Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Crossing the Rubicon on domestic partner benefits

According to some reports, Gov. Fletcher is saying he may or may not include the issue of domestic partner benefits on the call. But you have to assume that administration officials--and the Governor himself--understand that Robbie Rudolf's remarks during the KET debate Monday night constitute the political equivalent of a commitment. They have crossed the Rubicon on this issue--whether that was the original intention or not--and there is no going back.

If Fletcher decides not to put it on the call now, after word has gone out that they are, they will do themselves irreparable political damage. Obviously Fletcher will take heat for including this issue in the special session from the Tolerance Police at the Herald-Leader and Courier-Journal. That's just the price you pay in this state for doing the right thing. In Fletcher's case, since he did not taken a leadership position on the issue during the session, he has opened himself up to the charge of waffling. But already Fletcher's second guessing of Rudolf's remarks are getting him into more trouble than is necessary. "Gov. Fletcher, having waffled once, now is waffling again," says the Courier's lead editorial this morning.

If the Governor decides against putting it on the call, his political opponents--Anne Northup and Jeff Hoover chief among them, will move in for the kill, and seriously damage Fletcher's credibility among social conservatives who are still waiting for some leadership from the administration on this issue. Rudolf brought it up in the first place because Hoover had asked where the administration had been during the legislative session. For Hoover, it was easy pickin's. With so few weapons at his disposal, Rudolf grabbed the only thing at hand, which was that the administration was thinking about putting it on the call.

Fletcher needs to understand that his lack of willingness to lead on these issues puts his own friends and allies in a difficult position. There are people who committed to this administration because they thought it was going to be a conservative one. But this kind of support and commitment creates an obligation from the other end. When a political leader makes bad decisions--or refuses to exercise leadership on issues on which those who helped him into office have a right to expect him to lead--it don't just affect him: it affects everyone who supported him and everyone who have taken political hits for him in the past.

At this point, there is simply no political justification for not putting the issue on the call. The Governor's enemies will rejoice in a perceived double flip-flop, and his supporters will come away dispirited and disappointed. This is the last thing you want in the waning days of a campaign.

Things are so simple if you just do the right thing in the first place.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

UK surrenders to forces of political correctness

For Immediate Release
April 24, 2007
Contact: Martin Cothran
Phone: 859-329-1919

UK’s decision to fund domestic partners “arrogant,” a slap in the face to
lawmakers, voters, and parents, says family group

LEXINGTON, KY—“Lee Todd and the University of Kentucky are kowtowing to special interest groups at the expense of taxpayers and parents and violating the state constitution,” said Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst with The Family Foundation. The group’s remarks came in response to today’s decision by the UK Board of Trustees to approve a plan to subsidize the live-in sexual partners of its staff and faculty.

“We need leaders at our state universities who are not afraid to stand up to special interest political groups,” said Cothran, “not people who are willing to throw the people who support them under the bus. Dr. Todd had an opportunity to show leadership on this issue. Instead, he surrendered to the forces of political correctness.”

Kentucky voters approved an amendment to the State Constitution in 2004 that not only recognized marriage as between a man and a woman, but included a provision that would prohibit recognition of “a legal status substantially similar to marriage.” The amendment passed with 75 percent voter approval. “Todd apparently thinks that he can ignore the state constitution and that his university apparently is above the law. This decision, which could initially cost the University $633,000 per year during a time of rising tuitions, is not only bad public policy, it is a sign of profound arrogance.”

The decision also comes on the heels of comments by both Gov. Fletcher and Robbie Rudolph, his running mate, that the issue will probably be placed on the call for the upcoming special session of the Kentucky General Assembly. “In thumbing its nose at the clear sentiment of the people of this state, the University has placed itself at odds with lawmakers, with voters, and with the parents of their students. Now they have alienated the Governor. You begin to wonder about the kind of decisions that are being made by the UK administration.”


Thank you Lee Todd and James Ramsey

Now that UK's Lee Todd and U of L's James Ramsey are using "diversity" politics as an excuse for their universities to join the Left Wing Axis of Intolerance that already controls universities across the country, it might be good for Kentuckians to be aware of what we're headed for. Try this on for size:

Dr. Todd, you've got mail

Gov. Fletcher was quoted in a radio interview that aired today on WVLK in Lexington saying he was supportive of putting the domestic partner benefit issue on the call for a special session.

Fletcher may put domestic partner benefits on call for special session

The Courier-Journal reports today that Robbie Rudolf, the Governor's running mate, announced during last night's lieutenant governor's debate that the administration is considering putting the issue of domestic partner benefits on the call for a special session. This has to be a signal that administration, in fact, intends to do just that. To say it in and then not do it would, of course, be a very bad political move and open them up to withering criticism from their primary opponents.

To include the issue on the session call would solidify the administration's support among its conservative base and put the Democrats in a dilemma: either support the bill and divide their party, or oppose the bill and turn off conservative Kentucky voters. In either case, it would endanger Democratic prospects for the fall.

The timing of the announcement is interesting coming as it does on the eve of UK's Board of Trustee's meeting where the University is expected to approve a domestic partner benefits plan. It is doubtful to have an effect on UK's decision, since the ideologues at the university who are pressing Todd to do this probably don't care much about the larger political ramifications of their actions.

You have to wonder, however, what is going on in the back of Todd's mind. Even the Hollow Men recognize the political consequences of their actions. He--and U of L's Ramsey--value a good relationship with legislative leaders, and this issue could torpedo that. Already there are said to be strained relations with Senate President David Williams over the issue. Now the Democrats are about to be caught in the crossfire. Politically, there is only a downside to the universities' actions on this.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Domestic Partner Benefits on the call for a special session?

I'm hearing unconfirmed reports that Robbie Rudolf announced that the Gov. Fletcher is going to put the issue of domestic partner benefits on the call for the special session during his debate with Jeff Hoover and Dick Wilson.

UPDATE (4/24/07): I still haven't been able to see a tape, but it appears the Rudolf said that the Fletcher administration is "considering" putting the issue on the call.

Response to Fairness Alliance published in CJ

My response to Wes Right of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance on domestic partner benefits was published yesterday in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Also, I have a response on the page to several of the posters in the comments section. There is the usual chorus of epithets coming from the people who charge everyone else with hate. Isn't it interesting that those who preaching the most about the evils of hate are the ones who use the most hateful language?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A response to the Kentucky Fairness Alliance on Domestic Partner Benefit Legislation

I submitted the following article to the
Courier-Journal today.

In a recent Courier-Journal article, Wes Wright of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance expresses indignation at the fact that The Family Foundation has called so much attention to misleading statements made by U of L President James Ramsey to lawmakers in Frankfort. Ramsey told state legislators during the debate over SB 152 that the University of Louisville was not subsidizing the health care benefits of the live-in partners of its staff and faculty, when, in fact, it was.

We can understand why the Fairness Alliance is so sensitive about this: it has been spreading this same disinformation around the state since the beginning of the debate over domestic partner benefits last year.

First it claimed that neither UK nor U of L were subsidizing benefits for the non-married live-in partners of their staff and faculty—until, that is, UK came out and admitted that that’s exactly what it was doing. Then it latched onto assurances given by President Ramsey that, whatever UK was doing, U of L was not subsidizing its benefits—only to discover that U of L too was giving a subsidy.

It must be hard over at the Fairness Alliance offices, where the justifications for your positions seem to evaporate on an hourly basis.

This being the case, we can understand that the Fairness Alliance needs to take out its frustrations on someone. But Wright, fresh from discovering that many of the Fairness Alliances arguments during the legislative session were entirely bogus, goes on to accuse us of being inaccurate in our portrayal of events.

The Fairness Alliance charges first that we accused Ramsey of deliberately misleading the committee. In fact, we did not say that at all.

We never said Ramsey knew his university was subsidizing domestic partner benefits; what we said was that he should have known. The U of L President testified in March of 2007 that it wasn’t subsidizing the benefits when U of L had been telling its employees the exact opposite since early January.

At U of L, apparently the left hand doesn’t know what the far left hand is doing.

But Ramsey only “misspoke,” says Wright. Misleading lawmakers may be taken seriously in some quarters, but at the Fairness Alliance, it’s all in a day’s work.

In this respect, we presume the Fairness Alliance had no problem with the way Ramsey acted upon the public disclosure that he “misspoke.” Ramsey waited until the very last day of the session—until the fate of Senate Bill 152 was already determined—to finally admit it, and even then only half-heartedly and privately apologized to a handful of legislators.

And after the session was over, the U of L President had the nerve to send a letter to his alumni blaming others for distorting the issue—and without mentioning he had “misspoken”.

Wright also charges that State Sen. Vernie McGaha gave the committee inaccurate information when he said that U of L’s subsidies to domestic partners could amount to as much as $600,000 a year. He then blames us for providing him that information.

Well, yes, we did provide that information to legislators. But Mr. Wright fails in his article to tell CJ readers where that information originally came from: it came from U of L itself. It was only at the committee meeting in question that U of L finally disavowed the report this data came from.

Our bad.

We should have known then what everyone seems now to have discovered: that U of L cannot be counted on to get the facts straight—even when it comes to its own policies and finances.

Finally, Wright contests our argument that U of L’s domestic partner policy violates the second clause of the Marriage Amendment. His argument amounts to saying that his legal expert is better than our legal expert. His legal expert is Sam Marcosson, a U of L law professor and gay rights advocate. Ours was Glen Lavy, with whom the Michigan Court of Appeals recently agreed in its decision striking down domestic partner benefits policies in Michigan.

What does Marcosson have over Lavy, a graduate of Harvard Law School, in Wright’s estimation? Perhaps it is the fact that Marcosson also “misspoke” at the Frankfort meetings, parroting Ramsey’s now discredited claims that the university was not giving subsidies to domestic partners.

It seems that the Fellowship of the Misspoken is a close-knit one. But when those who hold truth in such low esteem criticize other people for being inaccurate—and are so inaccurate in doing so, it is very hard to take them seriously.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A conservative's concerns about teaching the Bible in public schools

Someone once noted that there is a significant distinction to be made between teaching religion and teaching about religion. The latter could be considered appropriate for public schools and the other not. The question is which side of this distinction does a bill now being considered by the Texas legislature, which would require teaching about the Bible in state schools, fall? And even if it does fall on the right side of this distinction, is it wise?

The bill is discussed in a story here, and the obligatory knee-jerk reactions to can be read at Dispaches on the Culture Wars here by Ed Brayton.

On the other side, there has always been a lot of chatter among cultural conservatives about the time before "God was thrown out of public schools," but most of this is simply nostalgia rather than serious thinking about what good policy in this area would consist of.

On the one hand, there is certainly an important secular educational purpose a course on the Bible would serve. The literary critic Northrup Frye, in his book, The Great Code: The Bible and Literature, points out the omnipresent and potent influence the Bible has had on Western literature, and how much many students, now Biblically illiterate, miss when they try to read the great texts of the Western tradition without a basic knowledge of the religious references of which they are full. Even atheist Richard Dawkins, in his book, The God Delusion, advocates the importance of teaching about religion.

On the other hand, one fears what happens when the Scriptures are placed into the hands of teachers, many of whom either don't know much about them themselves, or simply don't believe them. We are, after all, talking about an institution (public schools) that seems to have trouble inculcating basic literacy. I have always said that that was my chief problem with sex education in public schools: if the results of teaching about sex were anything like the results of their attempts at teaching reading, then the very survival of the race could be placed at risk.

In short, can we trust public schools to teach the Bible any more than we can trust them to teach anything else? And aren't the stakes of educationally mishandling the very Oracles of God much higher than those for what they already so badly do?

Then again, is this a problem we would be dealing with in the first place if we hadn't done with the Bible what we parents have done with education in general: namely, have someone else do what we should be doing ourselves?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

What the well-read atheist is reading

You know how the folks at have figured out how to tell what books you would probably like based on the kinds of books you have bought in the past? Well here's what I received from the other day:
Dear Customer,

We've noticed that customers who have expressed interest in The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins have also ordered Lust in Translation: The Rules of Infidelity from Tokyo to Tennessee by Pamela Druckerman ... Druckerman offers an anecdotal rather than a scholarly exploration of the international etiquette of adultery.

Say whut? Well, yes, I did buy Dawkin's book (you can view my review here), but I really would not be interested in a book about the etiquette of adultery thank you very much. But, of course, most of the people who buy Dawkin's book are not people like me, who are inclined to disagree with him; they are people who are inclined to agree with him. And according to, these are people who are also interested in reading about the etiquette of adultery.

What is interesting about this is that one of the arguments Dawkins makes in his book is that atheists are just as "moral" as Christians.

Now I'm not a betting man, but if I were, I would be willing to wager that people who have bought Christian books don't get messages from about books that outline the finer points of cheating on your spouse.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

U of L President “sandbagging” on the issue of domestic partner benefits, family group charges

For Immediate Release
April 5, 2007

Contact: Martin Cothran
Phone: 859-329-1919

LEXINGTON, KY—After admitting to legislators on the last day of the legislative session that he gave misleading testimony to a legislative committee on his university’s domestic partner benefit program, U of L President James Ramsey has traded contrition for recalcitrance, says the family group that brought attention to Ramsey’s erroneous testimony. In a letter to U of L alumni, Ramsey makes no mention of his false testimony before the committee, but instead accuses opponents of the university’s domestic partner program of distorting the facts about the program.

“The U of L president mischaracterized his university’s policy to lawmakers. Now he is mischaracterizing the issue to his own alumni,” said Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation. “This is a disturbing pattern of behavior. If Ramsey continues to sandbag people on this issue, it’s not only going to reflect badly on him, but on the university itself. The university’s supporters deserve an honest account of his actions during the Session.”

In the face of heated questions during the March 6 House Health and Welfare Committee on Senate Bill 152, a bill that would have struck down U of L’s plan, Ramsey insisted that U of L did not even partially subsidize the health benefits of its staff’s domestic partners benefits program. It was discovered later, however, that, according to its own website, the University was indeed subsidizing part of the benefits, and telling its employees how it should report the subsidies to the IRS. Although the bill passed the Senate, several House committee members used Ramsey’s assurances as an argument against the bill, which failed in a tie vote.

After the Session, Ramsey wrote a letter to his university’s alumni, which included the following account of the domestic partner benefits issue:
During the legislative session, a bill passed in the state senate prohibiting public universities from offering this benefit to their employees (even though major employers, e.g., Ford, UPS, Humana, LexMark and private colleges, e.g., Berea, Centre College provide the benefit), but it failed in the House. Despite distortions to the contrary by some who oppose this benefit, NO state funds are used to offer this insurance to our valued employees, both current and future recruits. It is a national competitiveness issue for higher education. [emphasis added]
“The U of L president is only going to dig a deeper hole for himself if he continues to mislead people on this issue,” said Cothran. “What are lawmakers going to think next session after finding out that Ramsey not only misled them, but continued to misrepresent the issue after the session was over? These subsidies were obviously going to come out of U of L’s general fund, which is partly funded by tax money, until the University tried to cover its tracks."

After it was discovered that U of L was subsidizing the benefits, contrary to Ramsey’s testimony, the University attempted to mollify lawmakers by announcing that the subsidies would be funded through a U of L foundation.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"Whack-a-mole", everybody's playing it.

Over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Ed Brayton, anti-religious right scourge extraordinaire, is tired of playing "Whack-a-mole"--the game in which you hit something in one place, and it just pops up in another.

He complains that certain creationist arguments keep popping up in various places even though they have been repeatedly refuted. Of course creationists complained about biology textbooks that continued for years to include Haeckel's embryos (faked evidence for evolution) and the peppered moth myth (the photos of which were staged) even though they had repeatedly been shown to be inaccurate.

Looks like Brayton and the creations have something in common. That ought to make him feel good.