Monday, June 30, 2008

Big Easy beats sleazy, Kentucky not so lucky

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal struck a blow for the good guys today when he vetoed an effort to pass an enormous pay raise for legislators after suggesting he might let it become law without his signature.

If Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear really wanted to show seriousness about pension reform he would push for repeal of a colossal pension increase state lawmakers gave themselves that Gov. Ernie Fletcher allowed to become law without his signature back in 2005.

Teresa Isaac stepped in it worse than Newberry

In sworn testimony, former Lexington Mayor Teresa Isaac contradicted herself on a key element of her story that has allowed her to claim confidently that there was nothing to the federal investigation of inmate abuse allegations at the Fayette County Detention Center.

She told the Lexington Herald Leader in a September 29, 2006 story:
"We're absolutely convinced that the investigation will show there's no violations" and "I've reviewed the same records they've reviewed, there's absolutely nothing in there that would amount to a civil rights violation and I've been a civil rights attorney for 25 years so I think I would know."


Under oath, she said that her confidence came from an internal investigation she requested. The more she talked, though, the more her carefully crafted picture melted into something else altogether.

"I had just completed an internal review and I told (former US Attorney Amul Thapar) that," she said. "We had completed an internal review and found nothing."


Thapar led the federal investigation into the Lexington jail. Isaac said he called her the week before the FBI raid.

In her deposition, Isaac admits that the "internal review" was really just an oral report from two former employees. But this is the best part:

Attorney Bill Jacobs: From the time the FBI took the documents ---
Isaac: Before. Before. We did an internal review before the FBI ever came, before Amul ever called me.

Jacobs: Did you do an internal review between the time Mr. Thapar called you and said he was coming to see you and they took the documents?
Isaac: No. We had completed it already before Mr. Thapar even called me.

Jacobs: You completed it 12 months before?
Isaac: Yes.


In other words, Isaac had no idea what the federal authorities were looking at, and what federal grand jury members saw that led them to indict five people for their actions at the jail. What could possibly account for her public pronouncements of innocence?

Kentucky's failed gas price strategy drags on

Kentucky's first-in-the-nation price-gouging lawsuit against Marathon Oil filed by then-Attorney General Greg Stumbo should go to trial next year, according to AG Communications Director Allison Gardner Martin.

Retail gasoline prices have doubled since Stumbo sued under an old Kentucky law that was repealed in 2007. You may recall the trigger for the original Kentucky lawsuit was a state-of-emergency called by then-Governor Ernie Fletcher in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

As gas prices hang around $4 a gallon, the last thing we need is for other states to follow our big-government approach to lowering gas prices. We might warn the good folks in Michigan, but it looks like they are ready to take a bigger leap than we did.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Road to hell paved with Ohio's intentions

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear could take one of two lessons from a Wall Street Journal op-ed over the weekend about how things are going in Ohio. Big-government and higher taxes are running that state's economy into the ground, but those same policies are keeping the politicians who champion them popular with the voting blocs who feed at the trough and keep their guys and gals in office.
"Ohio already has the fifth-heaviest state and local tax burden in the country (up from 30th in 1990) and finds itself stagnating.
...
And that may actually be a plus for Barack Obama. His party is finding that lofty, vague promises of change combined with high-spending, high-tax, welfare state-ish policies are a political winner in the state. How else to explain why Gov. Ted Strickland's approval ratings are in the mid-50s or why Democrats may even win control of the state House for the first time in 14 years?" -- WSJ.com

And if you are wondering if things could get worse for Kentucky, the answer is yes. The same report that shows Ohio with the 5th highest tax burden in the nation ranks Kentucky 20th.

And we may be moving their way on that front in a hurry, given the mood of the legislature to ignore oncoming fiscal disasters, run stealth tax increases through, and slather debt onto our already-tapped out state credit card.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Steve Beshear, color in Obama's blank slate

Some people who are excited about Sen. Barack Obama have developed a tendency to project their pet issues onto his presidential campaign platform though Obama himself has said nothing about them.

Take, for example, Gov. Steve Beshear and the House Democrats who think President Obama will swoop in and cover state and local government employees and retirees on some kind of federal health insurance plan.

Before they get too excited about this idea, they may want to check with their man first.

Their misconception will cost Kentucky taxpayers dearly.

Hillary Clinton pops the question

Politicians of both parties have dragged out Ronald Reagan's quote about being better off than you were four years ago many times and they probably always will as long as the circumstances seem to present an opportunity.

But in the following YouTube video, Sen. Hillary Clinton goes way overboard when she asks if you are better off now than you were forty years ago.

"I've been involved in politics and public life in one way or another for four decades," she said. "And during those years, our country has voted ten times to elect a president. And Democrats won only three of those times. It's true; isn't it hard to believe? And think of the progress we have not made. Think of the problems that have only gotten worse."

How about think 'what planet has this woman been on since 1968?' Seriously, think about how much better off we are than we were the year before Americans landed on the moon. It never occurred to me to really credit Republican presidents for the astounding strides our nation has made during my lifetime, but Hillary brought it up.

The really good news is that you only have to watch the first minute of the following video to see for yourself the above quote.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Jim, are going let her talk about you like this?


Former Lexington Mayor Teresa Isaac may have dumped the Fayette Detention Center prisoner abuse scandal in current Mayor Jim Newberry's lap for him to ignore, but she said in sworn testimony that he didn't always ignore it.

In fact, she said he even brought up the federal investigation in a campaign debate to try to discredit her.

She claimed Newberry said "there's a problem at the jail."

Then Isaac continued her testimony, saying "I think maybe he even said he wanted to turn it over to (Fayette County Sheriff) Kathy Witt."

"I said we believe there are no problems at the jail and they will find nothing," Isaac said.

An autopsy on Frankfort's special session

The obvious point of contention in what remains of the HB 1 debate is Speaker Jody Richards' statement that their handiwork "will prevent the system from going bankrupt" versus President David Williams' assessment that the system remains "unsustainable."

There is a far more interesting point, however, that you aren't likely to see addressed elsewhere right away. At issue is what will really happen next.

Williams says that the funding goals for future years in the new law can be ignored, but that future legislators won't dare to because the people will create an uproar.

I spoke to Rep. Bob Damron and he had an interesting take as well, suggesting that government employees themselves will demand a more realistic defined contribution plan.

"I think if they did a survey the majority of people coming on today would say they want a defined contribution plan," he said. "Most people like the portability."

I like the quality of the conversation coming from these two, but I'm not quite so optimistic.

Killing Kentucky business on the installment plan

Some of the noise coming out of Frankfort today will sound pretty self-congratulatory over their handling of public employee fringe benefits with the passage of HB 1.

Don't buy it.

By the way, if you don't read Pension Tsunami for insight into how governments across the country are dealing with similar problems, today would be a good day to start.

Hey, look what you decided to do!

Lexington has its share of problems now, but what would things be like if you were forced to cough up the money for "Great Ideas" like a "free" zoo, an underground monorail system, or to bring in an NBA team? How about limiting each household to possession of only one car?

These are just a few of the oddball ideas presented by some group called Destination 2040. If you live in Lexington, you should enjoy the show, because you are paying for it.

Never heard of this nonsense, you say? Better wake up, because here it comes!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lexington payroll snafu is latest screw-up

The ongoing computer problems in the Lexington Fayette County Urban Government have now resulted in the city missing payroll payments to employees.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Give the money back, Mayor Jim Newberry

News coverage and commentary about the current pension discussion in Frankfort has been pretty lousy, but the idea that city newspapers are going to start drumming up little ditties about how much their town is going to "get" or "save" as a result of HB 1 is false, misleading, ridiculous, stupid, irresponsible, asinine, absurd, and just plain wrong.

In today's "breaking news" feature, the Lexington Herald Leader crows without attribution that Lexington is going to "save" $1.4 million in the passage of House Bill 1. Reporter Michelle Ku must get pretty excited when her credit card issuers offer her the ability to skip a payment because she has been "such a good customer." That is exactly what is happening with this current scheme.

And it sounds good for Mayor Jim Newberry's finance commissioner to say they aren't going to immediately just run out and spend the money. Lexington taxpayers should demand Mayor Newberry take a stand for fiscal responsibility by refusing the loan. He would show leadership by encouraging other mayors and county judge executives to do the same. "Pay me now" is always cheaper than "pay me next year."

Nothing going on here, move on (and go broke!)

I appreciate that the mainstream media wants to better serve its readers through the blogosphere, but this (and this and this) is not the way to do it:



In a time of economic difficulty, the pension scam is a story begging to be told well. Sure, most people's eyes glaze over when you start talking about paying billions of dollars or running out of money in some accounts sometime in the next two decades. But people struggling to meet rising costs in their own lives will certainly understand paying way above market rates with their own tax dollars so government employees can have gold-plated fringe benefits for life.

And the real story is that Frankfort has misappropriated the money we have been sending to them for several years, so they are passing a bill this week to suggest that they do less misappropriating and we do more sending through 2025. That is just a "suggestion" because the state constitution forbids passing a law to obligate future General Assemblies, but the failure to cut overspending on benefits will obligate (and overextend) taxpayers for many years to come nonetheless.

There is more here.

A brief discussion on new media

I will be a guest on the Leland Conway radio show (630 AM or wlap.com) at 9:15 this morning discussing coverage of the Fayette County jail.

Don't be late because I don't anticipate being on there long, but the call-in number to talk with Leland afterward is (859)280-2287.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's another isolated incident at FCDC

A few funny things about the Lexington Herald Leader's report late Tuesday about the exposed drug ring at the Fayette County Detention Center.

First, how can it be a "breaking news" story when the reporters read it on the internet and waited for a press release?

Second, how great is it that the FCDC staff is going to have to discuss the FBI investigation every time something goes wrong at the jail?

The real story is this: an inmate was shooting up in his cell and got caught. The inmate gave up Houlihan as his dealer and Houlihan was then given the opportunity to resign. He took it.

And if you believe Houlihan is the only person dealing drugs in the Lexington jail, you probably believe Don Leach studied really hard for his doctoral degree. I would be suspicious if there are no more arrests in this matter.

Circling wagons, covering tracks in Lexington

Lexington Commissioner of Public Safety Tim Bennett had separate closed-door meetings today with Fayette County Detention Center Director Ron Bishop and the other assistant directors at the Lexington jail.

Bennett's upcoming deposition could be interesting summer reading.

Deny this, Governor Steve Beshear

If Gov. Steve Beshear has no plans to call a special session to pass tax increases after the November elections, he should quickly and publicly make that clear.

That is one hot rumor making the rounds in Frankfort. And rumors sometime take on a life of their own -- especially for someone who already broke his no tax increase promise once (see clip below).

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the bloggers"

Captain Darin Kelly at the Fayette County Detention Center just told me that he won't give me any information about what is going on at the Lexington jail because, he said, "I spoke to Susan Straub at the Mayor's office and she doesn't consider you a legitimate news organization."

This is an interesting shift in public relations strategy for a government in desperate need of a shift in public relations strategy.

Will the last officer at the jail turn off the lights?

4:30 Update: Houlihan has resigned. Taxpayers are off the hook for this one. As I write this, though, none of the five indicted officers, currently vacationing and awaiting trial, have volunteered to give up their salaries.


Capt. Darin Kelly at the Fayette County Detention Center just refused to divulge any information about an arrest at the facility this morning.

Apparently jail employee Daniel Houlihan was arrested today and charged with promoting contraband first degree. Something about giving methadone to an inmate.

Other than the disturbing silence from the jail, the first question in my mind is will he be placed on administrative leave with pay just like the other troublemakers?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Looks like one more successful initiative, maybe

The Bluegrass Institute's government spending transparency initiative seems to have really gotten the attention of Governor Steve Beshear at last.

This was part of a press release sent out by the state Monday night:
"Task Force Chairman and state Finance Secretary Jonathan Miller unveiled a prototype of the full public access Web site that he hopes will be operational by the end of the year. Miller asked task force members to study other states' fully operational Web sites for ideas on the structure of the Kentucky site."

Given Miller's track record, I'm not exactly holding my breath on this one. If we are to ever change Kentucky's status as a corrupt little backwater of a state, though, sticking to our guns on posting all government spending on the internet is critical.

And that means ALL of the spending. No loopholes, no excuses.

Is the noose tightening?

6:34 Update: Susan Straub called just now and said Newberry "was not questioned by the FBI last week and has not been questioned by the FBI."
----------------------------------------------

Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry's communications officer Susan Straub said this evening that she did not know whether Newberry was questioned by FBI officials last week.

A city employee source who asked to remain anonymous, however, said he was. His indifference to the alleged cover-up of prisoner abuse was the subject of posts here and here last week and a Lexington Herald Leader story on Sunday.

How fast can they deep-six the jail story?

When I was in college, journalism students got in trouble for writing one-source stories. So seeing the top story on Kentucky.com, The Lexington Herald Leader's website, only get around to interviewing one person today was a little disappointing.

And it was just a defense attorney:
"Defense attorney Brian Butler of Louisville, who is representing Estep, said his client has served in law enforcement and in the military and adamantly denies the charges against him.
“This is a terrible situation for him to serve his country for many, many years then be accused of a crime,” Butler said."


Blah, blah, blah.

Fortunately, the investigation doesn't depend on the story to be told in the newspapers. But I can't help wondering how the coverage might be different in Lexington if the politicians involved represented a different political persuasion. The Herald Leader does little good for its credibility with the way it has handled the jail fiasco.

Joe Prather lawyers up

After calling Transportation Cabinet Secretary Joe Prather on the carpet for failing to show for a Senate Transportation Committee meeting today and then chewing up a couple of unarmed officials and their lawyer, Senate President David Williams gave observers a taste of what his road fund lawsuit against the governor is going to be like.

Think deep fried Beshear-o-crats.

One more

I'll be on WVLK AM 590 in Lexington this afternoon on Kruser's program talking about the Lexington jail fiasco. The call-in number is 859-253-5959.

Meanwhile, a parade of new whistleblowers in the case is expected to file new lawsuits against the city of Lexington very soon.

Don't let Beshear sock you for another $50 million

As some newspaper columnists are trying to get Governor Steve Beshear to jump back on his dead dog of a casino bill, he has worked up a scheme to deal out an immediate $50 million to city and county governments in the pension special session starting today.

And who do you think gets to pick up the tab on that little goody?

We are already in the tank almost $30 billion in the public employee fringe benefits scandal. Now is not a great time to spend good money on helping a politician shore up his low approval rating.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Your barn door is open and your cow is gone

Multiple sources at the Fayette County Detention Center report an effort today to prevent jail staff and inmates from reading some negative publicity in the Lexington Herald Leader.

So, I just have to ask: are you guys going to try to do this with Tuesday's paper too? And the best part for me is hearing that inmates have visitors showing up with paper copies of Kentucky Progress posts.

Gonna be a little tough to hide the truth now, boys.

By Jove, I think she's got it!


Lexington Herald Leader reporter Beth Musgrave writes in this morning's paper:
"Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry issued a statement after the indictments were released, saying the city had made several changes to ensure the safety of the inmates and the officers there since he came into office in January 2007.

But in March -- just three months ago -- Newberry said in a deposition that he had not investigated problems at the jail nor had he asked for any changes to be made there.

Newberry said he knew of no changes to any of the procedures since he took office and had not contacted the FBI and offered the city's assistance -- despite the fact that he knew officers were testifying before a grand jury in Covington. The FBI confirmed that it was investigating allegations of civil rights abuses at the jail in September 2006 after it conducted a search of the Old Frankfort Pike facility.

Newberry, in a statement released to the Herald-Leader Friday, said he has learned more about the situation since his deposition."

There is much, much more coming on this story.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Stop Public Financing of Meth Labs Act of 2009

Rep. Melvin Henley sponsored one of two twin bills to cut welfare benefits for drug abusers in 2008.

He said today he is reworking the bill for 2009. Constitutional issues with the original bill would be addressed by requiring a show of probable cause before attempting to strip away public assistance. Rep. Henley said he wanted to set up a pilot project someplace in the state so policymakers could see what happens.

"There is not enough money to support these people who want to take what we give them and spend it on drugs," Henley said.

Rep. Lonnie Napier, the sponsor of the other twin bill, was not immediately available for comment. Napier's bill had thirty co-sponsors in the House.

Monday Admin meeting at FCDC will be fun

Courthouse sources said Lexington Herald Leader reporter Beth Musgrave was in Nicholasville this past week making copies of documents related to the Lexington jail prisoner abuse scandal at the Fayette County Detention Center.

The whistleblower's civil lawsuit against the city was filed in Jessamine County.

With the first public criminal court hearing on all this insanity coming Monday and the possibility of newspaper story tomorrow, the heat is slowly turning up on all the right people (here and here).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Starting to jump ship like a bunch of rats

There is intense speculation surrounding the Fayette County Detention Center tonight that Administrative Officer Senior Don Leach is trying to work out a deal to avoid losing his pension by flipping on some of his buddies regarding the ongoing inmate abuse scandal and providing critical evidence for an investigation into financial improprieties at the facility.

Don't be surprised to see the next wave of indictments hit Lexington jail employees as soon as this next week. (Memo to staff: if you have anything that might be of value to any kind of investigation out there, time is running out.)

Kentucky has third worst debt ratio in America

Official statistics compiled by a Michigan think tank researcher show Kentucky's state and local government debt gobbling up 22.18% of gross domestic product, worse than every state but Massachusetts and New York.

As revenues and and economic activity are at an all-time high, one might think it is about time to get our spending under control.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Newberry: Tim Bennett is my fall guy


This is a picture of Sgt. Hughes asking Mayor Jim Newberry about the whistleblower lawsuit against the city filed by Cpl. John Vest.

Newberry's response? "I guess I'm going to have to get to know John Vest a lot better," he said.

In sworn testimony, Newberry appeared to blame Public Safety Commissioner Tim Bennett for the cover up of illegal activities at the jail.

"Tim Bennett is the Public Safety Commissioner, who is responsible for the jail. And he is my primary source of information about the jail," Newberry said.

According to available court records, Bennett has not yet testified publicly. That should be an interesting conversation.

Is Newberry a mayor or just a money-grubber?

When it comes to dealing with city problems, Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry is a hard man to get involved in the process beyond, it seems, just sitting back and collecting attorney's fees.

Despite multiple lawsuits representing potentially millions of dollars in judgements against Lexington taxpayers, Newberry was extraordinarily incurious about what was happening at the scandal-plagued Fayette County Detention Center. In many of the lawsuits, the city is represented by Newberry's law firm Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs.

Newberry stated in a sworn deposition taken in Lexington on March 13 that despite an active FBI investigation, multiple phone conversations he had with federal whistleblower John Vest, and multiple media reports to the contrary he said he "had no reason to believe anything inappropriate was going on there."

One week ago, five people were indicted on multiple counts related to their actions in the Lexington facility. Four of the five are still employed there and the other was transferred out to work in another part of city government.

Further, Newberry said he didn't have any problems with jail administration interrogating staff members upon their return from testifying to the grand jury, but that he didn't think that was happening either.

In an interesting exchange during his deposition, Newberry stated that he had done no investigation of the jail and had no plans to do any investigation. Attorney William Jacobs then asked him if his only plan of action was to defend the lawsuits through his attorneys.

Newberry answered "yes."

Staying on the attack against official fraud

The Bluegrass Institute keeps hammering away at the Kentucky Department of Education's boondoggle that keeps Kentuckians stupid and bureaucrats raking in the dough.

The official response from the boondogglers is total silence, but several of them are supposed to be meeting in Frankfort starting in July for a task force to "study" the CATS assessment program. But don't expect much. They are so far in to the CATS mythology that if word really got out how rotten the whole thing is the stampede to get rid of the all the cheaters with their fancy titles and taxpayer-provided cars would be overwhelming.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lex. Mayor Newberry: it depends on what you mean by do I know corrections officers

Sworn testimony by Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry in the Fayette County Detention Center indicates he is far more incompetent than was previously known.

The following is from a deposition conducted by attorney William Jacobs of Lexington:
Jacobs: So has anybody, anybody, Ted Bennett or anybody else, assured you or reassured you that the Detention Center is being operated according to law, safely, following the constitutional law and all that? Has anybody told you that? Not those exact words, but you know what I am asking you.

Newberry: I don't know that I've heard those exact words, but I have had no reason to believe that things were being done otherwise. I have confidence in Mr. Bennett's ability. I have confidence in Mr. Bishop's ability. And I'm impressed with the professionalism of the other jail personnel, with whom I've had occasion to work with from time to time. So I don't have any reason to believe that it's being operated in less than an appropriate fashion.

Jacobs: Is it fair to say that you have that opinion because you haven't asked anybody?

Newberry: I think I just told you why I have that opinion.

Jacobs: Because they're good workers out there you have confidence in them?

Newberry: Yes.

Jacobs: Okay. How many corrections officers do you know?

Newberry: I don't know... I guess it depends on what you mean by do I know corrections officers.


This is going to be more fun than I thought it was going to be.

If Jed Clampett listened to John Yarmuth...

He would still be out on the farm shooting holes in the ground and wishing that black stuff tasted better.

Giving credit where credit is due

Hey, did you hear? In honor of Gov. Steve Beshear, House Speaker Jody Richards, and Senate President David Williams coming back into Frankfort next week to fix the public employee fringe benefits disaster, the Bluegrass Institute is suggesting a day of celebration worthy of their fine efforts.

Blogger loses court case and you do, too

Former Kentucky blogger/media darling Mark Nickolas didn't mention the settlement of his blog blocking lawsuit on his new blog. After reading the settlement agreement, the reason for this becomes clear.

He lost the case, spin from a misleading press release notwithstanding.

From the settlement agreement:
"3. The Commonwealth Office of Technology employs software to filter internet
usage on state-owned computers. This software provides users the ability to block internet site categories predefined by the vendor. As part of its internet filtering policy, the previous named defendants chose to block several categories, one of which included “newsgroups/blogs.”
“Newsgroups/blogs” are defined by the vendor as containing “Web sites that enable the sharing of information such as on a bulletin board. Includes Web logs (‘blogs’) and guest book servers as well.”
4. Mr. Nickolas’s websites, bluegrassreport.org and bluegrassreport.com, are
categorized as “newsgroups/blogs” and therefore users of state computers were blocked from gaining access to them."

And you will be glad to see that the pro bono legal work provided by Ralph Nader cost the taxpayers of Kentucky $10,000.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A heads up on Fayette jail coverage

Tomorrow I will report on sworn testimony by Lexington's former Mayor Teresa Isaac and Mayor Jim Newberry in the ongoing Fayette jail scandals.

The Bluegrass Institute lives!

Two weeks after a massive hacker attack nearly destroyed the online presence of Kentucky's free market think tank, the Bluegrass Institute and Bluegrass Policy Blog are available again on the internet.

While a fairly expensive fix got the sites back up, a much larger project is underway to secure donor funding to take the organization's websites to the next level. This is in addition to generating much larger exposure for public policy solutions by expanding the efforts of the Institute in print and broadcast media.

The Institute's legislative tracking site, Kentucky Votes, was unaffected by the attack but it will also be part of the upcoming improvements that will be rolled out this summer.

By the way, if you wish to be kept updated with no nonsense daily reports on the activity of next week's special session, go to Kentucky Votes and sign up for a free account. You will get email reports first thing each morning on the prior day's legislative activity and which will keep you updated through the rest of the year as pre-filed bills are posted for the 2009 General Assembly.

Let them eat cicadas

We've heard about how bad things are getting in the newspaper business, but you probably had no idea the evil capitalists who run the Winchester Sun were making their employees eat cicadas:

Yarmuth to burn Northup without carbon capture

The Yarmuth for Congress campaign will put out a news release this afternoon attacking Anne Northup for urging Congress to allow for expanded oil exploration to meet increased demand.

The focus of the attack is the Congressional Democratic talking point that oil companies aren't drilling all their leased land now, so we should instead fine them for the leases that aren't being used. Yarmuth supports doing this.

That would be great if finding oil was as easy as dreaming up ways to steal money through taxes and fines from people who work for it.

Make no mistake, the people who are fighting against expanding oil exploration in this country will be tickled pink when they destroy domestic oil exploration completely and we further increase gas prices and our dependency on foreign nations. Yarmuth won't do it, but it would be great if he thought through his words and deeds a little before flaming Northup.

Someone tell moveon.org there is no draft

Here is a very well done, emotional, and totally misleading ad done by the folks at moveon.org:

Are you mad yet?

By now you have probably heard about Kentucky Education Commissioner Jon Draud getting caught lying about the $13,000 in extras he ordered for his taxpayer-provided car.

You may wonder why he isn't crying too hard about paying back that money after he got caught. Well, I'll tell you why.

On July 1, when HB 470 goes into effect, Draud will be laughing all the way to the bank with 40,000 little reasons not to care that you caught him in the smaller heist, with the entire legislature and Gov. Steve Beshear aiding and abetting, of course.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Purple arraignment falls next Monday

Indicted Fayette County Detention Center employees Anthony Estep, Kristine Lafoe, Clarence McCoy, John McQueen, and former employee Scott Tyree will be arraigned next Monday, June 23, at 9:30 am in US District Court in Lexington, according to court records.

It will be interesting to see how much bail Judge James Todd requires, who can't make bail, and where they might be housed before trial.

Also can't help wondering who is up next. The FBI confirmed that investigation of the inmate abuse scandal continues.

Fayette jail whistleblower testifies under oath

In written court documents from his civil suit Fayette jail whistleblower John Vest (plaintiff) shed light on where the scandal is going next.

Some goodies --

I call this one "naming names."
"Plaintiff has identified the following potential witnesses to testify at the trial of this matter: Teresa Isaac, Jim Newberry, Rebecca Langston, Tim Bennett, Ashley Case, Ron Bishop, James Kammer, Capt. Brian Proffitt, Debbie Shouse, Capt. Suzanne Whittlesey, Lt. Kristine Lafoe, Sgt. Anthony Estep, Sgt. John McQueen, Lt. Shawn Campbell, Tonya Roberts, Clarence McCoy, Scott Tyree, John Steward, Phillip Chumbley, Kenneth Isaac."

Don't forget that the federal investigation is not over:
"Plaintiff has been and still is cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice with respect to a criminal investigation into civil rights violations at the LFUCG Detention Center."

And if you are wondering what role former Lexington Mayor Teresa Isaac plays in all this:
"Isaac published to the media that the allegations of Vest were unfounded."

This is a very important point. Isaac can lie to the media about a lot of things, but when she tells the media falsely that someone else has lied to federal investigators, well that is a horse of a different color.

The Lexington Herald Leader reported September 29, 2006:
"We're absolutely convinced that the investigation will show there's no violations," Isaac said yesterday.
There have not been any incidents of excessive force at the jail, Isaac said. "I've reviewed the same records they've reviewed, there's absolutely nothing in there that would amount to a civil rights violation and I've been a civil rights attorney for 25years so I think I would know."

Isaac made her implausible assessment a day after federal agents removed hundreds of boxes of documents from the facility.
"Isaac's defamatory statements were made intentionally, with malice, with utter disregard for the truth, and made though she knew that her statements in this regard were false because she could not have reviewed all of the evidence seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Department of Justice at the time of her statements."

And here is where it starts getting fun:
"... in a malicious attempt to discredit the Plaintiff, Defendants Isaac and Bishop falsely reported publicly that over the past three years, the Plaintiff had been guilty of the same type of excessive force violations that he had reported to the FBI."

Kentucky taxpayers have battered wife syndrome

The Bluegrass Institute today threw cold water in the face of the state's sleeping giant of an electorate and wonders how much more of a shock is required to create a constructive uprising.
"Kentucky's unaccountable education bureaucracy spends money with insufficient oversight and fixes it's own report card every year. Kentucky's politicians increase spending on themselves and borrow by the billions when your money runs out. Secrecy in Frankfort is so entrenched, the media watchdogs can't even be bothered to push for honesty and openness. "Needy" citizens have too little accountability for their bottomless bowls of entitlements. And "economic development" bureaucrats pick business winners and losers with money they take from those who they prefer to be on the losing end."

Isn't it just about time to hit back?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Another inconvenient Lexington Jail scandal fact

The upcoming explosive civil lawsuit filed by vindicated whistleblower John Vest against the city of Lexington, current Mayor Jim Newberry, former Mayor Teresa Isaac, and others will be heard in Jessamine County.

Fayette jail scandal live

I will be on the Leland Conway Show Monday morning at 9:15 talking about the latest on the Fayette County Detention Center scandal.

Anything in particular you want to hear about?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Setting the record straight on John Vest

An anonymous, middle-of-the-night commenter on another post continued the same line of attack used by Fayette County Detention Center Director Ron Bishop and former Lexington Mayor Teresa Isaac against federal whistleblower John Vest. Here is the comment:

The day of the FBI raid on the Lexington jail, Isaac and Bishop both went on the attack against Vest. Their main contention was that Vest made up the charges of abuse on inmates to promote himself in his campaign for Jessamine County Jailer.

Given the five indictments Thursday, we can safely set that allegation aside. The FBI isn't in the habit of letting itself be used to further a local candidate's political ambitions and only the hardest head could still insist such a thing in light of the rapidly advancing legal proceedings.

The anonymous commenter mentioned Vest's one public statement since this whole ordeal started and blames that for his current unpaid leave status with the city of Lexington. What the commenter doesn't mention is that the inmate beatings stopped immediately after the FBI raid and resumed literally within an hour after Mayor Isaac stated publicly that she had viewed the evidence and saw nothing wrong. Some people, such as this anonymous commenter, don't want you to have any idea the pervasiveness of the illegal activities and atmosphere of indimidation going on in the jail.

The truth is federal authorities wrote Vest's statement and I helped him organize a press conference after Isaac's ludicrous assessment. That is when it became clear that the cover-up went all the way to the Mayor's office and that he had to get out fast. The continuing effort to smear John Vest is not surprising, though. That kind of behavior is par for the course from desperate criminals who are used to hiding behind offices and titles and getting a pass for their activities.

Three chickens roosting, two geese a cooking...

The Fayette jail story is growing tentacles.

Jake at Page One jumps on it as only he can:
"The Fayette County Jail. Federal whistleblower. Ruh ro. Cover-ups, lies, firings, indictments, white washings. This is going to be the biggest story to rock Lexington in a decade. Mainstream media: wake up because it’s about to get crazy."


Just got a comment in on another thread saying:
"If you think third shift intake was bad. Second shift was over the top! Bowles, Herbals and the former Sgt "the mouth" Baker should start thinking. Reams got it going on too.
Admin has bailed on you and so will Risk Managment. Your ship is about to sail."

I have no idea who sent this anonymous comment, but all the names check out with multiple sources inside the facility. My best sources all started out as anonymous tips and I protect all my sources. If you know something that isn't getting out there, give me a call.

Tell the truth, Jim

The sheeple have spoken

Friday, June 13, 2008

Talk, talk, talk

Indicted Fayette County Detention Center guard Lt. Kristine LaFoe won't talk now, but she was pretty chatty as recently as last week.

When asked about the federal investigation into inmate abuse at the Lexington jail, she was telling co-workers that the investigation was going nowhere.

"That shark's belly-up. It's dead in the water," she said.

You want to stay current, don't you?

With the Kentucky General Assembly set to go in for a special session and spend a bunch of your money on June 23, wouldn't you like to have a good way to keep up with what they are actually doing?

The mainstream media is mostly giving them a pass on the details of the upcoming pension bill. But you don't have to be left out in the dark. A non-biased website that makes it easy for you to keep up on your own is www.kentuckyvotes.org.

If you sign up for a free account on Kentucky Votes, you will receive an email each day there is legislative activity (including the pre-filed 2009 bills which start appearing soon!).

Unanswered questions at the Fayette jail

There are a lot of unanswered questions about the inmate abuse scandal in Lexington. Here is one I'm anxiously awaiting the answer to:

I just sent this one.

And, the plot thickens...

Fayette jail whistleblower is the real story

The mainstream media has had twenty-four hours to get the Fayette County Detention Center prisoner abuse story right. For the most part, they failed.

While nearly every other local reporter covering the story scampered to Mayor Jim Newberry for his whitewash, WTVQ reporter Kellie Wilson took a drive out to Nicholasville and knocked on the door of federal whistleblower John Vest, who was quoted in her story.



While Newberry was busy suspending the five indictees with pay "pending an investigation," Vest remains on administrative leave without pay and without the benefit of a credible internal investigation. And all he did was present evidence to the FBI that was then dismissed sight unseen by former Mayor Teresa Isaac and FCDC Director Ron Bishop. In fact, the one official investigation so far vindicates Vest, paints Bishop and Isaac as shameless liars, and leaves observers wondering why Newberry tried to fire Vest.

That's why Vest is suing all three of them.

If you think this story has run it's course, think again.

Federal search warrant remains sealed

FBI Chief Division Counsel David Beyer told me this morning the sealed search warrant that kicked off the 2006 raid of the Fayette County Detention Center hasn't been unsealed and probably won't be for a while.

That sheds light on two lies that have endangered lives in Lexington.

Despite Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry's ridiculous claim that the federal investigation of FCDC is somehow limited to the third shift at the facility and former Mayor Teresa Isaac's ridiculous claim that her twenty five years as a civil rights attorney qualified her to say definitively that no violations happened at the jail, the fact remains little is really known about how far the dangerous behavior at the jail goes.

That's Reality 2, Lexington political hacks 0, if you are keeping score at home.

Who are the others, Mayor Newberry?

Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry gave the city council Thursday night details about the Little Abu Ghraib action at the Fayette County Detention Center. One part of his statement deserves further scrutiny.

According to the Lexington Herald Leader, "He said the problems seemed to be contained to the third shift at the jail."

That's interesting. Can't imagine who or where he got that from. He should tell us how he knows this, or at least who the other criminals are.

Not that someone who is being sued for abusing a whistleblower will understand this, but in the interest of public safety, Mayor Newberry really should spill the beans about who else on third shift is involved, and here is why:

From the United States Department of Justice:
"The first count of the indictment alleges that the five defendants conspired with each other and with other unindicted individuals to assault inmates without justification, and to cover up their conduct by filing false reports and charges."

So Newberry says he knew what was going on at the jail all this time, yet he left the five indictees on the city payroll. Now we find out that he has the remaining unindicted co-conspirators "contained" on third shift. The public needs to know, Mayor. Who are they and when will you be placing them on leave with pay?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

You've got a funny way of cooperating there, Mayor Jim Newberry

Just got the following statement from civil Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry in my email. His statement needs a little clarification:


"While the alleged violations occurred in 2006, prior to our administration taking office, we have over the past 17 months proactively implemented various measures to help ensure a safe and secure facility for both our employees and the inmates."

Right. You also have proactively tried several times to fire whistleblower John Vest and have fought him vigorously in his civil suit against the city. How has that made anyone safer? No, I'm completely serious. How does abusing a whistleblower make anyone safer anywhere?

"In 2007, we installed video cameras in the intake area, one site of alleged criminal activity, and have completely restructured staff in intake."

And you left Director Ron Bishop and Deputy Director Don Leach in place to continue the same policies that caused the problem. Wonder why?

"We have been aware of the ongoing investigation at the jail and will continue to fully cooperate. Sgt. John McQueen, Corrections Officer Clarence McCoy, Sgt. Anthony Estep and Lt. Kristen Lafoe are employed by the Division of Community Corrections. Scott Tyree is a former corrections officer who has transferred to the Division of Water & Air Quality. The employees will be suspended with pay, effective immediately, pending further investigation."

How have you cooperated with the investigation? Name one way. Who did you speak to and what did you say? And it is very interesting that Scott Tyree was allowed to transfer out of the jail while whistleblower John Vest was put on the street. The taxpayers of Lexington will be paying the upcoming civil judgement to Mr. Vest (who never got the benefit of an investigation) for years to come and you could have avoided the whole thing. "Aware?" Care to rephrase that, Mayor Newberry?

INDICTMENTS!

The United States District Court in Covington this afternoon handed down indictments in the Fayette County Detention Center inmate abuse scandal. Indicted were: John McQueen, Clarence McCoy, Kristine Lafoe, Scott Tyree, and Anthony Estep.

Charges include conspiracy, falsification of records, and obstruction of justice.

Now is when the fun starts because the heat is on Mayor Jim Newberry, who gets to see his role shift from mayor to defendant in the civil case which just got a serious boost. And what about former Mayor Teresa Isaac and FCDC director Ron Bishop, who both said two years ago there was nothing to this and that whistleblower Cpl. John Vest was lying about the whole thing?

Stay tuned to Kentucky Progress as the prosecution phase begins and the investigation continues. The behind the scenes scrambling right now is hilarious and suggests Newberry and friends really convinced themselves this thing was going to dry up and blow away. Newberry didn't even know that any of these indictments were about to hit until someone in his office read it here this afternoon. His efforts to separate himself will only make him look more foolish than he already looks.

Don't just stand there, Jim, fire somebody!

Pins and needles

The federal grand jury considering the two year investigation of the Fayette County Detention Center inmate abuse scandal is working at this very minute and may be doling out some indictments at any time.

We aren't solving the pension crisis

We have been down this road before. Every time the projected growth of a government program is trimmed even the slightest amount, the "stakeholders" clinging to that government program scream bloody murder that people will die in the streets because of the cut.

The same thing is happening in reverse with Kentucky's public employee fringe benefits crisis, now $27 billion in an ever-deepening hole.

House Dems are talking now in terms of "saving" $500 million a year and "fully funding" the programs by 2025.

Don't be fooled. All they have agreed to do is "cut" the growth rate of the $27 billion hole that needs so desperately to be filled up. They aren't really cutting anything or saving anything, unless you really want to get excited about the possibility that in a few years things won't be quite as horrible as they will be if we do absolutely nothing.

The teachers union giving their stamp of approval to this agreement should have been a dead giveaway.

No, state government websites weren't hacked

If you need to go on the legislature's websites this morning, you may be in for a little wait. Or it may be a long wait. No one knows for sure.

It seems BellSouth is having some technical problems. Just a quick taste of the technical problems state government is going to have waiting for 2025 when Speaker Jody Richards says the public pension systems will be fully funded.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No education in the second kick of Draud's mule

Education Commissioner Jon Draud could have avoided his whole tearful "I have sinned" moment today if only he had supported putting the education department's checkbook on the internet.

Bruce Lunsford knocks himself off message

Bruce Lunsford got a baptism by fire today when he forgot where he was, tried to cover it up, and then tried to blame it on Republicans.

First, he went to Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond:

Then, he got his story straight:

And then, after the Republican Party of Kentucky had a field day with the slip-up, Lunsford campaign spokeswoman Allison Haley tried to blame the whole thing on Republicans when she told the Lexington Herald Leader "their time would be better spent trying to address the energy crisis."

That's just it, though. While the Lunsford campaign thinks botching a photo-op at a gas station is going to change something, Republicans in Congress have been prevented by "environmental" zealots from expanding energy exploration.

Another thing: as fun as Lunsford's misstatements are, some of the things he has said on purpose have been even better. Like this and this.

Only one way to take away Jon Draud's fancy car

Education Commissioner Jon Draud has announced his study group on educational assessment. That's the CATS test Senate Republicans tried unsuccessfully to get rid of earlier this year. Draud is the arrogant SOB you are paying $220,000 to drive around in a luxurious car you bought for him. Your elected representatives voted to fatten his pension (HB 470). And this morning, you bought him a tankful of gas.

Blog readers may remember that we got rid of the last creep who came in here to blow smoke at us in the name of our children. I don't see how anyone can take Draud seriously to really address education issues at a time in which doing so couldn't be more important.

Do you?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pucker factor Thursday

This will drive the hater bureaucrats in Lexington crazy, but I'm hearing a lot of chatter around the Fayette County Detention Center about the first round of federal indictments coming down this Thursday.

After so many false alarms, I'm not exactly holding my breath. But after two years of investigation, getting the prosecution phase of this saga going would provide a welcome pressure release for the good guys. And an even more welcome punch to the gut of those who have lied, obstructed, and intimidated their way through life for way too long.

The pusillanimous FCDC Deputy Director Don Leach may have buried the latest sexual harassment complaint, but several employees who claim to have suffered his bullying for years are encouraged that the questioning of his various activities by officials seems rather precise.

Skippy can't dance

Gov. Steve Beshear may have missed the irony of putting the same guy who ran the KAPT program into the ground in charge of his study group for public employee pension reform.

But as the General Assembly moves toward to a special session for the purpose of putting a Band-Aid on the bloody mess, the possibility exists Jonathan Miller and Beshear could become accidental heroes for fiscal sanity.

The closer we get to insolvency of the fringe benefits systems, the more discretionary spending will get crowded out in favor of piles of cash for employees and retirees. Heck of a way to instill discipline, but with these guys it's surely our only shot.

Will Obama mess up KY's pension reform party?

The mainstream media is pretty excited to see the General Assembly, the teachers union, and other "stakeholders" join hands over their latest plan to tweak our way out of the $26 billion public employee fringe benefit disaster.

The reason for all the hand-holding and singing is that Frankfort is counting on President Barack Obama to implement a federal universal health insurance plan, thereby removing the states' responsibilities for employee health coverage. Since most of the actual problem with the "pension" mess is the opulent health insurance benefits given to public employees, we continue to celebrate official inaction.

Maybe President Obama will make corruption illegal in our public school systems so we won't have to worry about that, either.

Anti-smoking Nazis ride north

County officials in Kenton, Campbell, and Boone counties are trying to spring public smoking bans on the people of their counties simultaneously this summer without much public discussion.

More evidence of tax dollars working to fool you

If you have kids in public schools in Kentucky, expect to see more nonsense over the next six years relating to school "testing" than you have ever seen in your life.

Here is why.

Help us rebuild Bluegrass Institute

The hacker who took down the Bluegrass Institute, it turns out, did a heck of a job.

After several false alarms that had us believing our sites might be coming back up at any moment, it is now clear that the old sites won't be up for at least another week, if at all.

So I have rebuilt the Institute's blog on my own. Please take a minute to check it out, leave a comment, and tell a friend.

We are working furiously to build a much stronger web presence and we will succeed to better pursue free-market policies and making Kentucky into the kind of place free people can live together more peacefully and prosperously. Thank you.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Can't keep a good blog down

The Bluegrass Institute is making the most of a hacker attack to revamp it's entire web presence, but this afternoon the public policy group's blog is up with new content.

Readers of the Bluegrass Policy Blog will find the comments section much, much easier to use than it used to be. Check it out.

And as always, arguments from every side are greatly encouraged. Thanks.

Update: a blog poll on the new site brings up the question of how far we want transparency to go. Should government transparency include posting welfare payments to individuals on the internet for everyone to see?

Hey Mayor Jerry, at least do a silly task force!

This really shouldn't be about politics.

Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Brad Cummings said today Louisville should put it's spending information on the internet. The gesture is well-timed, but it is amazing that Mayor Jerry Abramson, a Democrat, should even have to be prodded a little bit, much less harassed by a local political figure, to do the right thing:
“The people of Louisville Metro deserve to see how their tax dollars are being spent through an online database that can be accessed through Google or any other search engine” Cummings said. “Secretary Trey Grayson has shown great leadership on this very important issue with Governor Steve Beshear recently proving to be a willing student of Trey’s vision. Our Mayor should sign up for the same class while seats are available.”


Page One has more.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Franklin County jail Sex Tax passes

Franklin County taxpayers get to dole out 4% pay increases for county employees next year, thanks to a Fiscal Court budget vote on Friday.

And the budget includes a levy similar to the old Spanish-American War tax which will pay off the rest of a $5million court settlement awarded to five women. They sued after being victimized sexually by a former Franklin County jailer.

Anyone care to guess whether the Franklin County Sex Tax will be repealed after paying off the court settlement?

A great idea from across the aisle

Lexington blogger Ralph Long (he ran against Rep. Stan Lee in 2004) has a great idea for making state government more transparent. He says we should make public all expenditures on state credit cards. That's a good one.

Ralph also got a little rough with fellow Democrats Gov. Steve Beshear and Rep. Mike Cherry for coming late to the government transparency party.
"Let’s give Steve Beshear credit for being able to steal a good idea... this is such a great idea, I think it is, then why did it die in the legislature and who killed it? I don’t know why this died, other than most of our legislators wouldn't know a good idea if it bit them in the ass, but the guy that killed this puppy was Mike Cherry."

Ralph is starting to sound like a right-wing blogger.

If we had lower taxes we might have more of this

While the state's major political parties were meeting this weekend, Walmart was actually doing some good.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Did you see this?

Making it harder for politicians to hide what they are doing with your money shouldn't be something we have to argue very hard for. Secretary of State Trey Grayson understands that and is leading the way. If you can get to Frankfort Monday morning and want to help wrest control of Kentucky's government from the hands of those who prefer to keep us in the dark, this is the place to be (click to expand):

Depends on your definition of success

The Lexington Herald Leader can be so funny sometimes.

Take today's editorial as an example. In it, the editors claim "real progress" in a national education report showing Kentucky's high school graduation rate was 71.6% in 2005.

Now all we need to do, they claim, is throw more money at the education bureaucrats who got us to this point. One minor problem with this is those same Kentucky bureaucrats just told us a week ago our graduation rate for 2005 was 82.86%.

In a sane world, the mainstream media would be all over this illusory 11%. But no, the best answer we get from our constitutionally-protected watchdogs is a whitewash, a guilt-trip, and some revisionist history:
"No one in Kentucky has an excuse to rest on laurels, especially when the state is eliminating and underfunding reforms that have worked."

Clearly, these people can't be trusted to address how much we are going to have to dumb-down the CATS tests over the next five years to come anywhere close to mandated proficiency goals.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Mainstream media waking up to transparency

The idea of making the government show us the public checkbook is catching fire.

WHAS Louisville reporter Mark Hebert has a post up this evening about Governor Steve Beshear trying to catch up to Secretary of State Trey Grayson on the transparency initiative promoted heavily by the Bluegrass Institute.

What's funny is this part:
"Spokesman Dick Brown says the internet records transparency initiative has been in the works for some time and will fulfill a campaign promise made by Beshear."

That would be somewhat easier to believe if we didn't have two House bills (HB 105 and HB 769) earlier this year that could have gotten a huge boost with a kind word from the governor back then. Nevertheless, it is good that he seems to be getting on board now. Hope he doesn't spend too long studying it.

A small step forward on a Friday

Governor Steve Beshear deserves encouragement for announcing today a task force to study putting government expenditures online.

Not that we really need to study it too much.

Someone tell Beshear he isn't going to melt if he takes a look at a state with a Republican governor like Mark Sanford of South Carolina about how to get the job done.

Did I mention the press conference coming up Monday about this very issue?

Good driver? Responsible? Here's how you're screwed in Kentucky

We may have done well earlier this year to beat back the legislative effort to make the car insurance companies treat everyone like bad credit risks, but it looks like we are going to get nailed with higher costs anyway.

Governor Steve Beshear announced with great fanfare today a giveaway of $3.2 million from the taxpayers to Safe Auto Insurance Company, an insurer for people with poor credit ratings and bad driving records.

That's because we expanded the taxpayer giveaway market in the 2008 session to include include more service providers.

So if you can't get regular insurance, your guys just got a boost. If you have good credit and a clean driving record, you and your insurer just provided the boost.

How to hide an orgy

A spending orgy is pretty easy to hide in a state government with no transparency. It helps when your mainstream media writes stories upside down like this:

The main sentence in the story is this one: "With one month left in the fiscal year, the General Fund has received $7.8 billion, up 1.2 percent from the same 11-month period a year earlier."

In other words, we have more money than ever before. The problem is not that we need more revenue. We need less spending.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Bluegrass Institute update

The cowards who hacked up the Bluegrass Institute over the weekend will soon see their dirty work reversed.

The Bluegrass Policy Blog may be up as soon as tonight.

The Institute's work on increasing government transparency continues with preparations for a Trey Grayson press conference on Monday.

Chandler compares paying unions to fighting in Iraq

The biggest problem with Rep. Ben Chandler's school spending bill has been it's requirement that union wages be paid on building projects in states which, unlike Kentucky, have learned a lesson on government waste and stopped requiring prevailing (union) wages on such projects.

Chandler made matters worse yesterday with his over-the-top anti-war rhetoric when he said:
"We are spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq; surely we can invest less than $7 billion in the future of our children, and the future of our country."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Mayor Jim Newberry's dirty lawyer trick

You haven't heard anything in the mainstream media about the filthy, rotten behavior of the city of Lexington in their handling of the many scandals at the Fayette County Detention Center. When the media wakes up to this one you will hear about it, though.

Attorneys at Wyatt, Tarrant, and Combs have tried to get United States Army Staff Sgt. Delmar White removed as a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the city for some illegal pay practices. They base their request on the fact that White hasn't been answering their letters or returning their phone calls in the discovery process.

A highly decorated Marine and National Guardsman, White died Sept. 2, 2007 in combat in Bagdad.

Newberry will lose this request and, hopefully, White's estate will be well compensated by the taxpayers of Lexington, who shouldn't forget Newberry's disgusting tactics in his next election.

Kentucky caught fudging graduation numbers

The new “Graduation Counts 2008” report from Education Week has been issued less than a week after the Kentucky Department of education released its own “Nonacademic Data Report” for Kentucky’s public schools. The new Education Week data exposes some very disturbing holes in what we are being told about the performance of our schools.

For example, the Graduation Counts Web articles include a special Kentucky section that shows us how well Kentucky’s education leaders disseminate high school graduation rates.

The state report claims statewide high school graduation rate for Kentucky’s Class of 2005 was 82.86 percent. Education Week’s Kentucky section has a sort of “lie meter” on Page 7 that shows the real rate was much lower – over 11 points lower – at just 71.5 percent. Nationally, Kentucky ranks below the median in 29th place among the 50 states.

There is more interesting information from Ed Week.

While the national spread between graduation rates for boys and girls is 7.5 points in favor of the ladies, here in Kentucky the spread is notably higher at 9.8 points. Why is KERA less successful with boys than girls?

Hispanics in Kentucky also do much more poorly than the national average with a graduation rate disparity of 49.4 percent versus 57.8 percent.

Kentucky’s whites also graduate at a rate 5.2 points below the national average of 77.6 percent.

Only Kentucky’s blacks do slightly better than their national counterparts, but their graduation rate of just 58.2 percent is hardly a testament to KERA.

Not surprisingly, you won’t find these minority graduation rates in the state’s Nonacademic Data Report. You have to go to more honest sources like Education Week if you want that information. Here in Kentucky, our educators prefer to continue using data that has been officially audited and found unreliable, which is how Kentucky comes up with an inflated 82.86 graduation rate in the first place.

Bluegrass Institute education analyst Richard Innes wrote this post.

A step in the right direction

Senate President David Williams has suspended the Capitol Annex renovation that has gotten so much press recently.

In a letter to the LRC, Williams said "...I have determined to indefinitely suspend further renovation of the second floor of the Annex..."

Great. Now, let's get rid of pension and health benefits for part-time government workers.

McCain and Obama still together on transparency

If you have missed the government transparency movement sweeping America because you live in the corrupt little backwater of a state we lovingly call Kentucky, you won't want to miss this:
"The fact that even in a presidential election year the two main contenders Sens. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain can set aside their differences to co-sponsor this bill, is testament to the importance of the issue."

Go here for the rest of the story. While most Kentucky politicians have slept through it, Secretary of State Trey Grayson has been moving full-steam-ahead for taxpayers' right to know.

Bluegrass Institute update

Looks like the Bluegrass Institute's main website and blog should be back up tomorrow. The organization's most popular site Kentucky Votes remains unhacked by the sorry malcontents who couldn't fight on the merits, so they paid some hacker to temporarily quiet the opposition.

Ageism is ugly

Martin Luther King Jr. must be rolling over in his grave to see the media this morning yammering about Senator Barack Obama's "historic" effort based not on the content of his character, but the color of his skin.

I'm still waiting for the fawning reports of Sen. John McCain for being the oldest nominee of a major party ever. Or the first Vietnam POW nominee of a major party. Or the first sitting U.S. Senator who supports tax cuts to be the nominee of a major party in half a century (not counting Bob Dole, but he was just an old white guy).

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

More legal troubles for Lexington jail

The union representing employees of the Fayette County Detention Center has filed a grievance against jail administration, CWA local 3372 President Mike Garkovich confirmed today. Multiple jail employees who did not wish to be quoted for fear of retribution said the source of the grievance was a sexual harassment complaint filed by Corporal D. Zirbes against Deputy Director Don Leach.

If you are keeping score at home, mismanagement of the jail has resulted, so far, in a two year-long federal investigation, a class action lawsuit, and multiple civil suits. Keep up the great work, guys.

BlogHillary screams "it's not over"


If you really want to see how angry the Hillary Mafia is, you need to read her blog. They are accusing the Associated Press of trying to sway the superdelegates in favor of Barack Obama. Given that AP continues to report she is dropping out tonight hours after she said it's not true, though, it kind of looks like she has a point.

Trey Grayson speaks

Secretary of State Trey Grayson will make a major policy announcement to the monthly meeting of the Center-Right Coalition on Monday, June 9 at 10 AM in Frankfort. As a result, this meeting will be open to the media and the public is invited.

If you want to come, call me on my cell phone (the number is at the top of this page.)

Is Kentucky about to import economic disaster?

Stateline.org points out Kentucky may face a struggle with yet another entitlement burden if unemployment increases much.

Pamela Prah reports Kentucky is among a group of states with underfunded unemployment insurance trust funds.
"States that are also well below the recommended level with only about six months of money in their reserves are: Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin."

Given Kentucky's troublesome tendency to import poverty-stricken residents from other states, what might be even more disconcerting is that neighbors to the north Michigan and Ohio (and to the west, Missouri) are even closer to insolvency in their unemployment trust funds than we are. Should they decide to scale back on this or other entitlements to weather the storm, Kentucky may be forced to act.

Of course we did have a couple of bills in the last General Assembly (HB 190 and HB 221) that could have started us in that direction.

Monday, June 02, 2008

When you think pension scandal, think JR Gray

While Frankfort officials talk about how to tweak the public employee fringe benefit program to delay Kentucky's inevitable fiscal calamity, don't expect many legislators to say anything about former legislator and newly-minted Labor Secretary JR Gray.

Thanks to a provision in HB 299 from 2005, Gray will get a ridiculous pension boost as his time in the legislature is converted to benefit him as if he were Labor Secretary for the last quarter century.

Nice scam if you can slip it past taxpayers.

Over her dead body, perhaps?

Many people are counting out Hillary Clinton in her bid for the presidency and it is being widely reported that she is ready to quit.

She just sent out the following campaign email this afternoon. Looks like she is not quite ready to bow out gracefully.

Or could it be she is just trying to squeeze a few dollars out of her most rabid supporters to pay her back some of the millions she loaned her campaign?

Government transparency steps up big in Kentucky

Secretary of State Trey Grayson will speak next Monday morning to the Center-Right Coalition in Frankfort. Grayson recently announced publicly his efforts to make spending in his office transparent to taxpayers and has agreed to encourage other officials to do the same (facebook account required to read this link).

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A lifetime of preparation

Very funny video of a young Hillary Clinton:

Shortening the "oil shortage"


Newt Gingrich has nearly 300,000 signatures on a petition to require Congress to let us go get our own oil.

Much barking, no biting on fringe benefit reform

If you were just reading editorial headlines Sunday, you might think Kentucky was ready to demand action from Frankfort on the $26 billion public pension disaster. The Louisville Courier Journal bellowed "Pension reform, now" and the Paducah Sun screamed, simply, "NOW." The Lexington Herald Leader said "Light a fire under legislature," but they were talking about raising taxes.

We are never going to get anywhere on fixing the mess caused by decades of overpaying our government employees at the rate we are going.

The Sun said "Beshear is less likely than his ineffective predecessor to let the legislature dictate the terms of a special session. Something tells us he’s going to finally bring about long-overdue pension reform."

Their optimism is misplaced. We need to join 12-step recovering addicts by first admitting that we have been overpaying public employees for a long time. Otherwise, cutting benefits slightly today probably just means they will go back up later. That's just kicking the can down the road.

Now that more people are starting to pay attention to this, we need to shift the discussion to consideration of phasing out pensions for legislators. Eliminating this conflict of interest might help lawmakers keep clear heads about driving us out of the benefits ditch and inspire them to stay out.

Allowing legislators to take executive branch jobs and pick up a huge pension boost should be an easy mistake to reverse. Repealing the expensive part of HB 299 from 2005 would show significant good will.

Color me skeptical.

That didn't take very long

Speaking to Bill Bryant on WKYT's Newsmakers program, U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Lunsford wasted no time in playing the class warfare game and redistributing wealth with the best of them:

What he meant to say was "yes"

In an interview on WKYT's Newsmakers program in Lexington, Bill Bryant got an earful when he asked U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Lunsford if he supports a universal health insurance scheme: