Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Harper Interview: "We are Kentuckians first."

I had the pleasure this afternoon of a conversation with Republican gubernatorial candidate Billy Harper at the start of his "Race for Kentucky" tour. He had just been given a fine send-off by the folks in Paducah at about 11am CST and called me shortly thereafter.

First things first: Western Kentucky needs more cellular phone coverage! If there's one thing to said right off the bat, it's that Billy Harper is a patient man. We were disconnected three times during our 30-minute conversation. Not once after any of those three times did he sound irritated or grumble about it. I like people who can take the good with the bad. For example, "I can talk from anywhere without being anchored by a phone line (good); however, I will likely get disconnected a number of times as my signal changes cell towers (bad)." I truly have the patience of the Irish so it's always nice to have a more patient and calming influence on the other end! ;o)

Billy Harper has a lovely family, an exciting hobby, and a successful career. Why in the world would he want to enter the lion's den that is politics in Kentucky? Naturally, I asked him. His decision was based primarily on his love for this state -- "Kentucky is a beautiful state with fine people" -- and a list of things that need to be done to improve the quality of life here for all Kentuckians. When he saw polling numbers that indicated that Governor Fletcher would be defeated in his re-election bid regardless of his opponent in a general election, that was enough for Mr. Harper to throw his resources, his time, and his energy into a campaign.

So, what does he think of his opponents in the Republican primary? "I know them both [Ernie Fletcher and Anne Northup] and they are fine people." Mr. Harper is not a negative person in the least -- I doubt we'll be seeing any personal attacks coming from his campaign. When asked why he is in a race against such fine people, his answer is simple: "I just happen to think we can do better."

As someone who's met and worked as a volunteer on the campaigns of both Ernie Fletcher and Anne Northup, I agree: they are, indeed, fine people. I'm sure they both want what's best for Kentucky. The question then becomes which person is best equipped with the skills and the leadership to do what's best for Kentucky?

I have been concerned that, as a political neophyte, Billy Harper may be hamstrung by the political wranglings in Frankfort. I asked him how he thought he'd deal with that. After all, there are an awful lot of Kentucky politicians who seem to prefer talking around the issues over getting down to work on them. He had this to say: "There are a lot of good people in Frankfort who simply want to do what's right for this state. Whatever else we may be, we are Kentuckians first."

His intention is to provide real leadership and vision for the political body in Frankfort so that issues important to all Kentuckians can take first priority over political in-fighting. I chuckled. Call me a cynic. I simply believe that Billy Harper is going to have one tough row to hoe on that score. I think he knows that there will always be someone (or a group of someones) in Frankfort waiting for him to slip up so they can throw the first of the six feet of dirt under which his political career would be buried. However, he is onto something with regard to the right type of leadership. With the right vision and the right leadership, it seems entirely possible that political unity could be found long enough to get some hard work done, some work that is meaningful to the people of Kentucky. After all, that's why we elect public servants, isn't it? Wouldn't we all prefer to have the entire ship of state rowing in the same direction for a change?

With regard to "rowing in the same direction," I asked about his driving desire for education reform and how he thought he would work with the teachers' union on that. I imagine that the union will be a huge speedbump on the road to progress in the world of education in Kentucky. I find this to be particularly problematic for Conservatives -- we seem to be the worst nightmare of the union establishment because we believe individual effort and achievement are the best approach to promoting a better way of life for all.

It is my opinion that unions have become more of an obstacle to progress and innovation in this country than a beneficial contributor. It seems to me that individuals who might otherwise rise to the top as contributors, innovators, and models of success suffer under the yoke of the socialistic union structure. The union itself seems to take on its own agenda and, often times, that agenda is opposite that of individuals who are "doers." But, hey, this piece isn't about me, it's about Billy Harper, isn't it?

Mr. Harper surprised me with the simplicity of the solution to working with unions on any type of reform. In retrospect, given his extensive experience working with unions in his own business, I should have expected him to know what it takes to work successfully with them. He believes that, because a union is composed of individuals, those individuals must be onboard with the vision and engaged in the reform effort; they must be invited to the table, asked for practical input, and given a stake in the outcome. While a union, as a single entity with its own agenda, may not agree with one or two steps in a plan, they often agree with the overarching vision of the goal that the members hope to reach.

I thought there might have been a personal story behind his zeal for education; however, the story of how Billy Harper became engaged in education reform is no Hallmark Hall of Fame movie plot. The plain fact is that he ran into a lack of educated workers in the mid-1970s when he started his first business. He was seeing what other businesses outside this state would see when thinking about locating here. He was struggling with a workforce that needed a stronger grounding in the sciences and better communication skills. It was this that sparked his activism in the arena of education reform in Kentucky.

Today, his work with middle schoolers in Western Kentucky has begun to pay off in the form of lower absentee rates. He takes his race team and race car to the middle schools to talk about how kids can make it to the "finish line." He talks about focusing on the future and how education is an important part of that. Today, Harper has a 20-year-old on his race team who was once one of those middle schoolers. Is there any better example of success than that?

There is so much more to write about my conversation with Billy Harper that I will break this into two different posts. Tomorrow night in the last part of this post, I'll cover our conversation on Kentucky's AMT and the role of state government.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sing it, Hill!

As we say here in Kentucky, that old gal couldn't carry a tune if you gave her a bucket!

Where's Billy?

...Right here! Billy Harper kicks off his "Race for Kentucky" tomorrow from Paducah. You can keep tabs on Mr. Harper via a new interactive website that will follow his campaign on the map, via blog, and via behind the scenes video. Cool!

"Job Killer"

A new television ad will begin airing tomorrow for Billy Harper. The ad focuses very specifically on the issue of business taxation in this state and the harm it does to our business community.

The ad refers to the "AMT" but it's actually called the "Alternative Minimum Calculation (AMC)" in the Kentucky tax code. (I suppose the term "AMT" is better known to most because it's already a part of the federal tax code.) No matter what Kentucky politicians choose to call it, it's an onerous tax that harms small businesses in this state.

Nice ad!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Time to Repeal Kentucky's AMT

Republican gubernatorial candidate, Billy Harper, is already following through on what he's promising to do if elected Governor of Kentucky! He is leading a petition drive to repeal Kentucky's Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). You'll see this tax referred to as the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) even though, technically, Kentucky's state version of the federal AMT is called the Alternative Minimum Calculation (or AMC). The AMC is a tax that is harmful to the prosperity of all Kentuckians as it penalizes businesses that struggle to succeed here.

If you favor a repeal of this onerous tax, sign the petition online. Why not have your voice heard? After all, Mr. Harper is certainly making it very easy for you to voice your opinion on a tax that hurts Kentucky. Billy Harper will be delivering this petition to the politicians in Frankfort. Yours truly has already added her name to the list!

Evidently, Billy Harper isn't just campaigning, he's already started the ball rolling on his first campaign promise! Nice work, Mr. Harper!!

RIP Barbaro

(Original oil on canvas by Ashley Cecil -- thanks, Ashley!
Read her commentary on the passing of Barbaro.)

The world lost an amazing spirit today when Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was "put down." He was unbeatable until his race with recovery. Evidently, he was in great pain and it was just too much to overcome; the veterinarian in charge of his care had to make a very difficult decision.

Don't miss the Associated Press's thoughtful video report on Barbaro. The outpouring of support from people everywhere for Barbaro while he was trying to beat the odds in recovery is just incredible!

A wonderful quote from one of Barbaro's owners in the story by Dan Gelston and Richard Rosenblatt in the Louisville Courier-Journal today certainly says it all for those of us who were praying for this noble horse to make it through recovery:

"Certainly, grief is the price we all pay for love," co-owner Gretchen Jackson said.

He will be missed by race fans, animal lovers, and all of us who admired his winning spirit. Rest in peace, Barbaro.

*crickets* Nickolas Arraignment?

As many of you are aware, this blog (along with The Rural Democrat) has been following the misadventures of Kentucky's most forgetful blogger, Mark Nickolas.

Nickolas was indicted January 17th by a Franklin County grand jury on three counts of willfully failing to file his state tax returns. His arraignment was supposed to happen during the past two weeks... no news. So far only the State Journal has done a decent job of covering his current tangle of legal problems and even they have no updates. Stay tuned...

Free Deputy Gilmer Hernandez!

Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) addressed the House of Representatives on January 10th with the following speech:

"Mr. Speaker, in the small border town of Rocksprings, Texas, where drug smugglers and human smugglers sneak across the Rio Grande into America, lone Deputy Sheriff Gilmer Hernandez was on patrol. In the stillness of the vast night, a speeding Suburban runs a red light.

Deputy Hernandez, 25, stops the vehicle, but suddenly, without warning, the vehicle takes off. Deputy Hernandez says the vehicle tried to run him down. The lawman fires several shots, one of which shoots out the rear tire, just like in the movies.

The vehicle stops, and eight or nine illegals jump out and take off running into the sagebrush. One illegal had a minor injury from a bullet. The U.S. Government rounds up six or seven of the illegals and, guess what, prosecutes Deputy Hernandez, claiming he recklessly discharged his firearm and uses the illegals as witnesses against the lawman during a trial.

Citizens of his town are mad. One said, 'Our deputy's in jail for doing his job.'

Mr. Speaker, another example of how the Federal Government is more concerned about people illegally invading America than it is about the men who protect America. Once again, our government is on the wrong side of the border war. And that's just the way it is."

You can read the local story about the citizens who've rallied behind Deputy Hernandez and watch the video here. Please visit the "Free Gilmer" website to read more about this. I have submitted a letter via this website for inclusion in the letters that will be presented to the court by Tom Cottle. He needs your message by tomorrow!! Let's see what we can do to get this good American out of jail and back on duty!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Harper at the Ford Truck Plant Tomorrow

On the heels of Ford Motor Company’s announcement today of $12.7 billion in losses during 2006, Republican gubernatorial candidate Billy Harper will make a statement to the press on the effects the Alternative Minimum Tax is having on Kentucky’s business climate at 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 25, in front of the Kentucky Ford Truck Plant at 3001 Chamberlain Lane in Louisville.

The Alternative Minimum Tax was first proposed by a Democratic governor and was signed into law by the current governor. The tax is unfairly imposed on both profitable and unprofitable businesses equally.
In a tough year for Ford, a big employer in this area, they have had a rough time keeping both stockholders and employees happy. One or both of them were bound to end up a bit unhappy with the losses suffered by the company. So far, Louisville employees have been spared.

Governor Fletcher has said that he wants to help Ford stay in the state by offering tax incentives. Here's an idea: how about eliminating the AMT as a really great tax incentive?! Whether Ford lost or gained money, it still had to cough up the AMT to Kentucky. Way to hit 'em when they're down! Geez. We will have to do better when it comes to creating a friendly environment in which businesses can thrive here. So, folks, this ought to be an interesting press conference!

Sergeant Major Tony Rose, US Army (Retired)

On September 11, 2001, Sergeant Major Tony Rose was talking with his co-workers in the Pentagon about the attack on the World Trade Center when American Airlines flight 77 slammed into the building at 400 miles per hour. It exploded directly under Tony's second-floor office.

"I was blown off my feet into the pylon -- just like some invisible hand had pushed me," he said. Although injured, Tony led the rescue, recovery, and security operations that day after the Pentagon was attacked.

Tony is a 9/11/01 ground zero survivor of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Twenty-nine of his fellow soldiers and civilian employees perished that day. Tony received the Army Soldier's Medal for Heroism for going back into the burning Pentagon five times that morning to save lives. He also received the Purple Heart for personal injuries incurred. He travels extensively speaking of the 9/11 heroes and the hell inside the Pentagon that the world never saw.

I have read a lot and seen a few movies about the attacks that day. United 93 was an excellent and heart-wrenching movie that told the story of the heroes who died when their flight went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. A good story was written by Earl Swift of the Virginian-Pilot about the Americans who were at the Pentagon when it was hit. Other than that, you just don't see much about the attack on the Pentagon unless it's on the conspiracy websites where they claim it didn't happen the way it happened. (Grrr!)

I have come this evening from a women's club meeting where Tony Rose recounted the events of that day at the Pentagon. He is an amazing speaker and a true American hero. I left feeling more proud to be an American than ever -- if that's even possible! ;-)

He is someone you want to hear if he's ever speaking in your area. If you need a speaker for an event, he is absolutely one of the best. Even though the attack on the Pentagon is tragic, you will come away from it knowing that this particular survivor will never let America forget that we owe a great debt to those who perished that day and to those who are fighting for us today. Every American should be proud knowing we have such fine people protecting our freedoms and representing Old Glory well in everything they do, everything they are.

God bless you, Tony! Keep up the good work -- America needs your voice to be heard!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Enemies of Victory

...are the friends of our enemies.

I'm sorry but I cannot try to be politically correct here. This Senate resolution just smacks of aiding and abetting our Islamofascist enemies in Iraq. It demoralizes our troops in the field now and those on their way to the front in Iraq. This is wrong, dead wrong.

I have no problem with politicians expressing their opinions on strategy; however, this amounts to a vote of no confidence in wartime and sends a clear message to our enemies that this nation is no longer willing to strive for victory.

I don't understand why we cannot put politics aside for once this millenium and start acting as a unified people -- people who understand what is at stake here, people who want to be victorious in a cause that help secure not only the interests of our nation but the interests of all people who seek freedom. Patience and fortitude are virtues not liabilities!

This simply sickens me. America is headed for defeat and this world will be a much scarier place as a result.

Blackhawk Up!

Our friend, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross has written an excellent piece for The Weekly Standard entitled "Blackhawk Up." Somalia's transitional government needs to "win the peace" now that Al Qaeda and the Islamic Courts Union have been defeated:
"If there is one lesson to be drawn from American military engagements since 9/11, it is that the hard part is winning the peace. Nowhere is this truer today than in Somalia. With the army-vs.-army phase of the conflict in that country seemingly complete, Somalia's transitional federal government faces its real challenge." ...
We are sending military and financial aid to Somalia now. Is it all up to America to help Somalia's government win the peace? Where is the UN in all this?

This is just so WRONG it's funny!

Forgive me; I can't help sharing this. It's sick; it's twisted; it's just kind of funny!

The idea is if you are bored and need to generate some excitement or are stuck on a plane flight next to a really annoying person, open your laptop and click this link.

(Thanks again for the laugh, Mark!)

"We got to show each other some love."

I hesitated last night to write a single word about President Bush's State of the Union speech. I wasn't jazzed by it; I wasn't disappointed either. So I wanted to let it percolate a bit. Upon further reflection today, I realized that there were some true Conservative principles at work in his State of the Union speech that deserve a big Conservative HOORAY! There were some basic truths and some necessary reconciliation at work in the speech as well. The speech represented a new tone that was needed and delivered quite well.

As a Conservative, I feel compelled to point out the areas of his speech that provided reassurance that there are still some of the bedrock Conservative principles at work in the White House. President Bush raised the banner of Conservatism last night in some areas even though it drooped quite a bit in others.

Even though he gave it no real emphasis and spent no great amount of time on it, President Bush did remind us spoiled Americans that we have a rip-roaring economy to be proud of:

... "We are now in the 41st month of uninterrupted job growth - in a recovery that has created 7.2 million new jobs ... so far. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising. This economy is on the move - and our job is to keep it that way, not with more government but with more enterprise." ...

We were reminded that our federal government needs to get its fiscal act together and encouraged to hear that they might just do it:

... "Together, we can restrain the spending appetite of the federal government, and balance the federal budget." ...

Thanks to the infamous "bridge to nowhere" and other ridiculous earmarks, the average informed American understands what happens to a great number of our federal dollars -- dollars that should be returned to taxpayers or used to meet more urgent national needs and President Bush addressed this:

... "The time has come to end this practice. So let us work together to reform the budget process ... expose every earmark to the light of day and to a vote in Congress ... and cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half by the end of this session." ...

Quality education should be a choice that EVERY parent is empowered to make for his/her children regardless of income level:

... "We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools ... and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose something better." ...

Health insurance could be within reach for all citizens if the federal government relieves some of their tax burden to free up the funds:

... "And for the millions of other Americans who have no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan within their reach. Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making healthcare affordable for more Americans." ...

President Bush continued to outline Conservative ideas with regard to healthcare, ideas that just make plain old good common sense to some of us:

... "We need to expand Health Savings Accounts ... help small businesses through
Association Health Plans ... reduce costs and medical errors with better
information technology ... encourage price transparency ... and protect good
doctors from junk lawsuits by passing medical liability reform. And in all we
do, we must remember that the best healthcare decisions are made not by
government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors." ...

It was somewhere after all this that the banner of Conservatism began to droop. He began to lose me. The President began sounding a lot less Conservative and a lot more like a big government bureaucrat...

Immigration reform didn't sound much like reform; it sounded like business as usual except, hey, let's add a few more border agents -- who may later be imprisoned for doing their jobs. Needless to say, with the new Democrat majority in Congress, he will likely have no problem getting his non-reform enacted. Although, I have to wonder how many Democrats in Congress will be contacted by their constituents requesting a tougher line on illegal immigration and the idea of amnesty... with any luck, President Bush will have to make a tougher stand against illegal immigration thanks to Democrats who want better border security and are tired of paying the social and economic cost of illegal immigration on our society.

Energy reform through government interference is NOT reform. It should be left to a free market where good progress is rewarded and bad ideas scrapped by the competition. Setting new standards only allows the continuance of current practices; it does nothing to reward innovation and new thinking. Government interference -- especially via subsidies which are sure to remain in existence as we simply move them away from corn crops for food and apply them to corn crops for ethanol -- has cost America its ability to innovate and prosper in areas that are meaningful to us all.

As I watched the speech last night, there were one or two moments where some in attendance sat on their hands. It happens; it's their form of protest. However, one moment in particular simply stunned me:

... "As President, I have a duty to nominate qualified men and women to vacancies on the federal bench. And the United States Senate has a duty as well - to give those nominees a fair hearing, and a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor." ...

Democrats sat on their hands. Ladies and gentleman, call me silly if you like but didn't we send ALL members of Congress to DC to DO THEIR JOBS? It is not supposed to be a question of whether they want to vote or not. Bills and nominations before them require a vote so that the business of this country can continue unimpeded by stalemates and nonsense. Are Democrats in Congress, by sitting on their hands, telling us that it's acceptable to refuse to vote on the business of this country? Is that okay with YOU? Well, it is certainly NOT okay with me! Ask State Representative Kathy Stein how I feel about that. It was an embarrassment to every American to watch members of Congress refuse to acknowledge that they have a duty to fulfill, a job to do, whether they like it or not.

Then it came... we all knew it was coming... the part of the speech about the war, the part that fell on deaf ears to some in attendance at the State of the Union speech. Those who had already made up their minds to publicly pull their support for another effort at victory in Iraq were unmoved. I'm sure most of us who support victory in Iraq expected as much but it's hard to watch this happen. However, I thought President Bush did a nice job of earnestly pleading for sanity and making the case for unifying this country behind the cause of victory:

... "This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.

...

We went into this largely united - in our assumptions, and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq - and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field - and those on their way." ...

He took great pains to admit that we are not where we expected to be by now. He outlined the progress we have made and that progress has been pretty phenomenal, if the truth be told. He reminded every American that the enemy watches our actions and sees either strength or weakness. He tried. He should have used stronger language, in my opinion, but he tried to remind us all that this enemy intends to exploit every weakness of our Republic at every opportunity we give them.

The enemy, Islamofascists, intend fully to exploit what they learn through the right we Americans have to speak freely about our concerns and to criticize incessantly the actions of our Commander-in-Chief. They see a country at war with its own patience and fortitude, a country unsure of whether the cost of victory is really worth the time, the talent, and the treasure to achieve. They will exploit that at every turn, as long as it is within their power, to ensure that the very things being said by detractors of victory in Iraq become reality. To give ammunition to the decriers of victory, they will continue as long as possible to provoke and sustain sectarian violence knowing that not much more of it is needed to ensure a withdrawl of the forces who keep anarchy at bay right now. Chaos in Iraq will lead to the insecurity of all free people throughout this world. People concerned about the longer term dangers of global warming might want to consider the shorter term danger of a world where terrorism lands yet again on our shores (and those of other free countries) to be perpetrated unchecked because it was left to fester in Iraq.

(Yes, that was a rant... I apologize. I simply feel like I can't say enough about this because there seem to be fewer and fewer Americans who understand what I believe to be very simple but very difficult truths. I've said enough, I suppose.)

My favorite part of this year's State of the Union speech was the last. I loved the guests in the gallery. I'm sure many of us applauded loudly at home and/or in our hearts for the people he introduced. We applauded them for their heroism, charity, and determination. They represent the best of the American spirit that is at work in all of us every day: Dikembe Mutombo and his charity toward his impoverished homeland; Julie Aigner-Clark and her determination to see children live in safety; Wesley Autrey and his courage in saving the life of a fellow New Yorker; and Kentucky's own Sergeant Tommy Rieman who was awarded the Silver Star for his courage and valor in Iraq.

President Bush's speech was fine really. There are already numerous critiques of it available in print, on television and radio, and on the internet. Many Conservatives will slam it for not being strong enough on Conservative principles; many Liberals will slam it for being too strong on Conservative principles. You know what? The truth of the matter is that it was a conciliatory speech; there was something in it for both Liberals and Conservatives to applaud. The important point which seems to be missing from every critique I've seen/heard so far is that the end of the speech had much for every American to applaud regardless of political affiliation. President Bush used the words of Wesley Autrey to express what I've felt all along. This part of the State of the Union address will ring in my ears forever:

... "Wesley says: 'We got guys and girls overseas dying for us to have our freedoms. We got to show each other some love.' There is something wonderful about a ountry that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey." ...

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Forgetful Fellow

Forgetfulness. It is the bane of human existence, isn't it? You remember your briefcase but forget where you laid your car keys. You remember to ask for donations but forget to pay your taxes at the end of the year. You remember to return the rental car but forget to pay the rental car company. You remember to put the fund-raiser on your calendar but forget your scheduled court appearance... Cursed memory!

Indicted blogger Mark Nickolas is just one forgetful fellow. As Vince Tweddell at the State-Journal found out today, all that forgetfulness just seems to be catching up with poor Mr. Nickolas!

... "Mark L. Nickolas, the blogger indicted last week by a Franklin County grand jury, has an active warrant for a 2006 felony charge in Fayette County, district court records there show.

Nickolas, who runs BluegrassReport.org, was charged in May 2006 with theft by failure to make a required disposition, said a clerk at Fayette District Court.
He also didn't appear for his June 28 court proceeding to answer to that charge, which would leave him eligible for arrest if he were stopped by police in that county, said the clerk." ...

With regard to how this active warrant in Fayette County may play to his current three-count indictment, the Commonwealth's Attorney was interviewed by Vince Tweddell and had this to say:

... "But those payments were made with a check Nickolas wrote from a non-profit corporate account, Cleveland said. He said covering personal obligation with a check from a non-profit agency 'just doesn't look right to me.'

'That may violate some federal or state statute,' Cleveland said. He also said Nickolas active warrant is something that "gives me a better idea what kind of person I'm dealing with." ...



For Nickolas's side of the story, keep an eye on the Pol Watchers blog as they seem to be covering that end quite well.

My opinion on all of the stories about Nickolas's "mistakes can be summed up with one well known phrase from the writings of Sir Walter Scott: Oh! What a tangled web we weave when first we practise to... uh... forget?...

Spring Cleaning or Post-indictment Clean Up?

Isn't it a little early for spring cleaning? I'm sure that it's got to feel good to clean up all that nasty paperwork... you know, the paperwork that's been demanding your attention for three years now? Yeah. I'll bet that's just what he's doing...

Indicted blogger, Mark Nickolas of the Bluegrass Report, has been very busy since his indictment last week on three counts of "willfully failing to file" his Kentucky state taxes. It seems he paid his back taxes after the indictment with funds from a foundation that he claimed was a 501(c)4 corporation. When this blogger and several other interested parties checked up on the facts, it was discovered that paying one's personal taxes with funds from a 501(c)4 corporation is most certainly illegal. Ooops! How forgetful can he be?

Now it would appear that, not only is Nickolas attempting to correct his three-year "mistake" by writing checks using illegal non-profit funds, he's also cleaning up another mess by dissolving the alleged 501(c)4 corporation called "Foundation for Kentucky's Future, Inc." I don't think this will matter to the IRS though -- it was illegal when he took donations claiming his foundation was a tax-exempt entity, period. Dissolving the corporation now has no bearing on the past.

For those of you who may be under the misapprehension that Nickolas was simply "forgetful" -- heck, who doesn't want to give a fellow human being the benefit of the doubt? -- I offer you another of Nickolas's absent-minded endeavors. It appears that he forgot about the taxes on that venture as well but back then Nickolas forced the Kentucky Secretary of State to dissolve the company for him.

I don't know about you but I certainly sense a pattern to Mr. Nickolas's forgetfulness... I certainly hope that the State of Kentucky will learn it's lesson about this particular tax-dodger and fully pursue this current episode of forgetfulness to its rightful and legal end.

It's the Content of Their Character

(If you missed the action on Sunday, you can get a recap of the games at Superbowl.com)


This weekend's NFL divisional championship playoffs were nothing short of fun to watch and the Colts/Patriots game was a real nail-biter all the way to the end. All in all, simply an awesome Sunday for football! Congratulations to the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts!! I'm extremely biased sooooo GO COLTS!!


Now, please allow me a moment here to get something off of my chest: This tendency of the press to make a big deal out of a person's sex or skin color when they accomplish great things just irritates the heck out of me. This USA Today article is the same old crap. I am SICK and TIRED of the press diminishing the accomplishments of people by labeling them. The fantastic talent, brains, and motivation of two great coaches and fantastic human beings are being underplayed so that the color of their skin can take center stage.

Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith deserve loads of credit for getting their teams to the Superbowl this year, just as every championship-winning coach deserves. The color of their skin is irrelevant. It's the spirit, the attitude, the talent, the brains, and the leadership that matter. If we are supposed to cheer on a coach just because of skin color, does that make me a bigot because I was pulling for the New Orleans Saints over the Bears this weekend? Nope. It's simply ridiculous.

In this day and age, it seems a shame that Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "dream" continues to be thrown out the window. Oh sure, it's thrown around constantly by the "diversity" crowd; the problem is that they view diversity as a variety of skin colors. There is FAR more to diversity than skin color, folks. As for Dungy and Smith, I will echo Dr. King's dream for all people in my accolades for them: It's the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Congratulations to two great American football coaches! Good luck to you both in the Superbowl!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The FairTax Act of 2007

The following is a press release from Representative John Linder, and published at the FairTax.org web site. With each new Congress, the FairTax bill must be reintroduced. Please make sure you let your Senators and Representative know of your support for the FairTax.

Washington, D.C. - Today, Representative John Linder (R-GA) introduced H.R. 25, the "The FairTax Act of 2007." This bill was first introduced by Congressman Linder in 1999, and has become increasingly popular since that time. At the close of the 109th Congress the FairTax Act was the most popular tax reform bill in Congress with 59 supporters in the House, which far exceeded any other piece of tax reform legislation.

"The progress we have made since first introducing the FairTax is simply amazing. The grassroots growth has been phenomenal and it is evident that Americans get it. They are way ahead of the politicians on this one. In the 109th Congress, we had 59 supporters on the bill, and we did not solicit a single one. They came to my office because their constituents demanded it. That is happening all over the country."

This bi-partisan legislation, with Congressman Dan Boren (D-OK) as an original co-sponsor, will repeal all corporate and individual income taxes, payroll taxes, self-employment taxes, capital gains taxes, estate taxes and gift taxes and replace them with a revenue-neutral personal consumption tax. The revenue neutral number advocated in the bill is 23%, which is very near to the average 22% embedded cost of the current system in every good purchased today. This embedded cost will be driven out of the price of goods because the FairTax will also eliminate all business to business taxes.

"Americans realize that we can achieve a voluntary tax system by allowing everyone to pay taxes when they choose and how much they choose by how they choose to spend. We are giving Americans an option of paying 23 cents of every dollar they spend with the freedom of anonymity, or paying 33 cents of every dollar they earn and the fear that the IRS will come knocking because of some unintentional mistake. They get it, and they are coming in droves to support change."

The FairTax achieves voluntary taxation by providing a prebate to all Americans that offsets the tax consequences of spending up to the poverty level. This aspect of the bill makes it the most progressive tax proposal today. In essence, if a family of four does not exceed the poverty level spending which is established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, then, with the prebate, they will pay no federal taxes for that year.

"Big ideas take a long time to achieve in Washington D.C., and I am excited with the progress we have made in such a short period of time. There are certain economic forces that are pushing us toward the FairTax. If we are going to continue to compete in a global economy, then we will have to move towards a system that removes the foot of the IRS from the throat of our economy."

Congressman Linder added that he has a new grassroots oriented website, linderfairtax.house.gov that contains answers to any FairTax related questions.

Of course, you may also find the latest and most definitive information about the FairTax right here at FairTax.org.

Illegal Use of Non-profit Funds?

It now appears that Mark Nickolas's attorney has faxed information to the writers at Pol Watchers claiming to prove that Nickolas paid his taxes. From the Pol Watcher's story:

... Clay provided the Herald-Leader with electronic copies of two cleared checks, one showing a payment of $1,048 for "2003 - tax return payment" and another of $5,309 for "2004 - tax return payment." Both checks were dated Dec. 16, 2006 and are labeled "The Foundation For Kentucky's Future, Inc., Mark Nickolas, Chairman."
Clay said Nickolas' 2005 tax return required no payment.

After viewing the canceled checks, Cleveland said he was "confused." ...

I can certainly understand Cleveland's confusion! The Foundation for Kentucky's Future, Inc. filed incorporation papers with the Kentucky Secretary of State's office stating that it is operating as a non-profit corporation. On Nickolas's Articles of Incorporation for the foundation (on file with the Secretary of State's office), the form clearly states, "forming non-profit in Kentucky Pursuant to KRS Chapters 273." Under KRS 273.161(3) the definition of a "Nonprofit Corporation" includes this statement: "No part of the income or profit of which is distributable to its members, directors, or officers."

It seems that it would be illegal for the chairman of any non-profit corporation registered in the state of Kentucky to use non-profit funds to pay his personal income taxes or any other personal obligation. The Kentucky Revenue Cabinet could not cash any check drawn on non-profit funds as payment for a personal tax debt. No wonder our Commonwealth's Attorney is confused!

Gee, it certainly seems possible that one more "count" (willfully and knowingly providing illegal funds to a government agency?) ought to be considered in the list of indictments, doesn't it?

The Ultimate Tax Reform Poll

An interesting tax reform poll is going on at "Action America" -- Flat Tax vs. Fair Tax vs. Tax the States. The poll describes each plan and asks for your vote on one. Lend your voice to the tax reform movement by voting in their poll!

A pardon is in order, President Bush!

If THIS is the way we reward our Border Patrol agents for "securing" our borders, let's line up at the border right now and start handing out Welcome Wagon baskets to illegal aliens on their way in! For crying out loud!

President Bush, you owe these two men a presidential pardon and you owe it to them immediately! If this stands, you will quickly move from my "not quite a true Conservative but he's doing what's right" column to the "if he were up for re-election again I'd have to stay home" column. Grant that pardon and grant it now before Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso spend another moment incarcerated!

If Republicans (the president in particular), cannot get tough on illegal immigration, start TRULY supporting secure borders, and providing better support for the brave men and women who enforce our immigration laws, I will be forced to consider the Republican party no longer conservative. This is absolutely LUDICROUS!

Nickolas Indicted!

This will come as no surprise to regular readers of The Rural Democrat and ConservaChick:

Mark Nickolas, editor of Bluegrass Report, was indicted today by a Franklin County grand jury on three counts of "willfully failing to file tax returns" for years 2004, 2005, and 2006. According to the story ("BluegrassReport.org founder indicted" by Tom Loftus at the Louisville Courier-Journal), willfully failing to file an income tax return is a class D felony. The possible penalty is one to five years in prison for each count.
... "[Commonwealth's Attorney] Cleveland said he told the Revenue officials — as he said he does in all such cases — to give Nickolas a chance to file returns and pay anything that was due.

'In the past few months, this is the fourth or fifth case they’ve brought to me like this,' Cleveland said. 'We don’t take a case to the grand jury if the person makes a good faith effort to clear things up.'

But Cleveland said Revenue officials later told him they had twice set up meetings with Nickolas, one which Nickolas asked to reschedule and the other for which he failed to show up." ...
Apparently, Mr. Nickolas did not take his tax liabilities in this state very seriously. Even given the chance to correct the situation, he declined. Who among us would be so brazen? When tax liabilities are being questioned, it is up to the citizen in question to provide the requested information in a speedy manner to avoid the very thing that has happened to Nickolas. No one in this state should ever feel he is above the law.

Given the claim to a federal 501(c)4 status for his foundation and blog (which a number of Kentuckians have investigated and discovered false), this latest turn of events is certainly no surprise. Democrat or Republican, the law applies to us all. It's nice to know that our Democrat Commonwealth's Attorney, Larry Cleveland, doesn't give out free passes based on political party affiliation. Nice work by the Kentucky Revenue Cabinet and Mr. Cleveland!

My favorite comment on the story (posted online at the Courier-Journal) is this one:

Thomas Hunt Morgan Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 11:51 am

And to think the administration had the audacity, the audacity to block state workers from visiting this site. Amazing. Mark's reaction reminds me a little bit of Capt. Louis Renault in Casablanca: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

"I'm shocked, shocked to find out that I haven't paid my taxes!"

I believe there are on-going updates to this story at Pol Watchers and The Rural Democrat. Please check in on these sites for the latest info. As a part-time blogger I simply cannot keep on top of this stuff the way the full-time dedicated folks can! Nickolas himself is at the keyboard this evening giving his side of the story. I wonder if his "mea culpa" can be used in court as a confession of sorts...

I've already seen comments (posted at various sites covering this story) in which people are pointing the finger of blame at Republicans for uncovering Nickolas's failure to file tax returns; however, you have it directly from me that, to the best of my knowledge, this investigation was NOT prompted by a Republican.

Regardless of who initiated the investigation, isn't it silly to "blame" anyone? After all, if a person breaks the law and we have knowledge of it, are we not held accountable for that knowledge? Are we not obligated to ensure that it is known to the authorities? Citizens like their fellow citizens to obey the laws to which we are all subject, whether Democrat or Republican. These "blame the Fletcher administration" comments do nothing more than imply that there are different rules for different people in this country. That's foolish. Break the law; get indicted. It's that simple. The man to blame is the man that broke the law.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Pol Watchers Responds

I think it's important for anyone with a voice on the internet to present all sides of an issue. In that spirit, I am posting the response I received via email from John Stamper of the Lexington Herald-Leader to the piece I wrote about censorship on blogs:
"Your post about Pol Watchers does not contain the entire thread of comments, as your blog states. If you go to the post in question, you will see that there has been no effort to eliminate comments just because they question Jonathan Miller and Mark Nickolas. Plenty of them still remain. However, as stated in my comment on Pol Watchers, we're not going to allow people to use the blog as a forum for name calling. It's that simple. Check around, it's a pretty common policy. For example, blogs at WashingtonPost.com have this policy:

'User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site.'

Further, I seriously doubt that the postings in question came from a state worker and his wife, as suggested. In fact, almost all of the comments we've gotten on Pol
Watchers about Nickolas and Miller, including the ones that I deleted, have come from the same IP address, strongly suggesting that a single person is using multiple identities in a deceptive effort to make it appear that many people are making these comments.

To reiterate, Pol Watchers welcomes comments from all points of view. Readers take us to task on a routine basis and I believe we're a better news organization because of their efforts. But calling someone a 'corrupt piece of dung' and a 'corrupt, lying, cheating, malicious creep' really serves no purpose.

Feel free to share this email with your readers if you want.

John Stamper
Frankfort Bureau Chief
Lexington
Herald-Leader"

To my readers and John: please accept my apology for not backtracking and providing the full thread of comments from Pol Watchers. I thank John for pointing this out to me. Sometimes I get in a hurry to post and don't do enough homework first.

I would like you all to see the response I sent to John. For anyone who is not a regular reader, please know that I am as open a book as they come. I will admit when I'm wrong; I will share with you my correspondence and my thought. Here is my response to John:

"Thanks for writing. As you can tell by my post, I do have a problem with censorship -- here's why: the posts you delete only give more weight to the posts that were removed. When you leave them, others can decide on their legitimacy. You take away the ability for your readers to indulge in their own critical thinking. Let them evaluate the opinion and how it is presented to decide for themselves whether to take the comment seriously.

In all honesty, I leave every comment in place for that very reason. I know my readers; they are smart people who can evaluate a comment on its logic regardless of language used. I know you were probably offended at the emotional language used but isn't that what it's all about? People tend to protect their positions very emotionally. Why not surface that on your blog? Let others see the spectrum.

I think it's important for all sides to be heard. So, I will take you up on the offer to post your response on the blog. Thank you. My readers value being able to read and voice both sides of an issue and that is probably why I've reached the people I've reached so far."

To sum it all up, folks, my opinion on censorship in the new media is simple: Let your readers decide.

Censorship and the "New" Media?

Call me an idealist -- odd label for a pragmatic Conservative. When I began blogging over two years ago, I believed that the use of this "new media" would provide an open forum for everyone. I guess only SOME of the "new media" bloggers like myself prefer an open forum. Others, delete comments and ban people who express a differing point of view. That's a shame.

It makes no sense to me for bloggers to put their thoughts out to the world if they don't intend to engage differing voices and perspective. Why would a person even bother to put in the time to write? Why not stand in front of a mirror and talk to yourself? Censoring the comments section of a blog is the same thing... oh, well maybe your friends are hanging out in front of the mirror with you, nodding and parrotting what you think. THAT would be the general idea behind writing and then censoring those who take the time to comment with their differing views.

This, my friends, is the problem with "old media" (and megalomaniacs) trying to fit into a "new media" world. Such is the case recently on The Lexington Herald-Leader's "Pol Watchers" blog. The old media, Herald-Leader, is now treating the comments section like a "Letters to the Editor" submission. That was the old paradigm; editors decided whose views were suitable to be printed.

When the editors at the Pol Watchers blog became discomfited by the expression of anger by state employees who have very strong opinions on the story they posted, they went into censorship mode and cut the comments. These comments expressed their anger and distrust as it pertained to the hearing of Mark Nickolas's "free speech" lawsuit in which, ironically enough, Nickolas claims to have had his right to free speech infringed upon by the state. Irony of ironies!

Of all voices that are pertinent to this particular story, it seems to me that the Bluegrass Report's "target audience" of state employees are the most pertinent. Granted, these folks were angry enough to use some strong language in their commentary; however, at what point does that make their comments any less legitimate than others? In the new media, free speech should be as easy as pie. Nickolas himself censors the comments on Bluegrass Report and is unapologetic about it. So, is Pol Watchers now willing to squelch the free speech of its readers and represent the same level of censorship as Bluegrass Report? It certainly seems so.

In the interest of preserving the very important voice of these state workers, presented below is an email I received from these state employees and the full text of the Pol Watchers comment thread before they were censored/cut:

To Whom It May Concern,

The online Herald-Leader Pol Watchers deleted my wive's (sic) and my post last night. To set the stage for you, we had read the Pol Watcher article called, "Judge Holds Hearing on Bloggers' Lawsuit." In the comments was a reference to the bipartisan article that you both printed. After reading the piece from your blogs we posted similar comments in both conservachick.com and theruraldemocrat.blogspot.com and then posted the same comment at Pol Watchers. That all happened around 8:30-9:00 pm last night.

Before bed, we checked all locations to see if any other posters had commented. We found that John Stamper had DELETED OUR POSTS at Pol Watchers around 12:30! We were outraged!

We know that taxpayers do not think highly of state workers. It is not uncommon to have some hard workers together with less than average workers in all areas of employment. The same goes for state government. There are many hard working, intelligent people and then there are the less than average.

It is hard enough to shake that reputation without adding insult to injury when the State Treasurer tries to cram his propaganda slander-house blog down our throats because we have become his target audience. My wife and I are highly offended by his plot to brainwash us and all state employees.

We don't know what Stamper's motivation for deleting our comments were. What we do know is that for some reason John Stamper did not want other state workers, or the general public for that matter, making the same connection my wife and I did.

We reposted our comments on Pol Watchers with a preface to Mr. Stamper that we were sending Stamper's comment regarding deleting our post and our new posts to Judge Caldwell, Mitch McConnell, Ben Chandler, John Yarmouth, and Geoff Davis. That message is still up. There has been no more deleting as of the writing of this email.

Do you all think the reason the media is not printing anything about Miller & Nickolas is because they do not want state workers thinking for themselves either? Is it possible the press wants Miller in the governor's office? The whole thing is disgusting. It is appalling and an insult that our State Treasurer thinks state employees are pliable and unable to think on their own. Most likely Miller is using our hard earned tax money to pay that disgusting creature, Nickolas, to brainwash state employees.

I don't know if Stamper will delete our posts again. In the event he does, we copied the portion here. I had to laugh at Stamper's threat of, "If that continues, we'll be forced to monitor all comments, which means many comments might be delayed for hours, if not days, before they appear on the site." The irony in that threat is funny since the whole article is about "banning" the right to free speech!

My wife and I think he hasn't deleted our subsequent post because he is afraid of what the judge, McConnell, Yarmouth etc., will think and do if he does?

Thank you both for letting us know what the media is hiding from us. You all are really keeping them on their toes.

Good luck in your efforts,
[Name withheld for privacy]



Here in full is the comment thread from PolWatchers that includes the deleted comments from the state employees:

"This blog is not a place to engage in name calling. I've had to delete a few posts today on this thread because someone couldn't be adult enough to comment without
resorting to personal attacks. If that continues, we'll be forced to monitor all comments, which means many comments might be delayed for hours, if not days, before they appear on the site. That type of delay sort of defeats the purpose of allowing comments in the first place and would be a major hindrance to those who like to use the blog to debate policy and analyze political maneuvers. For the time being, folks who want to comment will have to supply an email address."
Posted by: John Stamper January 14, 2007 at 12:24 AM

"Mr. Stamper, By deleting my post and my wife's post you have just illustrated why you do not report the news. You are acting just as corrupt as he is. Here it is again, I have copied this post to Judge Karen Caldwell (JUDGE HEARING NICKOLAS' BOGUS LAWSUIT), John Yarmouth, Mitch McConnell, and Ben Chandler, Geoff Davis. How dare you pull Nickolas deletion because you don't like the facts. ARE YOU ON MILLER'S PAYROLL TOO? This post HAS to do with the topic of banning and has to do with Miller & Nickolas who are both the blog OWNERS!

Mr. Jonathan Miller,
You little corrupt piece of dung. I have been a state worker since before you were crapping yellow. I don't need your malicious, hateful, vulgar, slander house you call a political blog to "influence" me!!!! You don't know a damn thing about the state working man. We don't need your brainwashing machine. We are quit capable of deciding what "state policy" we need without your propaganda machine from that vile, nasty, creepy, malicious Mark Nickolas that you hired to get YOUR message out to ME, YOUR "most important target audience." I hope you rot where all corrupt politicians rot. You have no respect for the state working man. I have no respect for you, pal. For your information Mr. Treasurer (young punk) who thinks I am too stupid to formulate my one opinion on "state policy." I graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a Masters Degree in Engineering. Do you think that State employees are stupid? Do you think we are elementary school drop outs? You are just a disgusting individual.

PS. Here is my one opinion on "state policy." Get rid of corrupt, lying, cheating, malicious creeps like YOU and Mark Nickolas."
Posted by: max January 14, 2007 at 01:14 AM

"Mr. Stamper,
I have copied the entire thread including my post. I have sent it to Judge Karen Caldwell and Governor Fletcher's lawyers. If you delete my post again, it will be interesting to hear why you deleted such a relevant post when you are brought in to testify as a witness FOR the governor. Maybe the gov's lawyers will ask, "Is there some reason you coddle Miller & Nickolas." Maybe the Governor's lawyers will want to see your emails?"
Posted by: max January 14, 2007 at 01:19 AM

"Mr. Stamper, This too shall make it's way to Judge Karen Caldwell and all other elected officials named above. My wife insisted on having her voice heard on your blog regarding the content of this thread and the demeaning facts involving state workers.

TREASURER JONATHAN MILLER,
I work hard and I pay my taxes. I wake up every morning, go to work for the state and at the end of every month I get to see how much money of MINE has gone to
taxes.

You started your so-called politcal blog, bluegrassreport, to brainwash ME. You should be thrown out of office and put on public display. Did you tell Irv Maze the little game you are playing??????

Miller how dare YOU target ME as your core audience!!!! Who the h&ll do you think you are? Do you think I am so stupid I need your nasty vile PATSY / MOUTHPIECE, Mark Nickolas to tell ME what to think? YOU DISGUST ME!!!!!"
Posted by: max
January 14, 2007 at 01:34 AM

"Mr. Stamper, Please do not delete our comments again. If you delete us for using the word crap you must delete scooby as well. As I stated above, this entire thread including my comments and my wife's comments have been copied and sent to the judge hearing the case as well as all elected officials named above.

What has this country come to?"
Posted by: max January 14, 2007 at 01:38 AM

"I am totally opposed to this administration and the re-election of Dirty Ernie yet I find it interesting that Nickolas sued the governor for the same behavior he engages in regarding censorship of blogs. When he is not publishing his liar's corner I suspect he is in a jockey suit at the end of Prince Ben's driveway. So much for holding to a
higher standard. Dirty Ernie, Lambert and Nickolas, the polictical three stooges"
Posted by: u12bravo January 14, 2007 at 04:59 AM

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Nancy Pelosi's Birthday Wish

Okay, I know it's a tad early for this since her birthday isn't until March; however, for the good of this country, someone's got to warn her NOT to make this wish!


(As always, thanks so much for the great chuckle, Mark!)

Looming Democrat Civil War?

Dick Morris has some thoughts on what will be happening with the new Democrat majority in Congress and their constituency.
... "So the Democrats are about to form their customary firing squad — a circular one — and begin again the battles that ripped their party apart in the late 1960s. The battle lines are the same: The new left vs. the party establishment. Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid are about to squander their credibility with their supporters on the left by failing to cut back, or cut off entirely, funding for the war." ...

It would appear that Cindy Sheehan's shout-down of the press conference last week was the opening salvo. Where it goes from here is anyone's guess but I'll bet on Dick Morris's opinion any day!

Groundhog Day... again.

Leave it to the comedic intellect of Dennis Miller to describe how it feels for those of us who are pro-victory when confronted by the folks stuck in Groundhog Day! Nice job, Dennis!!

Circus of the Absurd

I just read "Blog-blocking case gets federal hearing" by Jack Brammer on the Lexington Herald-Leader's website. Yes, even though I've been knee-deep lately in the circus of the absurd called "Bluegrass Report" and its connection to State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, I found this paraphrased bit from Nickolas's attorney absolutely ludicrous!
... "Greg Beck, an attorney for Nickolas with the Washington, D.C.-based Public Citizen, said it's an important case and that 'decision-makers' probably should be questioned about the policy of blocking political blogs while permitting the use of traditional news sites." ...
Excuse me?! Is Mr. Beck comparing the Kentucky gossip rag called "Bluegrass Report" to a mainstream news website? Look, I recognize that many of today's journalists tend to color their reporting with their own opinions. I don't think it's humanly possible to be completely objective so I don't come down too hard on that. It's human nature. However, to compare a wholly opinion-based blog written with a completely transparent (even though unstated) bias to a traditional news website is just ludicrous!

Is Governor Fletcher violating Playboy's first amendment rights by banning the Playboy website from use by state employees during working hours? I think not. Heck, the writing in Playboy is more interesting and articulate than the juvenile nonsense posted at Bluegrass Reports! (Yep, you read that right.)

Give me, and the other taxpayers in Kentucky, a freakin' break!! Not only should this case get tossed out on its unjustifiable arse but Nickolas ought to have to reimburse the state for the lost productivity and taxpayer funds that are going into defending a perfectly sensible decision to ban unproductive, time-wasting blogs from use by state employees during working hours. Ack!

Harper on the AMC and Education

Some Kentuckians may wonder why Billy Harper, Republican candidate for governor, has come out so quickly with strong positions on two specific issues (AMT and education). Unless you've spent any time talking to corporate CEOs or studying economics, it may not be immediately clear. So, if you'll indulge me, take a little time to read this article ("Democrats launch 'ambitious' priorities") by Jack Brammer and John Stamper of the Herald-Leader. In the process of describing what the state House Democrats hope to do this year, they've done a fine job of explaining the connection between the state's Alternative Minimum Calculation (actually a state-level form of the federal Alternative Minimum Tax) and education.

Kentucky is a beautiful state and a nice place to live; however, this state badly needs future-focused economic growth. We need 21st century jobs. We lose a lot of our younger citizens to states with better economic opportunities and that's a crying shame. The healthiest states have economic engines that are driven by a fine partnership between government, education, and business. In my opinion, this is part of what is holding the city of Louisville back from being the world class city it could be -- it has a tax-unfriendly environment and a suboptimal potential workforce from which to hire.

Folks, this is why I'm looking very closely at Mr. Harper in the Republican primary. The potential he holds for creating concensus across the state on what it will take to move Kentucky up the economic ladder is great. Democrats are already putting these things on their agenda; how much more "unity" could we achieve if we had a Conservative governor ready to work with them? It appears, from the issues he's chosen to speak out about, that Harper understands how these things must come together to provide fertile ground for the economic growth Kentucky needs in order to better fund the services we'd all like to have both now and in the future.

Okay, enough yammering from me... Let's hear from Mr. Harper on the AMT:
HARPER RELEASES NEW STATEWIDE CAMPAIGN AD ON AMT
- Now is the time to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax and grow Kentucky’s economy -

PADUCAH, KENTUCKY—“I’ll repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax and I’ll cut the pork barrel spending,” says Billy Harper, local businessman and Republican candidate for Governor, in his new statewide media campaign.

The Harper Campaign released its sixth statewide television advertisement today. The ad, featuring a magician playing a shell game, calls for Frankfort politicians to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax and cut pork barrel spending.

The Alternative Minimum Tax was first proposed by a Democratic governor and was signed into law by the current governor. The tax is unfairly imposed on both profitable and unprofitable businesses equally.

Frankfort politicians are trying to tell the people of Kentucky that they cut their taxes, yet business taxes brought in $100 million in the first quarter and create an economic climate that stunts job growth.

“Politicians in Frankfort are trying to fool you. For example, they try to call this an Alternative Minimum Calculation, but when an individual has to send more of their hard earned money to the government, that’s no calculation, that’s a tax!” said Billy Harper.

Examples of wasteful government pork barrel spending both being proposed and approved by the Governor and the Legislature are multimillion dollar state owned golf courses and luxury hotels all of which could be privatized.

Please direct questions to the Harper Campaign Headquarters 270-448-0663. Please click the link to view the new ad “Shell Game.”

http://www.harperforgovernor.com/multimedia.html
And, now let's hear from Mr. Harper on the quality of education in Kentucky:

HARPER TAKES ISSUE WITH LAGGING STUDENT TEST SCORES
- Harper says “Kentucky schools must and can do better” -

PADUCAH, KENTUCKY—Local businessman and Republican candidate for Governor Billy Harper responded today to the Cradle to Career: Quality Counts 2007 Report, which gave insight on how Kentucky ranks against the rest of the nation in education. The report showed Kentucky’s fourth graders are dramatically behind the rest of the nation in math proficiency.

“It is unacceptable for Kentucky students to be so far behind the rest of the nation when it comes to a subject as important as math. We must act now to implement creative reforms to our public schools. The first step is implementing the remaining parts of the Harper Report,” said Billy Harper, Republican Candidate for Governor.

According to Natalie Jordan’s article in the Bowling Green Daily News, the report showed that an average of 26.1 percent of fourth graders are proficient in math as compared to the national average’s 35.3 percent. The national average of eighth-grade math is 28.5 percent which is higher than the state average of 22.5 percent.

“Some have expressed surprise that the state is below the national average. Our school leaders should no longer be surprised by the results of our children but be in touch enough to know what is expected. That’s why one of the recommendations of the Harper Report is to hold teachers, principals, school councils, students and superintendants personally accountable for student achievement,” said Harper.

The Quality Counts Report also showed that the percentage of students proficient in reading was slightly above the national average. According to Ms. Jordan’s article, the report showed an average of 30.8 percent of fourth graders are proficient—the national average is 29.8 percent—and 30.6 percent of eighth-graders—the national average is 28.9 percent.

“I applaud that our Kentucky student proficiency in reading is improving, but as a state, Kentuckians must ask themselves, do we consider ourselves an average state, or one that will provide a world-class education system to our students, ensuring the future of Kentucky’s economy thrives?” asked Harper.

Billy Harper brought together business leaders, school administrators and teachers to come up with 52 recommendations to create the Harper Report to make Kentucky schools better. Among these are funding for full day kindergarten, requiring school councils to collaborate with superintendants on hiring principals and allowing for regular business review of educational standards. Billy Harper is also a strong advocate of giving parents authority over their children’s educational future.

The first five statewide campaign advertisements for Harper’s campaign all focus on educational reforms needed for Kentucky.

Please direct questions to the Harper Campaign Headquarters 270-448-0663


If you're truly interested in learning more about Billy Harper, spend a little time at the Media Center on his website. You can see the most recent advertisements and hear a brief interview with Harper conducted by Lisa Autry at WKYU radio.

Update on Section 220 of S1: New Amendment!

As I've posted recently, thanks to information provided by Grassroots Freedom, Section 220 of S1, the "lobby reform" bill, would effectively silence many grassroots organizations by subjecting them to onerous registration and reporting requirements which actually exceed what is required of the big lobbyists in Washington, D.C. This makes no sense and is likely an effort to silence the "little guys" like you and me.

Thanks to grassroots efforts so far, Senators Robert Bennett (R-UT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have created and co-sponsored Amendment 20 to S 1, which would remove Section 220 from the bill.

Please call both of your United States senators and ask them to support Amendment 20 to S 1, to delete the regulations on grassroots communications from the lobbying reform bill. For my fellow Kentuckians, those senators are Mitch McConnell (call and congratulate him on sponsoring this amendment!) and Jim Bunning. Here’s an idea of what you might say when you call:
"I oppose efforts to regulate my First Amendment rights and to silence critics of Congress. Please vote for Amendment 20 sponsored by Senator Bennett and others to remove Section 220 from S. 1, the lobbying reform bill."
As NewsMax.com reports on this crucial matter, time is running out. Richard Viguerie has created a website, GrassrootsFreedom.com, to help citizens fight efforts to silence us. After you have called your two senators, I urge you to go to sign the Grassroots Freedom petition.

Also, certain big Washington-based special interest groups are spreading lies about this legislation to misinform the public.

Grassroots Freedom has posted a letter written by a lawyer with great technical knowledge of this issue. It’s written with some “legalese,” but it decimates the lies being told to hurt the grassroots.

So call both of your senators, then visit GrassrootsFreedom.com. Also, please forward this information to your friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers. Let's nip this one in the bud before it's too late!

Friday, January 12, 2007

"Columbo" Reports: Details & Questions on the Miller-Nickolas Connection

Someone has been doing his/her homework! This well-written piece landed in my inbox from an anonymous author. It very clearly presents timelines and the activities that have caused the questions about the Miller-Nickolas connection that you've been seeing in posts on ConservaChick of late.

I'm calling this anonymous source "Columbo." Remember "Columbo," the old TV series? Whoever this anonymous source is, he/she is definitely laying low while combing the net, making calls, and asking all the right questions. See for yourself in the text of the piece that follows my commentary.

In a bipartisan search for the truth, William Hayes at The Rural Democrat and I are working together to be sure this information gets posted on both sides of the aisle. Folks, inquiring minds (regardless of their party affiliations) want to know and they're not waiting for the mainstream press to tell them!

Without further ado... "Columbo" reports:

Corruption??? Abuse of Power??? or Pure Happenstance???

For convenience this outline has been created to put together in one piece questions that are being asked from bloggers and posters on the Internet regarding Jonathan Miller and the political blog he envisioned, created and secured Mark Nickolas to operate ....

1. Has Kentucky State Treasurer, Jonathan Miller engaged in corrupt business practices for personal political gain or to influence legislation for personal political gain?
2. Did the Treasurer offer or promise money or other things of value to the corporation or the incorporator of the corporation that he envisioned and put into operation to influence the vote or any voter?
3. Did the Treasurer offer or promise money or other things of value to the corporation or the incorporator of the corporation that he envisioned and put into operation to influence the vote of any voter in sustaining legislation the Treasurer supports?
4. Did the corporation the Treasurer crafted and put into operation offer any legislator any thing of value to influence state policy in the form of legislative bills?
5. Has Jonathan Miller abused his office of trust?

Those are serious questions and we do not know the absolute answer to any of them. Those are also actions which are prohibited for elected officials and people in office of trust, according to the Kentucky Constitution Sections 150 & 151. We have put together some indisputable facts that seem to warrant those questions that are being asked.
We report ... you decide?

I. In the Spring of 2005 Kentucky Treasurer Jonathan Miller contacted former campaign manager, Mark Nickolas to incorporate and manage a political website called Bluegrassreport.org.

For those who do not know Mark Nickolas, he is a former campaign manager who has a two time losing streak for the only two campaigns he has managed. On December 30, 2007 Mark Nickolas candidly wrote on his political blog, "One thing that few people know -- and something I rarely talk about -- is that the Jonathan Miller is the single person most responsible for the genesis of BluegrassReport.org.

"During the Spring of 2005, Jonathan called me with the idea that I launch a political site, believing that the ground was fertile for a serious effort by someone who understood the political environment, the players and the media, and that if I could dedicate a large block of time to building the site and developing an audience, it would have a significant impact on the state's political world. After a few more phone calls and a couple of lunches, it came together."

Source: Internet, Bluegrassreport.org Link:
http://www.bluegrassreport.org/bluegrass_politics/2006/12/why_im_for_jona.html#comments

February 6, 2006 Mark Nickolas stated on his blog:

"Right now contributions have allowed me to continue my efforts full-time without any outside income. This allows me a very modest personal income (averaging less than $3k per month since I started) and to cover the costs of operating the site, doing research, travel, technology, open records requests and the like. "

Source: Bluegrassreport.org Internet Link:
http://www.bluegrassreport.org/bluegrass_politics/2006/02/its_that_time_a.html

II. Plaintiff, Mark Nickolas, is in personal litigation with the Governor of Kentucky. On August 21, 2006 Mark Nickolas' lawyers filed "Response To Motion To Dismiss."
Here are some direct quotes from Nickolas' lawyers found in NICKOLAS RESPONSE TO MOTION TO DISMISS filed August 21, 2006:

1. NICKOLAS RESPONSE TO MOTION TO DISMISS - page 6

"A MAJOR PURPOSE of Plaintiff's website is to INFLUENCE STATE POLICY, and a critical part of his audience is THEREFORE state government employees."
2. NICKOLAS RESPONSE TO MOTION TO DISMISS - page 8.

"It is an obvious inference from these allegations that at least some individual state employees -- the MOST IMPORTANT TARGET audience for Plaintiff's website -- no longer read the site because they LACK THE TIME or ability to read it from home."
3. NICKOLAS RESPONSE TO MOTION TO DISMISS - page 9

"The state has cut off the most CONVENIENT METHOD for Plaintiff to reach his audience of state employees, who make up a CORE PART OF HIS READERSHIP"

4. NICKOLAS RESPONSE TO MOTION TO DISMISS - page 9

"Because the state has chosen to burden the ability of Plaintiff's KEY AUDIENCE to read his site."

January 10, 2007 4:50 PM
Source: Public Citizen
website PDF Internet Link:
http://www.citizen.org/documents/nickolasresponsetomotion.pdf
End of Excerpts from Nickolas' "Response To Motion To Dismiss."

Emphasis should be highlighted on language used by Nickolas' lawyer:

i. "target audience" refers to 30,000 state government employees who are paid with taxpayer money.
ii. "key audience" refers to 30,000 state government employees who are paid with taxpayer money.
iii. "most important target audience" refers to 30,000 state government employees.
iv. "core part of readership" refers to 30,000 state employees being the "core readership."
v. "major purpose" is solely to "influence state policy" speaks for itself.
vi. "critical part of audience ... therefore is state government employees."
vii. "lacks the time to read it [blog] from home" refers to 30,000 state employees having higher priorities after work than reading the political blog Treasurer Miller envisioned and created.
viii. "cut off most convenient method" to reach "target audience" implies that since 30,000 state government employees "lack the time" to read the political blog after work they should be given the time to read the blog during working hours on the taxpayers' time.

The inference from the language Nickolas' lawyer used is that those people with more than just a casual interest in the political blog's readership are battling in court solely to: Keep the "target audience" intact so as to "influence state policy" on taxpayer time because the "key audience" "lacks time" to read the blog when those 30,000 "core readers" get off of work.

III. Events leading up to the State banning blogs on State computers.

1. June 8, 2005: In a memo from Commonwealth Office of Technology (COT) Deputy Commissioner - Mark Rutledge to Chris Johnson (COT) and Paul Sommerfield (COT), Rutledge asks, "Is the web master capable of blocking blogs? We have COMPLAINTS from agencies about staff spending too much time "blogging" they want us to use restrict access on all blog sites."

Source: Court Documents file by Mark Nickolas' lawyers on August 22, 2006 in "Exhibits To Motion For Cross- Motion For Preliminary Injunction." Page 25; Exhibit 14.
PDF Internet Link:
http://www.bluegrassreport.org/All_Exhibits_to_Motion_for_PI1.pdf

2. June 20, 2006: In the Comment Section from Mark Nickolas's thread, "Governor's Troubles threaten GOP in Kentucky" (New York Times -- Front Page), "the productivity of the entire Cabinet (at least those of us with computers) has been substantially diminished by this blog today. In advance, we apologize to the taxpayer and promise to work double-time next week to make up for the lost hours."

Posted by: "Revenue Girl," Tuesday, June 20, 2006 at 02:40 PM
Source: Bluegrassreport.org Internet Link:
http://www.bluegrassreport.org/bluegrass_politics/2006/06/governors_troub.html

3. June 21st: Blogs banned on all State servers.

4. June 24, 2006: "State Treasurer fights blockage of Internet sites; Miller criticizes Fletcher's action." Courier Journal article by Tom Loftus. Treasurer Miller is quoted, "We face many difficult challenges in Frankfort," Miller said in a statement. "Censoring critical speech, however, will not assist us in moving the state forward."

Source: Courier Journal archives and Bluegrassreport.org Internet Link:
http://www.bluegrassreport.org/bluegrass_politics/2006/06/saturday_govern.html

Treasurer Miller did not mention to the reporter that the "target audience" were the 30,000 state government employees, nor did Mr. Miller mention that the "major purpose" of the blog was to "influence state policy."

Treasurer Miller did not mention to the reporter that he envisioned, created and after many phone calls and lunches with Nickolas, Nickolas finally agreed to manage the banned blog full time.

4. July 10, 2006: The lawsuit was filed.

5. July 13, 2006: Together on the stairs of the Capital Annex, Rep Kathy Stein, Treasurer Jonathan Miller and David Sirota, co-chair of the non-partisan, non-profit Progressive States Network based in Washington, D.C. announce plans to file legislation forcing the State to allow State Employees access to Miller's political blogs.

Again, Treasure Miller made no mention of the fact that the "target audience" were the 30,000 state government employees, nor did Mr. Miller mention that the "major purpose" of the blog was to "influence state policy."

Treasurer Miller did not mention to the reporter that he envisioned, created and after many phone calls and lunches with Nickolas, Nickolas finally agreed to manage the banned political blog full time.

IV. Now the Questions....
1. Is the Kentucky State Treasurer or any elected leader classified as a "private citizen" able to donate money to a Corporation that they envisioned and created with the "major purpose" to "influence state policy" whose "target audience" are 30,000 state government employees who should be able to access the blog during working hours because the "target audience" "lacks the time" to access the blog after working hours?

2. Is the Kentucky State Treasurer or any elected leader who is in a position of trust, held to a higher standard than a private citizen whose allowable donations and promises are dictated by the Kentucky Constitution Section 150 & 151.

3. Does Kentucky Constitution Sections 150 & 151 prohibit elected leaders and persons if office of trust from donating money or making promises to a Corporation that they envisioned and created with the "major purpose" to "influence state policy" whose "target audience" are 30,000 state government employees during working hours?

4. Is it abuse of power if the Treasurer criticizes the governor in the media and fights for legislation that would mandate the "target audience" to remain intact to be able to access the blog the Treasure created during working hours whose "major purpose" to "influence state policy" because the "target audience" "lacks the time" to access the blog after working hours?

5. If the Treasurer donated money to the Corporation he created and whose major purpose is to influence state policy with the target audience being 30,000 state government employees, from either one of his PAC's, personal monies, proceeds from book sales, and/or through any type of taxpayer funded account which the Treasurer is allowed to donate to charity or other entity at his discretion, would that be in violation of Kentucky Constitution Sections 150 & 151?

6. What does it mean when Nickolas' lawyers say that the political blog, designed and created by the Kentucky State Treasurer, whose has their "target audience" be 30,000 state government employees?

7. What does it mean when that same political blog has a "major purpose" to "influence state policy" to 30,000 state government employees?

8. Why is it so important to the Treasurer that the "target audience" read the blog during working hours as opposed to after work?

9. Does Miller personally fund a political blog and/or foundation whose purposes are to influence public policy and state workers?

10. Is Miller's outspoken support for the blog and the subsequent legal ruckus underhanded, if not entirely unethical or abuse of power?

11. Did Miller hire the foundation/blog as a lobbying firm, if he has why not simply say so?

These are questions that have been asked on many blogs on the Internet and we decided to put them all together on one outline. If there are other questions being asked on other blogs that are not within this thread they are only left out due to oversight. Please feel free to ask any additional questions in the comment section.

While writing and putting together these facts in an outline I got that "troubled feeling" one gets when writing indisputable, factual evidence regarding possible corruption by elected leaders who are in high power of trust in government. I wondered if Thomas Paine, or other pamphleteers from that period, ever felt troubled when they wrote questions designed to hold elected officials in power accountable for their actions?

Thus far the main stream media has not mentioned any of this to the voters of the Commonwealth. Perhaps they do not read blogs and are unaware that these questions are being asked on the world wide web?

(My heartiest thanks for the nice detective work, "Columbo!" I'm Irish-American and have a notorious patience deficit. I would never have been able to lay this out in such great detail for readers by myself. Keep up the great work!)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Spiders on Drugs

I needed a break, wanted to laugh a bit. After I got my laugh, I felt compelled to share. Hang in there for a bit; it gets pretty funny even for us arachniphobes! Caution: Depending on your sensitivity to some rough language, you may not find this as amusing as I did.



(Thanks for providing the laugh tonight, Mark!)

Time for Action -- Remove Section 220 from S1

As you read this, the Senate is debating legislation that will silence many grassroots organizations, some bloggers included. Please take immediate action to stop this from happening.

S 1, the "Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007," by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and 16 other co-sponsors, has a major Trojan Horse.

Section 220 of this bill requires grassroots communications to be subject to onerous registration and reporting requirements that actually exceed what is required of the big Washington, D.C. lobbyists. This makes no sense and can even those small grassroots voices like mine and others.

Please take a minute as soon as you can find a spare one and contact both of your U.S. Senators. In Kentucky, those senators are Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning. Since McConnell is a co-sponsor, it will be a tough sell but I know ConservaChick readers are smart cookies. Jim Bunning, on the other hand, has been a great voice for us lately and he will be very likely to listen.

They can be reached through their local office near you or through the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

When calling each Senator, ask to speak to the person of the staff who is responsible for S 1, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007. Please ask them to do everything in their power to get Section 220, regulating grassroots communications, removed from S 1.

This matter is extremely urgent because it could come to a vote on the Senate floor in the next few days--or even the next few hours.

Bravo, Bush!

After watching President Bush's speech last night and reading/watching commentary from various sources afterward, I am amazed that people aren't more reassured about where this war is going and what lies ahead for us. It was a very clear roadmap that included a very comprehensive set of measurable milestones.

What are those milestones? Americans should see Iraqi security forces fully in charge of all provinces by November; legislation passed to share oil revenues; $10 billion worth of Iraqi money invested in reconstruction and infrastructure projects; provincial elections later this year; and a reformation of the de-Baathification laws and a fair process for Iraqi Constitutional amendments.

Currently, this war is taking place all over the world. Some of it is known to the US public; some of it is yet to be known. While the Bush-haters in DC are busy leaking classified secrets to the press, our government has managed to maintain enough secrecy to successfully squelch terrorist plans in the US while continuing to track Al Qaeda across the globe. While critics here in the States were complaining that the Iraqi front was causing the US to take our eye off the ball (Al Qaeda), suddenly we find that our eye has never been off the ball at all. As a matter of fact, we're fighting this war on three fronts (that we know of) right now and doing a darned good job.

Gee, who knew we were working with Ethiopia in Somalia? Hmmm. The news that we killed one of the masterminds behind the bombings of US embassies in Africa was great news! This old red, white, and blue dog is still in the hunt. That feels really good to know. Somalia has been rotten with Islamofascists for years now. It's a known terrorist haven.

I feel more reassured and more confident that victory on the Iraqi front is within reach after hearing the president speak last night. I am glad he isn't one who caves in to popular (or media-endorsed) opinions. He has stuck to what he said he would do all along. We're hunting them down. The only difference now is that we are adjusting and realigning our tactics with the changing face of the situation in Iraq.

We have a new strategy that is comprehensive -- including military, political, and economic factors in that plan is brillant. And, I must say, I applauded loudly (scared the bejeezus out of my cat but she's jumpy that way anyway) when I heard that we plan to secure Iraq's borders with Syria and Iran as part of this new plan. No more terrorists and weaponry into Iraq while we clean up the place. Seems like good old-fashioned common sense to me. We can do that from within Iraq's borders.

Another very important piece of the speech last night was not lost on me. We have a problem with Iraqi officials being a bit unwilling to put down the militias in that country. Part of that unwillingness is our fault -- yep, I'm blaming the American media, politicians, and uninformed Americans for something: Why would any sane Iraqi leader put down a militia that may save your butt if the Americans pull out suddenly and leave a horrendous power vacuum? You wouldn't. If you were Prime Minister Maliki you would need to have an army to protect you if that happened; you'd want to be able to say, "Hey, I protected you (Al-Sadr) and your army while the Americans were here. Help ME now."

We are at fault for the hesitance of the Iraqi leadership to wipe the slate clean and rebuild your nation. America left them twisting in the wind once back in 1991 when they thought we were coming through to clean house there. Many brave Iraqis who wanted our help and thought freedom was within reach died as a result. Why would they trust us this time? We need to show them that we won't cut and run before they can plant their feet firmly in freedom this time.

It was also nice to hear the president prepare the American people with realistic projections about what we can expect to see on TV even after this "troop surge." There will indeed be more violence and any American who doesn't realize that has never backed a wild animal into a corner -- they fight ferociously. Unfortunately, that's a sign of progress that no one wants to see but it will be news and it will be necessary.

I applaud his plan and his resolve. Most of all though, I'm glad to hear that the gloves are finally off. Let's get this done. Bravo, President Bush!