Tuesday, July 31, 2007

150. Dainty Results

But first - I wrote a lengthy essay on US 150, given this is entry #150, but I got way bogged down, carried away with too many words - and then it occurred to me I may have written on the subject before - but scrolling through I couldn't find any notes on Moline, Illinois, where US 150 ends and Mount Vernon, Kentucky where it starts. I know I have orally told the US 150 story and someday I may write about it. But for now, I'll just keep the draft for later revisions. Or maybe I really have covered this material before.

As for the Dainty Contest, Congressman John Yarmuth didn't win. His hit (made earlier in the day) of 77 feet was bested by a few others, including the eventual winner Kevin Triplett, a friend of mine for many years. Kevin, who was raised in the Cloverleaf neighborhood off Manslick Road, hit the Dainty 122 feet, short of Yarmuth's 145 foot hit last year, and even shorter of Gene Klein's all time record hit of 146 feet 6 inches, but still the winner. I spoke briefly with Mr. Klein who was not wearing his "record holding" shirt, much to my surprise.

The Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro took his three tries, but failed to put one stick-to-the-other. Former congressman Ron Mazzoli had a try as did old Bremer Ehrler, looking healthy as ever even at 93. Councilman Jim King, PVA Tony Lindauer, Circuit Clerk Dave Nicholson, and others all made a swing. None made a hit. Former alderman Steve Magre hit a respectable 23 feet as I recall. Fr. Roy Stiles then hit it 55 feet to much applause. Then one of the uniformed officers working the event hit the Dainty just over 100 feet. And as said above, Triplett knocked the dainty 122 feet. There were about 200 people there, including 12 to 15 nuns and others who lined the front row as they always have. Beer and bologna sandwiches were sold, as was cotton candy.

So the US 150 story will wait for another day.

Monday, July 30, 2007

149. The Official Press Release

Just received from Congressman Yarmuth's office this official notice.


Congressman John Yarmuth

Representing Kentucky's 3rd Congressional District


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, July 30, 2007


Stuart Perelmuter 202.225.5401

Yarmuth to Defend Dainty Title at 1:00 Today
(Louisville, KY) Between announcing his new autism legislation and heading back to Washington for votes, Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) will squeeze in a quick round of Dainty to defend his championship at 1:00 today.

The legislative calendar will prevent Congressman Yarmuth from competing later in the day, but the score for his title defense will be recorded at 1:00 and used in competition later in the day.

WHEN: Today at 1:00 PM

WHERE: 1000 Goss Avenue at Haucks Way

WHAT: Schnitzelburg Historical Dainty Contest

United States House of Representatives
319 Cannon House Office Building * Washington, DC 20515

202.225-5401 phone * 202.225.5776 fax

148. Update # 2 to Entry # 146

The Congressman will make his Dainty Contest swing here in Louisville before returning to Washington, D. C. to do the People's Business. The swing (you get three tries) will be recorded for all to see. Good luck John.

For the folks in Schnitzelburg, this is a big deal. An old small urban festival built around an old urban game meant to be played in small confined areas. I drove through Hoertz Avenue to see the distance-markers, which have been laid off in 5 foot margins down the street.

Several retired Religious, either Ursulines or Charity nuns, line the front row seats and cheer the entrants on. In addition to all the locals within about a four block area, there are also a number of folks who ride the bus over from the Little Sisters of the Poor retirement center. Sooner or later, former Secretary of State Bremer Ehrler, who was also Louisville's Postmaster, County Clerk, County Sheriff, and County Judge will show up. He is 93. And former Congressman Ron Mazzoli is a regular. The event is co-sponsored by the Metro Council, represented in this part of town (H102, H105, H106, and M144) by Jim King of the Tenth District.

Cold Beer and Bologna sandwiches are the order of the day. It is going to be about 90 degrees this afternoon, so there is likely to be more beer than bologna.

Sorry to have mislead you yesterday - my source is slowly whittling away at my admiration for his work. But it is slow work, and he has a huge bank of capital left.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

147. Update to 146 - Congressman Yarmuth's Dainty Swing

The latest from my source in Washington DC is that the Congressman will somehow - electronically - be able to record a swing at the Dainty from the Hauck's Market Annex in our Nation's Capital, probably outside the Cannon Office Building, where Yarmuth has his office. His swing will count in this year's competition. So, he did need a Dainty Stick after all. I guess just as the president has Executive Privelege, so too does the Defending Champ of the Dainty Contest.

(A tip of the hat to my favorite American playwright).

This post entered from a Secret Bunker along E. Oak Street in Germantown.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

146. Dainty wins and War losses

On Monday, it will be time for the Dainty Contest in Schnitzelburg. As it has for the last 30 to 40 years, Hauck's Market, at Hoertz (Hauck's Way) and Goss avenues will be host to the Dainty Contest, derived from an old alley/street game whereby a player using something akin to a broom handle attempts to hit a 6 to 8 inch stick whittled off at each end. Whoever hits it the furthest wins a trophy. The longest hit on record is that of Gene Klein, father to my friend Christopher Klein, an attorney here in Louisville. Mr. Klein has a shirt proclaiming his feat and proudly wears it at least on this one day of the year, maybe more. The defending champion from last year is our congressman, John Yarmuth, one of 2006's Majority Makers and known more for his golf swing than his dainty swing. Chances are he'll be tied up in Washington D.C. as the Congress heads into the week with a few votes scheduled ahead of their month long August holiday, an idea borrowed from the French, but one we are taking issue with when it comes to the Iraqi legislature in Baghdad doing the same. Here and there, the congresses come home while the women and men of the United States Armed Forces continue to fight George W. Bush's War in Iraq. Of these women and men the president has sent into war, 3646 Americans have given the ultimate sacrifice - May their Souls and the Souls of all who have passed on from this life Rest In Peace.

Friday, July 27, 2007

145. Whither Leadership? - But first, a trip to Bethlehem

Last Sunday morning, before Mass, I walked along the concrete pathway which borders on the Ohio River at Cox's Park. (Technically, it is Carrie Gaulbert Cox Park, but no one calls it that. We all know it as Cox's Park). Although I am rarely out on the water anymore, I love to watch it pass by. When I was younger my family spent time at Herrington Lake, Elmer Davis Lake, and along both the Kentucky and Ohio rivers on the boats of family members. On the Ohio, my step-great grandmother, Margaret "Maggie" Church, was the owner of the biggest house in Bethlehem, Indiana, which was converted to a Bed-and-Breakfast after her passing, and has since been reconverted back to a residence. Overlooking the river, it is formally known as the Abbott-Holloway House, and is a two-story, double pile, brick house built about 1830 in the Federal style. It faces the river, with its back to the small town, a town which finds itself in the news once a year when they open the United States Post Office so people can have their Christmas Cards' postage stamps hand-cancelled in a place called Bethlehem. Bethlehem is in northern Clark County, Indiana, a little upriver from the Oldham/Trimble County line in Kentucky, and about 5 miles downriver from the Clark/Jefferson County (IN) line in Indiana. The easiest way to get there is to go up IN 62 to the town of New Washington (where I have some Hockensmith cousins I don't really know, the children of my grandfather's brother Lee), and then turn right on the New Washington-Bethlehem Road, which follows down the hill to the old town. Another route is to turn off IN 62 a little earlier, at Hibernia, where 62 veers to the left. From there you go straight a few blocks through Hibernia's hand full of homes and trailers, then right on Hibernia Road about 1 mile, to the Charlestown-Bethlehem Road, which winds down the hill and becomes Camp Creek Road. Using this route you arrive at the southern edge of Mamaw Maggie's old homestead just as you enter into town.

Very little has changed in Bethlehem since - well since ever. The town is mostly abandoned. No little markets or churches, no school, no theaters, no stop lights or even stop signs. Only the tiny post office (Zip 47104), a boat ramp, the huge cemetery (where my step-great grandmother and her last husband, Ira Church, are buried), and another seasonal Bed and Breakfast remain. And when I started this little essay, I had no idea or intention that it would lead to Bethlehem. The keyword was to be change. I was going to write about Louisville's resistance to change, another symptom of our general apathy, our general laid back, live-and-let-live attitude which avails the town of change ever so slowly. Much as the water rolling down the river past Cox's Park, it is little unchanged from its earlier course past Bethlehem. And on it goes. (A rather morbid side note - a friend of mine who lives in Louisville but was raised in Paducah has spoken before of the disposal of his remains upon the end of his temporal stay here on Terra Firma. He has asked that after the cremation, his ashes are to be poured into the ever-flowing Ohio River here in Louisville so as to make his final journey home to Paducah, which is also on the Left Bank of the Ohio River, at Milepoint 929). But, I digress. Let me return to Louisville and its agents for change.

I try to imagine where our downtown residential revitalization would be had former Mayor Dave Armstrong not been mayor for the interregnum, 1998-2002, between Jerry Abramson's terms as Mayor of Louisville and Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro. I didn't support Armstrong in the Democratic Primary in 1998. I helped Tom Owen's campaign, which was managed by a then-local woman named Shannon Hensley, who is now an attorney on the West Coast. In that campaign, we portrayed Armstrong as the "suburban" candidate as opposed to Owen, who is something of an urban icon, with his railroad cap, bullhorn, and straggly beard. But, our portrayal of candidate Armstrong was not matched with the reality of Mayor Armstrong, who proved to be a great shot-in-the-arm for downtown residential development, as well as being a great friend to the Arts community, and others whose interests were civically-centered as opposed to personally-centered.

Under his watch, so much changed in the downtown area, especially along East Market and East Main, that sometimes you had to wonder "is this really Louisville?" Fortunately the momentum Armstrong began has continued in a grand way into the new merged government. The east end of downtown Louisville changes from week to week, a phenomenon heretofore unheard of in this town. But not everything Armstrong started has Abramson finished. One huge project left undone is the Skate Park, at Clay and Franklin streets. There were grand plans for this park, plans which remain plans. Now they are to be overshadowed by a new ramp in the plans for the ever-expanding Spaghetti Junction. I've stated before my objections to the expansion of Louisville's (and Jeffersonville's) downtown highway system, an objection deeply rooted in concerns about Hospital Curve, the sooner-or-later necessary evacuation of thousands of hospital rooms in the Jewish and Norton hospital complexes brought on by wider approaches and hence, increased speeds of drivers heading into what will be a 23-lane wide intersection, if the powers-that-be are as powerful as they have led us to believe. There is an alternative - the 8664 plan, which we've discussed before.

One of the projects that is moving along is the Downtown Arena, an idea first visited upon Louisville when former aldermen Steve Magre and Dan Johnson (Johnson remains on the new Metro Council) teamed up with my old boss, J. Bruce Miller, to find a way for Louisville to pay for a new arena. Their idea was to lure an NBA team to Louisville and have them and their sponsors, including shared NBA television revenues, make the payments, as opposed to assigning the bill to Louisville's taxpayers. Instead, the current Metro Council and Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro, along with Lexington's biggest entrepreneur Jim Host, and perhaps in collusion with the leadership at the Courier-Journal and Bellarmine University (where I was awarded several hours of credit toward my eventual collegiate degree, back when it was known as Bellarmine College), have decided that the funding for the arena, or at least a large part of it, should be borne by Louisville's taxpayers, both now and for the next 30 years, in the form of covering the bonds to raise at least $206,000,000.00 and maybe an additional $103,000,000.00 for a total of $309,000,000.00. The Council voted on this scheme last night at its meeting and will send their passed ordinance onto the Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro for his signature. Of the 25 memberss present, two voted No. Doug Hawkins votes "No" on lots of things so his No vote is No surprise. Whenever a vote is some-such-number to 1, rest assured the 1 is Councilman Hawkins. On the other hand, Dan Johnson knows more about how this thing should have been funded than anyone over there along with knowing how it could have been funded. His no vote also lacked surprise. What it didn't lack was integrity.

But spending money to borrow money, up to $309,000,000.00, wasn't the only thing on the agenda last night. There was also the state-law-required vote of the Council to put on this November's ballot a measure which will raise taxes to support the Louisville Free Public Library. I've stated my support of this revenue-enhancement (a Ronald Reagan term) in the past, along with the farther-reaching proposals set out by blogger Moderate Man, a pseudonym for someone who blogs on Paul Hosse's blog called Another Opinion and that of the incumbent County Judge Executive sans portfolio Ken Herndon. But what we heard from several of the councilmembers last night wasn't outright Support of A New Tax Levy, which is what this is, but rather we heard some of them say We Support Allowing the People To Vote on This Tax Levy, or from the other corner, This Levy isn't Needed as We Can Do This Now, but We Are Required By Law to Put This on The Ballot So We Are Voting Yes.

Taking the last argument first, this was the line followed by the Republicans, all of whom are disciples of Grover "No New Taxes" Norquist. But, have you ever heard Grover and his band of followers say "No New Borrowing"? No, you haven't. Borrowing is the new Taxes. Borrowing is apparently the "in" thing. How do you think George W. Bush (with the help of the Democratically controlled Congress) is paying for his War in Iraq? By borrowing. The current debt of the United States of America is $8,902,164,609,127.16, or about $29,424.40 per person, including all the babies born today. Would your bank lend you $29,424.40 today to pay off your part of the loan? Mine won't because they know I'm not really all that good with money. When one isn't all that good with money, one's credit rating falls and borrowing isn't as easy. Imagine the credit rating of the United States of America. Borrowing by the government isn't limited to the Federal government. Our legislators in Frankfort have done it and want to do more. Here in Louisville, we have borrowed for Capital Projects, by way of bonding, in the last few budgets. The vote last night will have us bonding up to $309,000,000.00 more for an arena, paying on the debt through the year 2039, when I will be 78. And when the opportunity comes along for a tax hike that will actually address the money-shortfall, do we hear "Yes, Yes, that is what we need!" No, we hear, "let's let the voters decide and we will follow the will of the voters." In other words, we aren't leading, we are following. We are bringing up the rear, as it were. We weren't elected to lead the government into the future, only to follow the prevailing winds. True leadership is gone with the [prevailing] wind.

At some point, this form of government borrowing and spending must change. But when?


Almost totally unrelated to the above diatribe is an interesting obituary in today's Paducah Sun. It is only interesting in that the name of the deceased is States Rights Aycock, II, a rather unusual name to say the least. It is almost totally unrelated to the above except for two things - 1) it is taken from the Paducah Sun, the local newspaper of the town my friend wants his ashes floated down to; and 2) use of the words States Rights.

That term has a long history with the United States and the 50 sovereign states of which she is made. Some issues of national interest, especially those dealing with civil and human rights, use the arguments made in the McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819), a landmark United States Supreme Court decision. Essentially, that decision, written by Chief Justice John Marshall, said that the Federal government can override the States on issues of national interest and significance, as long as they are within the confines of the Constitution. States (or more accurately, the voters of a State) are usually far behind the curve on some matters, such as the votings rights of blacks, women, and others; or ownership laws, especially in the Old South; or perhaps when the time comes to raise a tax to support a Library system. Sometimes - this is hard to say and hard to admit - but sometimes the voters are wrong. Sometimes they are voting for the wrong reasons, and when they do the outcomes are also wrong. And in this world of Me First and To Hell With You, a think-style which arose under the Me generation led by Ronald Reagan, the group-speak, group-think horde is simply wrong. It is at that point the leaders should step in their roles as trustees as opposed to representatives, and actually lead as opposed to following.

Mr. Aycock's Obituary.

Friday, July 27, 2007

WICKLIFFE, Ky. — Graveside services for States Rights Aycock II, 73, of Wickliffe will be private.

Mr. Aycock died at 3:15 a.m. Wednesday, July 25, 2007, at his home.

Mr. Aycock retired from the U.S. Army. He was a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. In Korea he served with the 17th Field Artillery BN. In Vietnam he served with the 5th S.F. GP Airborne (ATR). Mr. Aycock was a member of Wickliffe Masonic Lodge No. 625, the Scottish Rite, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5409 in Bardwell, American Legion Post 0442 in Winchester, Ill., Disabled American Veterans in Paducah, and the Shriners in Madisonville.

Surviving are his wife, Sue Bridgman Grimmitt Aycock; one daughter, Ann M. Bates of Calvert City; two sons, States R. Aycock III of Lovelaceville and Scott Aycock of Reidland; three stepdaughters, Georgia Grimmitt of Kevil, Tina Hicks of Sedalia, and Cindy Slayden of Columbus; one stepson, Mike Grimmitt of Columbus; one sister, Nancy Morris Garner of Jonesville, S.C.; 13 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his first wife, Beverly Kay (Kimsey) Aycock; one sister; and one brother. His parents were Edmund E. and Lula (Fowler) Aycock.

There will be no visitation. Milner & Orr Funeral Home in Wickliffe is in charge of arrangements.

Expressions of sympathy may take the form of contributions to the charity of one’s choice.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

144. Letters to the Editor, Visits to the Library

I've been accused now and then of not being as appropriately anti-McConnell as some think I should. They cite, correctly, that I am supportive of the Senior Senator on a few matters. These matters typically have to do with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, an amendment which covers a lot of territory in a short space. It reads:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The senator and I agree that any abridgments of speech should be very much frowned upon and only in certain "clear and present danger" type situations should such an abridgment take place. By extension, freedom of speech covers the ability to have one's personal message heard, even if it means spending money to do so. By extension of that, the senator and I agree that people who wish to give money to campaigns should be allowed to do so, at whatever rate they are willing to part with the greenbacks in their pockets. Most of my leftie friends disagree with me and the senator on this aspect of campaign financing.

There are probably a few other areas where McConnell and I agree. But they are few and they do not warrant any support for him in next year's election. There are too many negatives, starting and ending with his support of the President's War in Iraq, with more than a Hummer full of things in between. My history of opposing McConnell is on record as far back as March, 1978 when I was still a senior at Durrett High School.

The year before, McConnell had begun the successful part of his political journey - he was unsuccessful in a race for State Representative earlier - and I was then a junior and vice-editor of my high school newspaper, the DemonNews. Can you imagine a school paper today having the name DemonNews? It had originally been the Dileneator but the name was changed somewhere along the line. Durrett's athletic teams were known as the Demons. In my role as vice-editor I was invited to a meeting McConnell had with other so-called student leaders to inform them of his plans to run for Jefferson County Judge against the two-term incumbent Todd Hollenbach, III. I honestly do not remember much of the meeting but he gave us all a little packet of information and occassionally sent follow-up messages through the mail - this in the days before emails, cellphones, texting, and instant messaging.

McConnell won that race and immediately came at odds with the Democrats who controlled the Jefferson County Fiscal Court, the governing body of county government at the time, of which he was a member. I cannot say what the issue was that prompted me to write a letter to the editor, nor does the letter I wrote reveal what it was. But it does reveal the McConnell we've all come to know during his thirty years on the public payroll.

Here is the short "Letter to the Editor" I wrote, printed on March 31, 1978:

"McConnell: Only one vote."For some unknown reason, Judge McConnell thinks his election conferred on him full, complete, and unrestrained power and control over Jefferson County government. However, as any high school civics student could tell him, under the Kentucky Constitution and laws, the governing legislative and executive body of county government is the majority judgment of Fiscal Court, and not the individual pronouncements of the county judge. Under the law, McConnell is the titular hear of county government, having only one vote out of four on Fiscal Court. Is McConnell trying to lead county government, or is he trying to dominate Fiscal Court for his own political ends?"

That letter appeared in the old Louisville Times, Louisville's erstwhile afternoon paper. I was 17 at the time. Other letters appearing that day were from a Markus Sherman of Wallace Avenue writing about the Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn; Bette Kennedy of Willow Avenue on truancy in the public schools; Mrs. N. Gibson of Silverwood writes to thank the paper for restoring the old comic strip The Girls and to thank her mailman and paper boy for service through the winter. [You may recall we had record snowfalls that winter; some of you younger readers may not recall paper boys]; William LaFollette, of Georgetown, Indiana wrote about the public school teachers contract in New Albany and Floyd County; and William Welsh, of Alger Avenue, wrote in opposition to funding abortions for the poor, suggesting it is not compatable with "our Judeo-Christian heritage." But then, importantly, he goes on to say that "our primary efforts should be providing quality education that will enable [the poor] to lead more independent, responsible lives and to provide job opportunities that will help them maintain a sense of pride and self-respect." Well put Mr. Welsh.

All of these letters can be found in the microfishe records of the Louisville Free Public Library, downtown on York Street. At one time the newspapers films were kept on the first floor, toward Third Street. Now they are on the second floor, on the north side of the building. They have microfilms dating back over 100 years of the newspapers which have served (or are serving) Louisville. The truth is they have all sorts of old research material there including old maps of Louisville and Kentucky, census records, city directories and telephone directories, and any number of other things. If you have any interest in local history or family history, the Library is a must visit site.

As for writing "Letters to the Editor," it is something I have done since I was about 12 years old, usually getting published two or three a year, with many of my letters going unpublished, although the Courier now has a "web-only" page of letters so fewer letters go unpublished - albeit they are not in print. And even 29 1/2 years ago, it seems writing about Constitutions was something which was of interest to me. That and exposing the political motives of the Senior Senator of Kentucky, of whom it is my intent to help in whatever manner I can to see him defeated in next year's election.

I can almost hear Greg Stumbo in the other room telling a story about the blind puppies for sale along one of Kentucky's backroads. They are Republicans puppies for the first few weeks of their lives. Then they open their eyes - and subsequently join the Democratic Party.

He must be running for something.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

143. In Memoriam

Joseph Robert "Rob" Spears.
Born December 13, 1973, Louisville, Kentucky.
Died July 24, 1991, Louisville, Kentucky.
I miss you, Rob.

May his soul and the souls of all who have left from this life Rest In Peace.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

142. The United States Senate makes it a Hat Trick.

The Fairness Doctrine calls for equal time. I hit on the Metro Council and the Kentucky Legislature. I will add the shananigans of the United States Senate, where I am represented by 1) an allegedly 117 year old former professional baseball player from Cincinnati and 2) a former Jefferson County Judge Executive whose first wife and children haven't been heard from since he entered politics back in the 1970s. His second wife, Elaine Chou, has served in President Bush's Cabinet longer than any other member.

In the Senate, we all read about the Pizza Party the Democrats threw the other night to bring some attention to the President's War in Iraq - as if it is some little-know public matter hiding in a closet in the Pentagon. Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, pulled a stunt that didn't work. In the end, the Senate could only muster 52 (of the necessary 60) votes to call for a vote. So, as far as the President is concerned, the War goes on, the Cause endures, and the Dream refuses to die. (With a nod of apology to the Senior Senator from Massachusetts).

So, it seems childish games are de rigeur amongst legislators. And so it goes.

At some point, all of these legislative bodies need to get back to the task of governing, as opposed to collecting paychecks (or unconstitutionally trying not to) while simultaneously offering no real work. January 20, 2009 can not come soon enough. A more important date will be January 3, 2009, seventeen days earlier. That will be the day the new Congress is sworn in, including, God-willing and voters-voting, a new and bigger majority of Democrats, one that exceeds concerns about whether Mr. Liebermann is a D or an R, and needn't worry about counting Mr. Sanders in the Democratic Caucus, and one which can afford untimely and unfortunate health problems such as that of Mr. Johnson. We probably can't get to 60, but we can add here and there. One place to start would be in our own backyard. It is time for the Senior Senator from Kentucky to take a job on K Street in Washington or Main Street in Louisville. While his lone voice on First Amendment rights is important, he has become, like his disciple Anne Northup before him, a handmaiden of the President. He is carrying Bush's message and that must end. Don't be surprised when come September and General Petraus asks for more time and personnel, Kentucky's McConnell will start yelling. He is feeling the pressure. But, be not fooled. His shouts will be as wolves' cries and crocodiles' tears. They will be as Secretary of State John Hay said of his new boss, President Theodore Roosevelt, "Pure theater."

Especially at the federal level, there simply must be change. There must be a restoration of the ideals of the New Deal, the social support structure of the Great Society, and even Nixon's New Federalism. Ted Kennedy said it best. "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

Friday, July 20, 2007

141. Captain Jack Boyle was right, "The whole world's in a terrible state of chaos." Maybe not the whole world, but here along the Left Bank . . . .

Late last night a good friend of mine called needing a ride from one part of town to another. Being a good friend, I went and picked them up, but not without some requisite complaining that while they had no need of getting up in the morning, I did. Their response was "Why do you have to get up on Saturday?" Ah, the life of ignorance and bliss. As politely as possible, I explained that today [at that point Thursday] was only the fifth day of the week, a week in which I worked I worked on days two through six. They had no idea it was Thursday and in fact needed the called-for ride to make it to a party which was scheduled for Friday night, which I both both snidely and giddily informed them was 24 hours into the future. They were dropped off at their requested address anyway and I returned home and thus to bed.

If only.

This morning when I awoke the temperature here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 was a cool 62 degrees, this on the 20th of July, when the average low temperature is 70. I had opened all the upstairs windows last night (after the storms) before going to sleep, as well as the ones in the stairway, which are effectively 1 1/2 stories up, in anticipation of a cool night. Wouldn't it have been nice if my friend was right and it was indeed Saturday morning, and not Friday. Waking up to 62 degrees on a Saturday morning is about as perfect a way to start a day - any day - as I can imagine.

But it isn't so.

Today's arising was not only greeted by 62 degrees, but also by voices of dissent by those representing us in the legislatures in Louisville and Frankfort. Here in Louisville an internecine dispute is taking place amongst the Metro Council Democrats, dividing them over one councilmember's possible hire of another member's daughter, a hire that didn't happen since the daughter, a Harvard graduate, wisely took off to another state and another job. They've also entered into a discussion about one of the member's sexual orientation as well as the authorship of a very poorly written anonymous letter sent to the local media outlining all of the above. My youngest nephew is due to enrol in Kindergarten - maybe I'll deliver him to 601 West Jefferson Street, the address for the Metro Council, as opposed to 500 West Gaulbert Avenue, the address of his "resides" school, resides being an adjective created by the Jefferson County Public Schools to define where a child should go, as opposed to where they might go. But that is another story entirely, also one which got some play in this morning's Courier-Journal.

In Frankfort, House Democrats are trying to refuse being paid during the governor's politically motivated Special Session that won't end since the Senate Republicans refuse to adjourn for political reasons while the House Democrats did adjourn, for contra-similarly political positions, although to be honest, I think the Republicans, for once, have the upper-hand constitutionally, if that means anything, which more and more it doesn't. I'm trying to remember the last time the Republicans had the upper-hand constitutionally but can't. You may recall the Republican Senate President David Williams' last take on the Kentucky Constitution when he proclaimed the Senate had the power to seat a 22 year old if they so declared such person to be not 22 but 30, despite the Kentucky Constitutional requirement of having attained the age of 30 (I guess in a natural way as opposed to Williams waving some magic wand) to serve in the Senate. Before that he declared a resident of Indiana to be qualified to serve in the Kentucky Senate, despite a different Constitutional requirement that one be a resident of Kentucky to serve in the Kentucky Senate. Having the upper-hand constitutionally is not something one can usually say about Kentucky's Senate Republicans.

I'd like to discuss the national Republican Party's take on the federal Constitution, but that document is even less relevant in an administration lead by Dick Cheney than the Kentucky one vis-a-vis the events in Frankfort. So, we'll leave it for now.

Let's enjoy the weather instead.

Incidentally, I've used the Sean O' Casey line in the title line before - entry #36. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

140. Canvassing

I met yesterday with Dan (whose last name I didn't get, but it is short and might be Maur), who is heading up the local Working for America office, which is the "public side" of the AFL-CIO. We talked about the political landscape specifically in Jefferson County [yes Jerry, there is a Jefferson County] and generally in Kentucky. His group is canvassing neighborhoods here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 trying to locate citizens who might agree with their agenda, which is jobs and healthcare. How can you not agree that we need more and better of both?

In our discussion, I briefed him on the work the Yarmuth campaign undertook in 2006, working its way around the county in a counter-clockwise manner, allowing the public to become more comfortable with the candidate while at the same time becoming less comfortable with the then-incumbent congresswoman and her leader, the Commander-In-Chief. Eventually the two levels of comfort (positive and negative) met, somewhere in the 40220/40299 areas of town and the outcome was a 6,000 vote margin for the lefty LEO editor over the president's local handmaiden. That 6,000 vote margin was actually 5,921 out of 241,965 votes cast, or 50.6% of the total - there were two interesting but minor candidates also on the ballot. Another argument has been made - by the congressman himself - that the win really came from the overwhelming support of his base of liberal voters in the Highlands, Germantown, and Old Louisville, voters who have sometimes stayed home in the past when the Democratic candidate wasn't quite liberal enough, something they needn't fear with our current congressman, who was widely dismissed early on because he was too liberal. But, in truth, he isn't too liberal for the times in which we are living, and I have digressed from the subject at hand, the Working for America folks.

I know they are out there doing their canvassing for two reasons - 1) I've sent a friend of mine over to their office to apply, and 2) they knocked on my mother's door out along South Park Road in deep southern Jefferson County. She told me about it a few days ago. She assured them that she was a registered voter, a Democrat, and sympathetic to their cause and beliefs. She threw in exactly how she feels about the current president and his war, which is exactly how I feel as well. Good for her. She is the daughter of long-time member and several-term officer in a local local union previously affiliated with the AFL-CIO. My mother is a moderate Democrat, a member of a Southern Baptist congregation, and a retired state employee. She has never missed an election in her life, although she isn't really politically active. She really isn't the target audience for what Working for America is doing, if I understood Dan correctly.

Their targets are the swing-voters and those who haven't been participating at all. It is a large target audience which needs to be tapped. We spoke of other audiences in need of tapping, particularly Louisville's burgeoning immigrant population, many of whom are or are becoming American citizens. Neither political party has taken an active role with these communities and I think we should. As a member of both the local and state Democratic Party committees, I am partly to blame here, as this is one of those acts of omission that Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote about in the 13th century. In Catholic theology, acts of omission are somewhat less grevious than acts of commission, but they are still acts - or sin.

Again, I digress. Getting into a discussion about sin is probably not something I want to do.

Dan is an organizer. He has done this sort of thing in city after city, and there is a method to it all, one of which parts can be replicated from one area to the next. But one thing he said about Louisville caught my attention. He pointed out that we aren't overly canvassed in the way that a number of cities and towns are. Generally speaking, no one really bothers to energize the voting community. For him as a canvassing boss, Louisville is like virgin territory. We had a general discussion about the "laid-back" attitude many folks of all political bents have here in our lazy river town - some would call this apathy and they would garner no argument from me in doing so. Despite the efforts of the mayor, the "once-great" newspaper, GLI (our corporate body incarnated into an entity), and others to cosmopolitanize Louisville, we remain a very large town where everyone seems to know everyone else, and no one is really to aggressive about anything - and we seem to like oursleves that way.

Nonetheless, groups like Working for America are out there and cities like Louisville are beginning to pop up on their political radars. There is another group, an anti-war caucus making a presence here, one designed to enlighten folks about McConnell's votes on the war and his unyielding loyalty to a president many voters no longer seem to support and respect. Hopefully, the local and state Democratic Parties will also engage the public as we head into the fall's election season when voters will decide if Ernie Fletcher is worth keeping on the payroll - he isn't, but like anyone he will work hard to keep his job.

I like to encourage everyone to be involved at their own level of comfort. That might be, like my mother, showing up to vote every time the polls are opened and little else. Or it might be in some big way. This fall can be a good practice run as Kentucky heads into next year's presidential election and our own senatorial election - hence the Ditch Mitch signs popping up here and there. Next year is also the year both political parties rebuild from the bottom up. For the Democrats, that means caucusses at the precinct level sometime in April, caucusses at the congressional district level a few weeks later, then the State Party convention in June, and finally, for the chosen ones, a trip to the national convention in Denver in August. It is not too early to start thinking about all of these opportunities of participation.

One final thought while I am on the subject. I've been asked three times this week, which is three more times than I've been asked all year, if I intend to seek re-election to the State Party Executive Committee at next summer's State Party convention, which will be held in Frankfort. I haven't made that decision yet. I'm just curious why all-of-a-sudden people are asking.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

139. Time Swimming in Numbers

Sometime over the weekend, the people-meter, counting visits here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, tripped over the 3,000th visitor and the 4,125th page visit. There are people who could use those ISP numbers which register each visit to narrow down who might have been the 3,000th visitor. I am not one of them. My oldest nephew probably could. He might even be able to tell me it was a left-handed college sophomore who plays basketball on the weekends on one of the eight courts at the Southeast Christian Church Athletics facility off Blankenbaker Lane in eastern Jefferson County. The key word in that last sentence was might. Chances are, he couldn't actually do that, but the idea that he (or any other computer geek) could is intriguing.

He is somewhat computer literate, which is to say I am not. In the winters, he hones his computer skills while in the summer he takes to the Louisville Skatepark or any local swimming pool, including the one in the complex where I live in downtown Louisville. His youngest sister and brothers have been wanting to join him in the pool since, in their words, "Uncle Jeff, we have not been swimming all summer long, not once, since school let out." For many years there has been a small above-ground pool in my mother's back yard. The current structure is the fourth or fifth one, with pools dating back to when my brother and I were kids, long before blogging, the internet, computers, and the widespread availabilty of color TV. We had one of those and faithfully looked for the "c" in the little TV frame in the weekly edition of the TV Guide to know which of the programs would be coming next in living color on NBC, as the saying used to go. But, I digress.

The pool in Mom's back yard has not yet gotten opened - "how 'bout that grammar?" Since it isn't open, there is no swimming allowed, unless you are one of the little flying creatures which find a nice large pond in someyard's back yard enjoyable, which a number of little flying creatures do. I've been chemically treating the pool to keep the critters' population under control and thus far seem to have been successful. But, back to my youngest niece and nephews. The rules at my complex require one adult for every child under 14. All three of these kids are. Their older brother is 17; his girlfriend is 18. Consequently, only one could go at a time, which would never work. Jacob will be 18 very soon, and if I were to tag along, the three of us could take the three of them, but by that time, schools will be gearing up for the return of students, including the three youngest of my next-nearest kin.

August to us adults is just around the corner. The end of last year's school year was just a few weeks ago, more readily accounted as three paychecks ago. But to the younger ones around us, summers are to them, as they were to us at one time, an eternity of time. I've always maintained a theory about this and why a month is so long to a little one and only two pay-periods to the rest of us. I call it Jeff's Theory of Relative Time, not to be confused with Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity, which is on a related subject and, for whatever reason, has gotten more publicity than mine, perhaps because it was first put in print in 1905 and my theory is only today making that publication benchmark.

The theory is simple. Time accelerates in direct response to a person aging, as it consumes an ever decreasing percentage of a person's total span of life. For example, I am 46 years old. Each year of my life represents roughly 1/46 of my total life span. Each month of my life represents 1/12 of 1/46 of my total life span, put another way, each month represents, at the moment, 1/552 of my life, more or less. For this discussion, lets call one of these monthly periods a lifespan period. On the other hand, one of those two nephews I have mentioned is 6 years old. One year represents 1/6 of his life. One month, or one lifespan period represents 1/72 of his life. Therefore, one lifespan period in my life represents about 7.66666+ lifespan periods in his - that is, if I understand my theory correctly and if my math is right. Putting this in perspective, he goes back to school, now in the 1st grade at Cochran Elementary, after the passage of one lifespan period. That same lifespan period for me will happen in 7 months and 20 days, or somewhere around February 5, 2008. I have some plans already made for late this month (a road trip to Virginia), early August (a road trip to Fancy Farm, which is nearly as far), and late September (the annual celebration of my Nativity, which you should also have marked on your calendars, especially those of you who are pagan), but nothing on record for February 5, 2008. Ok, that's a lie. I didn't know the date was going to work out to be February 5th. Currently, 21 of the 50 sovereign states of our Republic will be having Presidential Primaries on that date and chances are real good I will be somewhat engaged. So, I do have something planned, but that doesn't nullify the theory, does it?

So, I am curious what you think of such a theory? Have you heard of it before? - it is very likely that like all new ideas, it isn't new. Very few things, if any at all are. In the New International Version (or interpretation) of the Bible, in the book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 1, Verses 9 through 14, it is written, allegedly by King Solomon nearly 2,257 years ago, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time." My theory surely isn't new. And as each day and week and month passes, my lifespan periods get relatively shorter and shorter. So, my main concern this week will somehow be getting the three youngest of the Noble nieces and nephews to a swimming hole somewhere.

One more thing - thanks to all 3000 of you who have visited. Please keep it up and add a comment now and then if you are so inclined.

Una más cosa - gracias a los 3000 de ustedes que han visitado. Guárdela por favor para arriba y ahora y después agregue un comentario si usted está tan inclinado.

Friday, July 13, 2007

138. Raw Onions and Garlic for Three Days

I've been following the confirmation process for James Holsinger, a well respected Kentucky doctor nominated by President Bush to be the nation's next Surgeon General. A few days ago I expressed to a staffer in Congressman Yarmuth's office my astonishment with my congressman's tacit endorsement of Dr. Holsinger, in spite of comments from the doctor's past which I find unacceptable. Yesterday, in a Senate hearing, Dr. Holsinger addressed those comments, from a paper he wrote in 1991, somewhat but not completely satisfactorily. He closed with the proposition that he would resign if he were forced by the president (which means the president's Orders of the Day from the vice president) into taking stances which were politically different from scientific standards, as a last resort. That is a strong statement. It doesn't solve the problem of the president's inability to administer the government in a religiously unbiased and scientifically informed manner, but it does mean he would have to go find another Surgeon General to advance his political and religious agenda. Dr. Holsinger would technically be Bush's second in that capacity - the first resigned and there is currently an Acting Surgeon General. President Clinton went through four during his eight years in office.

The comments which have given Holsinger problems were gay-related, and Dr. Holsinger admitted that many of the issues he raised in 1991 are now outdated. He further said his view that the gay lifestyle is "unnatural and unhealthy" has evolved. He didn't say what it had evolved into, but anytime a Republican nominee for anything even acknowledges that something can evolve, or has the possibility of evolving is certain progress.

In reading through yesterday's testimony, I found a reason to be supportive of Dr. Holsinger, not that I have a vote in the confirmation process (or for that matter a voice, given I am represented in the Senate by Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning (who is believed to be 117 years old)). Here is what caught my attention. Dr. Holsinger admits to being a contrarion. I first learned that word back in 1990 when I served as a researcher for an attorney - cum - stock-research analyst, the late Frank X. Quickert, Jr., who was a most interesting man. Mr. Quickert loudly praised anything contrarion and used contrarion economic theory in his practice as a financial advisor. He was a very successful advisor.

Yesterday, Dr. Holsinger admitted to having a track record as a contrarion. He cited his support of raising tobacco taxes here in the Bluegrass State, where at one time tobacco was King - or maybe just Prince, as Coal was (and is) King. But what really got my attention was his statement that he would take on the pharmaceutical industry by calling for a ban on the advertising of drugs directly to consumers. That is something I fully support - banning drugs on TV, and for that matter on the radio and in the little banner ads that float around on the internet.

The expansion of television and other advertising for every ailment known and unknown exponentially expanded beginning in the early 1990s, formalized in August, 1997 when the FDA, with President Bill Clinton's approval, dramatically eased its guidelines on such propoganda, just in time for the 1996 loser in the presidential race to tell us about how he handles his erectile dysfunction. What the fuck? In my opinion, that was a subject about which only Mr. Dole and his lovely wife Mrs. Dole, and his doctors should be having a discussion, and not something necessary in an evening of television viewing. Fortunately, I gave up TV in 1984, but most of my friends and family haven't, so I've got to learn about cholesterol problems, menopause, acid reflux or GERD (imagine, I even know the acronym), asthma, osteoporosis, and any number of other things that actors portraying doctors tell me might be wrong with me. The one thing the 1997 rules required was a balancing act which required the manufacturers to give you the bad news as well - may cause drowsiness or kidney failure, not be to used by nursing mothers, don't take while operating a John Deere tractor, and other such vital information. This vital information is trivialized in a post-script and is usually uttered at a quick rate of speed, much like the tags on the end of a new car commercial. The "small print" is said quickly, and effectively ineffectively. That is the intent.

Some of the fine print may be beneficial. People should be told to ask their doctors about their individual problems. I have high blood pressure, asthma, and some allergies. I like to learn about the possible solutions for my discomforts from these ailments from a doctor, not a TV show. Then again, I have this friend in Estill County who tells me all the time all I really need to do is go on a fast, eating only raw onions and garlic for three days, then soaking in a bath of warm goat milk and all my ailments will disappear. He is into the herb as well. But, I digress.

Dr. Holsinger yesterday said his highest priorities as the new Surgeon General would be "fighting childhood obesity, eliminating tobacco use, and helping public-health first responders prepare for emergencies." Adding a ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals might push me over to a "Yes" vote for confirmation. The only side-effects would be less confusion, and less money spent on drugs, who wouldn't need all that income to pay for adveritising. Then again, maybe it is the drug companies who rule the country and not the gas, oil, and petrol people as I suggested yesterday.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

137. On the passing of Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson

Back on February 13th I wrote, inter alia, of Lady Bird Johnson, formally Mrs. Lyndon Baines Johnson, and formerly Claudia Alta Taylor. Her husband was the 36th President of the United States, as well as one the most revered and most hated, depending on who you were, and sometimes people both revered and hated him. That was not the case with Mrs. Johnson, who died yesterday at the age of 94 at her home in Austin, Texas. Below, reprinted in full, is an editorial in today's Washington Post, page A22, on her life and death.


LYNDON B. Johnson once said of his wife that, given the choice, people would probably rather vote for her than for him. LBJ, of course, was not one to offer voters such choices, but he was probably right about Lady Bird Johnson's popular appeal and abilities. She would have made a good leader at the national level, perhaps a great one. She was an extraordinary first lady, public-spirited, principled and steadfast when it came to those causes advanced by her husband that she thought most important -- first and foremost the civil rights legislation that stands as one of the greatest achievements of any American president.

Mrs. Johnson had been away from Washington for nearly 40 years by the time she died yesterday at the age of 94. There are by now many who know her only vaguely as a figure from history, the smiling wife in the president's shadow, with that funny name (a childhood endearment bestowed on Claudia Alta Taylor by a nursemaid). Look around a bit, starting here in our capital city, and you'll see much more. Her most visible legacy is the millions of flowers she caused to be planted all over the city, in tourist spots and bleak neighborhoods, by roads and public buildings, in parks and on other patches of land where nothing had bloomed before and where today it would be unthinkable not to have a bed of flowers. This was her "beautification" program, a cause that she continued to pursue in places all over the country long after she left the White House. The effort went beyond planting flowers in the cities to improving the national parks and alleviating some of the uglier manifestations of commerce and industry: strip mining, overhead power lines, litter. One of her greatest successes -- the one most bitterly fought by business interests -- was federal legislation restricting billboards on federal highways.
Lyndon Johnson stood behind her on that bill and helped push it through to passage. It was a well-deserved tribute to a woman who had been indispensable to him in his rise to power and in much of what he achieved thereafter. She devoted herself entirely to this difficult, driven man and undoubtedly influenced him for the better in many ways. She knew how to temper Lyndon Johnson's rages and assuage the grievances of people he had offended. She brought a gentle and humane sensibility to the White House. Her husband trusted and listened to her, and perhaps he might have benefited had she ventured into foreign affairs -- but for the most part she did not.

She stood squarely with Lyndon Johnson on the great domestic issues of the day, none of which were greater, of course, than civil rights. This genteel Southern woman was reviled and insulted by some and booed at campaign gatherings in the South, but she never wavered in her advocacy of the civil rights legislation that finally, a century after Emancipation, created the foundation for equal treatment of every American under the law.

"Lady Bird brought to the White House dignity and warmth and grace," said President George H.W. Bush at a White House ceremony in 1990. "And she was never on stage, never acting out some part, always the same genuine lady no matter what the setting." It was because of these qualities that her presence at the center of the nation's great battles over voting, public accommodations and other vital issues of the day was so important. She was a first lady who deserves to be remembered, and of course she is and will be every year, when springtime comes around.


Back when I wrote that entry, I spoke of some land which runs between Lexington Road and I-64, between the railroad overpass and the Grinstead Drive interchange. As I-64 was being platted through this area, consideration was given to proposals under the Highway Beautification Act for the preservation of this stretch of land. The Act which preserved this land and countless other acres throughout the country came to be known as the Lady Bird Johnson Act. She was the original one-woman Operation Brightside planting wildflowers and trees in places no one thought they should be or might grow, defying both ideas. Jerry Abramson's alleged penchant for begonias and lilac bushes has nothing on Mrs. Johnson, who began such work while Hizzoner was still an undergraduate student at Indiana University in Bloomington.

As the Post editorial points out, this is one just one facet of her work as First Lady, work which continued well after Mr. Johnson's term ended. She stood beside her husband as he introduced his Great Society programs to a country at war abroad in Vietnam, and at home with itself, especially over the issue of Civil Rights for African-Americans. Johnson's handling of the latter should have given him the moniker which President Clinton later had said of him wittingly, "He was America's first black president." Johnson carried out programs John F. and Bobby Kennedy gave lip service to as president and attorney general, but never fully gave their heart and souls to. Johnson did. In his Inaugural Speech on January 20, 1965, he said, "Justice requires us to remember that when any citizen denies his fellow, saying, "His color is not mine," or "His beliefs are strange and different," in that moment he betrays America." LBJ truthfully believed in the diversity of peoples who make up our Republic. And he worked hard to create laws which began (not for the first time) America's journey toward full and complete citizenship - civil and human rights - for all of her people, a journey still underway and deeply in need of another great leader like Johnson.

But, on the other hand, Johnson (with Mrs. Johnson at his side) faulted greatly in his handling of America's involvement in the VietNam War. I am just a little too young to clearly remember this war, although I do recall watching the news everynight while my family ate supper at the kitchen bar. The five of us (Mamaw and me on one side; Papaw, my brother Kevin, and my Mom on the other) sat at the bar, with a small TV perched atop a portable dishwasher which sat against the wall perpendicular to the bar. It was at the supper table watching the news that I learned from my grandparents and mother about politics, unions, education, reading, and wars, including World War Two, in which my grandfather had served. But I honestly don't remember his take (or anyone else's at the table) on this matter. Nonetheless, the war effectively ended Johnson's political career, precluding a run at a full term in 1968. His reputation as a great leader on the domestic front has never recovered from his failure in the foreign field.

America is currently living through an era which people from that generation say has many parallels to this one, vis-a-vis a war. President Bush's War in Iraq is often called Bush's VietNam. I have said this myself. I am one of those who believe the president's handling of the war is bad, the war itself is bad, and the reasons we entered it are bad, and the current handling of the war by the (six-month old) Congress now in the hands of the Democratic Party thanks to a surge against the president and his war, is also bad - or at least not good enough. There are certainly other differences between Johnson and Bush. Johnson did serve in the military, receiving the Silver Star. His mission took him to the southwest Pacific, reporting to General MacArthur in Australia and New Guinea [although to be real frank, without a map I do not know exactly where New Guinea is]. Johnson also had a domestic program which didn't deprive people of rights, didn't spy on their phone calls and emails, and one whose attorneys general were thought to be competent in their fields (Robert Kennedy, Nicholas Katzenbach, and Ramsey Clark). Bush's domestic program is . . . . -- well, whatever it is if it is anything, is bad. Truthfully, Bush's domestic agenda is one which served the interestes of the Gas, Oil, and Petroleum industries, appropriate for a member of the GOP. And to label his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, as anything other than an immoral liar, in over his head at the Department of Justice, and totally unfit as an Attorney General, would be false.

Yes, Johnson and Bush both have a war to hang around their heads as an albatross. Bush has that one and several more.

I will not pass judgment on Mrs. Bush and what history will have to say about her in the future. But historical judgment has now been passed on Lady Bird Johnson. She was a wonderful person, dedicated to improvements both to our lives on the earth and to the earth itself. May her soul and the souls of all who have passed on from this life Rest In Peace.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

136. Not your old man's blog

This entry is to show my dad how to make a blog. Stay tuned. I'll give you his address once we get it set up.

135. The Sun Also Rises, even along the Left Bank of the James River

The Sun Also Rises. You know the book - or you should. Diane Brumback's blog (http://kywomen.typepad.com) has an entry today about women wanting to join in the Running of the Bulls at Pamplona, Spain. It may be elitist to say this, but if I have lost you at this point, then you need to do some reading. Some day we'll publish a reading list for your perusal here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606.

One of my favorite books is Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, written in the 1920s about American ex-patriates in Paris shortly after the Great War. I commented on Diane's blog today that whenever I need a vacation and have neither the cash nor the time to take one, this book of Hemingway's suffices for a minute or two. It is a life I've never lived - but I think I could. Back in March, I mentioned my summer in Lexington, 1984, where a group of us involved in UK's Student Government in one way or another lounged around the bars up and down Euclid Avenue solving the problems of the world, usually intoxicated in one way or another. We drank and ate at Charlie Brown's, the Saratoga, and the old Lynagh's Pub. We'd go to Dr. Patterson's place and listen to his records while he pontificated on matters large and small. I was 23 at the time.

It wasn't the Running of the Bulls and taking in a weekend of fishing in a small Spanish village, but it was an escape from the humdrum workaday world that none of us were ready to dive into at the moment. A few of my group had never worked at all. I wasn't that lucky. I first began working at the age of 14, learning to fry doughnuts at the Tas-T-O donut shop on Blue Lick Road. I had worked in the County Clerk's office, the Sheriff's office, and the Board of Aldermen, by the time I had this first burnout - sneaking off to Lexington for eight months to do absolutely nothing - long before Jerry Seinfeld and friends made doing nothing tres chic.

Like all escapes, it didn't last and reality was re-realized along about late October when I trekked back home wondering where I had been and what had I accomplished. I went back to work for the City, re-established by residence in Camp Taylor, and ran for office in 1985, losing a 12-person race for a seat on Jefferson County's old Fiscal Court. It didn't matter - the votes were never legally counted due to a mistake in the way the election had been called the previous year. Sean Delahanty would have been seated had the election counted. But, it didn't.

The only reason for this entry is the allusion to Hemingway's book in Diane's blog. It is odd. Her blog is mostly about politics and Kentucky politics in particular. But she also hails as a spokesperson for Kentucky's women, and apparently, the women of Pamplona, Spain.

I am planning a break here soon. It will be a driving-break, a road-trip to the mountains and valleys of Virginia, after first passing through West Virginia, like Kentucky once a part of the Old Dominion. Kentucky left to become part of the New West. West Virginia left to be returned to the Federal Union, a decision Kentucky could never make up its mind on until long after the War of Secession, when we eventually decided to join the losing side. The plan for the trip is that of my friend Jessie's. She is a graduate of Randolph College and we are making a stop there while visiting some other sites in Kentucky's motherland.

Like Paris, several of the towns we'll be visiting have rivers running through them; the New, Kanawha, Rivanna, and the James. I doubt they have little latte shops along their Left Banks as does Paris on the Seine - no Montparnasse in Lynchburg, Virginia. But, hope springs eternal.

Monday, July 9, 2007

134. On Legislative Sessions, or To Meet or Not to Meet?

Today in Washington D. C., the United States House of Representatives went back to work. That would include my legislator, the Honorable John Yarmuth, Democrat of Kentucky's Third District. Back home in Frankfort, the Kentucky House of Representatives did not. That would include my legislator, the Honorable Tom Riner, Democrat of Kentucky's 41st District. Problems linger for both Houses in their respective assemblies.

In Washington, sooner or later, and later is getting closer, the House (as well as the Senate and the Administration) will have to deal with the Iraq War, its costs, both in dollars and in personnel. Thus far they haven't to the extent they could. Slowly but surely, the Republicans are falling away from the bank of capital the president pronounced he possessed after the 2004 elections. How much capital can he spend before the bank is entirely empty? My guess is not much. The candidate every one thought they wanted to go have a beer with in 2000 needs a shotglass or more of reality, or he will soon wade in the gutters down there with America's least-loved leaders, among them Warren G. Harding, Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Calvin Coolidge, John Tyler, Benjamin Harrison, and Herbert Hoover, and (of course some would say) Richard Nixon. That's not my list; it is one compiled by a group of scholars - and it is based solely on their performance as president, as opposed to whatever they did in the rest of their lives. That's why military heroes such as Zachary Taylor (of Louisiana and Louisville), Ulysses Grant, and Benjamin Harrison make the list. My list would give high marks to the last New Deal president (in my opinion), Richard Nixon. For all his faults - most grevious faults they were - he was a very progressive president. Nixon gave us Clean Air and Water, the EPA, OSHA, extended and indexed Social Security benefits, and a host of other policies that no Republican president has fostered since. I've never been convinced he personally supported all these programs, but he did see their being beneficial to America as a whole. He was also the last president whose administration's plan in the so called "War on Drugs" spent more money on rehab than on crime-fighting, despite him being the Law and Order president. Damn, I got way off the subject.

This entry was planned to be about two things. One is the U. S. House doing their job constitutionally, which is to allocate funds for the president to administer. (See Sections 8 and 9 of Article I of the United States Constitution). This would include the funding of the Iraq War. Or maybe the slow de-funding of same. I know they went down that road before and they were burned - the president stood his ground - and I'm not sure the House stood its as well as it could have. Constitutional power is a big thing, if it is used. I'm not sure the United States House is using all the capital it gained in the 2006 elections. And I worry that if it doesn't start using it soon, some of it will be lost to atrophy (a word of Greek heritage, the a being "not" and the trophy from trephein, to fatten. Thus "not get fattened" which is rendered wasting away from non-use. Perhaps rendered is a bad choice of verbs).

The second purpose has to do with that other House, the one not presently convened in Frankfort, something it has been constitutionally called to do by the governor, who in doing so was acting constitutionally. By not presently convening, it is contravening the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I realize I am not toeing the Party line here. I am toeing a line far more important, that of the Kentucky Constitution. Two sections, Section 41 and 80, discuss adjournment during a session. One of those also speaks of the governor's power to call the General Assembly into Special Session, as well as his authority to put on that call whatever he wishes. Governor Fletcher may have acted in his own best political interests, and may also be acting in the interests of people other than the commonweal of the commonwealth. But he has done it all constitutionally.

It is my opinion the House, controlled by Democrats, by its adjournment, has violated the Kentucky Constitution. I do not make this accusation lightly. Nor have I made it a secret. I expressed this belief to one of its members at a party in Louisville on Saturday - a party, incidentally, to raise funds for that other House member, Yarmuth. I told the member I believed they were acting unconstitutionally. I did not get much an argument in response. Truthfully, I think they know it - or at least some of them do.

Regardless of how one feels about the governor, or about the matters he included on his call, he did it constitutionally. Another section, Section 46, requires all bills to be read and voted upon. Until the House votes - up or down - on the matters the governor has introduced into the call, they are not fulfilling thier duties. In some quarters, that would be called neglect of duty.

So in Washington we have a House that may not be doing all it could be doing as it returns to work until the August break in a month. In Frankfort, we have a House that is not doing what it is required by law to do. Which is worse, the lawmakers not making all the laws we wish they would, or the lawbreakers not making any at all?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

133. Even today's entry number adds up to 7

July 7, 2007. It doesn't look all that cool written out as such. But, numerically, it reads 07/07/07, or maybe even 7 7 7 . Triple sevens! Any casino player will tell you that is quite ominous, but in a good way. As the title states, even my entry number adds up to seven. That was not planned, but I am not surprised. Numbers (or numerology) have always interested me. We live in blessed times - bless-ed, two syllables, the pronunciation indicating something supernatural as opposed to blessed, one syllable, which pronunciation indicates something divine. Last night in watching a rerun of West Wing, numbers played a part. The show centered around the age-old discussion of whether an egg can be balanced on its end during the Autumnal equinox. While the story of the egg is usually associated with the Spring equinox - think Spring, new flowers, new plants, an egg for new birth, hence the time Christians assigned to the Resurrection. Associating the egg balancing trick with the Autumnal equinox has less significance. But, it can be done - probably on any given day in the year for that matter. But, I digress. In last night's episode, a repeat from Season Four, the egg-balancing act was to occur on the Autumnal equinox, a date important to me personally. Also, during the episode, one of characters responding to a question of "what time is it?" offers that it is 9:23. 9/23 is the Autumnal equinox. Were they just playing with us? Who knows. 9/23 is also my birthday - not that I want you to go out and start buying anything. There are 78 days remaining before then - you have time. Today, 7/7, is the birthday of a girl I used to chase around my Aunt Frances' house and garden when I was a very young teenager. We also went swimming a lot the summer and fall of 1974 in Benson Creek, either at Red Bridge or behind the North Benson Baptist Church, along KY 1005 in western Franklin County. Her name is Anne Rochelle Dean, but she goes by Shellie. Happy Birthday, Shellie.

So, go balance an egg. Who needs an equinox when you have triple sevens.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

132. Some notes on my paternal grandfather

I have written before, although not in some time, on matters of my personal genealogy. Like many amateur genealogists, I get in the mood to do some genealogical research and in fact will then do quite a bit, but then I'll lay off for some time, some time being periods of time ranging from a few months to several years. It would be wrong to assign a date as to when my interest in genealogy began. As a child, my family (which really means the families of my maternal grandparents) were habitually in the business of genealogy whether they knew it or not. Both of them were from large families based in Franklin County, Kentucky, and specifically in western Franklin County and to a small extent eastern Shelby and northwestern Anderson counties.

On any given weekend, we spent time along Old Louisville Road between Bridgeport and Graefenburg (pronounced with an "s", as in Graefensburg) at the home of my great-grandfather Robert Lewis, Sr. I've written of this before. Another of my great-grandfathers, Elijah Hockensmith, Sr., lived closer to Frankfort late in his life on Cavern Drive off Louisville Road near the Juniper Hills Golf Course. Prior to that, he lived along the Devils Hollow Road, on the way to Chaoteville, a small commnuity named for my 3-greats grandfather's family, the Choates originally from Ipswich, Massachusetts, and before that Ipswich, England. As both of them were from large families, I got to know my second and third cousins, as well as their in-laws families, and others. We regularly visited small family cemeteries scattered throughout the area as well as the two larger ones, the Frankfort Cemetery up on the hill on the east side of town, and the Sunset Cemetery, out along Versailles Road southeast of town. Genealogy is a sort of past-time for all of these people.

I can trace the families of my maternal grandfather Dan Hockensmith back ten generations (from me) to a Konrad Hockensmith, Sr., born in the early 1700s in Maryland. The family of my maternal grandmother Vivian "Tommie" Lewis Hockensmith has been traced back twelve generations to a James A. Galbraith, Sr., also of Maryland, and born in 1666. My knowledge on my father's side of the family is an entirely different and much shorter story.

A couple of years ago, I finally learned a great deal about the family of my paternal grandmother Grace Irene Lee Noble. Her family roots, to my surprise, are for the most part right here in Jefferson County, in the Saint Andrews Church Road area, and further back, west over to Greenwood Road toward what is now the Southwest Jefferson Boat Ramp and the Farnsley-Moreman House. Her families names include her own of Lee, then Schlenk, Antle, Prince, Ross, then to an eighth generation back and Mr. Hugh Logan. I do not have birth or death dates of Hugh Logan, but he apparently lived along the river opposite of where the Caesar's Casino sits on the opposite shore at Bridgeport, Indiana. There are family cemeteries off St. Andrews Church Road and Blanton Lane, containing the remains of my ancestors.

But today's entry is prompted by thoughts on my paternal grandfather, Gene Noble, who died twenty years ago today, July 5, 1987. Although he lived longer (and was older) than my other three grandparents, and lived closer to me geographically, at the time of his death, just 2 and 1/2 blocks away, of him and his family I know the least. I'm not really even sure of his given name. He went by the initials of U. G., which got nicked into Gene, probably short for Eugene, which was not his name. When he retired, some of his Social Security papers, which I filled out for him, had him as Ulan Noble. He had two brothers who also had initials as their given names, or so the story goes. J. G. Noble and R. G. Noble are two uncles I never met. J. G. lived in western Tennessee, I think in the town of Milledgeville. R. G. lived in Bakersfield, California. I assume they are both deceased, but I truly do not know that. To my knowledge, there was also a sister, Hazel, about whom I know nothing. I remember being told there are other older brothers and sisters as well as more than a handful of half-brothers and half-sisters. Apparently my great-grandfather Noble was into procreation. His name, to my knowledge, was James Aaron (or Arson) Noble. He died in 1912 or 1913 "out west," supposedly near Carson City, Nevada. The population of Carson City at the time of his death was about 1600 people. He is said to have been buried "along the side of the road." From me to my father to his father and to this James Aaron Noble is the extent of my knowledge of the Noble line.

Of my grandfather U. G. Noble, I can tell you a little. He was born in Alabama, or so I believe. His father died when he was six. I never heard mention of his mother. He wandered as a young kid, pre-teen and adolescent, out west. He eventually made his way back east. He was a baker by trade, coming to Louisville to work for the Donaldson Bakery Company, then located at 16th and Hill streets (I think). He also worked for baking companies in Cincinnati and Dayton. He married my grandmother in 1933, which means she was 18 at the time and he was 25. They lived somewhere along the L&N Railroad tracks near Holy Name Church. They had three sons, Don, my Dad (whose given name is Urban Gene Noble, Jr., despite the fact there is no Urban Gene Noble, Sr.), and Chris. Eventually my grandparents went in business for themselves operating the Noble's Bakery, first on the southwest corner of Central and Colorado avenues in South Louisville, then later in the Strickland Center, a strip mall at the corner of Naomi Drive and Poplar Level Road, in the Beverly Manor subdivision, one of the many subdivision that sprung up in the north and east ends of Okolona as a result of General Electric's Appliance Park being built nearby. There was a brief period in which they operated a bakery in Campbellsville, Kentucky, although I don't really know the full story there. My grandparents retired after his 65th birthday and sold the bakery in 1972 to a guy named Bud Brutscher. My grandmother died tragically in 1976, afterwhich my grandfather became something of a hermit, moving from their tri-level home in Okolona to a 650 square foot one-bedroom apartment in Fincastle, a part of Camp Taylor. There he lived for most of the rest of his life, save a period at his youngest's son's house in Shelby County right at the end. As I said, he died twenty years ago today. Although his obituary in the Courier-Journal listed his age at 81, he was in fact only 80. He was born November 20, 1906. His survivors were his three sons (one of whom, Don, has since died), two grandchildren (me and my brother Kevin), and one great-granddaughter, my oldest niece Lindsey, who was born two weeks prior to his death. The brothers J. G and R. G. were not mentioned in his obituary. He and my grandmother are buried in the Louisville Memorial Gardens West, on Dixie Highway in Shviely, next to my grandmother's sister and brother-in-law Mary and McHenry Hiner.

I write this on the outside remote chance someone in my extended Noble family, someone I obviously do not know, will Google the family name and recognize some of the players listed herein. It is an outside chance, but you never know. The internet is an amazing invention.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

131. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

Okay, admittedly, I came back a little sooner than I had proposed.

Writing for the masses - that is the five faithful readers and a handful of others - can be somewhat addictive. Once you have convinced yourself people really want to read what you have written whether they actually do or not, the ego takes over and dictates that you must write and not leave your readers (or your self) wanting. The ego is a great seducer, or seductress, I'm not sure which gender is applied to such an entity.

So, what would be topical for the 3rd of July? It would be rather easy to communicate some thoughts upon the 231st birthday of our Republic's Declaration of Independence, the date of which has been arbitrarily ascribed to tomorrow, as opposed to yesterday, the date President John Adams thought would be the general national day of celebration, as it was the day the Continental Congress passed a resolution put forth by Richard Henry Lee, declaring independence from Great Britain. That resolution read, in full,

"Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.

That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation."

Tomorrow, when the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Party stages upon the Old Courthouse lawn its annual reading of the Declaration of Independence, as it has done for years, a much longer declaration will be read, the one we are much more familiar with and associate with the 4th, as that is the date first written at the top of Thomas Jefferson's now well-recognized page of writing. The reading takes place at 9 o' clock in the morning by the War Memorial at Fifth and Jefferson streets. One more note before I move on from this subject. It should be noted that while we celebrate July 4th as the nation's birthday, it really isn't.

The Declaration which will be celebrated tomorrow was not one of one country from another, i. e. the United States from Great Britain. Rather, it was one of several colonies, or states, or perhaps, countries from one. Most appropriately, taken from the first sentence, it is a declaration of "one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another." Later, the document speaks of these people in the plural, as "Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government." Notice the plural constructs in the words italicised in the previous sentence - these, colonies, them, and their.

Later, in the concluding paragraph we read that while they are collected together in an assembly as "Representatives of the united States of America," they follow that up with the averment that "these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States," again using the plural nouns colonies and states, and plural verb are, and further, in the final phrases establish "that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

It is clear from their languange they considered Great Britain one state or entity, and themselves as several states or entities, and not as one. One more note: the motto which the eventual "United States" eventually adopted is E Pluirbus Unum, meaning one out of many, or one from many. On August 10, 1776, just a few weeks after adopting their Declaration of Independence, this motto was rejected by those same people assembled in the Continental Congress, expressing their common belief they were still many and not yet one. That motto wasn't adopted until June 10, 1782.

But all of the above is about the Fourth of July, while today is only the Third. Today marks the 70th birthday of the British playwright Tom Stoppard, best known for his play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, parodied from Shakespeare's characters of the same names in the latter's Hamlet. Stoppard wrote several other works including two more parodied from Hamlet and another from Macbeth, the "accursed" play, something I learned from my friend Stuart Perelmuter, a playwright and actor in his own right, as well as Congressman Yarmuth's PR guy, one day last fall when I was reciting the "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" soliloquy while aimlessly wandering about Yarmuth's campaign office. I read Stoppard's "Ros and Guil" while a student in Mrs. Risner's 10th grade English class at Durrett, the same year I first read Macbeth. "Ros and Guil" was performed five summers ago, alongside Hamlet, as part of the Shakespeare in the Park performances of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Louisville's free summer theater in Central Park. This summer's performance is Measure for Measure, running through July 15th. Shakespeare is one of my favorite writers; Stoppard is another.

I could use these closing lines to elucidate upon the news - that of President Bush's commutation of Scooty Libby's prison sentence and of Governor Fletcher's call for a Special Session of the legislature. Both are items which serve only a few - in the case of the President, very few. But, this is a time of celebration for our nation. While there may be leaders in that [this] nation with whom we take issue, it is still our nation and not someone else's, at least not yet. It is getting to be something of an oligarchy, the olig deriving perhaps from the Greek oligoi, meaning few or small or little. The few in the case of our nation are whomever the Vice President deems to be a part of the government. In Frankfort, such a notion could be reduced to a Sesame Street like group called "Ernie and his friends."

But, I've said enough for one day. I've copied the Tomorrow soliloquy below.



"She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing."
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-27)

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.