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Saturday, September 12, 2015



Today I buried the best dog in the world.  Her name was Giggles and she was a 15 pound miniature Dachshund who had been a member of our family all but six weeks of her long, wonderful, and loving life.  We got her in late 2000 shortly after my wife Candice had progressed into a wheelchair due to a rare, genetic, degenerative disease which had begun in the middle 1990's when she was in her middle 20's. Giggles would have been fifteen if she had lived until December.  Candice had a great deal of depression early in her disease progression.  When we got Giggles, she proceeded to spend the great majority of her life in Candice's lap or walking between the wheels and behind the axle of her wheelchair on their many trips to Old Mill Park in our home town of West Liberty, KY, where they often went to exercise.  Giggles learned very rapidly that the best way to avoid being nipped by the wheelchair wheels required her to stay between the wheels when the chair was in motion.  When Candice would stop rolling, Giggles would come around to the front of the chair, climb on the footplate and then into Candice's lap which was her favorite place in the world.  I have always said that she was the best untrained therapy dog in the world.  I gradually came to simply call her The Best Dog In The World and she was.  She was a bundle of joy and boundless energy.  She went nearly everywhere we did except to work. And we developed a habit, if we were leaving her at home to tell her "we are going to work" no matter where we went.  She traveled a great deal of the Eastern United States with us by car and it never mattered where we were so long as Candice and her wheelchair were there Giggles was absolutely dependable in any situation.  She loved me too and I loved her just as much as Candice did.  But in her heart, Giggles had a seven day a week job taking care of her "Mommy".  But until she got too old to climb up into my pickup, she would meet me at the top of our driveway, if she and Candice were in the yard when I came home.  And then she would climb in the seat with me behind the steering wheel and greet me with a "howl fest" which we both loved to do generally to the accompaniment of my favorite Bluegrass music.  She slept in the bed with us every night and loved to spend long hours in Candice's lap in a recliner under a quilt.  Candice continued to work for ten years in our local food stamp office after she progressed into the chair and Giggles was a major part of that accomplishment.  She was much more than a dog.  She was a family member.  In the fall of 2010, she survived a stroke which temporarily disabled her entire left side and we thought at the onset that she would not survive that event.  So, in reality, we had known for five years that she was on borrowed time.  But we were not anywhere near ready to see her go.  She developed serious intestinal problems late last night and went downhill rapidly.  There is no real late night emergency veterinary services in our area and we were hoping she could hold on until they opened today.  But she deteriorated quickly after 4:30am and died in her "Mommy's" arms at 6am.  We wrapped her in her favorite blanket and chose a spot for her in front of the sidewalk in front of the porch as close to the house as we could keep her.  As I dug her grave with the same old hand tools, I have seen my elderly neighbors use to dig human graves during my childhood, I remembered one man in particular who had no public job, volunteered to help dig every grave within walking distance of his house, and felt very strongly that the last decent thing we can do for anybody is to dig them a perfect grave.  I have seen that man mix small balls of mud to fill tiny holes which fell out of the side walls of a grave in order to ensure that he was paying proper respect to the deceased.  So in memory of that old man and The Best Dog In The World, I tried my best to dig her a perfect grave.  I used my double bit axe to cut the tree roots and throw them out.  I used my spade to smooth the bottom and the sides.  I got down on my knees and laid her gently in it and told her I loved her once last time.  But nothing I have done today, or in the last fourteen plus years can ever properly repay that little dog for everything she has done for me.  And, I will end this piece with a comment I have made about her in a multitude of places for quite a few years: I thought more of that dog than I did many of my relatives.  She was with us for almost fifteen years and never lied to me, stole anything from me, or ever voted Republican.  You can't ask for much more from a dog.  Godspeed, Little Girl!  I love you!  

Monday, September 7, 2015



    When I was growing up in Knott County KY, I was taught on a daily basis that Franklin D. Roosevelt, from whom I had gotten my middle name had, along with Winston Churchill, saved the world and that the best interests of the working class, poor, elderly, infirm, young, disabled, and minorities lay with the Democratic Party.  Later, after I left Knott County for a larger and wider world, I was fortunate enough to meet and be mentored by two other men, Don West and Jim Ferrell, who reinforced the validity of my childhood political learning.  During my youth, I was taught that there is no worse form of vermin in the world than a "straddle poll".  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a straddle poll is a person who regularly switches sides in elections, jumping from party to party and candidate to candidate based on whim and easily shifting winds of purported change.  In my youth, the switches were most often predicated by a flurry of $5 bills and half pints of whiskey passed out within a few days of the election.  In my native Knott County, which had been controlled solidly by Democrats for more than a hundred years, such a switch was predicated by thousands of tons of gravels placed on private driveways and roads which resulted in the winning Republican Judge Executive being sent to the federal penitentiary on election fraud charges.  And actually, that Judge Executive was following in the footsteps of his Democratic predecessor who had already been tried, convicted, and sentenced on similar charges.  Today, I am unable to even find the term straddle poll in my Concise Oxford English Dictionary.  When I look it up on Google, the answer comes back with the second word spelled "pole" and describes an artful move by a nude dancer. In some ways, the two definitions are rooted in similar shenanigans or artful moves under duress.  In addition to attempting to educate potential voters about the inherent fallacies in independent politics, a major objective of this post will be to salvage the expression "straddle poll" from the linguistic scrap heap.  

Today it is not uncommon at all to hear individuals who regularly vote exclaim proudly that they are "an independent and I vote for the candidate and not the party".  More than 200 years of American history have proven this belief to be self defeating and unfounded.  I know of one county in Eastern KY, Magoffin County, where the court house is regularly occupied by a divided corps of elected officials split between the two major parties and generally unable to agree on anything more than the site of the actual court house.  That county has been embroiled in legal disputes over elections for at least five years involving the duly elected County Judge Executive and his narrowly defeated opponent.  The case has wound its way through the KY court system and the appeals process has become both highly personal and unending.  And, whether the voters ever admit it or not,  the turmoil is a direct result of an electorate who are incapable of committing wholeheartedly to either political party for any length of time.  It is a direct result of straddle poll politics in both aforementioned counties.  Additionally, when local jurisdictions, whether they be counties, precincts or cities, become unpredictable in their voting patterns, politicians and leaders in control of both major parties become distrustful of the electorate and are more and more unwilling to take positive actions to support that electorate and provide the communities involved with the services and infrastructure they need.  For many years, Magoffin County KY has been among the highest counties in unemployment in the state in spite of having been crossed by the Mountain Parkway, a major artery for business in and out of Eastern KY.  But business executives are often unwilling to commit large expenditures for long term operations in a county where the leadership of the court house in unlikely to remain in place more than one term.

By contrast, Leslie County KY, about 85 miles to the southeast and located along the Daniel Boone Parkway, has been a solid Civil War Republican County since 1865.  It is impossible for a Democrat to get elected in that county and it served as the site of Former President Richard Nixon's return to public life after his impeachment and resignation primarily because it has been absolutely loyal to Republican causes since long before the current oldest residents were born.  In that kind of safely predictable setting, a former president was willing to step out in public and begin his work to rebuild his legacy as much as possible before his death.  And, while Leslie County KY is not generally wealthy, their economic existence is much more stable and predictable because higher level politicians and business executives know that the county is politically predictable.  \

My own home county, Morgan County Ky, is currently simultaneously working to recover from a major tornado on March 2, 2012, and the necessity for the federal government to prosecute, convict, and imprison County Judge Tim Conley, a Republican who was elected in 2008 after more than a hundred years of highly predictable Democratic results in the county.  The bottom line is that straddle poll politics does not work.  It is not any less distasteful if it is called by the misnomer "independent politics" and it will nearly always result in confusion at the court house, distrust by state and national party leaders due to unpredictability, and will always cost a locality in terms of investments, infrastructure, and political capital in state houses and Washington, DC.  Or as my father taught me, if you keep jumping back and forth across the political fence, sooner or later you will leave the figurative family jewels hanging on the barbed wire. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015



On Thursday, September 3, 2015, in Ashland, KY, US Circuit Court Judge David Bunning will conduct a hearing to determine whether Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has committed contempt of court by defying the judge's order that she provide marriage licenses to all applicants in keeping with the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges as well as their decision in late August 2015 to deny Davis' appeal without comment.  Judge Bunning will have the option, if he finds that Davis is in contempt of court, of 1) mandating that the clerk pay hefty fines on a daily basis; 2) ordering that she be jailed until she either resigns from office or decides to comply with the Supreme Court decision; or, 3) a combination of the two previously listed penalties. Most legal experts who have been interviewed in the media have stated they believe the judge will not jail Davis at this hearing but will fine her heavily with a cumulative daily fine and give her one more chance to comply with the law.

It is my opinion that Davis is highly unlikely to comply under the duress of anything less than jail time.  The judge has also ordered all of Davis' deputy clerks to attend the hearing.  Those deputies have also been defying recent court decisions and orders but the common assumption is that their defiance is motivated by the need to obey Davis in order to keep their state jobs.  But it is my opinion that they will be likely to be fined individually at this first hearing.  I also tend to believe they will be polled by the judge as to their individual beliefs about the ongoing events and given the option of offering to issue marriage licenses.

Davis has consistently stated that her defiance is based on her "deeply held religious beliefs" about the sanctity of marriage.  Davis reports that she is a member of the Solid Rock Apostolic Church, an unaffiliated Holiness church at Farmers, KY.  But it has also been common knowledge in Eastern KY and Morehead for several years that Davis has been married four times, divorced three times, and has actually married her current husband twice.  There are also media reports that the record proves that Davis conceived a set of twins with her eventual third husband while married to her first.  These reports also state that when Davis divorced that first husband she married a second who adopted those children conceived with the yet to be married third husband.  Davis is then reported to have been divorced again before eventually marrying the biological father of her children as her third husband.  Quite frankly all this marriage record serves to do is remind me of the old baseball comment that "you have to have a scorecard to know who is in the game".  It is also clearly reason to question any of Davis' stated respect for the sanctity of marriage and perhaps even common decency.

At this point, it is appropriate that I state for the record that I am a 64 year old married heterosexual male who graduated from Morehead State University in2000 as a non-traditional student in my late 40's.  I completed every course for my bachelor's degree on the main campus in Morehead.  I also completed the university's Academic Honors Program and graduated as the Outstanding Student in the Social Work Department and served one year as President of the Non-Traditional Students Organization.  Let it be clearly understand that I know Morehead, KY, quite well and I deeply committed to the long term welfare of the community and all its citizens.  It is also pertinent to say that I was raised in the Old Regular Baptist Church, one of the most conservative forms of Baptist theology.  As a part of my academic and literary work, I have also studied Appalachian serpent handlers extensively for a pending book.  I also maintain ongoing friendships and business relationships with both Mennonite and Amish church members in both KY and IN.  I also believe it should be clearly understood that I am qualified to discuss minority religious beliefs in the Appalachian region.  I gradually came to support the right of all citizens to marry despite the fact that I have had GLBT friends since the 1960's.  As I have watched the Kim Davis story unfold and become a stain on the city of Morehead and Rowan County, I have been appalled at her total disregard for law and the US Supreme Court.  It is my sincere belief that this fiasco has the capacity to serve as a long term negative influence on the community.

I am uncertain about the actual internal motivations of Davis but I doubt the sincerity of her stated support for "the sanctity of marriage".  It is clear to me that she unfit to serve in elective office and deserves jail time until she either resigns from office or agrees to do her job, her entire job, and to issue marriage licenses to any couples who apply just as 117 of the 120 clerks in KY have been doing since the day after the Supreme Court decided the issue.  No person's individual rights can ever be allowed to infringe on the majority and Davis has clearly, singularly, and blatantly attempted to defy the highest court in the land.  She should be jailed immediately.  She should also receive a heavy, daily, cumulative fine.  She should be forced to leave office and this stain should be wiped clear from the image of the greater community.

In general, Morehead has always been one of the more tolerant and forward thinking communities in KY and Appalachia.  It has always benefited from being a university town with a high percentage of educated residents.  Morehead deserves to have its reputation restored.  There is no doubt that the courts will continue to uphold the right of every citizen to marry.  There is no doubt that eventually Kim Davis will leave public office and a generalized sigh of relief will be heard all over KY.  But I envision a time when Morehead, KY, can actually benefit from all this uproar by becoming a destination for same sex couples to come in order to be married.  On September 2, 2015, at least one out of state gay couple came to Morehead to apply for a marriage license.  If the community if relieved of the blight of Kim Davis and embraces the rights of all citizens as it always has, a time can come when Kim Davis is nothing more than a mildly embarrassing memory.  Now lets all just hope that Judge David Bunning once again performs his duty and sends Kim Davis to jail in order afford her some time to think.