Hyperbole and hysteria in Indiana

First published Saturday, April 4, 2015

ABC 57 in South Bend, Ind., reported April 1 that a high school coach was suspended after she tweeted that she was going to burn down Memories Pizza in nearby Walkerton for refusing to cater gay weddings.

Walkerton’s police chief said his department had investigated the threat and informed prosecutors, and he asked that folks follow the law — no fooling.

Tuesday, the TV station aired an interview with Memories manager Crystal O’ Connor and her father, Kevin, about Gov. Mike Pence’s signing Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Crystal said that if the family were asked to provide pizza for a gay wedding, they would have to refuse based on their Christian beliefs.

Kevin O’ Connor said sexuality is a choice and that he chooses to be heterosexual.

To its credit, ABC 57 tacked on a footnote at the end of the story saying the family would not refuse a gay couple that came inside the restaurant to eat.

That’s a distinction most who are outraged about the law don’t make — between refusing to serve persons because of who they are and refusing to service events.

Some Christians believe that catering a same-sex wedding amounts to approval of, and [...] Continue Reading…

Family stories are Kentucky’s history

First published April 17, 2015

When the big snow of February 1994 brought Lexington to a standstill for two days, I didn’t mind because it gave me time off from my job at Transylvania University to read Robert V. Remini’s magisterial biography of Kentucky statesman Henry Clay.

The setting for reading the book was ideal. The building I worked in, Old Morrison, was built under the supervision of Clay, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, candidate for president and one of the great senators of the antebellum era. He also taught law at the university, and his little law office still stood about a block away from my apartment, which overlooked the backyard of the Hunt-Morgan House in historic Gratz Park.

Clay and his family worshipped at the Episcopal cathedral on the other side of the park, Christ Church, and theirestate, Ashland, was only a mile or so away.

Living in the Bluegrass, I was always reminded of the Clay family. The old Colby Tavern near my parents’ home in Clark County was a stagecoach stop between Lexington and Winchester where Henry Clay sometimes stayed the night before trying cases at the Clark County Courthouse.

On the way to Richmond, where I cut [...] Continue Reading…

Modern martyr Jonathan Myrick Daniels

In the film “Selma,” released early this year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights marches in Alabama, one of the most disturbing scenes is the brutal murder of young Jimmie Lee Jackson, a Baptist deacon.

The scene is shown as an event that precipitated those marches.

Jackson, however, wasn’t the only clergyman who was killed in the events surrounding those marches in support of passage of the Voting Rights Act. Another young Christian martyr, who is honored with a memorial here in Nelson County, was Jonathan Myrick Daniels, a Harvard-educated white Episcopalian who was gunned down 50 years ago this week.

In 2012, I mentioned Daniels’ memorial in an illustrated column I wrote for The Kentucky Standard’s People & Places page about an autumn day hike at the Abbey of Gethsemani.

In a forest glade on the grounds of the Trappist monastery near New Haven is the beautiful, life-sized reproduction of “The Garden of Gethsemani” by renowned American sculptor Walker Hancock. It shows a kneeling Jesus agonizing over his impending crucifixion while nearby his disciples Peter, John and James, lie asleep, unaware of his fear and suffering.

The story of the artwork is included on a plaque near the [...] Continue Reading…

Heritage of hate and the changing South

One of oddest mental images I have from my days as a weekly newspaper editor in Nicholasville is of a little black girl waving a Confederate battle flag from atop a parade float.

The Chamber of Commerce had prohibited displays of the rebel flag in the Jessamine Jamboree, and I had written a commentary supporting their decision.

The editorial had resulted in angry letters to the editor from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who vowed to fly their flag in defiance of the order.

The Stars and Bars, they said, was a symbol of “heritage, not hate.” I argued that it belonged in a museum, not at an event intended to bring people together.

On the south end of Main Street, most African-American residents stood in stony silence while watching the display go by, and a few hurled epithets. On the north end, someone joked as I was taking pictures that I shouldn’t get too close to the float. I laughed, but a rangy figure who overheard leaned close and told me I’d be safer with the heritage group than surrounded by his friends.

Continue Reading…

Negotiation requires dialogue, mutual respect

May 9, 2015

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

The quote from the 1967 film, “Cool Hand Luke” is first spoken by a prison warden before he starts pummeling the prisoner played by Paul Newman — and later by the prisoner himself when he’s surrounded and about to be shot.

I remembered that line last week when I was working on a story about “negotiations” between the Bardstown Fire Department and the nonprofit group known officially as the Bardstown-Nelson County Volunteer Fire Department and unofficially as “the corporation.”

When I went on PLG-TV Tuesday to talk about Bardstown Mayor John Royalty’s latest contract proposal, I mentioned that he and City Fire Chief Marlin Howard (who is also the fire chief for the corporation) want to hire a consultant to study a possible merger of the two departments.

At the time, I thought that was still the plan. I learned about an hour later that there wouldn’t be a study when the mayor asked the Bardstown City Council to “strike that” from the budget.

“The 20,000 for the consolidation study — that’s out,” he said.

Under the mayor’s proposal, he wants the corporation to contract with the Bardstown Fire Department to cover fire and rescue [...] Continue Reading…

Will Bevin, state GOP be ‘Happy Together’?

If you think Matt Bevin is a dour revolutionary, watch the video. It’s the funniest thing in Kentucky politics since Mitch McConnell’s hound dogs treed Dee Huddleston.

As the Turtles song “Happy Together” plays in the background, Bevin wakes up in a Team Mitch T-shirt, goes to work in an SUV with a Team Mitch license plate and gets a Team Mitch tattoo.

“Yeah, it stings a little bit, but it’s so worth it,” he says.

In one scene, he phones McConnell to warn him: “The word on the street is that Rand is going down to the Senate floor right now. He’s got his pockets filled with energy bars … .They say he’s going to be out there until at least Tuesday.” Then he adds: “Hey, that’s what friends are for, sir.”

It ends with Bevin talking to McConnell like a love-struck teenager.

“No, you hang up. No, really, you hang up,” he says.

Bevin, who won the GOP nomination by 83 votes in a four-way race, probably wasn’t McConnell’s first choice for governor. A year ago, Bevin challenged the Godfather for his seat and reportedly was ungracious after McConnell rolled over him and his Democratic opponent.

Then there was the bitter gubernatorial contest. I figured [...] Continue Reading…

Sanders, last socialist, runs for the roses

If you ask the odds makers, they’ll tell you the Democratic presidential nomination contest is still a one-horse race, with Hillary Clinton sure to get the garland of roses.

But Bernie Sanders, who announced Thursday he’s in the running, reminds me of Mine That Bird, the 50-1 upstart that crashed the blue bloods’ party and made Bob Baffert choke on his mint julep by winning the Kentucky Derby in 2009.

Sanders certainly isn’t the candidate of the elite. Right out of the starting gate, he told the billionaires he didn’t want their filthy lucre. One of his main issues will be to change the rules so the Koch brothers and their ilk can’t buy elections and legislators anymore.

He wants to level the field to benefit the people who make two-dollar bets on long shots.

This recent post on his Facebook page is classic Sanders: “During the last two years, the wealthiest 14 Americans saw their wealth increase by $157 billion. This … is more wealth than is owned, collectively, by 130 million Americans. This country does not survive morally, economically or politically when so few have so much and so many have so little.”

Leave it to Bernie to bring up the topics [...] Continue Reading…

Has Paul become a raging moderate?

April 11, 2015

His first day on the campaign trail, Rand Paul got off on the wrong foot with reporters. He had a meltdown when NBC’s Savannah Guthrie asked him about his changing positions on whether he thinks Iran is a threat to the U.S. and whether he still wants to end foreign aid to Israel.

“No, no, no, you’ve editorialized it,” Paul said. “No, no, no, listen.”

We are listening, but we aren’t getting answers.

The same day, the junior senator from Kentucky, who announced Tuesday in Louisville that he is a candidate for president, got testy with an AP reporter who asked him to clarify his position on abortion.

The candidate never said.

While Rand Paul the presidential candidate may be more attractive to traditional conservatives than the libertarian firebrand who was elected to the Senate during the tea party revolt of 2010, I kind of miss the candor of the old Rand Paul.

During that race, I interviewed Paul after he had suggested the Civil Rights Act of 1964 shouldn’t apply to private businesses and called coal a dirty energy source.

I asked him about those issues, and we talked about Medicare, which accounted for a large share of his income as an ophthalmologist. [...] Continue Reading…

The real St. Patrick — a slave for Christ

Published March 14, 2014

Near the entrance of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin a simple plaque marks the location of the well, where, legend has it, Patrick baptized converts to the Christian faith in A.D. 450.

I visited that Church of Ireland cathedral while in Dublin in 2010, and it brought back memories of worshipping, 10 years earlier, at another Anglican cathedral, in Belfast, where there was a big, beautiful mosaic of Patrick — or Padraig in Irish. The saint is said to have first landed on Erin’s green shores at Downpatrick (thus the name), in Northern Ireland, and in that town, both the Catholic and Anglican cathedrals are named for him.

We have all heard the myths of Patrick — how he drove the snakes from Ireland (there were never any there), and used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the concept of the Trinity. There are fantastical tales of his use of magic, such as the time when he changed his shape, and that of his companions, into deer to elude capture by fierce pagan warriors.

When I was in Ireland five years ago, I walked the Hill of Tara, where ancient Druids offered human sacrifices to their false gods. It was [...] Continue Reading…

Require insurers to pay for colonoscopies

Published March 7, 2015

The idea behind preventive health care is that if conditions are discovered and treated before they get worse, people will be healthier and pay less in the long run. But I believe insurance companies put profits before people, which is why regulation is necessary.

Last year this belief was reinforced by a personal experience that resulted in frustration and financial hardship.

In 2004, I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, condition that affects one out of five adults. I’m usually able to control it by taking a fiber supplement and watching my diet. But last winter, I began noticing a dull pain in my lower right abdomen, where I thought my gallbladder was. I made an appointment with Dr. Bennett Asher, my family physician in Winchester for 40 years, and he found nothing to indicate gallbladder disease, but sent me to Clark Regional Medical Center for a CT scan, which confirmed his diagnosis. He also had me follow up with Dr. David McMenamin, a gastroenterologist a few doors down, whose practice, like that of Dr. Asher’s, is owned by the community hospital, which was recently bought by the for-profit company LifePoint.

Dr. McMenamin also concluded I had nothing more [...] Continue Reading…

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