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Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials


Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


July 15

Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, on judicial candidates and politics:

A federal judge in Kentucky is being asked to strike down a gag rule on Kentucky lawyers that prevents them from saying what political party they belong to when they are running for judgeships.

If recent precedent matters, that means the courts will probably comply with his request and open the door for candidates running in the state's non-partisan judicial races to campaign as members of political parties.

This case comes out of Northern Kentucky where Robert Winter Jr. sent out fliers identifying himself as a Republican and three of his opponents as Democrats, The Courier-Journal reported Monday. He became the subject of complaints filed with the state's Judicial Conduct Commission.

He now has sued in federal court to block the commission from taking action against him.

In recent years, the courts have found that restrictions on candidates violate the First Amendment right to free speech.

"I am not convinced that there is much of anything we can keep anyone from saying," said Steve Wolnitzek, the commission's chair.

That's probably a good thing because infringement upon people's rights to free speech, in general, is a bad idea.

For many judges and judicial candidates, savvy voters know a lot about their politics, anyway.

But if and when the rule is struck down, lawyers ought to tread lightly when it comes to campaigning based upon party affiliation. Such brazen politicking would rightly give voters concern about whether a judge could be impartial when it comes to ruling on political issues.

Luckily, the voters in Northern Kentucky got it right when they rejected Mr. Winter and his blatantly political campaign, relegating him to a fifth-place finish out of five candidates.


July 13

Herald-Leader, Lexington, Kentucky, on climate change:

Laughter rolled across the airwaves and Internet last week in response to state Sen. Brandon Smith's statements about Mars and climate change.

The Republican from Hazard spoke during a July 3 meeting of the Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment. The panel, which has a leading role in shaping Kentucky's energy policy, lived up to its reputation for unintentional comedy.

What stood out most, though, was the pathos — a display of self-deception that a Greek tragedy would envy.

If "we can just hold the line in Kentucky for a couple more years," insisted Smith.

"The light at the end of the tunnel," echoed fellow Hazard resident, Democratic Rep. Fitz Steele, " is we've got two more years to put up with this fellow."

No matter how much some Kentuckians may wish, the pressure to address climate change will not end with Barack Obama's presidency.

Neither will the shift away from coal-fired power that's already happening, even in Kentucky.

The Environmental Protection Agency's decision to set easily met expectations for states where the economy is heavily dependent on coal-fired power is a tribute to the Beshear administration's arguments. Only Montana would be allowed a higher average carbon output than Kentucky, Lyons said.

Yet, Smith derided the Beshear administration's successful effort to sway the EPA rules in Kentucky's favor as a "white flag" of "surrender."

The satisfying fantasy that Kentucky can defy federal environmental standards was another recurring theme.

Even if the next president rolls back the power plant rules, economic, security and humanitarian concerns will force action on climate change.

What made Smith a media sensation was his statement that the temperature on Mars is "exactly as it is here" and Mars has no coal mines or factories.

Reported by LEO Weekly's Joe Sonka, Smith's remark spread to The Huffington Post, National Journal and beyond. Mars' average temperature, according to NASA, is 81 degrees below zero. Not exactly as it is here.

Not to be outdone, Rep. Kevin Sinnette, D-Ashland, piped in: "The dinosaurs died — we don't know why — but the world adjusted."

We don't blame Kentucky politicians for trying to protect the coal industry or, far more important, the competitive advantage that cheap electricity has bestowed on the state's economy.

There is a legitimate debate about the risk to the electrical grid from the EPA's plan to basically outlaw new coal-fired power plants, absent breakthroughs in carbon-capture technology.

But Kentucky will have a hard time protecting its interests if rational arguments keep being drowned out by nonsense. You can't build a smart plan on self-deception.


July 15

The Daily News, Bowling Green, Kentucky, on inmate program:

People serving time in jails live a pretty repetitive lifestyle.

They wake up, eat breakfast, shower, exercise and watch television, eat lunch and dinner and bed down for the night.

They wake up and do the same thing over and over again until they've served their time.

These people are in jail because they have been convicted of crimes and are being punished for those crimes.

But even though someone commits a crime, in some cases petty offenses, they should be allowed to participate in outdoor activities under secure conditions.

To that end, a program offered by the Simpson County Detention Center that allows female inmates to work outdoors makes a lot of sense.

The jail has a garden program, which allows about eight to 12 low-level charged inmates to plant, take care of and harvest vegetables, including tomatoes, squash, zucchini, watermelon, broccoli, cabbage, eggplants, corn and peppers. They go out a few hours a week with a deputy jailer present. They weed and harvest vegetables and take them back to the kitchen crew to prepare.

The vegetables are served to the entire jail, and if there's extra, the kitchen crew can create new recipes and serve the dishes to inmates. When they have too many vegetables left over, they are given to inmates at the Allen County Detention Center.

Such a program gives inmates a sense of satisfaction and builds self-esteem. They are also eating healthier, fresher food. It provides the women with a sense of purpose, a chance to breathe fresh air and, in some cases, a work ethic that could benefit them once they are released from jail.

It's also a good deal for the jail and the community. The 2 acres of land near the community's park is leased by the jail for $1 from Arney Industrial. The seeds and plants come from J&M Market, which is a partnership with 'Tis the Season.

Partnerships such as this no doubt save money for Simpson County taxpayers - another plus.

Equally important, though, is the satisfaction these women get out of seeing the seeds they planted, tended and harvested turn into vegetables they can consume.

Inmates with low-level crimes can benefit from programs like these. It's an impressive program and one that Warren and other area counties should consider.


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