioned to him the reputation for service Snyder possessed. Yarmuth knew that as he had been a Republican when younger and was familiar with Snyder. I allowed that one of the ways to hold onto the office is also one of the simplest to do: have an excellent constituent services operation. As Congressman Yarmuth has hired in his Louisville office, among others, a Mr. Ben Basil, to whom I give a great deal of credit for Yarmuth's win due to his handling - some may say absolute control - of the volunteers in the campaign, I am confident of the constituent services operation now in place and hope that it can be as effective as I know personally Congressman Snyder's was in his day.

I mentioned earlier in this piece that my grandmother has passed away a couple of years prior to the events of the weekend of September 23, 1978. She, in fact, passed away 31 years ago today at the age of 59, on February 18, 1976, due to complications of heart failure and atheriosclerosis. Of the eleven Lewis children who survived infancy (as several didn't including one named Harry Scott), only the two oldest are deceased, my grandmother Tommie, in 1976, and her older brother Henry, I think in 1995. Remaining are Aunt Frances Catherine Moore, Aunt Lura Edith Brown, Aunt Dorothy Ann Henry (although not the Aunt Dorothy previously mention in other posts), Aunt Virginia "Jinny" Lee Sharp (previously mentioned in a post on Florida), Uncle Charlie Lewis, Uncle Billy Lewis, Uncle Bob Lewis (the former Sheriff of Franklin County), Uncle Elbert "Egg" Lewis, and the Uncle Jimmy Carroll Lewis. Lura Brown lives in Graefenburg in Shelby County; Virginia Lee Sharp in Lee County, Florida, and Jimmy Carroll Lewis in Laurel County, in southeastern Kentucky. All the rest live in and around Frankfort, where they were raised, in different locations along the Pea Ridge, Bridgeport-Benson, and/or Louisville roads. My grandmother and grandfather, Uncle Henry and his wife Aunt Virginia, who passed away late last last year, their Aunt Dorothy Collins Austin Hedger, their Uncle Earl Louis Collins and his wife Aunt Margaret Baker Collins, who also passed away last year at the age of 94, their parents Robert and Rachel Lewis, along with some assorted cousins and in-laws are all buried in the Sunset Memorial Gardens cemetery, located just inside Woodford County at the Franklin County border, on US 60, not far from the Kentucky Democratic Party' state headquarters at I-64.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

42. The House at work

246 to 182. That's the tally in the United States House of Representatives on a vote with the title "Disapproving of the decision of the President announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq." Thank you.

As each of those 246 votes represents 1/435 of the Census Bureau's population estimate of 301,192,792 souls in our Republic (as of the point of this writing), that means the voices of roughly 170,329,717 citizens have finally been heard in the 68.3 square miles which consititute our nation's capital some 610 miles east northeast of the Ohio River's Left Bank at Milepost 606.

I'm very proud to say that my congressman, John Yarmuth, as well as the congressman of those on the Right Bank of the Ohio River at Milepost 606, Baron Hill, were among the 246 who voted in the affirmative. Joining Yarmuth as a Yes vote in Kentucky's congressional delegation was Sixth District Congressman Ben Chandler, representing the Bluegrass region of central Kentucky. I am hopeful that Yarmuth's presence in the House will allow Chandler to be a little more to the left than he has been on a number of issues during his service to the Republic.

I had written a few weeks ago, after the president's State of the Union address, my opinion that George W. Bush is the worst president in my lifetime, now in its 47th year. I've been joined in that thought - actually in a far more expansive thought, being that Bush fils is the worst president ever - by Al Neuharth, the president and CEO of Gannett Publishing, and founder of the newspaper (with the word "news" used ever so loosely in this context) USA Today. Neuharth had previously listed his five worst presidents as Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant, Herbert Hoover, and Richard Nixon. I would concur in part with his list.

It is a long practice of historical writers to try and develop points by which our Chief Magistrates can be compared to and against each other. Oftentimes, however, we allow personal feelings for or against a president to interfere with a true record of their performance. I would not have Richard Nixon among my worst five because some of what he did as president would keep him from that distinction. I've written before that some of the measures he supported, and saw passed, would very likely keep him from enjoying the support of today's Republican Party. Among my worst five would be Ronald Wilson Reagan, someone Neuharth does not list.

The practice of writers to rank the presidents is purely academic unless you are presently being governed by one of the worst ranked, as we are under George W. Bush. Then such a ranking becomes an issue of national importance and security. And when a country is governed by one of the worst, or as Mr. Neuharth is now proclaiming, the worst ever, president, the need arises for the Congress, as one of the three equal branches under our experimental form of government, to step in, as is their power of checks and balances, and correct the actions of such a president. The vote of the House of Representatives yesterday is just such a check and balance of power. However, it is not and will not be enough. I am hopeful that Speaker Pelosi will continue the piece-by-piece, vote-by-vote long-needed correction of the policies and abused-powers the current Commander-In-Chief, and his lieutenants, have undertaken at undermining our Constitution and our republican form of democracy. Our votes in November indicated that she, and by extension the house of congress she controls, should take just such action. Similarly, Senator Reid, the Democratic leader, has the same responsibility to the American public as his end of the capital changed hands as well. We are waiting to hear if he can lead his end as Pelosi is leading hers.

Here is the roll call in the House of Representatives from yesterday:


On a lighter note, it is snowing in the Ohio Valley as we speak. We are expecting about an inch here in Louisville. Hallelujah!

Friday, February 16, 2007

41. Down along Benson Creek

This weekend I will be taking up one of my passions: pleasure driving. For the first time this year, I'll have both time and money to go driving around our Commonwealth, possibly dipping into southern Indiana along the way. It is something I have done for years, usually with very little notice, and never with a particular route in mind.

The trips are usually solo, although I have had friends and family now and then. There are, of course, some favorite backroads that I have traversed several times over. One of those trips is from Louisville out Bardstown Road to Highgrove at KY 48, then east over to Fairfield and Bloomfield. Taking that route during the Christmas season, you will pass, on the right, between the two towns a farm which has decorated a each of a number of trees along either side of their lenghty driveway with a single strand of white lights. The effect of this is quite a sight, especially from a distance, when it appears you are approaching an airport landing with a number of landing lights. As you get closer, the effect is less promounced, but I always look for it when I drive through there. KY 48 ends at US 62 near Chaplin.

Another ride will take me along one of the the old roads to Frankfort, once you are past Shelbyville. I often say there are twelve ways to get from Louisville to Frankfort although most people only know one (I-64) or two (I-64 or US 60). One of those involves departing US 60 where it is crossed by KY 55 (from the north) which becomes KY 53 (to the south). There is a McDonald's on the southwest corner of that intersection. It was in the parking lot of that McDonald's where I learned about the shuttle disaster in January, 1986, returning to Louisville from an early morning breakfast in Frankfort. If you are standing in the McDonald's parking lot facing the street (Main Street to the left, Frankfort Road to the right), digonally across to the upper right is the stub of what used to be the end of Benson Road. (You have to access Benson Pike a little north of this point now). That is the original road from Shelbyville to Frankfort. At one time, there was no intersection here at all. KY 55 to the north is only a recent creation. Called Boone Station Road, it filled in the gap between the split of KY 43/55 and US 60/KY 53. Before that gap was filled in, leaving Shelbyville to the northeast (toward Bagdad) required going due north out of town along 7th or 5th (Jail Hill) off of Washintgton, then turning east past Snow Hill. This road is known as Eminence Pike out to Boone Station, where Eminence Pike then follows KY 55 north while Cropper Road continues east along Mulberry Creek. And KY 55 to the south, now called Mount Eden Road, is not the original way out of Shelbyville. That would be along 3rd Street, south of Main, where Saint James Episcopal Church is on the corner. The original entrance to Grove Hill Cemetery is now in the back, along 3rd Street, where it is now called Old Mount Eden Road. Annie Choate, my great-great grandmother who was previously mentioned in a post, has at least one and maybe both of her parents buried there. But, I digress.

The original road from Shelbyville to Frankfort was Benson Pike. It followed east out of Shelbyville along the north side of what is now Guist Creek Lake. At its intersection with KY 395 is one of my favorite farm houses, a simple but large white frame house with black trim. The last time I was through there that property had a For Sale sign in the front yard. Proceeding east from there, the terrain becomes hilly and the road curvy. At its intersection with KY 1472 (Mink Run Road) is the Beech Ridge Cemetery, a few hundred feet east of the Beech Ridge Baptist Church. A number of my Hockensmith/Peters/Perkins kin are buried in Beech Ridge. My great-grandmother Ellis Rebecca Peters Hockensmith along with much of her family lies there. I have mentioned before my niece Aubreana who middle name (at least one of them) is Ellis. Aubrena's Ellis comes from her grandmother Barbara Ellis Hockensmith, my mother. Mother's Ellis is from her grandmother, the Ellis Rebecca mentioned herein. Many of Ellis Rebecca's in-laws are buried here. Curiously though, her father-in-law, Isaac Daniel Hockensmith, Jr. isn't. He is buried in another cemetery about 1/2 mile east then 1/4 mile south of here in a private cemetery on the Stephen Engstler farm. I had heard of this cemetery all my life, but only last year finally discovered it. As a kid, my mother and my grandmother often visited here, especially on what was then called Decoration Day, to clean and decorate the graves, something my family still does fairly passionately. Another day set aside for grave visiting was Roberts Reunion Day, always the Fifth Sunday in either June, July, or August, as every summer one and only one of those months provides a fifth Sunday. The Roberts family play a prominent role in both of my maternal grandparents families, as they were, besides being man and wife, also distant cousins "through the Roberts line," as we would say. Again, I digress.

From Beech Ridge, Benson Road, now called Beech Ridge Road, with a Bagdad zip code on one side and a Frankfort one on the other, proceeds down the hill to the old community of Hatton, located where Beech Ridge Road crosses the Dutch Fork of North Benson Creek, then the L&N Railroad and joins KY 1005 just west of the Shelby / Franklin County line. My grandfather often said he grew up in Hatton although I do not know exactly where. Once in Franklin County, KY 1005 eventually becomes Devil's Hollow Road. As a kid, two of my favorite swimming holes were along Devil's Hollow Road in North Benson Creek. One was behind the very beautiful North Benson Baptist Church and the other was a spot locally known as Iron Bridge or Red Bridge. At that point, the creek spreads out into a broad spanse and there is effected a waterfall. Back at North Benson Church, the creek is broad and maybe waist deep at some points. I once became enamored with a young lady named Shellie Dean while swimming at North Benson. I was 15, she was 12.

Once you get up the hill into Choateville, one passes along the right the Choateville Christian Church, where my grandmother and many of her siblings were once (or still are) members. Devils Hollow Road passes Pea Ridge Road, where the Franklin County Public Schools have recently opened a new school called West Ridge. I have to wonder why they could not have called it Chaoteville or Pea Ridge. Once past the new school, the road proceeds to the new US 127, which to the left leads down into Frankfort and to the rights leads out to I-64 and Frankfort's version of Preston or Dixie Highway, with most any fast food or restaurant chain you might want, along with the suburban requisite Lowes, Kroger, and Walmart.

Passing US 127 and Parkside Drive, Devils Hollow begins the plunge down to Frankfort along Taylor Avenue, very close to where Benson Creek empties into the Kentucky River. In some of the oldest maps of Frankfort, this road, Devils Hollow is indicated as the "Road to Louisville," as it was before US 60 was cut through as the new route in the mid 1800s.

That's one way to get from here to there. There are (at least) eleven more.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

40. St. Valentine's Day - Día de los Emamorados - in Louisville


I had lunch with a friend of mine yesterday. She is going through a breakup with her boyfriend of some extended period of time. The breakup is her idea, not his, but he hasn't yet gotten the clue that she really is breaking up this time. We had several good laughs over it and she is aware that I have certain "baggage," as she puts it, which refuses to leave my life, despite being away for weeks or months at a time. It is well known that my door is usually open to friends, family, and occasionally the so-called baggage with whom I enjoy sharing time. I've written before about my brother's visits in the past that went from days to weeks to months, and on at least one occasion, to more than a year. Such is life, and I am content knowing that I can help out here and there with folks who at the time aren't having the best of times.

We ate at a McAlister's Deli, one of maybe three hundred little shops which have been built over the last forty years in the triangle formed by US 42 (not Brownsboro Road), KY 22 (Brownsboro Road), and Lime Kiln Road (as it has been reworked, so as to align with Herr Lane in front of Ballard High School). The whole area is generically referred to as Holiday Manor, as it is the shopping center in the center of it all, and was one of the original developments there. There have since been quite a few others, but Holiday Manor usually explains it, much as "Jefferson Mall" has become a focal point in southern Jefferson County, in the area originally, at least in the 20th century, known as Okolona.

It is interesting how places change names over extended periods of time, usually several decades. The names change for different reasons. Some are large, others are small. One of more well-known changes is that of Saint Helen's, a neighborhood so named because of the presence of a Catholic Church which served as its center. When the denizens of Saint Helen's sought a post office for the area, they were told a Saint Helen's already existed and they should use a different name for their community's post office. They chose the name of the largest family in the area, whose mansion stills stands a few doors south of the church, where the side yard holds the cemetery wherein the remains of most of its occupants bear the last name of Shively. For the record, the other Saint Helens's is a wide place in the road, where KY 52 crosses the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River in Lee County, on the road between Irvine in Estill County and Jackson in Breathitt County.

The same thing happened to the supporters of a post office in the area around Robb's Lane and the Preston Street Road. For many years in the 1800s, the area a few miles south of there was called Cross Roads precinct, for the fork in the road near the present day Lowes at Preston and Cooper Chapel Road, where the road leading north out of Shepherdsville became two branches, one heading north toward Louisville and the other northeast toward Buechel, then an entity unto itself. The area had came to be called Lone Oak, for a large oak tree which once stood on one of the side roads leading west off Preston Highway. Upon application to Post Office officials, there was found to be a Lone Oak in McCracken County in far southwestern Kentucky. For the record, this place is not a wide place in the road, but rather a very wide road, US 45, in an incorporated suburban (and formerly rural) area south of Paducah. The response of the Lone Oakers from Jefferson County was to turn the words around a little and rename their community Okolona, a made up word. As it turns out, the word Okolona is also a real word, the name of a Chickasaw chief. There are towns called Okolona in Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, as well as Kentucky. The others are named for the Chief. Kentucky' is named for a lonesome oak.

Other Jefferson County places have changed names for different reasons. Newtown became Fairdale; Bruners Town became Jefferson Town, and then Jeffersontown; Gilman's Point became Saint Matthews; Lacona became Pleasure Ridge Park; and, of course, the Falls of the Ohio was renamed Louisville. Then there are those places which have disappeared altogether, places such as Kosmosdale, Prestonia, Lakeland, Dravo, and O' Bannon.

Such is life, and life does goes on. Things come and things go. Just like relationships or, perhaps, excess baggage.

Happy Saint Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

39. Highways and By-Ways in Jefferson County

Today is my Aunt Judy's birthday. She is 71 which is hard for me to believe. She is the widow of my late uncle, Donald D. Noble, a local character of note who passed away April 29, 2005 from cancer. Uncle Don was a writer, reporter, politician, civil rights proponent, and later in retirement, a caricaturist, an occupation he passed on to one his nephews on Aunt Judy's side, Denny Whalen. My nieces also seem to have some artistic talent, especially (so far) the oldest one, Lindsey, who has painted and drawn hundreds of pictures, some of which she has sold at the annual Saint James Art Fair held each October along Saint James Court (and other streets) in Old Louisville. Aunt Judy is herself retired from the State Fair Board a few years back, where among other things she trained folks, mostly retirees, who sit in those information booths at the State Fair and similar events held at the Kentucky Exposition Center. You may not have noticed, but last year, the name of our behemoth Fairgrounds at Phillips' Lane and Freedom Way, dropped the word "Fair" from its moniker. No more KFEC, now KEC. The move was said to update the image of the property, taking away the country fair connotation and using more urbane nomenclature to identify what every knows was and is and always will be the Fairgrounds.

Today also marks the day my mother has decided to be one of those retirees sitting in those little booths to direct people here and there, actually telling them "where to go," which my mother said she is qualified to do. Louisville is such a small town. My mother worked off and on for nearly forty years in the Highway Department Building which sits out on Phillips' Lane on the Fairgrounds property. She started and ended her career as a clerk-typist, working on rights-of-ways, utility leases, and property acquisitions, from a variety of work spaces within that building. It was there I learned to type as an elementary school student. I attended 3rd and 4th grade at the old Prestonia Elementary, which used to be located where the Aldi Food Market is now, on Preston Highway at Belmar Drive, a few blocks south of Phillips' Lane. Next door to the school was a Walgreens, a Winn-Dixie, and an Arlans department store, all collected together in the shopping center which now houses Value City.

Now and then when I would not be riding the bus home, at the conclusion of whatever activity had kept me late, usually drum practice or Spanish Club, I would walk across the back of the shopping center, along where the hill created by the raised I-65 fell along the left side, to the underpass along Phillips' Lane. At that time, there were houses along both sides of Phillips' Lane, all story and a half cape cods, a handful, maybe two, remain on the east side of I-65. Everything west of I-65 was (erroneously) declared "blighted" by the Airport back in the 1980s and torn down. An entire neighborhood along the south side of Phillip' Lane, with streets called Weyer, Nally, and Fontaine, among others, where the homes were of brick, disappeared. Nothing is there now except a drainage retention basin built and owned by MSD, which can only be viewed from one of the several ramps in the confetti-like confusion of the intersection of I-65, I-264, the Airport, the Fairgrounds, Preston Highway, and Crittenden Drive, all fused into one. Down Phillips' Lane I would go, eventually arriving at the Highway Department, there to sit and play on an unused typewriter, or review maps of planned streets and highways which fell within District Five's operation, all this ending at 4:30, when the State "let out." It was there I first learned about the Jefferson Freeway, the Daisy Lane-Thorn Hill connector, and the Seneca Parkway, with its Land Beautification Project alongside I-64 and Beargrass Creek, north of Grinstead Drive, a project undertaken by the foundation founded by former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. Some notes on Mrs. Johnson: She turned 94 in December and has been afforded Secret Service protection longer than any other person living now or in the past. She is said to be totally blind and in failing health. Her last public appearance was four months ago today at the LBJ Library.

The Jefferson Freeway began with a one mile portion in 1962 connecting the then-western terminus of I-64 (coming from Frankfort; it had not been completed beyond the Versailles Road exit to the east) with US 60. A picture of the original intersection, as yet unchanged except for encroaching development, hangs in the stairwell of the Highway Department building on Phillips' Lane. Over the next twenty five years, parts were built here and there, with the final project, now called the Gene Snyder Freeway, being completed in 1987, connecting US 42 in the northeast with the Dixie Highway / Greenbelt Highway in the southwest, but failing to connect with I-265 in Indiana. Democrats liked to argue that Snyder shouldn't have his name on anything due to his LG&E property dealings in the 1960s. But the truth be told, it was because of the alignment of then-Congressman Snyder, a friend of the new Republican president Ronald Reagan, and the new bsuiness-oriented governor John Young Brown, Jr., and the governor's well-connected Transportation Secretary Frank Metts, that the project finally got off the paper plans and onto the ground itself and became a reality. I agree his name should not be on the Federal Court House downtown on Broadway; he is however, deserving of this highway having his name applied thereto. Otherwise, we'd still be waiting on it, like we are its completion across the Northup/Abramson/Hawpe unbuilt bridges into Indiana.

Below is an article in today's Courier talking about the unbuilt bridges I have mentioned several times herein. As you can see from the comments by State Representative Jim Wayne (D-35), we are still wating on the project's "initial financial plan." And Anne Northup told us they were already being built.

From the C-J:

After canceling a hearing on the $3.9 billion Ohio River bridges project planned for last week, the head of a state government transportation committee said yesterday that the panel will discuss the project "in the very near future."

But Rep. Don Pasley, D-Winchester, could not say when the House budget review subcommittee on transportation would take up the bridges plan.

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, called on transportation officials yesterday to produce an initial financial plan for the project, which last year's state budget required to be finished by the end of 2006.

The plan needs final approval from Indiana officials before it is complete, Highway Commissioner Marc Williams said.

Monday, February 12, 2007

38. On Republicans - and a few Democrats

Today marks the 198th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, born in a log cabin to Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln, in what was at the time Hardin County, but is now a part of Larue County. A National Park just south of Hodgenville, where KY 61 heads east away from US 31E, marks the site. Former State Representative Bob Heleringer, a friend of many years, has written an interesting op-ed piece in today's Courier-Journal, the link to which is listed at the end of this post.

Heleringer is generally considered a moderate in his Party, which is generally considered to be conservative, and effectively has been since Ronald Reagan began his quest of the presidency several years before achieving it in 1980. Heleringer's support as a legislator of several social-leaning ideas, especially those which relate to the health and well-being of children, caused some in his Party to be less supportive than they were of others. In 2003, he was paired with Republican gubernatorial hopeful Steve Nunn, another moderate in some matters, in the Primary against Ernie Fletcher and Rebecca Jackson. The Nunn-Heleringer team ran third of three; comments were made by several Democrats that if they made it through their own Primary, they would probably receive the support (some public, some secret) of a number of moderate to liberal Democrats. I've no doubt that would have been the case. But, they weren't right enough for the Right.

As we celebrate the birthday of the Republican Party's first standard bearer, our own Abraham Lincoln, a short look at the presidential race of 2008, is worth a visit. In the last week, word has leaked out that Rudolph Giuliani, he of 9/11 fame, is leading Senator John McCain in the early line. The irony here is the distance McCain has moved, from center to right on the political spectrum (as has Mitt Romney), only to be surpassed at this point by a well known social-liberal, whose only conservative high marks come from his no-nonsense crime fighting as a federal prosecutor in Reagan's Justice Department and later as a two-term mayor of New York, the first Republican to be re-elected to that office since Fiorello LaGuardia, the beloved "Little Flower" who served three terms from 1934 to 1945. (John Lindsey won his first race as a Republican in 1965. He lost the Republican primary in 1969, but won re-election as mayor running on the Liberal ticket. He later switched to the Democratic Party, but did not seek re-election under that Party's banner).

It is an old argument in politics that Democrats move to the left in the Primary while Republicans move to the right. Getting to the center, where most of the voters are, is only necessary in the Fall. McCain and Romney have demonstrated their willingness to sell out personal beliefs in the name of political gain, as has been made evident by McCain's senate votes and Romney's vetoes as governor of Massachusetts. Giuliani, on the other hand, has always been a liberal on social fronts and a conservative on crime matters. When he first ran for mayor in 1989, he was the candidate of both the Republican and the Liberal parties. He lost that race, the closest one in New York's history, by 48,000 votes out of 1,900,000 cast to Democrat David Dinkins. He came back four years later and defeated Dinkins. In 1997, he was re-elected garnering 59% of the vote. As the darling of the old Republican Party, that is pre-Reagan and heavily Eastern Establishment, and as a one-day wonder as an American hero for his very personal role in the events of September 11th, he finds himself in a very unusual position, as front runner of the Republican Party for nomination as president.

On the other side, my side, several days ago I posted a picture in the right hand column of Senators Clinton and Obama, arguably the leaders in the Democratic race to the White House. Obama announced his candidacy over the weekend, and were it not for an early morning commitment I had made to the Metro Democratic Club (of which I was recently elected as Treasurer), I would have driven the 520 or so miles to Abraham Lincoln's place of election, Springfield, Illinois, where Senator Obama made his formal entry into the fray Saturday morning, announcing from the Old State House, where Lincoln had served 150 years earlier. Voting with my heart, Obama is my first choice. Voting with my head, Senator Clinton is. I am hopeful she is the nominee and he is her running mate. I ran that ticket passed my mother, an retired State employee who is something of a moderate, having voted for Ross Perot in 1992, when she thought Bush pere was inept, but couldn't bring herself to vote for Bill Clinton because he seemed to be a womanizer. She indicated Clinton/Obama was a ticket she could support. She went on to say she is for Clinton and whomever she chooses as a running mate, and that Obama would be an excellent choice.

Clinton has made her own journey on the political spectrum, mostly because of her marriage to Bill Clinton. I've never considered the Clintons overly liberal, although I have appreciated some of their ideas. But they are perceived as liberal, and because of that Mrs. Clinton has found herself creating an image with strong ties to the military, getting herself on the Armed Services Committee and voting for the war measures which got America in the predicament in which she currently finds herself. And even while campaiging in New Hampshire and Iowa, she has stressed she would not vote to financially undercut the current troops. She has waffled as to a date-certain for departure of America's troops from the civil war we are participating in in Iraq.

Obama, on the other hand, has a plan which creates that date for March, 2008, which would effectively put it during the few weeks when decisions are being made by the Democratic voters across the Republic in early primaries. And, he has challenged the stable of other Democratic nominees to do the same - come up with a plan, a date, an answer. The merger of her experience and his idealism and absolute star-like qualities, should be a ticket without peer in 2008. It is one for which I hope to cast a ballot in November 2008.

The decision on who will be the Democratic nominee will be very close to have been decided this time next year. But given the large field of several very able candidates, it may be that for the first time in several decades, the Democrats will have a truly divided convention, and the role of convention delegates, local and state supporters and parties, and bottom line grassroots organization, will take on a new meaning, or truthfully reclad itself in the importance they once had in the past, in times such as when Abraham Lincoln was first nominated to his Party's ticket in a four-way race with Salmon Chase, Simon Cameron, and the expected winner, William Seward.

Wouldn't it be nice to have, as part of the 200th celebration of Lincoln's birth in February 2009, the leaders of the greatest nation on the planet to be a president originally a Republican from Illinois, and her vice president, also a native of the state from which Lincoln was elected as a state and federal legislator, and ultimately as President of the United States, all emanating from a log cabin on Sinking Creek branch of Nolin Creek near Hodgenville, Kentucky.

Heleringer's editorial can be found here:

Post Script

It has occurred to me several times during my college education, that were I to have lived in any era prior around 1964 and after 1888, chances are I would have been more of a liberal Republican, as is Giuliani, and as was presidents Ford, Eisenhower, Taft, Roosevelt, and McKinley. At least it has crossed my mind.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

36. The whole world's in a terrible state of chaos

Not really.

That line is from the Irish playwright Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock, one of my favorite plays, although it is dark comedy about troubled times, the 1920s, in Ireland. Through it all, "Captain" Jack Boyle known as the Paycock, and his buddy Joxer stay pretty well inebriated, ending the play with the words which today serve as the title of the post.

It may be true that we are in troubled times, given that America is engaged in war (with no apparent end in sight or plan), and while the economy seems to be robust, fewer and fewer folks are making their lives better over time. A few months back, Americans, at least those of us who are not only eligible to vote but also bother to do so, sent a message to ourselves as well as the government that we are mad as Hell and aren't going to take it anymore. But are we really?

Since the advent of the USA Today newspaper, a mockery of journalism, Americans have been fed news by the bite, rather than by the meal. While we've been supersizing everything we buy, from boxes of Corn Flakes to SUVs the size of tanks, we've been downsizing the amount of news most of us actually get from the many sources out there willing to give it to us. This is not news. I'm not the first one to write this. But it still bothers me. One of the good things about the internet, and specifically about "home" pages, such as msn, yahoo, or google is they usually have a news feed which allows people to see and read, at whatever depth they are comfortable, news from around the nation and the world. With a little programming, readers can focus in on their home town news and weather, something you used to get on the hour and sometimes the half-hour on local radio, but most of these feeds are now national and not local in nature. Even WHAS radio, long the herald of Louisville news, no longer has a local evening newscast - although I would never know that. I only listen to WHAS when a tornado is not just possible, but seems to be currently happening. Otherwise, I am mostly tuned, if at all, to one of the three local public radio stations (89.3, 90.5, or 91.9), or to 90.9, the public station in Elizabethtown, or to 88.1, the New Albany High School station, which is my general music outlet.

Before the internet, I tried to read the local self-described "One Great Newspaper" as well as at least part of one national paper most everyday. The most easily accesible national paper in the past was the Wall Street Jounral, which is served in Louisville by the Chicago edition. I always tried to read a Washington Post on Sundays, and would now and then somehow manage to get the Sunday Magazine from the New York Times, usually by dropping in at a coffeehouse, or hanging out at the old Hawley-Cooke in the Gardiner Lane Shopping Center. The internet has changed that, and truthfully, it is for the better. Going online and finding articles of interest is so very easy. Signing up for newsletters from a variety of sources is easiest of all. I get daily or weekly doses of information important to me from the Post, the Book Review at the New York Times, from the ACLU and other civil and human rights organizations, as well as people who want me to save the whales, the watersheds, savannahs, rainforests, and any number of other things. Now and then I "unsubscribe," a word many of us find quite useful now and then.

Most of us in our computer set-up have a list of favorites. Mine is heavily populated by media outlets - newspapers, radio, TV, and notably blogs. Some blogs serve a specific readership with specific news, others serve as sounding boards for political and social (is there a difference?) commentary, others are full of poetry, some are outlets for commercial enterprise, and some, like mine, are still looking for their role in the world. What we are have in common is that we all hope someone else is looking at our work, whether we formally admit to that or not, the fact that we post on the internet, available to most anyone if they are really looking, is an admission that we want to be seen and read.

That brings me to today's update of the state of the blog. The first report was on January 22nd, some nineteen days after our debut, which was also my mother's birthday, not that that fact is related. About nineteen days has since past, so an update is in line.

At that time, the visitor counter read just over 200. It now reads about 700 pages accessed from just over 400 individual visits, which means about 300 people other than me have visited. Back on the 22nd, we spoke of where these folks came from. I know I have some (a few) repeat readers who visit regularly and I am grateful for your readership. We've only added a few Kentucky cities since the first report, the new locations being West Point (which is close enough to Louisville to be a local telehone call), Middlesboro (which I mentioned one day as being built in a hole created when a crater impacted the Earth), Bardstown (which has just endured a tragic loss of life on which I posted a few days ago and where there was yesterday buried the ten victims of Kentucky's worst fire in thirty years), and finally Clearfield. A note on Clearfield. I've travelled all over this state, mostly on back roads, and have read many articles and books on Kentucky's place names, including a comprehensive (though not entirely accurate) one by Robert Rennick. I've never heard of or been to Clearfield, to my knowledge. It turns out to be a little hillside village just south off US 60 (Main Street) in Morehead, stretched out along KY 519, which carries the name Woody May Highway briefly. One of the main roads in Clearfield, if you could call it such, is McBrayer Road. Thus, the little village has at least two roads with prominent political names attached to them, although the McBrayer attachment is probably not "big P" political, but purely "little p" political.

As far as other locales across the Republic, we've only added to out list four more states, being Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio. Keep in mind we have regular visitors from Washington, DC. To our list of international visits, previously a boast of four countries, we may add Algeria, Beazil, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Norway, and the United Kingdom. We have regular visits from a number of different places in China, but I do not know why.

Our topic variety is not yet broadening, but I will give it time. There are only so many different subjects that I am interested enough in to write someting worthwhile about, so the array will never be too far-flung. I continue to invite your comments. I've always included among the righthand side bar a note of "Welcome - Beinvenidos" and an invitation to comment. I do not plan to respond to all the comments, or for that matter any of them as a rule. But I am interested if in fact you find what I find of interest of interest to you my readers.

That's today's report. The weather service is calling for a mix of rain, sleet, and snow over the next two days, but I haven't any faith in them at this point. As I said, the whole world's in a terrible state of chaos, and the weather, what with global warming and no snow, is at the top of the list.

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.