A Happy Estate Sale

by Ben Carter

Look at these two dumb lovebirds. 

Look at these two dumb lovebirds. 

My mom got hitched recently and she's moving to southern Indiana. Happily for you, that means she's selling a lot of high-quality stuff on Saturday from 7-12 at 2010 Emerson Avenue in Louisville. Below are some galleries of some of the stuff that will be available. If you are interested in pre-purchasing something and picking it up on Saturday, text or call her at 606-923-3885. 

I  know she's my mom so I'm biased, but the taste-level on this yard sale is off the charts. Extremely good stuff (and great prices) here, peeps.

(Also, if you're in the market for a house, she's listing it, too, soon. Come take a look.) 

Check back in to this site over the next few days. There's a LOT more odds-and-ends that will be going into the sale and we'll try to post representative pics of some of the stuff here. 


Household Items

A Loom

(I'm serious, a loom.) Here's what my mom says about it: "This loom was bought in 1972 in Hawaii, and at the time we were told that it had originally been used in a school in California in the late 1800’s and then was shipped to Hawaii. This is an antique floor loom, 4 Harness, Counter-Balance, 36" wide, sinking shed with metal heddles in the harnesses." (I have no idea what any of that means.) $500

Workout/Sports Equipment

Make Art, Dummies

by Ben Carter

A presentation's slides should be completely inscrutable without the presenter's narration.

With that unimpeachable truth stated, here are my slides for a presentation I'm giving tomorrow to the Terry Scholars, new and (like me) old, down at Davidson College. I'll be talking about the dispute between the Smoketown neighborhood and MSD over the construction of a combined sewer overflow (CSO) basin in Smoketown.

But, really, this is a talk about why and how to make art in our lives and communities. Art happens when we bring our full humanity and expertise to a problem. Creating art in your career or personal life requires hard work, courage, and curiosity. You need a high tolerance for not knowing why you're doing a thing or what it will lead to and a deep commitment to growing as a person, getting to the margins, gaining expertise, and giving gifts. 

I'm pretty excited about giving this presentation, seeing my amigos at Davidson, and honoring the legacy of Dean Terry. If you want me to give this presentation to your org or business, I require a sliding scale honorarium that begins with BBQ and ends with a number in front of four zeros. ;-)

In Memory of H.D. "Pop" Jasper

by Ben Carter

As I hope you can tell from the remembrance below, the trip my Pop and I took with Honor Flight to visit the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. was incredibly special to both of us. It will be one of my most treasured memories of a gentle man we will bury tomorrow in Somerset. If you can, I would love it if you would make a donation to Honor Flight in tribute to H.D. Jasper's life and service. 

In the fall of 2013, I got to accompany Pop on a trip to Washington, DC sponsored by a nonprofit called Honor Flight. This is a program that flies veterans from across the country to visit the memorials in DC. Every veteran travels with a chaperone and I was Pop’s chaperone. A few days before the trip, I got a call from the organizer of our trip. The voice on the other end of the phone was deadly serious, no chit-chat. He said, “Look, I normally don’t like family to be chaperones because family don’t understand that they’re not on this trip as tourists. They don’t understand that they have one job. You have one job. One job: nobody falls!” I assured him that I understood. One job. 

So, we fly to DC and the whole time I’m saying to myself, “No falls. No falls. No falls.” And, we’ve got guys in wheelchairs, guys in walkers, guys using canes, guys on oxygen. All in their eighties and nineties. We’re getting on planes, climbing up into Greyhound buses, climbing down the steps of the buses, walking around monuments and memorials. There are chaperones everywhere all chanting to themselves: “No falls. No falls. No falls.” We’re lining the staircase of the Greyhound helping guys up and down. We're saying it to each other using only our eyes: "No falls. No falls. No falls." And, then there’s Pop, literally waving everyone off, including me. He’s using the handrail when there are hands all around him to help, he's walking off the path and over knotted tree roots, and I’m going to be the “tourist” who let his grandfather fall on the Honor Flight.

I’m not sure what the right verbs are because it’s hard to say that a man in his nineties “bounded” or “hopped”. The adverb “lithely” isn’t quite right, either. But, to the extent that a man who was born before the USSR was founded can be said to have a spring in his step, at 94 years old, Pop had one that day. I would never say that Pop was showing off, but he did seem to really enjoy not needing our help.

Pop took real pride in living independently and being able to care for Dixie after her stroke. I’m sure every grandkid will agree that Pop’s bear hug was surprisingly strong every time he gave one. Again, not showing off, but showing you that he’s still got it. When I asked Pop what the key to staying fit into his nineties was he said, “Keep moving and don’t sit on your butt.” I am not sure whether the Jasper family has a crest, but I would like to propose this as the official Jasper family motto. I’ve never seen such a bunch of doers.

A few years ago, Pop started rounding his age up. When we met John Yarmuth, the Congressman from Louisville, on our trip to DC, Pop immediately invited Congressman Yarmuth to guess how old he was. The Congressman guessed 87, because, “that’s how old my dad would be today.” “Ninety-five,” Pop replied. Walking away a few minutes later, I said, “Pop, you’re 94.” “I know,” he said, “but I’m closer to 95 than I am to 94.”

Here is an all-purpose blessing you have my permission to use without attribution: may you live so long that you start rounding up.

I will forever be grateful that Pop lived so long, because, really, it took me a long time to know my Pop. The trip we took to DC was one of the first days we had ever spent time together one-on-one. When I was a kid, I was too young to go on fishing trips up to Canada. Technically, I guess I’m probably still too young because what Pop said at the time was, “You’ve got to be old enough to put your own worm on your own hook” and I’m not sure I could pass that test today.

So, on our trip to DC, Pop eventually ran out of war stories and started telling me stories about growing up in Somerset, about getting punched by a shoplifter, about meeting Grandma at Newberry’s when she was working in the stationary section, about honeymooning with Grandma in the Smokies where a bear grabbed their picnic lunch out of their back window. He told me what tree made the best hiking sticks (sassafrass). He told me about the time in 1978 when he drove himself five miles to the hospital while having a heart attack. “Why didn’t Grandma drive you?” “Well, I was afraid to have her drive on the snow and ice,” he said.

He told me that he retired in 1982 after another heart attack. “I’ve been retired a long time,” he observed. While some of my earliest memories are of traveling by train to visit Pop and Grandma in Pennsylvania before he retired and they returned to Somerset, I’ve only ever known Pop as someone who was retired.  

One of the hard truths about family is that it takes a long time to get to know those closest to us.

Part of that is that we’re too close: like trying to read a book pressed against our nose, our hearts can’t focus on the things closest to it.

Part of it is that we get stuck in our old patterns of thinking and fail to recognize the changes in each other and ourselves as we grow, learn, and age. We expect people to stay the same and it is hard work to see a loved one for who they are right now, today. It’s as though we look into a kaleidoscope and remember a design that was particularly beautiful or surprising or jarring and forget that the kaleidoscope is continuing to turn. New patterns are forming and dissolving at every moment.  

And, part of knowing someone else, of seeing them in three dimensions requires knowing yourself, becoming yourself. In other words (and to state the obvious), part of understanding depends on who is doing the understanding. As I changed, what I understood about Pop changed.

If Pop had passed away sooner, I’m almost certain that I would remember him as a bear-hugging, gardening gentleman who blew my mind as a child by encouraging me to touch the Touch-Me-Nots growing in his backyard and who long ago spent a freezing winter fighting Germans in the Battle of the Bulge.

But, if he had passed away sooner—before I had a family of my own—I’m not sure I would ever have grasped that while Pop had some remarkable stories about chasing bootleggers and shoplifters and Germans, those stories don’t really describe what I treasure about Pop or what I came to understand about him and from him just in the last few years of our lives together. Instead, to me, what made Pop remarkable was his steadfast devotion to Dixie before and after her stroke and the way he cherished his family.

After being born in rural Kentucky in the 20s, going to war, and having a bunch of heart attacks, there was probably no one more surprised than him to discover that he had lived long enough to meet a great-great-granddaughter a few weeks ago.

When a German sniper shot the barrel of his 35-caliber carbine in two on his first day of combat in World War II, Pop had the good sense to throw down his useless gun and say, “Lieutenant, I’m getting out of here!”

When Pop returned from the war, he had the good sense to love his family, cherish them, and devote himself to them.

As a young man, it was easy for me to understand and admire Pop’s service during the war. It took me a lot longer to understand that it was what he did after the war that made him the man we dearly love, the man we will always miss, and the man who showed us how to live and love with a servant’s heart.

Pop's "Wooooo!" is everything.

DIY Stilts for a Biking and Standing Desk

by Ben Carter

If you're like me, you have your bike set up on a trainer in your basement and, as you've sat there on your bike set up as a trainer in your basement, you've thought: "You know, this would be a lot less boring if I had a desk in front of me. I wonder how I can make that happen."

My guess is that most of you are not broken in the same way I am and you've never wondered how to build a desk on top of your bike set up on a trainer in your basement. That's awesome.

For those of you still reading, I think it's safe to assume that we share a few things in common:

  1. a knowledge that working out is something we "should" do,
  2. a real distaste for working out and/or the chattering of our unoccupied minds,
  3. the sense that the time we spend working out could be otherwise put to productive use, and
  4. a kind of entrepreneurial spirit that embraces DIY projects.

For a few weeks after the "bike desk" idea burrowed its way into my skull cave, I looked around the room at the walls and ceiling and researched computer monitor arms and heavy duty hinges on the internet. The rough idea was to create a kind of Murphy Bed Desk that could fold or swivel out in front of the bike as needed. For a variety of reasons (the top of which was lack of technical prowess), I never landed on an obvious, easily-implementable solution along the arms-or-hinges line of thought.

Instead, one day I looked over near the furnace and saw a white plastic card table folded up and thought, "Eureka!"

My guess is that every American household has at least one of these white plastic tables. Between the office and home, I think we have three. They come in handy when you're going to be playing with heavy-duty bubbles for 4-5 hours with kids. Or you have a construction or assembly project heating up in the garage. Or you need a kids' table at Thanksgiving.

Or, in my case, you find yourself needing to build stilts for a desk to fit over your bike sitting on a trainer in your basement.

Here are the basic ingredients for some desk stilts:

Tools you’ll need

  • Saw for PVC pipe (I used a jigsaw, which I’m not sure is strictly recommended, but it worked for me.) A handsaw is probably safer and a better workout.
  • Drill (This is not my drill, but the drill I wish were mine. So, go buy it and eventually I may be able to get one, too, through the awesome power of Amazon Affiliate links.)
  • Screwdriver or hex wrench depending on the kind of screw head you buy

That's it. Here are the rough steps you are going to follow:

  1. Set up your table on some improvised stilts (in my case, boxes of too-small baby clothes) to see how far off the ground the stilts need to lift your desk. (For the record, I wrote all of the above in 30 minutes while sitting on my stupid bike in my basement.) Do your own measurements to get the ergonomics of your desk right. Ergonomics are important, so don't not click on that link in the last sentence. The essential idea for arms, though, is that you want your elbows to be at a 90 degree angle when typing.
  2. While you’re at it, you may want to measure the height at which you would need to elevate the table to make it a useful standing desk. You will eventually be drilling a hole through the PVC pipe and putting one of the bolts through at that point to create a place for your table’s leg to rest. My measurements turned out to be 23” off the ground for a bike desk and 12” off the ground for a standing desk. But, your measurements are going to be different depending on the size of your bike and the size of your body. Plus, 23” turns out to be about 2” too tall for me, so I’m going to be drilling more holes today at my house. (In retrospect, instead of only drilling two holes (one for standing and one for biking), my recommendation is to just drill holes every inch along the pipe so that you have a hyper-customizable height adjustments. I mean, you never know when a house guest with a different stature might demand a standing desk in their room. Plus, you’ve already got the drill out and you’re making a mess, so go make some holes.)
  3. Worth noting at this point that if you are using a different table, you will want to measure the diameter of your table’s legs and buy PVC pipe just a little larger than that diameter.
  4. Cut your PVC pipes so that you will have 4-5” of additional pipe above the height of the bolt that will bear the weight of the table. My pipes (including the end cap, which adds about 1” of height to the pipe) are about 29” long.
  5. If using end caps, add those to the four pipes you’ve cut. Push hard! Measure from the bottom for the height of the bolt on which your legs will rest. Measure a couple inches from the top for a hole for your stabilizing bolt.
  6. Drill holes. Drill all the way through for the height bolt and only on one side for the stabilizing bolt. If you are also going to use this as a standing desk, you would drill additional holes in each leg for the bolt on which your table’s legs will rest in the standing desk mode. (You may also want to remain cognizant of the difference between the biking and standing bolts. If that distance is greater than the distance between the top of your PVC pipe and any bracing hardware near the top of your table, well, that’s a problem.)
  7. Slide the biking bolts into place and tighten with a wing nut.
  8. From the inside of the pipe, hold the stabilizing brad into place while screwing the bolt in until it is flush with the brad’s flat surface.
  9. Turn your table upside down. Slide the PVC pipe onto each leg and tighten the stabilizing bolts against the table’s legs.
  10. Place the table over your bike. You may need to make some adjustments to the table legs’ angles or tighten even more the stabilizing bolt.
  11. Get pedaling.

There you go! A lot of pedantic detail over what is a pretty straightforward process. All in, if you don’t have a table, you’re looking at a cost of less than $150 to build yourself some bike stilts that can modify a table into a standing desk or bike desk. Less if you already have a usable table. Plus, if you’re buying in volume, you’re probably going to have a few bolts and nuts left over.

Frankly, in 2017, we shouldn’t be going to Lowe’s to modify our desks to fit over our stupid bikes sitting on dumb trainers in our sad basement. Lifetime or some other company should have gotten on the Standing Desk Express that is barreling down the culture tracks and manufactured a table with dramatically telescoping legs already. They make one for modest height adjustment down from the standard desk height because, I guess, kids. But, I haven’t seen any in my modest research that go up to accommodate all of us doers out there. If you know of one, let me know. Even with two standing desks at the office and now this contraption at home, I’m in the market.

(Wrote the last part of this piece a couple days later while sitting and sweating at my bike desk.)

As far as what equipment is sitting on my bike desk, I use an iPad with a Magic Keyboard and Studio Neat's Canopy. If the Canopy's dimensions didn't require the Magic Keyboard, I'd probably go with the less-expensive, but highly regarded Logitech Easy Switch bluetooth keyboard instead. 

Straps for a Workout Slug

by Ben Carter

When it comes to working out, I'm basically the laziest. I know some people who won't work out unless they have the accountability of having paid for a gym membership and a personal trainer. Others are out there on the trails riding bikes, getting their sneakers muddy.

Hakuna matata, friends. Whatever works for you.

But, for old boy, if "working out" means any more than "stumbling down to my basement in the morning with a cup of coffee and a podcast queued up", I'm just not going to do it. Which is why Santa nailed it a few years ago when the TRX straps showed up under the tree.

For those of you not familiar with TRX straps, here is a picture of mine hanging in my basement.

For those of you not familiar with TRX straps, here is a picture of mine hanging in my basement.

TRX straps are basically black and yellow nylon straps that hang from either a door or a ceiling. They have some hand grips at their ends that easily adjust to various lengths.

For a long time, I was just sort of doing the exercises that came on the cards with the TRX straps. Eventually, that got pretty boring. Recently, I found an app—Virtual Trainer Suspension—that provides over a hundred easy, medium, or hard exercises to do with TRX straps. So, three days a week (hopefully), I go downstairs and discover muscles I didn't know I had. Which is not a coming of age euphemism. Rather, it's a way to say, "Wow, there are a LOT of exercises one can do with TRX straps." Legs, back, arms, core: if there are muscles there, TRX has a way for you to exercise them. 

The app usefully provides videos of each exercise from a couple different camera angles. The killer feature though, is the ability to drag exercises into custom workout routines. Then, you can pick how you want to do those exercises. Are you going to do all of the tricep curls in three consecutive reps or do you want to do the whole cycle of exercises and come back to triceps at the beginning of the next cycle? Do you want to do a certain number of reps or do each exercise for a set amount of time?

For me, having this kind of structure in my workout prevents the second form of laziness from creeping into my workout. To remind you, I'm basically the laziest about going to work out. And, even once I'm working out, I'm also the laziest. I'm pretty sure there are internet videos out there of me wandering around the downtown Louisville YMCA very lackadaisically flying a few butterflies and pressing some benches.

Rather than flopping around the Y for an hour, the Virtual Trainer Suspension app keeps me on a schedule and tells me at the beginning of the workout—based on the time I'm going to do each exercise and the time I've decided to rest between each exercise—"Okay, bro, your workout is going to take 26 minutes and 40 seconds." "Okay, I'm in for less than half an hour," I think.

I'm sure there are all sorts of accessories one can buy to trick out ones TRX straps, but the only one I would suggest buying is the wall mount. I have mine, as pictured above, bolted to a floor joist.

For a long piece of black and yellow nylon that has little obvious crossover use as a sex toy, the TRX straps are not cheap. But, for those of us who live in a reality where there needs to be almost zero activation energy required to go get some exercise, the TRX straps are the best, most versatile, in-home option for lazybones like me.

I guess this is a lifestyle blog now, so stay tuned for my DIY solution to building a desk for your stationary bike (on which I am typing right now.)

Voting Rights: Legislating a Lie

by Ben Carter in

Last month, Donald Trump claimed in a tweet that “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Politifact immediately rated this claim a “Pants on Fire” level of lie. Election experts all agree: the amount of voter fraud in American elections is vanishingly low. 

Nevertheless, we must treat these unserious claims from the President-Elect seriously for two reasons. First, though millions more Americans would prefer Hillary Clinton to be President, Donald Trump will be President. So, every foolish, dangerous, and demonstrably false thing he says must be taken seriously. But, second, and more importantly, Donald Trump’s claim of widespread voter fraud is part of the GOP’s larger strategy of actually rigging elections through voter suppression. 

Here’s how it works: you convince voters that voter fraud is a problem (it isn’t) and use that nonexistent “fraud” to pass laws that make it difficult for college students, elderly people, and poor people to register to vote. Combine difficulty registering to vote with a reduction in polling places and restrictions on early voting (Kentucky doesn’t even have no-excuse early voting) and you have a Republican recipe for making sure “their” voters are the most likely to get to the polls. 

So, while voter fraud doesn’t exist, voter suppression certainly does and it’s coming to Kentucky and Washington, DC. Here’s what it will look like: 

  • Repealing the motor voter law (this allows people to register to vote at their motor vehicle departments)
  • Requiring ID in all federal elections
  • Requiring a birth certificate or passport to register to vote
  • Restricting the time and place for people to vote

Again, all of this will happen based on—forgive the easy pun—Trumped-up allegations of nonexistent voter fraud. 

Instead of making it more difficult and expensive to register to vote and more time-consuming and inconvenient to cast a ballot, we can instead insist that our policymakers pass laws making it easier for everyone to participate in our democratic process. Kentucky once led the country in election reform, adopting one of the first computerized voter databases in the nation. We can do it again. Here are three things that our representatives could do this year to expand rather than restrict voting rights in Kentucky: 

First, Kentucky should adopt universal vote-by-mail (UVBM). Three states—Oregon, Colorado, and Washington—already conduct all of their elections by mail-in ballot. For the state, there are a number of benefits. UVBM is safer and more secure than having polling places. It also creates a verifiable paper trail. It’s also less expensive while making it easier for state officials to maintain the voter roll. For voters, it’s more convenient. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that voter turnout increases when you allow people to vote from the comfort of their kitchen tables.

Me, far too excited to vote given that I was forced to show up at a certain place on a certain date as though the USPS doesn't exist and UVBM doesn't work already in three states. Also, my kid. 

Me, far too excited to vote given that I was forced to show up at a certain place on a certain date as though the USPS doesn't exist and UVBM doesn't work already in three states. Also, my kid. 

Second, if we cannot pass UVBM, our legislators can repeal the restrictions on absentee voting to allow everyone to vote within a couple weeks of the election if they want to. 

Finally, Governor Bevin should honor his commitment to the automatic restoration of voting rights for former felons. Kentucky is one of three states that does not automatically restore voting rights to citizens who have served their time. Currently, more than 250,000 Kentuckians cannot vote because of this prohibition. Governor Bevin has claimed to support restoring voting rights, but has actually processed exactly zero citizens’ applications to vote again. 

Unfortunately, voting rights restrictions are likely to be coming to Kentucky. If not from Washington, then from Frankfort. As a community, we should be deeply suspicious of a party’spolicies and commitment to participatory democracy when that party a) lies to b) justify unnecessary legislation that c) makes it more difficult for people to vote. These are the actions of a party that knows it cannot win when everyone votes. 

As citizens, we must reject the leaders who enact policies that erode the very foundations of our democracy. Restrictions on voting distort our representation and damage our republic. This damage, once done, will be hard to undo. We cannot allow it in Kentucky and, indeed, can do more to make it easier, more secure, and less expensive for everyone to participate in our democracy.

For Kentucky Democrats, the Only Way to Win is to Lose

by Ben Carter in

It’s a tough time to be a Kentucky Democrat. We’ve lost the state House of Representatives—badly and for the first time more than a century. Just look at this .gif of the Eastern Kentucky vote in 2008, 2012, and 2016. 

I’m from Greenup County and a Democrat, so this red wave hurts both my head and heart. Just watch this .gif for a moment and let that wave wash over your retinas. Time to think about some stuff. Photo courtesy of  @MetricMaps , who you should definitely follow on Twitter. 

I’m from Greenup County and a Democrat, so this red wave hurts both my head and heart. Just watch this .gif for a moment and let that wave wash over your retinas. Time to think about some stuff. Photo courtesy of @MetricMaps, who you should definitely follow on Twitter. 


We have, as a national party, made ideological commitments to a multiracial, inclusive politics that has not translated well to a pretty rural, mostly white, mostly Christian Kentucky. And, by “not translated well” I mean, “Holy smokes, that was brutal.”

Meanwhile, our commitments to equality based on race, sexual orientation, gender, and national origin are non-negotiable. Let me put it this way: there will never be a moment that the KKK plans a celebration parade for a Democrat if I have anything to say about what being a Democrat means. 

With a national party building a young, multiracial, multiethnic, cosmopolitan coalition of voters, Kentucky Democrats find ourselves in what Ulysses McGill might call a “tight spot.” 

So, what are Kentucky Democrats to do? This is what we do. Here is my four-step plan to fight. 


You guys, we are going to lose so hard. I mean, we already lost hard, but we are going to keep losing hard. We are going to lose more going forward than we have in the past. In Kentucky, the way to win is to challenge every state House seat, every state Senate seat, every Congressional seat, every statewide office every time. We run everywhere. Every time. Again and again. And we're going to lose terribly. It's going to be painful, occasionally embarrassing, and seemingly futile. 

And yet, these losing campaigns and candidates are our only hope. These fearless losers will be the ones showing up knowing they’re going to lose and fighting anyway. They will be the ones having tough conversations with neighbors and church members about their values, illustrating in word and action how their Christian faith informs their commitment to Democratic principles.

Step 2: Run Everywhere, Every time. 

In Kentucky, the way to win is to challenge every state House seat, every state Senate seat, every Congressional seat, every statewide office every time. We run everywhere. Every time. Again and again. This year, two Republican congressmen ran unopposed. In 100 state House races, 64 were contested and 11 Democrats ran unopposed while 25 Republicans ran unopposed. (You can see the full results here. Pay special attention to those House races where Republicans ran unopposed. Do you live there? This essay is especially for you.) 

We have to begin to compete everywhere. Every race that is unopposed is a race in which voters are hearing no counterargument, engaging in no conversation. No one is offering those voters a separate vision of how we can move forward as a Commonwealth and nation than the one offered by the unopposed Republican.

For the national party, waiting for the demographics to catch up with your ideological commitments may be a winning strategy. In Kentucky, we can take no comfort in demographics. Our mostly white, mostly Christian neighbors are mostly going to get older. Heck, unlike most states, we can’t even count on our millennials to vote Democrat. 

Source: https://mic.com/articles/157558/here-s-what-the-electoral-college-map-would-look-like-if-only-millennials-voted#.K6LJtiJzO

Source: https://mic.com/articles/157558/here-s-what-the-electoral-college-map-would-look-like-if-only-millennials-voted#.K6LJtiJzO

And, even if we could count on demographics, that’s still not the way to win. The way to win is to engage with our neighbors. To keep talking, advocating, listening, learning, shaking hands, building trust, and being helpful. We keep showing up. We fight everywhere for the hearts and confidence and votes of our neighbors. Not because we can win this next election or the one after that, but because we owe it to our neighbors to fight and our vision of the future compels it.

Though we may not intend it, when the Democratic Party fails to contest a race, we risk communicating to voters that we do not believe they or their votes are worth fighting for. That’s the wrong message to send to big chunks of our state for two reasons: 1) it’s not true, of course, and 2) it’s bad politics. 

As Democrats, we support raising the minimum wage, higher taxes on corporations, and paid sick-leave for all workers. We know that workers benefit in higher wages and safer workplaces when they are represented by unions and believe that any worker who benefits from union negotiations ought to also pay dues to the benefit negotiating those better wages and better working conditions. Let's take our case to our neighbors everywhere across Kentucky. 

As Democrats, we are proud of our President, Democrats in Congress and former Governor Steve Beshear for expanding access to affordable healthcare to tens of thousands of Kentuckians who desperately needed it. The Affordable Care Act has been a tremendous benefit to Kentucky and Kentuckians. But, our work is not over! Still more people need coverage and we are committed to reducing cost and expanding coverage.  

Step 3: Keep Losing

In case it’s not clear: I understand that the 25 people who could have run against these unchallenged Republicans would have lost. Badly.

So badly.

And, wow, the two Democrats that could have run against Brett Guthrie and Hal Rogers? Incinerated. Dust. 

We don't have any other choice but to fight and lose. We need candidates willing to stand up across Kentucky and say that the values they learned in Sunday School—inclusion, fair play, welcoming the stranger, caring for the needy—are the same values that inform their position on making taxes less regressive, ensuring that everyone that works makes a living wage, negotiating a path to citizenship for undocumented workers in Kentucky, expanding access to affordable healthcare to everyone. 

Look, I understand that for some voters are never going to be for you if you’re not in favor of banning access to safe abortions and banning gay marriage. But, I don’t think that’s most voters. I especially don’t think that’s most voters after we’ve shown them our hearts and guts in race after race. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Democratic Party’s (non-negotiable) positions on these two issues will doom Kentucky Democrats to a century in the minority in Frankfort. I don’t think so, but maybe. 

What I think is more likely is that authentic candidates unwilling to compromise on core Democratic principles will begin to rebuild Democratic power slowly, one campaign at a time. This progress will be painfully slow for many Kentuckians who will be hurt by Republicans’ efforts to weaken unions, restrict voting rights, reduce state revenues by cutting taxes on the wealthy, roll back protections for the LGBTQ community, privatize public education, and limit Kentuckians’ access to trial by jury. But, we will make progress. 

I want to be super-clear on this: I don't think voters who vote "against their self-interest" are to blame. Part of a commitment to democracy is a belief that all voters are smart enough to decide what's important to them and what's in their best interest. I don't think voters who voted for Trump are bigots or racists or Islamaphobes (unless, of course, they are). Voters don't owe the Democratic Party anything and in places in the state where we ceded a full 25% of the House races without opposition, I understand the sentiment that Democrats have abandoned those places and don't care. Democrats have lost the credibility to cry, "But they're voting against their self-interest!" when across large swaths of the Commonwealth we've played virtually no role in helping to frame our neighbors' "self-interest" within a larger web of policy considerations.  

I am convinced: there is nothing about the Democratic Party’s national commitments and platform that prevents Democrats from winning in mostly rural, mostly white, mostly Christian Kentucky. By showing up, listening, learning, advocating, and arguing—even where we’re going to lose, heck, especially where we’re going to lose—Democrats will win in Kentucky again.    

Step Four: Organize and Train

This is going to be a long, long slog and to do it the Kentucky Democratic Party must commit to building an infrastructure to train candidates, amateur campaign managers, and volunteer campaign workers. Democratic grassroots in Kentucky are energized today like they haven't been in years. We understand: there is no one coming. It is up to us. The KDP must harness that grassroots energy and give its activists the tools they need to organize, fund, and execute campaigns across the state. 

We have already seen the success that organizations like Emerge Kentucky and Wellstone Action have had in training future candidates to run for office.

One recent graduate of the Emerge Kentucky program, McKenzie Cantrell, narrowly defeated a party-switching incumbent (who was well-supported by independent PAC spending) to return a Kentucky House seat to the Democrats earlier this month. Without Emerge Kentucky, I’m not sure McKenzie becomes Rep. Cantrell. (By the way, ladies, the deadline to apply for Emerge Kentucky's next training has been extended to December 1.)

Training people to run for office and run campaigns and organize communities works. Leadership, public speaking, campaigning, tweeting are not God-given gifts like height or 20/20 vision. They’re skills that can be learned, honed. Because we are going to run candidates everywhere, every time, the Kentucky Democratic Party owes its candidates and organizers this training. Not once candidates win a primary. Now. Before they run. While they run against other Democrats. All the time. All over the state. This is the work of the Kentucky Democratic Party.

Slowly, we will begin winning. It may be a surprise in a rural district from an especially strong candidate. Or, we may pick up a suburban district in northern Kentucky after a few swipes at it. But, slowly, we will begin to win.

Ironically, it may be a statewide office that we win first with the help of a bunch of losers at the bottom of a ticket. While coattails at the top of a ticket matter, people forget that having strong candidates at the bottom of a ticket can drive voters who otherwise may not have voted at all or may have otherwise voted for the other party to the polls. I’m not fancy enough to know what the opposite of coattails are, but they exist and—with the help of Kentucky Democrats in larger cities—these losers with reverse coattails may elect a Democratic governor in 2019 or a Democratic Senator in 2020. 

It probably won’t happen that fast, though, folks. We need to be real about where we are: this is a decade-long project and just a ton of hard work and losing. For a long time, we’re going to have to run in a way that says, “This is not about winning. This is about fighting.” Of course, I happen to believe that once Democrats stop caring about whether they win or lose, they will run the kinds of campaigns that will eventually win. 

Winning by losing. In a state where many of us worship a God whose death vouchsafed eternal life, it’s a strategy so crazy it just might work. 

Action Item: 

Share this post with someone you know who would make a good candidate for public office in Kentucky, some loser who loves a good fight. Tell them why you think they would make a good candidate, and, tell them you'll help. Tell them losing is okay: it's all part of the plan.

"Encouragement": A Sermon by Will Terry

by Ben Carter

I'm not sure why the thought popped into my head. Maybe it has to do with the election about which he would have had so much to say. Maybe it's because I've recently wished I could ask his advice about some things. Maybe it's because I say his name at least a hundred and fifty times a day: "Will, do you need a new diaper?" "You did it, Will!" "Will, put your bottom in the chair." "Will, use your gentle hands on Rooster." "Go get a book and I'll read it to you, Will."

Whatever the reason, a few days ago I thought, "I'd like to read that sermon, 'Enthusiasm,' that Dean Terry once wrote." I found it in my files, read it this morning, and want to share it with you. The sermon is called "Encouragement,"  not "Enthusiasm."

DT, surrounded by some of his mentees, at his 80th birthday celebration. 

Dean Will Terry, for those of you who don't know, was the long-time Dean of Students at Davidson College and who in his retirement served as a mentor to me and dozens of other students. He passed away last Spring before our Will was born. Outside of my family, no one did more for me to encourage me. As he notes, that encouragement includes not only applauding the good acts and notions, but also lovingly holding us to account for our shortcomings.  

The sermon made me miss him terribly. We could all use his kind of encouragement: genuine praise, kind accountability, all wrapped in a North Carolina draw and served alongside some burgoo. 

The full text is below. Here is the .pdf version with his notes. Here is a pull quote to get you started: 

"Beyond this why should we even be concerned about the gift of encouragement? Because we care about people. Because we care about ideas and causes and wish to see them embraced and see them prosper. Because we care about institutions—church, college, family, town, nation—we care about friendship—and desire that they be authentic instruments of growth and nurture and justice."

For those of you who can subvocalize this sermon in Dean Terry's lilting, wily conversational style, you are in for a special treat. For those of you who must simply hear his words, well, they're pretty good all on their own.   

ENCOURAGEMENT, by Dean William Holt Terry

Several years ago, I was preaching at Steele Creek; it was my third Sunday there. The first two Sundays had passed without incident. On the third Sunday I was preaching away and an elderly gentleman, a newcomer to the congregation, delivered a loud AMEN and his fellow worshipper, also an elderly gentleman, answered with an equally fervent AMEN. I was startled, but managed to contain my composure. The AMEN's continued at intervals throughout the rest of the sermon. I must admit I was encouraged; it gave momentum to the sermon. I'm not sure I would want it as a steady diet, but at least someone was listening, and that is always encouraging.

Today let's talk about encouragement. To encourage is to make another bold, to hearten, to reassure, to comfort. To encourage is to inspire with courage, to make another confident.

The Bible is the story of God's encouragement of men and women. God chose Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, each with his unique gifts, to be the patriarchal leaders of the nation. He made them bold to be pioneers of faith. Moses he inspired with the courage he lacked so that he might be the great emancipator. He heartened Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos, Hosea, and Micah to be prophets. Prophetic vocation is a hard taskmaster, and it would not have been possible without God's encouragement. The Bible is a book of encouragement. It is significant that the word in the New Testament for encouragement and the word for Holy Spirit have the same root.

Beyond this, our encouragement is found in the deeds, death and raising of Jesus and in his being lifted to power. Jesus Christ is God's supreme act of encouragement to us. It says that God has not destined us for wrath but for salvation, not for despair for for hope, not for destruction but for wholeness. Is there better or more encouraging news than that?

In fact it is the ease that the work of Christ's encouragement enables us to he encouragers. We see it in the life of the Christian about whom we read this morning. His name is Barnabas which means"son of encouragement.” A great Christian scholar has written this moving tribute to him: “Barnabas is one of the most attractive characters in the New Testament. He possesses the rare gift of discerning merit in others. Probably inferior in ability to Paul, he was his superior in Christian graces. He seemed to have been utterly without jealousy, eager to excuse the fault in others, quick to recognize merit, ready to compromise for the sake of peace. Paul's elevation of character seems to have been hardly human while the virtues of Barnabas make him singularly lovable. The Paul of history contributes to the progress of the world. Barnabas and those like him make the world endurable to live in.”

Barnabas does not dominate Acts as do Paul and Peter, but he always seems to appear at the crucial time, not just in the life of the church but in the lives of individuals. His first act of encouragement was financial. He sold his farm and put the proceeds at the feet of the disciples to be used for evangelism and for the help of the needy. His stewardship illustrates his encouragement of mission and people.

He was Paul's great encourager. After his conversion to the Christian faith, Paul came to the church to be put to work. They rejected him. It is no wonder, for he had been a literal monster, the one who consented to the death of Stephen and persecutor of many more. Their rejection deeply depressed him, for he believed his call to ministry was a genuine one. Self-doubt began to creep in, Was he wrong, had he not been called? Barnabas took him for real. Be stood up for him, he stood beside him, he spoke for him. It was because of Barnabas that Paul had a future in the church. Later Paul wrote "love thinks no evil" and Barnabas illustrates the point in the superlative. In a sense Barnabas represents the gospel in microcosm, his grace is illustrative of God's grace for us all, forgiving our past and giving us a future

Another incident indicates the part of encouragement which involves wisdom. The church at Jerusalem had heard of strange happenings in the church at Antioch. There Gentiles were being swept up into the church. Disturbed, they needed an investigator. Barnabas was the overwhelming choice. William Barclay said, "It was by the grace of God they sent the man they did, for they sent the man with the biggest heart in the church." When he saw this marvelous sight of Gentile converts being swept up into the church, he was glad and encouraged a ministry to these new believers. Not only did he encourage them with his words, but with a better form of encouragement by rolling up his sleeves and going to work. There was more work there than he could do and so he sought help. The partner he called was Paul, and the first real missionary team was formed. He gave Paul his first real job. It takes great wisdom to find the right man for the right job. It takes even more grace to push another ahead of you, because you perceive that he is abler and will enhance the cause for -which you are both working. The being willing to be upstaged for a cause more important than your own career is at the heart of encouragement and may be its most eloquent part. And that too is why Barnabas is known as the "son of encouragement.”

One of the great tragedies of the early church was the severing of the friendship between Barnabas and Paul, but that too was the result of Barnabas’ habit of encouragement. The issue was John Mark, a cousin of Barnabas' who was a member of the team that went out on the first missionary journey. He had gotten cold feet and quit. Paul refused to take him on their second trip. Barnabas thought he should be given a second chance, just as Paul had been given a second chance. Though his friendship with Paul was important, it was not as important as the future usefulness of another person, se he let Paul and Silas go on their way, and he took John Mark under his wing. He saved John Mark, and as Paul later acknowledged, Mark became a valuable disciple. Wherever Barnabas went he left lives and churches enriched and growing. Barnabas and those like him make the world livable and illustrate that the encouragement of Christians of one another is indispensable for Christian growth.

BUT I am not encouraged about the abundance of Barnabas in each of us or the number of Barnabases among us. We live in a time of put-downs. The “nabobs of negativism" have center stage in our culture. Churches often make the mistake of confusing piety or orthodoxy or their special cause as being of more importance than the harmony of body, the nurture of persons or the proclamation of the gospel. Frankly, I am depressed by the rigidity, the hostility (downright hate) that appears in letters by Christians in the newspaper. There seems to be more delight in imagining people in hell than joy in their calling to heaven. Is encouragement a forgotten grace? More to the point, is it even a possible one in our kind of world? There is much about the style of the Christian community and individual Christians that discourages rather than empowers.

Moreover, we need to look at the sources of discouragement among us. Why are we more prone to be negative and discouraging than encouraging? The first reason is a low opinion of ourselves. If we do not feel good about who we are, when something is missing in our lives, then the basic instinct is to put down the other guy. Negativism about other people is bred in insecurity. It festers in jealousy. It breeds in failed personal expectations and goals. Hostility is another origin of the discourager as is frustration and unhappiness. There are many reasons why we neglect the grace of encouragement and we need to be introspective enough about our foibles and failures to understand our condition.

DT with a hippie only someone truly committed to encouragement as a spiritual value could encourage. 

DT with a hippie only someone truly committed to encouragement as a spiritual value could encourage. 

Beyond this why should we even be concerned about the gift of encouragement? Because we care about people. Because we care about ideas and causes and wish to see them embraced and see them prosper. Because we care about institutions—church, college, family, town, nation—we care about friendship—and desire that they be authentic instruments of growth and nurture and justice. It is interesting that much of the literature being written about business success is couched in positive terms, where success is attributed to a positive relationship with people rather than a negative response, where confidence building takes precedence over harassment and motivation by fear. Because as teachers, as lovers, as parents and preachers and as friends, encouragement is the best way for our fellows to grow to,be healthy mentally and spiritually. Because encouragement is a more productive lifestyle than carping and faultfinding. Supremely because we no less than Barnabas are the recipients of God's great encouragement in Jesus Christ.

If we follow Barnabas' model, we find that encouragement allows people to seize upon their strengths and work through their weaknesses; to acknowledge guilt but to seize forgiveness. It is a method of trying to catch people doing something right rather than glee in finding them doing something wrong.

On the other hand, we may not make encouragement a Pollyanna exercise, merely sweetness and light. Encouragement often has in it the element of judgment. Encouragement includes often telling people what is wrong with their behavior. True encouragement tries to separate the behavior and the person.

Several years ago a clergyman designed a technique called crisis intervention and its method illustrates what I am trying to say. He discovered it when he was trying to help a lady who was dying with cirrhosis of the liver but would not admit that she had a drinking problem. He had the family gather around her bed to recount to her incidents that they had observed of her drinking and its ensuing behavior. They told her how they felt about what she did about their anger, frustration, embarrassment. Then they told how much they loved her and they instinctively touched her to demonstrate that love. They indicated how they wanted her to live and to enjoy life once again. It was because they loved her that her actions so disturbed them. They affirmed her as a person, but confronted her behavior. Such also is the nature of encouragement. It was a method our Lord has used time and again with us.

To be an encourager, to aspire to be a latter-day Barnabas, is a model for ministry well worth the attention of every Christian who wishes to build up the body of Christ. We have all been objects of encouragement by a parent, a brother or sister, a grandparent, a preacher or teacher, a friend or coach an employer or employee. It is their encouragement that has made us as whole as we are. But the question is: are you an encourager? Is your vocation to encourage adopting encouragement as a way of living and loving?

I'm Asking for Money for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, People.

by Ben Carter in

I’m writing today to raise money for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. I have set a goal of raising $1,787 for KFTC. Why $1,787? Two reasons: 1) that seems like an achievable goal and 2) 1787 is the year we got our Constitution. Just after the ink was dry on the final version of the Constitution, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government the convention had created.

“A republic, if you can keep it,” he responded. 

Click here to stop reading and just give $25 bucks to KFTC. 

Following the truly frightening election of an authoritarian bully two weeks ago, progressives, activists, Democrats, and even people who normally don’t pay much attention to politics are mobilized and motivated like I’ve never seen before. The energy—driven by fear of what’s to come and the discovery that in 2016 there is so much work yet to be done—is palpable and everywhere. Will we keep our republic? Will we be enough for this moment and worthy of our forebears?

New leaders and new organizations will emerge from this energy, especially aided by our ability to organize so much and so well online. This is good stuff. Great stuff. Go get ‘em, everyone. 

But, [whispers]: KFTC has been organizing in communities across Kentucky for thirty-five years, y’all. 

In these dizzying, disorienting days in which we find ourselves having to prepare for a Trump Administration, people have a natural inclination to start something new. Let me just suggest this: KFTC has a time-tested structure into which you can pour your energy and enthusiasm. KFTC has local knowledge and a preexisting network of alliances, allies, and members to welcome you and your energy and enhance your work. 

If you are looking to do something, to get involved, you could do far worse than showing up at your local KFTC meeting next month. 

Right now, they are working on the following issues:

  • Coal and Water
  • Economic Justice
  • New Energy & Transition
  • Voting Rights

And, here’s the thing: KFTC's mission and issues are driven by what their members want to work on. So, if you have an issue you care deeply about, getting other KFTC members to care about it means that KFTC as an organization cares about it. Recently, the Bowling Green chapter has done tremendously good work on advocating for reforms to landlord-tenant law in their community

Each year, KFTC hosts the Smoketown Getdown two blocks from the global headquarters of Ben Carter Law, PLLC. We show up to the Getdown with a bubble table because that's how we do. 

Here in Louisville, the Jefferson County chapter of KFTC is organizing awesome events like this one coming up about community land trusts. If executed well, a community land trust in a neighborhood like Smoketown could build wealth among the working families and preserve affordable housing in the neighborhood in perpetuity. Sounds awesome, right? That kind of project only gets off the ground with the attention and energy of an organization like KFTC.  

Why are you still reading and not clicking here to give $25 to KFTC? 

Restoration of voting rights for former felons is so important to me. And, KFTC has been working on this issue for more than a decade, making slow, incremental, hard-fought progress across Kentucky and in Frankfort. It’s not a sexy issue and the 250,000 people affected by disenfranchisement literally have no political power. Without the leadership of KFTC and the long attention to this issue by KFTC members, this issue wouldn’t be on anyone’s political radar. Full stop. 

Most people don’t know this, but when I was in law school, I had a radio show on UK’s student run station, WRFL. The BlueGrassRoots Radio Review was truly terrible. But, KFTC came on the show anyway and talked about restoration of voting rights for former felons way back then. Here’s that interview: 

I have to say, relistening to (parts of) that interview before posting it made me a little sad. That was 10 years ago and we are still working on restoring voting rights for former felons in Kentucky. Check that: Kentuckians for the Commonwealth is still working on restoration of voting rights. Even though I claim that this issue is "so important to me," I haven't done any work on that issue for almost eight years. Which is, to my mind, Exhibit A for why KFTC is important. Without organizations like KFTC with the will and skill to endure and continue to fight, politicians and policymakers can just try to run out the clock or grind grassroots organizations down with delay. But, KFTC is not going anywhere and while policymakers may delay, KFTC will be back next year, too. My energy and enthusiasm comes and goes. KFTC presses on. 

When Benjamin Franklin said, “A republic, if you can keep it,” I don't think he was referring to keeping the republic safe from foreign invaders. Instead, I think he meant that keeping a republic will require vigilance by and the active engagement of all its citizens. We must be worthy of a republic. We must, generation after generation, earn a republic.

At KFTC, you will find an organization of vigilant, engaged citizens ready to harness your energy and work alongside you toward a better, fairer, more prosperous Kentucky. You will find an organization through which you can earn your republic. 

Join something new if you want. Start something new if you must. But, first, support the work of the longtime organizers in our Commonwealth. 

Good job, you made it to the end!

Now, click here to donate $25 to KFTC.