Archive for January, 2010

Wrong time for county legislators to raise pay

Editorial for The Winchester Sun

Whether or not Clark County voters made a wise decision when they approved a 2006 referendum to change our form of county government remains to be seen.
Instead of having a County Fiscal Court made up of seven magistrates elected by district, we will now have a Fiscal Court with three county commissioners who represent districts but are each elected by all the voters in the county.
Lately, we learned that we will also still have magistrates or “justices of the peace” because the state’s antiquated and cumbersome constitution requires it. They just won’t have anything to do and won’t be paid a salary.
County commissioners, on the other hand, will be paid a substantial salary — and just how substantial it will be has been the subject of some debate.
Some say the commissioners should be paid more because they will be representing larger districts than the magistrates currently have. They also say that the workload has increased, and therefore the commissioners deserve more pay.
It has even been suggested by one official that the county should take what it is now paying the seven magistrates and divide it evenly three ways.
We remember, however, that the main reason advocates of the commission form proposed it was to save money on county officials’ salaries. To increase those salaries now would be to go against the will of the people.
When so many are doing with less, or without, it is ludicrous for elected officials to award themselves pay increases.
While it’s true that being a county official isn’t a lucrative job, considering the hours and headaches it involves, we hope that our elected officials see it as a public service, not a career.

Kentucky voters need more time to decide on party registration

Hardly anyone would have guessed in December 2007 that there would be a real contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the Kentucky Democratic Party's presidential primary.

Today is the deadline for candidates to file for Kentucky’s May primary election. By 4 p.m., we’ll know who is going to be on the ballot for the Republican and Democratic nominations for county offices, the state legislature and Congress.
If there are candidates you like, you must be a member of their party to vote for them in the primary.
Fair enough. You’ll change your party affiliation so you can vote for them. The election, after all, is still three months away.
But you’re already too late. The deadline for changing one’s party registration under state law was in December of last year.
Strange but true.
For everything else — registering as a new voter, or as a new resident of a different precinct or district, for example — you have 29 days to go to the county clerk’s office and fill out the necessary paper work, which takes only about a minute. But for some reason, changing one’s party is different.
Why? I asked Les Fugate, deputy assistant secretary of state, that question and was told that the “rule has existed for a long time” There was some talk, he said, in 2008 of moving the deadline up, but the legislature “was not inclined to change the law.”
So now we’re faced with a situation in which we have to align ourselves with one major party or the other half a year before we even know who the candidates are going to be in each party.
Where is the logic in that?
I suppose legislators are “inclined” to protect their parties’ self-interest regardless of any inconvenience to voters. But in case they haven’t noticed, party loyalty among voters isn’t what it was in the past. The fastest growing affiliation is independent, or as it’s called in Kentucky, “no preference” or “other.”
It was these independents, you may recall, who decided the 2008 presidential election.
And in this month’s Massachusetts special election for the seat formerly held by Sen. Edward Kennedy, one of the most significant factors was that in this bluest of states, 51 percent of voters were registered as independents. And it was independents who elected Republican Scott Brown, ending Democrats’ 60-vote veto-proof majority in the Senate.
In Kentucky, far fewer voters are registered as independents, but I think that’s only because our system is so rigged in favor of the two parties.
Clearly, though, many people are fed up with partisan politics and choose a party only to be able to participate in candidate nomination.
Most of us know that although Democrats in Clark County outnumber Republicans more than two to one in registration, many admit that they “vote for the person, not the party” or lean Republican, but register as Democrats — because in the Bluegrass, the Democratic primary usually is the election. It’s rare in Clark County for the Republicans to have more than one candidate.
But I think that if people were allowed to change their registration after the candidate filing deadline, many in both parties would so they could vote in closely contested primary races that weren’t competitive until close to the election. Two examples are the 2008 Democratic battle in Kentucky between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and the current contest for the Senate between Republicans Trey Grayson and Rand Paul.
Having to register two months before we know who the candidates are limits our choices in a way that isn’t done in other states. In Massachusetts, for example, voters can change their party affiliation 20 days before the election. In Connecticut, it’s only one day. There is no good reason why it couldn’t be the same in Kentucky.
If you feel the way I do, call or write to your state legislators and tell them you want them to change the law.
The fact that it’s been the way it is for “a long time” is no excuse for keeping it that way.

Thank you for helping Haiti

As of this morning, The Winchester Sun has received at least $650 in donations for the American Red Cross to help the earthquake victims of Haiti. Thank you to all who have given so far. We are still accepting donations (checks only please).

What do younger readers want?

What do younger readers want? The Winchester Sun is putting together a reader board and would like to include some readers in their teens and 20s. If you’re interested, or have someone you would like to recommend, contact me at (859) 355-1222,, or on Facebook.

The moral arc of the universe

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that social progress often comes too slowly, but it always comes.

The beginning of a new decade is usually a time of hope and optimism, but the beginning of 2010 is the winter of our discontent.

This time last year, when Barack Obama was being sworn in as America’s first African-American president and the first president of my generation, he spoke eloquently about the  change he wanted to bring to our democracy and our relations with the world. I was more encouraged than I have been in many years that this would be an era like the early 1960s, when America made great strides in social and economic progress.

But the lingering recession, which was brought about by a culture of greed and inadequate regulation, has made many Americans angry and impatient, and susceptible to radical ideologies of libertarian conservatism and, to a lesser extent, social liberalism of the Move On variety. The few who are old enough will remember that the same thing happened during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when the unsavory populism of Huey Long, Father Coughlin, Communists, Fascists and America Firsters had its day. But we should also remember that it took more than a decade for the pragmatic approach of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and the Second World War to revive the American economy and restore liberal democracy in Europe.

The surprising win by the ultraconservative Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race for the late Ted Kennedy’s old seat on Tuesday means that Democrats probably won’t be able to achieve their goal of providing health insurance to nearly all Americans at a cost they can afford. That’s disappointing to those of us who have advocated for that goal for decades. But the Senate bill had already been badly compromised by including abortion coverage, provisions for taxing middle class insurance policies, cutting Medicare to pay for subsidies and deleting the “public option” insurance plan, among other things.

While I am discouraged by this turn of events, I am also reminded this week, when we celebrate the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his struggle for civil rights and economic justice, that social change usually comes gradually — but it inevitably comes.

I take comfort in these words, written more than 40 years ago by King: “When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

T-shirt sales help Haitians

Two members of First Church of God on Colby Road are selling T-shirts to raise money to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.
Chris Hatfield, an Asbury College graduate, and Ashlea Hollon, a current Asbury student, came up with the idea for the T-shirts, which have a symbol of Haiti in the shape of a heart with the words, “His love is the hope” on the front. On the back are words from Psalm 46:1-3, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear. Though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and its mountains quake with their surging.”
The T-shirts, produced by Inkspot USA of Lexington at a reduced cost to the buyer, are available for $10. Anyone who wants to order a shirt should send a note with the shirt size and a check to Winchester First Church of God, with Hope for Haiti in the subject line,  2500 Colby Road; Winchester KY 40391.

Contact Hatfield at, (859) 437-0142, or Hollon at, (859) 749-1635.
Or visit their Facebook page at

Haiti: This is not God's will

God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
— The Bible (1 John 1:5)

The horrendous earthquake that struck Haiti last week, claiming the lives of more than 200,000 people, was the result of natural forces at work in the world. But it was not the work of God.
This tragedy reminds me of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean five years ago that claimed 230,000 lives in 14 countries and of the hurricanes a few months later that nearly destroyed New Orleans and other cities along the Gulf Coast.
Then, as now, there were those who said these evils were the unfathomable will of God, or a divine punishment for sins. Others, casting doubt on faith, said such natural disasters were hard to reconcile with belief in a loving God.
But I think both the fundamentalists and the atheists are wrong.
A few days after the tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004, David Bentley Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, penned an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, “Tremors of Doubt,” which he later expanded into a short book, “Doors of the Sea.” In both, he tried to answer the question: “Where was God in the tsunami?”
I read the column at the time and bought the book, which I didn’t read until the last week of 2009 —  the fifth anniversary of the disaster.
It brought to mind a strange dream I had on Christmas Eve 2004, which I have come to believe was a premonition of what was to occur two days later. The images I saw on TV the morning of Dec. 26 were eerily similar to those in my dream: gleaming white buildings in a sun-drenched land, dark-skinned victims of a disaster involving an earthquake and the ocean, even a car floating in the sea, just as I had pictured it.
I’m a natural skeptic, but this was one of those experiences I can’t explain away as coincidence.
If you’re one of those people who believe only in what can be experienced through the five senses, or who think religion is a crutch for weak-minded people, as a popular politician once described it, then you should probably stop reading, because none of this will make sense to you anyway. But if you think reason and faith are not necessarily contradictory, then you may get something from this.
In his book, Hart refutes those who say that whatever happens is God’s will — whether it is good or bad. He also rejects the Deist view of God as a “clock maker” who sets nature in motion, then sits back as a passive observer and never intervenes.
Hart’s view, which I believe is the biblical one, is that God does not will evil, either in human beings or in nature, but he allows all creatures, seen and unseen, free will. Hart believes there is a great cosmic struggle that will not be resolved until God is the victor, and he makes all things new in his coming kingdom. Then there will be no more suffering or death.
“God has fashioned creatures in his image so that they might be joined in a perfect union with him in the rational freedom of love,” Hart wrote. “For that very reason, what God permits, rather than violate the autonomy of the created world, may be in itself contrary to what he wills. But there is no contradiction in saying that, in his omniscience, omnipotence and transcendence of time, God can both allow created freedom its scope and yet so constitute the world that nothing can prevent him from bringing about the beatitude of his kingdom. Indeed, we must say this: as God did not will the fall, and yet always wills things toward himself, the entire history of sin and death is in an ultimate sense a pure contingency, one that is not as such desired by God, but is nevertheless constrained by his providence to serve his transcendent purpose. God does not will evil in the sinner. Neither does he will that the sinner should perish (2 Peter 3:9; Ezekial 33:11). He does not place evil in the heart. He does not desire the convulsive reign of death in nature. But neither will he suffer defeat in these things.”
Hart argues with the Calvinists, who deny that there is any distinction between what God wills and what he permits.
He exposes what he calls the heresies of “limited atonement” and predestination, and quotes I Timothy 2:4, which clearly states that it is God’s desire that all people “should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.”
Calvin’s view that God predestined the fall means that “he is the author of both good and evil, which is preposterous.”
The Scriptures say that “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.”
The Calvinist God, “being nothing but will willing itself, would be no more than an infinite tautology — the sovereignty of glory displaying itself in the glory of sovereignty — and so an infinite banality,” Hart says.
It is a theology that renders the universe intelligible only by rendering God loathsome.
But God is good “all the time,” as the familiar call-and-answer goes — and in the end, his true love will triumph over tragedy.
Until the “final glory, the world remains divided between two kingdoms, where light and darkness, life and death, grow up together and await the final harvest,” Hart wrote.
“In such a world, our position is charity, and our sustenance is faith, and so it will be until the end of days,” he says.
Faith and charity — not fault-finding and chastisement — are the proper Christian responses to what has happened in Haiti, as well as to what happened in New Orleans and Bangladesh — and what happens every day in South Africa, where people die of AIDS; in Bangkok and Amsterdam , where children are sold into prostitution; and in American cities, where drugs and gang violence destroy lives.
The people of Haiti don’t need ignorant, self-righteous “Christians” to tell them they’re being punished because their ancestors made a “pact with the devil.” They need the church to be the body of Christ — especially the heart and hands.

Wrong man for the job

House Natural Resources and Environment Committee Chairman Jim Gooch

What kind credentials does one have to have to chair a committee in the Kentucky Legislature? Isn’t there some kind of litmus test?

One would think, for example, that the head of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee would have to be smarter than a fifth-grader on issues involving natural science and ecology. Not so, it seems.

According to a recent editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Rep. Jim Gooch continues to embarrass Kentucky by making public statements in the media that reveal his ignorance or denial of climate change.

Gooch has filed House Joint Resolution 20, which cites the stolen University of East Anglia e-mails as a reason to doubt whether climate change is real (as if the evidence weren’t already overwhelming.)

In an interview with The Courier-Journal of Louisville, he said, “I do not think our scientists understand the science of our planet. …”

Who understands science better than the world’s scientists? Radio talk show entertainers, perhaps? Or British lords for hire?

This is the same Jim Gooch who has repeatedly bottled up in committtee legislation by Rep. Don Pasley, D-Winchester, that would protect streams from the effects of mountaintop removal mining. Fortunately, a new mining protocol by the state Department of Natural Resources largely achieves the goals of Pasley’s bill.

But how many other important environmental bills will Gooch block before his fellow lawmakers realize that the role of the chairman of that committee is to be a steward of the commonwealth’s natural resources and a protector of its environment?

To read the Herald-Leader’s editorial, go to

Great lives offer great lessons for leaders

For five brutal years, Winston Churchill had the hardest job in the world. Alone among Europe’s great democracies, Britain held the line against Adolf Hitler’s evil empire.
Churchill was the right man to lead his country at the time. He gave courage to his people by pledging to never give up, and his masterful diplomacy persuaded America to supply his armed forces until the United States and the Soviet Union were forced to join the fight.
Yet as soon as the war ended, the British people voted his government out of office, choosing instead the progressive social agenda offered by Clement Attlee’s Labor Party.
Churchill had good reason to be bitter, but he accepted the people’s mandate and was careful in his criticism, even though he personally disliked Attlee.
Once, at his home, another politician made a belittling remark about the wartime leader’s successor. Churchill exploded: “Mr. Attlee is prime minister of England. Mr. Attlee was deputy prime minister during the war, and played a great part in winning the war. Mr. Attlee is a great patriot. Don’t you dare call him ‘silly old Attlee’ at Chartwell or you won’t be invited again,” he reprimanded.
That exchange was included in historian Paul Johnson’s brief biography, “Churchill,” which was published just before Christmas. It illustrates one of the many aspects of Churchill’s character that I believe made him such a great leader. He wasted little time and energy on what Johnson refers to as the “meannesses of life: recrimination, shifting the blame to others, malice, revenge seeking, dirty tricks, spreading rumors, harboring grudges, waging vendettas.”
“Having fought hard, he washed his hands and went on to the next contest. It was one reason for his success,” Johnson wrote. “There is nothing more draining and exhausting than hatred. And malice is bad for the judgment.”
Churchill after the war was as much an exemplar of magnanimity as he had been of  courage.
The night I discovered the new Churchill book at Barnes & Noble, I had met a friend, Sarah, at Regal Cinemas to watch a film, “Invictus,” about a chapter in the life of another great leader known for his courage and peacemaking.
Among modern political leaders, I can think of no one who better showed the power of bravery and forgiveness than South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. He spent a quarter century of his life in a squalid cell as a political prisoner, only to forgive his oppressors and unite his nation — black, white and “colored” — after he was released.
A day or so before seeing the movie, I had read a biography of Mandela in a recent book written by the current British prime minister, Gordon Brown, titled, “Courage: Portraits of Bravery in the Service of Great Causes.”
Some of my other heroes were also profiled in this book: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as some people I had not heard of: Cicely Saunders, Edith Cavell and Raoul Wallenberg.
I love reading about the lives of great men and women because of what they can teach the rest of us. Every year my reading list is heavy on biography.
I had thought that since 2009 was the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, I would have read several books about him, but I only finished one, in February: a thin primer by James M. McPherson titled simply “Abraham Lincoln.” But I found it enlightening and a pleasure to read.
Like Churchill and Mandela, Lincoln was known for his magnanimity and perseverance. But most of all, he is remembered for his honesty and candor.
In an age when business managers brag about lying and politicians routinely distort the truth, when fidelity in marriage has become a quaint notion, and we are in the midst of an economic catastrophe brought on by corruption and greed, it is well to remember Lincoln’s lesson that honesty is everything — that in leadership, where there is no integrity, there is no trust.
Other books I enjoyed in 2009 included biographies of Andrew Jackson, Daniel Boone, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sen. Edward Kennedy, St. Patrick and U2. For a complete list of the books I read last year, or to comment on this column, see the following entry at Newer World.

Books I read in 2009

For more than 25 years, I have been keeping a list of the books I read each year. Like most people, I start more books than I finish, but these are the ones I read in their entirety in 2009 or was close to finishing by year’s end.

2009 reading list

• American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House – Jon Meacham (NF)
• Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation Through the Book of Common Prayer – David DeSilva (NF)
• Abraham Lincoln – James M. McPherson (NF)
• “A Long Time Coming”: The Inspiring, Combative 2008 Campaign and the Historic Election of Barack Obama – Evan Thomas with reporting by the staff of Newsweek (NF)
• The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope – Jonathan Alter (NF)
• Ireland’s Saint: The Essential Biography of St. Patrick – J.B. Bury (NF)
• Selected Poems of William Butler Yeats (V)
• Tuck – Stephen R. Lawhead (F)
• The Anglican Vision – James E. Griffis (NF)
• A Reasonable Faith – Tony Campolo (NF)
• Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy – Peter S. Canellos, editor, and the staff of The Boston Globe (NF)
• Practicing Resurrection: A Memoir of Work, Doubt, Discernment and Moments of Grace – Nora Gallagher (NF)
• In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars – Mark Batterson (NF)
• The Furious Longing of God – Brennan Manning (NF)
• Mirror to the Church: Resurrecting Faith After Genocide in Rwanda – Emmanuel Katongole with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (NF)
• Rachel Smiles: The Spiritual Legacy of Columbine Martyr Rachel Scott – Darrell Scott with Steve Rabey (NF)
• The Archer’s Tale – Bernard Cornwell (F)
• The End of Reason: A Response to the New Atheists – Ravi Zacharias (NF)
• Vagabond – Bernard Cornwell (F)
• C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church – Joseph Pearce (NF)
• Heretic – Bernard Cornwell (F)
• As a Man Thinketh – James Allen (NF)
• Prophet From Plains: Jimmy Carter and His Legacy – Frye Gaillard (NF)
• Republican Leader: A Political Biography of Senator Mitch McConnell – John David Dyche (NF)
• Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal – Silas House and Jason Howard (NF)
• Serve God, Save the Planet – J. Matthew Sleeth, M.D. (NF)
• Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine – Huston Smith with Jeffery Paine (NF)
• Make Poverty Personal: Taking the Poor as Seriously as the Bible Does – Ash Barker (NF)
• If God Were Real: A Journey Into a Faith That Matters – John Avant (NF)
• Jesus Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untameable God – Mark Galli (NF)
• Summer Guest – Justin Cronin (F)
• America America – Ethan Canin (F)
• A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life – Donald Miller (NF)
• Boone: A Biography – Robert Morgan (NF)
• A People of Compassion: The Concerns of Edward Kennedy – edited by Thomas P. Collins and Louis M. Savary (NF)
• A Great and Godly Adventure: The Pilgrims and the Myth of the First Thanksgiving – Godfrey Hodgson (NF)
• Leavings – Wendell Berry (V)
• The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation – Barbara R. Rossing (NF)
• Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died – Edward Klein (NF)
• Advent Conspiracy – Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, Greg Holder (NF)
• The Meaning is in the Waiting: The Spirit of Advent – Paula Gooder (NF)
• We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel According to U2 – Greg Garrett (NF)
• No Idea: Entrusting Your Journey to a God Who Knows – Greg Garrett (NF)
• Avalon – Stephen R. Lawhead (F)
• God’s Economy – Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (NF)
• A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (F)
• Courage: Stories of Bravery in the Service of Great Causes –  Gordon Brown (NF)
• Churchill – Paul Johnson (NF)
• The Snow Goose – Paul Gallico (F)
• The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? – David Bentley Hart (NF)

Note: The capital letters in parentheses at the end of each listing are abbreviations explaining what kind of book each is. F is for fiction, NF for non-fiction and V for verse or poetry.

January 2010
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